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"Beyond the Realms"

Beyond the Realms

By: Nitron

"For all those who are feeling the effects of the tragedies that occurred in New York and Washington D.C. on September 11th, 2001." - Joshua Novak

Chapter One

"Link, what's wrong?"

Saria looked up from her ocarina and glanced over at Link. He looked tired. Well, that was understandable. If she was the Hero Of Time, she'd be tired, too.

At least, she thought she would.

For a moment, Link just sat there, a hundred answers running through his mind. He'd wanted to have some time alone with Saria, now that he was finally back in Hyrule. His chase with the Skull Kid was over, and he'd saved all of Termina from sure doom. He hadn't realized that when he was growing up in Kokiri Forest, daydreaming about one day getting a guardian fairy, that he would become the Hero of Time, and save countless worlds from forces of pure evil. And now that he was back . . . . .

What . . . .

He looked up at Saria. Into her beautiful green eyes. Her thick, wavy hair. He'd vowed to tell her how he'd felt over the years. Now that Ganon was sealed in the Dark World, held there by the Seven Sages - of which Saria was a member - he'd wanted to tell her he loved her. That he adored her. That no matter what words he used, they wouldn't be enough.

But, no. That would never be. Because she was a Sage, she couldn't take a husband. And Kokiri never grew up. He was a Hylian, orphaned in Kokiri Forest by his real parents. He was beginning to age. By his mind, he was eleven when he first claimed the Master Sword from the Temple of Light. Then, he'd been transported ahead in time seven years and back. Then his Termina adventures. He was almost twenty, and Saria was still a child. At least, she had the body of a child.

She had the mind of a woman of many, many years.

Link looked around. The Lost Woods hadn't lost any of the splendor they'd developed the thirteen years that he had lived in Kokiri Forest. And now, he'd had given the Kokiri the best gift that he could have.

He had convinced the Deku Tree, guardian of the forest, to lift the curse on the entrance to the forest. Now, the Kokiri could come and go as they pleased.

"I don't know." he finally replied.

Saria smiled. "Come on, Link. I know you. What's on your mind?"

He looked into her eyes for a moment, then replied, "You."

She seemed taken aback by that one. It took her a moment to take it in. Then she sat up and walked over to the tree stump Link was sitting on. She ran her small hands through his thick, blond hair.

"I've been thinking about you, too," she said. "I couldn't sleep at night while you were in Termina. I wondered if I would ever see you again." She paused, looking around. The sun was still high in the sky, and as it shimmered through the forest canopy, she saw the hero that she'd dreamed about, sitting next to her. His long, green cap. His Gilded Sword, and his mighty Hylian Shield, all as she had pictured it for those hundreds of years he was away.

Link put his arm over her shoulder. "I thought about you every minute I wasn't fighting. I wanted to come back and tell you . . ." He paused, and took her free hand into his, ". . . that I love you."

She stopped stroking his hair, clearly stunned at that last. She'd expected him to say it, but it was still a shock when he did. Was this true? The Hyrulean Hero Of Time, who had all but won the heart of Princess Zelda herself, in love with a Kokiri girl? It couldn't be . . . . . could it?

She felt like throwing her arms around him and crying, she was so happy. But instead, she took her ocarina back out, and quietly played the Sun's Song.

The sun faded. It didn't set. It seemed to slowly descend into the mountains, but it faded before it got there. The forest filled with the sounds of night animals, and it seemed a great deal more peaceful than before.

Link, of course, was not surprised. They were in their "usual spot" in front of the Forest Temple, where he'd defeated Phantom Ganondorf. That was one of her old tricks. But it was still his favorite.

He pulled his arm back, and reached into his tunic. He pulled out a pink ocarina. Saria looked down at it. It was the one that she'd given him when he left the forest! She thought she'd never see him touch it again, let alone carry it with him.

He put it up to his mouth, and quietly began to play Saria's Song. Her song. She played with him, and it seemed as though all the animals of the forest began to sing in unison with them as they played their ocarinas long into the night. . . .

Zora's Domain may have frozen over a few times, but it never lost it's mystique. Nestled at the entrance to the Ice Cavern, it was home to hundreds of Zora's, all swimming around and going about their daily lives as if nothing bad had ever happened here. With crystal walls and water that you could drink your entire life and never become ill again, it was a sanctuary of peace. And Mido couldn't have been happier to be here. The Zora that ran the rupee diving game had become one of his best friends, and quite often let he and his friends play for free. It was always fun to leap down from that cliff, into the clear, shimmering waters, hungry for rupees.

He was charging back up the cavern to do it again, and he ran past two Zoras who were talking. He wasn't sure if he heard right, but he thought he could place something about a female Zora and a big, ugly fish in a fight. He chuckled to himself as he ran.

He reached the top in a huff. The Zora who ran the game looked at him. Mido had always regarded the Zoran people as nothing short of amazing. They all had large fins on both elbows that could be thrown off as boomerangs, and a huge fishlike tail growing from their heads. And their feet, which were so effective that they had been used to mold Zora's Flippers.

"You want to try again?" he asked kindly.

"If I may," Mido replied. "I wanna break Link's record."

The Zora stared at him. "Twenty one seconds? Do you really think you're that good?"

If Mido was sure of anything, and if there was one thing he could do better than Link, it was this. "You bet I can!" he said proudly.

The Zora looked him over. "Well, you won't be able to do it without this," He pulled a kid-size Zoran Tunic out of a hole in the wall. Mido gasped. A Zoran Tunic! With that on, he wouldn't have to come up for air. He'd kill Link's record!

"Oh, please, let me use it! Please, please!!" He bent down and pleaded with the Zoran.

The Zoran burst out laughing. "Of course you can use it. For a price."

Mido pleaded more. "No, just once! I'll be careful!"

The Zoran laughed even harder. "One rupee."

Mido, clearly shocked, stopped yelling. He sat there a moment, then leapt back up, pulling a shiny green rupee from his pocket. The Zoran gave him the garment, and he quickly put it on. He stepped to the edge of cliff and looked down. The Zoran tossed some rupees down into the water. The objective was to find all the rupees within one minute, and if you couldn't get all of them, you at least had to get the red one. You'd look good if you at least got that one. At stake was a purple rupee if he could break the record. That's fifty rupees, and if that isn't worth a whole day of diving, Mido didn't know what was.

The Zoran threw a handful of rupees down. Mido leaned over the edge and watched them fall. He saw the red one all the way down, but he lost sight of the two blue ones. That would be trouble.

The Zoran waited one second, then shouted, "Go!"

Mido jumped. He swan-dived and splashed into the cool water. He jumped perfectly. He dropped right on top of the red one. One down, five to go. He looked around, pumping his arms furiously to stay on the bottom. He wished he had a pair of Iron Boots. He spotted two of the green ones out of the corner of his eye, and swam for them. He had to look hard to find the rest. He quickly swam back to the surface. The Zoran on the cliff yelled down to him.

"Mido! You did it! Twenty seconds!"

Mido was estatic. He almost dropped the handful of rupees he had in his hands. He did it. He beat Link! He wasn't even paying attention to the Zoran yelling at him.

"Hey, I got a big, shiny purple rupee with your name on it!"

He quickly swam to the ladder and climbed to the top. He almost slipped off twice. As he ran, Zoras clapped and cheered for him. They knew how long he'd wanted this.

He got to the top completely out of breath. The Zoran had a huge smile on his face. In his hand was a big, purple jewel. He handed it to Mido. "Congratulations."

Mido looked at him a second longer, then shook his hand, turned and ran.

"Uh, Mido?"

He skidded to a stop. "Huh?"

"Can I have the tunic back?"

Mido pulled it off and threw it back to him. "Thanks!"

The Zoran waved to him as he ran off. Wait till I tell him this, Mido thought.

Chapter Two

Princess Zelda sat in her throne, listening as her nurse, Impa, rattled on about some fight in the Market of the castle. Such outbreaks of violence were rather common in the days Ganondorf ruled the land, where darkness had warped the landscape.

Zelda stared into the large mural of her father on the wall right of her. It had been so long since Ganondorf overthrew the King and broke into the Sacred Realm. It seemed Like yesterday, though. She shivered at the thought of Ganondrof. Those thoughts would haunt her until the end of her life, and there was nothing she could do to get rid of them.

And she still felt responsible for what happened to Link. She had thought if he got the Spiritual Stones that he would be able to get the Triforce before Ganondorf. She should have known Ganondorf would have plotted his actions according to her plans. The Gerudo were always menacing and plotting against the other races of Hyrule. She still remembered the Dark War between the Gerudos and the Gorons. The Gerudo Warriors wanted to take over Death Mountain, and they failed. So, they started a little civil war between themselves and the Gorons. Who hadn't done anything to anyone. They simply wanted to live on Death Mountain because they detested the cold. It was the nature of the Gerudo. To kill without remorse or mercy. It physically sickened her.

Impa had obviously not noticed that Zelda wasn't paying attention to her. She was still rambling on about the Market fiasco.

". . . . and then they set fire to one of the houses, and took off. They were out of the Market long before the fire was put out."

Zelda snapped back into the present. "We must see that the building is repaired and the owner compensated."

Impa stepped up to the throne. "I'm more concerned about the implications of this. The exact same thing happened when Ganondorf took over the castle. Every night."

Zelda sighed. They were so close that she swore Impa could read her mind. "I was just thinking the same thing. I don't know if it means anything."

"If it does, we must find out. Do you wish me to summon Link?"

Zelda looked at her. No, that wasn't necessary. Link was in Kokiri Forest with Saria. He hadn't seen her for as long as Zelda could remember. It wouldn't be right to drag him into this when they didn't even know exactly what was going on. "No, I don't think we need him just yet."

Impa wasn't satisfied. "We have evidence that Ganondorf may be back. I think it would be wise to have Link check it out."

Zelda was insistent. "No, he's probably catching up with Saria and his friends. We should leave him be."

Impa shrugged. "As you wish."

Zelda settled back into her seat. She said a silent prayer that this wasn't a sign of Ganondorf's return. And she also prayed that there would be no damage to Hyrule or it's people. This was beginning to happen much too often. . . .

Link smiled.

He and Saria finally had some time to themselves. And he intended to use it.

They were sitting in front of the fireplace in Link's old tree house, letting the warmth of the fire warm their spirits. Saria was sitting next to him, her head rested on his shoulder. He looked down at her. She was almost asleep. Her eyes were still open, but she was relaxed. Link had put his sword and shield back up on the wall, and he had on his Goron Tunic, Saria's favorite outfit. The bright red fibers it was made with gave Link a tought, hero like look. It was getting a little cold, and he suggested they come up here. She had agreed, and now here they were.

"This is so peaceful," Saria whispered.

"I wish I had more times to do things like this." Link replied softly.

Saria sat a moment longer, then pulled out her fairy ocarina and Link looked down at it. "You know, Link," she said, "I haven't had a chance to play this for you. I wrote it while you were in Termina. I call it the Song of Destiny." She brought the instrument up to her lips and began to play.

The song hit Link like a shower of deku nuts. It was beautiful! It was the prettiest song he had ever heard. It was very soft and sweet. It reminded him of Zelda's Lullaby.

When Saria had finished, he didn't know what to say. "That's beautiful." he finally managed.

Saria put her ocarina down next to her. "Just like the person I wrote it for," she said.

Link looked down at her again. Those eyes . . . he'd come to love them in the last few days. Her eyes, her hair, her admiration and love for him. She didn't have to say it. He knew it was there.

It was still hard for him to believe that because Saria was a Sage, she would never be able to take a husband. That was the one thing that was still in the way. Not Ganondorf or Skull Kid or anything like that. It was a simple law. At least he thought it was a law.

Oh, well. He was here, and he would make the most of the time he had left. That he was sure of. . . .

Mido had never run this long or this fast in his life. It was quite a walk from Zora's Domain to Kokiri Forest. On his way, he stopped in Kakariko Village and gave the village carpenter his purple rupee for a hand carved bow and five arrows. He felt like a little time in the Shooting Gallery. He had to work on his aim, and now was as good a time as any.

As he walked in, the owner regarded him. Mido walked up to the counter and put down his bow. He pulled some of the change from the bow out of his pocket. "Gimmie a shot at it," he said.

"Twenty rupees per round." The owner looked at his bow. "A fine piece of craftsmanship," he said. "You make it?"

Mido handed the owner a red rupee. "No, I got it from the village carpenter."

The owner took the rupee and placed it in a big jar under the counter. He handed Mido fifteen arrows. "I take it you know the rules?"

Mido did. "Hit all ten rupees within fifteen shots."

"Yep." The owner smiled. "Get all ten and I'll give you a Big Quiver. Then you'll be able to carry forty arrows."

Mido nodded and stepped over to the small platform. The large rupees came up three ways. Green ones popped into the air from the box in the middle and came back down. Blue ones came up in the back and stayed for a few seconds before sliding back down. And Red ones scrolled across the wall at the back.

The owner regarded Mido. "Ready?" he asked.

"You bet."


Mido hadn't done this in a while. Sure, he was no pro. Link could nail all ten in just ten shots. But he didn't exactly stink at it, either. The first two blue ones came up, and Mido made short work of them. A green rupee slid up in front of him, and he shattered it. Then the red ones arrived. He always had trouble with these. He got the first one, but missed the second. Then two more crossed in the other direction. Missed the first, but got all the rest of them cleanly.

The owner was clearly impressed. "Almost!"

Mido wasn't happy. "Yeah, I guess that's that." He'd also used all fifteen arrows. He hadn't wanted to do that.

The owner smiled again. "Well, alright. I'll let you give it one more try for free."

Mido jumped up. "Thanks!"

"But this time you gotta do it!"

He handed Mido fifteen more arrows. "Good luck." he said. Mido crossed back over to the platform and readied himself. He'd stay here all night if the owner let him, and he swore he'd walk out of the place with that Big Quiver.

The rupees arrived, and Mido let the arrows fly.

Chapter Three

Link walked along the path through Hyrule Field toward the village. He'd seen Saria off to bed, and wanted to hang out at the Shooting Gallery. He didn't want his skills to go to waste.

As he walked, he thought about everything that had happened in the past few years. Well, in Hyrule, it had been hundreds of years since his Terminain adventure. Time passed much slower in Termina than Hyrule. He still craved adventure and excitment, but he was beginning to dislike the title of Hero Of Time. He had wanted to be respected by all of Hyrule, not to be called upon to rid the universe of evil and run into inter-dimensional rifts everywhere he went. He wanted to settle back down in Kokiri Forest with Saria and take the rest of his life off. There was plenty to do in Hyrule and he was content to stay here.

His thoughts turned to the Seven Sages. To Impa, Rauru, Saria, and the others. He thought of Malon, who had raised Epona, Link's horse. To Princess Zelda and the Royal Family. He visited them regularly and they were always in good spirits. He thought of all the good people in Kakariko Village who had lost their homes, and very nearly their lives, when Impa's seal on the Shadow Realm had failed and the spirits set fire to the village. All the people in Hyrule said they owed him so much. But Link hated debts. He didn't feel like anyone owed him anything. If being the Hero Of Time was his destiny, then he would have to do his best to live up to it.

He reached the village sooner than he'd expected. He walked past house after house until he came upon the shooting gallery. He opened the door and stepped inside. . . .

Mido looked up, surprised anyone would be out this late. As the door swung open, he quickly put the quiver he'd just won away. The door opened and Link came into the small room.

Mido's jaw dropped open. "Man, can't I do anything by myself?" he asked aloud.

Link walked over. "Hello, Mido," He looked at Mido's back. "So, you won the quiver, huh,?"

The owner looked at Link. "Yep. Pretty good, too. Nailed all ten, but took thirteen arrows to do it."

Mido didn't like that last. "Yeah, but I did it!"

Link had to laugh at that last one. When he'd first gone to see the Great Deku Tree, Mido wouldn't let him leave the forest. So, he went to the Forest Training Ground and "borrowed" the Kokiri Sword. Then he bought a shield. He would never forget the look that had been on Mido's face when he showed them to him.

Then, after his Termina adventures, Link had gone to the Great Deku Tree's sprout, which was now a fully grown tree, and asked that the Kokiri be allowed to move around Hyrule freely. He had been able to, seeing as he was a Hylian. But the Kokiri never left the forest. They remained until the day they died.

Link looked him over. Here was the boss of the Kokiri, the little kid in charge, and he was trying to emulate Link. He wanted to be a big shot. "Tell you what," he said. "I'll give you a chance at it. You and me, in a shooting contest."

Mido was taken aback by that one. "A contest?"

Link bent down. Though he was only thirteen, he was a deal taller than Mido. "Yeah. You and me, alternating shots. First to miss loses. We'll do best two out of three rounds."

Mido picked his bow up off the counter. "You're on!" he said.

The owner was surprised at all this. A little kid from the forest and the Hero Of Time, one on one, in his shooting gallery. What an opportunity! "Might be good for tomorrow. I can put seats out and invite the village to watch."

Link liked the idea. "Good. Can I have a little practice?"

The owner handed him arrows in exchange for a red rupee. "Be my guest."

Link stepped up and took a step back in time. . . .

The next morning Princess Zelda and Impa left Hyrule Castle and went to look at the buildings that had burned down the night before. She knew the implications of this: she would have to get on a pedestal and assure the people of the market that the Seven Sage's seals on the Dark World had not been broken, and that she would personally oversee a search for the culprits. There had to be more than one. The castle was hard to get into at night, because the bridge over the moat was always closed the second the sun went down. The guards were always on patrol. The spirits of the dead were no more; they had all died off with Ganon. She had no excuses this time.

As she and Impa walked, she began to wonder. Why did these horrible things happen to such kind and caring peoples? The people of Hyrule didn't deserve this.

Well, the Gerudos did.

Impa stopped. "We are here." she said flatly.

Zelda looked. Off to the left side of the poorly lit street, a tiny creature stood. He, or it, was wearing a small violet robe that covered his entire body. He turned as they approached.

Zelda looked him over. He had a glowing red eye and she couldn't see his face. He had a long, slender walking stick in his right hand. Then she finally recognized him. He was the Ghost Shop keeper. That was one of the few places that was here when Ganondorf ruled, and the only one that stayed after he was defeated.

She approached him. "I am Princess Zelda."

He attempted a courteous bow. Not great, but it would pass. "I am honored," he said matter-of-factly. "I was the keeper of this pile of smoldering rubble. I had ten Big Poes here. All worth fifty rupees apiece. They escaped from their bottles and are now back haunting the field."

She nodded for him to continue. "One of my customers saw it fit to use his friendship to betray me."

Impa, ignoring the man's anger, was examining the wreckage. "I assume you have an idea about who did this?"

He stepped forward slowly. "No. I do not."

"Are you certain something you did didn't cause this fire?"

The shopkeeper regarded her. "You insult me. I am not careless."

Zelda put up a hand to stop Impa from saying anything else. "I see. You will be compensated for the loss of anything important that was in your possession at the time of the fire."

The man nodded his approval. "We will also send some of my royal guards to help you rebuild the shop."

Again, he simply nodded. Zelda bowed to him. "Then we'll be on our way."

She turned to leave, but as she did, he came up behind her and put a small, wrinkled hand on her shoulder. "I would advise you to use caution, dear princess. There have been many unusual occurrences since two nights past."

Zelda turned. "What do you mean?"

"I cannot be sure," he replied, "but I know that Deku Scrubs do not belong here in the market area.

"Deku Scrubs?"

Impa stopped. "What are Deku Scrubs doing here?"

The man shrugged. "Again, I cannot be sure. They are the only ones I've seen."

"How many were there?" Impa asked.

"Four. All very small. I first saw them the night before my shop was burned. I also saw them last night in the village."

Zelda stepped back toward him. "Kakariko Village?"

"Yes. I was staying at the house of skulltulas. They are friends of mine. They were running around the village. I don't see how they mean any harm, but I know they don't belong in the market."

"I see," Zelda said. "I appreciate the warning."

"No appreciation is needed. I am glad I could be of help."

Zelda bowed to him, and he did the same. Impa simply stood there. As they walked back to the castle, Zelda began to wonder if there was every going to be an age of complete peace in Hyrule.

Chapter Four

he next day dawned bright and early in Kakariko Village. Link and Mido both arrived at the Shooting Gallery just after high noon. To Link's surprise, the owner had many chairs laid out on both sides of the shooting platform. Several people were already there. A girl off to one side caught Link's eye. She waved to him. "Hi, Link!"

He walked over. "Malon! I haven't seen you in ages."

She'd grown up, too. She looked to be about fifteen or so. She ran over and threw her arms around him. "I've missed you."

Talon stood up from his seat. Link reached out and shook his hand. He'd gotten pretty old since he'd seen him last. "A pleasure to see you again, Link. So, what's all the excitement? Someone think they have a better hand at archery than you?"

Link smiled. "No, Mido just wants to show off."

"Well, I hope his ego can't be hurt too much."

The owner called for silence. Link shook Talon's hand one more time, then bent down for a good luck kiss from Malon. "Good luck." she whispered.

He nodded his thanks, then walked over and took his place on the platform to the right of the owner. Mido jumped up on his other side.

The owner waited until all of his audience was seated, then began. "I would like to welcome all present to Kakariko Village's first ever archery competition. These are your participants. To my left, the challenger, Mido, from Kokiri Forest." He held up Mido's left arm, and the crowd applauded him. "And to my right, Link, the Hyrulean Hero Of Time." He raised Link's right arm to a huge ovation from the crowd. "These are the rules. Round one will begin. The targets will appear, and the shooters will take alternating shots. The first to miss will be declared the loser of the round, unless the other misses the same target. Round two will then begin, then, if necessary, round three. The prize . . ." He pulled a large, golden jewel from his pocket, ". . . one Gold Rupee."

A ripple of conversation and approval came from the crowd. Mido was incredulous. That was the most money he'd ever seen. Two hundred rupees! Not to mention the title of being the only one to beat Link in a shooting match.

The owner continued, replacing the gem in his pocket. "We will now see who will shoot first." He held out a small wooden cube with Hylian characters on each side. "Who shall call first?"

"I will." Link said.

"Good." The owner moved off the pedestal and positioned himself so he was facing most of the crowd. "Call."

Link thought for a moment, then said, "Three."

The owner tossed the small cube into the air. The crowd leaned forward with interest. It bounced several times, then came to rest. The 1 side faced upward. The owner picked it up. "One."

The crowd murmured. Mido stepped down.

The owner held the cube ready. "Call," he told Mido.

Mido gave it no thought. "Five."

A rumble of agreement came from the crowd. The owner tossed the cube into the air. Mido shut his eyes. He heard the wooden object hit the floor. The crowd was deathly silent as the cube stopped, 6 facing up. Mido opened his eyes.

The owner smiled. "It is a six. Mido shall shoot first!"

Mido let out a long breath he didn't even know he was holding. How big of an advantage was this?!

The owner stepped back. Mido primed his bow with an arrow.

The first target was a green rupee. Mido hit it dead center.

Link readied his bow. The same target appeared with the same result. The crowd applauded.

The next one was green, but it went higher. Both hit it.

This continued until the red rupees began to cross. The first came from the left, crossing slowly. Mido held his breath, and fired. The arrow just missed, passing an inch too far ahead. Mido dropped his head in disgust. Link's arrow was all too accurate. The rupee shattered, and the crowd roared.

"Round two shall now begin." the owner declared. "Link leads one to nothing."

The shots were the same, but they were a little harder. Again, Mido and Link made it to the red rupees without difficulty. The first red gem crossed at a slightly higher speed. Mido let the arrow go.

The rupee shattered spectacularly.

Now it was Link's turn. He primed his bow, and aimed. The target appeared from the left. Link fired.

The arrow wasn't fast enough.

There was a gasp of astonishment from the crowd. Link stood there, clearly amazed that he missed. "Round three shall begin," the owner said loudly. "We are tied at one round apiece!"

Boy, this crowd was getting their money's worth.

Mido and Link traded fifteen shots, until the purple rupees arrived. These dropped between the roof and the floor with good speed. Mido was first. He pulled back, and fired as the purple gem dropped.

Again, he missed by mere inches.

Mido hung his head. This was it . . .

He jumped back up when he heard another gasp from the crowd. Link was standing there in shock. He missed, too!

"Continue!" the owner yelled, delighted at this turn of events.

Mido quickly dumped the thought from his mind. Concentrate, he told himself.

They traded five more shots. The final targets were gold colored rupees. They swung from the roof like pendulums. Height and speed changing targets! Mido readied himself. This needed a hell of a shot.

The rupee swung back and forth. Mido waited until the rupee began its descent to the right, and fired.

The arrow sped forth, and Mido shut his eyes again. He heard a clink, and looked up. The rupee had swung into the arrow and broken it in two.

He'd fired a split second too early.

He closed his eyes as Link raised his bow. Then, he reluctantly opened his eyes and forced himself to watch. Well, if I lose I lost to the best, he thought.

Link took a very careful aim. A good ten seconds. Half the people were standing, eyes on the swinging rupee. Link fired.

The shot was so accurate the rupee split in half. The crowd exploded into cheers.

The owner leapt over the counter and up to the pedestal and raised Link's left arm. "Link is the winner!" The owner handed him the gold gem. "Congratulations!"

Mido sat down on the platform, disgusted. That was his best effort, and he still lost.

Link meanwhile, walked over to the counter and gave the owner the gold rupee. "Split it," he said. The owner handed him two purple gems. Link took them, then walked over to where Mido was sitting. He held out one of the jewels.

Mido looked up. "What's this for?" he asked.

Link smiled. "For having the guts to accept the match," He paused, then whispered, "And for beating my record at Zora's Domain."

Mido just sat there, holding the gem. He put it in his pocket and got up to leave. The crowd began to cheer. It took Mido a minute to realize the were cheering for him! Wow!

Link was just about to open the door and leave. Mido felt so proud because of the crowd, he whipped up his bow. He aimed, and fired.

Link's cap flew off into the wall. The crowd roared with laughter. Link stared at Mido, who just smiled. Maybe this wasn't so bad after all. No, not bad at all.

Chapter Five

Link and Saria sat across from each other on tree stumps in front of the Forest Temple, the "usual spot". They were talking.

". . . and then he had the nerve to shoot my cap off in front of the entire village!" Link told her, laughing as he did so. "Look at the hole he left!"

Saria took the cap from him. She held it up and looked for the hole. There it was, right above the bottom. "Oh, that's nothing. I'll sew it up for you." She paused, then smelled it. She pretended it stank and threw it back to him. "Um, maybe I'll wash it too."

Link smiled. "Funny." He replaced the cap on his head.

Saria just sat there, clearly admiring him. "I just can't believe he had the guts to take you on. I thought he was afraid of you."

"I was kinda hoping he was," Link told her. "He put up one good fight, though. Took me all the way to the tewntieth target in the third round."

Saria looked at him, a small hint of sadness crossing her face. "I'm sorry I didn't come."

Link shrugged. "That's my fault. I didn't even tell you." He smiled. "I'm surprised you didn't hear from someone else. Mido was bragging to everyone about it."

Saria laughed. It was one of the few sounds that Link always loved to hear. Saria's laugh could break through the thickest sadness, the darkest gloom.

Suddenly, a Zora appeared from behind the trees behind the entrance to the Forest Temple. He ran up to Link.

Link was shocked. What was a Zora doing this far away from the river? He put up a hand. "Hey, slow down!"

The Zora was breathing awfully hard.

"Sorry to trouble you Link, but we've got a big problem!"

Link stood up. "What's wrong!"

The Zora nodded to Saria, then looked back to Link. "Our domain has frozen over again. It's the same type of ice it froze over with when Ganondorf broke into the Golden Land. But it's not just our domain; this time the entire river is frozen.

Saria gasped. "Oh, no!"

Link was already pulling out his ocarina. "I'd better check this out. Saria, stay here."

The Zora turned to leave. "I'll see you there."

Link thought as the Zora left. The nearest warp point to Zora's Domain was graveyard outside Kakariko Village. He could warp there, run out through the village, and into Hyrule Field. Then he could just call Epona and ride through to Zora's river. He put the ocarina to his lips and played the Nocturne of Shadow. He felt the magic rushing in on him, and Saria waved to him as the purple colored warp closed in on him.

"Link, be careful!" she yelled to him.

Yeah, he'd better. This could mean trouble. . . .

Impa stood on the street outside the half rebuilt Ghost Shop. She had insisted to Zelda that she be able to observe the construction with guards in case the arsonist decided to come finish the job. The shopkeeper was off to her left, simply watching as his business, his home, was rebuilt.

He was mumbling to himself as he watched. "Five hundred rupees worth of Poes. Gone."

Impa saw where this was going. "It would not be wise to seek to exact vengeance on the one who did this to your shop."

He looked up at her. "No, it wouldn't. But it would bring me great pleasure, and I value that over morals."

She couldn't see his face, but from his tone of voice it sounded as if he was smiling. "I don't doubt it."

"Just bring the criminal to justice." he said to her. "That is all I ask."

"And what of your Poes?"

Again, he must have smiled. "Ah, yes. That is no matter. I'm sure Link will pass through the market again, and when he does, I'll just tell him the escaped. He will surely go to recapture them."

Impa stared at him. "Why should Link do your bidding for you?"

"It was he who originally captured all ten of them."

Impa said nothing, and looked back up at the almost finished building. There were guards watching the house, as well as several more in the village, patrolling and searching. This would not happen again, because she and Zelda simply would not allow it. . . .

Link materialized on the platform on the small hill overlooking the small Kakariko village graveyard. Directly behind him was the entrace to the famed Shadow Temple. He looked up. He didn't know why, and he assumed he didn't want to, but it was always raining in the graveyard. Not even the Song of Storms was able to put the clouds to rest. He hopped over the fence and down to the ground below. He rolled as he landed to keep from hurting himself. He ran past the rows of graves and another fence. He ran right between the two ridges and into the village. He could immediately tell something was wrong. There was no one outside but guards. Royal guards! He ran up to the nearest one. "Hey, what's going on?"

The guard held up his shield, then lowered it as he recognized who was approaching. "Hi, Link. We're keeping watch. There's been a few deku scrubs sticking their noses where they don't belong. Plus, someone burned down the Ghost Shop in the market last night."

Link suddenly got a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach. This was starting to get freaky. All these events, including the fire, had occurred while Ganondorf was in power. The only thing he couldn't place were the deku scrubs. What were deku scrubs doing outside the Lost Woods? "All right. Thanks."

The guard nodded. "No problem."

Link began to run, pulling out his sword as he did. He'd better get over to the market as soon as he checked on Zora's Domain. He hoped the shopkeeper was able to keep the Poes. It'd be a pain to have to get all ten of them again.

He ran past house after house and finally arrived at Hyrule Field. He took out his ocarina and played Epona's Song. It took a second for the notes to travel, and a few more for Epona to come galloping up behind him. He put his sword and shield back on his back, and climbed up onto Epona. He had a sudden feeling of assured safety when he was on his trusty steed. For some reason, no enemy could harm him while he was on horseback. The only drawback was that all he could attack with was his fairy bow. But, he did have a full load of fifty arrows.

He urged Epona on toward Zora's River. He said a silent prayer that he would get there in time. . . .

The Gerudo Thief roared with laughter.

Very soon now, they would have a new Gerudo King of Thieves to take the place of the great and powerful Ganondorf.

And they would have their revenge.

She smiled in spite of herself. With the artifact they had uncovered in the Haunted Wasteland, they would be able to give the new Gerudo child the mind and body of a man of forty long years. With their new king, they would march on the Royal Market and overthrow Hyrule Castle. They would take Princess Zelda captive, and use her as their tool.

Then they would finish what they had started with the Gorons.

Nabooru looked around her simple room. It was only one of many spread throughout the great Gerudo Fortress, their home and training center. Which they had built in the middle of the desert, from absolutely nothing.

She had a much more ornate headquarters in the Spirit Temple in the desert.

The Gerudos had once been a proud people. They, with their leader Ganondorf, had taken over the Golden Land and the powerful Triforce. Ganondorf had molded Hyrule in their vision with the Triforce of Power, and they were not about to forget what Link, that damned Hero Of Time, had done to that vision.

He'd shattered it in front of their eyes.

They'd get their revenge for that, rest assured.

One of her servants entered the room. "Your highness, the child has arrived!"

She jumped up from her chair and ran out of the room. Charging down the hallway, visions began to cloud her mind. This was it. This was the moment the Gerudo Warriors had waited for every since that dreadful day that Ganon had been sealed in the Dark World. This was their chance to prove to the entire universe that the Gerudos were the most powerful race in all of Hyrule.

The old servant chugged along behind her, struggling to keep up. "Highness, does it matter when we arrive? The child will still be there." she said between short breaths. She simply ignored her.

She reached the queen's chambers without incident. The Gerudo Master of Magic was already there with the sacred artifact, and she was waiting for Nabooru to give the order to make this child into a great man.

"Ah, your highness," she greeted her as she strolled into the room. "I trust you are well?"

"As soon as this child is a man, I will be. If not," she said, still gasping, "there won't be much of him left to make grow up!"

She laughed. It was always the way with mothers. They loved their children, up until the point the had to give birth.

The magician looked up to her. "I believe we are ready."

She snapped out of her thoughts. "Ah . . . of course. Proceed."

The queen held the child in her arms as the magician held up the artifact. "I, the Gerudo Master of Magic, hereby ask that this holy artifact touch the very essence of the powerful Triforce, and give the young Jahkar the body and mind that he needs to lead the great Gerudo people to their destiny!"

Well said! Well said, indeed! And what a name!

The artifact, which looked like a simple rock with Hylian markings on it, slowly began to rise from her hands. There it stopped, hovering in midair. The queen put the child down on the bed and slowly backed away. The artifact moved toward the child slowly and began to emit a blinding yellow light. Nabooru and the magician both shielded their eyes from the light. A majestic sparkling sound filled the room. This whole magic effect seemed to last a whole five minutes. The sound suddenly ceased and the light faded. When they looked up, a huge man stood before them on the bed. He was very tall, almost as tall as Ganondorf. He was very muscular, and had long, brown hair. His skin was a dark tan, and his clothing was as striking as that of Ganon himself.

He spoke. "I wish to know who it is who has granted me such strength!"

Everyone in the room roared. The artifact had worked!

Nabooru shouted over the din, "Fetch Himtsah immediately. She is to be commended for finding that treasure." One of the guards nodded and ran out of the room.

Jahkar stepped down from the bed. "Who is it who has granted me with such wisdom and power?"

The Master of Magic stepped forward. Rather slowly. After all, she was three hundred years old.

"I have," he said.

Jahkar looked at him. "You please me."

The magician knelt before him. "It is but my duty, king of the Gerudo people."

Jahkar looked them over. "King?"

Nabooru stepped forward, bowed, and then looked up. "Yes. You are the heir to his evilness, the great Ganondorf, and you shed upon the Gerudo people new life!"

The magician nodded. "Indeed, Nabooru. And I am the one who will provide you with the knowledge of all my three hundred long years. And to tell you of how you will become the most powerful man in all of Hyrule!" . . .

"The legends of Hyrule go back many millions of years. Back to when there was nothing in the universe. When time did not even exist. Three beautiful and very powerful goddesses arrived and saw within the universe of nothingness . . . . potential. So, quite simply, they created the universe."

Jahkar sat across from the Master Of Magic, his table and many magic potions and artifacts spread out on a large table. He was sitting quietly, taking it all in.

The master of magic continued. "The goddesses Din, Farore, and Nayru created Hyrule, and many other worlds we now know about. Termina, Labrynna, Koholint, and others. Many species of peoples were created and evolved in Hyrule. The Hylians, the Zoras, the Kokiri, and the mighty Gerudos to name a few."

She smiled at that last. Yes, they were indeed a mighty people.

Jahkar was clearly not the patient type. "Go on." he boomed.

"Anyway, the goddesses were quite proud of their accomplishments, and decided that they should leave behind some type of artifact that would be a reminder of their power. So, they created the sacred Triforce."

Jahkar leaned forward in his chair. "Finally, the good stuff."

The woman smiled again. "Indeed. So they each took the essences of their powers and created a triangle, or piece of the Triforce. It is one solid triangle made of three small ones attached at the points. The powers are concentrated in the Golden Land, better known as the Sacred Realm, where the Triforce resides. It will immediately grant the wishes of whomever touches it. Din, the goddess of power, created the Triforce of Power, the top piece. Farore created the Triforce of Courage, and Nayru created the Triforce of Wisdom. To protect this artifact, one of the Seven Sages, Rauru, built the Temple of Light to guard the Door of Time, the barrier to the Sacred Realm. The great Ganondorf was able to break that seal, and stole the Triforce of Power. For some reason unknown to us, the other two pieces were obtained by others, which proved fatal for Ganondorf."

Jahkar leaned back. "That's it?"

The magician sighed. "And we would be the rulers of the universe had it not been for that damned Hero Of Time."

Jahkar leaned forward again, now very interested. "Who is this 'Hero Of Time'."

The magician gritted her teeth. "Link. From the Forest of the Kokiri."

Jahkar roared with laughter. "Wait, wait! The King of Evil, beaten by a Kokiri? That's insulting!"

The Master let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. "I said he was from the forest. I didn't say he was a Kokiri."

Jahkar stared at him. "Then . . . what is he?"

"He's a Hylian."

Jahkar leaned back in his seat. "Even so, Ganondorf was defeated by a simple Hylian? That doesn't seem possible."

"He held the Triforce Of Courage. And still does."

Jahkar was silent for a moment. "Is there any way to resurrect Ganon?"

The magician shrugged. "We have tried for a hundred years. There is no way."

"Then, I shall just have to finish what he started."

The doors flew open, and Nabooru entered the room, carrying a piece of paper. "Master, I have a message from the castle. A building in the market was burned down. The princess thinks we had something to do with it."

The woman snatched the paper. "Why?"

"It doesn't say."

He looked at it very carefully. After a few brief moments, he looked up. "The Poe shop?"

"Apparently. It says all the Poes escaped."

"Well," the magician said, "we should make some effort to acquire them. Properly trained Poes can do a great deal of harm."

Jahkar had taken the paper from her and was looking at it. He suddenly laughed. "Why in the name of the realm would we hire deku scrubs to do our dirty work?"

Nabooru laughed. "I wish I knew."

Jahkar put down the paper. "This princess is not very bright."

"She does bear the Triforce of wisdom, sire."

Jahkar laughed again. "She obviously doesn't utilize it."

She laughed at that last. All of the Gerudo kings had had great senses of humor. Even the great Ganondorf had his share of humorous moments. Like the time he came back from the castle and told of the little Kokiri boy that had challenged him. She had laughed for many moons about that one.

The Master of Magic interrupted. "My liege, this is all well and good, but shouldn't we be planning our attack on the castle?"

Nabooru nodded. "Yes. That would be best."

Jahkar nodded his agreement. "Yes. We overthrow the castle, then all of Hyrule. And I will finish what Ganondorf started . . . . and destroy Link."

Chapter Six

Princess Zelda handed the shopkeeper two gold rupees. "I trust this will cover for the damage?"

He snatched them from her. "Most assuredly, your highness."

Impa glared at him. The shopkeeper took a step back. "I am sorry, princess. I meant no disrespect."

Zelda sighed. "I know."

He bowed, thanked her again, and left.

For a moment, she just looked around her ornate throne room. She hadn't wanted him to come here. She would have preferred if she had gone to the Market. Another building had been damaged. And the owner had demanded compensation immediately.

This time, the Potion Shop had been attacked. And again, it seemed deku scrubs were responsible. They had hit the building with a steady shower of deku nuts. Many of the planks along the walls had cracked and needed to be replaced.

Impa took her by the arm. "It is late. You need rest. Shall I escort you to you chambers?"

Zelda looked up at her. Yes, she was tired. "Yes."

As they walked, Zelda asked, "Did my message reach the Gerudos?"

Impa didn't look at her, but responded. "Yes. There is also word that a new Gerudo child was born. Apparently, he is the one destined to be the next King of Thieves. They had located some type of magical artifact that accelerated his growth."

"How quickly?"

Impa kept on walking. "The effect was instantaneous. He is about forty years old now."

Zelda stopped. "What?"

"It is as I said. There is a new King of Thieves."

Zelda backed away a step. "Then . . . . . we must find Link!"

Impa stopped as well. "What? What is the matter?"

Zelda almost couldn't speak. The thoughts were coming much too fast. "If they meant to make him this old this fast, then they may be plotting something! Link must be warned!"

Impa ran back down the hall they were walking up. Zelda took off after her. She ran into the throne room and into the main hallway of the castle. Two guards were there. She ran up to one of them. "You must go find Link. We must speak with him immediately." The guard nodded and ran out of the room.

Impa stood there. Zelda was completely out of breath. She looked up at Impa. "Now what?"

"We wait," she replied, "and we see what Link has to say about this turn of events." . . .

"On, no! Not again!"

Link stood on the main cliff face overlooking Zora's Domain. It was completely frozen . . . again. Only this time, the ice didn't look normal. Zora's River was frozen also, but with a regular colored ice. This ice was different. It was a purplish color. Not very dark, either. He could see almost clear to the bottom. Mido was standing next to him. He had tagged along when he saw Link riding Epona through Hyrule Field. "Wow!" he exclaimed.

"That's not the half of it." Link said. "How many Zoras are in there?"

Mido squinted. "I can see six, maybe seven."

Link sighed. "Well, there's nothing we can do about it. Nothing will melt that ice."

Mido looked up at him. "Not even blue fire?"

"No. It's not red ice."

"Then what do we do?"

Link stood there for a moment. "There's nothing we can do. I have to find out what's causing this. Follow me."

He ran down the wall of the cavern, Mido hot on his heels. They reached the ladder down to the water. Link climbed down onto it. "Come on."

Mido climbed onto the ladder after him. They both started down. Halfway there, Link slid down and landed in a crouch. Mido slid down after him. Link helped him stop, then knelt down to examine the strange ice they were now standing on. He took the golden glove off his right hand and touched it.

"That's really strange. It's not cold."

Mido bent down and touched it. "Yeah, it isn't." He paused. "Maybe it's not ice."

Link stood there for a moment, then reached into his pack and pulled out the Megaton Hammer. He took the sharp part, leaned back, and swung. The hammer bit into the ice, and a few little flakes sheared off the icy surface. He picked up the biggest one and smelled it.

Ugh! What in the name of Nayru was this stuff? He was going to taste it, but he threw it back down.

Link stood up in disgust and put the hammer away. "No, it has to be ice. This was all water."

Mido just stared at it for a moment. Then he got up. "What about all those Zoras under there?"

"They should be fine, for now. Zora's can't take freezing temperatures forever, though. We have to figure it out soon." Link stood for a moment longer, then looked at Mido. "Let's get back to the forest."

He got back up the ladder, praying all the way up that he wouldn't have to go on some mad crusade to help the Zoras. He really was getting tired of this.

. . .

Saria was standing at her window, staring out at the stars above. It had been a long time since she'd just looked up at the stars, daydreaming. Her thoughts tonight, though . . .

She couldn't stop thinking about the Zoras. How many times was this going to happen to them? They were good people, and they hadn't done anything to upset anyone. She also was worried about Link. If this was another sign that Ganondorf had returned, she was worried that he might have to fight him again. She didn't like that idea. She wished that, just for a while, they could have some time to themselves in the forest, and he wouldn't have to go on some mad quest to save someone or some other world.

She was snapped back into reality by a loud knock on her door. Who could be out this late?

She stepped over to the door and looked out through the small hole in the top. It was one of Zelda's guards! What did he want? She unbolted the door and opened it. The guard walked in. "What's going on?" she asked.

The guard sat down and looked at her. "I'm looking for Link. The princess wants an audience with him right away. He wasn't home, and I thought you might know where he was."

Saria shrugged. "No, I don't now where he's at. He had to check on something. Some Zora came and said that Zora's Domain had frozen over again."

The guard froze. "Zora's Domain froze?"


He leapt off the chair. "Get Link immediately! Tell him he is to see Princess Zelda as soon as he can!"

He ran out the door. Saria shut it behind him, then walked over to her bed. She picked up her ocarina off the table and played Saria's Song. She felt the notes travel, and she then knew where Link was. . . .

Link, it's Saria. Can you hear me?

The words echoed through Link's mind. What did Saria want. It was the middle of the night. He'd been in Zora's Domain far longer than he thought.

He cleared his mind, and allowed a link to be established between himself and Saria. Yes, I can hear you.

You must go to Hyrule Castle. Princess Zelda needs to see you.

What did Zelda need? What does she want?

One of her guards was looking for you. He said she needs to see you immediately.

He sighed. He was having to be everywhere at once. All right. I'll see what she wants. I'll be back as soon as I can.

He felt the link dissolve, and ran along the river, Mido still chasing after behind him. They got to the edge of the river, and Link again played Epona's Song. As she came galloping up, he looked over at Mido.

"Get back to the forest. Tell Saria I'll be back soon."

Mido looked up at him. "What's going on?" he asked nervously.

"I don't have time, Mido. Do what I said."

Mido ran off toward the forest as he rode away toward the castle. . . .

Princess Zelda paced back and forth in her throne room. Her guard had not yet returned. Impa had gone to alert the other guards to lower the bridge and stand guard over it so that Link could ride in. She needed to talk to him now, and she didn't care about the safety of the Market. The shops were the owners' responsibility. Thsi was too important. Suddenly, the double doors to the throne room flew open, and the guard who went to find Link ran in. He was completely out of breath. He ran up to Zelda. "Princess! Princess!"

She helped him keep his balance as he regained what little breath he could. "Calm yourself. What's the matter?"

He gasped for breath, but answered her anyway. "I couldn't find Link. He wasn't in the forest. I went to Saria, and she said he went to check out Zora's Domain. She said it was frozen over again!"

"Oh . . . . . no!"

The guard nodded. "I'm sure this is another sign!"

Another guard ran in through the still-open doors. "Princess. Link is here." A few moments, and Link entered the room. "Hello Zelda. What's wrong?"

She ran over and threw her arms around him. "Oh, Link! Thank the Triforce you're here! There have been all kinds of strange things are going on. We think Ganondorf might be back." The doors banged closed, and Zelda looked up to find Impa walking into the room. "The bridge is sealed, princess."

"Good." she said. "Link, we're not sure, but we think all this may be sings that Ganondorf has escaped from the Dark World."

"I know," he said. "I've been thinking the same thing myself."

"What do you think we should do?"

Impa looked at them both. "Maybe the best course of action would be to search for any signs of his return. If we can clearly see that he is not back, we should seal the Door of Time."

Link was shocked at that last. "What? Seal it?"

"Yes. Seal the Door of Time to ensure that Ganon cannot come back through the realm."

Link stepped back and stood for a second. Then he spoke. "Do you really think that's wise? Do we know what effect closing the door would have on the realm?"

"The Master Sword is already here at the castle. All we need to do is bring the Sprirtual Stones back to the castle and store them somewhere safe."

Link was still not convinced that this was the right course of action. They didn't even know if this all was because of Ganon. And he didn't want to put any of Hyrule at risk if they didn't know what side effects closing the door would have. "All right," he finally said. "I guess that's worth a try."

Zelda nodded. "Impa, gather all the guards and bring them here. Even anyone who is sleeping. We need to outline a plan."

Impa nodded and left the room. Link turned to go. Zelda called after him. "Link, you have to stay. You're going to be in charge of this."

Link turned to face her. "Why me?"

"Because you're the only one who I truly trust, and I can't afford to have this fouled up."

"Fine. I'll stay."

All Zelda could manage was a feint "Thank you."

Chapter Seven

Deep within the bowels of Death Mountain, a very sinister plan was beginning to take shape. The Market had been attacked, twice. The Zoras were now out of the picture, and now, the final piece of a very intricate puzzle was about to fall into place.

A blinding light filled the crater. A shimmering sound filled the space, and a huge ball of yellow light seemed to hover in space just a few meters above the ground. Then it slowly descended to the small outcrop of rock sticking up out of the huge lava pit where the warp platform was. The light settled onto the platform, and began to dim. When it had diminished, a figure stood there. It was Link!

No. It couldn't be. Link didn't wear all black and gray clothing. And he didn't have a bright gray Mirror Shield with a black outlining. And he didn't have a Biggoron's Sword with a black grip.

This had to be . . . . . Dark Link!

Dark Link looked around. It was clear he was in Death Mountain. The lava was a clean giveaway. And he wanted to know why he was here. "What's going on?" he demanded.

He looked across a small bridge to another large cliff about a half meter above his. A very large figure was standing there, his back to him. He had a long, black cape, and thick, black hair. He was at least nine feet tall, and had a very large build. He spoke. "You are here to assist me. I have taken your spirit and given you a physical essence. You are now real."

Wow! Even at a whisper, that voice was filled with evil. Dark Link liked that. This guy was on the level, too. Because, yeah, he was real, and yeah, he was here. "Who are you?" he asked.

"No yet," the huge figure said. "First, tell me . . . do you know who Link is?"

Oh! That name! He'd grown to hate it! "Yeah, I know him. That bastard sealed me in the Water Temple!"

The dark voice spoke again. "Did he now? Then, you would no doubt like to exact some revenge, no?"

"Oh yeah! More than anything!"

"Would you be willing to assist me then?"

Dark Link looked at the large man, who still had his back to him. "For what?" he asked.

"A very large reward." He indicated a very large chest to his right. "And . . . a chance to get your revenge. A chance to destroy Link."

"How large a reward?"

The man seemed to chuckle to himself. "Twenty thousand rupees."

Holy fairy spirits! Twenty thousand!

"You can't be serious!"

The man laughed. His voice was so loud, Dark Link thought he felt the crater shake. "And why not?"

"What dimensional rift did you come through with that kind of money?" Dark Link asked.

The man didn't move. "You are wasting my time. Will you assist me or not?"

"Well, yeah. Sure, but . . . ."

"Excellent. Come here."

Dark Link stepped off the platform, but didn't cross the bridge. "Okay, you got what you wanted. I'm helping you. Now, how 'bout letting me in on just who you are?"

The man laughed again. "Yes, I suppose I should. It wouldn't be right for you to help me if we weren't friends, would it?"

The man turned around. Dark Link almost fell backward.

This guy was huge! Bigger than Ganondorf, and his clothes were just as striking. His face was one of pure evil. He had skin almost the color of burned rock, and his muscles were as thick as boulders. Dark Link was in shock. Was this Ganondorf, resurrected from the Dark World?

The man walked to the bridge and stopped. "I am Mephysto, heir to the great Ganondorf, created to continue his reign of evil when he died. Or," he paused, "to create a new age of terror if he screwed it up. I have resurrected you from the remains of the Water Temple using the Triforce of Power, which was given to me by Ganon upon his arrival in the Dark World. He placed my spiritual essence in the Light World and I was released into being exactly one hundred years after his defeat."

Dark Link was clearly surprised that someone of Mephysto's size and power would call upon him to help. "So what part do I play in your age of terror?"

Mephysto stepped forward onto the bridge and crossed it. When he reached Dark Link, he would've had to lay down to be at eye level with him. "You're role is simple. All you are to do is keep Link busy while I begin my plan. Which is," he paused, smiling. "To gain all three pieces of the Triforce."

Dark Link nodded. That's what everybody wanted. That Triforce. "All right." he indicated the chest across the lava pit. "How 'bout showing me the goods?"

Again, Mephysto laughed. "Ah. Such is the nature of a true warrior. I will honor your request." He zapped it with a beam of light, and it lifted off the ground and floated over to them. Mephysto pulled a large gold key from his pocket, and walked over to the chest. He unlocked it, then replaced the key inside his huge robe. Dark Link lifted the lid of the chest, and shoved it open.

He'd never seen so much money in his life! The chest was full of money. Red, green, blue, purple, and even gold rupees.

Mephysto looked down at him. "All yours when and if we succeed."

Dark Link slammed the lid of chest closed. "I'll do whatever you want!"

Mephysto smiled. "Good. Here's how the first part of my plan will work. The Gerudos have just had a new King of Thieves born, which only helps us. He will no doubt keep the Princess busy. You will surprise Link and engage him in a quick sword battle. Make sure you don't harm him."

Dark Link put up a hand. "I thought you wanted him dead!" It wasn't a question.

"Not yet," Mephysto said. "You'll have your chance. You will tell him someone he loves is in great danger. He'll know who you mean. Then you come back here. I will then set my plans in motion. Take this." He handed Dark Link a golden sphere. "Simply hold your sword up to the sky, and this will instantly teleport you back here."

"Thanks." Dark Link accepted the trinket. "What do you want with Link, anyway? You trying to lure him here or something?"

Mephysto grinned. "I want his piece of the Triforce. Then I shall seal him in the Sacred Realm. Then," he paused, laughing. "you shall deal with him any way you like!"

Dark Link smiled. This was his kind of guy. . . .

Her royal guards having left, Princess Zelda turned her attention to Link.

He was standing across from her, looking rather sullen, like he almost didn't want to go through with this whole ordeal. Yes, it was bad enough that he'd been to Termina for a hundred years. And he'd had to fight Ganondorf after a long and tireless quest for the Medallions of the Seven Sages. But she couldn't afford for him not to lead this effort.

"I'm assuming that you don't want to do this." Not a question.

Link kept on looking at the floor. "No, your highness. I don't."

"Link, I know what you've been through. I know that you want time to yourself to be with Saria. But I need you now. I can't have someone who doesn't understand what's going on foul this up."

"I understand." Link said. He paused, the question remaining unsaid, but clearly showing in his eyes.

Princess Zelda gave him her best smile. "Yes, Link. You may have one day. Go back to the forest and stay with Saria. Tell her how you feel. But be back here tomorrow morning."

Link looked at her. His expression wasn't one of surprise or hapiness. It was just one of thanks. "I'll be back before you know it." . . .

Jahkar looked around the Gerudo King's chambers.

Pretty ornate. He assumed that only Zelda's throne room could be more heavily decorated than this. All around him were paintings and murals of past Gerudo Kings and their accomplishments. The floor was of a thick, soft wood with a light brown color. The bed was the largest he'd ever seen. And the ceiling . . .

It was pretty high. He guessed that the ceiling in this room was the roof of the fortress.

Nabooru stood next to him. "A great room for a great man."

Jahkar looked at him. "When do we begin our offensive?"

"In time. We must allow some time for our soldiers to prepare for battle. It has been a long time since the Gerudo people were involved in a war."

Jahkar looked down at him. "How long?"

"To my mind, the legends say our last major war was the Dark War with the Gorons. That was almost eight hundred years ago."

"True warriors do not take that much time off."

"True. But we sustained heavy losses and eventually lost the war. The legends say that our ancestors wanted to take over Death Mountain, and the Gorons took exception."

Jahkar nodded silently. "Well, shall we go to the training grounds and see how our troops are doing?" . . .

The archery range was just north of the main gate to the fortress. It wasn't usually full, but there were exceptions. Today, extra targets had to be set up. Almost two hundred Gerudo warriors were here brushing up on their skills. As Nabooru and Jahkar walked along, they could see many of them were doing rather well. Arrows flew from heavy bows all around them. Jahkar was regarding most of them as they walked. "You have done well, Nabooru." he said. "It will be an honor to lead these men into battle."

"Thank you, my lord."

Jahkar continued walking. They soon reached the sword grounds, where defensive and offensive tactics were practiced. Bails of hay and large rocks and sandbags were used as targets. Shield practice was done on the other side of the ground. Soldiers with large slingshots sat behind a long row of hay bails. They shot at men armed with large shields. They simply blocked the large pebbles and deku nuts shot at them. Jahkar was easily impressed at the extensive nature of the training. Nabooru was not. This was pretty normal around here, and he was used to it.

"They will be ready in about three days time. Until then, may I suggest we brush up on our skills as well?"

Jahkar nodded. "It would be a pleasure."

Chapter Eight

"Look, Saria. I wan't to go just about as much as you want me to, but this is important."

They were sitting in Saria's House. She was sitting across from him, crying a little. She obviously didn't want him to go.

Link got up and moved next to her, stroking her green hair. "Look," he said. "I'll be alright. I just have to take Zelda's guards and see if we can find any evidence that Ganon has returned. Once I'm finished, I'll come straight back. I promise."

She still wasn't thrilled at the idea, but she stopped crying. "I just hate the idea of you leaving again. I hate being without you."

"I don't like it either. But it's my responsibility. I'll be back as soon as I can." He looked outside. "It's getting late. You should get some rest."

He got up. She stood and walked over to her bed. She sat down and looked at the hand drawn picture of him on the small table next to her bed. She laid down on the bed, and he pulled the blanket over her. As she closed her eyes, he bent down and gently kissed her on her forehead. As he opened the door to leave, he looked back at her, and hoped, prayed, that nothing was wrong.

He didn't want to lose her. And he knew she didn't want to lose him. . . .

Zelda's guards were waiting outside the Market when he got there. It was just after dusk, and Link had seen some of the Big Poes that escaped from the Ghost Shop when it had burned down. But he didn't have time to worry about them right now.

The bridge across the moat raised and closed. He looked around. All the guards were fully decked out. All carried Hylian Shields and what looked like scaled down versions of Biggoron's Swords. They each had backpacks, probably loaded with supplies and tunics. Link had everything he could carry. His tunics, his Mirror Shield, his Biggoron's Sword, Longshot, and anything else he thought might come in handy.

One of the guards walked up to him. "So, Link. What exactly are we supposed to be looking for?"

Link stepped down off of Epona. "Well, any signs that anyone has escaped from the Dark World. And anything else that seems unusual."

Another guard came up to him with a piece of paper in his hand. "Here, Link. This is an order from the princess. She wants you to stop by the Gerudo Fortress and check up on their new king."

Link took the document and examined it. Yes, it was from Zelda. She wanted him to go and question anyone around about the fact that they had a new king. And keep a low profile. He didn't know how he was going to do that, but he clearly would have to. If anyone suspected him of attempting to harm the king, he was dead, that was for sure.

Link turned to the crowd of guards. There were a decent number of guards there, probably twenty or thirty. He hoped she still had some to patrol the castle.

He adressed the guards. "All right. Do you all have horses?"

They nodded. "Good," Link said. "You'll need them. This is how we're going to do it. We check out every area, moving around the field in order. We start with the village, then Death Mountain Trail, and work our way around, all right? I've already been to the Lost Woods and Kokiri Forest, so we don't have to look there. If everything is normal, we come back here and remove the Spiritual Stones from the temple and take them back to the castle. The Ocarina of Time will remain under my protection. We have orders to neutralize any threat to us during this search. Is that understood?"

There were nods, and a few "Yes" replies from the guards. "All right." Link said. "Saddle up."

The guards nodded, and all spread out to their horses. Supplies were loaded, and weapons were checked. Link readied himself. This was probably the biggest contingent ever to patrol Hyrule, and it would no doubt raise suspicion. They'd have to handle that as it came.

The guards signaled that they were ready. Link mounted Epona, and the huge bridge across the moat began to lower. When it finished lowering, Link gave Epona a firm slap on the rear. "Hiyah!"

The other guards did the same, and the whole army set off toward Kakariko Village, Link and Epona in the lead. . . .

They arrived in Kakariko Village without incident. There were still a few people walking around and going about their business. They galloped along through the village slowly until they came up on a large group of people huddled around one of the houses. Link ordered the guards to dismount, and his group joined the crowd. They were immediately noticed. The man addressing the crowd stared at the army that had joined his group. "Hello, travellers. How can we help you?"

Link moved to the front of the crowd. "We're from the castle. We came to see if there have been any unusual occourences in the village the past few nights."

A ripple of conversation buzzed through the crowd. Apparently, there had been. "Yes," the man said. "We have had a few each night since three days ago."

Link thought for a moment. Three days . . . that's when the Poe shop had been burned down. "That sounds about right."

The man looked at him. "We have deku scrubs wandering around for the past few nights. Each time the guards here tried to capture them, they escaped. And we've also had some Poes drifting around here. They don't attack anyone, they just appear when someone walks by them."

Yep. Big Poes. They hadn't stayed in the field. They'd come into the village, too. "How many have you seen?"

"About three. Maybe four, we don't know for sure."

The rest must've stayed in the field. "Anything else?"

The crowd murmured. "No, that's pretty much it."

Link nodded to the man. "All right. We'll be on our way. Thanks." He made his way back through the crowd, and they all mounted their steeds. They set off toward the starting point of Death Mountain Trail. As they rode, Link debated whether or not they should stop by Goron City. He didn't think it neseccarry, but he knew that any little piece of information could be vital.

A sound in front of him caught his attention. A Poe had popped out in front of him. He instinctively snapped up his bow. A dozen arrows whizzed by his head as he released on of his own.

The Poe didn't have a prayer. It caught two of the arrows and dematerialized into a little bronze mist. Link leapt off of Epona and quickly bottled the ghost. He looked up at one of the guards who was still holding his bow, looking around. "Good aim." he told them.

The guard nodded and kept looking. Link got back up on Epona and kept on going. The group followed closely.

Chapter Nine

Mephysto crossed the bridge in Death Mountain Crater to the small island where the warp platform sat. Dark Link was waiting. "You are late." he growled.

Dark Link stepped back. "A hundred rupees worth of apologies, Mephysto."

"Where have you been?"

Dark Link looked at him. "I was right where you told me to be."

Mephysto glared at him. "Then what took so long?"

"They were doing something and I didn't know what. And the king didn't show for about twenty minutes. I had to wait."

Mephysto sighed, and handed him a red rupee. "What are they planning?"

"They are moving out in two days. They plan to attack Goron City, then march on Hyrule Castle."

Mephysto stopped him. "Attack Goron City?"

"That's what they said."

Why would the Gerudos want to attack the Gorons? The only thing Mephysto could make of it was that they wanted a diversion while they attacked the castle. They obviously had a clever leader. "Anything else?"

"Yes. The gerudos said a search party left Hyrule Castle right before I came back here. They say Link was leading them."

"A search party?" Mephysto was confused. What was Zelda up to. "Where did they go?"

Dark Link obviously was tired. He yawned, then kept talking. "The gerudos who spotted them said they were headed off toward the village."

"Who was in this 'search party'?" Mephysto demanded.

"Link and about thirty royal guards."

Mephysto paced for a moment, thinking. What was Link doing with thirty guards? What were they searching for?

He buried the thought. Unless they were looking for him, it wasn't important. "Well, we'd better get our plans straight."

He walked back over the small bridge, Dark Link behind him. When they got to the other side, Mephysto spoke. "What I intend to do is lure Link here to claim the Master Sword, then go to the Temple of Time and invade the Sacred Realm. I shall then steal the essence of the Triforce, and create my own evil realm. When I'm through," he paused, an evil smile crossing his face, "Hyrule will cease to exist!"

Dark Link was taken aback by that one. How was he supposed to do that? "Huh? You gonna erase it from history or something?"

"No. That would be too easy. I intend to claim the Triforce, and go back in time. A very long way. I will use the power of the Triforce to force the goddesses to create a world of evil, not some peaceful world. It shall be full of chaos. And you and I shall rule it all!" He smiled again. "Then I'll destroy them, too!"

Dark Link was shocked. "You . . . you wanna destroy the gods?"

Mephysto looked down at him. "Why not? When I'm through, we won't need them."

This was getting pretty crazy. This guy definitely was Ganondorfs' successor. But Ganondorf had been normal; he was just power hungry. This guy was insane!

But Dark Link liked that. It was a plan he'd be proud to be a part of. . . .

It was nearing dawn. Link and the contingent had decided to make camp just outside Goron City. A few wandering Gorons caught sight of the camp and wondered what the fuss was all about. After the sun had risen, the group packed up and took off back down Death Mountain Trail. Link decided their next stop should be Lon Lon Ranch. That would give them a chance to rest and to feed their horses. He just hoped Talon had enough hay in stock.

They rode into the small ranch just before nine o'clock. Talon was moving some boxes around when the large cavalry came galloping in. He stood up in amazement. "Whoa, Link! What's up? You wanna take over the ranch?"

Link stopped Epona and dismouted. The door to Talon's house opened, and Malon came running out. She saw Link and flew into his arms. "Hi Link!" she said happily.

He patted her on the head. "Hi, Malon. Can I talk to your dad for a minute?"

She stepped back. "Sure."

He pointed toward Epona. "Why don't you get her some hay?"

"Okay!" She ran over to the horse that had once been her pony. She walked her back to the pasture. Link turned to Talon. "We need some hay for these horses. Do you have enough?"

"For you guys, sure." he replied. "I'll see what I can do."

"Good. Then we'll stay here for the day and head out again tonight." He looked back over his cavalry. "Take your horses to that field. Then come back here and help with the hay."

They all replied by taking their steeds and walking them back around the stable. Link turned back to Malon. "Ingo giving you any trouble?"

Talon laughed. "That guy? All that's wrong with him is he's got a wounded ego. He got real mad when Zelda made him gimme the ranch back."

Link permitted himself a chuckle. Ingo had to be nursing a wounded ego. He had enough trouble coping with the fact he'd lost their race all that time ago, and had to give Epona up to Link. "Good. We came out this way because there have been signs popping up all over the place that something is going on. We need to know if you've seen or heard anything unusual."

Talon thought for a moment. "Nothing, really. What's been going on?"

"There have been outbreaks of violence in the Market, deku scrubs running around where they're not supposed to be, and Poes are wandering around Kakariko Village."

Talon stared at him. "Poes? In the village?"

"Yeah. Big ones." Link said. "They escaped from the Ghost Shop when those deku scrubs burned it down." He pulled the bottle out of his pack and handed it to Talon. "We've only caught one of them."

The guards came back around the corner. Talon looked at the bottle, handed it to Link, and motioned them to follow him. "In the stable. Each of you grab a bail and take it out back."

He showed them into the stable. He walked in and pointed to the back wall. "Over there," he said, pointing to a huge pile of bailed hay. "One each."

The guards nodded, and they each grabbed a bail. Link got one himself, as did Talon. They walked out back. As they were going, Talon asked, "You guys have anything to eat or drink?"

Link kept on walking. "Not since last night."

"Well, I just milked all the cows, so I've got plenty of milk if your guys want some. Almost six barrels full. Don't got much food, though. It's not every day an army comes here, you know."

"That's fine." Link said. He felt like some milk himself.

When they finished with the hay and the horses were all eating, the crowd shuffled back into the stable and Talon brought the barrels of milk out in front of the stable. The soldiers lined up and Talon filled their bottles with milk. Some talked and drank, some drank and took naps, and others used the fence posts for target practice. Link got his helping of milk and went back to the corral where Malon was tending to Epona. "Hey Malon," he said as he approached.

She looked up. "Hi Link."

He walked over. She was patting Epona on her head. "I sure have missed her." she said.

Link sat down on the ground and took a sip of the milk. It was fresh, and tasted great. Some of the soldiers had come back to check on their horses. "I've taken care of her." Link told her.

Malon nodded. "I know. I just never expected that a fairy boy from the forest would end up with my horse."

Link took another sip. "It was a good thing I won that race with Ingo. He was going to give her to Ganondorf."

Malon looked at him. "It wouldn't have mattered. He'd never have been able to tame her. He didn't know her song."

"She's been a real help." Link said. He downed some more of the milk.

Malon turned to face him. "I've always wanted to ask. Can you show me how to play her song on your ocarina?"

"Sure." Link pulled the instrument out of his pocket and handed it to her. She admired the craftsmanship. "I can get you one if you like?"


"Yeah," Link replied. "The village carpenter can make you one."

She handed it back to him. "You play it like this." He put it up to his lips. She watched him intently. He slowly played Epona's Song.

Epona gave him a big lick on the face when he finished it. He patted her, then gave the instrument to Malon. "Try it."

She played it perfectly. Epona gave her a big kiss, too. She laughed. Talon came up to him. "Well, Link. You ran me out of milk and hay. Anything else."

"Yeah. Can We camp here for the night and leave tomorrow? I need to go to Gerudo Fortress."

"I don't see why not." Talon said. "Sure. They can stay."

"All right. Just let me outline the rest of the plan and I'll be on my way." Link gulped down the rest of the milk. Even warm, it tasted wonderful. Talon nodded, and walked away. Link got up and rounded up the men. When he had them all in front of the stable, he spoke. "Everyone will stay here for the night. I'll head over to the fortress and see what's going on there. If I get back tonight, we leave tonight. If not, tomorrow. Any questions?"

A few replies of "No.". The rest were nods. "Good. I'll get going, then." He walked back over to the corral and put Epona's halter back on. He gave Malon a goodbye kiss, the mounted and took off through the front gate. . . .

It took him the better part of the afternoon to go back to Hyrule Castle and report his groups' findings to Princess Zelda and make his way over to Gerudo Fortress. When he got there, he noticed he had a problem.

The bridge across the small canyon had collapsed again. There were a few carpenters working on it. "Any chance I could get through?" he asked one of them.

"Not until we get this rebuilt." the man replied. "A huge rock fell from the cliff and knocked it out. We won't be done until morning."

"That's not what I mean. Just move aside."

The guard looked at him like he didn't know what Link meant, but he did as he was told. The others did likewise. Link turned Epona around and rode back against the cliff face. Then he lined up with the remains of the bridge and urged Epona forward. She leapt over the chasm like it was a small fence. He could her the men applauding as he rode away.

He reached the fortress without incident. However, he was in for a huge surprise. As he rode past the gate, the watchwoman shouted to the guards. "Intruder! Guards, stop him!"

Link looked up at her, shocked. He did have free passage here, didn't he?

His question was answered by three arrows whizzing past. Enemies couldn't hurt him on horseback, but projectiles could. He turned Epona around and charged back toward the main gate. Halfway there, it began to close. The guards continued to fire at him.

He urged Epona forward. It looked like it would close before he got there. If it did . . .

He felt part of his sleeve tear away as the sharp end of the gate caught it. Epona cried out in pain. The gate slammed closed behind him. He'd made it through, but at a price. He rode out and leapt over the bridge again, nearly knocking one of the carpenters into the canyon. He heard them shouting as he rode away. Once he got back out into the field, he hopped off and looked at Epona's right side.

It wasn't bad. She just had a large scratch down her right side. It was bleeding, but not bad. She'd be alright. He hopped back onto her and rode off toward the ranch at a slower pace. . . .

"Oh no!"

Malon ran over as Link dismounted. She looked at the wound, then took Epona back to the corral. Talon ran up to him. "What in tarnation happened, Link?"

"Something's up over at the fortress. I thought I had a free pass, but I guess they revoked it."

"What happened?"

Link caught the little breath he was missing. "They attacked me when I rode in. I turned to leave, and they tried to lock me in. The gate got part of my sleeve, and I guess that's what hurt Epona. I don't think anyone followed me."

"I'll go lock the front gates then." Talon said, and ran off.

Link watched him go, then headed back to the corral. Malon was standing beside Epona. "Is she alright?" Link asked, moving to see Epona's wound.

"I think so. This should heal by itself."

Link pulled out his ocarina. "I'll give it some help." He played the Song of Healing. A golden glow came from the wound. When it dissipated, the wound was gone.

"There we go," he said, putting the ocarina away. "Good as new."

Malon patted Epona as Link walked back to adress his troops. "We'll stay here for the night. I don't know if the Gerudos are looking for me, and I'd feel safer confornting them during the day."

The crowd dispersed and the guards began setting up tents and making small fires. Talon came up to him. "Well, gates are locked. You guys staying here tonight?"

Link nodded. "Yeah, we're better off. "If they're looking for me, I'd feel better off fighting during the day."

"Why did they attack you. You so something?" Talon asked.

"Probably their new king doesn't want anyone snooping around."

Talon froze. "New king?"

Link nodded again. "Yeah. His name's Jahkar."

Talon just stared at him. "I know." Link said. "I'm stating to think we've got trouble." . . .


Mephysto looked up from the scroll he'd been reading. He had used the Triforce of Power to erect himself an ornate building in the wall of the crater. Three large rooms. One bedroom for himself and Dark Link, and a large room with desks and shelves for his research. Dark Link ran in, shouting. "Master Mephysto!"

"What is it?"

Dark Link caught his breath, then replied. "I was watching the fortress! Link showed up!"

The scroll clattered to the floor as Mephysto leapt from his large chair. "What?!"

"He came in on Epona. And the Gerudos attacked him."

"They WHAT!?!"

Dark Link stumbled a step backward. Mephysto was furious. "This is the work of their new king. He must have terminated Link's membership." Mephysto balled his massive right hand into a fist. "That blockhead doesn't know what he's up against! Link is mine! No one else's!"

Dark Link, clearly scared out of his boots, stared at Mephysto. "What are you going to do?"

Mephysto glared straight through him. He was getting pretty good at that. "I'll tell you. If that fool Jahkar interferes again," he growled, "there won't be much of a Gerudo people left for him to rule."

Chapter Ten

Nabooru stood at the door to the kings' chamber. This was the first piece of bad news he'd had to report, and the king sure as day wasn't going to like it. He cleared his throat, and opened the door.

Jahkar looked up from whatever it was he was doing and walked over to Nabooru. "Yes, Nabooru?"

Nabooru braced himself. This wasn't going to be pretty. "Sir, I, um, have some . . . . bad news."

Jahkar's expression didn't change. "Yes? What?"

"Link rode in on horseback about thirty minutes ago. The guards tried . . . . but . . . ."


"He . . . . escaped, sir."

Jahkar's face became red. "He WHAT?!"

"They closed the gate, and the guards chased him . . ."

Jahkar was enraged. "You let him escape! You pathetic fool! How hard is it to capture one person?! There are fifty guards out there!" He slammed his fist down onto the table, and the legs gave way. The table crashed to the floor. "I should have you executed for this failure!"

Nabooru was paralyzed with fear. It clearly showed in his eyes.

Jalhkar looked down at him. "But I do not make a habit of wasting valuable men. You shall have another chance. Did anyone see where he was going after he escaped?"

Emphasis on 'escaped'. "Yes, sir. It appeared he was headed toward the village. I cannot be sure that's where he went, though."

Jahkar smiled. "Very well. We shall simply try persuasion. Take as many men as you need, and go to the village. If you suspect the villagers are lying to you . . . . . . . burn the village to ashes."

Nabooru nodded and turned to leave. Jahkar stopped him. "Oh, and issue a bounty of ten thousand rupees on Link's head. Dead or alive. And if Princess Zelda or any of her guards interfere . . . . eliminate them." . . .

Zelda was incredulous. "They attacked you?"

Link was pacing back and forth, trying to put this all together. This had to mean something was up over there. Their new king had to be planning something. This wasn't good.

His army was outside, waiting for the princess' orders. He had decided she had to know about the gerudos attacking him.

Zelda stepped down and looked at him. "Why did they attack you?"

Link sighed. "I don't know. They meant it, though. They were shooting like crazy as I left. They tried to close me in, but I got through. Barely." He showed her the huge tear in his right sleeve.

"Well, what do you think, Link?" she asked him.

"I think we can assume that Ganondorf isn't back. We can't just jump to conclusions like that."

Zelda stepped back up to her throne and sat down. "You must go and close the Door of Time. Bring the Spiritual Stones back here."

Link nodded, then left the room. Impa stepped in from the side. "Your highness. If what Link says is true, and the gerudos are planning something . . ."

Zelda beat her to it. "We'll have to mount some kind of defense. But what? And when?"

Impa shrugged. "I do not know. We can't tell any of the citizens of these developments. It would raise an immediate panic."

"You're right." Zelda slumped back into her seat. They needed a plan, and they needed one fast. . . .

Link and his contingent arrived at the Temple of Time. They had left their horses outside the Market so as not to arouse any suspicion. Link led the way up to the ornate altar, where the three stones slowly hovered above the altar. The guards took the whole scene in. Link didn't know how closing the door was supposed to work.

Ten years ago, he thought he was helping Zelda to reach the Triforce before Ganondorf when he first opened this door.

Now he prayed that he wasn't about to make the same mistake again.

He slowly walked up to the red carpet in front on the altar, pulled out his ocarina, and played the Song of Time.

Nothing happened.

Link stood there for a second, his mind racing over a hundred possible solutions. Did he need the Master Sword? He didn't think so. Replacing that in the stone would just send him back seven years in time. Right?

This was confusing. Slowly, almost reluctantly, he reached up to the altar. He let his palms rest on the Kokiri's Emerald. He ever so carefully pulled it from the altar.

Still nothing.

He handed the large emerald to one of the guards. He admired it.

He repeated this process for Goron's Ruby and Zora's Sapphire. He then took the three gleaming gems from the guards and carefully placed them in his backpack. Then he pulled out his ocarina and played the Song of Time.

The temple began to shake, just as it had done ten years ago. The huge stone slabs that formed the Door of Time began to slide from the walls, until they met with a bang and closed. Then the glowing Triforce symbol above the door dimmed and went dark.

Link let out a short sigh of relief. Finally, something was going their way. The only way into the Sacred Realm was now sealed, and the Triforce was safe.

Link and the guards slowly made their way out of the temple. It was strange, for the temple didn't seem to be as sacred as it had before. . . .

Princess Zelda leapt off of her throne as Link entered the room, his backpack slung over his shoulders. She could see from the look on his face that they had been successful.

"Well, Link," she said as he approached. "How did it go?"

He put down the backpack and opened it up. Zelda peered inside. The stones gave off a magnificent golden glow. "No damage to the Sacred Realm?" she asked.

"Not that I could see," Link replied. "It closed as smoothly as it opened."

Zelda breathed a sigh of relief. Finally. For once in the history of Hyrule, they were ahead of their enemies. "And the Triforce?"

Link smiled. "Safe in the Realm."

Zelda could hardly contain her pleasure. They may have ended a threat before it had even surfaced. She jumped into Link's arms. "Thank you." she whispered. Impa walked in. "The preperations are complete." Two guards came in behind her. They carried a large chest with two locks on it. They placed the three gems in seperate sacks, then placed them in the large chest. They carried it out of the room. Link and Zelda followed closely.

The guards turned the corner and took two torches off the wall. They walked for about ten minutes through dimly lit hallways, constantly turning corners. "What's all this?" Link asked Zelda.

"We're not talking any chances," she replied. "This is the most important secret in all of Hyrule."

Link nodded. He knew exactly what she meant. They continued walking until they reached a cast iron door with three large locks on it. The guards lit the torches in the hallway, then unlocked the door and carried the huge chest inside. Link noted that the three locks all had different sized and colored keys. They entered a pitch dark room with stone walls and no windows. They had been walking, by Link's estimation, for fifteen minutes. They had to be either deep underground, or in the bowels of the castle. The guards took the chest to the back of the room, and placed it against the back wall. They walked back out, locking the door securley behind them, and took positions on either side of the door. They drew vicious looking swords and Mirror Shields, and stood there. Zelda tugged at Link's torn sleeve. "Come on. Let's go."

Impa led the way back up to Zelda's throne room. When they reached it, Zelda turned to Link. "Now, I assume you wish to return to the forest?"

Link did. More than ever. "Yes, your highness."

"Then you may do so. Please give Saria my warmest regards."

Link bowed to her, then left. Epona was right outside the Market where he'd left her. He hopped on and took off for the forest. . . .

Link jumped off Epona and charged across the bridge into Kokiri Forest. He knew Saria would be waiting. He chraged past the Kokiri Shop, running straight for Saria's house. He ran up to the door and began pounding on it. "Saria? Are you there?"

He heard the feint click of a lock opening. The door opened and Saria ran through, jumping into Link's arms. "Oh, you're back!"

They must've hugged for a good three or four minutes. She was so happy he was back. After all that, they went into her house and Link explained what they did.

"We closed the Door of Time," he told her, taking a seat.

She looked at him, wide-eyed. "And the stones?"

"Locked up real tight in the castle. Zelda's got her best guards watching them." Link sat there, looking out the window. Suddenly, he heard Zelda's Lullaby filling his mind. He jumped out of the chair. Saria was surprised. "Link, what's . . ."

He held up a hand to stop her. Impa's voice was filling his mind. He tried to focus on what she was saying.

Link, this is Impa. Gerudo warriors have set fire to Kakariko Village. You must come at once.

He ran from the house, Saria close behind, yelling at him the whole way. "Link! What's wrong?"

They reached the bridge, and she stopped. He kept going. "No time!" he yelled.

He came out into the field. Epona hadn't moved. He ran up to his steep and jumped on. He set off for the village like lightning. . . .

Impa was waiting for him at the entrance to the village, along with and handful of the villagers. He could see the smoke from there. As they entered the village, he could see a few of the houses were not burning. He tore his ocarina out of his pocket and hastily played the Song of Storms. Rain began to fall almost immdiately. The fires began to subside. Link turned to the villager nearest him. "What happened?"

The villager was watching her house, but turned to him. Her voice was shaky. "Nabooru of the Gerudos came. He had an army of almost forty men. They all had torches. They told us that if we didn't tell them where you were, they'd burn down the village."

So they did want him.

"We told them we didn't know, but he didn't believe us. So they set the village on fire and rode off."

Link was getting upset. He had to find out what was going on in Gerudo fortress. Their king was up to something, and he obviously wanted Link out of the way. Another villager ran up to him. "That's not all, Link. The gerudos also issued a ten thousand rupee bounty on you." He held out a piece of paper. "Dead or alive."

Link took the paper from him and began to read it: To All Beings of Hyrule, The gerudo king Jahkar has issued a bounty of ten thousand rupees on the Hyrulean Hero of Time, Link. He, or his body, is to be brought to Gerudo Fortress when found. Payment on arrival. No questions asked. NOTE: Any person suspected of lying about his whereabouts or helping Link to hide from us will be arrested.

"They're serious about this one." Link said, giving the paper back to the man.

The villager took it, and spoke. "I don't know who's gonna turn you in, though. I know no one around here would."

Impa stood there, watching the fires. Most of them were already out, and the rest would be soon. She turned to him. "Do not be so sure. There are beings who would risk death and betray even the princess for such wealth."

Link watched as the rain slowly extinguished the remaining fires. Then he turned to Impa. "If you wish to remain in the castle until this threat passes . . ."

Link looked at her. "No. I can't do that. We have to find out what Jahkar is up to. Whatever it is, he's serious, and that's not a good sign."

Once the fires were out, he played the Song of Storms again to silence the clouds. As the rain stopped, he went back to the village entrance, and mounted Epona. Impa had her horse there as well, and she did likewise. "I will return to the castle and inform the princess of the bounty. Return to the forest and do not leave until called for."

Link nodded, and they parted. . . .

Nabooru laughed.

Yes, this was too perfect. The Gerudo scouts had been correct.

There was some kind of new dark lord who had set up shop in Death Mountain Crater. He had plans to destroy Link. This was excellent. Once this maniacal man had gotten rid of Link, Hyrule was theirs for the taking. Great!

Jahkar entered the room, slamming the door open. Two guards followed, dragging an odd looking boy with them. He had on green clothing, and was very short. He had blonde hair and a green cap.

Nabooru looked up. "Where did you find this Kokiri?" she demanded.

The guards regarded her. "He was wandering around the valley. We caught his talking to the carpenters."

Jahkar sat down. "He says his name is Mido." he rumbled.

Nabooru leapt to her feet, knocking over the chair she had been sitting in. "Lock him up! Now!"

The guards nodded and left the room. Jahkar was looking at her. "Why is it so important to lock up a Kokiri? What threat does he pose?"

"No threat," she said, "but he is a friend of Link. All he has to do is find out he is here, and he'll come right into our hands."

She walked over to the door and pounded on it. The guard who had been outside came in. "Yes?"

"I want the security force outside the fortress doubled. Give everyone Hero's bows and Razor Swords." Nabooru told the guard.

She nodded and left. "With luck," Nabooru said, turning to face Jahkar, "we'll have our hero in a few days."

Chapter Eleven

Oh, she had better have a good excuse for this one.

Link was standing on the warp platform at the beginning of the desesrt. Impa had told him Zelda wanted Link to spy on the Gerudos. However, since they had obviously dismissed his membership, he'd have to go in the back way.

Which meant through the burning desert.

Which meant across the Haunted Wasteland.

And, which meant sneaking into the fortress at night!

Yeah, she'd need a damn good excuse.

He started walking across the hot sand. He had on his Goron Tunic, which protected his body from the heat. But that didn't mean you couldn't get hot while wearing it. He wiped some sweat from his brow as he walked.

Then, there was also the matter of Mido. He had been missing for a day, which might have meant nothing, but Link wasn't sure. The Kokiri had the freedom to leave the forest now, and that had caused problems before. And if Link knew Mido, he was probably somewhere he shouldn't be.

Link kept on walking. Then, a huge, blinding ball of light blazed into his eyes. He staggered backward. A figure began to materialize in front of him. When the light finally faded, an all-too-farmiliar figure stood in front of him, sword drawn. "Hello, Link. It's been awhile."

Link stood in a defensive posture. He knew who it was, all right. "What the hell do you want?" he growled.

The darkly clad figure, Dark Link, stepped forward, and Link took a step back. Dark Link wasn't amused. "What, you don't trust me?"

"How did you get here?"

Dark Link pulled his shield from his back. A perfect replica of Link's own Mirror Shield. Just with black outlining. Then he pulled a perfect copy of the Master Sword from his sword sheath. "Ugh. I hate it when friends don't trust each other."

Link drew his sword. It was his Biggoron's Sword, meaning if this came to a fight, he didn't have a shield. A huge disadvantage. "What do you want?" he said again.

"There's been a change in plans. The Gerudos aren't the ones you should be worried about." He shrugged. "Well, at least no yet."

What did he mean by that?


"What else does it mean?"

Link looked at him. His anger was growing quickly. Any second now, he would probably lose it.

"Oh, and uh, by the way . . . . . I hope you don't love her too much, Link."

Link lost it. He charged Dark Link with everything he had. Dark Link took the handle of his sword and shoved it into Link's gut. Link groaned and stumbled backward, then charged again. He leapt at Dark Link with a jump attack. Dark Link simply moved out of the way, and Link was eating dirt. He spun onto his back and jumped up as Dark Link's sword slashed the sand where his head had been. Dark Link swung again, and Link partially blocked the blow with his sword. Then he slashed at Dark Link, but a simple movement with his shield blocked the blow. Link was enraged, however, and was swinging wildly. He slashed at Dark Link again and again. He jumped again, and Dark Link caught him good. A swift kick in the side brought Link down hard. Dark Link then took his shield by the pointed end, and slammed it flat onto Link's back.

Link shouted in pain. It was too much.

Dark Link walked backward. He replaced his sword and shield behind him. "Ha! You need practice, Link. Try that dinky little Forest Training Center."

Link was still picking himself up off the ground. His sword was a few inches away. In one smooth motion, he rolled onto his feet, snatching up his sword in the process. He charged Dark Link once more.

The other barely had time to swipe his sword up and deflect Link's mad rush. He swung at Link's head, and Link ducked, swinging his foot around in an attempt to trip Dark Link. Dark Link did a backflip, dodging the kick and giving himself time to pull his shield free again.

This was getting nowhere. They were evenly matched, and no matter how hard Link tried, he couldn't find an opening to deliver a solid blow. And his anger was getting the best of him.

He'd beaten Dark Link before, but that was in the Water Temple, and he didn't have a physical essence. Then, the advantage had been Link's.

Now, no one had one.

Link had to think, fast. If he could just get Dark Link off his feet . . .

There was a large boulder about ten feet behind Dark Link. Ih Link could force him close to that boulder, maybe he could use it to his advantage.

Dark Link was standing a few feet away, having backed up anticipating another of Link's mad charges. Then Link rememberd: Farore's Wind! He could set up a warp point where he stood now, force Dark Link around, then get behind him! He took out the crystal and posed. Nothing seemed to happen, but Link knew better. Then, he charged Dark Link.

The other straightened, ready to leap out of the way.

He never got the chance.

Halfway there, Link jumped, somersaulting over Dark Link, and twisted so that he landed facing the other.

Dark Link whipped up his shield and barely blocked a vicious blow. Link slashed, again and again, making sure to leave no opening for a blow from his opponent. Then he stepped back, and posed again.

This was clearly a surprise to Dark Link. It was even more of a surprise when Link dissapeared. Link just dematerialized in front of his eyes.

Then, Link reappeared behind him, kicking him hard in the back. Dark Link fell, and Link was on him. He tried to take the other over, but Dark Link rolled and gave Link a swift kick, sending him toppling backward. Dark Link leapt to his feet, and thust his sword above his head. "You're more cunning than I thought. I hope we meet again."

He dissapeared in a bright flash of light. Link had to shield his eyes. When the blast dimmed, he yanked out his ocarina. "I've got to get back to the forest!" He played the Minuet of Forest, and warped to the Lost Woods, praying that he would make it in time. . . .

Link charged through the entrance to Kokiri Forest. He was yelling as he ran.

"Saria? Saria!"

He knew what Dark Link had meant, all right. The look in his eye when he spoke could only have meant one thing. He ran to her house and looked inside.

No one home.

He ran to his treehouse, scrambling up the ladder. She wasn't there either.

Only one more place to look. She hadn't been in front of the Forest Temple, which meant the bridge. He ran across the forest, and through the brush onto the bridge to Hyrule Field.

Saria was standing there alone, waiting. Link ran up to her and threw his arms around her. She was clearly surprised.

"Link! What's wrong?" she asked.

He sighed. "Nothing. I'm just gald to see you." He hugged her tightly, as if he felt it could truly protect her.

Then the sky began to darken. Link looked all around him, panic beginning to fill his mind. A booming laugh echoed through the forest. It was a loud, mad laugh. Link yanked his sword out of it's sheath. Then a bright light filled the area, and he heard Saria scream. Then Link's world plummeted into darkness.

Chapter Twelve

Zelda was absolutely enraged. None of this was true.

The Gerudo Theives were very insistent. But Zelda knew better. "What would Link want with your supplies?" she shouted at the woman.

The woman looked her over. "It is as I said. Link stormed the fortress and attempted to kill our new king. He then made off with several swords and bundles of arrows."

Zelda lost it. "You lie! Link would never steal from you! The last time he tried to enter the fortress, you attacked him! Without provocation, I might add!"

Impa steeped up and placed her calming hands on Zelda's shoulders. Zelda felt herself calm. She nodded to Impa that she was fine, and the large Sheikah stepped back again. Zelda turned to the two Gerudos, wondering how she was going to end this.

Suddenly, the double doors to the room crashed open. Link came charging through. He skidded to a halt as he caught sight of the Gerudo Theives. Zelda regarded him harshly. "Link? What are you doing here?"

Link was clearly shaken. He had trouble getting all the words out. "Zelda, . . . someone . . . someone has taken Saria . . ." He trailed off.

Zelda was shocked. Saria, the Sage of Forest, taken!

The Gerudo Theives, clearly amused by all this, were talking among themselves. The tall one looked at Link. "Kokiri are all the same. This isn't a surprise."

Link's self control collapsed like a flimsy built tent. He was on the woman in an instant, pummeling her with all his frustration and anger. Two of Zelda's guards ran up and broke up the fight. The woman stood back up and moved beside her companion. "You see, Princess? It is as I said. He is mad and cannot be trusted." She turned to her friend. "Come. We must go."

After they had left, Zelda turned her attention to Link. He was in shambles. He had a frightened expression on his face, and tears in his eyes. "Link, you have to tell me what happened."

He obviously wasn't paying attention. He didn't say anything. He just walked up to her throne and sat down on the steps. "This is all my fault." he said wearily. "I should have been there."

Zelda walked over and sat down next to him. "I should have let you stay in the forest. If you would like to go home and rest, you are welcome to do so."

Link nodded, and sat for a few more moments. He was absolutely devestated.