Link before had link felt helplessness such as this.
As the pinching grip of the purple Poe Sister squeezed his neck cruelly, Link the other three sisters gathered around their prey into a circle, watching the Hero of Time with glee and ridicule. Link could feel their hollow eyes observe him scornfully; waiting for the moment his life force would be entirely drained, leaving only an empty shell. He was sure they also wanted to join in with their sister and help her deplete his energy, but they were resisted, allowing the sister who was injured to destroy the one who had injured her.
And there was nothing Link could do to save himself, not to mention Saria and the two fairies once these hags were finished with him. They were all going to die in this chamber at the hands of the ghostly Poe Sisters. The thought was just too much to bear for Link. Not only had he failed to protect those he loved, but he had failed in his duty as the Hero of Time. Once he was gone, there would be no one to stand up to Ganondorf other than Sheik and his resistance, and judging by the way the spoke Link had been their only hope.
He had failed them. He had failed them all.
There was nothing he could do, except die like the pathetic hero he was…
Link realized he must be near death already; he was beginning to hear voices in his head.
—Link, can you hear me?—
He must really be near death; the voice he was hearing was Saria’s. He had no idea hallucinations could be this strong.
—Link, please speak to me if you can hear me. Please—
Knowing there was nothing else he could do, Link decided to spend the remaining time he had to speak to this dream. This beautiful, wonderful, dream…
“I’m here, Saria. I’m here.”
—Link, don’t give up yet. There is still one thing you can do to free yourself—
“Saria…I will die in a matter of moments. Please, let’s talk of more pleasant things other than the impossible…”
—Link, listen to me! You have to…—
“Saria, please, don’t talk about such things. I am no longer Link the Hero of Time. I am Link the Kokiri. Let us not speak about my failure as the savior of Hyrule. I want to talk about our lives together, how spending time with you gave me some of the happiest moments of…”
—Link! Stop thinking like that! You’re the Hero of Time! How can you even consider giving up like this?—
—Listen to yourself, Link! I know the situation seems hopeless, but those thoughts are the thoughts of someone who doesn’t try everything. Remember what I told you all those years ago, the day you were summoned by the Great Deku Tree?—
“I…I think I do…”
—What did I tell you?—
“That…that you didn’t want me to give up something just because it’s difficult or because I can’t do it right away. But Saria, that was because I couldn’t play the ocarina…”
—No, Link. Those words meant a lot more than that. Back then, even then, I knew you were different from the rest of the Kokiri, someone special in a way I couldn’t figure out. I gave you those words with the feeling they would mean something later on. And now I know why. You are the Hero of Time, Link. The Hero of Time. You cannot give up like this just because the situation seems hopeless. You have to find a way to make the situation work for you, find a way to accomplish what you must do. Even in circumstances such as this, you cannot quit. You are the Hero of Time, and I know you can make it out of this. I believe in you, Link. I believe in you. With all my heart, I believe in you—
When Link heard those final words, something amazing happened. Even though his body had gone completely numb all over, he could feel a single tear trickle down his left cheek. He could also feel his heart break, break because of his stupidity and idiocy. Of course he was the Hero of Time, and yet he had dared to give up this easily. How could have even allowed such a thought to enter his mind? He felt like kicking himself…if he could’ve moved, that is.
But he also felt his heart harden, harden with determination and grit. Saria was right; he wasn’t finished yet. If there was a way out of this, he was going to find it…
“Look, sisters, he has shed a tear,” the green Poe pointed out.
“The pain he is feeling must be unbearable,” sneered the red sister.
“Watching him suffer like this is truly a rare joy for us, isn’t it?” exclaimed the blue Poe Sister.
“It won’t be much longer before he is dead, so enjoy this while you can,” the purple Poe warned with a snicker.
The Poe Sisters’ mockery of his tear made Link all the more angry and determined.
“I’m listening, Saria. What were you trying to tell me earlier?”
—Thank the Three Goddesses you’re thinking straight again. All right, Link, this is what you do. The Poe Sisters are draining your life force, but they do not know of the other energies within you, such as your magic—
“But I can’t use my magic right now; I can’t even move…”
—That’s not what I’m referring to. There is another form of energy inside of you other than your magic. I can feel it inside of you, waiting to be awakened. It’s the energy of the Temple of Light—
The energy of the Temple of Light…? Of course! The medallion that Rauru had given him! Link could still remember the tingling sensation he had felt when that thing had absorbed itself into his body. Rauru had given it to him with the hope it would be useful, but Link had no idea how to actually use it. Did Saria somehow know…?
“What do I do with it?”
—You must call forth it, Link. You must awaken it. Once awakened, it will strengthen you in every possible way: stamina, might, magical potency, everything—
“Will it give me some new spell to use against these monsters…?”
—No, that is not its purpose. All it will do is give you the necessary strength to combat the evil around you, nothing more—
“All right, I’ll do it. What must I do to awaken it?”
—Calm yourself, believe in your own strength, and ask it to aid you. You will know when it has chosen to lend you its strength. You can do it, Link. I know you can. I believe in you, Link—
Silently acknowledging everything Saria had told him, Link focused all of his remaining strength on summoning the power of the Temple of Light. He relaxed as best be could through his spasms and quietly began to pray.
“Look, the boy isn’t moving any more,” the blue Poe indicated.
“He must be dead…or at least near death,” the red sister gleefully cried.
“No, there is still quite a bit of energy left for him to be dead,” the purple Sister announced rather puzzled.
“That’s peculiar…” the green sister started when she was abruptly interrupted.
By a scream.
The scream of her purple sibling.
“What’s going on?”
Before the other three Poe Sisters could do anything else, the purple sister reared back in agony, released another scream of excruciating pain, and suddenly flew backwards, as if pushed by some unseen force. The hand she had been holding Link by was completely burnt, releasing smoke trails and a faint odor.
“What happened?” the red Poe asked frantically as it rushed towards her burnt sister.
“That boy’s energy…it burnt me!” the purple Poe screeched in anguish.
“But how can that be?” the green sister demanded.
“Only energy of pure light can harm us,” the blue sister pointed out.
“Hey, Poe Sisters!”
The four sisters turned their attention back to their weak and drained prey…and they couldn’t believe their hollow eyes. Link, who had only moments ago been drooping in the purple Poe’s arms and quivering violently, was now standing tall and proud, his eyes filled with newfound strength and vigor. His hands were once again holding his sword and shield triumphantly, their polished surfaces glittering in the light of their multi-colored torches.
“What is this?”
“The boy is standing again!”
“He can’t have enough energy to be standing like this!”
“Oh, but I do!” Link laughed heartily. “And you’re going to pay for what you did to me, as well as for what you did to Saria.”
The Poe Sisters started to scream together in outrage, their disfigured faces twisting in disgust.
“Burn him! Burn him! Burn him! Burn him!”
The sisters then, without any kind of formation of tactical strategy, released their tinted tongues of flame upon the Hero of Time in a heated effort to burn him where he stood.
“That won’t work this time!” Link cried out as he moved to doge the incoming flames. To his own the Poe Sisters’ astonishment his agility in avoiding the flames was a lot nimbler than before. But while the sisters could find no explanation, Link knew why. The power of the Temple of Light flowing through him was doing exactly what Saria had said. He felt strong than before, faster than before, and more powerful than before. The boost in stamina hadn’t elevated him to a godlike status, but the difference was undeniably there.
And that was all he needed.
“Kill him! Kill him! Kill him! Kill him!”
As the Poes continued to scream and release their fires, Link continued to evade the flames as if it were mere child’s play. Part of the reason could’ve been because the sisters were firing out of pure blind rage, but the main reason was undoubtedly Link’s newfound agility.
And Link was putting that agility to good use. As the sisters continued their sloppy onslaught, Link edged closer and closer to the nearest of the Poe Sisters, the red one, until he was in striking distance. The Poe was obviously surprised by Link getting near her like this, but Link allowed her no time to get away. With a single swift stroke of the Master Sword, Link sliced through the red Poe’s neck before the Poe had time to even turn around.
And unlike the first time, the red Poe shrieked. It raised its hands into the air as he reared its head back in unbearable pain before, with a loud bang, the Poe transformed into a floating skeletal tomb of vapor. To the remaining three Poes’ horror, the red Poe continued to scream in agony as its ghostly fluids escaped from its twisted body, until only a red tinge remained that eventually disappeared into the air like a puff of smoke.
“The boy killed our sister!”
“How did he manage to kill her when she was not interacting with the physical world?”
“He had failed in that attempt before!”
Link took a moment to admire his handiwork before he turned his attention to the Poes, whose rotting mouths were gaping in disbelief. He smiled slyly before waving the Master Sword teasingly in the air.
“One down,” he taunted, “three to go. Who’s next?”
The situation had changed courses so suddenly that two of the Poe Sisters couldn’t even fathom what had happened. One was filled with complete fear, the other with utter rage. The former, the blue sister, started to back away timidly, while the latter, the green sister, began shaking in fury.
“How dare you destroy our sister!” the green Poe threatened.
“I…I can’t believe he’s so strong…” the blue sister stuttered nervously.
“Sisters, wait, do not move until we have…!”
But the purple Poe’s cries when unheard when the green sister suddenly screamed in wrath and charged straight for Link, its hand outstretched to release another blast of its emerald fire. But Link wasn’t stupid; he knew when to take advantage of an enemy’s carelessness. Before the green Poe had a chance to fire another flaming tongue at him, Link made a dash straight towards her head-on, holding the Master Sword high above his head.
He reached her in a matter of seconds and brought the mighty blade crashing down; it found the green Poe’s head and split her body in half. The enraged sister only had time to pause and scream for but a split second before it met the same fate of her sister.
By now, the blue Poe had seen enough.
“I…I…I don’t…want to die…!” she screamed before dashing off in terror for the staircase.
“Sister, wait…!” begged the purple Poe, but Link was way ahead of her.
As if guided by some mysterious force, Link arched the Master Sword behind him, aimed carefully, and then with all his might threw the blade straight at the blue Poe, sending its flying and spinning like a steel beast after its prey. His accuracy was dead on target. Before the blue Poe even managed to reach the first step of the stairway, the whirling blade sailed right through its target, slicing the Poe through the head and below the neck.
Like the coward she was the blue Poe thrashed and squealed in pain for a few precious seconds before it finally disintegrated into the air like its sisters.
Link smiled. “One more to go!” he snickered loudly as he looked around for the final Poe. “Do you have any last words before I…?”
Link quickly swallowed his words when he realized where the purple Poe was hovering.
It was hovering over Saria.
“Oh, no…” Link gasped in horror.
“You will pay for destroying my sisters, you arrogant fool!” the Poe screamed. “I will destroy the one dearest to you! You will suffer what my sisters have suffered, and there is nothing you can do. You will not reach me in time to save her.”
With those words, the Poe reached out with its free hand and grabbed the base of Saria’s neck. Almost immediately Saria began to quiver violently.
Link didn’t know what to do. He was all the way on the far side of the chamber. By the time he reached the center of the room, Saria might be dead or too weak for him to save her. But he had to try! He couldn’t abandon her! He had to do something! Gritting his teeth and hoping for the best, Link took a step to push himself forward…
His foot hit something.
Link instantly looked down.
It was the hookshot.
An idea instantly formed in his head.
“Saria…hold on for just a minute longer!”
Link desperately hoped Saria could somehow hear his silent plea as he reached down and grabbed the hookshot. He then straightened himself, aimed the lethal weapon with the ruby-targeting system, prayed, prayed again, and fired. The hook flew through the air like a deadly bird with a very long tail. Link only hoped it would hit find mark, or else Saria was finished…
The hookshot’s head had embedded itself in the Poe’s stomach! Link felt a great burden fall from his shoulders. Now there was only one thing left to do.
The Poe, meanwhile, glanced down at the implanted hook. “What do you think you can accomplish…?” she started with a sneer in her voice, but didn’t have time to finish.
An instant after hooking the Poe in its rotting flesh, the chain began to rewind itself back towards the firing mechanism., dragging the hook and the hooked ghost hack with it. The hookshot’s retracting ability caught the purple spirit off guard, forcing her to let go of the lifeless Kokiri girl and be hauled halfway across the chamber directly towards the awaiting Hero of Time.
By the time the Poe found the sense to dematerialize and thus release itself of the hook embedded in its flesh, it was already within arm’s length of Link, who already knew what to do with the twisted ghost.
The moment the hookshot snapped back into place, Link threw the weapon to the ground and cried, “You want my energy, you monster? Here! You can have it!”
The Poe didn’t have a chance to escape; Link reached out with both hands and “touched” the transparent specter. Almost instantly he could feel his energy being drained from his hands and into the monster, but this time it was different. Instead of going limp, he could feel his reflexes ordering him to pull back. But he held on, because he was confident this was the only way to destroy this beast without his sword.
And when he heard the purple Poe scream in agony, he knew he was right.
In a jiffy the Poe materialized again, making herself solid. Link took advantage of this and grabbed the monster’s head in his hands. The Poe struggled as hard as she could, attempting to use her free hand to try and tear Link’s hands from her skin. But Link held on, refusing to give this cruel creature one moment free of pain. Smoke was already drifting from where he was touching the Poe’s face, causing her to scream more and more; the energy was burning the ghost’s soul rapidly and painfully, something that made Link smile in satisfaction.
Of course, the Poe was far from satisfied. “Let me go! Let go of me, you horrible boy! Let go of me this instant!”
Link, naturally, didn’t comply. Instead he spoke up in a very heated tone. “This is for what you did to my friend, you…you…you know what? There is just no way to describe something like you. You’re nothing but a cruel, heartless monster that never deserved to live in this world, never mind returning to it as a ghost! I hope wherever you go, you will wear these burn marks to forever remind you of your shame! I don’t know what the Three Goddesses do with your kind, but pray they have mercy on the miserable souls of you and your sisters!”
The Poe remained silent for a moment before it finally found a reply for Link. By now its face was so horribly burnt it was beyond recognition and its speech had to be forced from her malformed mouth. “You…fool…you will…die…at the hands…of my master…my Lord…Lord Ganondorf…you will…regret the day…you crossed his…his…his path…boy…mark my…my words…I will…see you…and your friend…your friends…with me…and my sisters…in Hael…”
Link had had enough. “Just diiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeee!”
Without a second thought, Link squeezed his hands together…
Link a thousands branches being snapped simultaneously, the purple Poe’s skull shattered in Link’s hands, collapsing into thousands of tiny shards. The ghost didn’t even have time to release one final scream before its face fell apart. And with the head gone, the body had no reason to live. Like a dead leaf about to fall, the Poe’s body fell limp, falling to the ground with a loud crash. The remains of the skull followed, pattering upon the ground like a chunky powder. Then, right before Link’s eyes, the body and the shards melted and disappeared into the ground, leaving only the traces of the purple hue the ghost had been wearing before it, too, dissolved into the air.
Link had done it. He had killed the Poe Sisters.
But there was still something he had to do.
He tried running, but his confrontation with the purple Poe had left his legs feeling rubbery and his upper body strength lax. So instead he shuffled his way to the middle of the room, where a motionless Saria lay. When he reached her, he quickly knelt down and picked her up, holding her in his arms like had done not too long ago. There was no response from her when he did so.
“Saria, please, wake up,” he whispered loudly to her. “Saria, are you all right? Please, answer me. Are you okay? Saria, please. Saria…”
When she didn’t respond, Link picked up her arm. To his horror, he couldn’t detect any pulse. He quickly placed his ear near her mouth, and his horror was intensified when he could hear no breathing. Fearing the worst, he touched her cheek with his hand. Her skin felt cold and icy, the feeling of a corpse that had been dead for quite some time.
Link couldn’t believe it. Had be been too late after all? Had the Poe drained enough of her energy to kill her instantly? Was Saria really…dead?
Link’s eyes were already releasing tears long before he started to officially sob. He couldn’t believe it. Everything he had done to save her had been for naught; she was dead. Stone cold dead. Never before had he felt so much pain strike his heart. Nothing in his life had been this painful, not even all of the extreme wounds inflicted upon his body put together.
This was the worst thing he could imagine possible happening, and it had happened.
“Saria, no, no, no, no, no, no…nooooooo…”
Unable to even look at the Kokiri girl’s peaceful yet silent face any longer, Link burned his face into her chest and poured out all his tears from his eyes. He didn’t know what to do anymore because he hadn’t anticipated this happening, but he just wanted to be close to her for now. He wanted to mourn for her for as much as he could and let his heart pour out all his pain. This was the least he could do for her after failing to protect her…
“Oh, Saria, forgive me,” he sobbed, his voice muffled by Saria’s chest against his face. “I’m sorry I failed you. I should’ve been the one to die, not you. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m…”
Just then, Link felt something tickle the back of his neck. At first he thought it was a sweat-filled lock of his hair, but he realized the “something” was moving in circles on his neck. Was it one of the fairies…? No, it felt like…a finger…
Link quickly looked up with his tear-stained face…and saw a weak-eyed Saria looked back at him, her face frozen with a frail smile.
Link felt his heart leap into his throat. “Saria…you’re…you’re alive…”
“Of course I’m alive…” the Kokiri girl muttered, unable to speak above a hoarse whisper. “Sometimes, Link, I think you worry a little too much.”
The only response Link could give was to chuckle through his remaining dirty tears. “Yeah…I guess I do, don’t I?”
Saria chuckled as well, albeit feebly. “So…did you get them for me?”
Link nodded. “I did…and boy, did I get them. And it’s all thanks to you.”
“Yes, to you. If it hadn’t been for you, I’d be dead by now.”
Saria’s eyes suddenly filly with worry. “What do you mean? Did those creatures nearly kill you?”
“Yes, they did. But thanks to you, I managed to get away from them.”
“Link, what are you saying? What exactly did I do?”
“Saria, don’t you remember? You spoke to me. While the Poe Sisters had me immobilized, you talked to me through my thoughts and coaxed me to awaken the power of the Temple of Light inside of me. It was that power that defeated the Poes. Don’t you remember what you told me? To not give up just because the situation was hopeless?”
Saria’s eyes seemed to grow confused. “Link…I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t remember talking to you at all after I passed out. Are you sure you weren’t hallucinating?”
Link thought for a moment. Had he been hallucinating…? “No, it felt too real to be a dream. I was sure it was you. In fact, it almost felt like we were talking to each other through ocarinas. It couldn’t have been a dream.”
Saria remained silent for a second before saying, “Well, I don’t remember anything. But even if it wasn’t a dream, Link, how could it have been me? I don’t know what this ‘power of the Temple of Light’ you’re talking about is.”
That was true. Link hadn’t told Saria anything about Rauru giving him that medallion, and even if he had even Link didn’t know about the potential energy it had possessed. So why in the world would Saria know about it?
Before Link had a chance to say anything, he heard a familiar voice in his left ear. “You were great, Link! You took care of those Poes like they were nothing! And you didn’t even have to rage like a madman this time!”
Link rolled his eyes. “Gee…thanks, Navi. That’s exactly the kind of support I need right now. Can’t you say something a little bit more applicable to the situation?”
“Okay, then, how about this? You do notice that those torches in the corners of this room are now lit, don’t you?”
Link was about to look up when Saria’s voice grabbed his attention. “Link, lift my head up. I can’t move my neck. Let me see as well.”
“Oh, sure thing,” Link said before using his hand to gently lift Saria’s head into the air. When her line of sight was level enough, Link turned his own gaze to see what Navi was talking about.
He quickly observed what the fay was talking about. All four torches in the room were now lit with the passionate flames of fire, and it didn’t take Link long to realize that each flame was colored differently. Four flames, four colors. A red flame, a blue flame, a green flame, and…
“…a purple one,” Link finished out loud before a thought leapt inside his mind. “By the Three Goddesses…so the fires the Poe Sisters were carrying – the fire their souls were bound to – those were the keys! And with them destroyed, the keys have returned to…to the locks? Wait a minute…could the…?”
“Link, the door upstairs!” Saria suddenly cried as she shifted her gaze to the Hero of Time’s eager face. “Maybe the golden torches upstairs have been…have been…”
“…lit as well?” Link completed. “Yeah, it’s worth a shot. You don’t mind me carrying you up there, do you?”
Saria’s face seemed to redden somewhat. “No…not at all.”
“Good. Let me just pick up my things first. Navi, Katl, we’re going.”
Link, with his friend in his arms and the two fairies hovering over him, started for the place where he had thrown down his hookshot, intending to pick that marvelous weapon up before retrieving his sword and shield. As he took the first steps, however, he felt Saria tickle the back of his neck again.
“What’s that for?” Link asked.
Saria smiled weakly. “Nothing…I guess I’m just glad you didn’t turn out completely how I dreamt you’d turn out.”
“You dreamt…what are you talking about?”
But Saria didn’t answer his question; she simply gave her attention to the image of Link she had dreamt of seven years ago. An image she had then prayed he wouldn’t become. An image where Link was big…and cold…and cruel…
“Hey, Link, would you mind picking up my bow while you’re picking your things up?”
By the time the foursome reached the top of the stairwell, evidence of their accomplishment downstairs was pretty much undeniable. Just as Link and Saria had guessed, the four torches surrounding the platform in the center of the chamber were lit, each with a differently colored flame matching one of the colors of the Poe Sisters’ souls.
But what was even more interesting was what had happened to the platform itself. The spot where the wooden square had once been now had some…things added onto it, namely four wooden square poles and a roof. Of course, since Link had never seen one before, he had no idea exactly what it was.
“What is that thing?” he asked aloud, more to himself than to Saria.
“I think…it’s our ride downstairs,” Saria answered as she turned her neck to get a better look.
“What do you mean?”
“Just get inside. You’ll see for yourself.” Saria’s tone of voice almost seemed to suggest she already knew what was going to happen.
Link, although feeling a little uneasy about Saria’s confidence, decided to trust her. Taking a short but deep breath, he carried his small friend and led the two fairies towards the wall-less booth. He hesitated for a moment before placing one foot inside the booth to make sure it was safe; after discovering it was, he moved his entire self inside.
“Okay, we’re in,” Link stated. “Now what? Are we supposed to wait for something to happen…?”
Before Link could say anything in response to Saria’s sudden utterance, the booth lurched all of a sudden before, to Link’s surprise, started sinking into the ground!
“What in the name of the Three Goddesses…?”
“Relax, Link, relax,” Saria assured as she patted Link’s shoulder. “This elevator is just taking us downstairs, that’s all. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”
“But…how are we moving? How…?”
“A simple combination of mechanical and magical construction. The four colored flames are the key to the elevator and they control the gears that move this elevator back and forth.”
“And where exactly are we heading?”
“Downstairs, to the main acolyte hall, which should lead to the Chamber of Rituals. I’m sure that’s where we’ll find whatever is sealing the power of the Sage within this temple.”
“Well, if that’s the case, then…” A thought suddenly jumped in Link’s head. “Saria, how do you know all of this?”
Saria blinked. “Know what?”
The elevator seemed to take forever to reach the bottom. When the contraption had sunk completely into the floor, the elevator was completely surrounded by walls on all four sides, allowing only a tiny fraction of light to seep in from above. As they moved down farther and farther into the bowels of the Forest Temple, Link, Saria, and the two fairies could only wait in silence and pray that they were indeed heading where they needed to be.
Link had decided not to pursue his bizarre conversation with Saria; his mind was already too preoccupied with one of the dialogues exchanged between the Poe Sisters:
“We are the Poe Sisters.”
“We serve our master, Lord Ganondorf.”
“We protect the keys to his chamber below us.”
“We will serve him until we are no longer bound to this world.”
Those words seemed to indicate that Ganondorf, the man he despised so much, was in this very temple. It was very difficult to believe – why, of all places, would Ganondorf be here? – but somehow Link couldn’t shake off the feeling that a fragment of those words might be true. He didn’t know why, but he could almost feel that evil man’s aura radiating from somewhere close by…
“Link, are you all right?” Saria suddenly asked softly. “You feel a little tense.”
“What…oh, er, I guess I’m just a little nervous, that’s all.”
“Nervous about what?”
“About what we might encounter at the end of this ride…”
Those were the last words the two exchanged on the elevator, for just then the darkness all around them abruptly disappeared, replaced by shimmering torchlight all around them. The Hero of Time had to adjust his eyesight to get used to the sudden change, but when he could see again he realized that the elevator had emerged within another chamber.
Smaller than the one above them in every dimension, the room was actually about as tall as the elevator Link was standing on. Enclosed by about eight different walls arranged evenly all over, the room was completely bare save for lit torches on the walls and a plush red carpet on the ground. There wasn’t even any visible artistic architecture anywhere; the room was as plain as the room where he had fought the Poe Sisters, if not more so.
What was so special about this room – the main acolyte hall, wasn’t that what it was called? Maybe there was something in the other room, the Chamber of Rituals…
With a soft thud, the elevator gently landed on the ground, bringing its trip downward to a halt. Hesitating for only a moment, Link stepped off the elevator and onto the carpet, his sharp gaze looking all over for anything suspicious. He didn’t want to be caught off guard by any more of Ganondorf’s minions.
“There doesn’t seem to be anything here,” he finally commented out loud. “Let’s try that other room, wherever it may be…”
“It’s over there.”
Link snapped his gaze towards Saria, who was pointing to one side of the room. He followed her finger…and saw a door engraved in the wall. Link blinked several times to make sure he wasn’t dreaming; he could’ve sworn he hadn’t seen that door there before. Had it just suddenly appeared?
Could Saria…have done something…?
“Come on, Link,” Saria uttered. “What are you waiting for?”
“An explanation?” Link mumbled.
“Never mind. Let’s just go before something else happens.”
“What…what do you mean? I don’t understand what you’re talking about.”
“Neither do I.”
The entrance that Saria had pointed out led to a long hallway that resembled the main acolyte hall in every respect, from carpet to walls to blandness. As he walked down that corridor, Saria in his arms and the two fairies on either shoulder, Link started to wonder if these special rooms, the rooms that Ganondorf’s minions had taken so much effort to seal up, were really that special. Maybe they had been magnificent when the temple was first built, but right now Link could find nothing extraordinary about them. He had expected rooms filled with intricate carvings and beautiful furniture and grandiose wall coverings…but no, instead he got nothing special.
Why was he concerned about this? Maybe he was thinking too much. Maybe he was trying to divert himself away from his nervousness. Maybe he had nothing better to do…
His wandering thoughts were removed from his attention, however, when he reached the end of the surprisingly short corridor. But instead of another room, Link found himself staring at the start of a narrow staircase winding up and to the right. Oddly enough, the stairwell didn’t have a ceiling…
“Well, there’s no other place to go, so...”
With that thought in mind, Link climbed the stairs. It didn’t take him long to discover the stairway was curving around to the left, and when he reached the top of the flight he instantly realized what was going on.
He was in another room, but there was a really huge platform in the middle, a platform that left just a small gap between its edge and the chamber’s walls; the stairs were merely the route to get to the top of the platform. The platform itself was an interesting piece of architecture. Perfectly circular in shape, the stage was surrounded by a series of poles about Link’s height all around, spaced about a hand’s length apart and each pole possessing a sharp tip that resembled an arrow head.
The floor of the platform was decorated with the familiar symbol of the ever mysterious Triforce, reaching the very edges of the stage. The walls of the chamber also bragged some decorations: a set of enormous tapestries suspended a little above the level of the platform. Oddly enough, all the tapestries were of the same thing: a dreary path leading towards a spooky castle in the distance under a half-moon sky.
Without even having to ask Saria or look around further, Link knew he had found the Chamber of Rituals.
“Well, we’ve reached the end of the road,” Link uttered as he noted there was no other doorway or exit in the room other than the stairway. “Maybe there’s…”
“Link,” Saria gently interrupted, “I think…I think I can walk now. Could you please let me down?”
“What…oh, sure thing.”
As gently as he could, Link lowered Saria to the ground and placed the Kokiri girl on her feet before letting go of her. Saria remained still for a brief moment before she tried taking a step. Almost instantly she lost her balance, causing her to wave her arms around in panic before she quickly grabbed on Link’s nearby shoulder.
“You’re still a little weak,” Link pointed.
“I…I think I just need to stay up for a little bit before I get back on my feet,” Saria commented. “Why don’t you go look around here while I wait here?”
“Sure I’m sure.”
Without another word, Link nodded and helped the unsteady Saria make her way to the wall and use it to prop her rubbery legs up. When she signaled she was all right, Link nodded one more time before standing up and turning his attention to the platform.
The staircase had led him to the only break in the entire wall of spikes, obviously the platform’s only entrance and exit; it was a very easy set up for a trap, a fear seemingly confirmed by a cold tingle running down his neck. Still, he also had this nagging feeling that he had to step in there despite the risk.
Why did he always have to have these “feelings” at times like this?
“Navi, are you coming with me?”
The pink fey fluttered over the Hero of Time’s left shoulder. “You know it.”
“Katl, will you stay with Saria?”
“I suppose,” Katl uttered from Link’s right shoulder.
“Right then. Navi, let’s go.”
Deciding not to take any chances, Link drew his sword and readied his shield. Taking a deep breath, he then stepped out onto the platform.
He made it about halfway through the entrance before he heard Saria shout.
“Link, watch out!”
Acting on pure instincts, Link pushed himself into a roll, throwing his entire body weight forward. As he did, he managed to catch a glimpse of what happened a split second later. Right where he had been standing, in between the barrier of pikes all around the platform, several more pikes erupted from holes in the floor, their sharp tips slicing the air like a fired arrow. They stopped flying upward when they reached the height of the other pikes, sealing the entrance and becoming part of the wall.
When Link stopped rolling out of harms way, he stood up and quickly examined what had just happened. “What in the name of the Three Goddesses is going on?” he cried to Saria, who he could see through the spacing between the poles. “Saria, how…?”
“Link, be careful with those spikes! Their tips are covered with poison.”
Link jerked his head. “Wha…poison? What are you…?”
“The poison is a traditional concoction used to purify the area of the ceremonial stage, the place you’re standing on, during a ritual. It’s very potent; one scratch and you’ll die within a matter of seconds.”
Flashbacks of Link’s brief conversation with Saria in the elevator suddenly leapt into his mind. “Saria, what are you…how do you know all…?”
“I’m impressed, little girl.”
“It can’t be…”
Unable to believe his ears, Link turned around. To his complete surprise and horror, his eyes confirmed what his ears could only indicate.
There, in the very center of the platform, was Ganondorf.
Link was frozen in disbelief. Ganondorf, the man he had grown to hate ever since he had heard his name, had materialized out of nowhere and was now right in front of him. He looked exactly like he did seven years ago: cold, sinister, and malicious. And if that weren’t bad enough, Ganondorf wasn’t alone; his equally malevolent horse was here as well, its cruel master looking down at Link from its back. The beast looked wild and ready to strike, but somehow Ganondorf managed to keep it under control.
But that didn’t make Link feel any better.
“Ganondorf…” Link whispered loudly.
“I don’t know how you learned so much about this temple,” Ganondorf uttered towards Saria on the other side of the platform’s pike barrier, ignoring Link, “but it doesn’t matter. I’ll take care of you soon, right after I kill your friend.”
Saria, who was just as surprised as Link, could only prop herself as high as she could against the wall to get a better look at the evil Gerudo before she finally spoke. “You…you’re Ganondorf? You’re the man…who killed the Great Deku Tree? The one who has turned this beautiful forest into what it is now? You’re…Ganondorf?”
“The same,” Ganondorf sneered. “Now wait there like a good little girl while I attend to business.” The King of Thieves then turned his attention to Link, who was still gaping in disbelief. “You…you’re the boy who helped me all those years ago. You’re the one who opened the door to the Sacred Realm for me. I thank you for everything you’ve done for me. As a token of my gratitude, I’ll give you the chance to live.”
“W…w…wha…?” Link stammered, not sure what Ganondorf was talking about.
“You’re obviously a good fighter, kid. You managed to undo all my spells I used to get the Spiritual Stones, and that was seven years ago. Even now you show promise as a soldier, as you’ve just killed two Wolfos and all four of those wretched Poe Sisters. I could use someone like you in my army. This is your one chance to live, boy. Either join me and become my subordinate, or die like that pathetic tree you once called a god.”
At first Link didn’t know what to think, but it didn’t take him long for that train of thought to disappear. Anger started to boil inside of his heart, but it had nothing to do with his insanity fits; it was anger directed at the man before him. How dare Ganondorf call the Great Deku Tree pathetic. How dare he congratulate Link for something Link took absolutely no pride in. How dare he…make such a ludicrous offer.
How dare he…!
“Never!” Link cried at the top of his lungs, his voice resonating within the chamber several times before it faded. Link raised the Master Sword and pointed it directly at Ganondorf “I will never join you, you demon! I’d rather die than let you take pleasure in using me for your evil ends!”
Ganondorf remained silent for a moment before he started sneering mockingly. “Then you have chosen death. So be it…boy!”
Without another word, Ganondorf raised his right hand into the air; seconds later, there was a bright flash of light that nearly blinded Link. At first he thought Ganondorf was using some kind of light attack, but when the flash subsided he realized that a weapon had somehow materialized in his hand. It was a staff, lengthy and slender and equipped with a bladed weapon on either end, one end actually containing three blades in a pattern reminiscent of a three-toed bird’s foot.
Link only managed to get a brief glimpse of the weapon before Ganondorf started using it. Quick as a flash, the King of Thieves spun the staff around over his head several times before he whipped it downward…and pointed its three-bladed end straight at Link.
The evil man’s single word was followed by yet another bright flash, only this time it erupted directly from the three-blades in the form of a sphere of light. The time it took for the ball to take shape completely and then launch itself off of Ganondorf’s weapon was less than the time it took for Link to realize that he was the ball’s intended target.
He raised his shield, but it was too late.
The ball of light made a direct hit upon Link’s chest. The Hero of Time felt the energy surge through his body in the span of an instant, burning his muscles and pulling his nerves. He screamed out in pain as the force of the ball striking him threw him backwards, causing him to collide with the pike wall behind him with a loud thud; his landing on the ground was thankfully not as hard. It took seemingly forever for the energy to finish coursing through his body, and even when he could move again he could still feel sparks nesting in his bones.
He knew he should be dead, and yet he wasn’t.
It was the intrigued laugh of Ganondorf that jolted him into opening his eyes and look up. The desert king was looking down at his prey with his empty, hollow eyes…wait a minute. Ganondorf’s eyes were never like that…
“It appears you’re a little stronger than I thought you were,” the Gerudo mused. “But I’m sure one more hit will finish the job. Still, I’m so impressed that I’ll give you one more chance. Join me or die.”
Link felt the anger and stubbornness build up again within him. “Ne…never!”
“Then be gone.”
Ganondorf raised his staff once more in Link’s direction. Link could already feel the energy build up near the staff’s tip. Ganondorf was right: one more hit and he was finished…
When Link heard that sound, he thought Ganondorf had already fired his weapon. But when he realized he was still alive, it didn’t take him long to figure out he had been saved. But how…?
Despite the pain in his neck, Link turned it as quickly as he could so he could look in Saria’s direction. The Kokiri was standing without any kind of support – albeit it shakily – and she was holding her bow. Judging by the way she was holding it, she had fired an arrow in Ganondorf’s direction. The look on her face seemed to confirm that.
“Saria…” Link started but Saria quickly interrupted.
“Phantom Ganondorf! Show your true face!”
Link turned his head once again, this time in Ganondorf’s direction. It didn’t take him long to see where Saria had fired her arrow. The projectile was imbedded in Ganondorf’s face and had gone right through his head; the arrow tip was even peeking out from the other side. Link couldn’t believe his eyes. Had Saria killed Ganondorf…?
“You little wench!”
When Ganondorf turned his face towards Saria, Link nearly jumped in fright. But Saria didn’t flinch; she remained tall and defiant as she removed another arrow from her quiver and readied her bow for another shot.
“Remove your mask, phantom!” the Kokiri demanded. “You are not the true Ganondorf!”
Ganondorf seemed to ponder Saria’s command for a moment before snarling, “You dare to order me around, you little whelp? You are lucky I kept you alive for as long as I did! Had I had my own way, you would’ve been dead the day you set foot inside this temple!”
“But your master wanted me alive so he couldlearn this temple’s secrets, didn’t he?” Saria bellowed as she drew her bowstring back with the arrow loaded. “He wanted me to open this temple’s secrets so he could conveniently step in and take them for himself. But when I got dangerously close to you, he granted you permission to kill me.”
“You’re a clever one, girl,” Ganondorf scowled, the arrow in his face not even bothering him. “My master was right about you…”
“…but he was wrong about using me!” Saria interjected. “No matter how hard he tries, he will never learn the secrets of this temple! He will never learn the power of the Sages! Now enough talk! Remove your mask before I remove it for you!”
For the first time since getting shot, Ganondorf smiled wickedly. “You only want me to remove my mask? Why not use those pathetic arrows of your to kill me?”
“I will not be the one to kill you, because I cannot kill you! The one that will kill you, as well as your master, will be the Hero of Time!”
Ganondorf suddenly broke into laughter. “You really are an amusing little whelp, aren’t you? You’ve been right about everything except for two things…” Then, in an instant, the Gerudo’s face grew serious again. “First, my master will never be killed, nor will I, by the Hero of Time or anyone. And the second…I am not the phantom of Ganondorf…”
Link didn’t know why, but for some reason or other Saria had decided to fire her arrow at that very moment. Her target was the same as before, Ganondorf’s face. This time, however, the Gerudo was ready. With lightning-fast reflexes, his free hand flew through the air and caught the arrow, stopping its trajectory just shy of his face. Then, with the same fast response, he shifted the pointing direction of his staff. Now it had a new target.
The young Kokiri girl.
Link’s eyes widened in horror.
Link tried to get up and move, but he was already too late. In mid-scream, Ganondorf released one of his energy balls with a deafening drone. Saria could do nothing to save herself; the sphere of light struck her head-on, consuming her in a blinding flash. She didn’t even scream; she simply fell to the ground with a haunting thump. As she fell, Link managed to catch a final glimpse of her face before it collided with the ground. Her eyes were completely empty, devoid of any kind of life or emotion. Her mouth was gaping ever so slightly, as if she were giving a final futile attempt to live.
It was the face…of death.
“Not again…not again…!”
Link was losing Saria for the third time today…and this time, he could do nothing to help her, the poisonous pikes all around the platform separating her from any help he might offer. Now he had no idea if she was alive or not, but if that face were any indication…
“Saria…Saria…” Link muttered before he, with tears already bursting from his eyes, roared as loud as he could, “Nooooooooooo! Sariaaaaaaaaa!”
Now he felt it.
He could feel his madness collect itself. He could feel his sanity slowly slip away from him, possibly to disappear like it had done so many times before. The magic bottled up inside of him – Din’s Fire, Farore’s Wind, Nayru’s Love – flow throughout his body and surge to their highest potential. His body was on the verge of giving itself to his insanity, threatening to turn him into the monster he so despised.
But no, not this time.
It was difficult, but he was going to fight it. He will not turn into that menace again. Never again. Instead, he was going to use his power with his own will, and he will use this power to destroy the one who had dared to harm Saria. She will be avenged, he knew, and he will avenge her not as a brutal and cruel monster…
…but as the Hero of Time.
“You’ll pay!” Link screamed in his mind. “I swear to the gods you’ll pay!”
Calling forth the power of the Temple of Light, Link felt his strength return. He wasted no time in standing up and facing the mounted Gerudo king, who had returned his attention to the Hero of Time. Ganondorf was a little surprised by Link’s abrupt recovery, but he didn’t seem in the least bit worried.
“So you’re a lot stronger than I originally thought,” Ganondorf scorned as he threw Saria’s second arrow to the ground. “This should make things a lot more interesting.”
“Ganondorf…” Link growled, his grip tightening on the hilt of the Master Sword. “You’re going to pay for what you did to my friend! I’ll kill you where you stand, you bastard! You will wish you had never crossed me when I’m through with you, Ganondorf…”
“I am not Ganondorf.”
For some odd reason, those words seemed to echo louder than anything ever spoken in that chamber before. Link, however, didn’t loosen his controlled rage.
“What the heck are you talking about?” he snarled. “You said yourself you’re Ganondorf…”
“The need for this charade is over. Now behold what that little wench already knew!”
The man on the horse then reached for the arrow embedded in his face, grabbed the end tightly…and pulled it straight up! Link couldn’t believe what he was seeing: Ganondorf was tearing right through his face! Was he insane…no, wait, something was wrong. Ganondorf’s face…it was peeling off! It was…
…a mask! Just as Saria had said!
And when Link saw what was underneath, his eyes grew wide with surprise. Where Ganondorf’s face had once been now remained a fiercely white skull with the same hollow eyes Link had noticed only moments earlier. Link couldn’t believe it. This wasn’t Ganondorf at all; it was a spirit!
It was…a phantom!
“Phantom Ganondorf…” Link cried aloud, recalling what Saria had called him.
“No!” the phantom bellowed, overhearing Link’s words. “I am neither my master himself nor the phantom of the man once known as Ganondorf. I am the phantom of Ganon, my lord and master!”
The phantom of…Ganon? Phantom Ganon? Who was Ganon? Was that just another name for Ganondorf? Had to be, the names sounded too similar to be different. Still, what was the purpose…?
“Ganondorf or Ganon, you’re dead either way!” Link threatened. “Saria said I’m the only one who can kill you, and I’m going to do just that!”
Although his skin was gone, Link could tell Phantom Ganon’s skeletal face was smiling.
“If you’re that ready to die,” the spirit mocked, “then come and get me…boy!”
Link decided to take up Phantom Ganon’s dare.