“So…the Hero of Time’s magic has yet to fully mature?”
“That is correct. The one called Link may have awoken the incredible power within him, but he hasn’t yet learned to fully tap into that power. He can only summon merely a fragment of that which he is capable.”
“But surely he can learn to tap into that magic in time. All Mage-Bounds will eventually learn how to master it. And Link hasn’t been using his powers for that long if you take into consideration his seven-year sleep…”
“But you forget, Old One, that the one called Link is a Magi-Con with the power of the gods. There is nothing ordinary about this boy, Old One. The power his possesses cannot simply be controlled if he’s to gain its full potential. He has to earn it.”
“Earn it? What are you talking about?”
“Every time that Link has used the power within him, he used it only with the intention of tapping into what he already could handle. Not once has he pushed himself farther with his power. Not once has he attempted to intensify the magic that lies within him. The power within him has no desire to be used by one not worthy of it. If he is to tap into the full strength of that power, he must push himself harder and farther than any Magi-Con has ever gone with untrained magic. He must earn that power’s respect and show it that he is worthy of its incredible might.”
“So what you’re saying…is that Link must push himself to the breaking point at such an early stage in his magic training?”
“That is correct.”
“But that could shatter his soul! Not even someone like Link can withstand such a strain! Even if he is a powerful Magi-Con, he is still flesh and blood. There must be another way for him to fully tap into that power…”
“There is no other way that I can foresee, and I fear it will be too late by the time I may foresee such a way. Link must tap into that power soon, or he will not survive the onslaught of the Evil King. Do you not remember the time Link actually tried to stand up to the Evil King with his magic?”
“Sadly…I do. The visions you’ve showed me weren’t exactly encouraging…but still…”
“And do you not recall how such a simple spell from the Evil King quickly thwarted Link’s attempt to block it with the spell shield? If Link were to face the Evil King with his strength of magic in such a state, he would not survive…”
“Yes, yes, I know. But…I’m still not comfortable with the idea of pushing him as hard as he can like that. Do we even know if he can survive being pushed that far?”
“Have you seen my recent visions of him?”
“Then you already know how far he can be pushed.”
“Hmmm…I suppose…but there’s one key flaw in that idea.”
“What’s that, Old One?”
“I don’t exactly like the end result…”
Link didn’t know if it was the heat tickling his nostrils or the tender throbbing on his forehead that woke him up, but the first thing he did when he opened his eyes was reach for the spot where he believed he had collided with the crater wall. He couldn’t see anything except a bright red glow before his eyes, indicating he was still somewhere inside the volcano. Maybe if he moved around a little he could…
Wait…something was moving. He could see a faint yet noticeable shadow moving in the redness that clouded his vision. It was moving towards him…
“Who’s there?” Link barked out as he struggled to stand up. “Stay back! I’m armed…”
“Relax, Link, it’s me.”
Even though Link recognized Sheik’s voice, it took him a few moments before he relaxed; couldn’t be too careful, after all. Fortunately, his eyesight was already returning, and it wasn’t long before the faint shadow transformed into the familiar figure of the Sheikah. The Hero of Time tried to say something to him as he got to his feet, but the pain in his head reminded him it was still there.
“Ooooooh…what happened…did we lose those bloody Keese?”
“If we hadn’t, we’d probably be dead by now,” Sheik sighed. “We’re inside the Fire Temple.”
“The Fire Temple?” Link repeated, surprisingly not very interested. “How in the world did we get here? All I remember was hitting the wall and blacking out…”
“Either by good luck or your good eye, your hookshot arrow sank into the wall of the Goron entrance to the Fire Temple. When we hit the wall, we fell right into it and ended up here. The ride down was, I admit, quite fun, but I won’t be going down there again anytime soon. It’s not exactly the smoothest slide I’ve ever been down.”
“Oh, really,” Link said sarcastically. “Since I hit my head and lost consciousness, maybe I should go down it again so I could give you my opinion on it.”
Sheik shook his head. “I don’t think the Keese will give you that chance…”
“Speaking of which,” Link interrupted as he staggered his way towards the Sheikah, “since I’ve been formally introduced to those flying rats, mind giving me a little back-story on them? By the way you sounded out there, those things weren’t exactly something you see every day. But I’ll guess first that they have something to do with Ganondorf, am I right?”
Sheik nodded softly. “Like Moblins, Keese are creatures of Ganondorf’s creation, but while they’re small, they’re arguably more dangerous than Moblins. One Keese can easily overpower an average soldier, and a whole flock of them are just deadly. They’re very resistant to extreme temperature…which is probably why Ganondorf chose them to guard this place. When hunting, they not only drink their prey’s blood but also devour their flesh. They’re relentless and won’t stop attacking unless every last one of their prey is killed. Luckily, however, they’re also incredibly stupid and will get confused if they can’t see their prey. We were lucky that we fell down that tunnel.”
“But if they need to see us to attack us, then why did they come after us when they were at the top of the volcano?”
“They’re not deaf. They must’ve heard your loud scream…” Sheik stopped himself when Link gave him a stern glare. “…I mean, our loud arguing, and thanks to the fact that craters like to echo…well, I’m sure you know.”
Link didn’t let up his glare; he glowered at the Sheikah for a moment longer before stating, “Just remember, you were the one who started that stupid argument, not me. Now let’s quit stalling. I’ve got a dragon to kill.”
Without another word, Link stormed past the silent Sheikah, who tried not to look directly into the Hero of Time’s eyes, and down what appeared to be a tunnel laid with large square tiles on the floor. Link didn’t pause to look at the corridor; he simply marched his way toward whatever lay on the other side.
Sheik quietly waited for Link to get out of earshot before looking down at his breast pocket.
“Navi…did I do the right thing back up there? Was I right to tell him off like that?”
“At this stage,” the fay softly replied, “I honestly don’t know.
The Temple of Fire reminded Link a lot of the Forest Temple; not surprising, really, considering they were more than likely built by the same architects. The large room he entered after leaving the corridor was very reminiscent of the lobby where he had fought those two Wolfos: massive in scale, decorative in every available piece of architecture, but empty of anything else. However, the kinds of decorations in this temple were quite different from the ones found in the Forest Temple. Rather than recreate the beauty of vibrant plant life, this temple’s ornaments glorified the essence of fire. Most of the walls in the room were carved out of the crater wall itself, but the walls that weren’t boasted carvings and etchings that almost seemed to dance like living flames in the heat of the volcano.
It was almost enough to make Link sweat underneath his heat-resistant clothing.
Outside of the ornamental walls and tiles, the only other things of notice in the room were stairs that led to a high platform at the end of the room. In the center of that platform sat three large carvings of faces in the wall. What they were faces of Link couldn’t even begin to imagine, but their attraction lay in their mouths, which were gaping wide open with flames flickering wildly like tongues of…well, fire. At each end of the platform was what appeared to be a doorway, both directly facing the other one on each end and both large enough to allow a full-grown Goron through.
Unlike the Forest Temple, there was no sign of a door that bore the sign of the Door of Time, so the two doors on the platform were the only other exits in the room. And one of them led to Volvagia…
“Wonderful,” Link muttered as he smiled to himself. “Now, which one is the right one…?”
“Which one is the right what, Link?”
Link didn’t even turn around as Sheik crept up from behind him to stand by his side. “See those two doors on that platform?” Link asked rhetorically without pointing them out. “One of them leads to the dragon, the other who knows where. I just need to figure out which one is the right one.”
“They both could lead to him, or maybe neither of them could lead to him…”
“No, I’m sure one of those doors leads to him. Call it a gut feeling or a hunch, but if I choose the right door I’ll wind up on the doorstep of that worm. And I won’t even have to worry about the Gorons or anything.”
Link’s last statement made Sheik tense up. “Link…about the Gorons…”
Link quickly responded with a harsh snap and a scowl. “Don’t start that again, Sheik. Despite your little exhibition back in the crater, I’m sticking with what I originally promised. You should be grateful I’m even doing that.”
“I don’t even know why you’re complaining. Once I kill the dragon, there will be plenty of time to save them. Both our problems are solved. I don’t know why you can’t see the logic in that.”
“Evidently your logic needs some fine tuning. What about the chance that someone or something is guarding the Gorons wherever they may be? If they hear you fighting Volvagia, they might kill the Gorons as a precaution. Can you honestly take that chance?”
Link glanced at the Sheik but for a second. “As I’ve told you gods know how many times,” he uttered angrily, “I am not putting myself in harm’s way unless circumstances are favorable. Don’t make me repeat myself again or else I won’t help at all.”
“Enough!” Link declared as he raised his right hand…which was still clutching the hookshot. The Hero of Time quickly noticed and lowered his hand to return the weapon to its place on his belt. “Was that thing still there? Anyway…I’ve had enough of your whining. I’m going to do my job and awaken the Sage of this stupid temple. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a door to choose.”
Link then sharply turned is gaze towards the platform and headed for the set of stairs in order to climb them. Sheik wanted to stop him and try and reason with him, but he knew that he could no longer get through the stubbornness Link had developed over the matter. The only hope Sheik ever had now of saving the Gorons before Link faced Volvagia was that Link chose the correct door. There were only two doors, but Sheik somehow felt the odds were strongly against him.
“Curse it, Link, why can’t you quit being such a…such a…ugh! I can’t even think it!”
Sheik silently clenched his fist in gentle rage as he watched Link climb the noticeably relatively large steps up toward the platform. When the Hero of Time reached the top of the platform, he walked to the center of the stage and stopped for a brief moment before looking at both ends of the platform. He glanced in opposite directions several times before turning around to face the Sheikah.
“Okay, Sheik!” he called out. “I’ll have to choose. Any suggestions?”
If Sheik had known where the Gorons were, he would’ve chosen that one…or the other door if it looked like Link would actually go for the other door just to be spiteful. But since Sheik didn’t have that luxury, he could only guess…
“Right,” Sheik called back. “I choose the right door.”
Link smiled a smile so wide that even Sheik could see it from where he was standing. “Okay, then. Then I’ll go for the…”
Before Link could name his door of choice, a loud crash escaped from the right door of the room. The Hylian and the Sheikah jerked their gazes in that direction and were just in time to watch an enormous shape emerge from the remains of the wooden door that was within the stone doorway. Splinters flew in every direction as the shape staggered into the chamber, emitting loud groans that sounded like he was in pain. The…thing staggered a few feet forward before collapsing on the floor with a lurid thud. It didn’t move at all afterwards.
“What in the name of the Three Goddesses…?” Sheik started before Link interrupted in, unexpectedly, a concerned tone.
“Sheik, get here quickly! It’s a Goron! And he appears hurt!”
The Hero of Time then rapidly hurried towards what was apparently a fallen grown Goron. Sheik was stunned by this sudden turn of events, but he quickly snapped out of it and hastened toward the platform and up the stars so he could join the Hero of Time.
By the time the Sheikah had gotten onto the platform, Link was already turning over the Goron, who had apparently fallen onto his stomach. Sheik rushed to Link’s side to do whatever he could to help, but Link seemed to have everything under control. The Hero of Time was spreading the Goron’s arms and legs out and straightening the creature’s face to help it breathe more easily.
As Link tended to the creature, Sheik took the time to study the Goron a little more closely. The Goron looked quite different from most of the other Gorons he had seen in his lifetime. Its weight consisted more of muscle than fat, and its arms were enormous compared to the rest of its body. Its face was surrounded by a bushy mane that seemed dirty and tousled, and it certainly was taller than most Gorons. But that vigor it displayed seemed to be nothing more than a façade; it was panting heavily and could barely open its eyes, which were filled with tears of exhaustion. What’s more, there were burn scars all over its body, some of them serious.
Sheik didn’t want to even think about what this poor Goron had been through. What he did want to think about, however, was what it was doing here like this…
“Pity Link isn’t here,” Link said as he abruptly stood up.
“Link?” Sheik asked in puzzlement. “But you’re right…”
“No, no, not me, the Goron. Goron Link. It’s a shame he’s not here, because we just found his dad.”
Sheik’s eyes widened in disbelief. “Wait a minute…you mean that…?”
“Yep. Sheik, meet Darunia, the leader of the Gorons.”
“Something else causing Link’s madness as well? I don’t understand.”
“It’s simple, Old One…and yet, perhaps it really isn’t simple. Nothing is simple when it comes to this boy. The complex emotions that reside within him are fighting each other at this very moment, and he cannot control them as well as he needs to. In the same way, the conditions that have caused Link to evolve into how he is now are many. It is a combination of many things that have led to his current behavior.”
“Combination of many things? Such as?”
“Destiny, for one. The path he walks as the Hero of Time leads him down what he must face lest he fail in saving Hyrule. But circumstance has played just as big a part in Link’s transformation; events not even fate could foresee have molded this young man into who he is. Then there is Link himself and the war of thoughts and emotions being waged within him; to experience what he has experienced while attempting to make sense of it all is not an easy thing to do.”
“But specifics. Can you please give me specifics?”
“There are too many for me to name at once, Old One.”
“Then just give me a few. Or even one. Give me one thing that has contributed to Link’s madness…other than the trauma of learning that he is not a Kokiri.”
“Only one? There are so many to choose from…and yet there is one factor that stands out from the others…in fact, it’s something I need to speak to the young Link about it so he may control it.”
“So what is it? Please don’t tease me.”
“But you already know what it is, Old One. Remember when Link first came to this mountain? Remember when he fought the creatures known as the Lizalfos and grew passionate for killing? Remember that was when his powers were first beginning to develop, to awaken…in fact he first tapped into that power when he fought the King Dodongo?”
“Remember when he again went mad with rage when he was inside the belly of Lord Jabu-Jabu, when he fought the parasite known as the Barinade? I believe he killed it again using the power within him. Remember when he visited the farm of the young girl Malon, when he snapped and nearly killed the man Ingo? Remember how there were burn marks left all over his face…?”
“I’m sorry, Faria Garuia, but now you’re almost speaking in riddles. Please, just tell me what exactly you’re talking about.”
“Forgive me, Old One. The factor I’m talking about…is Link’s power itself.”
“But…what’s Darunia doing here?” the Sheikah asked more to himself than to Link as he knelt beside the Goron to get a better look at Darunia. “How did he get here? Wasn’t he captured with the other Gorons?”
Link’s first reply to Sheik’s question about the unconscious Goron leader was a scratch to his head as he searched for a proper answer. He still hadn’t found one when he decided to speak. “I really don’t know. But he obviously didn’t escape unscathed. These burn marks look fresh. Something tried to stop him, I’ll bet.”
“Something tried to stop him?” Sheik repeated as he continued to examine the body of the Goron leader, which was stretched out comfortably as Darunia breathed slowly yet heavily. “Then he’s lucky to be alive. A normal person…er, Goron probably wouldn’t be able to take these kinds of burns. They’re very deep.” He then looked up at Link, who was staring quietly at the Goron’s sleeping face. “Say…if Darunia’s here, do you suppose…the other Gorons are somewhere close by?”
Link jerked his head in Sheik’s direction, his eyes abruptly going from concerned back to the indifferent look he had before. “Sorry, Sheik, but Darunia here just made my decision a little easier.” The Hero of Time then pointed to the door that Darunia had moments ago crashed through. “Since he came from this door, then that’s a very good sign that Volvagia lies on the other side of the other door.”
Sheik hesitated before he uttered regretfully, “I…I guess so.”
Link then looked up and faced the door on the other side of the room, his lips widening into a pleased smirk. He then drew the Master Sword from its sheath, saved it around in the air for a bit to get used to the heat, and said, “Right, then. Wish me luck, Sheik. Here I go.”
Sheik’s eyes widened in surprise. “Wait a minute…you…you’re just going to abandon Darunia here …just so you can go kill the dragon?”
“Of course not, you idiot,” Link snapped, all traces of worry in his voice completely gone. “You’re going to stay with him. I may not be going out of my way to save the Gorons, but I’m not going to abandon those we’ve saved. Do you think I’m heartless or something?”
Sheik slowly lowered his head. He knew what he wanted to say, and he didn’t want to look in Link’s eyes when he said it. “Yes…yes, I do.”
The Sheikah then waited for a response, expecting either a cry of anger or a bitter silence from the Hylian. But he never expected what Link did give him: the cold touch of the Master Sword’s steel edge against the side of his neck. The blade wasn’t pressed hard against his skin, but Sheik dared not look up or even move. Actually, he couldn’t move even if he wanted to; he was in shock that Link was doing something like this…
“Look at me, Sheik,” commanded Link.
Sheik halfheartedly obeyed the Hero of Time’s order. The look he saw in Link’s eyes was so remote and distant that he resembled nothing of the Kokiri he first met. Nothing…
“So you think I’m heartless?” Link asked calmly.
“Yes,” Sheik replied, not wanting to lie to his face…or knowing if he even could lie to his face.
Link tilted his head to the side. “Then you’re going to have to get used to it. This is how I do things. If you don’t like it, then just stay out of my way. Do you understand?”
Sheik struggled to stop himself from shedding a tear as he muttered, “I…I understand, Link.”
Link nodded slowly. “Good. Now, if you’ll excuse me…”
Suddenly, something wrapped itself around Link’s arm and yanked it away from Sheik’s neck, taking the Master Sword with it. Sheik, just as surprised as Link, turned to see what had grabbed Link’s arm. To his complete astonishment, it was Darunia! The Goron was awake, and he appeared to possess strength he didn’t have when he had crashed through the door. His enormous hand was wrapped around Link’s arm and pulling the Hero of Time close to his face.
The gaze in Darunia’s eyes was so piercing that Sheik understood why Link wasn’t saying anything…
“You…” Darunia abruptly uttered in a surprisingly powerful tone. “That man…he called you Link…did he not?”
The stunned Link could only nod in response.
A faint smile appeared on the Goron’s mouth. “Then…then you’re my long lost Sworn Brother. You’re the one…who saved my people. You’ve come back to me…thank the gods.”
Link, still staggered by Darunia’s abrupt awakening, managed to sputter, “Dar…Darunia…it’s so…so…nice to see you…again…”
“Link…” Darunia interrupted. “I…I was being followed.”
Link quickly found the strength to speak properly. “Followed? By whom?”
“By creatures…of fire. They weren’t very far…behind me…please be careful…”
“Right behind you…? Wait right here.”
Link jerked his arm backwards to release it from the grip of Darunia’s massive hand, but the Goron loosed his hold for him. Link staggered backwards slightly because of it, but he quickly regained his balance and ran as fast as he could towards the shattered door, his boots cracking splinters beneath his feet. He then peered through the broken portal as Sheik watched silently by the Goron’s side.
What Link saw made his eyes grow as big as his fists. He instantly turned around and dashed back towards Sheik and Darunia.
“Woah,” he uttered almost eccentrically. “Incredible timing.”
“What?” Sheik asked.
“Oh, you’ll see…” Link answered teasingly before screaming out, “Incoming!”
Before Sheik could say anything more, a bright red and blue glow caught his eye. He turned his attention to the broken door and was just in time to see several glowing entities break their way through the doorway.
“By Din’s Fire!” Sheik cried as he stood up hastily.
“Here they come!” Link cried nearly ecstatically as he pulled out his shield.
The first thing – or things, rather – to enter through the door, and thus the first things Sheik and Link could clearly make out were the creatures that were engulfed in the blue radiance of the glow. They were surprisingly small, about the size of Keese, but they were no less intimidating; in fact, they were more so. Why? They were skulls. Bleached, human-like flying skulls coated in blue flames with two, deep black bat wings on the top of their heads and a pair of deep red yet soulless eyes. There were five of them altogether, but their snapping jaws of rotting teeth indicated they were just as deadly alone as well as in a group.
But it was the owner of the bright red glow behind them that appeared the real threat. Just like the skulls, the monster was clothed in fire, this one burning a demonic red, but it was a lot bigger, almost Sheik’s height. The beast’s body was human in shape – arms, legs, head, all the necessary parts – but that was where the similarities ended. Every part of the creature’s body save for its very center was made…not cloaked, made – of flames. It had no face, no hands, not feet…just the necessary appendages to help it to move…no, wait. It wasn’t moving. It was…dancing. As he entered the chamber through the shattered door behind the flaming skulls, it moved as if it were in a ballet, its arms and legs carrying it to where it needs to kill.
“This looks like fun,” Link smiled as the creatures emptied into the room and seemed to regroup by the door. “Navi, do you know anything about these things…? Navi…?”
“Link,” Sheik quickly interjected, grabbing Link’s attention but not his gaze, which was still fixed on the newly arrived creatures. “Those skulls…they’re called Fire Bubbles. Don’t let them bite you; their sting is said to be like fire burning directly into your flesh.”
“Terrific,” Link uttered. “And that big dancing thing? Any fancy name for that?”
“I…I don’t know. I’ve never seen that beast before…”
“Never mind. I think it’s about time I named something around here. I’ll just call him…a Flare…Dancer. A Flare Dancer! How does that sound…? Actually, no…that sounds a little cheesy…”
“Link! Look out!”
Sheik’s warning came just in time for Link to get out of his thoughts and back to reality, where he managed to avoid an abrupt attack by one of the skulls known as Fire Bubbles. The Fire Bubble soared past his left ear with a deafening snap of its jaw, its blue flame nearly singeing Link’s cheek. The Hero of Time readied for another attack, but the beast arched around in the air back to its group of friends, where the rest of the Fire Bubbles and Link’s so-called Flare Dancer were waiting patiently.
“Whew. Close one,” Link uttered jokingly before he suddenly grew serious. “Sheik…how strong are you?”
“What kind of question is that?” the Sheikah asked.
“Can you carry Darunia?” Link spelled out slowly and frustratingly.
“Darunia…? No, but I think I can drag him…”
“Then get him as far away from here as you can. I’ll distract these things until you can come help me.”
“But that’s insane! You can’t fend off that many Fire Bubbles by yourself…”
“Hey! I’ve killed two Lizalfos, two Wolfos, and Keese by myself! I’m sure I can handle a bunch of floating skulls!”
“Just get Darunia out of here! The more you argue, the less time you have to help me in case I do need you! So just shut up and do it!”
Realizing he didn’t have any say in the matter, Sheik nodded reluctantly and bolted towards the down Goron, who was struggling to sit up. But just as the Sheikah reached Darunia, Link added one final note.
“Oh, and one more thing, Sheik. I’d like my fairy back when this is over.”
Sheik didn’t have any kind of response for that statement. He simply hesitated for a brief second before slipping his shoulder underneath Darunia’s right arm. The Goron, who was pain enough that he couldn’t speak anymore, merely groaned as Sheik helped him to his feet. The two of them then started shuffling their way towards the other end of the room, towards the unbroken door.
Meanwhile, taking Sheik’s silence as the Sheikah’s reply, Link returned his interest towards the five Fire Bubbles and the Flare Dancer. The flying skulls were circling the fire man like gnats, and the dancer simply stared at the Hero of Time with its empty gaze. They were ready to strike; so was Link.
Twirling the Master Sword around his hand a couple of times – a move he had practiced on his return from the Lost Forest – Link stared down his enemy invitingly. “The Flare Dancer seems to be the one that controls the Fire Bubbles,” he thought as he readied himself for an attack. “If I can kill that thing first, then the Fire Bubbles shouldn’t be too much trouble; the best they can do is bite, apparently. I just wish I knew what kind of attack this stupid dancer does….”
Link then gave a quick glance behind him at the retreating Goron. A faint smile formed on his mouth. “Make sure he’s safe, Sheik,” he whispered softly before turning back to his opponents and roaring, “I’m ready! Come and get me!”
The Flame Dancer answered Link’s challenge by holding out his flame-licked arm and all five Fire Bubbles instantly charged, their jaws snapping almost as viciously as the Keese’s. Link groaned that he would have to face the Fire Bubbles first after all, but he remained steadied just the same.
“Here we go.”
At first Link thought the Fire Bubbles were all going to rush him at once, but as he raised his shield to defend from such an attack the creatures abruptly changed their direction, each one heading off on a different course. Link quickly recognized the pattern: they were trying to surround him on all sides, leaving him more open. But he knew exactly how to cause this tactic to backfire; all he had to do was betray their expectations…
It didn’t take long for him to be enclosed by the circling Fire Bubbles. Two were encircling him one direction, two in the other, and one was flying overhead. It was exactly what Link expected. Now he all he needed was for one to attack him from any direction. It didn’t matter which one; they all looked stupid enough to fall for his trap. He just hoped the Flare Dancer was just as stupid…
There! One of the encircling ones suddenly left its enclosing path and made a lunge for Link’s left arm from behind. Link could already see two other Fire Bubbles make motions to join their brother, but his concentration was on the first one. The Hero of Time shifted to the side just in time to slide away from the Fire Bubble’s gnashing jaw. As soon as the creature has passed him, Link raised his sword into the air and brought it back down in a descending arch to the left. Upon entering the rise in the arc, the Master Sword found its target: the retreating Fire Bubble.
It was surprisingly fragile for a flying skull, shattering into several hundred fragments Link’s mighty blade sliced through its fire-coated bone with a sickening clack. There was a brief scream of pain before it disappeared into the heated temple air, the blue fire vanishing with a soft plop. The fragments of the skull itself seemed to evaporate themselves before they struck the floor.
But Link had no time to celebrate this victory. He knew the Flare Dancer must’ve sacrificed one Fire Bubble so two could find their target; he wasn’t going to let them accomplish that. He looked up and saw from where the next two were coming. They were attempting a two-front attack on either side of him.
A quick thrust of his feet pushed the Hylian backwards and out of the Fire Bubbles’ paths. The Fire Bubbles, surprised by the Hero of Time’s immediate response to their attack, tried to change directions, the left one attempting to rush Link while the right retreating the other way. But Link saw his opportunity. Slowing the momentum of the Master Sword’s upward arc, he then used both his strength and gravity to swing the blade in another descending arch. The lower end of the blade collided with the skull and crushed it into ashes with a single powerful blow.
Two down, three to go.
With one of the remaining Fire Bubbles retreating, Link quickly glanced up; the one circling his head remained where it was. He sighed with relief, but he nearly gasped when he looked behind him: the third Fire Bubble was advancing near Link’s left…and it was too close for Link to move out of the way or to use his sword. He had to do something quickly…
In a flash of inspiration, Link used his dainty footwork to spin him around to face the incoming Fire Bubble. Quick as a bolt of lightning, he then raised his shield…and leveled it parallel with his arm. Then, with a carefully timed drive, Link thrust the lower pointy end of the shield directly at the Fire Bubble. To his complete relief, the shield found exactly where Link was aiming for: the creature’s snapping mouth. The shield plunged down the Fire Bubble’s non-existing throat, like a wedge driven into a crack, but the beast didn’t shatter like the first two.
Link decided to correct that.
Using the same momentum used to propel the shield into the Fire Bubble in the first place, Link aimed the shield downward and aimed the point into a crack in the brick-laid floor. As the shield sank into the floor, the fragile Fire Bubble shattered on the ground. The creature didn’t even have a chance to scream as it collapsed into tiny fragments that scattered across the floor.
Three down, two to go.
Feeling pleased with himself, Link tried to pull his shield out of the ground…but to his surprise and horror the shield was wedged too tightly into the crack, too tightly for a few quick tugs to yank it free. Link quickly decided to abandon the shield and erected his posture, readying for attacks by the remaining Fire Bubbles. The one that had retreated was coming around for a second attack, and the one hovering above him looked poised to strike in case the other one failed.
And the one charging looked prepared to dodge any sword attack Link might attempt. And Link without his shield to protect him. He had to think fast…
…and he did. If he couldn’t use his sword against the advancing Fire Bubble, maybe he could use it against the other one. But this would require perfect timing to work…yet he had no choice; Sheik was probably on the other side of the room by now. This was his only chance. Hopefully the Three Goddesses were smiling upon him right now…
Looking up only to aim, Link gripped the Master Sword with both hands…and threw it spinning into the air. The whirling blade seemed to whistle lightheartedly as it sailed through the warm air, straight for the target Link was aiming for…
Yes! It hit! The Master Sword had struck the hovering Fire Bubble, shattering it upon impact! Now there was only one Fire Bubble left to take care of, and although he didn’t have his sword he knew exactly what to do with it.
Quick as a wink, Link used his strength to leap back as the remaining Fire Bubble closed in. As he flew through the air backwards, he reached for the hookshot on his belt and yanked it out with his right hand. Everything seemed to move in slow motion after that. His sweat-dripped locks floated in front of his eyes as he attempted to aim the hookshot’s laser ruby at the Fire Bubble, but just like outside the Fire Temple the red heat of the volcano blurred the red target point. He would have to shoot blindly…again…
“Please hit it!” Link cried out in his mind as he squeezed the hookshot’s trigger. With a loud bang, the hookshot’s arrowhead glided through the air to save his life once again from a flying menace. The power behind the firing of the hookshot would undoubtedly be enough to shatter the brittle Fire Bubble, as long as it hit…
But it didn’t.
“What the…no! No! No! This can’t be!”
But it was. The hookshot missed the advancing Fire Bubble, not even coming close to grazing the skull’s bleached cheek bone. The Fire Bubble, unfazed by Link’s attack, continued its assault, its gnashing jaws ready to bite into Link’s flesh. Link was still flying through the air as this happened, the look on his face changing from hopeful to horrified. He couldn’t believe he had missed. He couldn’t believe…
That sound…it was the hookshot’s head digging into the stone of the Fire Temple’s wall. Any second now the chain will grow taut and the spring will reel him in. But the Fire Bubble was too close for him to avoid being bitten…unless…
Using all the strength he could find in his right arm, Link jerked the hookshot to the right as fast as he could, dragging the chain with it. As his wide eyes watched, the Fire Bubble moved in, its jaws ready to take the bite…before a loud crack echoed throughout the chamber as the chain of the hookshot flew through the air and collided with the flimsy Fire Bubble, splintering it into ashes. Link thought he could feel the flame of the Fire Bubble kiss his cheek before it dissipated into the air, leaving only a smell that melted with the heat.
His face quickly regained the look of satisfaction as the Hero of Time let go of the hookshot, deciding to let the hookshot fly on its own rather than drag his face into the wall again. As the hookshot disappeared from his hands, Link landed on his backside with a gentle thud, his mind seeing things in real time once more. He skidded a little ways backwards before coming to a stop, his heart racing and his skin covered his sweat.
“Link!” came Sheik’s voice behind him. “Are you all right?”
“I’m just fine!” Link called back before remembering something. “Say…where’s my sword…?”
As if in answer, the Master Sword finished its flight with its blade, like Link’s shield, sinking into in a crack in the floor…directly between Link’s barely open legs. Link’s face understandably went pale.
“Link!” Sheik cried behind him; the accompanying footsteps indicated the Sheikah was running for the Hero of Time. “Link! Are you okay?”
“I told you…I’m just fine,” Link barked mutedly, trying to hide his brief scare as he reached for the hilt of the Master Sword and used it to help him stand. As he made it to his feet, he felt a hand on his shoulder. “Is…Darunia safe?” he asked the Sheikah behind him as he pulled his blade from the ground with a quick tug.
“Safer than we are, at least,” Sheik answered. “But…that was incredible. You killed five Fire Bubbles by yourself…without a burn mark on you, either.”
Inside Link wanted to beam because of his accomplishment, but instead he shrugged. “They were pushovers. I’ve got a feeling the real challenge is going to be this Flare Dancer right here.” He then pointed to the aforementioned creature, which hadn’t moved or even reacted after Link had destroyed its swarm of Fire Bubbles. “Since you’re here, you can help me with this thing. You have any weapons?”
“Of course,” Sheik replied meekly before producing from under his sleeves a pair of large, curved daggers with a couple fast flips with his wrists. The Sheikah definitely seemed capable of taking care of himself.
“Good,” Link replied satisfyingly before he started to whisper. “Now…take a good look at the Flare Dancer. See the center of his body?”
Sheik obliged and turned to face the Flare Dancer. He saw what Link was talking about immediately. “Yes,” he whispered back. “It’s black…and round…and not surrounded by any flames.”
“I’m sure that’s the creature’s weak spot. If one of us can just hit that thing, we might kill it…or at least immobilize it. Any ideas?”
“I wish I did…but I’ve never seen the creature before, so I have no idea what it’s capable of.”
“Okay, then, I’ll come up with the plan. You distract it, and I’ll sneak around it and see what I can do from there. How about that?”
“Sounds good to me. Just be careful. That thing doesn’t look like it has ordinary eyes…”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ll be fine. Just do what you need to do.”
“Okay.” Sheik tightened the grip on his blades, their bowed blades glistening in the flames of some nearby fires. “Let’s do this.”
Taking a deep breath, Sheik took a few steps forward while Link readied the Master Sword for any possible offensive the Flare Dancer might pull – he wished he still had his shield. The Flare Dancer, noticing Sheik’s motion to the fore, walked a few steps forward as well…actually, it seemed more to dance its way forward that walk, living up to the name Link had given it.
Sheik and the Flare Dancer stopped with a short distance between each other; the gap was large enough for the length of the Master Sword to barely squeeze through, if even that. Sheik then readied himself against his opponent, raising his daggers into a defensive position near his face. The Flare Dancer did nothing except stare at the Sheikah with its vacant gaze on its nonexistent face.
The pair glared at each other in silence for a minute longer before Sheik made the first move. But the Sheikah didn’t attack; rather he shuffled. His feet started shuffling their way across the ground forward and to the right, almost in a circular direction; his daggers remained in their defensive positions. The Flare Dancer reacted to this movement by dancing slowly in the opposite direction, maintaining the same distance between itself and Sheik.
It didn’t take long for Link to realize what Sheik was doing: forcing the Flare Dancer into a position for the Hero of Time to attack. If Sheik could compel the creature around, all Link would have to do is charge and swing his blade and that would be the end of it. He tried to keep calm as he watched the two adversaries encircle each other, waiting for just the right moment to strike. Maybe when the two had completely changed places…? No, the Flare Dancer would expect an attack from behind while being distracted at the front. Link needed to attack sometime before that. But when…?
By now, Sheik and the Flare Dancer had moved one fourth of a circle around each other, with Sheik on Link’s left and the Flare Dancer on his right. They were still concentrating solely on each other while preserving the same distance between them, but the thickness in the air that couldn’t be attributed to the volcanic heat indicated that both of them were ready to attack at the first opportunity moment…
“Looks like the Flare Dancer’s completely focused on Sheik,” Link thought. “If he’ll just come around a little more…a little more…what the…?”
All of a sudden, Sheik stopped shuffling; the Flare Dancer halted its movements as well. The Sheikah then lowered his posture slightly and knitted his eyes, indicating he was readying for an attack. The Flare Dancer, meanwhile, stood tall and erect in its body of flame without another motion.
Link couldn’t believe his eyes. What was Sheik doing? Was he really going to attack the Flare Dancer…when all he was supposed to do was distract it? Was Sheik out of his mind…?
Just then, Link noticed something. Without looking away from the Flare Dancer, Sheik had lifted his right forefinger and was shaking it. A signal of some kind? But a signal for what…wait a minute…could this be part of the distraction? Link wasn’t sure, but he readied himself just in case…
Suddenly, Sheik screamed as loud as he could and launched himself forward, his blades swinging wildly for the Flare Dancer. No wait, he wasn’t heading straight for the creature…he was heading a little to the monster’s right, giving the creature a little leeway to avoid the attack…by moving to the left…and straight towards…Link…
Link recognized Sheik’s spur of the moment plan and awaited the desired result. Just as he had figured, Sheik swung his blades to the creature’s right, attempting to cut its allegedly vulnerable black abdomen from the side. The Flare Dancer reacted immediately by leaping in a ballet-like leap to the left, right where Link wanted him. The beast was obviously too alert on Sheik, so it wouldn’t notice if Link attacked it from the other side once it landed…
No, he couldn’t take that chance. He had to attack before it landed on the ground. With no battle cry or even a deep breath, Link threw himself forward in the direction of the Flare Dancer, raising the Master Sword and then bringing it down with all of his might, aiming for what he hoped was the creature’s weak spot…
But to his complete surprise, the Flare Dancer dodged his swing while still in the air. Using agility Link didn’t know the creature possessed, the monster curved its back rearward, moving its targeted black stomach out of Link’s sword arc and thus out of harm’s way. The Master Sword instead passed through the Flare Dancer’s fiery appendages, which predictably didn’t seem to hurt the creature in any way.
Both surprised and angry that the distraction had failed, Link struggled to move his legs out of the leaping dancer’s path, just barely avoiding touching its flickering flames. He landed on the ground gently, but his temper was anything but gentle. Without thinking, he took the Master Sword and swung it around to the left, hoping to hit the creature’s weak spot just as it also touched the ground.
But the speed of his blade wasn’t fast enough to match the speed of the Flare Dancer. It just barely touched the Fire Temple’s floor before it seemed to use hardly any strength to leap to the side, settling down near the temple wall. It flame-kissed face seemed to snicker as it stopped, but Link was not amused.
“Sheik! Get that thing!”
Sheik was already in the process of charging the creature, his blades ready to both cut down and pierce its black core, but the Flare Dancer saw the attack and reacted by jumping into the air moments before the Sheikah took a swipe at it. The creature vaulted over Link’s head, landing on the Hylian’s right. Link took the opportunity to attempt a diagonal downward slash, but the opportunity was wasted as the Flare Dancer dashed with seemingly little effort to the side. It sprinted for a short distance before turning back around, heading straight for the Hero of Time.
“You little bastard!” Link roared as he raised his sword for another swing. “Come back here!”
Link got his wish as the Flare Dancer raced passed him, giving Link no time to make an attempted strike. The Hero of Time, his once pale face now filled with heated blood, turned around and screamed, “I said come back here, curse you!”
Link once again got his wish – the Flare Dancer sped all the way to the wall before turning around once again – but this time he had a little trick up his sleeve that Link hadn’t anticipated. Link was able to make an attempt at hitting the beast with a side-swipe of his sword, but the Flare Dancer avoided it by leaping over it. As it did, however, one of its fiery arms extended out like a whip and lashed out with blazing fervor. The tip of the flame whip struck the top of Link’s right hand, sending a sharp sting down his arm and across his chest.
“Eeeeeeaaaaaaarrrrrrrrgh!” Link screamed in agony, not only falling to the ground but also dropping the Master Sword. His left hand clutched his right, trying to subdue the pain if at all possible, and his breathing grew rapid as it tried to time his breaths with the throbbing of the resulting burn mark.
“Link!” cried Sheik as he rushed to Link’s side. “Link! Are you…?”
“Idiot!” Link bellowed to his comrade. “Concentrate on the Flare Dancer…!”
Before Link could finish his sentence, the Flare Dancer returned. The beast darted past Link and Sheik like a fiery arrow, but not before it used its whip-like arm again. With three quick flips of its arm, the Flare Dancer flogged not only the top of Link’s left knee but also the shin of Sheik’s right leg and his upper left arm.
The consequential pain was so unexpected that Sheik didn’t even know he had dropped his knives and he was clutching the burnt locales in pain until a second after. The Sheikah didn’t scream like Link had, but he did start quivering all over body as he struggled to subdue the throbbing.
“Arrrrrrgh!” Link screamed more out of frustration than pain. “You idiot! Why did you take your eyes off it? Why…?”
“Link…lo…lo…look…!” Sheik stuttered through his trembling as he pointed to the other side of the room.
Link did look, and what he saw was something he hadn’t expected. The Flare Dancer…had stopped moving. It was standing a distance away from the fallen pair, staring at them with its blank face, almost as if it were waiting for them to move again. Almost as if…it were mocking them…
Link, of course, didn’t like to be mocked. “You…little…when I get…my hands…on you…”
That was when Link heard the Flare Dancer laugh. It was a maniacal laugh, a laugh Link expected from someone like Ganondorf, except this one had no personality or substance. It was the perfect laugh for the faceless Flare Dancer, which seemed to sway side to side as it released its hollow cackle.
“Wha…what’s it doing?” Sheik asked.
“I don’t know…” Link started before he received his answer.
The Flare Dancer spread it arms out to the sides and spread out its legs into a triangular shape. It then paused for a moment before abruptly sending itself into a wild spin upon its right leg, its left leg tucked underneath its black core and its arms keeping it balanced. As Link and Sheik watched, the flames surrounding the core started to grow in intensity; the creature’s fiery appendages were increasing in size and flaming viciousness. That could only mean one thing…
“By the Three Goddesses…” Sheik uttered in shock. “That thing is preparing to kill us!”
“Over my dead body!” Link snarled as he struggled to pick up his sword through the burning pain on his hand. “I won’t be killed by a bloody…thing that dances! I won’t!”
But he quickly realized he couldn’t even hold his sword properly; the stinging on his hand and knee was affecting his muscles too much for him to lift it. He tried biting his lower lip to suppress the pain, but it was too much.
“Curse it…I will…not…be defeated…like this…” he muttered as he strained to stand up, but he could see the Flare Dancer was already prepared to make its finishing move. Its whip-like arms were waving dangerously in the volcanic heat, ready to strike down a burning blow on the creature’s opponents. As if anticipating its upcoming victory, the Flare Dancer released its evil laugh once more…
And started screaming instead.
“What…the…?” Sheik uttered in disbelief. “What’s going on…?”
“By Farore’s Wind…Darunia!”
Just as Link had pointed out, it was Darunia. The Goron leader, who had been lying down somewhere at the other end of the room, had managed to sneak up behind the Flare Dancer and was now holding it in his powerful hands by the creature’s core! The beast itself wasn’t too happy; it screamed and shrieked in fury as it started lashing out at its captor with its arms, beating Darunia’s arms as hard and as quickly as it could. Darunia, who didn’t look too healthy before grabbing the Flare Dancer, winced with every strike laid upon him but somehow still found the strength to continue holding on.
“Darunia!” Link called out. “What are you doing? Get out of there!”
“Brother!” Darunia cried back, his voice laboring to even sound coherent. “I…I’ve got him…but I can’t hold on…much longer! Finish him…before I let go!”
Link couldn’t argue with that idea…but Darunia was so far away, and Link could barely stand up. Maybe if he threw his sword…no, the risk of accidentally piercing Darunia was too great. Even firing an arrow was too risky. Maybe if he had his hookshot, but that was stuck on a wall somewhere behind him. There was only one thing he could do…
Run. And hope he’d be in time.
“I’m coming…!” Link exclaimed as he forced his legs to take a few steps forward. “Just hold on!”
“Please hurry, brother! Please hurry!”
Hearing those words made Link force himself to move faster, but his speed was too slow. The burn mark on his knee pulsated with each step he took, and the mark on his hand made holding the Master Sword feel like carrying the weight of the world. Yet Link bore the pain, his teeth gritting down on each other in an attempt to muffle the stinging. He would not allow his Sworn Brother to die like this…not now, not ever.
But with each motion forward he made, Link was forced to listen to another grunt of pain from the Goron as he struggled to keep the vibrant Flare Dancer in his grasp. Each touch of the monster’s arms seemed to nearly send the mighty Darunia to his knees, only he would withstand the pain to contain his captive for a moment longer. But Link knew that it wouldn’t be long before the Flare Dancer would break free, or even worse…and Link would not reach him in time…
Suddenly, Link’s right foot was caught in one of the floor’s bigger cracks, and his delicate balance was thrown off; the sound of his boot getting trapped in the crack rang through his mind like a scream of death. As he collapsed to the floor, he somehow managed to look up and watch as the Flare Dancer struck the Goron yet again with its flaming arms. That was when Darunia released an earsplitting shriek of unimaginable torture.
Link couldn’t help but scream out himself.
“Link! Heads up!”
It was Sheik…
Link quickly glanced back, almost losing his hat in the process, and was just in time to see the Sheikah…he couldn’t believe what he was seeing…the Sheikah was running up the wall at the far side of the room! Whether it was by some magic or brute strength – with a burnt leg, on top of it – Sheik managed to race up the wall a little past the top of the shattered door before he crouched…and pushed himself into the air. He spread his body out like a mighty eagle’s, and as he reached the pinnacle of his flying arc he extended both of his arms out in front of his face.
Link instantly recognized what he was holding in his hands.
“Sheik…!” Link started before the Sheikah interrupted him.
“Link! Get ready!”
Sheik didn’t need to specify what he needed to get ready for; he already knew what his comrade was planning. Without another moment of wasting time, Link started getting ready. He rushed to his hands and knees and once again used the Master Sword to help him to stand. As he did, Sheik aimed and fired Link’s hookshot.
Even though he had seen it fly so many times, Link had never seen the hookshot’s arrowhead fly this painfully slow before. It passed over his head like a lazy insect, dragging its rickety chain behind it. Link watched every second of its seemingly sluggish flight, giving a quick prayer to the Three Goddesses that it would find its target…
Sheik’s aim with the hookshot was obviously better than Link’s earlier; the arrowhead drilled into the black core of the Flare Dancer with a loud crunch, causing the beast now to struggle not only to escape but in pain. The moment the arrow sunk into the creature, Sheik didn’t wait for the chain to grow taut. While still in the air, the Sheikah pulled the hookshot with all of his might, yanking the Flare Dancer’s core directly out of Darunia’s hands.
Luckily the Goron didn’t hold onto the core as tightly as he had before.
As the round black core was wrenched out of the Goron’s hands, something else amazing happened: it didn’t drag its flaming appendages with it! The beast’s fiery body remained with Darunia, shedding itself from the core as if they were loose articles of clothes. But what did remain with the core was a loud shriek of anguish and anger, a cry slightly muffled by the hookshot’s clanging chain beginning to be drawn back to the firing mechanism via the powerful spring.
Link saw the core being pulled towards Sheik above him, and he knew this could be his only chance. If he didn’t do it now, the core might grow a new body and finish what it had started. He was not going to allow that.
Even though he wasn’t standing up completely, he managed to find vigor in his leg muscles to launch himself into the air, directly in the path of the receding chain. He then raised the Master Sword with what strength he had left in his arms, aimed as carefully as he could, and swung…
As the blade of the Master Sword carved through the surprisingly soft core of the Flare Dancer, the core fell off the hookshot’s arrow and began its descent to the ground. In two separate pieces. The silence that followed the metallic singing of the blade almost seemed to freeze Time itself as Link felt a rush of emotions flow through him. He could feel satisfaction; the Flare Dancer was finally dead. He could feel fatigue; the burn scars on his body had drained a lot of his strength. But above all, he could feel contentment in that he had saved the life of his Sworn Brother.
He had saved the life of Darunia.
A smile forming on his lips, Link didn’t think much of his clumsy landing from his leap into the air. Instead he simply rolled himself onto his back so he could stare blankly at the high ceiling above him. He chuckled to himself when he heard a soft thud behind him, realizing it was Sheik also landing awkwardly from his incredible acrobatic stunt. He didn’t know where the pieces of the destroyed Flame Dancer’s core were, but he didn’t care. He had done something he had to remind himself of again.
He had saved the life of Darunia.
“See, Old One? All hope is not lost. He can be saved.”