Friday, August 27, 2010

Chapter 47: Playing with Fire

“Are you guys…okay?”
An almost exhausted Link’s weak cry was only answered by one of the two people he was expecting. Sheik first groaned as he raised himself onto the ball of his hands before reaching for the small of his back. He then groaned again.

“I’m okay,” the Sheikah replied. “My back’s a little out of place, but nothing I can’t fix with a good stretch.”

“How about you, Darunia?” Link called as he struggled to his feet, the burn marks not throbbing as badly as before. “Are you all right? Darunia…? Darunia…!”

“Don’t worry, brother, I’m all right,” quietly exclaimed the Goron in an unexpectedly soft tone. “I just feel…a little drained.”

Link turned to face the other end of the room and saw the Goron sitting up, although his back was slouched forward and his face was panting heavily. Link couldn’t see Darunia’s hands or arms, but he didn’t need to see them to know they were covered in burn marks. The Goron, while sounding assuring in his response, didn’t look very cheerful sitting there; how could Link blame him, after what he had just been through?

Darunia had saved Link and Sheik’s lives, for crying out loud…

“That’s good to hear,” Link uttered as he stood as securely as he could, his legs still feeling a little rubbery. “I thought you’d nearly killed yourself…by grabbing that thing. Thanks for saving us, Darunia.”

“No thanks are necessary,” Darunia replied with a deep breath as the Goron also struggled to stand up. “I couldn’t just sit back and let a good friend die at the hands of one of those foul creatures.”

“Excellent,” Link smiled as he hobbled his way in the direction of the Goron. “Then that leaves only one person unaccounted for. Isn’t that right…Navi?”

An uneasy silence settled over the room for a brief moment before a soft pink light emerged from Sheik’s pocket, slowly drifting towards the Hero of Time before stopping halfway. “I…I’m fine, Link,” she muttered nervously.

“I see,” Link said without turning around as he still moved towards Darunia. “I can also see you’re obviously fine enough not to be with me. Mind explaining…or will I not like the excuse you may have already thought up?”

“I…” the fairy stuttered, trying to find the right words. “I suppose…what I want to say…could be an excuse, but…”

“Forget it,” Link said almost forgivingly, even though there was an unmistakable tone of annoyance in his voice. “I’d rather spend my time getting this over and done with than arguing with you.”

Link finished just as he reached Darunia, who was now standing on one foot and leaning on the other leg’s knee. The Hero of Time placed his free hand on the Goron’s shoulder and asked, “You’re all right?”

“Yes,” Darunia replied.

“So you can walk by yourself?”

“I’ll…I’ll manage.”

“Good. Then you should be able to leave this place with Sheik.”

Darunia’s face jerked in surprise. “Wh…what? Leave this place? Are you serious?”

“Of course,” Link uttered, as if confused by Darunia’s own puzzlement. “We need to get you to safety while I take care of business here.”

“But…but…but I can’t leave!” Darunia objected as he fought to stand on both of his feet. “I have to help you! I can’t let you do this alone! It’s my responsibility, too!”

Link shook his head in amazement as he stroked the blade of the Master Sword in his hands. “I appreciate the help, but after the way you just got burned, I don’t think you’ll be able to help me as much as you’d like. I’m sorry…”

“Injured help is better than no help at all, is it not?” Darunia protested through the groans he made while trying to stay standing. “I cannot let you do this alone when I know I can help in some way. Please don’t deny me this, Link! I’m not as useless as I appear right now. I can overcome these burns in no time at all.”

Link scratched the back of his head restlessly. “Yes, but there’s a difference between providing a little bit of help and getting in the way. And when I’m facing Volvagia, I’m pretty sure you’re going to just get in the way…”

“Wait a minute,” Darunia interrupted; Link could almost swear he could hear the Goron’s eyelids blink in surprise. “You’re referring to fighting the dragon Volvagia?”

Link tilted his head in confusion. “Um….yes. What else would I be talking about?”

“So…you’re not going to save my people from their imprisonment in this temple? You’re not going to rescue them first?”

Link could feel his lips tighten – he didn’t feel like having this argument again – but he managed to hide his agitation. “I’m afraid not. There’s really no need to save them right now, not when I can just go and kill the dragon first.”

A look of disbelief washed over Darunia’s face. “You mean…you’re just going to risk their lives senselessly like that?”

“Risk their lives? What are you talking about…?”

“Those monsters you just fought…there is a great deal of those things guarding my people at this very moment, and they’ve been instructed to kill any Goron who so much as tries to escape. If Volvagia is slain before my people are set free, then who’s to say that those creatures won’t kill all of the Gorons where they stand? Are you really willing to take that chance?”

Link’s eyebrows knitted together into a baffled frown. “I don’t understand. Why would those creatures kill the Gorons like that? There has to be a reason they’re being kept alive in the first place, so why would the death of Volvagia…?”

“I’ll tell you why! Ganondorf is planning on sacrificing the Goron race to Volvagia!”

Big Brother’s voice echoed heavily throughout the chamber, as if to emphasize the Goron’s point. Link tried to think up something to say, but it was the Sheikah suddenly shuffling his way next to the Hero of Time that first spoke.

“Sacrifice them to Volvagia…? Is that why Ganondorf captured the entire Goron race? But for what purpose?”

“He plans to use the mass sacrifice as a warning to the rest of Hyrule,” Darunia explained. “Few things can demoralize a resistance movement more than the destruction of an entire race. He also plans on using the sacrifice as a way to tame Volvagia. You see, the dragon was resurrected – or freed, or whatever – he was brought back by Ganondorf’s evil magic, but the dragon’s own ancient magic is too powerful for that evil man to penetrate. The beast lives on its own basic instinct and cannot be tamed easily. Ganondorf hopes to change that by offering it the entire Goron race.”

“And should Ganondorf succeed, he’ll have a weapon so powerful that he could bring the entire world to its knees,” Sheik pointed out.

“All the more reason for me to kill it,” Link added.

“But if you kill it first, there’s the risk of my people being killed!” Darunia cried. “What use will they be to Ganondorf if there’s no dragon to sacrifice them to?”

Link gave a stern glare in Darunia’s direction. “And with all the possible commotion we could cause freeing your people, do we even know what Ganondorf' might do with the dragon? He might’ve left orders to release the dragon should we attempt to free your people. Do you honestly want that…thing set loose in Hyrule?”

“Maybe so,” Darunia fired back, “but the chances of that happening are smaller than the chances of my people being killed.”

“Not to mention,” Sheik added, “that fighting an untamed dragon would be easier than fighting one under Ganondorf’s control.”

“As if you know,” Link spat harshly.

Ignoring the abrasive comment, Sheik continued, “However we look at it, Link, our best course of action is to save the Gorons before we kill the dragon. We can’t…”

“We can’t what?” Link snapped. “We can’t go and do what we came here to do in the first place, which is awaking the Sage of the Fire Temple? Come to think of it, maybe awaking the Sage will actually be beneficial! He – or she – could help us free the Gorons after we kill Volvagia!”

“But that’s still risky,” Sheik pointed out. “The Sage might not be awakened in time to help us. We can’t take that risk. We have to…”

“Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait,” Darunia abruptly cut in. “We’re going around in circles here. The longer we stand here arguing over this, the less time we have. If we can’t agree over the path we need to walk, then we’ll have to walk both paths.”

“Both paths? What are you talking about?” Link asked.

“We need to split up.”

“Split up?” Sheik repeated, surprised.

“If we can’t one before the other, we must do them both at once,” Darunia explained. “You two can go and save my people, while I go and…”

“What…? Stop right there!” Sheik interjected. “You don’t honestly think we’re going to let you go and fight that dragon by yourself, do we? Not in the condition you’re in…”

“Actually,” Darunia answered, “I wasn’t planning on fighting the dragon directly. I was thinking of sealing him in so he can’t escape. I may not be strong enough to fight, but I have enough strength to seal any possible exit he might be able to use.”

“Well, when you put it like that,” Sheik uttered, “it does sound like a reasonable plan…”

“And if it sees you?” Link pointed out. “Then what?”

Trying to look as proud as he could, Darunia replied, “Then I’ll have no choice but to confront him and hold him off until you two are done with your task.”

“Forget it!” Link cried with almost no hesitation. “Talk about risky…you’re plan’s just as risky…and almost twice as foolish. You honestly think I’m going to let you just walk in there with him just so he can kill you? I think not. I’m the only one here that can fight this dragon alone. I’ll go and fight Volvagia while you and Sheik go save your people.”

“We can’t do that,” Darunia objected.

“Why not? Why the bloody not!” Link asked, getting irritated.

“The number of creatures guarding my people are too many for a capable Sheikah and a wounded Goron to take on…but a capable Sheikah and a capable Hylian should be a more formidable opponent.”

“Who are you calling ‘capable’?” Link grumbled in his mind before uttering, “And a wounded Goron is better at defending himself against a dragon than someone like me?”

“If I manage to remain hidden…then yes.”

Link scratched the back of his head for a moment, pondering Darunia’s answer as he did. When he stopped, he cleared his throat, straightened his lip, and drew a deep breath. “No.”

“No what?” both Sheik and Darunia asked.

“No as in ‘no, I’m not going to let you do and face that dragon.’ Instead, you’re going with Sheik, I’m going to kill the dragon. Simple as that.”

Darunia’s face lit up with disbelief, as did Sheik’s eyes. “Wha…?” the Sheikah cried. “Have you not been listening at all? Can’t you see that Darunia’s idea works best in this situation? The risks are far fewer with his plan than…”

“Look at this!” Sheik bellowed before, with a flick of his wrist, whipped the Master Sword into view, its surface gleaming in the glow of the nearby flames. “Look at this! Look at this blade! This blade has the power to kill a dragon…and kill it quickly! And there will be plenty more power to help you two save the Gorons once I’ve slain Volvagia. That sounds a lot more reasonable than Darunia’s plan.”


“Listen, who do you think would win against a dragon: a Goron who’s been drained of almost all his strength, or the Hero of Time? I don’t know about you, but I think the latter is far more…capable than the former.”

“But Link…this mission…is about more than just the dragon…” Sheik protested. “It’s also about the Gorons…”

“And that,” Link interrupted with a calm and almost cold tone, “is where I draw the line.”

The Hero of Time then turned his back to both the Sheikah and Darunia. “You still have my hookshot, Sheik?”

“Yes, I do, but…”

“Use it when you’re helping Darunia rescue his people. But I want it back when this is finished.”

Link then started walking in the direction of the door where Darunia and the fire beasts had emerged. Sheik tried saying something to him, but he didn’t respond. Instead he continued walking, not even glancing in the direction of Navi, who was still hovering exactly where Link had left her. Navi didn’t say anything to him; the fierce look in her charge’s eyes was enough of a warning for her.

The Hylian stopped in the place where his shield was wedged in the cracks of the temple floor. He bent down, grabbed its edge with his free hand, and gave it a firm tug; the shield slipped free of the floor’s cracks with a soft pop. Nodding in satisfaction, Link slipped the shield on his back, sheathed the Master Sword, turned around once again, and headed towards the other door.

The door where he suspected Volvagia was.

As he passed his fairy again, he stopped again, although he didn’t look at her. “Are you coming…or are you going to remain with Sheik again?”

Navi’s color started shimmering with anxiety. “Well, I…I…I, uh…”

“I guess that answer’s that.”

Link started walking again, leaving his fairy to shudder as she tried holding back tears of both shame and fear.

He tried passing by Darunia and Sheik without looking at them either, but the Sheikah was a persistent one. “Link, please, listen to me! You can’t do this! You have to think this through…!”

“Just shut up and leave me alone!” Link barked without locking gazes with the Sheikah. “I’m not in the mood for you! This is what you want, isn’t it? To awaken the Sage? Anything else that happens should be of no concern.”

“That…that’s completely untrue and you know it!” Sheik accused.

“As if you know!” Link once again spat.

The Hero of Time only quickened his pace as he argued with Sheik; he reached the door at the end of the room just as Sheik had made his accusation. While giving his rebuke, he reached out and grabbed the door handle and turned it with a sharp jerk of the wrist. If he could just get through this door, he could get away from Sheik and his annoying pleas…

“Hold it.”

Link felt a large and powerful hand fall on and grip his right shoulder. He turned around to see a not too pleased Darunia stare down at Link with his small black eyes. A little surprised, Link quickly found something to say to the Goron.

“Are you planning on stopping me by force, Darunia? I’m warning you, if you do, I will not go lightly on you…”

“I didn’t want to do this, brother,” Darunia cut it with his now dignified-sounding voice, “but you leave me no choice. I am invoking the oath you made seven years ago, and you will uphold it.”

Link blinked in puzzlement. “Oath? What oath? What are you talking about…?”

“The oath you made to become a Sworn Brother of the Goron race. The one you made after you saved the Gorons from the Dodongos.”

“What? I don’t know what you’re…”

I, with the gods as my witness, hereby swear that I shall become a Sworn Brother to the Goron race. I will answer any cry, any request, and any call to the best of my abilities so that I may give aid to my brothers in need. I will accept any assistance from my brothers should I require it. I will live with the knowledge that I have a family other than my immediate kin, and I shall find them if I have no one else to turn to and will always be embraced. I, with the gods as my witness, hereby swear that I am now a Sworn Brother to the Goron race.

The oath entered his mind like a late wind, halting his speech just as instantaneously as it arrived. Link’s eyes went from puzzled and angry to discomfited and frustrated. He ran the oath through his head one more time, and he realized that that “melodramatic” verse he had uttered seven years ago had a lot of meaning behind it.

“Oh…that oath…” Link uttered under his breath, although Darunia could hear it.

“A young boy with a kind heart and a brave soul made that oath back then,” the Goron continued. “So far, you’ve done quite a lot to convince me that you’re not that same boy I admired. The boy who cared enough about a dying race to put his life on the line to save it. The boy after whom…I named my own son.

“If you truly are that boy, then you will uphold your oath. I, Darunia, am asking you, Link, my Sworn Brother, to save the Goron race in their time of greatest need. Will you uphold your oath?”

Link gritted his teeth as he tried to hold back the aggravation that was building up inside of him, wanting to lash out and hit something with his clenched fist. But he knew he couldn’t do that, not when he knew that what Darunia said was right. Even so, was he really going to break the promise he made to himself to never be a puppet of anyone again?

But was he really a puppet…?

“We don’t have much time, Link,” Darunia uttered calmly. “Uphold your oath…or forsake your brothers. Choose…”

The heavy scent of sulfur burned Link’s nostrils as he crept closer towards the edge of the balcony, his head down and his belly almost touching the floor. He knew holding his hand over his face would be useless; he was so deep inside the volcano that he could almost taste the molten magma through his skin. Lucky for him, though, the heat-resistant garments were doing their job at keeping him cool; still, as he felt a few stray particles of the heat tickle his forehead, he did almost wish for a face mask like Sheik’s…

“If Darunia is correct,” Link whispered as he halted temporarily, “then the Gorons should be in the area below this balcony.”

“As well as whatever’s guarding them” added Sheik, who was also lying on his belly, directly next to the Hero of Time.

Link nodded. “Let’s get a good look at the place before we do anything. We had a hard time with only a small handful of those creatures; we don’t want a whole army on our backs.”

“Good idea,” Sheik murmured before smiling, “I’m glad you decided to do this, Link. You made the right choice.”

Link knitted his eyebrows together into a scowl, but he resisted directing that look at Sheik. Instead he grumbled to himself, “Even so, it’s still not my choice…”

Deciding to leave it at that, Link started forward again, edging towards the balcony wall and raising his head to peek over it. As he did, he hummed to himself the tune that Sheik had taught him back in the temple’s main hall, moments before he and Sheik parted with Darunia. It was the song he was going to have to play once the power of Fire Temple was awakened, just like he had done back in the Lost Woods. The song was a little bit deeper in both tone and mood than the Minuet of Forest, and it possessed some kind of subtle gloom within its unyielding melody.

A question crossed his mind as he raised his head: what would happen once he played the melody? In the Lost Woods, he had resurrected the spirit of the forest, which allowed the Great Deku Tree’s son to finally sprout above ground. What would happen when he played the song after whatever he destroyed whatever was suppressing the temple’s spirit? Would something happen to Death Mountain, or was there something else…?


Link’s mind finished wandering when his eyes were peeking completely over the balcony, allowing him to see everything below him. What he saw made his heart leap into his throat.

The ground below him was enormous, spanning an area about the size of the highest floor of Goron City; the walls were nowhere as high as the city’s walls, but their height somehow didn’t diminish the overall size of the cavern. Etched all along the walls were hundreds upon thousands of decorative carving, most of them related in one way or another to fire. There were no torches anywhere; the light seemed to come from a single source, a wide stream of magma that flowed in a circular pattern in the middle of the room.

It was that circular pattern that drew Link’s attention. The magma flowed in a manner that it encircled a large area in the middle of the room and allowed only one exit point in that circle. That one exit point was guarded by five…no, seven Flare Dancers with at least thirty Fire Bubbles leaping back and forth around them. Around the rest of the lava river on the outside were more Flare Dancers and Fire Bubbles, scattered around in a random fashion. They definitely looked to be guarding something, and Link could easily see what they were guarding.

Right inside the magma-encircled ring was what Link believed was the entire Goron race. The number of Gorons only seemed to number somewhere a little above a hundred – were there really that few Gorons, Link thought – but despite the sufficient amount of available space they weren’t making much use of it. All the Gorons were huddled together in a single large clump in the center of the circle, their backs facing their guards. Although it could easily have been a trick of the heat, Link was sure many of the Gorons were shivering, probably out of fear. Link was also certain he could hear soft cries of sadness and pain and hunger coming from the cluster.

Link scanned the area a little bit longer before ducking back down. Sheik, who had crawled up next to him, was the first to speak.

“Well?” he whispered softly.

Link shook his head quietly. “This is going to be tough. Those creatures are all over the place, and in far too many numbers for us to handle.”

“And the Gorons?”

“They’re…alive, at least. That’s probably the best I can say about their condition at the moment. They’re all fenced in by a river of fire that’s too wide for us to jump across, let alone them, and the only exit point is heavily guarded.” Link spat to the side, though his saliva evaporated before reaching the ground. “Curses…one Flare Dancer was enough to nearly get us killed. How can we handle a whole flock of those things?”

Sheik shook his head quietly. “I don’t know…here, let me have a look…”

Sheik then slowly stood up so he could peer over the balcony edge. Link stayed where he was, waiting for Sheik’s silent gasps of disbelief at their situation. He bit his teeth down and swore under his breath. Why did he have to make that promise all those years ago, he wondered. All it did was shackle him to some ridiculous notion of brotherhood and make him go on a rescue mission when he could be freeing the Temple of Fire’s spirit…

“Link! Link, get up here! Look at this!”

Startled by Sheik’s soft yet hissing voice, Link quickly stood up so he could look over the gallery. “What? What’s going on?”

“Look over there,” Sheik whispered, pointing at the far end of the room with one of his fingers. “Do you see something interesting over there, in the wall?”

Link squinted so he could peer through the heat wave in the temple, but it took him a few moments before he finally saw what Sheik was talking about. Etched in the wall…no, inserted in the wall was a huge slab of green stone, one that didn’t match the rest of the temple’s fiery decorations. A little surprised that he didn’t catch that before, Link strained to get a better look, but he couldn’t see anything special about it other than its incompatibility with the rest of the room’s décor.

“I see…something,” he acknowledged. “So what?”

“Take a look at what’s on that thing, Link. Does it look familiar?”

Growing a little confused, Link took another look at the slab. After a little bit of squinting, he thought he could finally make out a carving on the green stone. A carving that looked…eerily familiar…wait a minute! That carving was…was…

“That’s…the mark of the Temple of Time!” Link exclaimed softly.

 Sheik seemed to smile as Link finally recognized the familiar eye-like mark of the Temple of Time. "Yes, that’s right. Which means that that slab is really a door.”

Link could feel his excitement grow…before it was replaced by puzzlement. “But…how does that help us?” he inquired.

“If that’s a door,” Sheik uttered, keeping his eyes on the “door” on the far side of the room, “then that means we can control it directly with the Ocarina of Time.”

“We can…? Oh, that’s right,” Link remarked, remembering his experience in the Forest Temple. “But still…how does that help us?”

“Well, I have a plan. It’s a risky one, of course, but…if we can somehow lead all of the Flare Dancers and maybe some of the Fire Bubbles into that room and shut the door behind us, they’ll be locked up and then we can dispose of the rest of the guards more easily.” Sheik then shook his head gently. “Of course, that means we actually have to somehow lead them in there, and those things are so fast that they’ll most likely catch up to us before we even get halfway across the room. If we can figure out how to lead them in there and get out fast enough…I think we might have a shot at it.”

Link could feel his eyes blinking heavily in disbelief. Was Sheik out of his mind? Did he really think that such a ludicrous plan could actually work? Of course the Flare Dancers were too fast for them. Of course those beasts would catch them before they got halfway across the room. Neither of them could run as fast as those things…


…no. Link shook his head. There were so many factors in this plan with the possibility of error, and just one fault would be disastrous. He slumped his back against the edge of the balcony and drooped his head against his clenched fist, sighing softly to himself.

“Something the matter, Link?” Sheik asked, noticing the Hero of Time’s frustration.

Link shook his head. “Your plan…I’ll admit it’s probably the best we’ve got, but it’s too risky. I can more than likely outrun those things, no problem, but after that we…”

Sheik blinked in gentle surprise. “Wait a minute…you can outrun those things?”

Link looked up at the Sheikah and nodded. “Oh, sure, of course I can.”

Sheik tilted his head. “How, exactly?”

“A little trick I learned called Farore’s Wind,” Link answered with the same level of disappointment in his voice. “It’s a magic I summon that allows me to run quite fast…fast enough to outrun those Flare Dancers, I’m sure. However, that’s not going to…”

Sheik abruptly squealed in delight at a volume that almost had Link peering over the balcony to see if any of the creatures had heard it. The Hero of Time wasted no time in using his hand to quickly shush the suddenly giddy Sheikah. “Shhhh, you idiot! You want those things to discover us when we don’t even have a plan of attack?”

Link was sure he could see Sheik’s smile underneath the Sheikah’s mask. “Oh, but we do have a plan, Link. We do.”

Link knitted his brows. “What? That vague outline of a plan you thought up moments ago? That plan has too many holes to…”

“Just listen,” Sheik hissed patiently. “Now that we know you can outrun those things, I believe I’ve patched up all of those holes.”

Although the feeling of skepticism was still in his mind, Link swallowed his pride and took a deep breath. “Go on,” he insisted.

Sheik nodded. “Well, consider this. Before we even get down there, we kill a few of those creatures from where we are now. With that bow of yours, I’m sure we can hit at two or three of those Dancers before they even realize we’re here. And then when they do notice us, that’s your signal to use your Farore’s Wind or whatever you call it to head for that door. As you do, we’ll play the Song of Time and open it. You lead them in and run around for a bit while we close it again. At the last moment, you rush out, leaving those beasts in the room behind you. Once the Dancers are out of the way, we can easily deal with the Fire Bubbles. How does that sound?”

“But there’s still a couple problems,” Link pointed out almost immediately with no hesitation in his voice. “First of all, there’s the chance that not all of those Flare Dancers will follow me into that room. One or several might come after you. Then what? I doubt even I’ll be fast enough to get to you in time…”

“Then I’ll trade you.”

Link blinked. “Trade me? What do you mean?”

“Just this.” Sheik then reached behind his back and pulled something into view. It was Link’s hookshot. “I’ll trade you one weapon for the other. This hookshot for your bow and arrows. I should be able to hold out with those until you get back. And even if one of them does reach me…” Sheik’s free hand suddenly gleaned with the blade of a knife. “…I’m not completely defenseless.”

Link nodded, albeit reluctantly. “That’s true, but…these things are fast, and if there are more than one it’ll be difficult for your eyes to find all of…Navi!”

The familiar light of the pink fay appeared from inside Sheik’s pocket, fluttering into view. “Link?” she asked almost nervously.

“Looks like you actually have a purpose staying with Sheik,” Link uttered. “You’ve been listening to our plan, right?”

Navi quietly nodded.

“Then you’re going to be Sheik’s second pair of eyes. You’re going to watch out for any Flare Dancers or Fire Bubbles or whatever he can’t see. Understand?”

Navi again only nodded softly.

Link gave a single firm nod at Navi’s response. “Good. Then that’s settled.”

A brief silence followed before Sheik spoke up. “Okay, so that’s the first problem of the plan taken care of. Is there another?”

Link turned to Sheik and nodded. “Only this…who is going to play the Ocarina of Time?”

Sheik’s eyes grew wide with the question. “Why’s that a problem?”

Link lowered his head. “Well…I certainly can’t play it. I’ll be running as fast as I can with those creatures all over me, so I won’t have time to play the Song of Time.”

Sheik smiled. “Then there’s no problem here. I’ll just play it.”

Link’s eyes suddenly glared at the Sheikah. “You sure about that?” he asked with a noticeable snarl in his voice.

Sheik could feel his body lean backwards in caution as he heard the scowl in the Hero of Time’s voice. “Link…is something the matter?”

Link squinted his eyes as his lips curled up on one side. “I’ll ask you again. Are you sure about that?”

“Sure about what…?” when Sheik suddenly realized what Link was talking about. “Link…you don’t want to give me the Ocarina of Time, do you?”

The Hero of Time’s hand abruptly reached for one of the pouches on his belt; it didn’t take a genius to realize that that was where Link kept the precious musical instrument of the royal family. “I’m just a little…cautious, that’s all. How do I know I can trust you with something this…valuable?”

Sheik sighed gently. “I guess you don’t. So I take it you’re unwilling to give the instrument to someone like me.”

Link nodded, his grip squeezing the pouch containing the ocarina gently. “Maybe…I should play the Song of Time while you pick a few off with the bow and arrows. That way I don’t…”

Sheik shook his head in calm disagreement. “We don’t know how long we need to play the song for the door to open. If it takes too long, those monsters will be pouncing on us too quickly. No, the song has to be played while you’re off and running; at least then you can double-back if the door hasn’t opened in time.”

Link snarled again as he almost curled up in protection of the precious item he possessed. “The Ocarina of Time was given to me by the Princess Zelda. She entrusted its protection to me. If you expect me to simply hand it over to someone I hardly know…I’m not that stupid.”

Sheik simply nodded his head. “I see…if that’s the case, then we have a small problem here, Link. It can only end if you take a leap of faith and decide to trust me.”

Link continued to glare at the Sheikah, his hand not loosening its grip around the pouch containing the Ocarina of Time. “Trust you…? No offense, but I find it a little difficult to trust someone who hides his face all the time. Not that me seeing your face would change anything, but…you understand, I’m sure.”

Sheik tilted his head forward a little, lowering his eyes. “I do…but that doesn’t change the fact that we have a problem. You’re going to have to make a choice here, Link. Trust me with the ocarina…or scrap the best plan we have right now.”

Link already knew of the dilemma, but he still didn’t have an answer. He glanced down at the pouch where he kept the ocarina, his eyes loosening up in concern, before he turned his gaze back to Sheik, where his brows knitted together once again. Without looking down again, Link carefully opened the pouch and reached inside with his hand; it emerged a moment later with the Ocarina of Time gripped firmly between his fingers.

Sheik’s eyes widened in gentle surprise as the ocarina was brought into the open, and Link was sure the Sheikah’s concealed mouth was open in slight gape. The Hero of Time held the instrument level to his neck, just out of Sheik’s reach; his gaze was sharp and commanding, making sure that Sheik realized that Link understood the value of this instrument very, very well.

“Trust you…trust you…it just doesn’t roll off my tongue that well at the moment. I know it’s not exactly helping our situation, but…but…”

Link’s clumsy attempt at words was gently interrupted when Sheik raised his hands and placed them delicately upon Link’s hand that was holding the ocarina. Link nearly tensed up in defense, but he realized that Sheik’s hands weren’t touching the instrument. He looked up to meet Sheik’s gaze, and found the Sheikah looking back at him with a completely unexpected gaze of tenderness.

As Sheik’s fingers wrapped themselves lightly around Link’s hand, Link felt himself…blush? “Sheik…what are you…doing…?” he asked almost nervously, almost as if he were talking to…to…

“I understand your apprehension, Link,” Sheik uttered quietly. “Your desire to protect this sacred relic is noble…but your heart has hardened to where you’re blinded by things you have no need to see. You have to find the courage to trust someone, to realize that you cannot get by on your own. I realize that recent events haven’t made this easy for you anymore, but…you cannot let your pain control you like this.”

Link could feel his eyes widened in confusion and awkwardness…before he abruptly turned his gaze away and spat out the side of his mouth. “Feh. What do you know?” he asked.

“More than you realize,” was the answer he received.

Link’s gaze snapped back to face Sheik’s eyes. In the volcanic heat of the temple, Sheik’s light brown eyes seemed to glow a fiery red, a color that Link couldn’t help but associate with determination. Sheik’s resolve had before annoyed Link to no end, but now it felt calmer, sincerer, more…reasonable. That look, along with Sheik’s cryptic words, formed an image in Link’s mind, an image he hadn’t recalled for a while now.

An image of a certain princess he had yet to meet in this terrible, torn world…

Had Link really hardened his heart to the point where he was being blinded by his own stubbornness? He still refused to believe he had made the wrong choice back when he made his vow…but kneeling here before Sheik, their hands wrapped around one another, it was hard to argue with the Sheikah’s points.

“So what’ll it be, Link?” Sheik asked as gently as he could. “Will you give me the Ocarina of Time?”

Link grinded his teeth together as he struggled to make his decision…




“Then here we go.”


With trained speed and deadly accuracy, several arrows sailed from the bow in Sheik’s hands straight for their intended targets: the closest of the Flare Dancers. The loud plucks of the bowstring echoed like a dampened thunderclap throughout the chamber, alerting the blazing beasts to the presence of outsiders, but before they could react in time the arrows found their marks. Much like the hookshot did before, the arrows pierced the soft black body orbs of the Flare Dancers and swiftly carried them away from their fiery appendages. Several loud screams of pain could be heard as the arrows sank into the creatures’ soft flesh, and five arrows had already found their target before the other Flare Dancers even knew what was going on.

Sheik managed to fire off three more arrows before one of the Flare Dancers spotted him up on the balcony, crying out a signal that alerted all the other beasts in the chamber. Undeterred by being discovered, Sheik continued to fire off arrows with pinpoint precision, but he only managed to kill one more Flare Dancer before the other Dancers began moving towards him…and they were moving far too quickly for Sheik to get a clean shot.

Now it was the Hero of Time’s turn.

“They’re heading this way!” Sheik cried out as he tried and failed to hit another Flare Dancer.

“Right! Here goes nothing!”

Leaping out from behind the balcony, Link catapulted himself completely over the edge of the gallery, sending his body falling directly to the ground beneath him, where the Flare Dancers were already beginning to gather. Luckily for Link, the distance between the ground and the balcony wasn’t too great; he landed on his feet within a matter of moments after jumping. But he didn’t waste time looking around; any hesitation could give the Flare Dancers enough time to strike.

With the fiery creatures already heading in his direction, Link drew the Master Sword from its sheath. He then took a deep breath before pushing himself forward, his mind focusing all of his energy on conjuring the one thing that would help him match wits with these monsters. It took only an instant for his speed to increase from a mad sprint to the pace of a mighty gust; to his relief, he had summoned the spell he called Farore’s Wind.

“Now to lead those bastards away from Sheik,” he thought as he gripped the Master Sword firmly with both hands and positioned it to his side.

At first the Flare Dancers appeared confused at Link’s increase in speed…so confused, in fact, that by the time they snapped back to attention Link was already running past them. But Link didn’t just simply sprint past them; as steadily as he could, he swung his mighty blade at a couple of the creatures, the jagged edge sinking into their blackened flesh and cutting them apart at the core. However, at the speed he was moving, he didn’t really know if he killed the beasts or not. Still, the shrieks of pain and anger were enough for him; even if they weren’t dead, they wouldn’t pose much of a threat and might even be picked off by Sheik.

Speaking of Sheik…

“Time to play that song, Sheik…” he thought hastily as he sliced up one more Flare Dancer’s core with his sword before he found himself leaving the group of creatures behind him. He could’ve doubled back and cut up a few more, but at the speed he was going he knew they would be chasing him before he could even turn around safely.

Besides, he still had the Fire Bubbles to contend with…

The Fire Bubbles were obviously more stupid than the Flare Dancers, as most of them were bouncing all over the chamber in random patterns. If Link’s first battle with the Fire Bubbles was any indication, they could be controlled by the Flare Dancers, so then why weren’t the Dancers using the Fire Bubbles to corner Link? Were they just as stupid as the Bubbles…or were they too angry to even think about tactical advantages at the moment…?

Link had no time to ponder these casual thoughts when he ran into a heard of Fire Bubbles that happened to notice him. They flew as fast as their fiery bodies could, diving straight for Link with their jaws snapping viciously. But Link was simply too fast for most of them, and the few Bubbles that were in range were dealt with quickly via quick slashes from the broadside of Link’s sword. He escaped the swarm of skulls easily enough, and to his relief there were no other Bubbles anywhere near where he was heading.

Smiling to himself, Link stole a quick glance behind him…and locked gazes with the hollow flame eyes of a Flare Dancer, running a mere arm’s length behind him. And behind that Dancer, Link could make out the blazing silhouettes of several more of the creatures. The Hero of Time quickly realized that the Flare Dancers were already closing in on him, and their speed was enough to match paces with that of Farore’s Wind.

He had to get over to that door and quickly…

Just then, he heard something familiar…

“The Song of Time…”

Even running at such high speeds, Link could easily make out the now familiar notes of the Song of Time, played with the notes of the Ocarina of Time. The song echoed throughout the chamber clearly and loudly; Link was sure he’d even be able to hear the song this sharply from all the way at the other end of the chamber. And that meant that door would also hear it…

Despite the fact that he had several fire-based creatures breathing down his neck, Link couldn’t help but smile to himself. “Now for the fun part…”

Now it was simply a race to the other end of the chamber, with Link in the lead followed closely by some angry Flare Dancers. The Fire Bubbles were no longer a problem – they were all left behind encircling the circle of lava that guarded the Gorons, who were probably wondering just what was going on at the moment – and the path to the door was completely clear. Yes, Link still had a long ways to run, even at the speed of Farore’s Wind…but at least he didn’t have any obstacles to deal with.

Or so he thought.

Even before he had passed the lava flow containment area, he could feel himself beginning to strain keeping the power of Farore’s Wind flowing through his body. Link was a little surprised by this tension; when he faced the Barinade in Lord Jabu-Jabu, he couldn’t remember feeling anything remotely like this before. The sensation almost felt like pulling a muscle, flexing it to its breaking point; even now, he could feel his legs beginning to burn as though he had been running nonstop for several days.

First the failure of Nayru’s Love when he encountered Ganondorf, and now this. Why wasn’t his magic working for him properly…?

Link didn’t have time to think about this when the corner of his eye caught sight of a flame-kissed whip bearing down on his right shoulder. He quickly sidestepped to avoid the attack’s painful burn, only to step into the path of another Flare Dancer. The beast thrashed its blazing arm towards Link’s left arm, which was defenseless without his shield.

Link quickly forgot about his fatigue as he swung his sword down in a circular arc to meet the attack. As he did, he called upon the energy that flowed through him, the energy he used to defeat the Poe Sisters back in the Temple of the Forest. This time, however, another energy accompanied the Light Temple’s energy, a new force he had gained since Saria had become a Sage: the energy of the Forest Temple.

As he called forth these energies to strengthen him, his mind focused them towards where he needed them most. His memories recalled how he had killed the blue Poe Sister, and if his hunch was correct then this was what he needed to fend off the Flare Dancer’s attack. He had better be right, because if he wasn’t, then he was about to feel a great deal of pain…


Like hardened sap from a rubber tree, the burning whip of the Flare Dancer bounced off the blade of the Master Sword with a bright flash of light, sending the beast into a screaming fit. Link’s eye drifted for a split second to the Master Sword’s blade, which to his amazement was glowing a soft yet noticeable white. He smiled to himself as he returned his concentration back to defending himself while running.

His hunch had been correct after all: the temple energies that flowed through him also flowed through his blade. That’s why he had been able to defeat the Poe Sister with the Master Sword instead of touching them directly. However, in this case the energies didn’t kill his adversary, just merely block his attack. Why…?

As with his other thoughts, Link had no time to think about it when the Flare Dancers were on the offensive once more. Two of the creatures surrounded him on either side, their blazing whips poised to strike the Hero of Time from both directions. But Link was ready for them. His left arm was now bearing his shield, which effectively blocked the left Flare Dancer’s attack with a loud hiss; the Master Sword in his right hand, meanwhile, swung in a perfect arc to meet the right Dancer’s assault, producing another flash of light.

Several more attacks from the two Dancers were blocked in this fashion, but Link could feel a third creature easing its way behind him, ready to deal a blow when he was distracted. He patiently awaited the incoming strike, fending off the other two in the meantime, until the corner of his eye saw the flames approach the back of his neck. With timed accuracy, Link threw all of his weight onto his right foot and thrust himself to the left.

The Flare Dancers were instantly confused by Link’s sudden change of direction, but it didn’t take long for them to follow suite and head after him. But by the time they realized what had happened, Link had already done what he wanted, which was take a moment to listen without distraction. He discovered that Sheik was still playing the Song of Time, which could only mean one thing: the door was still closed.

“Come on, curse it!” Link demanded in his mind, his teeth biting down on one another. “Get that door open or this whole plan is shot to…”

Just then, a low rumbling noise was heard over the sad notes of the Song of Time. Link quickly stole a glance in the direction of the noise. To his relief, he saw exactly what he wanted to see: the door was sliding open, the enormous slab with the mark of the Temple of Time rising upward like a cavernous mouth. Satisfied, Link now knew he had to get over there and lead the Flare Dancers inside.

But first he had to turn back around, which was easier said than done. His abrupt change of direction was leading him straight towards a solid wall, and he was sure there were more than just three Dancers behind him. Even though he wasn’t that far away from the door, hanging direction again could lead him directly into the creatures’ burning grasps…

Just then, Link had an idea. A crazy, if not stupid idea, but an idea, nevertheless. Quietly yet quickly, he slid the Master Sword back into its sheath and removed the hookshot from his belt.

“Link, what in the name of the Three Goddesses are you doing…?”

But it was too late to turn back now. He was just a few steps away from the wall, and he could already feel the hollow gazes of the Flare Dancers bearing down on him. This was the only plan he had, and if it didn’t work, then…well, now was not the time to think about that, was it?

With Farore’s Wind flowing almost agonizingly through his veins, Link waited until he was a mere step away from the wall of the cavern before he executed his plan. Calling upon the energies of the Light and Forest Temples, he felt his strength and stamina swell within him, giving him the power he needed. With a deep and loud grunt, Link carried his momentum forward…and started running up the wall!

But this was different than when Sheik had run up the wall earlier; Link needed to get higher if his plan was to work, meaning he needed quite a bit of energy to get there. His muscles quivered with weariness as his legs struggled to dig into the wall’s carvings, using them as footholds to lift the Hero of Time higher above the ground. His fire-resistant clothing could do nothing to stop the sweat from his exhausting climb.

Somewhere in Link’s mind, Link knew there was a fragment of doubt that he would ever reach the necessary height. But that doubt was shattered when, to his relief, he did reach where he needed to be. Still, this gave him the time neither to celebrate or relax. His head quickly twisted around, scanning the room around him. Below, the Flare Dancers were looking up at him with malicious glares, waving their burning arms around in fury. Several stone’s throws away stood the door he and Sheik had sought to open. And, within arm’s reach above his head, was the cavern’s stone ceiling.

“Only one chance…” he muttered to himself as he raised the hookshot and aimed above and to the left…


As the hookshot was sent sailing through the air, Link bent his knees and pushed himself forward, sending him flying into a freefall. Now it was all up to his aim and the hookshot. If either one were off, then Link would land right in the midst of an angry crowd of Flare Dancers calling for his charred carcass…


Link didn’t even need to look up to know that the hookshot’s arrowhead had sunk into the ceiling. His heart racing in excitement, Link waited for the weapon’s spring to recoil the chain…


Link’s scream somehow seemed appropriate as the hookshot’s chain grew taut and started to retract, sending him swinging across the room from the ceiling like a Kokiri swinging across the Lost Woods from a tree vine. The Flare Dancers below looked on in surprise and anger as their opponent sailed over them, sending them into a frenzy as they snapped out of their astonishment to pursue him. As he swerved around the chin in a circle, Link’s eyes gazed upon the room with the opening door, awaiting the right moment to release the hookshot. His aim needed to be perfect or else he could lose precious time.

Wait for it…wait for it…


With one sharp clack, Link pressed the button to release the hookshot. The arrowhead popped free from the rock and snapped back to the weapon’s firing mechanism, leaving Link in freefall once more. But this time, Link didn’t have any Flare Dancers in his landing path towards the door. However, he needed something to cushion his fall, and luckily for him he had that “something” prepared.
With fast reflexes, Link tucked the hookshot away and slid his shield off his arm. He then tucked the shield under his legs, inserting his feet into the shield’s arm braces to secure it properly. Aiming his legs downward at the right angle, Link watched as the ground grew closer and closer at a seemingly faster rate. In a matter of moments, he would find out if his plan had been all for naught…


Not even Link could believe it when the shield landed perfectly on the ground, bouncing a couple times before it started skidding across the floor like a piece of driftwood in a river. The shield’s smooth surface glided across the stone slabs perfectly, sending showers of orange sparks flying behind it as it carried the Hero of Time forward. All Link had to do was keep his balance, and he was doing that with surprising ease. He knew he wasn’t going as fast as he was with Farore’s Wind, but he was going fast enough to get to the door before the Flare Dancers could catch up to him, and that was all he needed.

Throwing one hand triumphantly into the air, he looked back at the mob of Dancers struggling to catch him and cried out, “Ha! Ha! How’s that? You can’t catch me, you stupid beasts! I’m invincible! I’m the Hero of Time! I’m…oh, bugger.”

Link’s last words came as he turned his gaze forward again, just in time to see that he was heading straight for the door…which hadn’t finished opening yet. Amazingly, the slab hadn’t moved that far; the space it had created for Link to pass through was only about as high as Link’s waist. In other words, Link was about to land face first into a stone wall.

Link’s eyes widened in shock as he instinctively leaned backwards, causing his shield to tilt to the side. That tilt resulted in one of the back corners to catch one of the floor’s cracks, sending the shield flying briefly into the air. But that was all it took for Link to lose his balance. He flailed his arms about madly trying to steady himself, but it did him no good. He landed on his back with a loud thump, causing him to glide across the ground along with his shield. Even though his clothes he could feel every crack scrape across his skin, every bump dig into his bones. All he could do was prevent himself from going into a neck-breaking tumble as his momentum carried him straight towards the door, the friction from the floor hardly’ slowing him down.

First to go was his shield, which whistled underneath the stone floor and disappeared into the blackness. Link followed closely, ducking his head enough so that he wouldn’t be knocked out by the still-opening slab above him. But even as he passed that obstacle, he encountered something completely unexpected.

The moment he disappeared into the darkness, he realized that there was no more ground beneath him. How, he did not know, but he was freefalling once again. This time, however, he had no control over it, and he knew not where he was going to end up. He was powerless to do anything except fall through the inky gloom that surrounded him.

He didn’t scream. He didn’t even pray.

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