“Sheik! Behind you! Another one!”
Sheik responded to Navi’s warning just in time to send his dagger through a sharply angled arc, cleaving through a Fire Bubble that had managed to sneak behind him. The skull shattered upon impact, breaking into a thousand pieces that dissipated in the volcanic heat of the chamber.
The ambushing Bubble taken care of, Sheik returned his attention to the several Fire Bubbles that he could see without Navi’s help. Luckily for him, they hadn’t attempted an attack while he had been momentarily distracted, but two of them did approach the Sheikah when his gaze was affixed upon them once more. Those creatures were easily dealt with thanks to a couple slices from Sheik’s blade.
Fortunately for Sheik, the number of Fire Bubbles attacking him were small; most of them were hovering like an angry swarm of flies over the Gorons’ prison, most likely to keep them safe from anyone who might attempt to break them free. However, all of the Flare Dancers that hadn’t followed Link were standing below the balcony, watching their controlled Fire Bubbles attack the intruder, and they looked eager to finish off Sheik themselves if they could reach him. And despite the small flock of Fire Bubbles attacking him, there still appeared to be no end to them; for every one that Sheik destroyed, two more seemed to appear to take its place.
Two Fire Bubbles attempted to attack Sheik from either side. The Sheikah, with practiced reflexes, dealt with them with a swing of his dagger and a twist of the end of the bow. His moves were less flamboyant than the ones Link had used to dispatch the five Fire Bubbles earlier, but Sheik could afford less lurid techniques – the Flare Dancers obviously couldn’t coordinate an attack that well when their quarry was virtually hidden by a balcony high above them.
Still, Sheik knew he couldn’t keep this up forever. He was already growing tired from all the Fire Bubble’s attacks, and he knew he was lucky that he wasn’t facing all of them. The plan he had formulated started to look less and less like a good idea…
“Sheik! Above you!”
Navi’s cry gave Sheik enough time to respond by thrusting his dagger upward, shattering another Fire Bubble trying to attack directly from above. The creature was destroyed instantly, but not before it managed to sink its teeth partially into Sheik’s hand, sending a burning sensation down his hand. The Sheikah winced at the pain, but chose to tolerate it as he brought the dagger down to slice apart a Bubble attacking from behind.
“Thanks for the heads up, Navi!” he called out as he dodged the gnashing teeth of a Bubble too fast for him to pick off.
“Sheik…we can’t keep this up forever,” Navi pointed out, her pink light flickering wildly in concern. “There are just too many of these things, and if even one of them cripples you then we’re finished.”
“I know that…” Sheik answered back as he swung the bow out in a long arc, knocking down several Fire Bubbles at once before ducking to avoid one from the left. “But we have to hold our defenses until Link returns. With the way I played the Song of Time, that door should begin closing not long after it finishes opening. If he can trap the Flare Dancers that followed him inside, then he can come help us.”
“I sure hope you’re right…Sheik, behind you!”
Once again Sheik avoided a Fire Bubble’s attack thanks to Navi, though Sheik’s attempt to destroy it missed, showing the fatigue was already getting to him. As he tried focusing his attention on the swarm of Bubbles surrounding him, he couldn’t help but steal a glance at the door at the far end of the room, which was still opening slowly. He hadn’t seen Link enter the room, but he did hear a loud cry of excitement…which was then cut off, followed by silence. He hoped Link was all right…
“Oh, no!” Navi suddenly cried.
“What’s wrong? What’s going on?” Sheik demanded hastily.
“Look! The Flare Dancers!”
Sheik had to dodge and destroy three Fire Bubbles before he could even take a quick peek down the balcony, but what he saw made his heart sink. Most of the Flare Dancers were still looking up at him with their empty gazes, but a few of them were heading out towards a corridor a short distance away. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that those Dancers were probably trying to find a way up the balcony, either to coordinate the Fire Bubbles more effectively or take care of Sheik personally.
The endurance test had just become a race against the clock.
“Link…by the Three Goddesses…please hurry…we need you…”
Link didn’t know when he had blacked out from his fall or how long he had been unconscious, but when he awoke he naturally realized that the fall hadn’t killed him. He was also surprised that he could make out a faint source of light coming from somewhere in the inky blackness, though his vision was still a bit too hazy for him to see clearly.
Groaning a little, Link tried to sit up…and found himself rocking back and forth upon a floor that felt as stable as a leaf in the wind. A little surprised, Link clenched his fist and punched the floor; it deformed against his blow. He raised his foot and kicked the ground with his heel, a move which again rocked the ground noticeably. Thinking he knew what was going on, Link opened his fist and stroked the malleable ground with his fingertips; he confirmed his suspicion when he felt the soft yet firm touch of cloth against his skin. And the moment he regained his vision, his eyes further verified it despite the little light available in the darkness.
Link was sitting on some kind of tapestry stretched outward by a set of support poles in the wall, creating a canopy similar to the ones Link had seen in the Market Place in Hyrule New City seven year ago. And through sheer luck, it had been right it needed to be in order to break Link’s fall.
“I wonder if one of the Hero of Time’s powers is dumb luck?” he mumbled as he straightened out his back and tried crawling his way off the fabric canopy.
As he reached the edge of the tapestry and dangled his legs over the edge, Link got the chance to look around the rest of the room…or at least as much as the little accessible light allowed. The room appeared to be a storage room of some sorts, housing things from life-sized stone statues of Gorons to weapons and armory that resembled those of the Hylian guards. Some of the items looked very valuable, while others seemed like they contained sentimental value more than anything.
But before Link had the chance to explore the room further, his ears picked up a soft rumbling sound that had, in fact, been going on for a while now. He looked around sharply, trying to find the source of the sound, when he realized that the light source was getting bigger…
Just then, everything came back to Link. That light source was the door with the mark of the Temple of Time, and it was still opening! And the reason the door wasn’t flooding the entire room in light was because it was at the top of a flight of stairs – thus the reason why Link freefell to begin with was explained. And he didn’t need to be reminded of what was following him only moments ago…
“Curse it!” Link thought as he jumped down onto the ground, drawing the Master Sword from its sheath. He looked around frantically for his shield, but it was nowhere to be seen, and the decorative shields placed around the room were all too big for him. Unable to find his shield, Link looked around for a way out or at least a good place to hide, but the room wasn’t as large as he needed it to be.
He was stuck. The only way out was the way he came in.
“Maybe if I use Farore’s Wind, I can make it in time…”
But a glowing silhouette that abruptly appeared at the top of the staircase, blocking some of the light entering the room, destroyed that thought quickly. Link didn’t need to see the shape clearly to know that it was a Flare Dancer, and he was willing to be that the rest of them were not to far behind.
With nothing else to do, Link took a couple steps back, standing under the canopy tapestry that had saved his life, and gripped his sword firmly in both hands, ready for whatever assault the Flare Dancers might attempt.
But to Link’s surprise, the Flare Dancers didn’t attack immediately. Instead, they started streaming into the room one by one at their typical blazing speeds and positioned themselves around the room so that they were facing the Hero of Time. Within a matter of moments, Link was completely surrounded by a semi-circle of Flare Dancers in all possible directions, each one staring at him quietly with their hollow gazes.
“What’s this?” Link thought curiously. “Why don’t they attack? Are they being cautious? Maybe my little runaround with them is making them a bit more careful? Or maybe they want to make sure that there is no possible way for me to escape…”
Whatever the reason, that didn’t change the fact that Link was in trouble. Even with Farore’s Wind and the temple energies, he couldn’t last long against so many of these beasts in such a confined space. He had to reach the exit…
At first Link didn’t know what that loud rumble meant, but his heart leapt into his throat when he realized that the door to the room was closing! Did it even finish opening…maybe it did, he didn’t know, but that didn’t matter. What did matter was that his only escape route was being cut off, and the Flare Dancers, either through strategy or unfortunate coincidence, were not going to let him past their enclosure.
Link felt his teeth grip against one another more and more tightly with each hair’s width the door inched downward, the light from the enormous chamber being replaced by the naturally radiating flames of the Flare Dancers. Inexplicably, for Link the door both seemed to close faster than it had opened and feel like the process was lasting an eternity. In a matter of moments – or was it a few years? – the slab would be completely down, leaving Link trapped with gods knew how much Dancers out for his blood.
“Why did I agree to this plan?” he thought as he watched the last traces of light from the door disappear from view. “It was a stupid plan. A stupid, stupid plan. I can’t believe I let Sheik talk me into this! What in the name of the Three Goddesses was he thinking…? Then again, it’s not like there was any alternative. I was going to fight these things against the odds no matter what. Sheik’s plan gave me a chance to avoid that, but it looks like that wasn’t meant to be, was it?”
The rumbling of the door seemed to grow louder during its final moments, but Link ignored it as he straightened his posture and took a deep breath. “Can’t be helped, I suppose. Looks like, once again, I’ve got no say in the matter. And as much as I hate that…no point in complaining about it now, eh?”
With those final words, a final loud groan signaled that the door had finished closing, trapping Link inside the room with his numerous adversaries. The Flare Dancers still refused to make a move and continued watching him quietly and silently, awaiting the perfect time to attack.
But Link wasn’t about to give them a perfect time to attack.
Slowly yet distinctly, a luminous white light emerged in the room to mix with the orange glow of the Flare Dancer’s flames. The Master Sword glimmered menacingly in Link’s hands, the blade almost humming with anticipation at the upcoming battle.
“You wanna dance?”
Link twirled the Master Sword around in the air above his head for a few moments before he again locked it in the proper ready position, his eyes filled with a glaring spirit more brilliant than his blade’s.
The loud thud that echoed throughout the chamber made Sheik’s sink; Link had not emerged from the room beyond the door. Did he not have enough time, or did the Flare Dancers prevent him from leaving? His chest tightened in panic as the thought of his plan resulting in the death of the Hero of Time crossed his mind over and over. He didn’t even notice a Fire Bubble slinking its way from above until it bit his right hand, causing him to drop his knife in pain.
“Eeeeaaiiiiiiii!” Sheik screamed in his mind as he tried focusing on the Fire Bubbles once again. Despite the burning sting in his hand, he leapt backwards and used his right palm to perform a somersault as he swung the bow in his left hand to deflect the attack of two Fire Bubbles charging from behind.
It wasn’t until Sheik was back on his feet that he heard Navi’s voice, but it wasn’t a warning about an incoming Bubble. “Oh, no…Sheik, Link hasn’t…!”
“I know, Navi! I know!” Sheik cried urgently. With practiced precision, the Sheikah slipped his foot underneath his dropped dagger and tossed it into the air, grabbing it with his still throbbing right hand. As he used the reacquired blade to shatter another attacking Bubble, he added. “We have to get out of here and find Darunia!”
But Sheik knew that idea wasn’t a good one even before he said it. Darunia may not have healed completely yet, meaning he wouldn’t be that useful in a fight. And besides, he was too far away; there was no possible way he and Navi could find him without being caught by the Fire Bubbles and Flare Dancers.
Speaking of which…
“By the gods…”
Sheik’s whisper of horror came just as his eyes rested upon the entrance to the gallery. Even far down the corridor, he could make out the shapes of fast-approaching Flare Dancers – they had found their way to the balcony. And once they reached the balcony, the Fire Bubbles would become coordinates, fast, and deadly.
“Link…I know you’re all right… we need you more than ever…”
A pincer attack by two Flare Dancers from either side attempted to trap Link into an even more confined space. The Hero of Time, however, saw the attack and nimbly dodged it by bounding his way backwards. He landed on the ground easily, but he wasted no time in jumping back again, this time to plant his feet firmly on the wall behind him. With a soft grunt, he propelled himself forward, the Master Sword ready to strike.
“Hmm…that felt a little shaky…”
He almost seemed to fly as he soared over the heads of the two Dancers that tried to trap him. With one clean cut, Link’s blade sliced through both black cores of the two Flare Dancers; two high-pitched screams of agony followed as their flaming appendages dissipated. But Link had no time to regain his composure as he landed, for five Flare Dancers moved in for the kill.
His senses saturated with the power of the temple energies, Link saw each attacking coming and quickly calculated their trajectories. Using agility he never knew he possessed, he ducked one attack, sidestepped another, deflected two with his blade, and sent the fifth one off balance with a last-minute evasion. With two of the Dancers thrown back because of the repelling energy radiating through the Master Sword, Link only had two creatures to destroy before they could attack again.
One creature was dealt with thanks to a powerful diagonal slice through its core, but the other one made another lunge for the Hero of Time before Link could kill it as well. Unable to destroy its heart, Link instead blocked the attack, sending the Flare Dancer toppling backwards. Link didn’t let up and instead sent his blade crashing down on the equivalent of what would be the creature’s neck, sending the Dancer flying through the air and into the crowd.
Deciding not to give the Dancers another attempt at surrounding him, Link called forth Farore’s Wind and headed down a wedge in the crowd opened up by some of the creatures that had charged him. Some of the Dancers reacted by trying to cut him apart with their blazing whips, but he nimbly dodged them, even managing to puncture one Dancer’s core as he passed it.
Within a matter of moments, Link had gotten passed the mob of Dancers, but he knew they would be coming after him. His eyes gazed around the room lit by the beasts’ shimmering flames, and he immediately spotted the shields hanging on the wall. Without hesitating, Link grabbed one shield off the wall. Just as he had suspected earlier, it was too heavy for him to use properly in a fight that required nimbleness.
Using his momentum to his advantage, Link spun around on the balls of his feet several times before abruptly releasing the shield, sending it sailing through the air like a missile. The projectile found its target, sinking into the black flesh of one of the Flare Dancer’s cores and killing one more of the beasts. As the shield fell to the floor with a loud clang, the remaining Dancers seemed to grow furious as they witnessed a mere Hylian easily killing them off one by one.
Two Flare Dancers made a forward rush for Link, their arms waving around wildly. Link quickly raised his sword to meet their fiery whips. His weapon collided with both their scorching weapons simultaneously, creating the now familiar flashes of light, but unlike before these Dancers didn’t rebound as strongly. It seems they were growing more aware of Link’s tricks…
Link was now caught in a game of survival, twisting his sword in various directions and angles just to prevent from being hit. With each blow the Dancers attempted, Link was forced to take a step back, which only seemed to encourage the two attacking creatures further. Link kept one eye out for another other possible attacks from other Dancers, but they seemed to be content with letting these two finish off the Hero of Time…or at least wear him down.
As Link was pushed closer and closer towards the wall at the end of the room, he realized he had to come up with a plan. He glanced feverishly around the room at every available opportunity, trying to formulate an idea to surviving these beasts…when he noticed a statue of what appeared to be a baby Goron standing a short distance away. Unlike the other statues in the room, this one was made out of stone instead of wood. Of course, in the extreme temperatures of the volcano, it was undoubtedly covered with some kind of chemical to protect it from the heat and prevent it from degrading or catching on fire.
But it was made of wood, nevertheless…
Deciding that crazy idea had more or less worked for him thus far, Link waited for the right opportunity to put his plan into action. Then, just as he deflected attacks from both Flare Dancers at the same time, Link again called forth Farore’s Wind and sprinted his way towards the statue. The Flare Dancers followed him an instant later.
As Link reached the statue, he took a deep breath. He then used his strength to propel him into a jump that sent him flying over the statue. As he landed on the other side of the figure, he didn’t hesitate. He sharply spun around, sending the Master Sword into a deadly circular slice. Just as he had hoped, the blade cut through the core of one of the Flare Dancers as it tried to move around the statue. The other Dancer was trying to round the statue from the other direction, but it didn’t matter – the Master Sword cleaved through the wooden statue like a stone thrown through air and found the second Dancer’s core against its jagged edge.
A stunned silence followed the subsequent screams of agony from the two Flare Dancers, then came a hollow thud as the top half of the carved statue crashed to the ground. The remaining Dancers in the room couldn’t believe what had happened to their comrades, and their fires only seemed to grow more intense with hatred because of it. As Link readied the Master Sword in a defensive stance yet again, he realized the creatures were only going to get more hostile from here on out.
Just then, Link’s foot brushed against something. He glanced down to see his Hylian shield lying at his feet! How it got there he didn’t know, but he didn’t care. He quickly scooped it up and inserted it into his arm, now feeling better equipped to handle the upcoming onslaught.
But the Flare Dancers weren’t dispirited in the least. Their hollow eyes filled with a seething odium, their arms thrashed around in the air violently as all of them rushed towards the Hero of Time, screaming cries of rage. Link’s reassurance abruptly changed into alarm as he recognized he couldn’t fight all of them at once…
Using the only option he had left to him, Link quickly pulled out his hookshot with his shield hand and aimed it at a point above the Flare Dancer mob. The hook couldn’t leave the firing mechanism fast enough as it soared above the fiery creatures and sank in the ceiling. The recoil came just moments later, and Link flew through the air an instant before a Dancer attempted to cut down his legs with its whip-like arm.
Because the beasts were too blinded by their ire, it took most of them a few moments to even realize that Link had escaped over their very heads. However, one of them near the back of the crowd did notice, and it wasn’t about to let its quarry get away…
As Link landed firmly on the ground, the retracted hookshot firmly in his hand, he turned around just in time to see the lone Flare Dancer who had noticed his escape lunge for him. In a panic, Link raised the Master Sword and tried summoning enough temple energy to counter the attack, but it wasn’t enough. As the Dancer’s arm struck Link’s blade, it was the Master Sword that recoiled sharply from the assault. Link immediately found himself stumbling backwards, trying to maintain his balance. He staggered all the way back in front of the draped tapestry that had saved his life before he could stand properly again, but his troubles were not over.
The Flare Dancer was charging again, this time for a deadly sideswipe. Unable to raise the Master Sword in time, Link instead raised his shield…
Link had no idea that Flare Dancers were capable of such powerful blows, but the force in the creature’s attack more than demonstrated that. Link felt his feet leave the ground as he was sent hurling through the air under the space of the tapestry canopy. Everything happened so fast that Link didn’t even have time to brace himself as he flew into the wall…
…no, not into the wall…through the wall!
If Link had cared, he wouldn’t noticed the bricks to the wall with which he collided shattered upon impact as if it were parchment, scattering in every direction with a vacant thud. But he didn’t care; he was still in shock from the Dancer’s powerful strike as he entered a second, smaller room adjacent to the storage room. His journey through the air was then unexpectedly halted when he collided with something behind him, sending it crashing to the ground with a thunderous clang.
He landed on his back just in front of whatever had collided with, the resulting pain only made worse by the fatigue coursing through his every bone. His ears rang with the echo of whatever he had struck, and flashes of light danced in front of his face, blurring his vision. Even though he knew how urgently he had to get up, his muscles were stiff and stinging from using so much magic at once. But he knew he had to get up and defend himself…
“My sword! I’ve lost the Master Sword!”
Link’s fingers flexed in his empty hand several times before they were convinced that he had dropped the Master Sword. Life suddenly returned to his joints as he frantically scanned around the new chamber he was in for the blade, but he had very little light and about all he could make out were what appeared to be the remainder of a weapon stand now lying in pieces behind him…
Suddenly, the room seemed to fill with a demonic radiance as the luminescent figure of the Flare Dancer that had struck him stepped into the room. Link’s eyes quickly darted in the creature’s direction, his breath shortening with each heave of his chest in panic. Even with his shield, he knew he couldn’t defeat this beast without a weapon, and the Master Sword wasn’t anywhere nearby.
If he could get his hands on something to wield as a club, maybe he could swipe the beast’s core away from its fiery limbs. But where could he get…of course! The shattered weapon stand behind him! Surely it had broken apart into something he could use. Not taking his eyes off the Dancer, Link’s hands rapidly darted behind him, feeling around for a useable piece of the stand.
To his completely amazement, he found more than he bargained for. His hands found what appeared to be the hilt of a sword. It didn’t feel like the Master Sword’s hilt, but any sword was as good enough for him at this point…
Without warning, the Flare Dancer charged. Wrapping both his hands around the sword’s hilt, Link waited for the right moment…and then lifted the blade into the air, aiming for the Dancer’s vulnerable core…
To Link’s surprise, the sword didn’t move through the air as quickly as he had hoped. Was he swinging it with the broadside facing the arc…no, even then the blade wouldn’t move as slowly as this. So what was going on…?
All at once, just as the weapon rounded the peak of its arc, the Flare Dancer stepped to the side, moving out of the sword’s path. It was then that Link got to see for himself the sword he was holding…and when he saw what it was he felt his heart skip a beat in dismay. The sword was anything but, and even at that instant he knew he was in trouble. The weapon was too heavy for him to change its direction, and it was about to crash into the ground.
And the Flare Dancer was already raising its whip-like arm to strike Link down where he lay.
“Dear gods…not now…don’t let me die now…”
Sheik’s scream couldn’t have been more ear-piercing as a Fire Bubble sank its teeth deep into his knife hand, burning its mark into his flesh and snapping his dagger’s blade in two. The Sheikah didn’t even have time to recover as another Bubble came from above and bit into Sheik’s arm, sending him into a spastic fit from the pain.
Navi’s words seemed but a distant cry as Sheik’s world was filled with blinding agony, which was only amplified as yet another Fire Bubble took a bite of Sheik’s left shin, sending his left leg into the air and almost throwing the Sheikah off balance. The third bite did, however, cause his eyes to spring open instantly, and luckily for him they were facing the four Flare Dancers on the balcony that were now coordinating the Fire Bubbles in an effective attack.
To Sheik’s horror, one of the Dancers was zipping straight for him, arm raised to give the final blow.
His strength waning but his determination still willing, Sheik struggled to collect all his strength into one twist of his body. As his back arched its way backwards, the Flare Dancer’s fiery whip sailed over him, just barely missing his head. But Sheik had no time to celebrate. His dodging had destroyed what little stability he had managed to garner, and with only one leg to stand on he couldn’t reclaim it.
Unable to stop himself, Sheik started tumbling backwards…and plunged over the edge of the balcony.
“Sheeeeeeiiiiiiik!” Navi cried.
With no energy left even to scream, the Sheikah plummeted from the gallery to the ground below, his body flailing through the air like a rag doll. The Flare Dancers below watched in apathetic silence as Sheik landed on the stone floor with a soft crunch, his limp legs cushioning his fall only slightly. His body then remained still, lying calmly and quietly at the feet of his adversaries.
“Sheik! Sheik! No!” The little fey, her pink light guttering in panic, rushed from the gallery down to the lower floor, where she hovered in frantic circles around the Sheikah’s immobile body. “Sheik! Please! Say something! Sheik! Wake up! You can’t be dead! You just can’t be! Please, wake up! Sheik! Sheik! Shie…!”
Just then, as she rounded near the Sheikah’s face, she noticed a faint twitch on Sheik’s nose. Her heart racing, Navi turned her attention to Sheik’s chest – it was rising and falling in shallow but noticeable breaths.
“Sheik…thank the Three Goddesses you’re alive…”
But when Navi looked up, she noticed that she wasn’t the only one who had noticed. The Flare Dancers had encircled Sheik’s limp body completely, and they were moving in to finish off their opponent before he had a chance to regain consciousness. The fairy shuddered in terror as they closed in.
“No…no…this can’t be happening…Link…Link, where are you? Sheik needs you! He needs you now!”
One by one, the Flare Dancers raised their burning arms. The little fay was on the verge of tears as she closed her eyes in silent prayer.
Seemingly at once, the Dancers brought their arms down.
When Navi screamed her heart out in calling for Link, she never imagined that something would happen because of it. But when she opened her eyes, she discovered that both she and Sheik were still alive. The Flare Dancers’ blows had stopped, and they were all looking at something on the far side of the room. Her heart racing furiously, Navi flew a little higher so she could get a better look.
Strangely enough, she couldn’t see anything…
That rumbling sound again…wait a minute! The door with the mark of the Temple of Time! Whatever that sound was, it was coming from behind that door…
There it was again, only this time more powerful. Even from this distance, Navi could see that the door itself was shaking. Could it be…?
Yes, it was! Whatever was creating those thuds was trying to break through the door! Was it the Flare Dancers that had followed Link inside the room…?
Navi nearly leapt backwards as a large crack emerged on the door, spreading diagonally across the slab. The fairy’s eyes couldn’t have grown any wider. Could Flare Dancers, even in large numbers, really do something like that…?
The crack on the door began spreading out in all directions, creating a chaotic web of fissures that soon engulfed the Temple of Time seal. Navi could tell that even the Flare Dancers were starting to get a little edgy; whatever was behind that door, they certainly didn’t think it was friendly. But even as Navi’s focused her attention on the door, she couldn’t help but worry about Sheik, who was still unconscious.
And what happened to Link…?
With a thundering snap that echoed across the chamber like a thunderclap, the door seemed to explode as it shattered into a thousands pieces that scattered across the floor. The Flare Dancers remained deadly still as they kept their gazes transfixed on the scene, but Navi felt her heart race even faster as she waited for the dust to clear and for whatever had destroyed the door to finally show itself.
As the dust began to settle at an almost agonizingly slow pace, a lone shadow seemed to “emerge” from the cloud. At first Navi couldn’t make out who or what it was, but as the figure stepped out of the cloud and into the light of cavern’s lava lake, her heart leapt with joy as she recognized the figure, weapon held firmly in one hand and a smug grin on his face.
Her cry of delight couldn’t begin to describe how relieved and happy she felt at that moment. In fact, she was so ecstatic at seeing her charge again that it took her a while for her to even question how he had managed to break through the door, as well as notice something very different about him. He wasn’t holding the Master Sword in his hands – the blade seemed to be in its scabbard on his back, along with his shield – but a hammer.
And the hammer looked nothing like the wooden mallets Navi was accustomed to seeing used by the Kokiri for spring renovations; this one was huge, with the main head almost the size of Link’s head. The head appeared to be made out of a metal of some kind, while the hilt was crafted from a very tough-looking wood. Navi was surprised that Link was even able to lift the thing because it looked so heavy, but he held it in one hand as it if were a bag of nut-berries.
It was then that Navi noticed Link was holding something else in his other hand. She strained her eyesight so she could get a better look. When she realized what it was, she nearly gasped twice. It was a Flare Dancer core, and judging by the way it was pulsing in Link’s hand it was still alive.
“What’s Link doing with a Flare Dancer core in his hand…?”
As if to answer her question, Link raised the core high above his head. Then, with a sneer and a look in his eyes that even far away made Navi’s spine shiver, Link’s fingers closed around the core and crushed it in his hands, spraying its vile juices in every direction and killing the beast instantly. Link then threw the core to the ground and, without hesitation, stepped on it, squashing the remaining pulp beneath his heel.
That certainly got the attention of the other Flare Dancers.
“Link…what in the name of the Three Goddesses are you doing?”
Navi had no time to ponder that question when simultaneously the Flare Dancers shrieked in anger, their arms whipping around in random directions furiously at the sadistic death of one of their own. Completely forgetting about Sheik at their feet, the Dancers started sprinting their way towards Link, continuing to scream their cries of rage. Even the Dancers up on the balcony were affected by the offending action; they dove off the balcony onto the ground floor and followed their comrades, leaving the Fire Bubbles swarming on the gallery.
Terror once again filled Navi’s voice. “Link! Link! Run! Run away!”
But Link didn’t run; he simply stood where he was, his smug look not faltering in the least. Navi started to panic, thinking that either Link was oblivious to the approaching Dancers and couldn’t hear her, or knew they were coming and was…waiting for them for some reason. Even though she knew she couldn’t match the speed of the Flare Dancers, she started hurrying towards the Hero of Time, her tiny shrill voice crying out as loud as she can.
“Link! Look out! Run away! Link! Can you hear me? Link! Run…!”
But Link didn’t run away. He stood his ground, the metallic surface of the hammer glistening in the radiant heat of the volcanic stream. By now Navi could tell that Link knew that the Flare Dancers were heading straight for him, and his seemed to be looking at them eagerly, as if waiting for them to arrive!
Link’s strange behavior only made Navi fly even faster.
“Link! Please, listen to me! You have to run away! Link! Please! Can you hear me? Link! Link!”
Finally, Link did move, but not to run away. Instead, he smiled to himself as he gripped the hammer with both his hands and readied it into a position as if it were a sword. The Flare Dancers were almost upon him, their shrieks of anger now replaced by a chilling silence that they wanted to break with the spilling of the Hero of Time’s blood. They would not stop until they had killed him quickly and painfully and burned his corpse beyond recognition.
Link’s smirk only seemed to widen as he raised the hammer above his head, keeping a watchful gaze upon the approaching mob. Then, just moments before the creatures were upon him, Link brought the hammer down as hard as he could, landing the head directly against the ground between him and the leading Dancer.
A familiar thud echoed throughout the chamber as the ground beneath the Hero of Time seemed to shake with a violent force. A shockwave of air rippled from the hammer’s point of impact, spreading out in a widening circle. The approaching mob of Flare Dancers saw this and again screeched, only this time in alarm. They immediately tried scattering in various directions, but the shockwave was faster.
The wall of air washed over the Flare Dancers like an ocean surge, trapping them in a cage of thrashing winds. Then, one by one, the fiery bodies of the Dancers began to disintegrate, their once threatening flames dissolving like salt in a glass of water. The helpless Dancers screamed and flayed as hard as they could, but their strength could not save them from the tremors that held them captive.
Within a matter of seconds, not a single flickering appendage could be seen. All that remained of the terrifying Flare Dancers were their cores, which promptly fell to the ground with sickening thumps. The cores themselves were still alive – they throbbed and pulsed with shock and anger at their adversary’s surprise attack – but now they were more than vulnerable.
And Link was swift to take advantage of this.
Summoning Farore’s Wind once more, Link drew the Master Sword and proceeded to run around the field of hapless cores, slicing each one open with the tip of his blade. Each one burst open with a nauseating gush of juices, spewing their dark blood in several coughing fits before they finally stopped moving. Several of the cores seemed to try and run, but even had Link not summoned Farore’s Wind they would’ve been easy prey for his sword.
Soon, all of the Flare Dancer cores were dead, lying in a shallow pool of their own blood. Link stood at the edge of that pool admiring his handiwork, the Master Sword in his right hand and the mysterious hammer in his left. Juices coated the Master Sword’s magnificent blade like a fungus and dripped down towards the tip at a slow, almost poisonous pace. His hands were clenched tightly around his weapons and his eyes were wide with excitement, while his mouth curved into an almost vicious sneer.
Navi should’ve been happy that Link was safe and sound and that he had killed the creatures so easily, but as the fay drew closer and closer towards him she found it incredibly hard to feel anything but horrified. She didn’t need to see Link’s face to know how he was feeling; as a fairy, she could tell that Link was not only proud of what he did…he was relishing it!
“What?” Link bellowed almost rancorously as he spun around to face his fairy, his eyes narrowly tense and callous.
Navi at first couldn’t find the words to reply to Link’s harsh roar, but she knew what she had to do and dug up the courage to speak. “It…It’s Sheik. He’s been bitten all over, and he’s taken a fall from the balcony. He’s still alive, but…he needs help.”
At those words, Link’s eyes suddenly softened, his face changing from one of resentment to one of concern. He nodded at Navi without a word before he started running across the room towards the gallery, using Farore’s Wind to quicken his pace.
As Navi watched Link head towards the fallen Sheikah, she pondered again over Link’s shocking transformation. How could he have gone from someone so gentle and kind to someone who takes pleasure in the death of other creatures? Surely his separation from Saria couldn’t have done that by itself…
Just then, Navi’s ears picked up a familiar snapping sound. She quickly remembered something.
“The Fire Bubbles! Link, the Fire Bubbles are still ali…!”
But she cut her own words short when she realized why the Fire Bubbles were snapping. To her amazement, the swarm of Fire Bubbles over the balcony and over the holding pen for the Gorons were fighting each other. She couldn’t believe it at first, but the skull creatures were attacking one another and tearing each other apart. Some of the Bubbles collided with other Bubbles and shattered upon impact, while others used their jaws to rip off their tiny wings and splinter their fragile bodies.
“But…why are they attacking each other? Could it be that the Flare Dancers were controlling the Fire Bubbles’ basic instincts? And now that the Dancers are dead…”
Navi had found a reason to smile again…
“Sheik…Sheik, are you all right?”
The Hero of Time bent down on his knees to carefully turn the unconscious Sheikah over onto his back and carefully lifted his head up. Sheik’s chest was moving slowly and methodically now, but there was no response to Link’s question; his eyes remained closed and his arms remained limp, dangling by his side uselessly.
“We need to get you out of here…” Link started, knowing that it was too dangerous to remain in the Fire Temple, when his eyes drifted over Sheik’s mask.
Despite all the help that Link had received from Sheik, he was still a little suspicious of the Sheikah, if only because he refused to show his face. Looking down at Sheik in his heat-resistant mask, Link could see the vague curves of Sheik poke through, tempting him with the Sheikah’s true identity. And with Sheik unconscious, all Link had to do was reach down and pull the silly mask off…
He could feel his breath shorten as a quivering hand gently moved down and slid its fingers underneath the mask’s rim. Then, holding his breath, he started to slowly and carefully slip the mask’s edge upward…
Link managed to pull the mask up to Sheik’s chin before he stopped and quickly returned the mask to its former position. Sheik’s words continued running through his mind, like a bell that reminded him of something he wanted to forget. Sighing to himself, he looked into Sheik’s closed eyes and twisted his mouth into an uncomfortable frown.
“I’ll trust you, Sheik…for now…”
Navi’s voice made Link twist his head around so fast he nearly pulled a muscle. “What is it? What is it, Navi?”
The fey fluttered in front of Link’s face with practiced style. “How’s Sheik? Is he all right?”
Link nodded as he turned his attention back to Sheik. “Yeah…Sheik’s fine, at least for the moment. But he needs medical attention, though I have no idea where we can find anything like that around here…”
The soft yet deep voice seemed to come out of nowhere, and yet Link could tell it came from somewhere behind him. He quickly spun his entire body around, though he made sure to keep Sheik’s body steady, to get a better look. What he saw nearly made his jaw drop.
Gathering around him and the Sheikah was the entire Goron race, forming a semicircle from wall to wall. From children to adults, big Gorons to small Gorons, all forms of the Goron race were represented in the crowd. As Link looked around in awe, he saw that each and every Goron had some kind of injury. Most of them were mild burn marks, but several Gorons’ burns looked serious and some of them looked almost crippled. However, they all had one other thing in common: their small, black eyes were looking directly at Link with a sense of admiration and astonishment.
Before he could say anything, a lone Goron stepped from the crowd, shuffling his way because of what appeared to be a broken foot. At first Link didn’t recognize him, but when the Goron drew close he blinked in surprise.
A faint smile spread across the Goron’s lips. “So you remember me, do you?”
“Link’s gasp of amazement turned to a smile of cheerfulness. “Of course I remember you! How can I forget someone like you?”
Malatite somehow found the energy to chuckle. “It’s pretty easy when you’re as boring as I am.” He then grew serious. “But, in any case…you are Link, right? The young boy who saved the Goron race seven years ago when you saved us from the Dodongos?”
Link nodded firmly. “You’re not convinced?”
The Goron smiled as he took a few steps closer. “I am now.” The Goron’s gaze then drifted onto the Sheikah in Link’s arms, and a look of worry drifted across his face. “Oh, dear me. Is this the poor unfortunate soul that fell off the balcony just now?”
Link suddenly remembered Sheik and again nodded. “Yes, it is. He needs help, Malatite. Do you think you can help him…?”
“Link, I’m a doctor, remember? Of course I can help him, and I will help him.”
Link could feel a great weight lift from his heart. “Thank you, Malatite. I’m forever in your debt.”
“As we are in yours…for the second time, it seems,” Malatite replied.
The Goron’s gaze then drifted again, this time to rest upon an item that Link had set aside so he could cradle Sheik. It was the hammer he had used to easily dispatch the Flare Dancers. Malatite’s eyes widened in wonderment, and the rest of the Gorons, who had remained quiet during Link’s talk with the doctor, were beginning to whisper loudly amongst themselves.
Link noticed this and asked, “What’s going on here…?”
“I never thought I’d ever see it in my lifetime,” Malatite said quietly, “but the fact that it is here before my very eyes is proof enough. And such an amazing demonstration you gave with it as well. Such power confined in such a relatively small instrument…”
“Malatite, what are you talking about?”
Malatite blinked several times before he understood. “Forgive me, my boy. I just couldn’t help myself. You see, that item you possess right there is the legendary Megaton Hammer.”
“Megaton…Hammer…?” Link stammered before he remembered the story told to him. “Oh, I remember. I think I was told about it by another Goron…”
Malatite’s eyes widened unexpectedly. “Another Goron…does that mean…have you met Big Brother? Is he alive?”
Link was about to state that it was Goron Link who had told him the story when he abruptly remembered Darunia. “Darunia? Yes, he’s alive.” A loud sigh seemed to echo across the chamber at those words. “But he went on ahead to seal up the dragon Volvagia so he can’t escape.”
All at once the faces of every Goron changed from a look of relief to a look of horror. Malatite’s face was just as shocked by the news. “Big Brother is facing Volvagia? By the Three Goddesses…how could he do such a thing, especially in his condition and without the Megaton Hammer?”
“I don’t know, but it’s what he wanted,” Link stated, making sure to keep his displeasure at the decision to himself.
Despite his obviously painful foot, Malatite reached downward and grabbed Link’s shoulders firmly. “Then you must help him. You must help Big Brother. I know this is a lot to ask of you, especially after all you’ve done for us, but I’m begging you to please help Big Brother.”
As if on cue, other Gorons in the crowd started to shout their own pleas at the Hero of Time. Others joined quickly joined in, and soon every Goron face was in some way or another beseeching Link to save their beloved Big Brother from the dreaded dragon.
Link felt something stir inside his heart. He vividly remembered how he had no desire to save these people because they were too out of his way, but looking at the scene before him made him feel sliver a guilt trickle inside his soul. Maybe he shouldn’t have been so heartless. Maybe he should listen to Sheik’s advice and be the Hero of Time that others considered him to be rather than what he considered the Hero of Time to be.
But then…why did his heart still feel so empty…?
Casting those thoughts aside, Link stiffened his facial expression into a look of seriousness. Then, with his free hand, he reached down and grabbed the Megaton Hammer and held it high above his head. Almost instantly, the crowd fell silent, giving Link a chance to speak.
“My fellow Gorons. I have heard your cries. I swear, upon this sacred artifact that you know as the Megaton Hammer, that I will bring your Big Brother back to you alive and well. You have my word as the Hero of Time.”
Upon hearing those words, the Gorons started cheering their hearts out, hugging one another and smiling happily knowing that their Big Brother would be returned to them. Only Link seemed to blush at his own words. “The more melodramatic, the better it is, I suppose…”
Link then looked up at Malatite, who had an enormous grin of gratitude on his face. “Malatite, I think I know where Volvagia is, so I’m going to head there this instant. You’ll take good care of Sheik for me, right?”
Malatite nodded sincerely. “You have my word as a Goron and as a doctor that your friend will be given the best of care I can provide.”
Link nodded. “Excellent. Then that settles that. Come Navi, we need to…”
Just then, Link felt a hand gently tug his shirt. He looked down and, to his surprise, saw Sheik staring back up at him. The Sheikah’s eyes were only barely open, but the fact that he was moving made Link smile with relief.
“Link…” the Sheikah quietly interrupted. “I’m…I’m sorry I was of no use to you…and I’m sorry that my plan nearly got you killed…I’m sorry…”
“What are you talking about?” Link interjected. “Your plan may have been crazy, but it was the best plan we had. And you’ve been more than useful to me. I couldn’t have done any of this without you. Don’t beat yourself up just because you fell off a balcony. I nearly fell off a mountain once.”
Amazingly, the Sheikah seemed to giggle softly at Link’s little joke. Link chuckled a little himself before continuing, “Listen, the Goron here is called Malatite. He’s a doctor. He’s going to take very good care of you while I go take care of Volvagia. Can you wait for me until then, Sheik?”
Sheik nodded gently and said, “I’ll manage. But before you go, there is something I need to return to you…”
“My bow and arrows?” Link interrupted. “I’m not sure what use they’ll be, but all right, I’ll take them…”
“No, not that…I meant the Ocarina of Time.”
Link’s body grew rigid as Sheik uttered that name. He had completely forgotten about the ocarina and his little bout with Sheik over lending it to him. He took several deep breaths before he nodded and said, “Yes, that’s right. Where is the ocarina, Sheik?”
“In my pouch. Please take it. You’ll need it once you’ve unsealed the power of the Temple of Fire, remember.”
Link didn’t need a reason to retrieve the Ocarina of Time; to him, it was more precious than the Master Sword. He located the pouch and dipped his hand inside, moments later producing the fabled instrument in his clenched fist. He quickly returned the ocarina to his pouch, next to the ocarina Saria had given him, before he returned his gaze to Sheik.
“Sheik, I…” he stuttered before swallowing his pride and uttering, “Thank you…for all your help.”
The creases in Sheik’s mask suggested a faint smile. “No…thank you, Link…for trusting me.”
As Link hurried down the corridor that led to the main hall of the Fire Temple, and thus towards the second door that he was sure led to Volvagia’s lair, Sheik’s words ran through his mind over and over.
Thank you, Link…for trusting me.
He still didn’t trust the Sheikah as much as Sheik thought he did, but at least now he trusted him more than he did not too long ago. However, Link really wanted to know what Sheik was hiding. Why did Sheik hide his face all the time? He could still remember, back in Goron City, when he joked that Sheik’s body was covered in scars. The Sheikah’s response?
Was Sheik really horribly disfigured, or was there some other reason that he couldn’t think of…?
In any case, that wasn’t the important thing right now. Making sure his bow and quiver of arrows were securely on his person, he looked down again at his left hand. The silvery surface of the Megaton Hammer seemed to wink at him in the temple’s volcanic heat, teasing him with a hint of its awesome power.
Link was still a little amazed at how easily he had dispatched the Flare Dancers with just one single blow from the hammer…or how lucky he was to have found it at all. It was pure luck that he had broken through the wall into the chamber where Darunia’s family had hidden it for generations. It was luck that, of all the pieces of the hammer’s broken display stand, he had picked up the hammer itself. And it was luck that he had missed the Flare Dancer that had nearly killed him, causing it to land on the ground and release its true power.
Still, those were Flare Dancers, whose bodies were made of fire and thus were easily destroyed by the Megaton Hammer’s shockwaves. If he was going to use this thing against a dragon, he would have to make a direct blow. And how in all of Hyrule was he going to accomplish that…?
“Link…are you all right?”
Navi’s voice snapped him out of his thoughts. He looked up at the pink fey, who was fluttering near his left shoulder. “Yeah…I’m fine, Navi. Just a little anxious, that’s all.”
A brief silence followed before Navi sheepishly continued, “Link? I’m…I’m sorry I abandoned you like that. I’m sorry I just…left you without explaining why. I…I…”
“Forget it, Navi.”
Those simple words could’ve meant anything from “let’s forget about the whole thing” or “we’ll deal with that matter later”, but either way, they lifted a burden off Navi’s shoulders. Those words also allowed Link to relax a little. He didn’t know why his fairy abandoned him, but he was sure she had a pretty good reason, and one she didn’t like to talk about. Besides, this was no time to deal with small things like that.
Link had a dragon to kill, and a Big Brother…no, a Sworn Brother to save.
Twirling the hammer around in his hands a couple times, Link picked up the pace…