The daylight hadn’t even peaked above the horizon that day when the back door to the farmhouse slowly creaked open. It stopped occasionally and paused for a moment, as if making sure nobody inside the house could hear it, before it resumed its gradual process of swinging ajar by a guided hand.
As soon as the door was open enough, a lone figure stepped outside. He looked around cautiously, his mustache trembling in worry, before he turned back around and closed the door behind him, hoping he hadn’t left any trace of his exit. He knew very well that if the boy dressed in green, the one called Link – the boy who had only two days ago killed three Moblins as if they were nothing – if that boy saw him right now, he would make due on his promise made in the barn, even if this had nothing to do with Malon…
Hoping the wet grass would pad his boots, Ingo crept around the farmhouse until he was at its side. He peered around the corner to make sure no one was in sight around the front of the farmhouse, but he still gulped knowing it was very possible someone could be watching from a window in the farmhouse. Still, Ingo had to take this chance – he had given his word…
Taking a deep breath, Ingo closed his eyes for a moment, opened them again, and broke into a run. Though threatened by fear to freeze up on the spot, he pushed himself as hard as he could, darting across the yard in front of the farmhouse towards the horse barn several stones’ throws away. As he clutched the satchel slung around his shoulder tightly, Ingo kept his eyes focused on the barn ahead, refusing to look behind him and maybe catch a glimpse of those eyes belonging to that boy…
With a soft thud, Ingo collided with the small door that led into the barn. Without wasting a second he used his momentum to push the door open, almost falling down inside the dark shed. But he regained his balance and turned around to force the door closed, wincing when he accidentally caused the door to softly bang against the frame.
In the darkness, Ingo breathed heavily and loudly, his eyes looking nowhere in particular. Any second he expected to hear the voice of that boy call out to him from a window at the farmhouse, or worse…watch Link open the door and glare at him menacingly. But five whole minutes passed, and as agonizingly slow as they felt, nothing happened during that time. Still, it took another minute for Ingo to calm down, and yet another minute before he began moving again.
Making sure the satchel was still on his shoulder, Ingo looked around the inside of the barn, dimly lit by the fading light of the half-moon sneaking through the windows. It didn’t take him long before he saw what he was looking for and made a bolt towards it. The stallion Torrence released a loud snort of surprise when the farmhand approached him, but Ingo quickly grabbed Torrence’s mane to calm the horse down.
“Shhhh…don’t worry, Torrence, it’s me. It’s just Ingo.”
At the sound of Ingo’s whispering voice, Torrence immediately relaxed, releasing another, softer snort as the farmhand gently petted its snout.
“We’ve got a long ride ahead of us, my friend. I’ve got something important to deliver, and it’ll take us a couple days to get there. Are you up to it?”
In reply, Torrence shook his head wildly and brayed softly.
“Good boy,” Ingo smiled. “Now then…”
Without another word – as if fearing Link could hear him all the way from the farmhouse – Ingo began the preparations. He had nailed horseshoes to Torrence’s hoofs yesterday, and he had made sure the stallion had been properly fed last night, but he first needed to fit a saddle and some reins on the eager horse. Luckily, Ingo’s experience in horse riding allowed him to complete those tasks quickly. Once they were done satisfyingly, Ingo calmly led Torrence out of his stable and towards the back sliding door of the barn.
The back door slithered open with a painful groan, but Ingo’s fear of someone hearing it wasn’t as severe as before. Din’s Eye was beginning to rise to the east, so it was likely Link would believe either Ingo, Malon, or Talon was readying to do morning chores. Still, he did hope Link didn’t suddenly grow curious…
After making sure again that nobody was outside waiting for him, Ingo nodded to himself before slowly trotting Torrence outside. Once out into the open, Ingo wasted no time in mounting the stallion and firmly grabbing the reins. Torrence remained quiet until Ingo cracked the reins, upon which the stallion reared onto its hind legs before propelling itself forward. There was no loud bray, though – Torrence was too well trained for that.
Within a few minutes, Lon Lon Ranch was far behind them, a mere speck dissolving in the ginger light of the rising sun. As he kept his eyes firmly on the horizon, Ingo again made sure that the satchel carrying the valuable letter was safe…
“Have you seen Ingo around?”
Link’s question at first didn’t get any kind of response from Malon, who was busy scattering some corn on the ground for the Cuckoos gathering at her feet. Link wasn’t sure if she just hadn’t heard him or if she was intentionally ignoring him. If the latter part was true…
This time the farm girl responded, turning her head around to see Link, staring straight at her, standing outside the thin wire fence that kept the Cuckoos inside their pen. She blinked a couple times before smiling. “Oh, Link. I didn’t know you were there. Is something the matter?”
“I was just asking if you knew where Ingo was,” Link repeated. “I haven’t seen him for four days now.”
Malon’s smile faded a little bit as her eyes glanced around, as if she were in deep thought…but then she grinned once more and shook her head. “I don’t, sorry. Are you sure you’ve looked everywhere for him?”
“Everywhere I could look for him,” Link uttered with an irritated sigh, placing his hands on his hips. “But he’s nowhere to be found.”
“Hmmm,” Malon pondered aloud. “Well, I’m afraid I don’t know. Sorry about that.”
Link gave Malon a very subtle glare, as if examining her face for something…but he then nodded and sighed again. “All right. Thanks for the help, anyway…hey, we’re still churning butter later on today, right?”
Malon nodded with a smile that took up half her face. “Yes, that’s right. I’ll meet you in the milk house right after I’ve taken care of business here, okay?”
Link smiled himself. “Sounds good.” He then turned and waved to the farm girl. “See you there, Malon.”
Malon’s final reply was simply returning the wave before she continued feeding the hungry Cuckoos at her feet.
As he scampered away from the Cuckoo pen, Link’s mind raced with questions. “Hmm, this is really odd. Ingo’s been missing for four days, and yet neither Talon nor Malon knew he was gone…and you’d think they would. I mean, who’s been doing Ingo’s chores since he disappeared? There are only four people who live on this ranch, and his vanishing act has cut it down to three. Something funny is going on here…
—How many times do I have to warn you? That little wench is hiding something!—
Link’s eyebrows instantly knitted together as the Voice appeared without warning and presented its usual argument. “And how many times do I have to tell you that I’m not listening to your half-baked ideas concerning my friend?”
—As many times as you like, because I’m not listening—
“Well, guess what? Neither am I!”
Strangely enough, the Voice didn’t reply to that, though Link could’ve sworn he heard the mumbling echo of a really foul profanity float around inside his mind…
“How’s your butter coming along, Link?”
Link forced his churning rod down the soup of thick slop one more time before he looked up to answer Malon, who was tending to her own barrel. “It’s coming along nicely, I think,” he answered, looking down at the liquid. “Just a little bit longer and it should be ready. How’s yours?”
“I’m actually finished, I believe,” Malon answered with a sly smile. “Guess you shouldn’t have given me a head start.”
Link twisted his lips into a playful grumble. “Whatever.”
Malon giggled loudly, holding her hand over her mouth. She then churned the mixture with her rod one more time for good measure, before she wiped some sweat off her brow with her arm. “Well, it still took quite a bit out of me…say, you want to take a breather?”
Link’s hands instantly let go of his churning stick. “I thought you’d never ask.”
Grinning like idiots, the two teenagers abandoned their barrels full of churned butter and headed to a pile of crates at the far end of the milk barn. Upon one of the larger crates sat a jug filled with ice-laced water, two wooden cups, and a sack stuffed with several pieces of fruit. Using two smaller crates as makeshift stools, Link and Malon sat opposite one another around this “table” and started helping themselves to the snack laid out for them.
As Malon poured both of them some water, Link picked up a green apple and bit into it, taking off an enormous chunk. He smiled in satisfaction as he felt the tender juices fill his mouth, the sour taste tickling his taste buds…
“Link, there’s something I’d like to ask you.”
Link quickly turned his attention to the farm girl, who was taking a sip of water before picking an orange from the sack. As she started peeling the fruit, she looked up at the boy sitting across from her, awaiting a response.
“Sure, ask away,” Link insisted before taking another bite of the apple.
“Those Moblins you killed over a week ago…are you sure it was a good idea doing that?”
Link scratched his head in puzzlement. “Why’s that? Those things were about to kill you, so I couldn’t just sit back and do nothing, now could I?”
“I…I suppose not,” Malon admitted, her smile fading into a look of worry. “Still…I am a little bothered by the fact that we’re not doing anything more concerning the matter.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, those creatures came to Lon Lon with a reason: they wanted to buy horses from the ranch, thinking Ingo was still in charge. Even after you freed the ranch and returned my dad, Ganondorf still believed he still owned the farm. He probably still does…but how long before he wonders what happened to the Moblins he sent here? He could send even more troops…”
“I’m not so sure about that,” Link calmly interjected, swallowing the pieces of apple in his mouth. “Those Moblins could’ve easily been acting without Ganondorf’s approval. It’s not like he has to be in charge of every detail that comes his way. Buying horses is more than likely one of those things. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the three guards sent here aren’t even missed by either Ganondorf or whatever army they came from.”
“Yes, but…” Malon tried to protest but Link refused to allow her.
“It’s going to be all right, Malon. We buried the bodies several miles away from the ranch, so anyone who comes searching for them will never find them. And even if they do find them, the odds of them thinking someone from the farm did them in is next to nothing.”
Link’s face then grew deadly serious. “But even if someone or some…thing ever does come around threatening this farm again…I’ll protect you. With my last breath I’ll protect you.”
Malon turned away slightly and looked down to the ground as she felt her face redden. “Link, that’s…a little over the top, don’t you think?” she inquired, though with a noticeable smile on her lips.
“Maybe it is,” Link admitted, taking another one final bite of his apple before tossing the core back into the sack. “But you’re the only real friend I have left. I’d rather protect with my life the one thing in this world that makes me happy than something I never cared for in the first place.”
Link realized too late he had made a reference to his title as the Hero of Time and half-expected Malon to say something concerning it. But Malon’s blush only grew deeper as she muttered, “So I…make you happy?”
Unexpectedly hesitating, Link’s lips curled up slightly on one side as he replied with a very simple answer: “Yeah.”
A strange, comfortable-uncomfortable silence followed – neither Link nor Malon looked at each other after that response. Link took a sip of water from his cup while Malon removed the last of the peel from the orange and bit into its juicy core. They didn’t say a word; they didn’t even cough to clear their throats…
“So, uh…” Malon abruptly interjected into the stillness. “Any idea what we’re having for lunch today?”
“Lunch?” Link repeated. “Well…I asked Talon earlier, and he said we were having egg salad. But he said he would be busy for a few hours during that time taking a look at possible farmhand recruits. And with Ingo gone, I guess that leaves just the two of us for lunch today.”
“Does that, now?”
Malon’s odd question caused Link to turn to face the farm girl, whose smile had widened considerably. She took another bite of her orange before placing the fruit on the makeshift table beside her. She then arched her neck back and combed her hands through her long red hair, shaking her head as her hands dropped from between the strands. Link was captivated by the dancing of Malon’s hair as the farm girl twisted her neck back and forth in a deliberate tease.
When her hair finally stopped its mesmerizing ballet, draping almost completely across one shoulder, Malon turned her eyes to face Link at an angle, her eyelids partially closed and her lips smiling mischievously. Link’s response was merely raising a curious eyebrow.
“Why don’t you finish churning your butter? I’ll go and get that egg salad ready for us, all right?”
Before waiting for a response from Link, Malon calmly stood up and walked slowly and celestially towards the barn door. She opened the door to step outside, but before she disappeared she paused and turned her head to face Link. The smile on her face was now undeniably beguiling. It was then that Link noticed for the first time in a long time the necklace hanging on Malon’s neck, the necklace holding the red gem from his old Kokiri sword. The jewel was glistening in the sunlight peeping through the doorway, but it couldn’t hold a candle to the glint in Malon’s eyes…
“I’ll see you in a few, Fairy Boy,” she uttered softly with a grin before winking one eye and stepping outside, leaving Link with a slow, deliberate wave and a stunned look on his face.
Link stood still for an entire minute, his mind still trying to figure out what had just happened. Then, when he finally seemed to understand…he chuckled. He chuckled louder and louder under it grew into a full-blown belly laugh, one that lasted for about half a minute. When he managed to regain his composure, he had to wipe away a tear emerging from his eye.
“Oh, dear, dear, dear, dear, dear,” he muttered amusingly to himself. “What am I to do with you, Malon? What am I to do?”
But Link’s laughter eventually faded into a more serious expression as he pondered over Malon’s little teasing, his right hand swirling the half-filled cup of water around. The farm girl’s flirting could be nothing more than Malon acting like…well, Malon. Then again, she has been acting strangely lately, excluding the Voice’s conspiracy theories. There was the day when he was fixing the roof…then there was the day she introduced him to churning butter…not to mention all the little things she did just to be near him. And now this…
Without so much as a sigh, Link looked down at the cup of water in his hands, looking back at the reflection staring at him. He quietly mused over Malon’s behavior for a while, keeping his gaze firmly fixed on his likeness in the liquid…
He then snickered.
“Navi warned me about this, didn’t she? She told me about Malon’s feelings the first time I came to this ranch. Maybe I should’ve listened to her…I wonder how Navi is, anyway…?”
A sudden loud crack of light flashed outside the windows, followed by a dull rumble. Link, unexpectedly interrupted, realized that it was a thunderbolt. A storm must be heading in…
“And it was going to be such a beautiful day, too…” Link groaned as he stood up from his seat. He then took a long sip of his water before adding, “Meh. Who cares about Navi? Why even bother? She’s no longer a concern of mine. I love my life here, and I won’t let someone like that annoying fairy or that wretched Sheikah ruin it.
“Well, better finish churning that butter…”
The sound of the wooden cup hitting the floor didn’t even have time to reach Link’s ears as he raced to the door, the sound of Malon’s scream acting like a catalyst to his reaction time. He shoved the heavy door open without even a second thought, and he immediately looked around for signs of the farm girl and the reason she screamed.
“Malon!” he called out, cupping his hands. “Malon, where are you…?”
“Link! I’m up here! Link, help me…!”
Link quickly looked up…and his eyes widened and his mouth gaped open in horror. Malon was being hoisted into the air by…by…the only way to even describe this creature was it resembled a monstrous, disfigured vulture, almost like the one that had been on the Moblin’s shoulder over a week ago. But this one was bigger…far bigger. The beast’s wingspan easily beat the length of two adult horses, and its body stretched bigger than any Moblin Link had seen. A crooked, lanky neck protruded from its torso, and attached to that neck was a face resembling that of a corpse. A vicious, diseased beak snapped ferociously every few seconds, and a gnarled set of tail features fanned out behind its rear.
But Link was more focused on the beast’s powerful-looking set of three-clawed talons. All the talons’ curved nails were digging into Malon’s shoulders, carrying the farm girl further and further into the air.
“Holy…Malon! Malon!” Link bellowed, running to “catch up” to the creature.
“Link! Help me!” the panicking farm girl cried. “Let…got of me…you overgrown…Cuckoo…put me…down…oooowww, my shoulders…Link! Please…!”
“Malon, no!” Link roared back, futilely reaching out with his hand. “Come back! Put her down! I said put her down, damn it! Put her down!”
“Curses…if only I had my weapons…”
“Let me go! Let me go!” the farm girl continued to scream as the buzzard pulled her higher and higher into the air. “Let me go! Let me gooooooooooooo…eeeeeaaaaaaaaahhh!”
As if attempting to shut her up, the giant bird squeezed its talons harder, digging its claws deeper into Malon’s flesh. The farm girl screamed for a few agonizing minutes…before she fell silent. Then, probably due to shock, her body grew limp, her arms and head slumping in the vulture’s grasp.
Motivated by the accomplishment, the creature flapped its enormous wings several times to climb higher and higher, pushing itself farther away from the pursing boy on the ground.
“Malon, no!” Link hollered, still trying to run as fast as he could to no avail. “Come back here, you gods-damned bird! Bring her back! Bring her ba…”
Just then, Link felt something warm touch fall on his face. Instinctively, one of his hands reached out to touch it. When his fingers withdrew from his cheek so he could see it, he felt his face grew pale. It was blood…Malon’s blood…
Realizing the futility of his efforts, Link slowed down his pursuit until he came to a complete stop, his eyes looking back upward. Already the vulture carrying his friend was a mere speck on the horizon, disappearing farther into the distant storm clouds with every beat of its powerful wings. The former Hero of Time just stood there, staring in disbelief, a surge of conflicting emotions flowing through his mind and his heart.
“I…I can’t believe it…she’s gone. Malone’s gone…and after I swore to protect her…I bloody-well swore to protect her…and I failed. I completely and utterly failed…I…”
“How does it feel, you little shit?”
All of Link’s emotions suddenly converged into a single sentiment: shock. “No…it can’t be…”
Link quickly turned around, expecting to see the person standing over him, but instead he saw something completely unexpected. Standing not too far away was the rotting carcass of the vulture he had killed with the Moblins…alive! There were very few feathers left on its body, and the remaining ones were covered in fungus. The body itself was covered in a sickening gray pulp that once was its skin, and its wings – or what was left of the stubby appendages – flapped feverishly as if they could still fly. But what was most horrific was its head: it didn’t have one! Only the same, bloody mass Link had given it when he had squeezed the creature’s skull between his fingers…
“Did I upset you by pinching your little wench from you?”
…and the creature had the voice of someone Link knew very well.
“Ganondorf…” he snarled, the shock beginning to dissolve away.
“So you still recognize me, do you?” the headless bird “said”. “That’s good, because I hate formal introductions, especially to little brats I met over seven years ago.”
Link felt his fists clench up in unrestrained anger. “What in the name of the Three Goddesses have you done with Malon, you bastard? Why did you take her?”
“Oh, come now,” the bird chirped mockingly. “Do I really have to explain it to you? You, the one who visited two temples and awoke two Sages? I’ll admit I was a little amused when you defeated my phantom, but when you killed Volvagia I got really, really annoyed. Do you know how long it took me to capture that worm? All my hard work…ruined because you think, just because you pulled a sword out of a piece of stone, that you can defeat me.
“Well, the world doesn’t work like that, you little punk. This is my world now. I rule it, I own it…and I will keep it that way. That means getting rid of every thorn that could be a possible problem…and guess what you are!”
“But why Malon?” Link demanded, not caring about Ganondorf’s references to the Hero of Time. “She did nothing to you! Why didn’t you come after me?”
“You really are stupid, aren’t you?” the bird laughed as it took several hobbled steps forward. “I may hate you, but I know what you’re capable of. I saw how you killed three of my best soldiers, and I doubt sending in even a whole battalion would phase you. So why go after you directly when I can exploit what you hold dear?”
A thunderbolt cracked in the distance behind Link as he realized what Ganondorf was talking about. “You’re using Malon as bait…”
“Ah, so the little whelp understands. Wonderful.” The bird’s carcass then seemed to rear its “head” back as Ganondorf’s voice laughed a strong, menacing laugh at Link’s expense.
Unable to hold back his anger any longer, Link dashed forward and reached out with one hand, yanking the vulture’s corpse into the air. “You son of a bitch! Bring Malon back! Bring her back and face me if you’re so cocky…!”
“No, you listen to me, boy!” Ganondorf snarled through the bird’s bloody throat. “I’m only going to say this once. Disobey me, and your little girl friend will meet the same fate of the helmaroc you’re holding in your hands.”
As much as Link wanted to snap at the voice of Ganondorf, he forced himself to remain silent.
“Good,” continued the King of Evil’s voice. “Now listen carefully: because you think awakening Sages in their respective temples is so much fun, I’ll let you visit the next one. I’ve ordered the helmaroc carrying your friend to take her to the entrance of the Water Temple, located on an island in the middle of Lake Hylia. There is a wooden bridge that leads from the shore to the island at the northern edge of the lake. Cross that bridge and enter the small building you see there.”
“And after that?” Link demanded when Ganondorf didn’t continue.
The bloody mass that once was the helmaroc’s head seemed to smile as Ganondorf answered, “You’ll know when it happens. You understand, boy?”
Begrudgingly, Link nodded. “I understand.”
“Good,” Ganondorf smirked. “I expect to see you there within five days. If you’re late, you’ll greet your pretty little friend with her head on a pike. If you bring anyone else with you, I will cut up her corpse and feed them to my men. Are we clear?”
His teeth threatening to shatter upon one another as he gritted them, Link managed a muttered, “Yes…”
“Oh, and by the way,” Ganondorf added with a snide tone. “After I take care of you, I hope you don’t mind me having my way with that girl of yours…unless you were planning on doing something with her before I took her away from you? Ah, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! Eyah, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha…!”
Link couldn’t stand it anymore.
As he cried out the final word, Link grabbed the helmaroc corpse in both hands and pulled it apart with all his might. The frail carcass ripped like wet paper in his palms, spraying rotten blood and decaying flesh in every direction, including on the former Hero of Time.
But Link didn’t care about the mess. As he held the bloody remains of the headless helmaroc in his hands, he could feel something within him grow. Something dark, vile, and ominous. It could sense the situation, and it was feeding on his negative emotions, his anger, his hatred.
But that was all right. As another thunderbolt cracked behind him, Link knew he was going to use everything at his disposal to do what he was about to do…
By the time he arrived back at the farmhouse, the storm clouds were already partially blanketing the ranch, and the dampness in the air indicated rain was about fall. Ignoring the weather completely, Link burst into the house through the front door and wasted no time in heading up the stairs towards his bedroom.
Inside his personal chamber, he quickly searched for all his weapons: hookshot, bow and arrows, Megaton Hammer, bombs…anything that would be useful. He also decided to take along his ocarinas, though he didn’t really know what use they might be. He did almost search for the one weapon he didn’t have, but he quickly dismissed that.
“Can’t be helped,” he growled as he strapped his armaments to his belt and around his shoulders. “That damn sword might’ve been useful, but I don’t have it right now.”
He looked into the mirror to make sure he was dressed suitably. Satisfied, Link hurried outside his room and down the stairs. He had to prepare Epona for the journey ahead and afterwards return to the house to pick up some rations. Then he had to ride out to this Lake Hylia and…
…wait a minute. He didn’t even know where Lake Hylia was! As he stopped at the bottom of the stairwell upon coming to this realization, Link’s face tightened and he slammed his fist down on the banister.
“Damn it!” he cried out irately. “Where’s Talon or Ingo when you need them…?”
Link quickly spun his head to the side…and saw a familiar, potbelly man standing in the living room located next to the staircase, framed by the doorway leading into the room.
“Talon!” Link exclaimed with surprise and relief. “You’re still here!”
“Link, what’s going on?” the rancher inquired as he walked into the room containing the stairwell, noticed Link’s attire. “Why are you dressed like that? You’ve got your weapons and everything…”
“Talon, Malon’s been kidnapped.”
Talon immediately fell silent and his eyes widened with horror when he heard those words. “Malon’s been…kidnapped?” Panic instantly crept into the farmer’s voice. “By whom? Where? When? Where is she? Where’s my Malon? What happened to her…?”
“Listen to me!” Link bellowed urgently, grabbing Talon by the shoulders and shaking the portly man to be quiet. “Malon’s been kidnapped by Ganondorf. He’s using her to get to me. He’s going to keep her alive, but only if I do what he says. I need to know where Lake Hylia is. Do you know where Lake Hylia is?”
“My…Malon…kidnapped…” Talon whimpered, still unable to believe the news. “How can…they do this…why would they…my Malon…my precious Malon…”
“Talon, listen to me!” Link yelled, getting the farmer’s attention. “If you don’t help me here, then Malon is going to die. This is my entire fault, I’ll admit that…but I can’t save her if you don’t help me! Tell me, where is Lake Hylia?”
Despite his growing state of agitation, Talon managed to calm himself down enough to respond to Link’s demand. “Lake…Hylia, it’s…it’s located in the southern region of…of Hyrule. It’s three…three…days ride. It’s directly…south of this ranch…you can’t miss it…you can’t…”
“Thanks, Talon,” Link nodded. “You’ve been a great help. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must get going. I’ve only got five days to get there before Ganondorf kills Malon. Can you help me get Epona ready?”
“Why, yes, I can, I’ll do that, I…” Talon’s face suddenly lit up, as if he remembered something. “But Link, wait, you can’t go just yet…”
“What do you mean I can’t go just yet?” Link snarled in Talon’s face. “Your daughter is being held captive and her life is in danger, and you tell me I can’t go just yet? What’s the matter with you?”
“I know, I want my Malon back just as much as you do,” Talon insisted frantically, “but something’s come up. You can’t go yet…”
“Why?” Link demanded, shaking Talon harder than necessary. “Why must I wait? You’re not giving me a bloody good reason! Tell me before I just do this all myself and…”
“Link, stop it!”
Expecting to see Ingo, Link twisted his head around to face the door to the living room, his face frozen in a menacing scowl. But instead of the missing farmhand, Link saw someone he thought he’d never see for a long, long time…if not ever.
Standing in the doorway, one hand rested on the edge of the portal, was Sheik.
“Sheik…?” Link uttered, flabbergasted…for about a second. He then returned to his menacing glare. “What are you doing here? How did you find me?”
The Sheikah glared back at Link for a moment, as if resisting Link’s threat, but he then sighed and gave in to Link’s demand. “I came here because I was asked to come here. A messenger arrived a couple days with a letter explaining the situation and…”
“A letter? What letter?” Link interrupted, thoughts he didn’t want to even consider dancing through his mind. “Show me!”
Instead of complying with Link’s demand, the Sheikah hesitated for a moment. And Link was not in the mood for hesitation.
“Give me that letter, Sheik!” the former Hero of Time demanded, shoving Talon out of his way and storming towards the masked boy. “Give it to me, now!”
Startled by Link’s forcefulness, the Sheikah quickly dug into one of his pockets and fished out a crumpled parchment, holding it out for Link. Link snatched the letter from the Sheikah, unfolded it, and started reading it as fast as he could:
To the one called Sheik,
I’m writing this letter out of a sense of urgency. Someone I believe you know is currently staying at my farm, Lon Lon Ranch. His name is Link. I don’t know why he has come here, but to tell you the truth I am very frightened of him. He has threatened a good friend of mine with his life, and just recently killed three Moblins as if they were nothing. I don’t know when he might go berserk again, which is why I’m writing this letter. You obviously know Link, so maybe you can help us. If you can help control his anger, I would be very grateful. And if you can get him to leave the farm, then even better. Please come to Lon Lon as quickly as you can, before things get beyond to where we can’t control them.
The letter wasn’t signed, but Link’s heart began to sink with every word he read. Here in his hands was a confession by someone on the farm who wanted him gone…someone who called, of all people, Sheik to find him and take him away from the ranch….someone who probably would like nothing better than for Link to return to his “destiny” as the Hero of Time…
…and he had a very good idea of who that “someone” was…
“Link…if I may…” Sheik tried to begin before Link cut him off.
“I…don’t believe it…” he muttered hoarsely, his hand gripping the crumpled note so tightly they threatened to tear it. “I just…don’t…believe it…”
“What are you talking about…?” Sheik tried again but was again interrupted.
“She betrayed me…” Link sputtered, his body beginning to noticeably quiver out of restrained and rising anger. “She actually…betrayed me…”
“Link…” Talon tried to speak, but he too was interrupted.
But this time, Link interrupted by punching his fist into the nearby wall, sending fragments of plaster flying as his hand sank into the wood.
“Link, what in the world…?” Sheik cried out.
“She betrayed me!” Link bellowed, not hearing Sheik’s plea. “Malon actually betrayed me! After all that I did for her, after all the trust I placed in her…she ratted me out to Sheik the first chance she got! I don’t believe it! She was the one person I trusted…and she double-crossed me! Why? Why? Why, damn it why?”
Uncontrollable rage started building up inside Link, replacing the fierce determination to actually save Malon from Ganondorf’s clutches. He wanted to punch the wall again, but he prevented himself from doing so in order to allow his feelings to sort themselves out. And as they rearranged into a clearer picture, he didn’t like what he was seeing…but with the letter in his hand, he had to accept it…
—I told you, didn’t I? That girl was hiding things from you from the very beginning. The only reason she ran out to catch you during that storm was to make sure you didn’t get away. I bet she was working with Sheik the entire time, waiting to inform him of where you were—
As much as Link hated to admit it, the Voice was right this time.
—Yes, that’s right. She played you like an ocarina, and now the fruits of her labors stand before you—
He was right…the Voice was right…
—And you know what? Malon probably deserves what Ganondorf does to her. She deserves whatever terrors await her—
Yes…she probably does…
—In fact, you probably should’ve killed her yourself, just for good measure, eh?—
For good measure…for good measure…
—That little gods-damned bitch can rot in Hael, for all you care!—
“Link, stop! Malon didn’t give you away! I did!”
Both Link and Sheik turned their attention to Talon, whose face was completely drained of blood. But while Sheik was mildly confused, Link was completely stunned, his mouth gaping open as his glassy eyes stared blankly at the farmer.
“What…did…you…say…?” he sputtered as he removed from the hole in the wall.
“I said I’m the one who betrayed you, not Malon!” Talon replied, unable to hold back any longer. “I didn’t want you to think that! I left the letter anonymous so that it could look like a plea for help from the entire farm, not just one man who is concerned for the safety of his daughter. I don’t hate you, Link, but the way you’ve been acting ever since you got here forced me to take what I believed would be best for you, for this ranch, and for Malon.
“But Malon didn’t want any part of it. I tried to get her cooperation, but she refused. And whenever I tried writing a letter, Malon would somehow find it and burn it. I tried telling her to stop, but she continued doing it until I finally managed to sneak one letter out several days ago with Ingo. Malon was furious when she heard about it.”
Now it was Link’s turn not to believe what he was hearing. “Malon…was…protecting me?”
Talon had to take several deep breaths before he replied, “Yes…she was.”
“But…why didn’t she tell me any of this?” Link inquired gruffly. “Why did she just stay silent?”
The farmer lowered his eyes as he responded, “Because…she cared about you. She told me time and time again she wanted to be the friend you wanted her to be, no matter how unstable you were. I objected to it, but that beautiful smile I saw on her face whenever she was near you nearly broke my heart every time I wrote a letter to Sheik. She probably didn’t reveal my scheme to you because she knew it would upset you, something she tried very hard to avoid.”
Talon then raised his eyes again. “So please…don’t blame my daughter. Her only crime is being the best friend you could ever hope for. If you must wish something horrible on someone, wish it upon me.”
Link was speechless. He didn’t know whether Talon was telling the truth or just trying to cover up for his daughter, but the sad look in the man’s eyes indicated the former…
—Don’t trust him! He’s lying to you! He’s trying to transfer the blame onto someone other than that little wench so you can go save her! Don’t listen to him—
All of a sudden, Link’s face grew tight. He charged forward and, without even a warning, collided with a very dumbfounded Talon. Link forced the chubby rancher backwards until his back collided with a wall, pinned between the plaster and Link’s unforgiving arm.
Sheik was just as surprised as Talon. “Link, what are you doing?” he screamed.
“Maybe you’re lying to me to shift the blame away from your daughter…maybe you’re not,” Link snarled directly in Talon’s face, his arm pressed tightly against the rancher’s throat. “But even if you are telling the truth, you’re still not off the hook for giving me away. I’m not one who likes to forgive easily, you know…”
“Link, stop this!” Sheik cried, running up to Link and grabbing his arm, trying to pull it away from Talon’s neck. “You’re acting insane! Leave this man alone!”
“You stay out of this, Sheik!” Link ordered, turning his gaze at the frantic Sheikah. “This is between me and Talon! I’ll deal with you later…!”
“No, you have to listen to me! You’re not thinking clearly! You’re acting out of line!”
Link spat in Sheik’s direction. “Says who…?”
Sheik’s punch to Link’s jaw was even more unexpected than Link pinning Talon against a wall. Unable to even blink in reaction, Link was sent flying across the room, landing on the wooden floor with a dull thud. He was so caught off guard that he was even slow to sit up. His eyes were as wide as dinner plates, and when he looked up he saw a very miffed Sheik staring down at him.
“Says who? Says who?” Sheik repeated angrily. “Everyone else who draws breath in this very room, that’s who…and countless others who draw breath outside this room! Look at yourself! You’re changing your opinions based on your emotions, even if those opinions are completely irrational! One minute you come charging in here wanting to save this…Malon person, and the next you’re threatening her father as if he were Ganondorf himself…and you dare ask ‘says who’?”
Link’s amazement only lasted for a few brief minutes. His snarling scowl returning, he again spat to the side. “What would you know about me, Sheik? After being betrayed by everyone I ever knew, do you honestly think I have no right to get angry when it happens again…?”
“Not when it turns you into a jerk!” Sheik bellowed as he helped Talon, who was trying to breathe again, back onto his feet. “I thought you were childish before, but now I see you’re nothing more than a complete and utter jerk! The boy I met emerging from the Chamber of Sages must’ve been a fluke, because the boy I see lying before me is nothing like him. I find it hard to believe you were actually chosen to be the Hero of Time!”
Link remained quiet as he stood up onto his feet, his eyes fixed on Sheik’s. When he was fully erect, he wiped the spot where Sheik had struck him with the back of his hand. “Feh! Like I give a damn about that. I quit being the Hero of Time for a reason, and I’m not about to go back because of a bloody guilt trip. You think you can push me around like you did before? You’ve got it wrong, you miserable Sheikah. I’m the one in charge of my life now, and I’m not going to let you or anyone else ruins it.”
Link then shifted his gaze towards Talon, who nearly jumped when Link looked at him. “And as for you, Talon…doesn’t think just because Sheik saved your sorry hide means I’m through with you.”
The former Hero of Time then turned his back to both the Sheikah and the rancher. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll leave you two and…”
“Link, I know about the voice inside your head.”
Link couldn’t have spun around fast enough when he heard that. Sheik’s firm and unyielding look had softened, replaced by one of concern, but Link couldn’t have cared less about that.
“You know about…how do you know about the Voice? I never told you or anyone about it…”
“The Fairy Mother told me, Link,” Sheik interjected. “She told me all about how when you broke out of the trance she put you in, the link between your mind and soul remained intact. She told me how the darkness of your soul has been manifesting into a voice that is eating away at your very being. This voice is destroying you, Link…its taking all of your negative emotions and directing them towards hating everything you ever cared about. If you continue to give in to its demands…your soul will be torn apart by its thirst for more power.”
At first Link didn’t know what to say concerning how Sheik knew of the Voice, but he quickly found something to say to the apprehensive Sheikah. “Ha! You obviously think that the Voice is telling me what to do…well, you’re wrong! I’m still the one in charge here, Sheik. The Voice has only been a guide, a helpful companion to point out all the things that have held me back in this messed up world. For your information, I live the way I choose to live. The Voice does not control me!”
Link’s fiery speech did little to quell Sheik’s resilience in asking a follow-up question: “Are you sure about that?”
“What do you mean? Yes, I am sure about…”
That little gods-damned bitch can rot in Hael, for all you care!
A look of fright instantly flashed across Link’s face, one that he tried to hide from Sheik. But the Sheikah’s eyes were quick to notice the look, and Sheik nodded solemnly. “Hmm, I thought so. That voice is deceiving you, Link. You think that you’re the one in control – and you very well might be the one in control – but that voice is doing everything it can to change that. It’s trying to manipulate you, Link. It’s trying to steer you in a direction where it can feed off of your negative emotions more readily. And once it figures out how to push you in just the right way…”
“Even if that’s true,” Link interjected, not confirming whether or not Sheik’s assertions were correct, “that still doesn’t take away from the fact that you lied to me! You’ve been pushing me to fulfill my so-called ‘destiny’ as the Hero of Time, even though you knew very well I hated it. You thought you could hide from me the idea that I could just do what I should’ve done when first stepped outside that bloody Chamber of Sages, which was throw that damn sword away and rebuild my life. And for the longest time you succeeded…you succeeded until I lost Saria and Darunia to destiny…as well as almost everything I ever cared about! You made me buy into that garbage until I destroyed everything I loved myself!
“Do you deny this, Sheik? Well, do you?”
The sad look in Sheik’s eyes was all the answer Link needed, but the Sheikah still gave him a reply in words: “No…no, I don’t deny it. I did not intend to lie to you…but some things I suppose are just out of everyone’s control.”
Link snarled before spitting once again to the floor. “Yeah…I’m sure.” He then started turning around to walk away…
“However,” Sheik added, “I’m not the only one who’s lying here, Link.”
Link returned his gaze to face Sheik. “And that means what?”
“You are also lying, Link…but not to me or to Talon. You’re lying to yourself.”
The former Hero of Time blinked several times. “What…in the Hael does that mean?”
“You refuse to listen to anyone who has something to say that opposes what you believe, even if what you believe is absolutely ludicrous. You’re building a protective wall around yourself, one that keeps in your own opinions and keeps out everyone else’s. And even if someone smacks you in the face with reality, you simply dismiss it. You’re lying to yourself to keep yourself inside the little world you’ve created, a world where only you are right and everyone else has to agree with you.”
Link’s face remained expressionless for a moment before it frowned deeply. “And I suppose you figured this out moments ago.”
Sheik shook his head. “Not at all. I got a lot of the information from the messenger who brought me the letter – now what was his name again? – Ingo. He’s been watching you very closely and had several personal talks with Talon here about you, and he learned quite a lot.” His eyes seemed to loosen before adding, “Not to mention the way you abandoned us at Death Mountain…”
Sheik fell silent just as Link slammed his fist down on a nearby table, almost breaking the top with the force of his hand. “You know what? I don’t have to listen to this garbage. You’re making it all up.”
Again the Sheikah shook his head. “No, Link, you’re wrong…I’m telling you the truth.”
Link growled impatiently. “And why should I believe you? You obviously came here to force me back as the Hero of Time…”
“No, you’re wrong again,” Sheik interjected. “I didn’t come here to force you to do anything. I came here to help you.”
A loud tsk left Link’s lips. “Help me? Ha! That’s rich! In what way, might I ask?”
“Originally, I was going to come here to reveal to you the truth behind the voice inside your head, but it seems that we have a much more pressing matter on our hands…” Sheik then slapped a hand gently on Talon’s shoulders. “…to save the life of this nice man’s daughter.”
Link eyed Sheik suspiciously for a moment. “What makes you think I’ll believe you want to help save Malon?”
Whether through habit or sarcasm, the Sheikah shrugged. “Perhaps…the same thing that made me want to save the Goron race even though you didn’t want to?”
Again Link fell silent, unable to come up with a proper response. But in this instance Sheik decided to take advantage of Link’s inability to reply. The Sheikah took several steps forward and placed his gloved hands on Link’s shoulders. Link almost reacted by throwing Sheik’s hands off, but he somehow didn’t…
“Link, before you reply with a snide or witty response saying how you’ve been robbed of your life or how cruel everyone’s been to you, think about this: right now, the life of a girl who has been friends with you for the past couple months is now being threatened. She cared enough about you enough to stick with you despite how violent you were capable of becoming, and she cared about you enough to keep you here as long as she possibly could, even though she undoubtedly knew what you had done.
“So answer me this: do you really believe this girl deserves to die at the hands of Ganondorf?”
Link opened his mouth to answer, but his voice couldn’t say anything. Sheik again took advantage of the hesitation.
“Or do you really…really…” Sheik seemed to struggle for some reason as he finished the sentence. “…care…enough about Malon to save her?”
Link finally managed a response…kind of. “Well, I…I…”
“Do you?” Sheik demanded with a commanding tone.
She took another bite of her orange before placing the fruit on the makeshift table beside her. She then arched her neck back and combed her hands through her long red hair, shaking her head as her hands dropped from between the strands. Link was captivated by the dancing of Malon’s hair as the farm girl twisted her neck back and forth in a deliberate tease. When her hair finally stopped its mesmerizing ballet, draping almost completely across one shoulder, Malon turned her eyes to face Link at an angle, her eyelids partially closed and her lips smiling mischievously.
Link’s own lips pressed together firmly as he finally realized how stupid he was being concerning Malon. After all she had done for him, even sacrificed for him, here he was practically considering the possibility of leaving her to die just because he believed the impossible notion that she had betrayed him. As much as he disagreed with Sheik, he couldn’t disagree with this…
Looking at the anxious Sheikah straight in the eye with the most genuine look he could give, Link nodded firmly. “Malon cared about me more than I could ever ask for…but I won’t let her die for me. I’m going to save her.”
A look of relief washed across Sheik’s eyes – even Talon, who had been quietly watching the debate apprehensively, seemed to calm down.
“Thank you, Link,” Sheik uttered with a smile under his mask, dropping his arms from Link’s shoulders. “That’s what I’d like to hear…”
“But remember this, Sheik,” Link abruptly continued. “This still doesn’t change a thing. I still despise the idea of being the Hero of Time, and I still trust the Voice more than I trust you. I’m only rescuing Malon because she’s the only true friend I have left in this world. Do you understand me?”
Disappointment replaced the relief in Sheik’s eyes, as if he had come so close to achieving something before watching it slip past him. Still, the Sheikah reluctantly nodded. “Yes…I understand.”
“Good,” Link asserted. “Now, I have no time to waste. Ganondorf wants me to get to Lake Hylia within five days, and he wants me to come alone. So I’m afraid I’ll have to decline your offer to help.” He turned to the silent farmer. “Talon, I’ll need some provisions for the journey, and I’ll also need you to help me ready Epona…”
“Wait, Link,” Sheik suddenly cut in. “I may not be able to go with you, but I can still help you.”
Link turned back to the Sheikah. “How so?”
“By giving you this.”
Sheik then reached behind his back and grabbed something slung around his shoulder that Link hadn’t noticed before. It was dressed in a tightly wrapped brown cloth, secured only by a piece of cord. The Sheikah wasted no time in holding the object in both hands and presenting it to Link with outstretched arms.
Even completely covered, Link could tell by the shape of the wrapped cloth what the item was.
“…The Master Sword?” he exclaimed, pointing at the draped blade. “You’re giving me…the Master Sword?”
Sheik nodded in response.
Link glared warily at the Sheikah. “And why should I accept it? Are you hoping by taking this accursed blade back I would become the Hero of…?”
“Link, we have no time for your whiny little protests. I’m not trying to force you into anything. I’m merely trying to help you. Your empty scabbard shows that you’ve been unable to find a sword that comes even close to matching the Master Sword. I don’t know what Ganondorf has in store for you at Lake Hylia, but why take chances? Just take the Master Sword and use it to save your friend.”
The former Hero of Time still eyed the Sheikah askance. “And after I save Malon with the sword? What then?”
Sheik paused for a moment before replying, “You can do whatever you want with it, I suppose. It’s not like I have any say in what you do, do I?”
Link turned his attention to the offered sword in Sheik’s hands, eyeing the shrouded blade carefully. It was true that since discarding the sword back in the chamber of the Fairy Mother he had been unable to find a blade that could match the Master Sword’s magnificence. He hated everything the sword stood for, but if he could wield its power just long enough to save Malon…
“No, you don’t,” Link acknowledged before reaching out and grabbing the sword with his right hand. “I’ll take the Master Sword, Sheik…just this once. And…thank you.”
Disappointment still noticeably present in Sheik’s eyes, the Sheikah simply nodded.
“Right,” Link resumed. “It’s time we got moving. We can’t waste any time. Talon would you…?”
—What in Hael are you doing, you idiot?—
The Voice again…
“I don’t have to explain myself to you. You know damn well what I’m doing.”
—No, I don’t know what you’re doing. You’re saving that little wench at the possible cost of your own life, and you just accepted the symbol of everything you despise! So please enlighten me on the logic here!—
“I don’t have to ‘enlighten’ you on anything! I’m doing what I feel is the best thing to do, and there’s nothing you can say that will change my mind…unless you want to change my mind?”
The Voice seemed to roar furiously before answering Link’s challenge.
—So you think that Sheik’s right? You think that I’m trying to manipulate you for my own ends? How can you believe that filth after all I’ve done for you? I showed you Sheik’s deceptions and lies…his trickery and his fabrications…and this is how you repay me? By listening to the very person I warned you about?—
“Whoever said I had to repay you?” Link fired back. “You’re nothing more than a convenient accident. You gave me advice, and I happened to agree with what you said. As I said to Sheik, I’m the one in charge here, not you. If you even think for one second that you have some kind of hold on me, then you’re in for a rude awakening.”
Link could feel anger build up to colossal proportions from deep within his mind.
—There you go again…accusing me! You’ve given in to Sheik’s lies by fingering me as the guilty one, when Sheik’s the one who’s been leading you by a leash. You’re going on a fool’s errand by rescuing that little slut, and by accepting that damn sword you’ve taken a step closer to being forced back as the Hero of Time…—
“Now you listen here! If you try one more time to change my mind, I will never listen to you again. You’ve been a constant pain ever since I got to this farm, but now you’re really starting to cross the line.”
—And if you don’t listen to me, you’re going to make the biggest mistake of your life—
“As if you would know! You may be part of my soul, but you are not me. I alone make the decisions here. All you do is give advice…in fact, I’m starting to think you’re not even worth keeping around anymore.”
—If you don’t shut up and pay attention, you will regret going to save that bitch…”
That did it.
“If you speak ill of Malon one more time, you bastard, I will cut you out of my body myself!”
The Voice responded with a screech so loud Link nearly went deaf.
—And if I ever get out of this wretched body of yours I swear I will gut you and string you up alongside your little whore’s corpse!—
Link wanted to respond to that threat, wanted to give some kind of retort, but he stopped himself from doing so. It wasn’t worth it. The Voice was trying to take control, and Link did not need to give it any leeway whatsoever.
He wondered whether he really did trust the Voice more than Sheik…
Link left later that night, the incoming storm now overhead, drowning the farm with torrents of rain and countless forks of lightning. With a final bid of farewell to Sheik – he had said goodbye to Talon inside the farmhouse – Link rode Epona out of the barn and into the tempestuous darkness, disappearing within the curtain of rainfall instantly.
As he watched Link ride off to save Malon from the clutches of Ganondorf, Sheik felt a stirring in one of his pockets.
“You okay there, Navi?”
A moment later, a familiar pink-lighted fay drifted from Sheik’s pocket and into view, landing on the Sheikah’s left shoulder. “Yeah…I’m okay.”
Sheik nodded quietly before asking, “Is there a reason you didn’t want Link to see you?”
Navi’s voice stuttered a little as she answered, “Yes…be-because he…doesn’t want to see me.”
Sheik sighed softly. “We’ll get him back, Navi. I swear we’ll find a way to get the real Link out of that shell he’s bottled himself up into.”
Navi didn’t acknowledge Sheik’s promise, instead she asked, “I guess I don’t have to tell you that Ganondorf is leading Link into a trap.”
Sheik didn’t even flinch at the remark. “No, you don’t. I already knew that…as did Link, I’m sure.”
“Then isn’t there something we can do to help him?”
“If there is, I don’t know what. That bastard Ganondorf is holding all the keys right now. If we make one wrong move, that poor girl will end up dead. All we can do is wait a while before riding out to meet him and hope that doesn’t violate Ganondorf’s rules…that and pray…”
Had the sun risen seven years ago over the sprawling acreage that was Lake Hylia, Din’s Eye’s rays would’ve shone down on a beautiful, expansive body of water filled with some of the clearest water ever seen by Hylian eyes. Those same rays would’ve awoken a multitude of exotic fish that dwelled within those waters, swimming and living within a vast ecosystem that rivaled any forest.
But not today. Today Din’s Eye awoke to what was left of Lake Hylia: an empty, soulless hole in the ground, a shadow of what the lake once was. The lakebed was dry and parched, cracked after years of dryness. The remains of fishes that once lived within the crystal waters were scattered everywhere, reminding anyone who saw them of their untimely demise. In a place where splendor had once thrived, decay now flourished in its place.
But just because there was no water in the lake doesn’t mean that the lake still possessed islands. Located at the very center of the dry lakebed was a pillar of land, its slope steeper than many faces found on Death Mountain. Rising to the same height as the shore and connected to the coast by a long wooden bridge, the island stood as the only notable place related to the dead lake.
Atop the island’s peak, whose size was large enough to comfortably accommodate a house meant for a large family, stood a large, square building. Its base expanding well beyond the size of the farmhouse on Lon Lon Ranch, the building spared no expense concerning its appearance. Intricate decorations were carved all along its stony exterior, representing in many different artistic methods the natural beauty of water. Four pillars of a gold-like material outlined each corner, and the portal that led inside the building was a set of double doors carved out of a rich wood. Even the roof boasted luxurious tastes, the tiles lined with different colored bricks of various materials.
But the two Moblin guards standing at entrance to the building couldn’t have cared any less about the exquisiteness of the entrance house to the Water Temple behind them. They only cared about one thing: how long it would be before they didn’t have to wait any longer.
“’ow much longer ‘til ’ee gets ’ere?” one Moblin asked offhand to the other guard.
“Like I would know,” the other guard snorted. “I’m not ’is keeper.”
“But we’ve been waitin’ ’ere for three stinkin’ days,” the first Moblin complained. “’ow much longer before we can eat that l’il girl inside there?”
“Ganondorf said five days. If that boy doesn’t show up by then, we can eat ’er. But not before. ’ow many times must tell you this?”
“I’m just so ’ungry. We’ve been eatin’ nothin’ but rat meat since we got ’ere. I want somethin’ fresh, an’ that l’il girl’s lookin’ mighty tasty…I can still smell the blood from out ’ere…”
“Just be patient and shut up!” the second Moblin growled. “Any mo’ words from you an’ I’ll see to it you’re…’ello, what’s this?”
Both Moblins noticed it immediately: something was crossing the wooden bridge from the shore. The two guards immediately straightened themselves out and readied their weapons, their small, evil eyes watching the approaching stranger as it moved slowly across the rickety crossing.
It wasn’t until the stranger had crossed the bridge two-thirds of the way before the Moblins could see who it was: it was a young man dressed completely in green clothes, weaponry fitted across every available location on his body. He walked at a sluggish and deliberate pace across the bridge, and his eyes were unyielding in their glare.
One of the Moblin guards smiled with a grunt. “Well, then…t’is must be the boy Ganondorf was talkin’ about.”
“’eh,” the other snorted. “’e doesn’t look so tough ta me. Looks a bit scrawny, if you ask me.”
The guards relaxed a little but still held their pikes firmly in their hands. They quietly and eagerly waited for the boy to finish crossing the bridge. The boy stopped at the end of the bridge for a moment, looking around to survey the scene before him. He then glowered at the two Moblins and continued his slow advancement towards them.
Grinning confidently, the two Moblins took several steps towards the boy. One of them held up its hand, motioning for him to stop; the boy stopped without hesitation.
“Are you the one called Link?” one of the Moblins demanded.
The boy looked up at the Moblin, his face twisted into an angry scowl, and nodded. “I am Link. Where is my friend Malon?”
“Malon?” the other Moblin sniffed. “You mean the l’il girl we ’ave inside?”
Upon hearing that, Link clenched his fists together. “Is she all right? Because if you laid a finger on her, I swear I will…”
“Don’ you worry, boy,” the first Moblin snickered. “We ’aven’t even touched her…though I would like nothin’ more than to take a nice, big taste of ’er flesh, mind you.”
Link seemed to grow tense at those words.
“Well, then,” the other Moblin uttered. “Now that you’re ’ere, we might as well let you in. Ganondorf told us to let you go straigh’ in an’…”
“Tell me something,” Link suddenly interjected. “Was one of Ganondorf’s conditions that I not harm you two in anyway?”
The two Moblins looked at each other, confused. “No,” said the first Moblin. “Why…?”
The wooden doors to the building were heavier than Link participated, but he managed to get them open with a final, strong push with his shoulder. Wasting no time, Link stepped inside the entrance house to the Water Temple, not caring that the Master Sword held in his right hand was dripping the blood of the two Moblins he had just killed outside.
Amazingly, the entire building was a single room, but boy, what a room it was! Like the exterior, intricate carvings depicting water ornamented the chamber everywhere, even the floor and ceiling. But they weren’t even the most striking part of the building: in several key parts on the wall fell magnificent waterfalls from tiny slits in the ceiling, emptying into pools in the floor that seemed to have no bottom. Speaking of which, in the very center of the room was a large pool, filled with water that glistened in the flames of lit torches all around the hall. The pool was large enough to comfortably accommodate at most five people, but like the waterfall pools it seemed to have no bottom.
Curiously, all around the chamber, in select spots in the wall and floor, Link saw small square holes barely large enough to fit his hand through. He saw no reason or purpose to these holes, but when his attention turned to the far end of the room those holes quickly disappeared from his mind.
There, chained to the far wall by a set of shackles on her arms and legs, suspending her off the ground like a rag doll, was Malon.
“Malon!” Link screamed, instantly running around the large pool towards her.
As he ran, he stepped on one of the holes…and thought he stepped on something slippery, but he promptly ignored that, focusing only on the farm girl. Upon reaching her, he reached out with his free hand and grabbed her shoulder.
“Malon, are you all right? Malon! Are you okay?”
Link grew a little worried when the farm girl didn’t reply, but Link instinctively pressed his hear against her left breast. To his relief, he heard a faint but strong heartbeat inside her chest – she was unconscious, but still alive.
“Thank the Three Goddesses,” he sighed with release.
But Link had no time to be thankful – he had to get Malon out of here. Ganondorf was nowhere to be seen, and neither was the trap he was suspecting. So if he acted quickly, he might be able to get the farm girl away from this place horrible. Taking a step back, Link readied the Master Sword, aiming for the chains that shackled Malon to the wall. He raised the mighty blade above his head…
…and instantly felt something cold, soft, and gooey wrap around his left wrist.
Before he could react further, Link felt similar gelatinous sensations ensnare his other wrist and his two ankles. He tried making a break for it, but the grips around his arms and legs held firm, refusing to let go. Then a final glutinous “something” encircled his waist…and pulled him up into the air, all the way back to the other end of the room!
“What’s going on? Let me go!” he demanded, but nobody heard his pleas. Within a few seconds, Link was suspended a short distance above the ground, far away from the unconscious farm girl. But Link still attempted to struggle free as he looked to see what was holding him.
Tentacles. That was they only way Link could describe them. They resembled the small tendrils on some of the Bari inside Lord Jabu Jabu, but these were far longer and more deadly. But the odd thing was that these tentacles were not attached to any creature – instead, they were all protruding from the small holes Link had noticed earlier, one tentacle to a hole. The tentacles were also composed of a clear, gooey substance that resembled moist rubber sap…which explained what Link had nearly slipped on when running to Malon.
But as slippery as they felt, their grip was strong and unrelenting. As hard as Link struggled, he couldn’t even free himself from their greasy hold…
“Hahahahahahahahahahaha. I didn’t think it would be this easy…but I guess even I am wrong once in a while.”
That voice…Ganondorf…but where was he? Link scanned the room for any signs of the King of Evil, but he didn’t see any sign of him…wait, something was happening just below him. Something was seeping out of one of the tiny holes in the floor. Was it water…no, it was the same gel that made up the tentacles. Why was it pouring out like that? Was another tentacle…?
No, the leaking gel was starting to move differently. It was…forming something, materializing into some kind of shape. It looked like…a head of some kind, a head of…a person…of a specific person…a head of…of…
“Ganondorf…” Link sputtered in amazement.
“Ah, so you recognize my face do you?” the gelatinous head “said”. Its mouth didn’t move, but Link could tell the evil man’s voice was meant to be coming from there. “I suppose I should be flattered, but that won’t exactly help you now.”
Getting over his astonishment, Link started to struggle again. “What are going to do with me, you wretched bastard?” he bellowed. “Are you going to kill me or what?”
“Kill you?” the gelatin head recurred. “Why, yes, I will. However, before I do, there’s something I must do first. You see, you have something I want, boy, something I want badly.”
“And what’s that?” Link demanded, still thrashing in vain to escape the tentacles’ hold. “The Master Sword?”
“Oh, no, no, no, no, no,” Ganondorf snickered. “I have no use for that worthless piece of scrap. No, what I want…is your soul.”
Link gaped in bewilderment. “You…what?”
“Morpha!” Ganondorf howled, ignoring Link’s exclamation. “Extract it! Now!”
At that command, more gel began to seep from a hole close to the gummy head. This gel formed into a tentacle, and it snaked its way towards a still resisting Link.
“What…what are you doing?” he cried, tugging as hard as he could at the tentacles holding him to get free. “Let me go! Let me go, damn it, let me go!”
The jelly head didn’t say anything just watched with what appeared to be a contented sneer. The spare tentacle drifted towards the struggling former Hero of Time until it stopped just short of his face, its glutinous tip squirming menacingly before his eyes.
“Now, open wide,” the Ganondorf head commanded.
As if in response, the tentacle wrapped around Link’s right wrist tightened its grip, almost twisting Link’s hand off. The resulting pain was so unexpected that Link dropped the Master Sword and opened his mouth to scream.
Link wasn’t allowed to finish his scream when the lone tentacle thrust itself down his throat, gagging his yelps and muffling his moans. Link’s eyes widened in horror as he felt the sticky tentacle climb down his gullet, clawing its way deeper and deeper inside his body. He quickly experienced the urge to throw up, but the gagging tentacle had ended any possibility of doing that. Some of the gel was even blocking part of his windpipe, making it difficult to breath.
Was this how Ganondorf was going to kill him? By suffocating him…?
Just then, Link felt a pain in his chest, as if thousands of tiny needles had simultaneously pierced his heart. He again tried to scream, but again the choking tentacle prevented him from doing so. Then he felt the pain again, almost as if something were digging deep inside his torso, attempting to extract something from within…
The pain scratched inside him over and over again, not giving Link any opportunity to recover from the previous “blow”. Tears became his screams as the intense pain forced them from his eyes, and within a few moments he had no energy to even struggle. He could feel his body grow limp, and his vision was beginning to grow hazy. Unable to do anything else, his eyes drifted around, his gaze falling on everything they could: Malon, still unconscious, the gelatinous head of Ganondorf, the tentacles holding him prisoner, the tentacle buried inside his mouth, the…the…
…what was that? Strangely enough, the tentacle seemed to be “collecting” something. Although his vision was a little blurry, he could clearly see something being “gathered” at the end of the tentacle, just before it disappeared into the hole. The “something” looked strange, like a cross between a shadowy mist and black water. With each painful stab he felt inside his chest, more of the strange vapors seemed to be collected. What they were, Link could only guess…but not it mattered. Within a few moments he would be unconscious…
Then, all at once, the pain stopped. Seconds later, the tentacle began to remove itself from Link’s throat. The extraction of the tentacle wasn’t exactly quick and painless – it pulled out so slowly that Link wanted to vomit every time he felt the viscous substance scrape against his windpipe.
The moment the tip left his mouth, Link coughed as hard as he could, trying to regain his breath and getting rid of any stray pieces of gel that had been lodged inside his mouth. At first only saliva dripped from his mouth, but droplets of blood and pieces of bile also found their way onto the floor beneath him. It took several good gasps before he could finally breathe properly again…
The deep, sinister voice of Ganondorf compelled Link to look up. The gelatinous face was looking at what Link had noticed earlier: the collection of the dark, misty substance at the base of the tentacle. Now that his vision was back, he could just how peculiar it looked. It reminded Link of the mist he had seen countless times in his dream about Princess Zelda as a boy, but this mist looked a lot more ominous. It seemed to pulse with a kind of anger, a kind of darkness, a kind of…evil…
“This should be more than enough,” the head of Ganondorf mused aloud. “It’s even more potent than I first thought!”
Coughing one more time, Link gritted his teeth. “What…did you just do?” he demanded, feeling his strength returning.
Ganondorf returned his attention to the helpless Link. “That is none of your concern. But now that I have what I wanted…there is no further use for you or the girl.”
Link growled loudly and began to thrash again, this time as vehemently as he could. “You gods-damned bastard! If I ever get out of this, I’ll kill you! I’ll bloody-well kill you!”
“Go ahead. Threaten me,” the Ganondorf head mocked. “It’ll make killing you all that more enjoyable.”
The tentacle that had penetrated Link’s throat then began to shift at its end. It trembled noticeably, its tip beginning to slenderize with each vibration. Within a few seconds, the tip had hardened into a sharp, razor-edges spike. Link, through his struggling, felt his eyes widen in panic: even though the gel of the tentacles felt soft, he had no doubt that that spike could kill him with a single blow.
“This is the end of your meddling, boy,” Ganondorf sneered. “Save a place for me in Hael, won’t you…? Huh, what’s this?”
Ganondorf had noticed what Link had noticed: the spike-tipped tentacle was quivering again. At first the pulsations were small, but they quickly became more and more violent until the entire tentacle was shaking uncontrollably.
“What’s happening here?” the gelatinous head demanded. “Morpha, what’s going on?”
On an impulse, Link looked away from the spike tip and towards the collection of dark mist. For some reason, he wasn’t surprised by what he saw: the mysterious substance was struggling to get out! Inexplicably, whatever the tentacle had extracted from his body was pounding against the inner walls of the tentacle, trying to break free.
“Morpha, control it!” Ganondorf ordered. “I said control it, damn it! Control it…!”
But whoever this Morpha was couldn’t do anything to stop it. Without warning, the tentacle containing the strange material exploded. Pieces of gel flew in every direction with a loud splash, landing against the stone walls of the chamber with a soft, sickening squelch. And it wasn’t just the tentacle containing the dark mist that was effected – before Link could react, the five tentacles holding him in the air dissolved into the air, as if explosion of the first tentacle had sent a ripple effect throughout the rest.
In fact, the only gelatinous substance not affected by the explosion was the one forming the head of Ganondorf.
Link landed on the ground with a loud thud, but he quickly recovered. He looked around for the dropped Master Sword, found it, and picked it back up. He then started to stand up, ready to face those tentacles again if they returned.
But they didn’t return. As the Ganondorf head looked around frantically, it screamed, “Morpha! Come back! I order you to come back! Come back and contain that essence before I pluck out your core and cut it open! Morpha!”
But Morpha never returned, leaving Ganondorf alone in the chamber with Link, a still unconscious Malon…and the “essence”.
And that essence quickly made itself the center off attention.
The mist swirled around a central point for a few moments, as if getting used to its surrounding, but then it started to collect itself. The mist began to orbit into a ball, assembling into a solid, unidentifiable shape. As soon as all of the strange substance had been amassed, the new shape pulsed several times, like a heart beginning to beat for the first time.
Link was unsure of what was it was doing…but then the shape started to restructure itself. It started to grow, expanding its form. Within a few seconds, he could make out the shape of a torso. Then appendages started to sprout…first a set of arms, then a pair of legs, and finally a head. Then details began to form: fingers, muscles, hair, facial features, clothes…the strange material was remaking itself into a person, apparently…
As Link watched, he started to see more details develop, all with the same dark texture as the strange mist: sturdy boots, short-sleeved shirt, leather-like gauntlets, a shield strapped to its back, a sword, a long cap on its head…
Link could’ve sworn he felt his jaw hit the floor when he recognized the “person” standing before him. “It…it’s impossible…”
But it wasn’t. As soon as the final features had been etched in the “person”, its all too familiar face stretched back a little before looking straight at Link. The shadowy lips on its dark face flashed a smile his direction.
There was no denying it: the “thing” that stood before Link was…well, Link. Except for the pouches and many of Link’s weapons, the “person” looked exactly like the green-clad boy in every respect – it even had the single earring that Malon had put in Link’s ear seven years ago. In fact, it looked so lifelike that Link couldn’t find reason to call it an “it”. The only real difference was that this Link…this “Dark Link”…had no color whatsoever – everything from its clothes to its skin was shaded a murky, gloomy blackness that seemed to shimmer in the torchlight.
Even the gelatinous head of Ganondorf couldn’t believe it. “What’s going on here?” he roared in the direction of the Dark Link. “Who are you? What happened to my essence?”
Dark Link turned his attention to the head and grinned. “So…you must be Ganondorf.” Dark Link then started slowly strolling his way towards where the head was formed. “It is an honor and a privilege to meet you.”
“Answer me, damn you!” Ganondorf demanded. “What happened to my essence? What have you done with my essence?”
“Your ‘essence’,” Dark Link replied as he walked up next to the gummy head, “is standing right before you. I…am what you extracted from within that ‘boy’ – I just decided to take a different shape. What do you think? Do you like the way I look?”
Ganondorf was not amused by Dark Link’s obvious taunting. “Don’t lie to me! If you don’t give me back my essence, I’ll…”
“You’ll what?” Dark Link interrupted. “You’re not even here, are you? You’re simply using some kind of magic to project your image to this location. And what would you do if I did give myself back to you? Use me in your own experiments for your own ends? Sorry, but I’ve got other things to do that don’t involve being your lapdog.”
Dark Link then raised his right foot into the air, hovering it over Ganondorf’s head. “Goodbye.”
“No, wait, stop…!”
Ganondorf’s cry went unheard as Dark Link stamped his foot down on the viscous head, crushing it beneath his heel and splattering it all over. A deafening silence followed as Ganondorf’s voice was stifled from the chamber, as well as any possibility of this unknown Morpha from returning with its tentacles.
Dark Link then turned his attention towards Link, who was still stunned by what he was seeing.
“You…you are…” Link stammered, almost dropping the Master Sword in surprise. “…you are…”
“You?” Dark Link finished with an almost childish grin. “Yes, that’s right. I am you. More precisely, I am part of you, part of your soul, materialized as you see now. Oh, I could’ve chosen any shape I wanted…but somehow I found this shape far more fitting.”
“But…but…” Link spluttered, “but why did…did…?”
“Why did Ganondorf extract me?” Dark Link completed, as if reading Link’s thoughts. “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe he wanted to harness me for his own interests. After all, I am quite potent, as he just said. Potent enough to break free of the control of that wretched sludge imprisoning me. I bet Ganondorf is pretty sore right now for letting me get away like that.”
Link couldn’t believe how flippant this Dark Link was. “But I still don’t understand…”
“You don’t need to understand!” Dark Link insisted with a smile. “Because it’s not going to matter anyway for much longer.”
“And why’s that?” Link inquired.
Suddenly, Dark Link charged forward, drawing its sword and swaying it behind its back in preparation for a strike. Caught off guard, Link managed to duck just in time as Dark Link swung a horizontal attack right where Link’s head would’ve been, barely missing Link’s neck. But before Link could retaliate, Dark Link pulled back his right leg and sent a powerful kick straight into Link’s side, sending the Hylian flying.
Link landed on the ground several feet from where Dark Link had booted him, landing on his face with a loud crunch. The resulting blow to his head caused Link to get up slowly, and as he did he felt compelled to cough. Seconds later, pieces of bile and some blood dripped from his mouth onto the floor.
“…because you are going to die.”
Upon hearing Dark Link’s statement, Link turned his head as quickly as he could in the direction of the doppelganger…and saw Dark Link staring at him with the most spiteful look imaginable.
“You may have noticed that the only weapon I chose to manifest was your sword,” Dark Link stated in a snarling tone. “I did this for a reason: because I’m going to prove how easy it is to kill a spineless weakling like you.”
Dark Link then attacked again, this time raising his dark sword above his head. Unable to raise the Master Sword or his shield in time, Link rolled out of the way as Dark Link sent his blade crashing to the ground with a deafening clang. Link rolled a short distance before forcing himself to his feet, preparing for another attack from his dark twin.
But Dark Link didn’t attack again. Instead he lifted his sword off the ground and smirked. “So your reflexes were still good after that kick I gave you…impressive. This might be more fun that I thought.”
His surprise long gone by now, Link felt his face display his usual signs of anger. “What in the name of the Three Goddesses are you?” he howled. “What do you want from me?”
“What do I want from you?” Dark Link repeated. “Oh, come now, isn’t it obvious? I want to do to you what I promised I’d do.”
A blank look crept into Link’s eyes. “What you…promised you’d do? What are you talking about…?”
Dark Link didn’t answer immediately, but first raised his shadowy blade up near his face. The blade’s surface had no reflection, but it still seemed to glisten in the light of the torches around the room. “What I’m going to do…is gut your worthless carcass…and string you up alongside the corpse of that little slut behind you.”
Someone may as well have slapped Link in the face when he heard that. “You…you’re the…you’re the Voice…the Voice inside my head….”
The smile on Dark Link’s face widened. “Ah, you finally recognize me. And now that you do, what are you going to do about it, you worthless little shit?”
A thousand possible responses filled Link’s mind, but only one was even remotely close to what he wanted to do. His muscles tensed up, his grip on the Master Sword tightened, and every ounce of his fury was projected into the look on his face. He then cried out a single phrase at the top of his lungs:
“I’m gonna fucking kill you!”