Monday, August 30, 2010

Chapter 59: The Princess and the Warrior

When Sheik stepped out of his house that afternoon in Kakariko Village, he instinctively looked up at the sky. His gaze instantly caught a glimpse of Din’s Eye framed by a pack of silver-lined black clouds, obscuring much of the sun’s rays from view. It was a frequent sight in this day and age, seeing a gorgeous and magnificent burning Eye masked by dark, ominous billows in the afternoon sky. Many souls in Hyrule saw this as symbolic of their once glorious kingdom cloaked by the perverted evilness of Ganondorf. However, today Sheik saw this sight as something else…

Hope beginning to shine from behind the darkness spread across the land…

Still, despite his unusual optimism, Sheik still couldn’t help feeling a little depressed as he closed the door to his house behind him, knowing full well who was lying in a bed in a shallow coma behind that very door. Malon had thankfully survived her journey to Kakariko Village without any mishaps along with way, but on the flipside her condition hadn’t improved much. Dr. Garigan had done all he could to help the poor girl, but Sheik was sure more could be given to the farm girl other than rest and relaxation.

Which was why the Sheikah smiled when he looked to his side and saw a familiar Goron appearing from behind a Cuckoo coop along the pathway that wove through the village. Sheik hadn’t expected him to arrive for another hour or so, but arriving early was more than welcome and certainly better than arriving late. Beaming under his collar, Sheik strode over towards the Goron to meet him halfway.

“Malatite,” the Sheikah called out as he approached the doctor with an extended hand. “Glad you could make it.”

“The pleasure is all mine,” Malatite grinned in return, taking Sheik’s hand and shaking it firmly enough to tear it off. “I’m just glad I could come at all.”

“Why’s that?” Sheik asked curiously as he walked the doctor back towards his cottage door.

“It’s been rather chaotic these past couple months in Death Mountain. With Big Brother now a Sage, some fellow Gorons still haven’t gotten used to his absence. We’ve also had to repair much of Goron City and reestablish our livelihoods, not to mention set up watches and escape plans in case Ganondorf might return…” The doctor wiped his tiny black eyes with the tips of his monstrously chubby fingers. “I tell you, it’s enough to make any Goron feel old enough to curl into a ball for days on end.”

“I see,” Sheik uttered, sad to hear that Ganondorf’s influence on the Goron race hadn’t vanished entirely since Volvagia had been destroyed. “At least you’ve got your health…and your lives.”

“Yes, and that’s something I thank the Three Goddesses every day for,” Malatite replied before adding with a smile, “Oh, and Link, of course.”

“But I didn’t do anything.”

Sheik was a little startled by the softer and somewhat gentler voice emanating from Malatite’s direction. Malatite merely smiled and looked around behind his back. “Silly boy, you know who I’m talking about.” He then returned his gaze in Sheik’s direction. “I thought I’d bring him along with me, get to see what it’s like outside Goron City. Hope you don’t mind.”

Sheik blinked in mild surprise when a small Goron appeared from behind Malatite’s thick legs, showing himself to the Sheikah. Sheik didn’t know why he didn’t see the young child before, but that didn’t stop him from smiling in recognition as he knelt down to level his gaze with the boy.

“Hey, Link. How are you?”

Goron Link smiled back, showing off a set of pearly whites undoubtedly strong enough to tear through the toughest rock in Death Mountain. “I’m good, thanks. How’ve you been? And how’s Link these days?”

“Link?” Sheik repeated as he stood up again. “Oh, he’s…on top of things, I suppose. He’s right now heading off to another temple to awaken its Sage. Hopefully there won’t be any difficulty…at least before he reaches the temple. Still, I have a lot of confidence in him.

“As for me,” Sheik included, “I’m feeling…inspired.” Sheik had no idea what his own words meant, but he decided to leave it at that before turning to Malatite, who was delighted by Sheik’s conversing with the young Goron. “So, Malatite…you know why I asked you to come down here?”

“I can take a guess,” the doctor answered. “Your burn marks should be more than healed by now, so I’m assuming there is someone else you need me to tend to. And not someone with just any injury, but some rather life-threatening ones, correct? Why else would you call me down here, when you already have a town doctor?”

Sheik chuckled at Malatite’s observant mind. “You’re pretty good, I’ll give you that.” The Sheikah then turned serious. “Yes, I’m afraid there is someone I need you to look at, someone on the borderline between stable and unstable. The previous doctor looking after her did all he could, but he’s never treated anything like this before. I’m hoping you can help.”

Malatite scratched his chin. “I see…well, I can’t guarantee anything, but I’ll do everything in my power. Where is the patient?”

“Right this way.”

With a motion of his hand, Sheik led the Goron doctor and the young Goron Link back to his cottage. The Sheikah glanced around in several directions – as if making sure curious eyes weren’t seeing something they weren’t supposed to – before he grabbed the handle and pushed the door open. Sheik then beckoned for the two Gorons to follow him inside, which Malatite and Link did gladly. The moment they were all inside, Sheik hurriedly shut the door behind them.

Inside, the light of a single candle illuminated the room, where Sheik had obviously been busy. Papers with maps and various tidbits of information from all over Hyrule lay scattered across the floor and table centered in the chamber, and the smell of fresh ink overpowered the burning wax scent drifting from the candle’s flame. Sheik’s eyes took a moment to get used to the dim light, but the Gorons needed no such adjustment.

Both Malatite and Goron Link discovered that Sheik wasn’t the only other person in the room. Sitting in a chair near a door leading to an adjacent room was a chubby man with a thick moustache curled across his upper lip. He seemed to have been sleeping when Sheik and the Gorons entered the house, but he was awake now and his eyes were wide with surprise when he saw the Gorons.

“Um…hello there?” the man asked hesitantly, seemingly unsure of whether the Gorons were friendly or not.

Malatite waved just as hesitantly, not knowing who this man was. Sheik quickly stepped in to dispel any uncertainty.

“Malatite, Link, this is Talon,” the Sheikah uttered as he introduced the man in the chair to the two Gorons. “He’s the father of the girl you’re here to help.”

“Is that so?” Malatite replied before turning to Talon and walking up to the ranch owner, who stood up slowly. As he approached, Malatite held out a hand to the still tentative Hylian. “A good day to you, sir. I am called Malatite. I’m here to take a look at your…your daughter, is it…I’m here to see what I can do for her. It’s a shame we have to meet under such circumstances.”

Realizing that Malatite was a doctor, Talon’s face lit up as he grabbed the Goron’s hand and shook it. The man’s handshake felt firm yet noticeably weak – his face revealed the answer why by betraying a look of dwindling hope. “You’re here to help? Thank you, kind sir…Malon looks like she’s barely hanging on. If there’s anything you can do for her, I will forever be in your debt.”

Malatite smiled warmly at the ranch owner, glad that his presence at least gave the Hylian some renewed faith. “I’ll do my best, I give you my word.” He then looked up at the door near where Talon had been sitting. “Is…Malon in there?”

“Yes, she is,” Talon replied. “Ingo’s feeding her right now, I believe.”

“All right, I might as well get a look at her before I get started,” Malatite stated, one his enormous hands cradling the head of Goron Link by his side. “Once I’ve assessed her condition, Link here can go back up Death Mountain and ask my hands to fetch what I need to take care of her.”

Talon nodded eagerly. “Yes, yes, a good idea.” The ranch owner darted for the door and opened it. “Please, go inside.”

Taking up Talon’s offer, Malatite stepped inside, followed closely by Goron Link, Talon, and Sheik.

The bedroom inside was more well lit than the room before it, with five candles providing illumination in the curtain-closed chamber. Only one piece of furniture was in the room, and that was the bed lying against the far wall, where two figures were situated. Everyone’s gaze fell on the two other people in the room, getting a good look at them.

The first figure was a tall, wiry man with a moustache as coiled as Talon’s and skin with the telltale signs of years of hard labor. In one hand he held a bowl of red, tomato-scented soup, and in the other he gripped a small spoon that rhythmically dipped into the bowl and carried some of the liquid over to the lips of the second figure, who was lying in the bed.

It was the second person that everyone really focused on. She lay in a complete comatose state, her only noticeable movements being her breathing beneath the blankets draped over her body. Her fiery red hair stood dry and bushy, and her skin flushed a barely rose-hued, mostly pale complexion. The man with the soup had to be careful as he fed her the liquid through her purple-tinted lips, because one wrong move and she could certainly choke in her sleep.

“My goodness,” Malatite sighed under his breath, clapping his hand to his mouth, a sound which notified the man beside the bed that others were in the room.

“Hmmm?” the thin man inquired, blinking a little as he laid eyes on the Gorons.

“Ingo, that’s enough,” Talon said, taking a step towards the farmhand. “This…this gentleman here is a doctor. He’s here to help Malon. We need you to step away for a bit.”

Ingo’s eyes widened with excitement when he heard that. “With pleasure, sir.” He dropped the spoon into the bowl of soup and almost carelessly placed it on the floor. The farmhand then rapidly stepped away from the bed, giving the Goron doctor all the room he could want.

Thankful for Ingo’s departure though still noticeably pitying the young girl lying in the bed, Malatite strode over to the bedside and leaned over to get a good look at Malon’s complexion. The farm girl “gazed” back with a look of deathly tranquility though her eyelids, her lips parted slightly to allow her mouth a chance to breathe.

His trained physician eyes taking in everything he could, Malatite moved Malon’s delicate, frail arms off the blankets and lifted the cloths away, revealing her half-nude body beneath them. Bandages snaked all around her upper chest and bosom, and traces of blood were still soaked into the dressing.

With delicate precision, Malatite lifted the bandages slightly to get a better look at the wound under the dressing – his eyes were rewarded with an unhealed gash through her breast with signs of pus growing around the edges.

The Goron doctor sighed as he covered Malon’s wound again. His mind raced to put together what he had just observed before he finally turned to everyone else in the room, particularly Talon.

“This poor girl’s wound is infected,” he revealed. “It’s preventing her wound from healing properly and poisoning her bloodstream. Thankfully, this is treatable. This definitely requires some of my more complex tools. She may have to be…”

Before he could finish, Malatite was interrupted by a very shrill whistle coming from outside. Everyone’s ears piqued upon hearing it, and their attentiveness was rewarded when the sharp clang of a bell followed immediately afterwards.

“What’s that?” Ingo asked, looking around as if the sound had come from in the room.

Only Sheik seemed to know what it was – his face grew ghostly white when he realized what that whistle meant. “No…it can’t be…”

Without waiting for anyone to ask him to explain, Sheik darted for the window near the right wall and unhooked the latch with clumsy abandon. With the bell still ringing outside, the Sheikah yanked the window open and thrust his head outside, scanning around outside with the quickness of a cornered fox.

As Malatite approached the clad youth, he was just in time to see Sheik’s eyes widen in astonished terror. “By the three Goddesses…” was heard under his cloaked mouth.

“What’s going on?” the Goron doctor tried to ask as the bell seemed to grow louder with each toll. “What…?”

Sheik’s abrupt slam closing of the window interrupted the Goron, whose tiny eyes watched the now pale Sheikah with concern. Malatite paused momentarily before tried again to ask the boy what was happened. Sheik bit his finger through his thick collar before he looked at the doctor and everyone else in the room and answered:



“You’ve got to tell her, you know.”

Navi’s words cut through Link’s mind like a dull blade, tearing through his stubbornness with agonizing logic and common sense. He tried to glance up at the fairy hovering daintily over his left shoulder, but he then remembered he was riding on horseback alongside the river that led out of Zora’s Domain and decided it would be best not to do so. Instead he kept his gaze facing forward, staring at the orange-hued sky painted by the brushes of Din’s setting Eye. The landscape was as barren and lifeless as what he was accustomed to by now, though the lack of obstructions such as trees did help make his journey less of a concentrated effort.

Perhaps there were benefits of riding beside a river after all…as long as he didn’t drive Epona into the drink itself.

He gazed quietly at the dusk horizon under Epona’s mighty gallop before Navi again reminded him of her presence.

“Link, did you hear what I said?”

Sighing, the Hero of Time finally responded. “Yes, I heard you, Navi.”

“…And…?” the fey demanded, expecting a more substantial reply.

“And…” Link attempted to formulate an answer suitable for his winged friend before he shook his head in defeat. “And…I don’t know.”

Navi grunted in frustration as she perched gently on her charge’s shoulder. “You’re going to have to come up with a better answer than that for Ruto, dummy. You know very well you can’t keep up this charade for very long. Sooner or later, you have to tell her that you’re not her fiancé.”

Link bit his teeth down together. He knew that already, but hearing Navi tell him only reminded him of how this situation was yet another example of “easier said than done”. Sure, he could just tell Ruto what he should tell her…that his acceptance to her bizarre marriage proposal was a ruse to get the Zora Sapphire…that he had no intention of ever seeing her again after obtaining that final Spiritual Stone…that he had only returned seven years later to find a way to enter the Water Temple…that despite how she had changed over the course of their adventure inside Lord Jabu-Jabu, he still mainly remembered her as a royal pain in the neck…

…and yet…

He glanced to the right, his eyes falling upon the center of the river he was following. Immediately he saw what he wanted to see: the blue, feminine body of a Zora gliding gracefully through the current alongside Epona, keeping pace with the mare effortlessly. Every so often, Ruto would appear with a gentle break of the water’s surface, her gorgeous body shimmering in the remaining light of the day for but a moment before disappearing under the river’s waves with a soundless splash.

Link’s heart fluttered with unease. Ruto was alone in this world now that her entire race was frozen under a tundra crafted by magic, and the only think keeping her going was the faint hope that someone would break the spell. Now that he had reappeared, the look in her eyes didn’t lie: it was the sincere rekindling of emotions unused for countless days since being released from the ice imprisoning her people. Like Malon before her, Ruto saw something in Link that meant something to her, and to destroy something that precious – even if it were an illusion – wasn’t something Link was prepared to do.

Still, he had been rather surprised by Ruto’s insistence to accompany him to the Water Temple. He suspected she desired to convert her vision of him into a reality, but he would prefer believing she wanted a hand in freeing her people from Ganondorf’s cruel tomb of frost. If the latter idea proved to be the real reason, maybe Ruto had matured more than he cared to believe…

Navi continued to lecture him about keeping up this pretense with the Zora princess, but he ignored her as his eyes drifted between watching Ruto’s body sashaying the river’s flow and keeping Epona galloping at a steady pace. By now, Din’s Eye barely peered over the sandy mountains to the west, signaling nightfall would arrive soon. Fatigue crept into Link’s joints at that moment, reminding him he had been riding nonstop for a full day now. Maybe a short rest would be adequate…

“Ruto!” Link called out to the Zora.

“Yes, darling?” Ruto called back during a concise breach of the water’s surface.

“How about a break?” he called back, still uncomfortable at Ruto’s nicknames she was giving him.

Ruto seemed to think over the proposal for a few surfacing moments before she finally called back, “I’d love to.”

With the approval of his “fiancée” in hand, Link pulled his steed’s reins, drawing Epona to a slow and steady halt. As the mare skidded along the dry crass to a stop, Ruto broke the surface of the river a final time before she drifted to the edge of the river and climbed out. As water trickled down her nude sapphire skin in a manner akin to cherry-nut oil seeping off a dew-soaked leaf, Ruto raised her arms and stretched her body to its full curvature, no doubt to relieve some of the weariness of swimming nonstop all day.

As Link dismounted Epona and tethered the horse to the root of a lone cedar tree near the river’s edge, he couldn’t help but keep an eye on the Zora princess as she left the river. Sure, his memories of her were often less than pleasant, but to see her like this…standing before him in such an elegant and striking manner, she almost looked…attractive…


Link’s thoughts were interrupted when he felt a sharp whack against his head, forcing him to place a hand against where Navi had unexpectedly hit him.

“What was that for?” he hissed at the fey.

“Quit gawking!” the fairy shushed back. “Give a girl some respect. If this is all you did to Malon back at Lon Lon Ranch, just be thankful I wasn’t there to knock your head straight.”

Link wasn’t sure what irritated him then – Navi mentioning Malon haphazardly or his realization he had just been gawking at Ruto, of all people – so he simply dropped the subject and finished securing Epona to the tree’s root. Making sure the mare had enough grass to graze on, Link then picked some supplies out of his rucksack and carried them a short distance away from his horse. Ruto, done with ridding her body of fatigue, smiled cutely as she slinked her way to Link’s side.

“What’re you doing, darling?” Ruto asked innocently, bending over as Link knelt down on the ground.

“Clearing the ground for a fire,” Link answered without looking up. “I’d like some warmth tonight.”

“I see,” Ruto muttered as she crouched with her arms around her knees, her swim fins curling behind her arms to avoid touching the ground. “So what’s on the menu?”

As he continued to ready the ground for whatever firewood he could find in this barren landscape, Link grabbed his rucksack and tossed it at Ruto’s feet. “Whatever we can find in there.”

Ruto eyed the sack with suspicion for a moment, as if she didn’t trust the bag or whatever it might hold. Then, with a loud hiss of disgust, Ruto stood up. “I think not,” she declared. “Neither I nor my fiancé will eat such garbage. I shall correct this.”

With those words, Ruto turned and started for the river again.

“Ruto, where are you going?” Link asked, looking up from his task.

“To catch us some supper. I’ll be back in a few.” Ruto then dived headfirst into the river, disappearing from view instantly as her body’s hue merged with the clear color of the evening-tinted waters.

Link sighed as he stood up himself; he knew exactly what Ruto meant. Last night during their travels to Lake Hylia – their first night on their journey – she had brought him several fishes and asked him to eat them in celebration of their reunion and their mission to free her people. Not wanting to ignite Ruto’s temper, Link had forced himself to eat those scaly buggers raw and still alive. Luckily, Ruto was asleep at the moment Link’s stomach gave him the unfortunate signal his food was coming back up the way it went down. He had hoped to eat some cheese or a sliver of meat or some moon berries tonight to wash out the bad taste of both the bile and the raw seafood, but Ruto apparently wouldn’t allow her “betrothed” to each anything less than what a Zora princess ate.

At least I can cook it this time,” Link thought as he looked around for some firewood to start the now very necessary fire.


His collection of timber for the fire didn’t take as long as he initially suspected, though the virtually barren landscape did provide him a bit of a challenge in finding enough dry wood. Still, he completed his task with enough time to spare in creating a fire site before he heard the sound of a familiar Zora climbing out of the river nearby. The delicate, agile footsteps of Ruto somehow never grew the slightest bit louder as Link unsheathed the Master Sword and aimed its deadly tip at the wood pile he intended to burn.

“What are you doing, darling?” Ruto’s voice asked as the Zora princess positioned herself by her fiancé while Link crouched down on the ground, his right hand cradling the hilt of the Master Sword in the air.

“Getting a fire going,” Link replied, his left hand twitchingly holding a large piece of flint he had been using during his adventures for he can’t recall how long now. “I just hope this wood is burnable…”

The Hero of Time then took the stone and scraped it briskly across the surface of the Master Sword, barely scratching its divine surface as sparks flew from where it has struck. The sparks drifted into the evening air and landed on the woodpile, brushing past pieces of dry grass that coated the wood pile to initiate a fire more easily. Several more scrapes of the flint against the legendary weapon finally produced enough sparks to singe the grass, which slowly developed into a tiny flame that grew quickly as it greedily consumed the surrounding wood.

Satisfied, Link sheathed the Master Sword and returned the flint to his pouch. “This should be good enough for a couple hours,” he uttered more to himself than to Ruto, who knelt down beside the Hylian, her eyes gazing pensively captivatingly at the emergent flames. Link knew Ruto had seen fire before, but maybe her solitude in the frozen Zora’s Domain prevented her from seeing it as often as she preferred…

“Well done, darling,” Ruto smiled as she sat down on the ground, sliding up very close next to the Hero of Time in a way with which Link still didn’t feel comfortable. The Zora princess, not noticing Link’s uneasiness, grinned at the Hylian before adding, “Here’s your supper. I hope you enjoy it.”

Ruto then pulled from beneath her fins several small silver fishes that, not surprisingly, twitched violently as their slimy bodies attempted to breathe in an atmosphere in which they couldn’t survive. Flashbacks of the sickening taste Link had encountered from last night rolled across his taste buds in remembrance, but at least this time Link didn’t have to eat it raw…

With his best forced smile, Link accepted two of the fishes from his “bride-to-be” and placed them in his crossed lap, their damp tails thrashing wildly in a feeble attempt to escape back to the river. Swallowing his pride – and perhaps bile already on the way up – Link reached to his left and picked up a long branch he had selected during his firewood collecting mission for this specific purpose.

Within minutes, both fish were skewered on the sharp edge of the long cane, now either dead or unable to use any energy to thrash in hopeless defiance. Ignoring the various fish juices creeping down the branch from the pierce wounds, Link mounted the limb on two carefully positioned branches sunk into the ground on either end of the campfire, creating a makeshift spit to roast the fish over the flickering flames.

Proud at his work, Link turned his attention to Ruto, who didn’t care to prepare her food the way Link preferred. The Zora princess had already devoured one fish down to the bone, and was half-finished with her second. Link winced at the suckling sounds her lips made as she drank the various fluids from the fish’s carcass – hopefully the fire would evaporate those fluids or the wounds would drain them from Link’s meal…

A soggy squelch reached Link’s ears as Ruto crushed the fish bones between her fingers and cast them aside into a pile near the fire. The Zora princess then curled up her knees against her chest, locking them in place with her arms, and looked at her betrothed with a smile.

“So darling, how are you liking your new clothes?”

Link blinked in puzzlement…before he remembered what Ruto had given him back in Zora’s Domain. He glanced down at his shirt, which instead of forest green was colored a shimmering lake-water blue. At first he didn’t know what to think, as the tunic felt like an ordinary shirt one could make without hassle. In fact, its semblance to Link’s green shirt – now resting folded in one of his saddle’s side bags – was frightening, though Link had to admit the similarly sapphire-tinted long cap resting on his crown was really what made him think about the matter.

He remembered the first instance this happened very vividly: when Goron Link took him into that Goron City storeroom to find some heat-resistance clothing to help combat Death Mountain’s fiery interior. He could still feel how wide his eyes had opened when he saw a set of clothes that look remarkably like his Kokiri outfit aside from its bright red hue – even the cap resembled his own green-colored bonnet in shape and size.

Of course, Link dismissed it as a mere coincidence – after all, it’s not like Kokiri clothing was exactly unique. Still, there were enough similarities for it to stick in the back of his mind and later be pried into the forefront of his thoughts when an occasion such as this arose. The clothes that Princess Ruto had retrieved for him in a closed-off storage room – a room that hadn’t been used ever since eons ago Hylians and Zoras got into a now-long forgotten spat that resulted in several decades of war – these clothes possessed similarities between both Link’s original green threads and the heat-resistant outfit that were too uncanny to be simple coincidences.

The clothes he wore now – the garments that were meant to help him breathe underwater in the Water Temple – they even felt like they were made by Kokiri hands. The craftsmanship in the threads, the way the fabric felt against his skin…if he had been sold these clothes by a random merchant who claimed they were made by the Kokiri, Link would’ve believed him.

But how was that possible? As far as he knew, the Kokiri were merely a legend to most folk outside the Lost Woods. If these clothes were indeed crafted by the Kokiri, the only way that could be was if someone from the outside visited the Lost Woods and entered Kokiri Forest


“That can’t be it…can it? How would that be possible…?”

“Darling, are you all right?” Ruto’s voice abruptly interjected amidst his rambling mind.

“What…oh, er…” Link choked, struggling to return his attention to the princess as quickly as he could. “I’m…fine, thanks. And…yes, these clothes are pretty comfortable, thanks…although…” He pulled at one of the sleeves to his shirt, watching it hang loosely from his arm. “I am a little curious as to how this’ll help me breathe underwater. It doesn’t feel any different from regular clothes…”

“Right now, it doesn’t,” Ruto pointed out, stroking the smooth skin on the side of her head with one hand. “But once you get the clothes wet, that’s when the fabric goes to work. I’m a little hazy on the details, but I believe that when wet, the cloth will attach itself to your skin and allows air to enter your bloodstream from the water. Of course, you have to hold your breath so water doesn’t enter your lungs, but the cloth will do the ‘breathing’ for you.”

Link nodded as he listened to Ruto’s explanation, tugging the cloth again at the sleeve. He wondered how the fabric would feel once it got wet, and whether this “air-through-skin-from-water” process would hurt at all. Walking into a fiery volcano with heat-resistant clothing was one thing; breathing underwater in a specialized swimming suit was another. What if the cloth was too old to work anymore? What if it didn’t work with his skin? Maybe he should’ve tested it first, just to make sure they don’t travel all the way to Lake Hylia and discover the breathing fabric doesn’t work…

Then again, where could he have tested it in Zora’s Domain, where ice touched every drop of water in sight…

He glanced toward the river, and his mind started considering the possibility of testing the suit there. The sluggish yet agitated rapids he saw forced him to reconsider, at least for the moment. He wasn’t in the mood for swimming in uncertain waters, so perhaps tomorrow would provide a more fitting moment for him to try out his new clothes. Maybe Ruto could even provide a hand, like when Saria helped him learned how to swim all those years ago…

By chance he glanced at Ruto’s face and saw her smile one of the creepiest toothy grins he had ever seen. This being the first time Link had ever seen a Zora smile with lips parted, he witnessed firsthand the result of the evolutionary crafting and sculpting of a Zora’s molars into those fit for a lifetime on a strict diet of fish. The noticeably rounded yet serrated incisors that filled Ruto’s mouth sent a shiver down Link’s spine, adding yet another reason why a relationship with her would probably not be the best thing.

Forcing a smile of his own, Link redirected his attention to his meal. Any and all traces of internal fluids had by now evaporated through the fire’s greedy flames, and Link estimated it would only be a few more minutes before they would be cooked enough to actually make a decent meal. In the meantime, Link was to spend the time waiting with a fish princess who was inexplicably infatuated with him…


Ruto’s soft utterance of his name – the first time in a while she had called him something other than “darling” – made Link turn to face the Zora, whose toothy smile had been replaced with a sad frown barely draped on either side. Link was mildly surprised by her sudden and unexplained change in mood, but he made his best attempt at sounding interested as he replied,


“I was just wondering…after we get to the Water Temple and do what’s needed there to rescue my people…what will you do then?”

“Damn,” Link sighed in his mind. “I was hoping she’d hold off that question for a little longer…”

Picking up a stray stick not being devoured by the campfire, Link used it to poke the glowing ashes in the flames, as if collecting his thoughts together first. He then sighed out loud before staring directly at the Zora Princess.

“After this is done…I must leave. There are…other things I must do after I help free your people.”

“You mean unseal the remaining temples, right?”

“Yeah…that’s right.” Link hesitated slightly, but not because Ruto knew about the various temples he needed to visit and unseal – he had told Ruto much of his adventures before leaving Zora’s Domain. No, Link hesitated answering because his reply may or may not have been a lie…

“I understand,” Ruto uttered sadly, apparently expecting such an answer from him. “Still, before you return to your journey, there is a favor I want to ask of you, darling.”

“Which is?”

Ruto’s wide eyes disappeared behind a momentary blink and returned with an almost pleading gaze that caught Link off guard and grasped his full attention, which was undoubtedly what the Zora princess wanted.

“After we unseal the Water Temple…and before you resume your quest…I want…I want us to be wed.”

How thankful Link was at that moment for the campfire that masked the fierce blush that accompanied his instant look of astonishment.

“Us…married…?” he stuttered.

“Yes, married.” A sense of genuine surprise emanated from Ruto’s eyes. “You’re…taken aback by the idea?”


“Well, I…not really, no…it’s just that…I’m just surprised you’re…this is too soo…er, so sudden. Marriage…just like that…” Shaking off his stammer, Link forced his lips into a more coherent statement. “I thought we’d have more time to discuss something as…well, important as marriage. We’ve only been reunited for a few days, after all.”

Link hoped Ruto understood his reply. He knew the Zora princess would bring up the topic eventually – he just never suspected she’d do so this quickly. To his relief – hopefully – Ruto’s lips formed a sympathetic grin.

“This…may not be the right time to discuss something like marriage, I know. There are other more important matters, like what we’re doing right now. Still…ever since you returned to me, I couldn’t stop thinking about that promise you made to me all those years ago. You remember…the one where you said you’d return and I’d judge for myself whether or not you’ll be my future husband?”

“How could I forget?” Link groaned in is mind, recalling he only accepted that bizarre proposal because he thought he was still a Kokiri and therefore couldn’t age, thus negating any possible matrimony with the Zora. He moaned even louder upon recognizing he couldn’t give her back the Spiritual Stone even if she wanted it, unless she was willing to brave animated carcasses known as ReDead in Hyrule Castle New City’s ruins to retrieve the artifact at the Temple of Time.

Nope, anyway he looked at it, Link was stuck with this girl…

“That vow was really important to me,” Ruto continued, “because it signified how I changed from a spoiled brat into a more dignified person. Our little adventure inside the late Lord Jabu-Jabu has been burned into my mind, and I can never forget how you risked your life to save mine.”

“Yeah…right before I went insane,” Link sighed while looking at his stiff right hand in remembrance of the “reason” for his madness.

“As I said on that raft when I offered you my mother’s precious stone, I’ve only known you for a short while, but it feels as if you’ve been a part of me far more than I can recall. It may seem…silly to fall in love with a man after such a short time, but I don’t care. I remember once reading an old Hylian love story in which the boy and girl fell in love at first sight. I believe they were referred to as…‘soul mates’.”

The Zora princess leaned forward towards Link, raising her head so her eyes maintained contact with the Hero of Time’s gaze. “I firmly believe that you are my soul mate, Link,” Ruto uttered in an whispered, sultry tone, “and I sincerely hope that you consider me yours.”

Had Ruto’s words been any more sappy, Link might’ve thought she was joking. Then again, after going through the heartbreak of losing Saria, he wondered if using nauseating sentiment was sometimes appropriate. Still, the princess’ plea for Link’s affection didn’t convince Link of going through with her idea to get hitched after unsealing the Water Temple. Far from it,  in fact…

“But is that enough reason for us to get married?” Link asked aloud without thinking.

Ruto, not swayed by Link’s reluctance, crawled along on her hands and feet with the same gracefulness of swimming in the river and slithered to Link’s right side. Before Link could react, the princess wrapped her damp hand around his arm and clung to the appendage tightly, nestling his sleeve between her bosom as her shimmering body leaned against the Hero of Time’s shoulder. This alone was enough to stun Link into partial embarrassment, but Ruto topped everything my sliding one of her moist hands into Link’s right, tickling his rigid fingers as they interlocked with hers.

“Is it enough reason?” the Zora repeated as her head rested against his neck. “For me, it is…and that’s all that matters.”

Like Hael it does, Link wanted to protest. Didn’t his feelings also have a say in the matter? Didn’t he also have a right to say whether or not something as ridiculously idealistic as “soul mates” was enough for him to marry her? Ruto may have changed since the brat he first met in Lord Jabu-Jabu’s insides, but her attachment to him was beginning to worry him. Like Malon before her, only more so. He should end this charade now before the princess’ behavior leads to something similar to what happened to Malon, even if it meant breaking Ruto’s heart.

And yet…he couldn’t bring himself to do it.

He didn’t know why, but Link couldn’t open his mouth to tell Ruto the truth – he couldn’t open his mouth, period. With her arm clasped against her chest, he could feel her delicate heartbeat vibrate against his skin, and her clammy hand entwined with his almost felt…relaxing. In fact, if his right hand hadn’t been damaged, he was almost sure he’d be clutching her hand as tightly as he could, if only to reassure her.

Feeling her eyelashes flutter against his neck as she closed her eyes, Link’s thoughts strayed from the reality that the longer he encouraged this, the more heartrending it would be when he told her the truth. Instead he thought of Ruto – just Ruto. Even though she was a Zora, she was still quite beautiful. Flashbacks of the days he spent with Malon and his childhood with Saria crossed his mind, and it wasn’t long before they merged into a scenario that not too long ago appeared ludicrous: growing attached to this Zora girl.

A corner of his lips curled upward as he inattentively mused…can a Hylian and a Zora really get intimate…?

“What in the name of the Three Goddesses am I thinking!?”

Link almost wished Navi would’ve slapped him over the head like she did when she caught him staring at Ruto, but to his disappointment the fairy was fast asleep under his hat. Still wincing at what he had just pondered, Link tried to distract himself by carefully reaching forward to lift the almost charred fish from their makeshift spit so he can finally get something of substance in his stomach.


He didn’t know when he fell asleep or whether Ruto was still hanging on his arm when he did so, but he recognized how tired he must’ve been by the immediacy of when he began dreaming. Amazingly, this state of dreaming felt more…tranquil than previous nights. Maybe Ruto’s presence had calmed him down more than he wanted to admit…


…He climbed the stairs with some reluctance, not quite sure what to expect once he reached the top. Each step he made echoed in his ears like a muffled bell, distracting his thoughts from forming a coherent idea. Walking ahead of him with a limping swagger, Ruto lead the Hero of Time in silence, her delicate feet glided over the stone steps with a gait reminiscent of Princess Zelda’s. Looking up past her head, Link could see the room that lay at the end of the tunnel; he knew what lay there seven years ago, but what lay there now?

After a seemingly agonizing stretch of time, the Zora and the Hylian finally emerged in the throne room of Zora’s Domain. Everything was still there: the pool in the lower level of the chamber, the stepped pedestal, the waterfall in front of the grated river that led to the enormous lake out back…everything. There were only two differences he could discern. First, obviously, every drop of water, from waterfall to pool, was frozen.

The second was more than likely why Ruto brought him here.

“…So this is what happened to your father.”

Link spoke in a hushed tone as he gazed at the frozen countenance of King Zora, the ruler of Zora’s Domain. Like his people, King Zora was encased in ice – unlike his people, he sat alone. The remarkably crystal clear frost that surrounded the king allow every detail of the poor creature’s body to be seen, including a look of fear and defiance that Link never expected to see on such a pudgy face.

He could only imagine why Ganondorf saw it fit to leave the Zora sovereign here, perched upon his now-frozen waterfall. Perhaps the King of Evil could not move the bloated monarch from his perch, deciding not to waste any time moving him to the main lake downstairs. Or maybe King Zora was left here as the ultimate symbol of Ganondorf’s twisted ambitions while bestowed the cruelty of being separated from his people.

Link sighed as he turned to Ruto, now standing by his side at the base of the pedestal, the pedestal where they would’ve stood to speak to King Zora formally were he unfrozen. The princess tried her best to appear calm and unwavering, but he could tell it was difficult for her just being here. One of her hands rested gently against his arm, and he could feel her body shake softly as she attempted not to cry. A faint whistling of wind distracted him momentarily as Navi fluttered her way to inspect King Zora more closely, her pink light illuminating the pride and despair of the patriarch in his final moments.

Shaking his head, Link placed a hand on Ruto’s shoulder. “I’m sorry…”

Ruto shook her head. “No…it’s all right,” she insists, blinking her eyes to hide the tears she was holding back. “It’s just…very hard to come up here and see this. I try not to come up here that often, but…but…” A single tear escaped from her right eye, and she quickly brushed it aside with her finger. She took a deep breath as she gazed into her father’s motionless gaze. “I…I miss him so much…”

Link pictured Ruto breaking down and crying her eyes out every time she entered this chamber, a once proud princess reduced to tears after being forced to see not just her people but her own father in such a state. It was amazing she was holding it together at the moment – if that was because he was with her, he was glad he could provide some comfort to the obviously lonely girl.

Another tear escaped her eyes, but this one froze on her skin before Ruto had the chance to remove it. She muttered an irritated gruff before plucking the tiny piece of ice from her cheek and tossing it aside. Looking at Link, she exhaled a couple times.

“I’ve shown you my dad…now I want to show you Lord Jabu-Jabu.”


…Link stepped outside into the canyon with apprehension. After witnessing what had happened to the Zoras and their king, he felt uneasy knowing he’ll now discover the befallen fate of the Zoras’ deity, Lord Jabu-Jabu. While walking up the tunnel that connected the throne room and the ravine, he had pondered the possibility of talking Ruto out of showing him, but Ruto was insistent. Still, he felt very hesitant as he left the tunnel and entered the vast mountain valley where Lord Jabu-Jabu’s sacred pool lay.

Like every other droplet of water in Zora’s Domain, Lord Jabu-Jabu’s pool boasted a frozen lake that rivaled the one inside the mountain’s main caverns. Link didn’t need any more confirmation to know that this was the same ice that caged the Zoras – the unnatural snow falling from unseen clouds was more than enough confirmation. However, unlike King Zora and his people, this ice was lacking one important detail.

The god of the Zoras was nowhere to be seen.

“Whe…where’s Lord Jabu-Jabu?” Link asked Ruto, recalling his adventures inside the divinity’s bowels to remember the sacred fish’s size. “What happened to him? Is he under the ice?”

Link immediately knew the answer to his latter question – the ice was again crystal clear aside from a murky top layer, and nowhere could he see even a vague silhouette of the enormous deity encased under the frozen lake. Ruto hesitated before she finally replied in a surprisingly calm tone.

“He…he’s dead.”

The Hero of Time felt his jaw drop. “Dead…? How? How do you know?”

“I…just do,” Ruto admitted sadly. “As a Zora, I’ve always felt a strong…connection with our Lord Jabu-Jabu, especially after entering his insides on so many occasions. But when I was freed by your friends, I no longer felt that connection…almost as if it had been severed. I suspected he was dead…and sure enough, when I first returned here I found him no longer in his sacred pool. I don’t know what happened to him…but I’m certain he is no longer alive.”

Link nodded and glanced once again at the now eerily empty lake, the sheer size of the frozen tundra enough to eclipse Lake Hylia. He could almost feel Ruto’s body shaking beside him from the chilling idea of her deity being slain. Certainly Ganondorf was responsible for Lord Jabu-Jabu’s death. Certainly that crazed Gerudo wouldn’t just simply encase the fish god in ice like he did the Zora race. Had Ganondorf killed Lord Jabu-Jabu like he did the Deku Tree, via a parasite…possibly another Barinade? Or perhaps feed the poor divinity’s massive carcass to his flocks of helmarocs or armies of Moblins?

As ruthless as Ganondorf was, Link could rule out no possibility…

He sighed once again before remembering how cold it was, and started to shiver slightly. Ruto looked over to him and noticed his shiver before doing her best to smile.

“I think that’s enough,” she admitted. “Come…let’s get a fire going so we can warm up and talk…”

They did get a fire going, and they did talk. Link also got to eat some of his rations before Ruto forced him to eat that disgusting, raw fish…


He opened his eyes at that moment, the memory of that dreadful taste seared into his mind. To his side, the fire was dying away as glowing embers, suggesting he had been sleeping for several hours. To his side, he heard the delicate breathing of Ruto, her grip on his arm thankfully loosened. Blinking himself completely awake, Link glanced up at the sky, watching the gloomy darkness of the heavens stare back down at him.

He then growled softly to himself, wishing he could forget that horrible stench on his tongue. He smacked his lips a couple times, licking the inside of his mouth as if trying to rid his taste buds of any remaining trace of that flavor…

Wait a minute…

He smacked his lips again, just to make sure. Yes, it was undeniable. He could taste it…he tasted…fish…on his lips. And not just any kind of fish…raw fish.

But how? The roasted fish he had eaten earlier tasted just fine, and certainly his memories of that awful tang couldn’t be enough to bring it back. He couldn’t think of any reason why the taste would return…unless…

Instinctively, he looked over to Ruto. On her face, nested just below her closed eyes and tiny nose, was a noticeable, satisfied smile…


“What’s going on out there? Anything new going on?”

Malatite asked Sheik that question for the thirteenth time that evening, this time as the Sheikah climbed down the ladder of an underground cellar hidden underneath his house. Closing the hatch behind him, allowing the single flame of a wicker candle to illuminate the small secretive chamber, Sheik hopped the rest of the way down to the ground, landing next to a scared and anxious Goron Link.

“We’re safe for now,” Sheik replied, looking around first at the two Gorons before making sure the Hylians in the room were also all right.

A fearful Talon and a jittery Ingo sat huddled together while kneeling beside a lone mattress, where a still unconscious Malon lay. The farm girl thankfully hadn’t been harmed in any way during her transportation from the bedroom down here, but hopefully they wouldn’t test their luck like that again.

“As far as I can tell,” Sheik continued, kneeling down to place a comforting hand on Goron Link’s head, “the Moblins aren’t here to destroy the village. For some reason, they’re occupying it. They’ve corralled the villagers into their homes and are keeping a close eye on them, but luckily they’re not paying attention to this house because it looked empty. I’ve heard of some injuries to villagers who tried to resist, but no one’s been killed, which is a miracle in itself.”

He looked up at the trapdoor. “The Three Goddesses’ luck is with us…for now, at least.”

“But why would the Moblins occupy this village?” Talon asked, one of his massive hands holding his daughter’s. “This town’s been under Ganondorf’s jurisdiction ever since the King of Hyrule was killed. Do you think they suspect a branch of the resistance is occupied here?”

“No, I don’t think so,” Sheik responded, shaking his cloaked face. “I’ve been very careful never to reveal this location in any of my reports to other branches of the resistance, and the messengers who delivered them have been trained to resist all methods of torture. No, if Ganondorf suspected the resistance were here, he’d wipe out the entire village…especially if he learned I or Princess Zelda were here. He must be here for something else…but what?”

Everyone else in the room gave the Sheikah equally blank stares – they had no better ideas than Sheik did at the moment. Growing a little frustrated, Sheik kneeled beside the young Goron by his feet and rested his chin on his fist, shaking his head a little. He hated being kept in the dark like this – Link’s earlier desertion as the Hero of Time was more than enough for him. Goron Link tried to return Sheik’s comforting hand by hugging one of his crouched legs – Sheik appreciated the gesture, but it didn’t do anything for his concentration.

“Why would Ganondorf occupy the town like this?” he muttered to himself, staring at the ground in the little available light. “There must be a reason…what does Kakariko Village have that he wants? What does it have…? Something that other places don’t have? Something…something…?”

Suddenly, it came to him. Sheik rocketed to his feet, startling the little Goron at his feet and surprising everyone else.

“That’s it!”

“What? What’s it?” asked Malatite as he fiddled around with his medical supplies.

“The temple!” Sheik exclaimed to the small crowd in the underground chamber. “One of the temples the Hero of Time is meant to unseal is located not very far from here. Two temples have already been unsealed, so I’m willing to bet Ganondorf is stepping up the level of protection for the remaining temples…to defend his remaining assets, that sort of thing.”

The explanation seemed satisfactory to everyone in the room…well, everyone except the Goron doctor.

“Hmm…I suppose so. Still…”

Sheik noticed Malatite’s skepticism. “What’s wrong? Something not right with that idea?”

“I don’t know,” Malatite admitted as he poured a cup of medicine and gave it to Ingo to give to Malon. “Your reasoning sounds good enough, but something’s nagging at me. I mean…you said that Ganondorf is stepping up the forces to guard the remaining temples, right? Well, that assumes he had forces guarding the temples to begin with. Unless I’m missing something…no one’s been guarding the temple near this village.”

Sheik had to carefully consider Malatite’s thoughts on the matter, and he had to admit the Goron had a point. The Forest Temple was guarded by patrolling Moblins, a couple Wolfos, and four devilish Poes. The Fire Temple had flocks of Keese, dozens of Flare Dancers, and countless Fire Bubbles. Even the Water Temple had some measure of security with that “Morpha” thing that Link had mentioned to him before leaving for Zora’s Domain.

But the temple outside Kakariko Village had no protection at all. Not even a couple Moblins patrolling outside the door. However, Sheik knew as well as anyone – including Ganondorf, more than likely – why stationing a guard at that temple wasn’t necessary…

…but then would Ganondorf really need extra security for this temple? The more Sheik pondered over this, the more suspicious he was growing. If Ganondorf wasn’t protecting the temple, then they had to be here for another purpose. But what? What could they possibly be here for…?

Just then, a low rumbling from above ground interrupted his thoughts. Everyone stopped what they were doing and stared up at the ceiling. Slowly but surely, they saw and heard it: a distant, rhythmic thud steadily growing closer, loosening grains of dust from the dirt roof over their heads. It didn’t take a sage to realize those were the footsteps of something…no, somethings huge.

“What’s going on now?” Talon cried, squeezing his pale daughter’s hand. “Are those Moblins?”

“Sounds too disorganized to be Moblins,” Sheik commented, looking about the ceiling as if the dry mud might reveal the answer to him. “Sounds like two…maybe three large creatures heading this way. But unless I actually step outside and get a better look, I…”

Without warning, another sound cut off Sheik. This sound was far more distant that the approaching footsteps, but they had an immediate effect on everyone within the underground bunker. The moment it reached their ears, a sharp, cold shiver ran down their necks, cutting through every accessible nerve in their body. The two Gorons and the two conscious Hylians turned as pale as the slumbering Malon, but only the Sheikah grew even more stark white than the farm girl.

Because he recognized that sound.

Ingo quickly offered a guess of the chilling sound’s source. “Re…ReDead?”

Sheik took his time before shaking his head. “No…it’s far worse…”

Regaining some of his composure, Sheik faced Talon and Malatite. “Quick! Get ready to move Malon! I’ll head upstairs and ready the secret passage to the mountain. It’s risky, but we have to take it.”

Sheik then started climbing the stairs, but Talon stopped him with a desperate cry. “Wait! What’s going on? Why are we moving Malon again? What’s wrong?”

“We don’t have time!” Sheik insisted, still climbing the stairs until he reached the trapdoor. “They’ll be here any minute! We must get her out of here before…!”

“But why?” Malatite almost sternly demanded, freezing the Sheikah where he hang. “This girl is in a very delicate state! Moving her further could kill her if we’re not careful! Tell us why!”

Sheik hesitated momentarily before turning to face the doctor and the ranch owner – his eyes were filled with desperation rarely seen in a race as resolved as the Sheikah. “Because if she stays here…she will not survive the night…”


They entered Kakariko Village with a presence reserved for either the most dangerous or most vicious of soldiers, and to the villagers who were there to witness their arrival they couldn’t tell if it they were both. Their footsteps shook the very ground beneath them with a deafening bang, their feet sinking into the ground underneath their enormous weight. There were only three of them, but even the Moblins occupying the village knew that they were the ones to be feared.

Dressed from head to two in a thickly coated armor that shined even in the moonlight, these beings moved sluggishly but obviously cared little for their lack of speed. While standing as tall as a regular Hylian, their enormous bulk left an impression of a towering figure swelling with intimidation. Strength rippled through each steel piece they possessed, strength that could tear a thousand men apart with just their bare hands. To amplify this threat even more, those very hands each held a menacing two-headed axe that would take at least twenty Hylian soldiers to lift. The hollow gaze in each of these creatures’ reinforced helmets made it clear that these axes weren’t just for intimidation; if need be, they could destroy an army single handedly with but one clean swipe.

Most of the few townspeople present at their arrival knew little about these monsters, but one solider who had survived the original wars between Hyrule and Ganondorf knew the name these beings possessed:

“Iron…Knuckles…” he muttered in hushed whisper behind the back of a Moblin guard, who promptly told him to shut up.

The clear leader of the three Iron Knuckles, the one at the forefront of the group, raised one of its armored hands, singling for the other two to stop. The other two did so immediately while the leader took a couple steps forward before coming to a halt itself. It looked around the village in apparent disgust before focusing on the army of Moblins scattered around the town, as well as the few Hylians brave or stupid enough to remain outside.

After an agonizingly long silence, the Iron Knuckle pointed a thick finger at a Moblin standing next to an elderly man. “You!” it bellowed in a tinny but commanding voice. “Bring me that peon!”

The Moblin dared not argue. Using the blunt edge of its spear, it pushed the poor old man forward; the man, unable to refuse or run away, was forced to step forward towards the Iron Knuckle, which wielded its sinister axe in one hand with a threatening glare. The man tried to keep as much distance as he could between him and the armored creature, but the Moblin made sure the distance was quite short, indeed.

The Iron Knuckle glowered down at the noticeably nervous Hylian silently for a minute before speaking. “Where is your village leader?” the beast demanded. “I want you to bring him to me.”

The man’s shaking increased substantially as he answered the Iron Knuckle’s demand. “W-we…d-d-don’t…ha…have a l-l-leader…” he stuttered, trying to maintain eye contact with the menace towering over him.

The Iron Knuckle tilted its head to the side. “Is that so?”

The man nodded, his bald head sweating profusely. “Y-yes…I’m afraid…we d-d-don’t…” A smile cracked on his lips – things seemed to be going more smoothly than he would’ve imagined…

…but he was wrong.

Without warning, the Iron Knuckle turned to the side and faced a nearby house. The single step it made to turn was enough to shake the ground, but that was not the most the end of things – with a swiftness not seen in its earlier lethargic movements, the Iron Knuckle raised its powerful weapon and brought down one of its mighty heads upon the house. The axe cleaved through the brick and mortar without any difficulty, shattering all within its path until it collided with the ground and partially buried itself in the soil with a deafening squelch. The blow send shockwaves across the ground in all directions, causing Hylian and Moblin alike to lose their balance momentarily – only the three Iron Knuckles were unaffected.

By the time the Iron Knuckle removed its weapon from the ground, all that remained of the house was a rubble pile of wood, clay, and glass. No one knew if anyone had been in there when it had been sliced apart, but anyone unfortunate enough to be there would certainly not have survived…

The old man who only moments ago thought things were going well was now on the ground, shaking so violently that he would’ve fallen apart had the Iron Knuckle not reached down with its free hand and grabbed his face. Unable to resist or protest, the man was lifted into the air so his face gazed deeply into the empty eyes of the Iron Knuckle’s face.

“Since you don’t have a leader,” the Iron Knuckle uttered, “you’ll have to do. You’re going to lead my friends somewhere for me. Fail, and I’ll do to you what I just did to that house.”

“Y-y-your friends…?” the man stuttered, glancing at the two other Iron Knuckles, trying to imagine where he could possibly lead them.

But the leader noticed the Hylian glancing at the other Iron Knuckles and chuckled. “Oh, no, not them. I mean my other friends.”

Before the old man could ask who the Knuckle’s “other friends” were, a loud, disturbing shriek pierced the night sky, one that seemed to terrify even the Moblins. Everyone looked in the direction of where the Iron Knuckles had originally entered the village, and what they saw sent chills down everyone’s spines.

Coming from behind the horizon, their shapes outlined clearly even in the darkness, were five or six slender figures that approached Kakariko Village with a strange, swaying gait. As they got closer, their features become more defined and noticeable…and terrifying. Dressed in clothes that resembled tribal Gerudo garb, the beings’ skin was coated in a bright, unnatural purple hue. With their arms outstretched, they held in both hands a peculiar ball of crystal that shimmered with unholy light. But their most truly conspicuous feature were their faces and how hideous they appeared: mouths wide open with lips cracked beyond repair and tongues lapping dryly in their throats; cheeks hollowed out and drained of any muscle; eye sockets sewn shut with eyeballs bulging behind the lids in a vain attempt to see once again.

And screams originating from their throats with a terrible, soul-wrenching tone that not even the dead could avoid.

The hand being held in the inescapable clutches of the Iron Knuckle felt his face fall apart in horror as these…things approached the village, led by nothing more than a blindness guided by unknown, sinister instinct. The Iron Knuckle, unaffected by the monsters’ sickening screeches, forced the old man to look into its hollow eyes once again.

“Now…” the Iron Knuckle smirked, “take us to your graveyard.”


Finally. Lake Hylia.

Link breathed a sigh of relief as the morning sun blinked over the horizon, illuminating the vacant bowl in the earth known as Lake Hylia. It was the morning of the fourth day since he had left Zora’s Domain, and he was glad to see his efforts to get here as soon as possible had paid off, especially considering the detour he had to take in order to compensate for Ruto.

Speaking of which….

The Hero of Time glanced behind him as he rode alongside the dry lakebed on Epona, who continued a steady pace despite being pushed to her strength limit by her master. Not surprisingly, Link saw Ruto fast asleep, her arms wrapped around his waist tightly while her massive head rested comfortably against his back. He suspected she slept to save energy, since the river she used to travel most of the way here had dried up several miles ago. At least asleep Ruto didn’t distract him with her annoying blarney. However, he was going to shatter that peace in a minute, as he could already see the rickety bridge that spanned half the lake to the Water Temple entrance in the center.

And not a Moblin in sight.

“So far, so good,” Link smiled.

Within an uneventful five minutes, Epona drew alongside the bridge. Link quickly pulled the reins to bring the mare to a steady stop, and the horse responded quickly without fuss. Link patted the mare along her neck, giving his thanks for all of her effort; Epona responded with an appreciative snort and a shake of her mane. Smiling, Link once again turned behind him to look at the sleeping princess.

“Ruto, wake up. We’re here.”

The Zora groggily awoke, using one of her hands to pick some sleep from her eyes. “Al…already?” she mumbled, trying to adjust her sight in the dawn light.

“That’s right,” Link replied as he carefully unhooked Ruto’s arm from his waist and hopped down from Epona’s back. “We’re just a short bridge crossing away from the Water Temple.”

Apparently keyed up upon hearing that, Ruto smiled. “Really?” she gleefully asked as she looked around for the aforementioned bridge, finding it quickly. She clapped her hands a couple times and hissed several exclamations of enthusiasm. “I almost can’t believe it…we’re so close to freeing my people!”

“Well…let’s first enter the temple and see what we find,” Link suggested as he offered a hand to help Ruto off Epona’s back. He didn’t know what lay waiting for them inside that Water Temple other than that thing Ganondorf called Morpha, but he suspected the place was crawling with danger. Link just hoped he could keep Ruto safe from whatever was in there.

Flattered by Link’s gentlemanly offer, she took his hand and slid off Epona’s saddle, landing delicately on the ground with nary a sound. She looked into her betrothed’s eyes with evident glee and flashed another grin at him. Link merely grinned in return while trying to maintain as little eye contact as possible.

“So, shall we enter the Water Temple, darling?”

“Sure…” Link reluctantly agreed. “Just one moment, first…”

Letting go of Ruto’s hand, Link walked up to Epona and patted the mare on her snout. “Things could get dangerous around here, Epona. I want you to head to Dr. Garigan’s house and wait there for us – he should take care of you until we return. Do you understand?”

Epona twisted her head around in several directions and brayed loudly, as if insulted by the mere suggestion that she didn’t understand. Smiling, Link nodded.

“See you soon, girl.”

At least he hoped so…

With a kick into the wind, Epona neighed a final time before launching herself forward, galloping as fast as she desired in the approximate direction of Dr. Garigan’s cottage. By the end of the minute, she had disappeared on the dry shoreline amidst the thousands of dying trees running through the landscape. Satisfied that his loyal steed was safe from harm, Link returned his attention to Ruto, who was unwearyingly waiting for her fiancé.

“Okay, now I’m ready,” Link announced with the most sincere smile he could manage for the Zora princess.

Still grinning, Ruto rushed up to the Hylian and linked arms with him; Link suspected she was only half a heartbeat away from squealing in elation. “Then what are we waiting for? Let’s go!”

He tried at least somewhat to calm her down, but Ruto’s energy was limitless. As the two approached the bridge that led to the Water Temple’s entrance, the Zora led the Hero of Time by almost dragging him along with her. Link counted him rolling his eyes about three times before they even stepped on the first plank of wood on the bridge. He tried to ignore Ruto’s girlish behavior and focus on the upcoming testing of the blue breathing suit he wore. Boy, he wished he had tested this earlier – hopefully things will work out, or else…

It was then that Link noticed a large, abnormally shaped shadow rapidly approach them from above…

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