Monday, August 30, 2010

Chapter 60: Blood Waves

“Of all the things to do…why come back here? What is she up to?”

Those thoughts and more filled Sheik’s mind as he tethered his horse to the low branch of a dead oak, providing company to another horse already secured to the tree, a horse that belonged to Princess Zelda. After making sure his steed couldn’t escape, he then focused his attention on where the princess had most likely gone.

Hyrule Castle New City.

As he crossed the rotting drawbridge over the moat to pass through the arched entrance to the city, Sheik couldn’t help but feel uneasy – New City always made him feel this way. After all, not only was the city crawling with ReDead, but the metropolis housed Ganondorf’s Tower, where the King of Evil himself dwelled with his vicious armies. In other words, he was walking right into the heart of enemy territory.

Which further pounded the question in Sheik’s mind: what is Zelda up to?

As he walked the streets of the city, Sheik blocked out the heartrending scenery that surrounded him, focusing instead of watching out for any ReDead that might appear. He had been here many times before and every time seeing the crumbling remnants of once-busy taverns or homes that used to house contented families brought back countless memories of the past three years of war that have been waged against Ganondorf. And memories of the war always reminded him of his people’s failure to protect the King of Hyrule from being killed.

Now only Princess Zelda remained, and it was his responsibility to protect her – all the more reason for worrying about the princess being here. Sure, he had taught her well in wielding many weapons – her skill with blades particularly impressed him – but could she really defend herself in a place like this all alone?

Luckily, Sheik knew that there was only one place Zelda would want to go in this gods-forsaken city. He still had no idea why she wanted to go there, but she would certainly head there, nevertheless. All he needed to do was head to Market Square, then head down the right road and arrive there within a few minutes. All he had to do was hope the ReDead weren’t anywhere nearby, lest they force him to take a detour.

Surprisingly, his entire journey through the disintegrating city consisted of very few meetings with the ReDead, and the ones he did see were too far away to either notice him or attack him with their wretched soul-freezing screams. In fact, he arrived at his destination faster than he anticipated, and there were no enemies in sight. Either Ganondorf was growing lax with his security, or he just got lucky…just like Zelda had, hopefully.

Taking a deep breath, Sheik entered through the doors of where he prayed Zelda was: the Temple of Time.

The temple, just like the city, was in ruins. Pews that used to accommodate thousands of those faithful to the Three Goddesses were destroyed and strewn all over the floor, and once sacred relics and icons were now destroyed thanks to rampant looting during the wars. The smell of blood still lingered throughout the chamber, and Sheik almost tripped over the skeleton of the body of a poor soul now stripped to the bone by either rats or Moblins.

Trying to ignore the scene of desolate carnage around him, Sheik made his way to the front of the temple, where the Door Time was lodged. He had to walk around the one thing that hadn’t been destroyed in the looting: the podium that housed the three Spiritual Stones, which amazingly were still there, shimmering brightly in what little light was available. Sheik knew for a fact those stones couldn’t be removed – he had tried once himself – which more than likely explained why thieves couldn’t make off with undoubtedly valuable trinkets. Whatever magic held them there must really want to keep the Door of Time open.

And Sheik knew why, for beyond that door lay perhaps the only chance Hyrule had against the King of Evil…

As he stepped into the chamber beyond the main sanctuary through the Door of Time, Sheik half-expected to see Zelda right there, sitting on the stone steps that led to the pedestal that once contained the Master Sword. But no, she was nowhere in sight. That could only mean she had to be where he was right now…

Shaking his head a little, Sheik leisurely walked up to the pedestal as he pulled out something he suspected he would need: his harp. Upon reaching the pedestal, he stopped and looked around the barren room a couple times before he took several deep breaths. Then, closing his eyes, he started playing the Song of Time.

Rather, he played the Song of Time in a different key. The original melody acted as a key to the Door of Time, but in this scale it acted as a different kind of key. With the Master Sword removed, all that was needed to reach his destination was to play this simple tune. Thankfully Ganondorf knew nothing about this entrance; had he known, he would’ve most certainly used it to conquer the one place in the Sacred Realm he had no control over.

As he plucked the first few notes on his harp, he could already feel the effects around him. He didn’t need his eyes open to see the chamber enveloped by a blinding white light, light that would eventually subside to reveal his destination: the Chamber of Sages in the heart of the Sacred Realm. He continued playing the Song of Time until he was sure the magical transportation no longer needed the melody, then he returned his harp to its pouch behind his back. He then opened his eyes just in time to watch the brightness collapse and reveal sights long ago etched firmly in his memory: waterfalls of colored light, a floating pond of blue light, and tinted islands in that pond with markings identifying Sages that had yet to be awakened.

Sheik emerged in the Chamber of Sages on the island that represented the Sage of Light, Rauru. The wise old sage would usually greet him and Zelda whenever they came to visit this place, but as he looked around he realized Rauru was absent this time around. Sheik could only speculate what the sage did in his spare time, since he could never leave the chamber. Then again, Sheik had no idea what sages were capable of doing…

The Sheikah quickly remembered his reason for coming here and looked for the Hylian princess who was hopefully here. To his relief, he spotted her instantly, standing on the central island in the blue light pool. Her back was turned to him, so she hadn’t seen him yet. Her attention was instead focused on something else on the central island: a pillar of radiance that seemed to disappear into the black, limitless ceiling of the chamber while firmly planted in the heart of the island.

Of course, what was inside that pillar of light was what Zelda most likely was staring at.

He remained suspended in the light column a short distance above the ground, as if surrounded by an invisible, gelatinous liquid. He made no movements other than the inhalations of his chest as he breathed. He made no sound but a faint heartbeat that could be heard only in deathly silence. The boy wasn’t even awake; his eyes closed incredibly delicately, he slept with a peacefulness that few would know in the current state of Hyrule.

His muscular body wore not a single stitch of clothing – a result of magic intended to present him in the purest form possible – but the naked boy did possess one item inside that glowing prison, a long, powerful-looking broadsword gripped tightly in his right hand. The boy was also not alone inside that prison – suspended above his right shoulder, just as serene as her master, was a pink fairy whose faint glow couldn’t match the pillar’s brilliance.

The boy called Link and his fairy Navi. Allegedly Link was a Kokiri, a child of the forest that never aged, but looking at him now would refute that argument – like an ordinary Hylian, Link was growing into a handsome young man. Of course, Link himself would never know this until he awoke – the column of light that imprisoned him kept him in a constant dreaming state that would only end when the Master Sword deemed him old enough to wield it, and even the Sheikah people could only speculate how long that would be.

Sheik eyed the future savior of Hyrule for a moment before he raised a hand in Zelda’s direction, intending to get her attention. But before he opened his mouth, he noticed something strange about Zelda herself, and a gut feeling in the back of Sheik’s mind told him to keep quiet for a little bit.

Like Sheik, the princess wore the Sheikah combat uniform that possessed the famous Eye of Din on its chest area. However, Zelda wore it in a very loose manner: her hat and shoes were on the floor, her face-hiding scarf pulled down, and she had loosened her shirt’s buttons partially. Zelda was obviously in a very complacent state at the moment, but why Sheik could not tell.

As the Sheikah watched, Zelda remained very still in the spot she stood, her eyes fixed solely on the imprisoned boy. Sheik couldn’t see her face, but he was willing to bet she was blushing fiercely – no matter how many times she had come here over the past few years, seeing Link’s naked body always embarrassed her. Not that such a thing prevented from looking at it, as evidenced by her keen attention on the future Hero of Time…

Zelda continued to watch the nude young boy in the gleaming pillar, studying every aspect of his body while devoting much of her careful gaze to his face. After a few minutes, the Hylian princess then took a few steps towards the column. Sheik wanted to call out to her to stop, because touching the prison of light could entrap her along with the Hero of Time, but that gut feeling forced him to do nothing.

Zelda stopped just shy of the pillar’s brilliant edge, her eyes still concentrating on Link’s dormant face. Then, slowly and carefully, the princess raised a hand to the pillar, placing her palm just shy of the column’s entrapping glow. Her hand then “caressed” the rim of the prison, gliding along the surface until it ended as close as it could to Link’s hand that didn’t hold the Master Sword. Zelda’s fingers seemed to flex slightly, as if wanting to take that untouchable hand in her own, and Sheik could tell there was a bit of sadness in her movements.

Realizing that made him feel very uncomfortable…

Just then, Zelda lowered her gaze and sighed. When that sigh reached Sheik’s ears, he felt a chill run down his spine. It wasn’t fear, it wasn’t worry…no, that sigh embodied far more powerful emotions. Emotions that Sheik also felt for a certain someone…

Before he could react further, Zelda spoke for the first time since Sheik entered the Chamber of Sages. She said just a single word, but that word cut through Sheik’s heart more than any blade ever could:

“Link…”

Link. All she said was the name of the Hero of Time, but it was the way she said it that devastated Sheik. That one mention of that name contained sentiments that said more than he imagined, but he knew what she meant. He could already finish the countless unfinished sentences Zelda must have bottled inside her mind:

Link…forgive me…

Link…I’m sorry I left you, but never again…

Link…I want you by my side…

Link…I want to touch you again…

Link…I want to hold you so badly…

Link…you mean so much to me…

Link…I care for you…

Link…I…I…

“She just has to blow him a gods-damned kiss…” Sheik thought angrily as a single tear rolled down his cheek and dripped onto the back of his hand, which was clenched into a steadily tightening fist.

The princess then looked up again, once more studying the face of the boy who apparently had Zelda’s heart…something Sheik wanted more than anything in the world. Disgust started replacing the anger and jealousy in his own heart, and he wanted to get this agonizing scene from his sight before he had to endure more heartbreak. Without thinking he reached for the bag that contained his harp, carelessly yanked the instrument out…

…and dropped it.

CLAAAAANNNNNG…

The sound of the harp striking the ground send Sheik scrambling the ground to pick it up, but it was already too late. Zelda heard the bang and immediately turned around, the startled look in her face accompanied by an undeniable fluster. It didn’t take long for the Sheikah to realize Zelda had noticed his presence, and he also knew that now he simply couldn’t leave without confronting her.

“Sheik…what are you doing here?” Zelda uttered, apparently wondering just how long Sheik had been standing there.

The Sheikah considered saying something evasive, but there was no turning back now. “I could ask the same of you, princess,” he replied with a noticeable hurt in his voice. “You know it’s dangerous to come here alone. Why did you leave Kakariko Village without telling me?”

Zelda quickly grew defensive. “Well, I…just…I wanted to…um, that is to say…”

Before she could think up a half-hearted excuse, Sheik bit his teeth together and interjected, “You came here to see Link…just to see Link. Am I right?”

The princess started fidgeting nervously at that accusation, which was more than enough confirmation for the increasingly dejected Sheikah. Tightening his clenched first a little more, Sheik took a few steps forward and leapt across the pool of blue light to the central island, where Zelda still was unable to find a response to Sheik’s claim. As the boy watched the anxious Hylian girl with sad eyes, Zelda’s desperation became more and more evident.

“Sheik, I…it’s not what you think…I just…I wasn’t, I…”

“Stop it, Zelda…stop lying to me, please.”

Hearing those words immediately quieted the princess, who could only look at her Sheikah protector with a heavy sense of guilt.

“You can’t hide it from me, I can see it in your eyes,” Sheik muttered. “I heard it in your voice. This boy…the Hero of Time…he has your heart. You are in love with him.”

Zelda didn’t attempt to deny Sheik’s obvious assertion. Rather she looked at the floor in humiliating remorse, as if Sheik had seen something he never should have laid eyes on. And Sheik could see why. For months he and Zelda had shared feelings with each other through flirtations and such, using subtlety to let the other know how he or she felt. Sheik’s feelings for Zelda were unwavering from the very beginning, but with Zelda he always seemed to sense a hesitancy in her actions, an uncertainty of returning his affections. He had suspected she didn’t know whether to love a man born outside of royalty, a reluctance he had hoped would fade over time.

But now he saw reality: she loved an ordinary man, but one with a gift he could never hope to achieve…

“Sheik…I’m sorry…” Zelda started.

“You should be!” Sheik bellowed in an uncharacteristically harsh voice. “Do you have any idea how I feel right now? Any idea at all?”

Caught off guard by Sheik’s tone, Zelda could only shake her head in abject silence.

“You’re damn right you don’t! When we first met, I took you in as someone I swore to protect with my life, but during the time I spent living and training with you, I came to see you as something more important than that. My aunt warned me not to get my feelings involved with you…but I couldn’t help it. I cared for you more than I had ever cared for anyone in my life, and I was sure you returned those feelings. These past few years, I believed you and I had something special, something only we shared. I thought, once the war was over, we could build a life together. In everything I did for you, I poured my heart out for you…”

The Sheikah then looked up at the dormant Hero of Time. “…but now I’ve discovered the truth. You never returned any of my affections…but have kept them for someone else. Him…of all people, him!”

“Sheik…please…” Zelda tried pleading, but Sheik tersely cut in.

“How can you even love this boy?” he demanded. “You barely even know him! I’ve known you for three years and I know you were well aware of how much I cared about you…but you chose to give your heart to this…this…stranger! What has he done that I haven’t? What has he done that has won you away from me? Surely you are not so shallow as to fall for him just because you come here to gawk at his naked flesh! Or am I wrong? What is the reason? What?”

Zelda struggled to find the right words to say, so Sheik continued to demand a response.

“My patience is running thin, princess,” the Sheikah stammered, trying to suppress his anger as best he can through the anguish. “Just give me a simple answer: why do you love him?”

The princess still took a few moments to compose her thoughts, and when she finally had an answer she deemed acceptable she had to breathe in deeply a few times to steady herself. Looking at her Sheikah protector straight in the eye, Zelda gave her reply.

“Because…Link and I…are coupled…by destiny.”

Silence.

At first Sheik mentally scratched his head, wondering if Zelda was actually serious with that almost childish reply. When he realized she was, all the control he had somehow maintained up until this point vanished in an explosive fit of resentment.

“Destiny…destiny?! What kind of bloody answer is that? Are you trying to insult me…?”

“No, no, honestly,” Zelda insisted, trying to calm the furious Sheikah with a look of worry in her eyes. “It’s true…I swear…Link and I are…”

“Shut up!” Sheik roared, silencing the princess immediately. “Just shut up! I’ll have none of this! All I asked for was a straightforward answer, and you give me this…this…utter carpshit! If this is how you’re going to treat me, then you can just go to Hael for all I care! And if that really is your true answer…then your gods-damned destiny can go to Hael with you!”

Without giving Zelda a chance to reply, Sheik raised his harp and started plucking the strings to play the necessary tune to return him to the Temple of Time. His shaking fingers made the melody sound rather shaky, but the tune he created was enough for him to start disappearing before Zelda’s eyes. The princess tried reasoning with the Sheikah as he disappeared, but the heated glare Sheik left the princess with was the only response he gave her.

Within the span on a second, Sheik had disappeared from the Chamber of Sages, leaving a torn Zelda alone with a soon-to-be Hero of Time that would never know of the anguish that had taken place in his very presence.

Fueled by an intense anger mixed with seething jealousy, Sheik arrived in the Temple of Time and immediately stormed his way outside Hyrule Castle New City. Despite using a known ReDead-free detour, by the time he crossed that rotting drawbridge he still felt the same intensity of stinging betrayal of Zelda’s unrequited love and a growing envy towards the man who had taken her from him.

Had he not arrived outside the city to find his horse stolen, he would’ve most certainly gone straight back to Kakariko Village to reflect on how he truly felt for the Princess Zelda…

********************

Without giving Ruto any warning, Link dove forward on the rickety bridge, dragging the Zora princess down with him in his arms to the ground. A soft grunt of surprise escaped Ruto’s lips as they collapsed upon each other on the wooden planks, covering themselves with bruises all over and stunning their muscles momentarily.

But Link knew the bumps resulting from the fall were more than worth it, especially as he felt razor-sharp claws barely miss his head as they scraped past.

Not wasting any time, the Hero of Time quickly scrambled to get up as he drew his sword and started scanning the sky. Ruto was slower to react, and she remained sprawled on the boards as she turned her head to look up at her fiancé.

“Darling…what’s wrong…?” she stammered, still flabbergasted by the abrupt shove.

“We’ve got company!” Link barked, keeping his gaze fixed on the sky and encouraging Ruto to look up as well. She did, and following the Hylian’s gaze she instantly saw what Link saw.

Beating its enormous wings in a stiff breeze high in the air, the princess witnessed a horribly deformed vulture encircle them from an unreachable distance above. A pair of deadly claws flexed underneath its grotesque body, as if irritated that they didn’t latch onto its intended prey. The beast’s eyes weren’t visible from this distance, but by the way the creature’s misshapen head moved it most certainly was looking directly at the Hylian and Zora staring back at it from the bridge.

Beatings its powerful wings to gain altitude, the bird readied its claws for another strike.

“What…what is that thing…?” Ruto muttered, finding the urgency to get up and shuffle to Link’s side.

“A helmaroc,” Link snarled, his trained eyes remaining fixed on the monster in the sky. “Ruto, get on the ground and cover your head. This could get ugly…”

Before Link had the opportunity to finish, the helmaroc raised its misshapen head and released piercing series of screeches into the air. Hearing those cries made Link uncomfortable for some reason, but before he could contemplate why, the helmaroc stretched its wings and started diving, its deadly talons readying for a swooping kill.

“Ruto, get down!” Link ordered, taking a step back as he readied the Master Sword. The Zora princess complied by crouching on the bridge and wrapping her hands around her neck, all while closing her eyes. With Ruto relatively safe, Link focused all his attention on the attacking helmaroc, his eyes watching the bird’s every movement.

The helmaroc, not intimidated by Link’s defiance, released another squealing cry from its beak as it aimed its claws for Link’s face. Link remained deadly still, refusing to allow the bird’s threatening repulsiveness to daunt him. He remained just as bold just as the helmaroc reached Link’s head and thrust its claws forward to pluck the Hero of Time’s eyes from his sockets.

Then an instant before the bird’s talons could rip through Link, the Hylian abruptly leaned backwards, using his agile frame to contort his way out of the beast’s path. The helmaroc was forced to witness its prey avoid its grasp once more as Link’s face passed underneath its massive body unharmed. Had the beast returned to the safety of the skies, it would’ve screeched out its frustrations before attempting another attack.

But the helmaroc didn’t return to the safety of the skies. As Link’s body twisted its way out of the bird’s path, Link swung the Master Sword into an upward arc that landed above his head…right where the helmaroc was located at that moment. The legendary blade cleaved through the bird’s flesh, severing the nerves that operated its wings, and shattered its spine all along its back. The resulting wounds released only a few droplets of blood, though a couple droplets of the vile juices landed on Link’s face.

Crippled within seconds, the helmaroc couldn’t even cry out in pain as its hideous body sputtered in the sky for a few precious seconds before plummeting to the dry lake bed underneath the bridge.

Link didn’t emerge from the assault completely unscathed, however. A slight miscalculation of his balance left the wind momentarily knocked from his lungs as he fell to the ground. The fall was enough for Ruto to open her eyes in worry, and upon noticing her beloved sprawled at her feet she dove forward, hovering worryingly over the Hero of Time.

“Darling…are you all right…? You’re bleeding…by the Three Goddesses, you’re bleeding…!”

“I’m alright, I’m alright!” Link insisted rapidly. “It’s not my blood, see?” He raised his right hand and wiped the blood drops from his face to show the lack of a wound.

Ruto’s face quickly sighed with relief as she grinned. “Thank Lord Jabu-Jabu…please don’t scare me like that again.”

Link sighed himself, though he didn’t smile. “Fine, fine…I won’t. But come, we need to get going in case another helmaroc comes by…”

Suddenly, Link’s ears picked up an echo of a sound emerging from the edge of the lake. He didn’t need to turn his head to see what made that echo – he knew exactly what it was…

“Out of the way!”

Ruto had no time to respond when Link sat up and pushed the princess with all his might, reversing their positions as she landed on her back with him hugging her tightly while resting on top of her slippery body. Link ignored Ruto’s muffled grunt as he looked behind him just in time to hear a loud crack in one of the wooden bridge planks behind them.

He didn’t have to see the arrow in that very plank to know they had come dangerously closed to being skewered.

“Damn it!” Link cursed as he turned his attention to the edge of the lake, near the tree line of decaying vegetation. To his non-surprise, his eyes spied a troop of Moblins – fifteen, maybe twenty soldiers – shifting their way amidst the trees and through the brittle bushes. Most of them carried familiar spears and pikes, but at least three of them were wielding powerful-looking bows. These Moblin archers clearly possessed quivers filled with arrows, and judging by the missile lodged in the wooden board near Link and Ruto’s feet, those serrated arrowheads could tear the two of them to shreds.

As he hurried to his feet, Link all of a sudden realized why the helmaroc’s call had nagged him earlier. The call had been distinct, like a pattern of some kind. It had been a warning signal, one to alert to the Moblins now heading in the direction of the bridge. And while the foot soldiers looked ready to unleash their blades upon the intruders’ flesh, the archers were already positioning themselves to release a flurry of arrows.

“What’s going…?” Ruto tried to ask as she half-heartedly attempted to sit up.

“Just shut up and run!” Link bellowed with more urgency than discourtesy as he grabbed Ruto’s arm and forced her to her feet with a terse jerk. He gave her no time to recover as he started running as fast as his legs could carry him, dragging the poor princess along with him. Already he could hear the heavy footsteps of Moblins charging onto the bridge and more echoes of bowstrings snapping loose as they fired more deadly projectiles at the pair.

Eventually, even Ruto started to realize the desperateness of the situation and tried pushing her legs to their limit as she and Link attempted to distance themselves from the shore. But it didn’t take long for the whistling sounds of hollow, jagged-tipped darts to begin falling all around them, threatening to dissect or even kill the Hero of Time and his fiancée with one, well-aimed shot…

Link’s mind raced as he considered using Farore’s Wind, but he didn’t want to risk making a wrong step on the rickety bridge and meeting the same fate as that helmaroc – besides, he doubted Ruto could keep up with him. That left him only one option…

“Ruto, get in front of me!” he ordered.

Not waiting for a confused reply, Link spun around and decreased his speed just enough so he was now running behind an obviously terrified Zora. Still encouraging the princess to run, Link briefly at the sky in the direction of the shoreline – the number of arrows that dotted the atmosphere indicated the Moblin archers were very skilled in their craft, and it was only a matter of time before one of their aims hit the mark.

Not if the Hero of Time had anything to say about it!

Ignoring the sight of the charging Moblin hoard on the bridge, Link sheathed the Master Sword and raised his left hand in the direction of the arrow volley. As he did, several arrows appeared from behind the glint of Din’s Eye and descended upon the scampering pair with screaming fury. But before they could sink into either Link’s or Ruto’s flesh, the arrowheads struck a rose-tinted, transparent barrier that unexpectedly materialized near Link’s hand and bounced harmlessly into the dry lakebed. Several more projectiles raced towards their targets with almost frightening accuracy, but they too succumbed to the new ruddy, impenetrable barricade.

As he stretched out Nayru’s Love just enough to protect him and Ruto from the cascade of arrows, Link again turned his attention to the Zora princess, whose face was contorted with panic but also displayed a sincere effort at concentrating on their escape. Speaking of which, Link glanced up ahead; the only possible escape lay just ahead of them, in the form of a big hole in the ground that was filled with crystal clear liquid.

The entrance to the Water Temple…now he wished more than ever that he had tested the sapphire-tinted attire that would allegedly help him breathe underneath those waters…

But now wasn’t the time to worry about that, not when he had a terrified girl in front of him being forced to run faster than she had ever been made to run before. Still maintaining the magical barrier behind them, Link leaned forward and spoke in the calmest voice he could muster:

“We’re nearly there, Ruto…just a little bit farther, that’s all. You can do it…”

“Darling!” Ruto suddenly screamed in fear. “The entrance!”

“The entrance…what about the…oh, bugger!”

To Link’s horror, he saw something he hadn’t noticed earlier: the doors to the Water Temple’s entrance chamber were shut, and standing before those doors was a menacing Moblin wielding one of those menacing pikes. It glared defiantly at the Hero of Time, snarling with a menacing squeal as it stood ready for the Hylian and Zora.

Again Link’s mind raced. What to do, what to do? A lone Moblin like this wouldn’t pose much of a threat to him, but had Ruto to protect and those enormous doors to open before the throng of Moblins nipping at his heels reached him. He had to get rid of this solitary soldier fast and get those doors open in a hurry, but how…?

A flash of inspiration struck Link. Usually his flashes of brilliance were of the “crazy” or “desperate” or even “stupid” variety – this one was no exception – but he had no choice.

“Ruto! I’m going to run ahead of you!” he called out to the frantic princess. “I want you to keep running as fast as you can, don’t pause for anything, understand?”

Naturally, Ruto responded with a confused stammer. “Link, I…”

Understand!” Link repeated, this time with a desperate plea in his tone.

“I…y-yes…I do…” Ruto spluttered, still unsure of what her beloved had planned.

Without giving a confirmation, Link nodded and lowered his hand, thereby removing Nayru’s Love. By now, the Moblin archers had either given up or were now too far away, so Link was confident she wouldn’t be skewered. And with the final stretch of the bridge straight enough for him to focus solely on his adversary at the bridge’s end, Link could risk running slightly faster now.

“Here I come, you idiot,” Link grinned as he called forth Farore’s Wind.

Almost immediately he overtook Princess Ruto, his rapid footsteps clapping along the bridge’s planks almost fast enough to tear them from their rope supports. Praying that the bridge would hold, Link maintained his focus on the lone Moblin at the end of the bridge, who seemed a little surprised by Link’s sudden burst of speed. That was exactly what Link needed.

Without a moment’s hesitation, Link reached behind his shield and pulled out the Megaton Hammer, brandishing its enormous head as he would a sword. The isolated Moblin saw the hammer and attempted to ready itself for an attack, but Farore carried the Hylian at speeds the creature couldn’t keep up with. Just as the Moblin prepared to raise its pike in either strike or defense, Link stepped off the bridge and started running past the astounded Moblin.

That was when Link swung the Megaton.

The hammer’s gleaming face struck exactly where Link had aimed and met another face, the face of the shocked Moblin guard. Combined with the blistering speeds of Link carried by Farore’s Wind, the mystical energies of the Megaton Hammer emptied into the Moblin’s head, shattering its skull and destroying its brain with vicious vibrations. Death came in the very instant after the beast’s snout touched the instrument, and thus the Moblin couldn’t bear witness to its own head being crushed against the second target Link had been aiming for…

DUUUUUUUUUNNNNNNNN…

With a thunderous bang, the Megaton slammed against the doors of the temple’s entrance chamber, transferring its powerful shockwaves into the thick wood and reinforced steel of the portal. Unlike the stone door back in the Fire Temple adorned with the numinous symbol of the Triforce that took several swings of the weapon, these doors shattered almost immediately as tremors wrenched the gates apart. Wood popped, splinters flew, and metal bowed as whatever locks had held the doors closed were torn off.

Then, just as Link had hoped, the twisted remnants of the once mighty entrance creaked open, providing just enough room for him and Ruto to enter…

Ruto…

Turning around, Link hoped the Zora hadn’t been struck by an arrow or worse, captured by the pursuing Moblin mob. To his relief, Ruto was just leaving the bridge herself, her blue cheeks flustered with a reddish hue that told a lot about her exhaustive attempts at following Link’s instructions. Staggering towards her fiancé with a very unbalanced gait, the princess collapsed in the Hero of Time’s arms, her chest heaving heavily with gasps for breath.

“Darling…you did it…” she sighed, the terror in her eyes not as prevalent now. “You…”

“No time to rest!” Link interjected, looking up and seeing the Moblin soldiers closing the gap between them and the bridge. “We’ve got to get inside now! Hurry!”

Obviously tired but not ready to die, Ruto nodded and followed her beloved through the crack in the doors.

Inside the dimly lit chamber, everything was as Link had left it. From the elegant decorations to the chains that once held Malon to the blood spilled by his dark counterpart in the action that took away his right hand’s usefulness, the chamber remained as captivating as ever…not to mention dangerous. The holes in the floor meant that Morpha thing could return at any moment, so there was no time to lose.

“There!” Link cried, pointing to the pool in the very center of the room. “Dive into that pool!”

This time wasting no moment questioning his order, Ruto used the remaining ounce of her strength to run once more. Beginning to feel safety was within their reach, Link followed, keeping one eye on her and another on the holes in the room, just in case Morpha might reappear…

Suddenly, loud crackling and heavy footsteps echoed throughout the chamber as animal-like grunts were heart behind them.

“There they are!” a snort-filled voice boomed. “Get ’em!”

The Moblins…they had arrived earlier than he had anticipated. But the water was only a few steps away, he realized. There was no way those monsters could catch them now. Once beneath those watery depths, there was no way for the Moblins to follow, and they would be safe from harm…

SHEEEOOOOMP…

Link’s ears failed in time to pick up the familiar whistling sound as something sharp and jagged sunk into his right shoulder, slicing through the bone and emerging from the other side. Link didn’t have to look down to know it was an arrow, one probably fired from an archer in the group he had failed to see or anticipate. Not that he could look down anyway – the force of the projective threw his balance for a loop and sent waves of pain racing through his chest.

As he fell forward, his vision began to grow dimmer. The last thing he remembered seeing was Ruto’s slender body disappearing beneath the glassy waters of the pond in the chamber’s center. A smile formed on his lips as he thanked the Three Goddesses for at least allowing Ruto to reach the waters unharmed. His vision then faded into darkness, and all that remained was the sound of the gentle splash made as his body landed in that same pool.

The burning pain from the arrow easily masked the cold grip of the waters around him, but that didn’t prevent him from experiencing the sensation of suffocation. Unable to control his own bodily functions, his lungs continued to breathe, not realizing they were pumping in water instead of air. All attempts he made to hold his breath were in vain, and soon he could feel his heavy body slowly begin to sink to the bottom of the Water Temple beneath the rippling surface of a pond ornamented with droplets of his own blood.

********************

Sheik still couldn’t believe it. As he stood there against the back wall of a house in Kakariko Village, trying to keep out of site from the Moblin patrols as he watched the situation unfold, he still couldn’t believe it.

Necromancers. Here. In Kakariko Village.

“What could Ganondorf possibly be up to?” the Sheikah pondered in his mind as he glanced around the corner of the house…and ducked back just as three Moblin soldiers marched past the house.

Sheik dropped several beads of sweat as the beasts stomped their way past his location before sighed in grateful relief. He then took a deep breath as he looked around the corner once more, hoping to get a good look at things.

Just as he suspected, two of the Iron Knuckles were standing in the village center, holding their enormous axes readily on one hand. Sheik was willing to bet neither of these two Knuckles were the leader, the one who had reportedly threatened a local man for the location of the graveyard. Speaking of the graveyard, Sheik also suspected the lead Iron Knuckle was there right now, along with the necromancers…

“But why?” Sheik’s thoughts demanded. “The living dead is notoriously difficult to control – Ganondorf can barely control the ReDead and Poes are practically useless. Unless he’s figured out a way to control them, there’s no foreseeable reason to use necromancers to raise him an undead army. What is he up to…?”

The Sheikah was just glad the farm girl was now safely out of town. Had Malon stayed anywhere near Kakariko Village when the necromancers showed up, their deathly auras and ghoulish screams could’ve easily drained the precious little life energy she had left. The trip through the escape tunnel had been risky, he knew, but Malon survived the journey, and that’s all that mattered. Now Malatite could care for her properly without being interrupted by Ganondorf’s strange occupation of this village.

Sheik, on the other hand, had to find out what Ganondorf was up to. And to do that, he needed to get to the graveyard…

********************

Link had come so close to dying many times before that one would think he’d have a good idea of what death truly was like by now. And strangely, despite the cold numbness and burning pain crawling across every square inch of his body and the weightlessness that smothered him all over, he could tell that this wasn’t death, despite how utterly uncomfortable it felt. Forced to the realization that he was still alive, Link almost begrudgingly awakened himself.

The first thing he notice was what he felt beyond the suffocating sensation that enveloped him: a hard, stone surface beneath him, indicating he was lying on solid ground. It took some difficulty for him to open his eyes, but when he did he felt the same icy atmosphere wrap around his eyeballs, almost stinging his pupils as he struggled to see clearly. It took him a moment to realize he was underwater, and the icy atmosphere that stung him all over was the very crystal clear liquid that surrounded him.

A sudden sting in his shoulder reminded him of the arrow that had pierced him, but he didn’t have time to reflexively reach for that arrow when something else came into focus. Link realized there was something directly in front of him, a shadow of some kind, so close that it could almost touch him…wait, it was touching him. Link blinked his eyes heavily, trying to remove the cloudiness from his vision so he could make out this strangely recognizable shape…

Then he tasted something very familiar on his lips…

All of a sudden, Link’s vision became as clear as the water all around him, and what he saw stunned him for gods knew how long. He lay on what seemed to be a stone floor at the bottom of the pond, and directly on top of him lay a sapphire-colored figure. Her legs comfortably nestled between his, one arm draped around his neck and the other cupping his cheek delicately, she seemed very relaxed as she embraced him on the floor, her bosom gently massaging his chest with each swaying motion she made. Gills on her neck flared with tiny bubbles every time she seemed to draw breath…not that she noticed. Her eyes were closed in apparent bliss as her face leaned close to his and her lips locked with those of the one closest to her heart.

Ruto was cuddling him…and she was kissing him…

Without warning, Link gasped loudly, releasing air bubbles from within his cheeks into the water.

“What in the holy Hael…by the Three Goddesses…!”

The air bubbles Link released interrupted the tender moment as Ruto abruptly open her eyes. She stared into Link’s shocked gaze for a moment before releasing her kiss with her betrothed. “Darling, you’re awake…” she said, her voice sounding remarkably comprehensible in the water.

Without allowing her to finish, Link started scrambling backwards along the stone floor, leaving his fiancée almost as stunned as he was. He scuttled his way on his hands and rear as fast as he could until he finally struck a wall behind him, but that didn’t stop him from standing up and waving his arms around wildly in the water.

“What were you doing…?” he bellowed, much of his tone lost in the bubbly atmosphere of the water. “What was that…what the Hael was that…?”

“Darling…” Ruto started as she stood up as well, trying to calm the Hero of Time with some simple hand gestures.

“What were you…I can’t believe…this is…what in the…?” Link continued to blurt, unable to find a solid line of thought.

“Link, please calm down and list to me…” Ruto tried as she approached the Hylian, but Link refused to listen.

“What is…this is a…I just…what the…by the Three…what the…?”

Just then, Link’s head started to get heavy, and he could feel his senses dull again.

“What’s…going on…?” he mumbled as he felt his strength slowly drain from his body. He started falling to the ground…before he was caught in the arms of the Zora princess.

“Ruto…” Link mumbled through the water before the girl placed a finger on his lips.

“Shhh…don’t speak.”

Ruto then leaned forward and, without hesitation, kissed Link once again. Her lips wrapped firmly around his own, prying open his mouth with her powerful tongue as she once again closed her eyes. Not as caught off guard this time, Link didn’t resist. In fact, as he felt his senses become clouded once again, his fading mind didn’t consider this a bad way to die. Sure, Ruto was the last girl whose embrace he’d like to die in, but at a time like this, beggars can’t be choosers, right?

Using the last of his strength, he slid an arm around Ruto’s waist, pulling her closer as the princess continued to suckle on his lips. As her admittedly gorgeous body pressed against his own, he focused solely on Ruto…and realized she wasn’t that bad of a kisser. The fishy taste that had annoyed him earlier now tasted almost sweet, and her movements against his mouth felt seductive and vaguely assuring. Sensing his comfort, one of Ruto’s arms alluringly glided up his neck and caressed his cheek, as if to let him know everything was all right.

Link appreciated the gesture, but aside from dying in the arms of a beautiful girl nothing was all right. All he could do was gaze upon Ruto’s idyllic face and watch the air bubbles gingerly float from her neck gills…

Wait a minute…he could see those gills more clearly now…

In fact…he could feel his strength returning…

With every burst of bubbles from Ruto’s neck, Link miraculously felt stronger, his vision growing clearer. As his senses returned to him, he tried frantically to come up with an explanation for what was going on. Could it be…Ruto was kissing him for reasons beyond what he initially suspected…?

After a while, the air bubbles ceased emerging from Ruto’s neck and the Zora princess finally opened her eyes. Her gaze first saw Link, who was remaining deadly still for fear or losing consciousness once again. The Zora smiled softly as her flexible lips closed Link’s mouth before finally releasing him of the possibly life-saving kiss. The princess then again placed a finger against Link’s lips, obviously instructing him to keep his mouth shut.

“Just hold your breath, darling,” Ruto instructed. “Don’t try to breath in the water. Your suit will do the breathing for you.

“My…suit…?”

Link then remembered the reason he had gone to Zora’s Domain in the first place. He looked down at his body…and for the first time single realizing he was underwater he felt something crawling all over his body. He could already tell what that “something” was: the blue suit that was meant to help him breathe beneath the waves was doing just that, and boy, did it feel strange. Just as Ruto had said, the cloth was latched onto his skin, and the fibers seemed to pulse in rhythm with his own heartbeat. As an experiment, he tried pulling a bit of the cloth off his skin, but the material was stubborn and refused to let go. It was obviously doing its job, too – Link used much of his concentration to prevent himself from exhaling water into his lungs, but he felt no less stronger than if he were breathing air.

Amazed at this marvelous suit – and relieved his gamble of not testing it beforehand hadn’t killed him – Link looked up at Ruto, who was smiling calmly.

“I…guess I owe you my life, Ruto. Thanks.”

The Zora princess grew a little flushed. “Oh, don’t think anything of it,” she insisted, clearly hearing Link’s gargled words better than he ever could. “It was the least I could do for my future husband. But I’m still worried about your wound. How does it feel?”

“My wound…?” Link repeated when a stinging sensation in his right shoulder scolded him for forgetting in the first place. “Ah, yes…that wound.” He looked down at where the arrow had pierced him. The arrow was gone, and all that remained was a puncture wound through his shoulder and the tunic. A light trail of blood trickled from the gash into the water, and his flesh throbbed noticeably every time he moved, but it was nothing he couldn’t handle – he was luck the arrow hadn’t disabled him.

“It feels all right enough,” he replied. “How did you get the arrow out, by the way?”

“Oh, I have my ways,” Ruto giggled as she flashed her jagged teeth into a twisted smile – it didn’t take much for Link to understand what she meant.

He was just glad Ruto was skilled enough with her mouth so as not to accidentally bite him during their make-out…er, his resuscitation.

Trying to get his mind off his mouth-to-mouth sessions with the Zora princess – not to mention he actually almost enjoying it – Link decided to get a bearing on his surroundings. “So where exactly are we?”

The room was filled with water, that much he already knew. What he didn’t know was just how large the chamber he and Ruto were in really was, at least double the size of the temple’s upper entrance chamber. Stone bricks lined every surface of the room, probably to withstand the corrosion and water pressure, but that didn’t mean there was no space for ornate decoration. Much like the Forest and Fire Temple, elaborate carvings were scrawled all over the walls and ceiling in shapes and figures reminiscent of the graceful form of water. High above in the ceiling, a square was cut out – undoubtedly this was the opening Link and Ruto had used to enter this chamber. Interestingly enough, not all the light came from this aperture – small glass spheres were mounted all over the wall much like flame torches, and each sphere gave off a dim yet practical glow that illuminated the chamber nicely.

“By the looks of things, I’m pretty sure we’re in the Water Temple’s underwater foyer,” Ruto answered. She glanced around the room herself and eventually her eyes fell upon a door-less tunnel in one of the far walls. “That tunnel there should lead us into the heart of the temple, though I’m not completely sure.”

“Well, it’s the only door available other than that one above us,” Link admitted, “and unless those Moblins thought we drowned I doubt they’ll leave any time soon. So the tunnel it is then. Let’s go.”

“Right behind you, darling,” the princess smiled as she casually slid next to her fiancé and hooked her arm with Link’s. “Let’s go.”

Rolling his eyes inside his mind, Link sighed as best he could without losing his breath. Not saying anything more, he started to accompany the Zora towards the tunnel. He quickly learned that walking underwater was quite a challenge, but it wasn’t too bad…

“Oh, I hope you didn’t mind,” Ruto uttered suddenly.

“Didn’t mind what?” Link asked.

The princess blushed once again. “That while I removed the water from your lungs earlier, I used the opportunity to get intimate with you.”

Link’s voice froze in his throat; he had absolutely no response for that unexpected statement.

“I know it’s not the time or place to do that sort of thing,” Ruto admitted before smiling devilishly. “Perhaps once this is all over, we’ll have the chance of doing it right next time.”

Those words nearly made Link release his held breath.

But the surprises didn’t stop there, as Link unexpectedly felt something whip around inside his hat.

“Link! What in the name of the Three Goddesses is going on here? I can’t get out of your stupid hat! Get me out of here before I knock you into the middle of next week!”

Navi! He had forgotten all about her! His hat was helping him breathe underwater, and had trapped his fairy underneath in the process!

“This is going to be a loooong day…”

********************

The sky looked as bleak as ever that day. Dampé knew that most other people would find a day like this miserable and gloomy, just like most other days during Ganondorf’s terrible reign over Hyrule. However, Dampé found the day warm and inviting, a day for him to work with little worry and no regret. Dampé was not like most other people.

That was the story of his life, really – where others saw hopelessness, Dampé saw opportunity. As he closed the door to his humble little house, he stood in the shadow of a perfect example: smaller than most people’s kitchens, Dampé’s shack was built out of rotting logs that were rejected by construction teams for houses back in Kakariko Village. But whereas others would twist their faces in revulsion at such a rickety dwelling, Dampé saw it for what it really was.

Home.

Securing the front door to his hut with a crudely made latch, Dampé grinned goofily as he reached for his most prized possession reclining against the front wall of his home, a partially-bent shovel with a half-broken handle. Slinging the tool securely over his shoulder, Dampé stretched his other arm a little before starting to shuffle towards the enormous field adjacent to his house that just so happened to be his place of employment.

Most people would see Dampé as suited for work in the graveyard – some even claim he came from the graveyard. As a gravedigger, it fell upon Dampé the arduous task of burying the bodies of any and all who died near or in the area. In that respect, Dampé was a master of his “art”; some have claimed or even seen him digging the graves of over fifty men in the span of a single hour. Sometimes he placed stones with inscriptions upon the gravesites, especially at the request of family members, but all too often he buried the dead in unmarked graves, someone that became more common for him in the era of Ganondorf’s bloody sovereignty. Not that it mattered to him – to those who have had the courage to speak to Dampé, he would claim he can remember a graveyard and never forget it because to him each grave means something to him.

Claims like this have morphed into rumors over the years, rumors about Dampé’s fascination with the dead. Some have suggested he finds solstice in the dead because his own family hated him. Others proposed he dabbles in dark magic and uses the corpses from his graveyard on unmentionable experiments. A few have even asserted Dampé himself was a walking corpse.

And should one lay eyes upon the stout gravedigger, such rumors might sound very credible. Short as a child with an unsightly posture, Dampé had the misfortune of possessing a face some have called more disfigured than many of the rotting cadavers in the graveyard. With one eye sealed shut by bulging skin, Dampé’s other eye remained open with a partially blind, blink-less gaze. A giant mouth displayed pussy gums with only a few discolored teeth, and more hair existed in his pug, crooked nose than on his bald, potholed head. While both his arms were strong and robust, one of his legs contained a limp that forbade him to move any faster than a swift hobble. Compared to others, Dampé might be the epitome of loneliness and despair.

But not so. Dampé knew of his physical appearance and how it fanned the flames of rumors and prejudice against him. He also knew what most people thought of him and their speculation into why he does what he does. In truth, Dampé enjoyed his job not because it brings him close to the dead, but because he felt it was the job he was most qualified to do. Sure, there were other more capable men who could more than likely dig graves just as fast as he could, but few ever directly sought to become a gravedigger because they feared getting to close to the bodies of people once just like them.

But Dampé had no fear. As a social outcast, he never considered himself as a member of Hylian society, and that’s just the way he preferred it. Dampé knew that digging the graves of the dead was an important task, and if no one was going to do it out of an irrationalized fear, then he would. And he took great pride in his work, no matter what people whispered about him behind his back. And if he was going to take pride in what he did, then he may as well enjoy it in the process.

That was Dampé, as he started limping his way to the mass field of graves to prepare fresh tombs for some recently departed, he didn’t notice the ground vibrating beneath his feet and those vibrations growing stronger and stronger until a monstrous shadow loomed over him.

Blinking his one eye in curious surprise, Dampé turned around…and came face to face with a towering suit of armor brandishing a colossal two-headed axe in one hand. In its other hand the armor clamped down on the face of an elderly man Dampé knew lived in Kakariko Village – his eldest son had died five years ago from blue bark flu – and the poor man was struggling to breathe as the armor kept him elevated enough for his feet not to touch the ground.

Dampé had no clue what this thing was or what it wanted, so he patiently waited for it to make the first move. The armor did so by turning its vacant eyes towards the old man in its grasp. “This is the graveyard, old man?”

Trying to give himself some breathing room, the man nodded as best he could. “Yes…this is it.”

The armor nodded. “Excellent.” The armor seemed to sneer as it dropped the old man, who immediately started coughing to regain his breath once he fell to the ground. “Now get lost…unless you want to stick around for the show.”

As if complimenting the armor’s words, a bloodcurdling scream was heard over the nearby hill. The old man, his face turning pale with horror, wasted no time in scrambling to his feet and running as fast as he could away from both the graveyard and the direction of Kakariko Village. It didn’t take long for the man to completely disappear over the horizon, not once looking back.

Dampé, now more than ever, turned to the armor. “Um…excuse me,” he said in a low, almost dopey voice. “How can I help you?”

The armor, who apparently hadn’t noticed Dampé until now, glanced down at the squat gravedigger. “And who are you?” it demanded.

“I’m Dampé, the keeper of this graveyard. Is there something I can help you with?”

The armor seemed confused at Dampé’s calm, unafraid demeanor. “You’re an odd one. Haven’t you seen an Iron Knuckle before?”

Now it was Dampé’s turn to look confused. “What’s an Iron Knuckle?”

The Iron Knuckle didn’t seem willing to play games with the gravedigger. “Never mind. But yes, you can help me with something, little man. You can get out of our way.”

“‘Get out of our way?’” Dampé mimicked, scratching its head. “I see you, but who else is there…?”

Another bloodcurdling scream echoed across the vast valley that made up the graveyard as a series of figures started to appear from behind the hills in the direction of Kakariko Village. Dampé looked in that direction to see a group of creatures that were arguably uglier than he could ever be. He had never seen necromancers before, but the sight of these ghastly beings were certainly enough to get his attention. His nearly blind eye dilated with each wild flail he witnessed, and as they drew closer their grotesque faces and macabre screams were soon enough to give even Dampé the chills.

His attention grabbed, Dampé turned to face the Iron Knuckle, who seemed to smirk. “What…what are you planning on doing?”

“That is none of your business,” the Iron Knuckle asserted. “Just get out of our way and I’ll spare your life.”

The gravedigger still refused to move as concern washed over his face. “But…but what business could you possibly have here, unless…” Dampé’s crooked mouth gaped with horrific realization. “You’re planning on doing something with the graveyard, aren’t you?”

“Hmm, you’re more clever than you look,” the armor uttered. “Yes, you’ve found us out, little man. Now get out of here before I feed you to the Moblins.”

But Dampé didn’t flinch at that threat. Instead he backed up a couple steps and gripped his bent shovel in both hands, flourishing it as he would a weapon. “No…whatever you’re planning on doing, you will not harm my family.”

“Your family?” the Iron Knuckle cooed. “What rubbish! They’re just a bunch of corpses…”

“They may be corpses,” Dampé interrupted boldly, “but they were all once alive! I’ve cared for them like any parent would her child, and I will not let you harm them in any way!”

“Peh!” the Iron Knuckle mocked as the group of necromancers new up behind it. “You talk big, but you’re but a bothersome gnat to me. This is your last chance, little man. Step aside or…”

“Never!” Dampé cried defiantly. “I promised I would protect these graves until my dying breath! You will have to kill me if you wish to harm my family!”

The Iron Knuckle, clearly out of patience, sighed heavily. “Fine. Suit yourself.”

Before Dampé could react, the Iron Knuckle raised its right hand and brought it down in an outward slashing motion at a speed the gravedigger didn’t anticipate. The armor’s heavy, spiked fist collided with Dampé’s chest and instantly shattered his rib cage, knocking the poor graveyard keeper unconscious. The powerful blow also sent Dampé flying, but he didn’t get too far above the ground when he crashed into his own wooden shack. With a fierce crash, the hut collapsed into a pile of rotten timbers and personal trinkets, trapping Dampé underneath and crushing whatever remained of his pulverized body.

As the resulting dust cloud from the rubble cleared, the Iron Knuckle merely shrugged. “Idiot.” It then turned to the necromancers, who watched the armor through the sewn eyelids almost timidly. “What are you gawking at? Get to work!”

The necromancers wasted no time in obeying the Knuckle’s command, thrashing their arms madly while carrying their strange orbs and screaming uncontrollably as they started strutting out into the vast graveyard. The Iron Knuckle merely watched with a sneer that only it could see and understand.

Unbeknown to the Knuckle and necromancers, Dampé didn’t die immediately after being buried under the remains of his own house. Instead, he found himself trapped in a gloomy darkness underneath that debris with occasional fragments of light illuminating his cramped surroundings. The Iron Knuckle’s blow had paralyzed him from the waist down, but he found he could still move his arms and roll his one eye around.

As he lay there, waiting for the rescue that would never come, listening the sounds of the Iron Knuckle and the necromancers doing things he dared not consider, his fragile one-eyed gaze fell upon something amidst the ruins of his personal belongings. He had to focus really hard to see in the dim light, but he eventually recognized what they were.

Neither of these items came were made or designed for him, but they meant a lot to him because they represented something very dear to him: the only two people not inside a grave that ever showed him kindness. He hadn’t seen either of those people in years, but he could never forget them or how much they sincerely cared about him. They had given him these trinkets to remember them by, and other than his shovel he considered them his most important possessions.

And it was to those two individuals that he had made a promise long ago, a promise to take care of these graves until his dying breath. It was a promise that filled him with as much pride as did his work…and now he was dying at the hands of those who wished to do something vile to the graveyard. He would never get a chance to fulfill that promise, the one regret that entered his failing mind.

“I’m sorry…I failed you…please forgive me…my friends…”

Using the last of his strength, Dampé reached with his free hand and dragged both possessions closer to him. With his cherished belongings close to him, Dampé smiled one last time. In one hand, he held tightly the bent shovel that had served him so well throughout the years. In the other, he clutched the tattered remains of a purple dress adorned with the symbol of the Trifoce…and a small dagger-like sword with its decorative jewel missing from its hilt.

A minute later, Kakariko Village lost its gravedigger to the Three Goddesses.

********************

By the time Link and Ruto left the dimly lit tunnel, Link had finally managed to explain to his impatient fairy why she couldn’t get out from underneath his hat. Navi, apparently not happy with that, used her tiny hands to pound Link’s skull a few times before she sat down on his hair and started to sulk. Link merely shook his head, smiled superficially at his arm-hugging fiancée, and looked around at their new surroundings.

Much like the previous chamber, this new room lay coated in enormous stone bricks adorned with thousands of exquisite carvings and adornments. However, this room proved to be different in many respects. For one, the current chamber was larger – large enough to house the entire Zora population three times over. In the center of the room stood rooted an enormous pillar-like structure with openings large enough for a full-grown Zora to swim through easily. But the most discernable difference had to be at the top of the room: there was air occupying that space.

The chamber wasn’t completely filled with water.

Link scratched his head. Judging by the way the tunnel had sloped downward, he reckoned that he and the princess must be quite far beneath Lake Hylia’s bed. If that were the case, then that gap of air shouldn’t exist. The only explanation for its being was that someone wanted it there…but why? Why would the Zoras need air in their own temple? If Ruto were any indication, the Zoras got along just fine underwater. There had to be a reason for creating that air pocket.

Maybe it had something to do with the creature Ganondorf had called Morpha…?

“What is it, darling?” Ruto asked curiously, noting his upward glance.

“Just surveying the scene,” Link replied. “I think we should start up there. I think something’s up there that…”

Just then, through the gurgling of his own words, Link’s ears heard something.

Ruto noticed it too and immediately latched more tightly onto Link’s arm, her concern noticeable even underwater. “What’s that?” she hissed in a worried voice.

The sound didn’t have to grow louder before Link saw several shadows emerge from behind the enormous pillar-like structure in the center of the room.

“I think we’re about to find out,” Link snarled, reaching for his sword.

The ones responsible for the strange noise wasted no time in showing themselves as they shuffled their way across the room almost blindly. The creatures reminded Link of giant four-legged insects - he could’ve easily compared them to the parasite Gohma and her malformed spawn. But these beasts moved almost gracefully, their spine-covered legs clawing easily into the ground to anchor them beneath the water. Their bodies were protected by a tough-looking blue shell that reminded Link of a beetle. The beasts had small heads, but a single red, circular, and menacing eye made full use of that head. Tiny but nasty-looking incisors snapped rapidly beneath each eye, as if anticipating a meal.

Link scowled as he slowly drew the Master Sword. “Ruto…what are those things?” he hissed at Ruto.

“Tektites…” the princess whispered back, taking a step backwards and pulling on Link’s arm to do the same. “They’re flesh-eating parasites…but I’ve never seen them this big before…”

“Ganondorf doesn’t seem to care about that…just like the Barinade,” Link interrupted. “Don’t worry, I’ll get rid of them. They don’t seem that danger…”

It was then that Link realized something he should’ve figured out a long time ago.

He couldn’t move his sword that well underwater.

A few quick attempts at swinging his blade confirmed his suspicion – even the Master Sword was useless underwater, it seems. He realized one of those Tektites, who appeared quite streamlined for underwater, could bite his neck long before he could get a swing at them…and he doubted he or Ruto or even his grumpy fairy wanted that.

“Um…I think we have a problem…” Link admitted to Ruto. “I can’t fight these things underwater.”

“Then remain absolutely still,” the Zora murmured  “Tektites have horrible sight. They’re drawn to their prey by loud noises and the smell of…blood…”

Both the Hero of Time and Ruto gulped when they remembered that pesky arrow wound Link had received earlier. And yes, a quick glance at Link’s shoulder revealed tiny traces of blood were still trickling from the gash. Link looked up and gritted his teeth.

“Crap.”

By now, it became apparent that the Tektites had noticed the smell of Link’s blood and were searching for its source. The creatures didn’t move very fast, but they scurried faster than Link could ever walk underwater. If they latched onto Link’s location, he couldn’t hope to fight them underwater. There was one option left …

“We’re going to have to swim to the surface,” he told the princess. “If there’s dry land up there, I should be able to fight these things. All right?”

Despite her nervousness, Ruto nodded.

“All right, then. Let’s go.”

Warming up his arms, Link bit his lip and jumped in an attempt to start his swim to the surface with Ruto giving him a helping hand…

…only to fall right back down to the water’s bottom.

“What the…?” a mystified Link uttered when he realized something else he should’ve figured out a long time ago.

He was too heavy.

Link wanted to smack his head there and then. Any normal person would’ve asked himself, “Hmmm, why am I able to walk on the floor of the Water Temple underwater instead of floating everywhere?”, but noooooooo, he had to take everything for granted. And now, thanks to the weight of all his weapons, he couldn’t swim to save his life…and Ruto apparently wasn’t strong enough to carry him, either.

“Darling…!” Ruto cried out as she discovered the same problem.

“Yeah, I know,” Link sighed as the Tektites started scurrying in the direction of the Hylian and Zora, their jaws apparently salivating with eagerness at tasting fresh meat. Only one thing could set the perfect mood for this situation…

“Link, what’s going on out there? You didn’t get us into trouble again, did you?”

Thank you, Navi.

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