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    Default Re: The Legend of Zelda: The Ancient Power

    Chapter 12. :3


    Chapter 12: Two Birds With One Stone


    Link was not alone in his shock at seeing the Iron Knuckle. When Navi laid eyes on the armored giant, she nearly fell out of the air.

    “What the—!” she blurted, stupefied. “I thought we’d seen the last of these things since Ganondorf’s influence among the Gerudo was broken.”

    “I guess not,” Link grimly replied. “I thought that the Iron Knuckles we met here might’ve been enslaved Gerudo or just empty armor animated by Koume and Kotake’s magic. But I fought Iron Knuckles in Termina as well, and they weren’t Gerudo. From here or there.”

    Link gulped audibly, and for a good reason. He had confronted Iron Knuckles before in the dark future and, even though he was a seasoned warrior by then, they had proven to be formidable adversaries, the most powerful of which had been the Spirit Sage, Nabooru, who had been turned into an Iron Knuckle by Ganondorf’s surrogate mothers, the witches Koume and Kotake. Iron Knuckles were slow and cumbersome, but their massive axes could send Link flying across the room…or cut him clean in half. Link gulped once more as he drew his sword and slowly approached the Iron Knuckle, which seemed to taunt him with its unnatural stillness.

    “Oh come on, don’t tell me you’re scared!” Navi opined, though she sounded nervous herself.

    “Hey, even heroes have fears!” Link retorted, his tone suggesting that Iron Knuckles ranked high amongst his own fears.

    “Well, you sure were able to handle these metal heads in the dark future.”

    “That’s because I wasn’t afraid of them until I faced one in Termina! And I was still a kid then!”

    “Um, Link…” Navi uttered as a large shadow rose over the two.

    “I’m serious! It came just inches away from cleaving me in half!”

    “LINK!” Navi shouted as the Iron Knuckle, which was no longer tauntingly still, loomed over the distracted hero and raised its axe.

    “YIKES!” Link yelped when he turned around and saw the huge blades descending towards his head. He quickly rolled out of the way to avoid being decapitated, and succeeded by a close margin. Link sprang to his feet and brought his sword and shield to the ready. As he did so, Link watched as the Iron Knuckle tore its axe free from the floor where the errant blow had landed. Then, with an eerily impassive air, it slowly turned and approached him again. Link felt his palms begin to sweat. Normally, these creatures were passive, only rising to life when struck. However, Link now could see that this new incarnation could sense intruders on its own and react with startling speed. The gap between the two began to narrow once more and still, the green-clad hero could barely move. As courageous and brave as Link naturally was, Iron Knuckles were the one thing he did fear. It had been a long time since he’d last battled one of these creatures, during his adventures in Termina years ago, and Link had no idea how to defeat this one.

    Although Link, being far lighter and more agile than the hulking Iron Knuckle, was able to avoid his foe’s attacks fairly easily, sweat began to break out along his temples. And, his whole face turned slick when the Iron Knuckle, embedding its axe in the floor and seeming to give Link an opening to strike, wrenched it free in an instant and whirled to strike in the same breath. The shadowy helm made it impossible for Link to see if the Iron Knuckle’s eyes glowed, or if the Iron Knuckle even had eyes, but he already suspected that this Iron Knuckle was enhanced. And, that realization made his stomach drop.

    What am I going to do? Link thought to himself as his body trembled. I was frightened enough by a normal Iron Knuckle… How am I going to beat a stronger one? Link grimaced as the Iron Knuckle’s axe struck his shield and the force of the blow bore him to the floor. As the hero’s strength waned before the relentless onslaught, the notion flew through Link’s mind that his time had come.

    “Come on, Link! Fight back! What would Hyrule think if they heard that their greatest hero got himself killed just because he panicked in a fight?!” Navi shouted from nearby.

    Link opened his eyes upon hearing the fairy’s words, and dawning comprehension struck him ever harder than the Iron Knuckle had. I’d be letting everyone down… Kelli, his majesty King Daphnes, the Sages…and Zelda. No way! I can’t let that happen! I have to conquer this fear, for everyone’s sake! For Zelda!

    “You’re right, Navi! It’s time I stopped acting like a coward! There are people counting on me!” Link proclaimed. He braced himself and pushed against his foe as hard as he could. The Iron Knuckle’s axe, which had been inching ever closer to Link, began to slow and then to halt, but the Iron Knuckle was far too strong for Link to overpower. Thinking quickly, Link angled his blade and thrust at the creature’s armor, sending fragments clattering to the ground and causing the Iron Knuckle to recoil. This allowed Link to slip out of his foe’s grasp, but he still knew, however, that if the axe were to hit him at all, he’d be dead. Link was still confident that he could outmaneuver his foe, but attacking the Iron Knuckle proved to be no less difficult than escaping its deadly grip. The Iron Knuckle’s axe was longer than Link was tall and the long haft seemed to be harder than a Goron’s hide. Many a time, Link’s strikes were deflected by the axe and Link found himself scrambling to avoid a counterstrike.

    “Dang… Oh, wait! Why didn’t I think of this before?” Link realized suddenly.

    With that, he maneuvered towards the Iron Knuckled again. But this time, he did not strike. Instead, he allowed the Iron Knuckle to draw back its axe for an overhead chop…which was exactly what Link wanted. The moment the axe was drawn up and away, the green-clad hero darted to the inside and thrust his shield forward, knocking the Iron Knuckle off balance. In that same instant, Link followed up with several more slashes at the creature’s torso, sending more fragments of armor clattering to the floor. It was then that Link realized why he hadn’t thought of using any of the techniques Kelli taught him. Between seeing one of the dreaded Iron Knuckles after so long and being caught off guard by this one seizing the initiative from him, he had been too frightened to do much thinking at all. Now, however, the hero had regained both his focus and confidence. Although Link still wasn’t certain if this Iron Knuckle might be enhanced, he considered trying to defeat it with a Sun Arrow. Then again, would that really be wise? There was a chance it would fail, after all, if the Iron Knuckle was a Sun creature. And, Link wouldn’t be able to use his shield while taking the shot. No, it’s too risky, Link decided. Besides that, if I’m going to be strong enough to defeat the toughest enemies Kelli and I will face, I have to prove that I can beat one of these things strength-for-strength.

    With that, Link continued clashing with the Iron Knuckle. This creature could take a lot of punishment before being defeated, but Link continued to weave in and out of range of the Iron Knuckle and strike it with the shield attack. Gradually, the creature began to weaken and one of Link’s stabs sent the Iron Knuckle sprawling to the floor. Not wanting to give his foe a chance to recover, Link leapt into the air with his blade angled downward for the kill. The ending blow technique, another of Kelli’s tricks, served him well and his blade sank deep into the Iron Knuckle’s chest…assuming there was one under the armor.

    “Thank the goddesses that’s over,” Link opined after back flipping off of the corpse.

    “Hey, don’t forget you might face more of these guys later on,” Navi pointed out.

    “Aw man…” Link groaned. “Why do you have to be right so often?”

    “Because my job was originally to guide you, remember? Why else would the Great Deku Tree have sent me to you?”

    “Oh yeah… Hey, I was right! The brazier above the door ignited.”

    “Then let’s go clear the other rooms as quickly as possible. The Zoras are living on borrowed time.”

    Link nodded and raced to the central chamber. There were five more rooms to conquer, and Link didn’t doubt for a minute that they’d be dangerous, but he knew it had to be done if he was to find the Jewel of Wind. Link headed through another one of the doors, but before he could take little more than a few steps inside, the door slammed shut behind him and bars shot downward to seal him in. Link then spied the bones scattered upon the floor and, sure enough, a Stalfos rose from the scattered remains, blue fire blazing in its empty eye sockets. The hero had not forgotten his last encounter with one of these creatures, and knew that this fight would be no easier than the one with the Iron Knuckle. However, Link did have an advantage. He now knew what the enhanced Stalfos were capable of since he’d fought one once before. And, even better, this Stalfos didn’t have a pair of enhanced Stalchildren to help him. This time, Link was prepared, and drew his blade.

    As Link battled the Stalfos, remaining wary of any attempt by his foe to swing around to his back, he began to think that if each room housed only one enemy, perhaps solving this puzzle wouldn’t be as hard as he had originally thought. Unfortunately, the hero discovered the opposite when he finally entered the third room sometime later. Instead of a single opponent, there were two Lizalfos standing before him, and then a pair of Dinolfos awaited him in the fourth room. This small dungeon, it seemed, was getting more dangerous than Link had foreseen, so he proceeded cautiously. However, he soon discerned a pattern to these chambers. In the first two rooms, he had faced a single enemy while the third and fourth held two enemies each. The first two each had a single enemy while the third and fourth rooms both had two enemies. This left Link with only one possible, but unsettling notion as to what awaited him in the fifth and sixth rooms. Soon enough, and to his displeasure, this surmise was swiftly confirmed.

    Within each chamber was a trio of enemies. The fifth served as lair to three Armosaurs while the final chamber held a trio of the ever-cunning Lizalfos Knights, which Link had to acknowledge as the strongest of the more common opponents he’d ever faced so far aside from the Iron Knuckle. As he engaged the Lizalfos Knights, Link found himself wondering why the Iron Knuckle had been first. Perhaps it was meant to be a warning that greater challenges still lay ahead? This was likely and hardly surprising. After all, Link still had no idea what creature the Zoras had heard earlier…or what creature had destroyed the bridge in the Lost Woods…or what creature had dropped off the Dinolfos whom had captured Daphnes. Could those creatures be one and the same, or at least, one of the same species? Whatever the case, Link couldn’t help but have the feeling that he’d encounter that creature sooner or later…and it would prove to be very deadly.

    By the time the Lizalfos Knights had been vanquished and the final brazier had ignited, Link was exhausted. The green-clad hero, barely able to stand, was panting with cuts and scrapes all over his face, arms, and legs while sweat trickled down the sides of his head. Luckily, he remembered that a fairy fountain was located somewhere along Zora’s River, and decided it was best that he go there before heading to Lake Hylia. Hopefully, the fountain had not been affected by the waterfall running dry.

    “Come on, Link! The more time we waste in here, the less time we have to save the Zoras!” Navi coaxed moments later.

    “Alright, alright, fine…”

    With that, Link sheathed his sword, slung his shield across his back, and returned to the central chamber. Just as he had suspected, the ignition of all the braziers caused the bars on the ornate door to rise, allowing the hero access to the room beyond it. Hoping he’d find what he sought within, Link hurried through the door.

    Beyond the threshold was a small altar, above which hovered a small dark cloud. As Link approached it, a light pulsed from within the darkness and the cloud evaporated. Revealed beneath was a glowing pink jewel that took the same shape as the symbol on the doors. It was the Jewel of Wind, cleansed of its curse.

    “Ah! Three down, six to go!” Link chimed as he snatched the jewel from its resting place.

    Link had been wondering who might be conjured by his acquisition of this jewel. After all, there were nine jewels but only seven sages. His question was answered when a sphere of luminous energy burst out of the jewel and took on the form of a fairy. This fairy, however, was unlike any Link had ever seen. She was not one of the Great Fairies, as she did not giggle like a lunatic or appear unclothed, but she was definitely not one of the tiny healing or guardian fairies either. She had to be the same size as Link when he had been a child. Protruding from her back were large, pink wings whose fringes swirled at the tips, much like her braided hair of the same color. She was clothed in a long gown which, unsurprisingly, was also pink and looked as soft and silken as her wings.

    “Oh, great hero,” the fairy greeted. “I thank you for freeing me from my prison within that cloud of darkness. I am known as the Fairy of Winds.”

    “The Fairy of Winds? I’ve heard that name before,” Navi replied. “My sister told me that there were legends about you, but no one had ever seen you.”

    “Yes, that is true. I had been living in secrecy for many years,” the Fairy of Winds continued. “You see, long ago, there were other fairies like myself that possessed powers much like those of the jewels you seek. We had been born from the very essence of the jewels themselves, and it was our duty to aid the Sky Guardians in protecting them. When the time of the last generation of Sky Guardians had passed on, we fairies patiently awaited the next chosen heroes who would take up the sacred blades of the sun and the moon. Unfortunately, they never appeared. As you may know, the gods and the ancient sages feared that the Sky Guardians were extinguished forever, and had chosen to forge one blade of evil’s bane to be taken up by a hero at a time of greatest need.”

    “That sounds a lot like what Kelli told us,” Link replied. “That blade was the Master Sword, I take it?”

    “That is correct. I had been secretly watching over both you and Kelli since the very day each of you was born,” the Fairy of Winds revealed. “I had foreseen that you two would take up the legacy of the Sky Guardians and I have been eagerly awaiting your arrival for quite some time. Well, as your kind measures time, at least. When the Master Sword was forged, the other fairies and I still continued to guard the Elemental Jewels as was our sacred charge. There was much excitement among our kind when we determined that new Sky Guardians would soon come into being. Sadly, this anticipation blinded us to danger. The evil beings that now threaten this land had begun to grow deadlier over time, and before any of us suspected it, the creatures attacked again. With the Sky Guardians gone, there was little we could do to protect ourselves. Our strength was greatly outmatched. Eventually, only I remained. My powers over the wind can allow me to fly much faster than the other fairies, and so I escaped. I then went into hiding, to await the return of the Sky Guardians, and have been doing so for the past century. Until this moment.”

    “Wow, fairies do live an awfully long time,” Link commented. “But please continue.”

    “Of course. As I have said, my brethren and I could sense that new Sky Guardians would soon arise. When you and Kelli had been born, I could sense that the two of you were fated to herald the return of the Sky Guardians from their long slumber on the edge of dreams and legend. However, no more than a few days ago, my powers had begun to wane and fail. I knew something must have befallen the Jewel of Wind. If any of the jewels were ever in danger, the powers my fallen sisters and I possess would begin to fade. When I investigated the jewel’s resting place, I was entrapped in the darkness that surrounded it, which you have just dispelled.”

    “Wow, I see. I’m glad I could help you out.”

    “And I thank you once more. Young hero, take the jewel with you, and guard it in my stead. I must return to hiding and await the day I may help a future hero. May the winds of fortune always blow with you.”

    With that, the Fairy of Winds vanished into thin air. Before Link could exit the chamber, however, the Jewel of Wind glowed once more. Seconds later, a booming noise echoed from another chamber followed by a cacophony of dull roaring punctuated by thunder.

    “What the—?!” Link blurted as the ground shook slightly, though he looked far from distressed. “Was that what I think it was?”

    “It’s got to be!” Navi replied as the two hurried back to the entrance of the small dungeon, diving into the water and swimming back towards the fountain beyond. As soon as Link dove in, however, he became all too aware that the once stagnant water was now flowing with tremendous strength, enough so that the current was literally carrying him along. After a few near misses and some rather painful collisions with the cavern walls, Link was literally hurled out of the current and into the air as if he had been expelled through Jabu-Jabu’s blowhole. Link’s skyward ascent was followed by an earthward plunge into the water of the fountain, the impact nearly knocking Link senseless. The green-clad hero soon recovered his wits and swam back to Jabu-Jabu’s altar, groaning in pain from bouncing around in the cavern and his hard landing in the water.

    “If Hylians were meant to fly—” Navi began teasingly, before Link cut her off.

    “Oh, shut up,” he groused. “I need a vacation.”

    As the pain subsided, Link turned his gaze back to the fountain. Just as he had guessed, the water was now flowing freely into the immense basin. The once half-empty lake was now rising fast, raising the beached Jabu-Jabu from his miserable perch and then overflowing to restore the waterfall at the entrance of Zora’s Domain.

    “We did it!” Navi cheered.

    “It was all worth it,” Link heartily agreed, his ribs aching from his enthusiasm. “I think.”

    Jabu-Jabu, apparently happy as well, opened his immense mouth and let out what sounding like a strange roar…along with a blast of air laced with the eye watering stench of thousands upon thousands of dead fish, leaving Link turning as green as his tunic.

    “Ah, he’s saying ‘thank you,’” Navi chimed irritatingly.

    “You want to thank me, do something about your breath,” Link replied to the leviathan. “Well, now that the fountain is back to normal it’s time to rescue Ruto and the horses!”

    “Yeah!” Navi agreed.

    “Oh, I nearly forgot! I should tell Kelli we found another jewel first!”

    “I suppose…”

    Ignoring Navi’s less-than-pleased tone, Link whipped out the Ocarina of Time and played the notes of Kelli’s telepathic melody. Within moments, her voice filled the air. However, it also sounded desperate.

    “Oh, Link!” she cried, her tone quavering with anxiety.

    “Kel, I found the Jewel of Wind while I was over here!” Link reported. “There was a curse on it which caused the waterfall at Zora’s Domain to stop flowing. The curse has been broken, so the Zoras should be fine now. I also met the Fairy of Winds.”

    “The…Fairy of Winds? She’s alive?”

    “Yeah. She said she’s the only one left of her kind, though. She was imprisoned within the dark cloud that was enveloping the jewel.”

    “Oh, I see. I learned of her and the other elemental fairies on my quest in Mayia, after I learned I was a Sky Guardian. I was researching the jewels and how the fairies guarded them, but I never would’ve guessed that one of them survived.”

    “I’ll bet. She explained a lot to me, so I understand our situation a little better now.”

    “That’s great! Oh, but Link, I’m so glad you played my song!” Kelli continued, her voice growing fearful. “I finally have some news for you.”

    “Really? What did you find?”

    “Not long after you left, I was about to return to Kakariko when I spotted something we hadn’t noticed before. It was a small piece of parchment that had been nailed to the back of the sign at the base of the stairs. It looked like an ultimatum!”

    “Are you serious? What did it say?”

    “It said that if we want to see our horses again, we have to go to Lake Hylia! Oh, Link, I’m so worried now! I can’t leave Kakariko unguarded. Can you handle this by yourself?”

    “Lake Hylia? No way! This is excellent!”

    “What?! What do you mean ‘excellent,’ you buffoon?! Those monsters might kill our horses if you don’t get your butt over there!”

    “Hey, I realize that! Just listen! I was heading to Lake Hylia anyway because that’s where Ruto was last seen. I’m betting I’ll find her and the next jewel over there as well in the Zora tribe’s former home. I’ll find the horses when I get there, I promise.”

    “Oh, I see now! Thank you so much, Link. I wish you good luck! Don’t worry about Sunfire once you rescue her, though. If I play Epona’s Song, she’ll come right back to me.”

    “Gotcha.”

    “Ah, one more thing. Come back here real quick before you head to Lake Hylia. I think I should teach you another one of my sword techniques just to be on the safe side.”

    “Good idea. I’ll be there soon.”

    With that, the pair’s telepathic connection fell silent.

    “Geez, that girl really needs to chill out,” Navi grumbled.

    “Nav, not now. Let’s just go,” Link insisted.

    “Whatever…”

    Link considered arguing the point, but knew from prior experience that it would be pointless. Instead, Link quickly returned to King Zora’s throne room. The revived fountain’s waters were already flowing into the domain, forcing Link to mind his footing on the way back. As the hero had expected, the Zora king looked profoundly relieved to see water flowing through his domain once again. Of course, he wasn’t completely at ease with his daughter missing and in danger. Ruto still needed to be rescued, and Link had a strong feeling that finding her would be an even more difficult task than retrieving the Jewel of Wind.

    After all, this was Ruto they were talking about.

    “Ah, Link, it eases my heavy heart to see that you’ve succeeded in restoring the waterfall and saving our domain,” King Zora spoke up when Link reached the raised platform below.

    “Yeah, now nobody has to worry about dying of thirst,” Link replied. “I think you’re right about where Ruto is, though. I didn’t find her in the cavern where I discovered the Jewel of Wind, so she has to be in the Fortress of Ice. The next elemental jewel is probably there as well.”

    “I must agree. But tread cautiously when you enter our former home. I fear evil has despoiled it.”

    “Of course.”

    With that, Link quickly departed the throne room. After hastily bidding goodbye to the grateful Zoras, Link returned to the river. To his delight, it too had been revived and flowed swift and deep. He quickly sought out the fairy fountain he had thought of before, which was located on a cliff at the south side of the river, and had a fairy heal his wounds and then raced back to Hyrule Field as quickly as his legs would carry him. He briefly considered simply letting the currents of the river carry him to the entrance but, after bouncing around the cavern back in the fountain, that idea quickly struck him as highly unappealing. After following the riverbank for some distance and a brief hike through the field, Link was able to quickly make it back to Kakariko. As he had expected, Kelli awaited him at the base of the staircase, and her expression one of deep worry. At this, Link was not surprised given that both Kelli’s best friend and beloved steed were missing and likely in great peril. Even for the most stout hearted, such was enough to cause terrible grief.

    “Kel! Hey!” Link greeted as he approached the young heroine.

    “Ah, Link!” Kelli replied. “I’m glad you made it here so quickly. I’ll try to make this quick…wait, what is that smell?”

    “Jabu-Jabu said ‘thank you’ for restoring Zora’s Fountain,” Link groused. “I swear, his breath is just terrible.”

    “…Okay then, I’m going to make this very quick.”

    “Alrighty, what technique are you going to teach me this time?”

    “This one is called the back slice. It’s a personal favorite of mine, and it’s sure to come in handy. Watch me use it on this tree over here.”

    Link nodded as Kelli readied her sword and shield and approached a dead tree, which barely looked as if it had lived at all, that was mere yards away from the staircase. Link watched Kelli’s eyes focus unblinkingly on the dead sapling and she took a few steps to the side. Afterwards, she jumped to the right, rolled sideways around the tree, and launched into a leaping spin, slashing the dead sapling into splinters.

    “Wow, that does look pretty handy,” Link commented.

    “Yeah. The back slice can help you strike a foe whose front side is protected by armor or who’s using a shield,” Kelli explained. “Stalfos and Lizalfos Knights should be easy meat with this trick. The back slice can even penetrate armor strapped on their backs.”

    “Ah. So, I could swing around behind an enemy and hit them from the rear before they can react!” Link finished.

    “Exactly! I’ve no doubt that you will face greater challenges ahead, so I feel this technique will help you overcome them.”

    “Yeah, no doubt about that. I’ll give it a try now.”

    So saying, Link made his way towards a second dead tree, which looked as though it too did not live long beyond a sapling. He drew his blade, focused his mind and took a few steps to one side. Launching himself into a roll and a leap, he mimicked Kelli’s maneuver as best as he could. However, to his surprise, he ended up facing away from the tree upon landing from his leaping spin.

    “Great job!” Kelli complimented. “Though, it would probably help more if you faced your enemy when landing. That way you wouldn’t have to turn around before striking again.”

    “Eh, heh, yeah…” Link agreed, scratching the back of his head in abashment. “I’ll work on that. Thanks, though! I’ll get going now. Lake Hylia is pretty far on foot.”

    “True. Good luck!”

    “Thanks again!”

    Even with the healing powers of the fairy from the fountain, it wasn’t long before the trek had him breathing hard. Reaching Lake Hylia on foot would take at least another day and, to further complicate matters, it had been quite some time since he had last slept. Link considered finding a defensible area to take some rest, but he knew he couldn’t. Aside from the likelihood that the enhanced monsters would sniff him out, Link would risk the lives of Ruto and the horses even further by falling asleep. Not to mention Ruto would accuse him of being lazy of all things. Link was already shuddering at the thought of how she’d react when he found her. Putting up with her delusions that he was her fiancé, again, was about as appealing as facing a half dozen Iron Knuckles. Instead, his thoughts went to the note Kelli had found.

    Apparently, at least some of these monsters were intelligent enough to learn how to read or write the Hylian tongue. And, if they had indeed taken Epona and Sunfire, they were surely intelligent enough to know that Link and Kelli would be at a disadvantage without their steeds. So, Link took it as a given that his enemies might have a trap waiting for him, but he wondered just how far the monsters’ new found intellect might extend. Could they be able to speak the Hylian tongue themselves? Or, for that matter, understand Hylian speech? That musing sparked another: could the monsters be using their ability to understand Hylian speech in order to plan their attacks? It would certainly explain how they had just “happened” to carry out their abduction of King Daphnes at the precise moment when Kelli was furthest away. Maybe the monsters had also understood about Link’s plan to scale Death Mountain while Kelli sought clues regarding Judo, and realized they had more than enough time to make off with Epona and Sunfire? Link gulped at the idea, but pressed on nonetheless.

    Hours later, as the next morning dawned, Link finally reached what was once the entrance to Lake Hylia. Just as King Zora had described, a cloud of fog enshrouded the lake in an impenetrable, opaque gloom. The fences that blocked the entrance were visible, barely, amidst the wispy fringes of mist which teased at the southern boundary of Hyrule Field. It was difficult to tell in the fog, but the fences themselves appeared to have been torn asunder, lying in pieces as if something large and powerful had smashed through them. Before Link could discern anything more, however, a bright pink glow erupted from his rucksack. He quickly produced the Jewel of Wind and watched as its power was unleashed. In an instant, a powerful gale raged to life and blew into the southerly lake, and nearly blowing Link right off his feet. As the wind blew into the fog, the opaque mass began to churn into an ivory tornado. Then, with a final explosion of elemental power, the cyclone of fog seemed to leap skyward and then scatter to the four winds. Once the fog vanished, Link shook his head in amazement at the spectacle of magic. The sight that greeted him, however, turned his amazement into worry. Just as he’d suspected, something had indeed smashed through the fences. Shattered fragments of iron littered the grass nearby while the jagged stumps of crossbeams thrust outward from the weathered pillars, looking ready to fall off at any moment.

    “Dang…” Link uttered moments later. “Whatever did this must be powerful.”

    “Yeah, I’ll bet you it was the same creature that tore down the bridge in the Lost Woods,” Navi agreed.

    “And maybe the same creature that kidnapped the horses as well. It might also be the same one that made off with King Daphnes.”

    “That too.”

    “Well then, let’s go!”

    Link then hurried through the shattered gates and into Lake Hylia, hoping he wasn’t too late to find the horses. However, what he saw as he approached the lake shocked him even more than the fences right outside had. During the dark future, a terrible curse had befallen Lake Hylia, causing much of the lake to dry up. However, this time, it looked worse. Even in the dark future, the barest portion of the lake’s pristine waters had remained. Now, there was not a single drop of water left in the bed of the lake. It was completely bone dry, all the way down to the entrance of the Water Temple. The temple’s entrance itself was sealed off by two fallen pillars while Blue and Red Tektites, arachnid-like creatures who moved on four legs, swarmed the lakebed. The ancient tree that stood atop the island which concealed the temple had been cut down while the bridges which had connected the island to the mainland had collapsed. The only place that appeared to be untouched was the fishing pond on the east side of the lake, though Link sincerely doubted that it was open for business. The Lakeside Laboratory near the entrance also looked relatively unscathed, but the windows were dark and boarded up and the wooden door had been replaced with a solid looking metal door. As with the fishing pond, Link rather doubted any familiar faces were lingering within. As Link’s horrified gaze slowly scanned the entire area, his eyes widened with dispair.

    “I…I can’t believe this,” he choked out. “The lake… I-It’s in even worse shape than it was in the dark future… And I didn’t think even that was possible.”

    “Yeah…” Navi agreed, the lake’s state silencing her usual jibes. “And if the lake is completely dry…then the river in Gerudo Valley must be as well.”

    “This is bad…” was all Link could say in reply.

    Moments later, Navi shot upward.

    “…Hey! Look! Look over there!”

    Link turned to follow Navi’s gaze, and what he spied made his jaw drop. Sitting at the edge of the cliff overlooked the Gerudo river was a large metal cage which contained both Epona and Sunfire.

    “The horses!” Link exclaimed and began to hurry over to them.

    “Link, wait! It could be some kind of trap!” Navi protested.

    “Yeah, but I’m not going to just leave them in there!” Link retorted and continued towards the cage.

    Epona and Sunfire began to whinny as they spotted the hero rushing towards them. As Link approached their cage, however, he spied bloody claw marks along the sides of both mares, who continued to whinny in pain from their wounds. Link worriedly scrambled up to the cage to release the imprisoned mares, lest those wounds become infected. But as he arrived, he noticed another parchment note which had been tied to the cage’s door.

    “Sigh… Now what?” Link rhetorically wondered in aggravation as he plucked the note off the bars and unfolded it. As he tore the parchment free, he thought he heard a tiny ringing sound, but was too frustrated to care. He then read it aloud for Navi to hear.

    I must commend you on finding your precious steeds so quickly! It is, however, most unfortunate that we have no use for them. My minions have been instructed to begin be pushing this cage over the cliff when they receive the signal. What signal, you ask? Why, they will be signaled by the ringing of the bell tied to this note which, undoubtedly, you carelessly jangled while tearing this note free. We will see if your combat prowess makes up for your lack of foresight. As for the aforementioned minions, if you can stop them, then the horses are yours. However, if you fail, they will be lost and I needn’t elaborate upon the implications of that.

    Link’s fist tightened to crumple the parchment which, sure enough, trailed a length of twine tied to a small bell. The minions whom the note mentioned, undoubtedly, could not be far away.

    “This is madness! IF IT’S A FIGHT YOU WANT, THEN COME AT ME!” Link yelled in rage.

    Before Navi could voice her agreement, however, a skeletal fist suddenly burst out of the ground. A second fist followed and then another as a trio of Stalfos clambered out of their shallow graves and onto the cliff, surrounding Link. All three bore golden eyes, which meant the Sun Arrows would do little to harm them. Link grimaced in frustration as the beasts eyed him and readied his sword and shield. Before he could make a move, however, the Stalfos suddenly charged towards him, angling their own blades for the kill. Thinking quickly, Link darted out of the Stalfos’ path, causing the trio to collide with one another and topple to the ground. Not giving his foes a chance to recover, Link then back flipped to put some distance between him and his assailants. As the Stalfos were rising back to their feet, but were still entangled with one another, Link rolled towards them and launched into a spinning roll attack, making sure his blade struck all three of his foes. Two of them had been knocked into the cage while the other landed right in front of it.

    Unfortunately, by the time Link realized his mistake, the two Stalfos that had collided with the cage were in motion. They immediately stood up and began working together to shove the cage over the cliff. The third Stalfos positioned himself between Link and the cage, no doubt to run interference. Link, seeing through the ploy, attempted to run past the Stalfos but the skeletal knight drove its foot into his side as he passed, sending the hero sprawling to the turf. However, Link shook off the blow and scrambled to his feet angrily. His snarl became a smirk, however, when he noticed how close together the trio of Stalfos was. He focused his mind, angled his blade and performed the back slice Kelli had taught him. Despite the rather embarrassing practice session, Link managed a near perfect execution this time. He managed to hit both the Stalfos running interference and one of the pair which had been pushing the cage. The remaining Stalfos avoided Link’s wrath but, when it tried to continue pushing the cage, it was unable to budge it. Realizing that the horses were safe for the time being, Link pressed his advantage. While the first two Stalfos were down, Link hacked away at the remaining enemy, shattering the skeletal knight into hail.

    “Link!” Navi shouted as one of the three creatures fell. “Don’t forget that if you don’t beat the other two fast enough, the Stalfos you just beat will resurrect itself!”

    “Yeah, I know!” Link replied, though the thought irritated him.

    Link was too worried, and angry, to allow any of the Stalfos to get the better of him. With the new techniques he’d learned from Kelli, such as shield attacks and back slices, he easily overcame the final two Stalfos. Though the creatures had once again attempted to use some of Kelli’s techniques as well, such as the charged jump attack the one from the Lost Woods had performed, Link had seen it coming and turned the tables by rolling under the Stalfos while there were in mid-flight. When the last Stalfos went down, a sparkling silver key dropped from its body. Link let out a gasp of relief and gingerly inspected his side. It was still painful from the Stalfos’s kick, but he could tell that nothing was broken. So, he snatched the key up from the ground and made for the cage.

    “Don’t worry, guys, you’re going to be alright!” Link assured the horses as he unlocked the cage door. Sunfire rushed out first, followed by Epona. Sunfire, quite exuberant at her newfound freedom, nuzzled Link’s cheek.

    “Aw, shucks,” he uttered in response and patted her neck. “You should return to Kelli though. She’ll treat your wounds.”

    As if she understood Link’s words, Sunfire neighed happily and galloped off towards the exit to Hyrule Field. Link smiled as he watched her disappear. Hopefully, Sunfire wouldn’t run into anymore monsters on the way to Kakariko.

    After the palomino horse disappeared from sight, Link felt Epona making her presence known as she gave him the same thanks Sunfire had. Link smiled once more, stroking Epona’s head, and produced a white cloth from his rucksack.

    “Good thing I keep this on-hand for emergencies,” he opined as he took Epona by the reins. He led her to the edge of the dry lake near where the fishing pond was located.

    “Stay here, girl. I’ll be right back,” Link spoke gently. “Just hang in there, alright?”

    Epona neighed softly in return, though whether it was in concern or relief, Link wasn’t sure. Nonetheless, he produced the Grappleshot and launched himself over to the fishing pond. There had always been water there, even in the dark future, and the monsters always seemed to ignore it. Of course, Link had no problem with this as he rushed through the door. The owner as Link had suspected, was nowhere to be seen. He likely had fled the lake to seek safety and, in any case, he’d never been fond of Link. The pond owner had held the record for catching the biggest fish, which had weighed seven pounds and it was doubtful that he’d appreciated Link breaking his record by catching a twenty-four pound fish. Add in Link using the pole to remove the owner’s cap after and...well...all has been said. Though this had occurred in the dark future, Link wouldn’t mind pulling the same prank again sometime. The green clad hero then shrugged, snickered at the recollection, and then dipped his cloth into the water until it was soaked. He then rushed back to Epona, who had waited for him patiently as usual.

    “Okay, this might hurt a little,” Link warned as he approached Epona’s right flank and rang out the cloth until it was fairly damp. He then gently laid the cloth on Epona’s skin and began to rub down her wounds. She had whinnied for a moment in pain, but relaxed soon after. Link remembered such a simple treatment having been performed on him a few times before, and thought it would come in handy in the future. After doing the same to the wounds on the opposite side of Epona’s body, Link wrung out the cloth again and put it away.

    “Alright, I have to go do something important,” he said. “I don’t know how long I’ll be this time, but I’ll return as soon as I can.”

    Link could sense Epona’s unease, especially considering what happened the last time Link left her alone for too long, but she remained as loyal as they day they’d met. Link then stroked Epona’s neck and fed her a carrot. Afterwards, he clambered onto the dry lakebed and readied his sword and shield in case any of the Tektites attacked him. Now that the horses were safe, Link could focus on finding the entrance to the Fortress of Ice. At first, however, the sand and rocks of the lakebed all looked alike…except for a sheet of ice on the southwestern wall. Surely the fortress lay just beyond, but Link had nothing that could melt or destroy the ice. Link continued searching, in case there might be another entrance to the Zora tribe’s former home but, aside from the tunnel that led to Zora’s Domain, all he found were rocks and sand.

    “Ugh, this is more difficult than I expected,” he opined minutes later.

    “I agree. How about we split up?” Navi suggested.

    “Alright, but be careful.”

    “But of course. I say the same thing to you rather often, don’t I?”

    “Oh stuff it.”

    Navi merely giggled as she flew off. Link ignored it as he walked in the opposite direction. Not having any better ideas, Link continued to search the lakebed while fending off Tektites in the process. Some of the soil might be covering another entrance, so Link kept his eyes open for disturbed sand or dislodged rocks. Given Ruto’s impatience, he was already bracing himself for yet another unpleasant meeting with the Zora Princess, so he hurried as best he could. Within the next few minutes, as he approached the southernmost point of the lake, Link spotted what appeared to be large cracks in the rock.

    “Hey! Navi!” he called excitedly. “I think I found something!”

    Navi quickly flew back over to her partner and examined his discovery.

    “Ah, I bet you can bomb this open!” she commented.

    “Only one way to find out.”

    Link then produced a bomb, lit the fuse, and set it in front of the cracked rock. After he rushed a few yards away and plugged his ears, the bomb detonated, revealing yet another cave entrance. However, the walls on the inside of this one were mirror smooth and very nearly reflective. It was clearly not a naturally dug tunnel, which meant only one thing.

    “If this isn’t what we’re looking for, then I don’t know what is,” Link commented as he walked inside.

    “I agree. This tunnel is clearly man-made,” Navi replied. “Or in this case, Zora-made.”

    As they journeyed deeper into the tunnel, however, the air grew colder, and the mirror smooth walls gave way to equally smooth ones made of ice. Stalagmites and stalactites, also made of ice, thrust outward from the ceiling and floors while frigid droplets cascaded downward.

    “Dang, it’s freezing in here,” Link opined through chattering teeth. “This is definitely the Fortress of Ice. I just thought of something though. How could the monsters that attacked Ruto’s escorts come from this place if the entrance was sealed up?”

    “Hmm. The ice we saw outside might be blocking another entrance, right? Maybe the ice got there after Ruto was brought in here,” Navi suggested.

    “Yeah, that must be it. They could’ve frozen the entrance shut after the attack. But if that’s the case, then that raises another question. Why are there two entrances?”

  2. #32
    I'm back! Finally Soulmaster's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Legend of Zelda: The Ancient Power

    Again I didn't see any typos but I do have one question
    With the new techniques he’d learned from Kelli, such as shield attacks, roll attacks, and back slices, he easily overcame the final two Stalfos.
    Didn't Link teach Kelli the roll attack and not the other way around?

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    Secret Sword of Justice Kelleo's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Legend of Zelda: The Ancient Power

    Oh yeah, indeed he did. I have no idea why that was included there. I'll go edit it out. xP

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    The one and only! :3 Samwin's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Legend of Zelda: The Ancient Power

    I absolutely love this, this is fantastic. I love Zelda and it isn't often that I get to find a good Zelda fic, would you let me know when the next chapter is up please? :D
    "Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth."

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    http://z13.invisionfree.com/Rainbow_Starworld/index.php?act=idx

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    Secret Sword of Justice Kelleo's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Legend of Zelda: The Ancient Power

    Quote Originally Posted by Ice Maiden Samwin View Post
    I absolutely love this, this is fantastic. I love Zelda and it isn't often that I get to find a good Zelda fic, would you let me know when the next chapter is up please? :D
    Oh wow, thanks. ^^

    Unfortunately, this story doesn't have many reviews on ff.net... Oh well. As for when the next chapter is going up, you're in luck. I was going to put it up today. :]

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    Secret Sword of Justice Kelleo's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Legend of Zelda: The Ancient Power

    And here it is! Chapter 13. :3


    Chapter 13: The Fortress of Ice


    By the time Link reached at the end of the tunnel, he was already shivering. The cold of the frozen dungeon pierced his clothing and bit into his flesh like icy fangs, forcing him to clasp his arms around his torso in a vain effort to ward off the chill. His teeth were chattering and his whole face felt as if it had been dusted with frost. More to distract himself from the cold than anything else, he briefly looked around the first chamber of the icy, wet domain now known as the Fortress of Ice. Sheets of solid ice spanned the floor and ceiling, smooth and moist to the touch, while irregular outgrowths of multifaceted ice crystals overwhelmed the walls, each one containing hundreds of images of the same shivering Hylian. Considering that Link had never been colder in his life, he was somewhat perplexed when he noticed puddles nearby, water dripping from the damp ceiling, and a small pool spanning the middle of the room. Why these weren’t frozen as well, Link had no idea; but he hardly had time to think it over. A screeching sound drew his gaze upward and, above him, Ice Keese fluttered about the room, ready to swoop down on any intruders. Deciding not to give them the chance to notice his presence, Link raced toward the stone door ahead, which was bordered by another sheet of ice and one of the inexplicable pools of water. He shivered all the more from the chilled air flowing through the chamber. Link had been no stranger to the cold, as his quests had taken him to the Ice Cavern on the far side of the Zora’s Fountain and to the wintry peaks of Snowhead in Termina, but either of those seemed like the beach at Great Bay compared to the Fortress of Ice. He was surprised that the entire room hadn’t yet been frozen solid. Still, Link slowly walked towards the pool of water, dreading that he’d have to swim through it to reach the other side. Images of becoming a living ice sculpture danced through Link’s imagination, and chilled him all the more.

    “This has g-g-got to be the c-coldest place I’ve ever b-been in,” Link commented through his chattering teeth.

    “I agree. This is w-worse than the Ice Cavern,” Navi chattered.

    “If Ruto is h-here, I don’t know how in blazes sh-she takes it! YIKES!”

    Link had heard the fluttering of one of the Ice Keese just in time, and dove out of the way as the creature swooped straight for him. He retaliated by drawing his sword and cleaving the icy bat in two. Deciding he would be no worse off for a jump in the likely freezing water, Link dove into the pool. He quickly decided that that decision was definitely not one of his best. The water was so cold, it burned. His lungs heaved and his heart pounded as the icy water seemed to clutch him in a grip that Morpha, who had been the boss of the Water Temple in the dark future, would envy. Knowing better than to turn back and give the Ice Keese another chance at him, Link pumped his arms and legs as much as he could, as much to keep them from going numb as to reach the other side. By the time he neared his goal, his limps felt so numb that he couldn’t even feel them anymore. Once he reached the far side and forced his frozen limbs into motion to clamber out of the water, searing pain shot up and down his body as the blood began flowing through his numb limbs.

    “H-Holy…c-c-cuccos!” Link exclaimed, nearly doubling over in agony. “I w-was only in th-there for what, a few seconds and alr-ready I c-can barely move!”

    “Oh, honestly, Link, is it r-really that bad?” Navi retorted.

    Indeed, this was true. Link’s limbs and joints felt as if they’d been frozen solid and, when he forced them into motion, the pain made his eyes water.

    “Y-Yes! Heck, people lose limbs this way. But I…I can take it… I think…”

    “Whatever…”

    Once the pain had, slightly, subsided, Link staggered to the door and, to his relief, it was not frozen shut. It opened readily enough but, to Link’s dismay, the next few rooms were no different. In every frozen room, enemies abounded. Even worse, in the second and third chambers, Link encountered yet another unpleasant memory from his earlier quests: Freezards. He had encountered the fairly small, horned creatures, which seemed to be made completely of ice, in the Ice Cavern and the Snowhead Temple. As far as Link was concerned, he hated these things almost as much as he hated Torch Slugs. Unlike many of this foes, there was little warning before they unleashed their frozen breath, and one hit would render him frozen in a block of ice. Worse still, however, Freezards always populated cold places and might very well be swarming this dungeon. Luckily, it only took a few strikes to bring one down…assuming that whoever was enhancing these monsters had not corrected that flaw.

    Link soon had no choice but to find out, however. The next room was lair to several of the chilly monsters and the door was sealed off by bars, leaving Link with no choice but to do battle. Luckily, the Freezards were spread throughout the room, so Link then decided that the best tactic was to focus on only one of the creatures at a time. He quickly discovered, however, that the Freezards’ freezing breath now had a wider range. Kelli’s lessons in the back slice allowed Link to outmaneuver the blast, but the coating of frost newly added to his boots told him that he would not be so lucky a second time. Thankfully, since there were only a few populating the chamber, Link was able to engage them one at a time with little risk of being being exposed to flanking fire from another Freezard. Even better, whatever fiend enhanced these Freezards neglected another glaring weakness in the creature. A Freezard always expelled their frozen breath for several, long seconds and, better yet, they still couldn't move. Taking a hint from his still frost encrusted boots, Link waited until the Freezard unleashed its freezing breath and back flipped out of range. With their wider attack, Link had to weave a broader circle around his foe to reach the creature's backside and then use a jump attack to close the gap.

    Well, a little exercise will help warm the bones, Link mused, unimpressed with these latest enemies.

    Each one went down with only three strikes, shattering into hundreds of ice shards under his sword and melting away. When the last of them fell, the bars on the door rose. Link immediately entered after, all the more eager to be done with this dungeon as soon as possible.

    The next room was much larger than the first few Link had explored. If he had been puzzled by the unfrozen puddles in the frigid dungeon, then he was confounded to see a waterfall cascading into a large pool of water. The muddled hero spent several long moments gazing at the water for…well, he wasn’t really sure what he was looking for. Still, instincts honed by negotiated many dungeons and all the dangers therein told him that there was something decidedly strange about the unfrozen water. What that might be, he could not say but he suspected that he’d find out soon enough…and that the knowledge would prove vital. The banks of the eerie lake were bordered on one side by a barrier of strange bars, which rose out of the water and nearly touched the ceiling, while the water flowed through a small canal that had been carved into the floor and which ran the length of the room. More than a little curious as to why the canal had not frozen, Link surveyed the lake a second time. Just beyond, the lake itself was dotted with small icebergs, floating upon the water’s surface. Link could see a door on the far side of the lake, but the bars were too tall for Link to leap over and too narrow to squeeze through. Furthermore, there were no targets for his Grappleshot. What’s more, even if Link had been willing to risk another swim through the icy waters, and even Ruto seemed preferable to that, the bars appeared to run all the way to the bottom of the lake and the gaps between them were too small for Link to fit through. But, then again, it was probably just as well, for small rays known as Stingers populated the water while more Ice Keese winged about the room. The canal divided the section of the room Link was in clean in half and, on the opposite side, were other doors. One door, bordering the strange lake, was barred while the one across the canal was sealed with a lock and chains. Before Link could begin wondering how to open one of them, he spotted a dark blue, rusty eye switch on the wall between the two doors.

    Suspecting that triggering it would unseal the barred door, Link drew his bow and fired a Sun Arrow at the switch. To his surprise, instead of opening the door, it caused a small treasure chest to shimmer into existence right below it. Intrigued, Link hopped over the canal, walked over to the chest, and opened it to find a small key. While carefully avoiding the Ice Keese and Stingers, Link approached the chained door and inserted his new key into the lock. Upon entering the newly accessible room, Link immediately noticed that this chamber was much different than the other rooms he’d visited. To his astonishment, it was not frozen. The ceiling was arrayed with stalactites, but these were of stone rather than ice, which wept droplets of water into puddles scattered across the floor. A door at the opposite end of the cave led onward, but Freezards populated the room once again, along with a group of Blue Tektites, forcing Link to be all the more cautious as he attacked. Tektites were weak creatures, but their agility made them dangerous.

    As he fought his way through the creatures in order to reach the door ahead, Link decided to take out the Tektites first. He’d already seen these enhanced monsters try to get the better of him by working in teams, and they’d nearly succeeded once or twice, so he wanted to make sure the Tektites couldn’t knock him into the path of the Freezards’ frozen breath. One Freezard had very nearly struck him in the process, but Link managed to leap out of the way at the last second. Fortunately, the Tektites didn’t seem to have changed much, though whoever or whatever could make even Stalfos and Iron Knuckles more dangerous likely wouldn't have bothered with the feeble Tektikes in the first place. As such, each one fell to his blade fairly easily, allowing Link to quickly turn his focus upon the Freezards. By back flipping out of range of the Freezards’ wider breath and weaving a wide circle to strike them from behind, Link soon cleared the room and continued to the door ahead. A smug grin graced his features at the easy victory, but then it vanished as something occurred to him. This dungeon had, thus far, been a little too easy. Even the simplest and un-enhanced enemies had put up fierce resistance but here, aside from his swim through the icy pond, he hadn’t even been met with a decent challenge. More curious still, the rooms were not even half as complex as those from the prior dungeons. Wary of this seeming ease, and suspecting it was deceptive, Link pressed on.

    However, the next room turned out to be a dead end. It contained no doors, save for the one Link had come through. In fact, the chamber was completely empty except for a single switch sitting in the middle of the floor and several puddles of water scattered everywhere. More icy stalactites thrust downward from the ceiling as well, weeping droplets and looking eerily like fangs waiting to bite an intruder in half. Shivering from both the cold and the imagery, Link approached the switch and stepped on it. He had expected the switch to cause a treasure chest to drop from some unseen hiding place in the ceiling, which happened often in the cal-du-sacs of the dungeons. Yet, he stood there and listened carefully, but nothing happened at all. Link merely scratched the back of his head in confusion.

    “Well… That w-was weird,” he commented, arching an eyebrow. “C-could the mechanism have broken down, with nobody here to k-keep the p-place up?”

    “M-Maybe. We have no ch-choice but to turn back, though,” Navi replied.

    “Hmm… You know, I wonder if…” Link murmured contemplatively, turning around to return to the expansive main chamber with the lake and canal.
    Link raced back through the previous two chambers, and entered the main chamber once more. He immediately turned his attention to the door that had previously been sealed by bars. The bars, however, had risen and the door was open. Another smug grin tugged at the corners of Link’s mouth. His earlier hunch from before had been correct; the switch, which appeared to do nothing, had caused the bars to rise, granting Link access.

    “Ha! I kn-knew it!” Link exclaimed excitedly. “Let’s go, Navi!”

    “Oh yeah, I f-forgot about that door. Good th-thinking,” Navi complimented, following Link through the door.

    “As I said in the Magma C-Cavern, I’m just that bright. Hee hee hee,” Link chuckled with an ecstatic grin.

    “Oh, p-put an icicle in it.”

    “Ugh, don't even joke about that! I'm f-freezing as heck as it is. What, I can’t brighten the m-moment a little?”

    The next room, much like the main chamber, contained a pool of water, but this time it was partially frozen. A half-moon sheet of ice, its jagged edges clawing at the waters, spanned half of the lake and spread to cover a portion of the floor. A White Wolfos prowled near a chunk of ice sitting on the floor, prompting Link to silently ready his sword and shield. On the far side of the water, Link could spy a web of cracks lining a portion of the wall. Link didn’t doubt for a moment that he could shatter the cracked ice with a bomb, but the pool was much too broad. He knew he would not be able to throw the bomb all the way across the lake. Thankfully, it only took seconds for him to spot a stirrup-shaped stalactite hanging from the ceiling above the lake. Knowing exactly what he needed to do, Link decided to ignore the Wolfos for the time being. Quietly, so as to avoid attracting the lupine monster's attention, Link searched for a good vantage point and quickly produced the Grappleshot. He then aimed it at the stalactite, but before he could launch it, the White Wolfos caught his scent and charged forward, ramming itself into Link and sending him crashing to the floor. Hoping he hadn’t heard a rib crack under the impact, Link scrambled to his feet as the Wolfos stalked towards him, fangs dripping and eyes glowing with azure fury. The creature’s navy eyes meant it was a creature of the moon and, knowing what that meant, Link drew his bow. After evading one of the creature’s claw swipes, he let fly with a Sun Arrow. It blasted through the Wolfos’s back, erupting through its chest in a shower of ichor and lodged itself into the wall behind it. The creature staggered, fell and, after a few moments of convulsing, was dead.

    With the White Wolfos dealt with, Link aimed and fired the Grappleshot at the stalactite. As he swung across the water, Link angled his swing toward the cracked wall, extended one leg, and braced for the impact. He brought up one hand to shield his face from flying ice shards as he crashed through the cracked wall as hard as he could. Thanks to Link’s great strength and the momentum of the swing, the wall crumbled upon impact. Behind the wall was a small niche containing a large treasure chest and an unlit torch. The torch was as cold as everything else in the dungeons and looked as if it hadn't been lit since the Zoras lived there. This was hardly a surprise, however, as no fire could possibly burn in such a cold place. Link did not hesitate to land at the small niche, approach the chest, and open it to reveal the map. He anxiously unrolled it and looked it over. What he saw made his jaw drop.

    “Whoa! There’s another s-section of the dungeon we c-can’t access yet. And it’s gigantic!” Link exclaimed, eyeing the mass of rooms west of his location on the map. Navi peered over Link’s shoulder to see.

    “Yeah. And look here. It seems that that b-block of ice we saw outside really is blocking a s-second entrance after all,” Navi added, gesturing towards a room in the larger section that had an opening drawn on it.

    “You’re right. But we don’t have any w-way of getting in.”

    “Oh yeah… Well, let’s h-hope we turn something up in here.”

    “Indeed.”

    After rolling the map up again and putting it away, Link continued to explore the rest of the room. Despite his best efforts, however, he found nothing unusual. So, he made his way to the only other door in the room while struggling to keep his footing on the icy floor. The door was located to the left of where Link had first come through. After taking another look at the map, he realized that not many rooms remained in this section of the fortress. Two of these rooms, however, led back to the main chamber, but via the door located on the far side of the walled-off lake. A third and fourth chamber were located behind the waterfall, but how to access them eluded Link. More than anxious to get there, the hero hurried through the next door.

    In this room, several canals ran across the floor, water flowing through each of them. At the head of each canal was a furiously spinning fan, propelling the water into currents that moved so fast, Link suspected that not even a Zora would be able to swim in them. More Ice Keese fluttered about in the air and blue Tektites awaited unsuspecting victims. As Link walked along the edges of the canals, being careful not to fall in, he scanned the room for the next door. Strangely, it was nowhere to be seen. Puzzled, Link checked the map again. The door was supposedly on the wall to the left and right next to the nearest canal, but all that was there was a an ancient statue of a Zora. Link, thinking that the statue might be concealing the door, began to shove it with all his might. The statue wobbled threateningly for a few moments, but would not budge.

    Suddenly, just as Link was about to give up on the statue, a Tektite sprang at him. Caught off guard, the impact sent Link toppling over backwards and into the canal. The instant Link was in the freezing cold water, the strong current seized him and dragged him along through every one of the branching canals. Unable to control his course or even slow down at all, Link was pulled along helplessly and, though the canal was too shallow for him to drown in, he kept bouncing painfully off the floor and walls of the canal. And, of course, the frigid waters didn't help much either.

    “AAAH! OUCH! COOOLD!” Link yelped as he vainly grasped at the sides of the canal to try and climb out. Navi, once she saw that Link was in no real danger, giggled to herself at the humorous sight of him being bobbled, jostled and plastered against the canal. Eventually, Link managed to find a section along the edge of the canal which was rugged enough to offer handholds. Grasping it with a white-knuckle grip, Link pulled himself out of the canal. Link then sagged with relief, soaked from head to toe, bruised from bouncing around the canal and his teeth chattering furiously. Navi was giggling harder this time.

    “Oh sh-shut up,” Link retorted through chattering teeth as he wrung out his tunic; he was certainly going to remember this the next time he thought of Tektites as being merely a nuisance. “Bloody p-p-pests…”

    With murder in his eyes, Link drew his sword and cut down every Tektite in sight. However, Navi only continued to laugh at Link’s earlier blunder as she leisurely seated herself upon the Zora statue’s right hand.

    “Will you kn-knock it off?!” Link seethed as he finished off the last Tektite. “It wasn’t that f-funny! I think I twisted something in there.”

    “Hee hee. Okay, okay,” Navi replied, taking to the air again.

    Suddenly, just as she had flown away from the statue, the hand on which she had been sitting descended slightly. The statue then slowly slid to one side, revealing the door to the next room behind it. Link’s eyebrows rose in surprise.

    “I should have guessed,” he opined.

    “No kidding,” Navi agreed.

    With that, Link hurried through the door before any of the Ice Keese could take an interest in him and, as was shown on the map, he found himself back in the main room. Except that, this time, he was on the far side of the bars. Link, certain that he'd discover some clue about how to reach the second portion of the dungeon, or at least the significance of all the unfrozen water, scanned the room eagerly. However, to his surprise, there appeared to be nothing more to that part of the room besides the pool of water and the waterfall. Bewildered and frustrated, Link wondered what to do next.

    “Hey, Link…” Navi spoke up. “I think I see something really shiny in the water down there.”

    “Huh?” Link wondered.

    He then peered into the water, and there, resting on the floor of the small lake, was a round, shiny object. However, it was so far down that Link could barely see it, let alone tell what it might be.

    “Aren’t you going to go after it?” Navi inquired, a hint of impatience in her tone.

    “Ugh… Alright. I just know I’m not going to enj-joy this,” Link grumbled with a sigh. “Especially after I h-had just wrung out my tunic.”

    Not giving himself enough time to reconsider, he dove into the water and swam deeper and deeper until he could grasp the round object below. Once he had it firmly in hand, he swam back to the surface, clambered out of the water and, once again, wrung out his sodden clothes.

    “If the c-colors start to r-run, I’m going to—” Link began, but was cut off.

    “Oh, s-stuff it!” Navi shot back. “Besides, I'm sure if Zelda w-was here, you’d be t-taking off your shirt every chance you got.”

    “Will you shut it already?!”

    While he'd been bandying words with Navi, Link had also been examining his find. It was piece of some sort of jewelry, consisting of pendant made out of a shiny purple material which reflected the light in the dungeon and a black chain. He immediately held the pendant out in his hand to show Navi what it was.

    “Hey Nav, ch-check this out!” he blurted. “It’s some kind of w-weird pendant, I think.”

    “So it is,” Navi observed. “That d-doesn’t look like anything that w-would belong to the Zoras, though.”

    “Yeah, I ag-gree,” Link replied, slipping the pendant around his neck. “I d-don’t think this is going to g-get us into the other half of the f-fortress either. But we’ll ask Ruto about it j-just to be sure. If she d-doesn’t know anything, then we’ll turn to K-Kelli or his majesty.”

    “Oh, Kelli p-probably knows,” Navi guessed, her tone turning snarky. “She’s little miss know-it-all to you, isn’t sh-she?”

    Link merely folded his arms in disgust and glared at the wall. He should’ve known Navi would make yet another such jibe at the mention of the young Sky Guardian.

    “Now you know that’s n-not what I think,” Link replied, losing patience with the temperamental fairy. “Don’t s-start this again, Navi.”

    “If that’s not what y-you think, then why do you keep a-asking her about everything?”

    “She’s the G-Guardian of the Sun, Navi. She doesn’t know everyth-thing, but she certainly knows more than us about w-what’s been going on here! N-not to mention the S-Sky Guardians. We need th-that information.”

    “Whatever. Do what you w-want.”

    Link merely sighed and unfolded his arms.

    “Thank you. Now let’s m-move on.”

    “But how are w-we supposed to get t-to that last room?”

    “Oh yeah… Wait, hold on. I th-think I see something.”

    With that, Link began to skirt the edge of the pool, his eyes unblinking as he searched for whatever had caught his eye. Then, he saw a telltale glint. The light was reflecting off of something near the waterfall, but it wasn't the water. As Link wove around to get a clearer view, he spied a metal ladder which rose to a hidden opening above.

    “Bingo!” Link opined excitedly and grasped it.

    Link briskly swam through the water and then clambered up the ladder. Another Zora statue sat at the top, but this time it was of a female who bore a disquieting resemblance to Ruto as she had appeared as an adult in the dark future. For a moment, Link was terrified that he’d happened across the genuine article…and Navi, he was sure, would never let him hear the end of it. Link had no idea who the Zora statue might be of, as the inscription at the base of the statue was written in Zora script, which he couldn’t read, but he suspected that the statues depicted Zora royalty or other famous Zoras from the past. Link examined the statue for another possible switch like the one Navi had accidentally discovered earlier and eventually found it was the same as on the prior statue: one of the hands. After pushing the one on the right, the female Zora statue slowly slid aside to reveal another door. Link did not hesitate to enter, though he was idly wondering if the Zoras had created these mechanisms with the statues or if the monsters had.

    Suddenly, just as the door closed behind Link, bars descended over it, which meant that an enemy was not far away. At the other end of the room there was yet another Zora statue. This one, however, was far grander than either of the previous statues, leading Link to suspect it might depict an ancient Zora king. It was also much larger than the other statues Link had seen in the fortress, and was flanked by a pair of unlit torches. Water covered the entire floor, rising to Link’s ankles, but seemed eerily still except for where he had just passed. Even through his boots, the water was so cold that Link’s toes clenched reflexively. He then noticed chunks of ice were scattered on the floor as he slogged through the freezing cold water.

    Just as Link approached the center of the room, however, a chilly breeze began to blow, seemingly from all directions. The chunks of ice began to tremble and slowly drifted towards each other in the near center of the room in front of Link. Sensing that a powerful foe would soon make an appearance, Link drew his sword and shield and carefully watched the ice as the pieces began flinging themselves into the air. Link, confused but still alert, watched as the ice shards continued to rise out of the water and join together. Some looked as though they might be forming limbs, linked by invisible, and, he suspected, magical, joints and tendons, while other ice chucks forms a torso, a head and even hands and feet. Moments later, Frozo, the ice warrior, stood there before Link, girded for a fight with a sword and shield also made of ice. He grunted and chuckled, though it sounded more like ice being crushed with a hammer, and then charged at the green-clad hero standing before him.

    Link, surprised at Frozo’s great speed, just barely managed to jump out of his path. Link remembered what Kelli had taught him back in Kakariko and tried a shield attack against Frozo. It seemed as though, being made of ice, the creature didn’t readily feel pain, but the force of the blow did knock it off balance, just barely forcing an opening in the creature’s defense. When Link pressed his attack, he came away with a glancing, frost speckled wound to his left cheek, but Frozo was left even worse off. Link’s window had been narrow, but he’d succeeded in landing a blow in Frozo’s chest and arm. The arm fell away from the ice warrior’s body, with his sword still clenched in his fist, and both shattered upon the floor.

    Link, believing he had the better of Frozo, was about to attack again but, when Frozo made no move to evade or escape, Link sensed that something was wrong. He was proven right when, to his astonishment, another icy arm and sword sprouted from Frozo’s shoulder. He charged at Link once more, and Link, who was utterly stupefied at what he’d just witnessed, was struck full on and sent sprawling to the floor. After snapping out of it, Link scrambled to his feet and again used a shield attack to break through Frozo’s defense. He then continued to hack away parts of the ice warrior’s body, scattering them to the floor where they shattered and vanished. Unfortunately, every time Link would cut anything off, however, Frozo would magically re-grow whatever was lost. By now, Link had become frustrated and could only continue to block and evade Frozo’s tireless attacks.

    “Oh come on! It seems that no matter how much you cut him up, he’ll j-just p-pull himself back together!” Navi pointed out. “You’ve got to f-find a way to completely shatter him to p-pieces.”

    “Yeah, it’s getting r-really annoying,” Link replied, dodging another attack that nearly took the tip of his ear off. “But I know just the th-thing to deal with it!”

    With that, Link went back on the offensive, whirling about the frozen warrior and unleashing barrages of shield attacks and back slices. Frozo seemed practically unaffected by the assault but, he didn’t notice in the slightest that Link had been gradually herding the frozen warrior toward the statue of the Zora king. Unaware of the trap, Frozo drew back his sword and thrust forward with all his might. Link leapt out of the way and Frozo's sword clove through the Zora statue, buried in the stone up to the hilt. As Link had suspected, the frozen warrior found getting the sword back out to be rather difficult. Not wanting to waste this opportunity, Link jumped sideways and launched himself into a back slice, sending Frozo crashing to the floor. Smiling to himself, Link then leaped into the air and thrust his sword downwards into Frozo’s chest, delivering a perfect ending blow. Frozo’s body shattered into a multitude of chunks of ice upon impact, but Link knew their magic could still make them reassemble.

    Before the ice warrior could manage to pull himself together again, Link produced a bomb and immediately chucked it at the remains of Frozo’s body. It was a fine throw, and the bomb had landed neatly in the center of the fallen chunks of ice and exploded moments later, shattering them even further. Link shielded himself from the shards of ice as they went soaring in every direction. After lowering his shield, however, Link was relieved to see that Frozo was gone. Link turned his attention to the statue, certain that it hid the next door, but he saw that Frozo’s sword was still lodged in the sculpture.

    “Looks like it’s in deep,” he opined, reaching for the statue’s hand. “Still, here goes nothing.”

    Link pressed down on the statue’s hand and, immediately, a terrible screeching and grinding filled the air. Sparks sprayed from somewhere beneath the statue, sending Link leaping backwards to avoid getting his tunic set afire, but then the spectacle died down with a succession of cracking and the sounds of tortured metal melting and deforming under impossible duress.

    “Now you’ve d-done it, you broke the s-statue…mechanism…thing,” Navi chimed in.

    “Wow, that w-was terrible. My h-head’s g-going to be ringing f-for days! Well, let’s try this instead.”

    With that, Link produced another bomb and threw it at the statue. Again, he hid behind his shield until he heard the explosion fade. He looked at the statue again and saw that it had been blown to smithereens, revealing the anticipated a door beyond. According to the map, it led to the last room Link had yet to explore in that section of the dungeon. The bars that were barricading it quickly rose, allowing him to enter.

    “Now, you’ve really gone and done it! You wrecked the statue,” Navi opined.

    "Oh, shut u-up,” Link retorted. “I hope K-King Zora won’t mind that s-statue being pulverized…”

    “It’s really old, I’m sure he’ll f-forgive you,” Navi replied, dropping her snarky tone. “It couldn’t be helped anyw-way.”

    “Yeah, I g-guess you’re right. Let’s get moving.”

    With that, Link went to the newly opened door ahead, glad to be getting his now numb feet out of the freezing cold water. His fingers, toes, and many other parts of his body had begun going numb as well, and Link was even beginning to fear that he might end up with frostbite if he stayed in the fortress for much longer.

    The final room was the smallest one Link had seen so far. It was dark and, unlike most of the dungeon, did not hold even the smallest chunk of ice. The only light came from a pair of torches just ahead of Link. Upon a small dais between the torches was an ancient, ornate staff. The staff, Link supposed, must’ve once been beautiful, but time had not been kind to it. What looked to have once been swirling designs of blue and sea-green had turned muddy brown and the staff was pot-marked with small, round recessions which, Link suspected, had once held gemstones or pearls, but which had been since removed…or, more likely, stolen. The only part about the staff which seemed untouched was the gold embroidery which adorned the head, strung with a collection of tiny seashells and decorative scales. An inscription was carved into the dais directly below it and, unlike the inscription on the statues, it was written in the common tongue. Link slowly approached it and attempted to read the inscription. Some parts of it were faded or had been worn smooth, making it difficult to read, but Link fortunately managed to make out the words.

    If thou wouldst possess this ancestral staff
    The desires of royalty thusly fall into thy hands
    When courage doth meet this weapon of good
    The way of the flames shall one day prevail


    “Are you c-confused by this at all, Navi?” Link inquired after he finished reading the inscription.

    “Well, it seems to say s-someone courageous should wield the staff, but other th-than that, yeah. I don’t know at all w-what it means,” Navi replied.

    “I guess I’ll take it then,” Link decided and took the staff from the dais. “That part about f-flames prevailing, though… I’ve a feeling that m-might be a clue to how we’re supposed to r-reach the rest of the dungeon.”

    “Yeah, it talks about f-fire,” Navi agreed. “Hey, King Zora should kn-know something about this. Let’s go see him again.”

    “You don’t have to tell me twice.”

    With that, the pair quickly headed back to the main room with the staff in hand and continued to the fortress’s exit. Link was still certain that the staff was a powerful weapon, and that it held the solution to this dungeon, so he decided to get in some practice with it on the way back to Zora’s Domain. More than confident that King Zora would know the story behind the staff and why it was hidden in the Zora tribe’s old home, Link eagerly exited the dungeon, climbed free of the dried up Lake Hylia after departing, and rejoined Epona by the fishing pond. Much to his relief, her wounds from earlier had stopped bleeding and had already begun to heal. The mysterious staff, however, kept tugging at Link’s mind as he mounted his horse.

    “It sure feels good to get out of that frozen masoleum for the time being,” Link said. “I’m actually glad we had to leave.”

    “You can say that again,” Navi agreed.

    With that, Link spurred Epona to a gallop, jumping the smashed fences blocking Lake Hylia and headed for Zora’s Domain once more, hoping he could acquire enough information to solve the mystery of the staff with King Zora’s guidance.

    “Hey Link, how about we stop by Lon Lon Ranch along the way?” Navi suggested. “We still need to pay them a visit, remember?”

    “Ah, right. Let’s do it,” Link agreed. “I just hope Malon won’t mind it being a rather short visit.”

    “Uh, Link, I think you’re going to end up being pummeled by a woman no matter what happens.”

    “Daaagh…” Link groaned in frustration. Though he was loathe to admit it, Navi was right. Either Malon would be enraged because Epona was hurt and Link had put off visiting her, or Ruto would knock him around for putting her rescue off because he visited another woman.

    “Why me…?” he uttered.

    “Maybe because you’re a ladies’ man?” Navi coyly suggested.

    “Oh goddesses…”

    “Ah, that’s right! You don’t want anything to get in the way of your crush on Zelda!”

    “Navi, I’m warning you, don’t start this again! I never said I had a crush on anybody!”

    “Hee hee. I’ll believe it when I see it, oh Casanova of Castle Town. And just wait until I tell Ruto!”

    “IF YOU SAY ONE WORD—GAAH!”

    Before Link could finish his sentence, Epona suddenly burst into an intense gallop and raced straight for the entrance to Lon Lon Ranch. Apparently, she had figured out what her master’s destination was.

    “EPONA! Whoa, girl! Slow down!” Link yelped as he struggled to hang onto both the reins and his hat. “Whoa!”

    Unfortunately, the excited Epona didn’t slow down. In fact, she seemed to speed up.

    “Aw come on! Won’t you please whoa?!” Link continued, pulling on the reins this time. However, Epona still didn’t cooperate. Link should’ve expected as much since she hadn’t seen Malon in so long. Navi, on the other hand, burst into laughter once more as Epona reached her old pasture and corral with a joyous leap...which carried Link's forehead right into the gate arbor, knocking him clean out of the saddle and sending him sprawling to the dirt.

    “OUCH!” he cried out. “Ooooh, that hurt. These hylian hardwoods aren’t too soft.”

    Link was dimly aware of the sound of crunching dirt and a pair of booted feet soon scampered into his line of sight.

    “Link, is that you?!” the voice of Malon blurted, unable to hide her astonishment or her amusement. “I was hoping you’d drop in one day, but this is a little much.”

    “Yeah, nice to see you too,” Link replied sourly.

    Link was about to clamber to his feet when, to his astonishment, Malon yanked him upright with surprising strength and then enveloped him in a rib crushing hug. Link, too bemused to do much else, simply returned the embrace while Navi muttered something to the effect of “two-timer.” Epona, not one to be left out, quickly made her presence known by nuzzling Malon’s cheek.

    “Oh! Oh my goodness!” Malon cried, bringing a hand to the horse’s cheek, but not releasing Link. “Epona! You silly horse!”

    Epona merely whinnied happily and began to nuzzle Malon’s face.

    “I’m happy to see you too, girl! It’s been so long!” the redheaded ranch girl replied and then turned to Link, her voice going husky with emotion. “And…Link! Oh, Link! Are you alright?”

    “Ugggh… Yeah, I’ll be fine. Man, that crazy horse! I knew she’d be excited, but geez!” Link commented as he tried to brush himself off, his embrace with Malon becoming decidedly uncomfortable.

    “Oh, don’t worry about it! It’s been seven years, you know! I’m so happy to finally see you again!” Malon cried as she threw her arms around Link’s neck and hugged him even tighter than before. “I’ve missed you and Epona so much!”

    “I’ve missed you too,” Link replied, returning the hug, but wary of where this reunion was leading. He was relieved that Malon hadn’t yet noticed Epona’s wounds, but his keen sense of danger told him that something foreboding was near.

    “Well, you came back just in time!” Malon continued when she finally let Link go. “You’ve seen what’s been happening in Hyrule! And just look at my dad’s beautiful ranch!”

    “Yeah, and…whoa.”

    When Link took a good look around the ranch, he very nearly froze where he stood. As he had seen from the field when he first arrived in Hyrule Field with Kelli, the ranch had been decimated. The stone walls which encircled the ranch showed clear signs of battle, some sections were full of holes from ballistae and catapults while, in some places, the wall had been smashed through altogether. The interior of the ranch hadn't fared much better. Much of of the horse pasture’s fence had been smashed to pieces while, inside, the grass had blackened and withered. Most of the windows of the house were shattered while a tree lay on its side next to the barn, the remains of the chicken coop poking out from beneath. Rocks from the ranch wall littered the outside of the pasture, some of which had smashed in walls of the house and barn. Link was surprised that either was even still standing from the way things looked.

    “It’s awful, isn’t it?” Malon spoke up with a sniffle. “And it looked even worse before we started repairs.”

    “Yeesh…” Link uttered. “I’m sorry I didn’t come sooner. I had no idea what was going on until Kelli found me.”

    “I know, it’s not your fault. But Kelli was the one who led you back here?”

    “Yeah. And she even has troubles of her own now because of what’s going on. Her childhood best friend, whom she hasn’t seen in seven years, is missing.”

    “Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that…”

    “Yeah, but I’m helping her find him. We think he might be able to help us.”

    “I see… Oh, if only the Royal Knights were still here…”

    “The Royal Knights? Why does that sound familiar?”

    “You probably heard about them before you left Hyrule. Not long before the kingdom was attacked, a messenger from Mayia brought word that they were invaded and the Royal Knights were sent to act as reinforcements in case the Mayian army was overwhelmed. They haven’t been seen since.”

    “Okay, that’s bad.”

    “Exactly. I don’t know what’s happening over there, but I fear it’s dreadful.”

    “No kidding. …Wait a second! Did you say that the Royal Knights were sent there before Hyrule was attacked?”

    “Yeah, why?”

    “Blast! Don’t you see what’s happened? Whoever’s responsible for Hyrule’s situation must’ve attacked Mayia first in order to lure the Royal Knights away! They knew the knights would go to their aid and that left Hyrule unprotected!”

    “Oh! You’re right! How come King Daphnes didn’t see this coming?”

    “I doubt he could have, unfortunately. Whoever is behind this is clever, not only for luring the Royal Knights away but for making the monsters even stronger than they were before. I doubt Hyrule, or Mayia for that matter, has ever faced an enemy like this.”

    “But, what could they be after? The country’s already been picked clean!”

    Link could think of one likely answer to that question: the Triforce. The relic of the three goddesses had attracted the evil-hearted before, most notably Ganondorf, and it made sense for this latest evil to be seeking it as well. Still, Link wasn't sure if he ought to reveal that. The story of the dark future was difficult enough for him to believe, and he’d promised Zelda and the Sages that he’d keep it a secret.

    “I cannot say,” he admitted, a vaguely honest answer. “But, Kelli and I have some idea of what to do and we’ve already made some progress. We can pull through, I know it.”

    “Ah… Thank you, Link,” Malon replied. “And Kelli as well. You know, speaking of her, she’s quite mysterious too. That sword she wields is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. And several days ago when this all began, I once saw her standing in the middle of Hyrule Field with her hair slightly standing on end when there wasn’t even a breeze! And I think her eyes changed color too!”

    “I know what you mean. She’s an awesome fighter, but I had the same reaction when I first saw that. I’d explain it to you, but I’m afraid now is not the time. I have to make this visit quick.”

    “I understand. We’ll do anything we can to help! Even Mr. Ingo said ‘I can’t believe I’m saying this, but where’s that blasted Link when you need him?! Not even that girl, Kelli is able to handle this by herself!’”

    “Sounds like him alright. Anyway, I came to help search for your missing ranch tools and the other goods that were stolen from here.”

    “Oh! That’s wonderful! You must have heard our plight from King Daphnes! Of course you can help! Let’s go see my dad right away!”

    “Great!”

    With that, Malon led Link back to the undamaged portion of the house, and naturally, Epona followed. Malon then barged in and gestured Link to follow. Inside, Talon was fast asleep at the bottom of the stairs. Link was not surprised, as the heavyset rancher was quite a heavy sleeper. Even so, in the dark future, Talon had promised to turn over a new leaf and work hard. And from what Daphnes and Kelli had told Link, it seemed that Talon had honored that promise in this future as well. Link could even understand Talon’s dozing right then of all times, in fact. With the ranch having been looted, he likely couldn’t get any work done anyway.

    “Dad! Look who’s here!” Malon cried, instantly rousing her father from his slumber.

    Talon sprang to his feet immediately.

    “Huh? What in tarnation?” he blurted, and then froze where he stood when he saw Link. “Good gravy! Is that Link?!”

    “It is, Dad! He’s finally come back! And he wants to help us!” Malon announced.

    “Well I’ll be! After seven long years! And boy howdy, you’ve sure sprouted. You look big and strong enough to wrangle up cattle on foot and with just yer hands!”

    “Heh, thanks,” Link replied, scratching the back of his head. “I came about the looting of the ranch. His majesty told me you could use a hand over here.”

    “Ah, we certainly need one! You two wait outside and I’ll go fetch Ingo. He was making a list of what we’re missing in case you or Kelli came by.”

    “Works for me.”

    With that, the trio departed the house and Talon entered the barn. Malon and Epona strayed towards the pasture while Link awaited the others. While he did so, he contemplated everything he had discovered so far. What was the secret to gaining access to the rest of the Fortress of Ice? He was certain the ancient staff was a clue, and that the unfrozen water was also part of the puzzle, but he hoped he could learn more from King Zora. And furthermore, Malon’s mention of the Hyrulean Royal Knights had reminded Link of Daphnes’s claim that Judo left on a personal errand as well. Could Judo possibly be one of these knights? It would explain how Daphnes knew him so well. Then again, if that were the case, then the king would know exactly where Judo was and the young man wouldn’t be missing at all. If Judo was in Mayia, fighting against whatever foe had invaded the kingdom, then Daphnes had no reason to hide anything about the young warrior. And that left Link right back where he started.

    “Man, this makes my head hurt…” He uttered. “First the fortress, which we still need to figure out, then that staff, now the knights…”

    “Yeah, this is definitely puzzling,” Navi agreed.

    “Agreed. Also, this doesn’t make sense to me, but for some reason, I can’t shake off the idea that somehow, the Royal Knights being in Mayia and Judo’s disappearance are connected.”

    “Huh. Well, we’ll have to worry about that some other time. We’ve got the Fortress of Ice and that staff to focus on right now.”

    “True. I’d rather not mention this new information to Kelli anyway. It might worry her more than she already is.”

    “Quite true. I may not like her, but knowing that somebody you care about is in danger is bad enough. Not knowing can be even worse.”

    “Precisely.”

  7. #37
    I'm back! Finally Soulmaster's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Legend of Zelda: The Ancient Power

    Good I did not see any typos but some of the commas I wonder about the placement and
    “Oh goddesses…”
    was this supposed to be "Oh goodness..."? because that seems to fit better but I can see that way it just sounds weird to me

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  8. #38
    Secret Sword of Justice Kelleo's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Legend of Zelda: The Ancient Power

    No, no typo there. I meant to put "Oh goddesses." I don't think it sounds odd though.

  9. #39
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    Default Re: The Legend of Zelda: The Ancient Power

    ok if you think Zelda then it sounds fine but anywhere else it sounds weird

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    Secret Sword of Justice Kelleo's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Legend of Zelda: The Ancient Power

    Like I said, it doesn't sound weird to me, so I'm keeping it.

  11. #41
    Secret Sword of Justice Kelleo's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Legend of Zelda: The Ancient Power

    Okay, I think I'll get chapter 14 up now. :3


    Chapter 14: Return to the Fire Temple


    As Link contemplated these latest enigmas, he began to idly pace back and forth in blind arcs. He was still puzzled, and concerned, by what Malon had told him. If Judo was with the Royal Knights, then Daphnes surely knew that; and yet, he not only hadn’t shared this information with Kelli but claimed he had no idea where Judo was. This left Link confused, and worried. Why hadn’t the king revealed Judo’s whereabouts? One likely reason sprang to mind, and left Link all the more troubled.

    Perhaps Judo had been killed during his mission, and the king did not want to tell Kelli?

    Link could understand this, and could even sympathize. While in Termina, he had encountered the restless ghost of the Goron hero Darmani and the dying Zora guitarist Mikau. Darmani had been in anguish after dying in an attempt to end the terrible blizzard that had struck his homeland and was tortured by the knowledge that he could do nothing to aid his people in their time of need, while Mikau was in despair after failing to recover the eggs of Lulu, the Indigo-gos’ lead singer. Link had been able to help both of them and had inherited their powers in the form of the Goron and Zora Masks. But, he’d unwittingly inherited their identities as well. The Gorons had believed him to be a resurrected Darmani, and had even clamored for him to become the new patriarch of the Goron tribe after Snowhead Temple had been cleansed of evil and the blizzards stopped, while the Zoras believed him to be Mikau and were eager for him to rejoin the band. In both cases, much to his chagrin, Link could not find it in himself to confess the truth to them. What had happened after Majora had been defeated, Link had no idea, but he still regretted that he had not been truthful when he had the chance.

    If King Daphnes has found himself in a similar position, Link knew better than most how unenviable it was.

    Link’s thoughts continued to meander, though in a darker direction. What if Judo had betrayed Hyrule and sided with the enemy? That seemed unlikely, as everything Link knew about him suggested he was upright and honorable. But, then again, many people had believed the same thing about Ganondorf before he’d launched his attack on Hyrule Castle. Link irritably shook himself back to reality. Perhaps he was looking for a motive which did not exist? For all Link knew, the reason the king had no answers was quite simple. Perhaps the mission to Mayia was secret and he couldn’t share the details? Or, more likely, the present chaos had cut the lines of communication between the knights and Hyrule, and the king had no information to give her. Either way, Link knew this train of thought was a distraction he could ill afford and he resolved to keep his focus on his mission. He was about to make his way to the pasture to check on Epona when the sound of stomping feet echoed behind him and the hairs on the back of his neck suddenly stood on end.

    That meant only one thing: danger.

    “LINK!” a female voice thundered.

    “Oh no…” Link uttered fearfully, slowly turning around.

    He soon saw Malon approaching, her expression livid as she led Epona by the bridle. Link gulped, knowing that this only meant one thing: she had discovered Epona’s injuries. This made Link rather hesitant to speak at all, but when Malon came to a halt in front of him, he braced himself for the worst.

    “What is the meaning of this?!” Malon demanded, leveling a finger at Epona’s injuries.

    “A-Alright, I can explain…” Link stammered, raising his hands defensively and then telling Malon about how the enemy had stolen both Epona and Sunfire.

    “So they were taken hostage by the monsters?” Malon inquired when Link finished, her tone softening slightly.

    “Exactly. I swear, neither Kelli nor I meant to leave the horses alone for that long! We’d gotten trapped in a cave, and… I’m so sorry! But I treated the wounds as best as I could.”

    “Ah. Don’t worry, I can see that this wasn’t your fault. Besides, it could have been a lot worse. We don’t have any medicine left, but these injuries aren’t as bad as they look. She’ll be fine, but you might want to leave her here to rest for a bit. In fact, maybe you should stay the night as well. Traveling on foot is dangerous these days.”

    “Well, I would, but I’m kind of in a hurry,” Link replied. “I’m on an important mission right now, you see. I decided to stop here along the way because King Daphnes asked me to. And, of course, to see you again.”

    “Ah… I see. Just go easy on Epona. Please?”

    “Of course. I was going to do so anyway.”

    Malon nodded and then turned to face Link, a curious expression dawning her features. Relief, worry, longing and burgeoning hope all played out on her face and, before Link could react, she had thrown her arms about his torso once more. To his further consternation, her face began to drift towards his. Link felt himself tense and he fought down the urge to push Malon back. Granted, she was certainly lovely and he cared for her very much, but something deep inside the core of his being told him that some manner of peril was upon him. The minute distance between him and Malon continued to diminish, until he could clearly see the shade of red of her lips, and a husky sigh escaped her mouth. At the last moment, she angled away and craned towards his ear.

    “Please be careful,” she pleaded with a desperate, almost sobbing whisper. “I’ve lost so many friends since these troubles began, and I don’t want to lose you and Epona too.”

    “You won’t,” Link replied, once he could get his breath. “And, that’s a promise.”

    Malon pulled back, a sad smile on her face, and then went back to tending Epona. Link puffed out a discreet sigh of relief, though he wasn’t truly sure what had alarmed him so. Navi, however, buzzed about him with a smirk on her face.

    “Two-timer,” she quipped.

    “Shut up,” Link growled.

    Moments later, Talon and Ingo had finally emerged from the barn. Both of them looked quite harried from the ranch’s recent hardships and, amazingly, Ingo looked to be in an even fouler mood than usual.

    “Hey, sorry we took so long,” Talon apologized, handing Link a tattered sheet of parchment with an enormous hole torn into it. “And, for that too. We haven’t been able to let the cows graze with all the monsters out there and, with them so hungry, we’re worried the cows will pick the grazing land clean. One of them was right angry and tried to gore me; I was lucky all she got was the parchment with that last lunge.”

    “Oh…!” Malon opined, her face scrunching. “Not again. The livestock’s been getting so foul tempered, being cooped up here with nothing to eat. I was trying to clean the muck off of a horse’s hoof the other day, and she kicked me so hard that my shoulder popped out of the joint. We needed to get a doctor over here from Kakariko to put it back.”

    “Yet another stupid mess just waiting to get worse!” Ingo grumbled. “But, the list is still good.”

    “Thanks,” Link replied and took the sheet of parchment Talon had handed him. “Sorry about your livestock, though.”

    “Don’t worry, we’ll handle it…somehow,” Talon assured. “You just focus on gettin’ back our tools and feed and the rest o’ the kingdom too.”

    “But of course,” Link agreed.

    “Oh, and when you find the stuff, take this to carry it in,” Talon advised and handed Link a sack of sturdy burlap that smelled strongly of onions.

    “I will. I’ll have it all back as soon as I can.”

    “I hope so,” Ingo grumbled. “But I’m not getting my hopes up!”

    “What, you don’t think that I can take care of this?”

    “He means that we hope the monsters haven’t already broken the tools or used up all the feed,” Talon elaborated. “We’d be in fer rough times if that happens.”

    “Ah, I see. For a moment there, I thought your ranch hand didn’t think I could handle this. Sorry about that.”

    “Think nothin’ of it. Well, we’ve gotta go see to the animals, so good luck to ya!”

    “Thanks, and see ya.”

    With that, Talon and Ingo returned to the barn, leaving Link, Malon, and Epona alone once again. Malon heaved a heavy sigh as she stroked Epona’s neck.

    “What’s the matter?” Link wondered. “Wait, that was a dumb question. Hyrule’s being overrun by monsters, who are getting smarter and more dangerous, for crying out loud.”

    “True, but it’s more than just that,” Malon admitted. “I’m worried about how many people are holding up with these troubles. Not just myself, but my dad, Mr. Ingo, King Daphnes, the Gorons and Zoras and the other tribes, even you and Kelli. And, of course, the Royal Knights…”

    “Yeah, I don’t blame you. I’ve already helped the Gorons and my old Kokiri friends, but who knows if they’ll be attacked again. And by the way, I’d like to know more about those knights. I’m just curious, is all. I know I’ve heard about them before, but that was a long time ago.”

    “Well, I don’t know a whole lot myself, but anyone knows that they’re the pride and joy of Hyrule. They’ve fought to protect us and our kingdom for generations, even before the land’s different races were unified. And they’d never refuse to help an ally in need, as they didn’t when Mayia needed aid. They’d give their lives for this country and its people.”

    “I see. They’re definitely admirable, then.”

    “Oh, yes. Especially their charming and handsome leader. He’s wonderful. I don’t actually know him by name yet, though, as he was only promoted to general a few months ago or so. I’ve only seen him speak a few times, usually when they rode off on training exercises or missions, but I have to admit that I’m already quite taken with him.”

    With that, Malon’s cheeks turned a faint red.

    “Heh,” Link replied, somehow relieved that he wasn’t the object of her affection after all. “Well, I should get going. I’ll come back as soon as anything comes up regarding the missing goods, though.”

    “Okay. Thanks so much, Link.”

    “No problem. Well, good bye for now. I’ll see you later.”

    With that, Link mounted Epona and departed the ranch, waving good bye to Malon as he passed through the gate.

    He was not more than a yard outside when Navi struck again.

    “It’s probably just as well,” she snickered. “We all know who you like.”

    “Oh, not again!” Link groaned. “Shouldn’t we focus on, oh, say, saving the kingdom?!”

    “You won’t have that excuse forever. Sooner or later, you need to tell Zelda how hard you’ve fallen for her. How about from below her balcony? What about on a little boat on Lake Hylia…when there’s actually water in it again?”

    “You’re crazy. No, strike that, you’re insane!”

    “And you’re stuck on Zelda!”

    “I am not!”

    “You are too!”

    “I am not!”

    “You are too!”

    “I am not!”

    “You are too!”

    “I am not!”

    “You are too!”

    “Am—whoa!”

    Link and Navi’s bickering was suddenly cut off when Epona abruptly reared to her full height, nearly throwing Link from the saddle. Just as suddenly, she bucked viciously and only a white-knuckle death grip kept Link from hurling all the way into the ranch a second time.

    “Whoa! Ouch! I think I twisted something. Easy, girl!”

    This went on for several long minutes until Epona finally calmed down. Carefully, wary of riling her up again, Link gently stroked her neck. The mare let out an irate snort but otherwise remained docile.

    “Ha!” Navi piped up. “See? Epona even agrees with me! Isn’t that—EEEK!”

    Navi had been hovering about Epona’s nose, ready to hug the mare for her seeming support, when Epona suddenly gnashed her teeth and very nearly swallowed the gloating fairy. Navi darted behind Link’s ear, trembling such that it tickled.

    “I think Epona doesn’t like this talk,” Link suggested.

    “I think you’re right,” the terrified Navi agreed.

    “Okay, Epona, we can take a hint. Now, can we please go to Zora’s River?”

    As Epona’s temper cooled and Link rode across Hyrule Field, the mysterious inscription and staff from the Fortress of Ice still rang heavily upon his thoughts. He still had no clue what it could possibly mean or how it would help him reach the rest of the dungeon in order to seek out the next jewel and, unfortunately, Ruto. When he approached Zora’s River, Link slowed Epona down to a trot and brought her to a halt at the river’s edge. He eagerly dismounted the chestnut horse and followed the riverbanks to Zora’s Domain. Because he needed to work fast, Link made his way up to the waterfall that always blocked the entrance as quickly as he could. Now that the waterfall was flowing again, Link needed to use the Ocarina of Time and Zelda’s Lullaby to gain access to the domain. Once he did so, the flow of the waterfall seemed to part like a curtain being opened and entrance revealed itself. Link leapt across and made his way inside.

    With the thoughts of the staff and Ruto still lingering in his head, Link wondered if King Zora really could help him figure out the strange inscription. After all, the staff was obviously ancient, and it was quite likely that the information on it had been lost to the vagaries of time. Still, with no better solution having presented itself, Link could only speak to the Zora King and hope for the best.

    “King Zora, I’ve returned,” Link greeted when he climbed up to the dais in the throne room and presented himself to the Zora king.

    “Link?” King Zora replied in a surprised tone. “What brings you back here so soon? Did you find my dear, precious Ruto?”

    “Well, no, but I’m working on it,” Link assured him, a slight nervousness in his tone. “I got inside the Fortress of Ice, but I hit a dead end. There’s a large section of it that I can’t reach right now.”

    He then explained what he had seen on the dungeon map and that the second entrance was blocked by ice. King Zora looked rather puzzled by this and asked if Link could show him. Link climbed over to the Zora king’s side, pulled out the map of the Fortress of Ice and traced a finger over the area that was blocked off.

    “How strange,” he commented. “Indeed, much has changed since we were forced to abandon our former home.”

    “You mean it wasn’t always like that?” Link wondered, arching an eyebrow.

    “Not exactly.”

    King Zora then explained that when the Zoras still made their home in what was now the Fortress of Ice, they had built a canal that had served as a passage between the two different regions of the domain, making any area accessible from anywhere else inside. The waterfall that Link had discovered was, in truth, where a section of the canal had been destroyed.

    “I see. So there was once a way to get to the other areas from where I was?” Link replied.

    “That’s right,” King Zora confirmed. “The entrance you said was blocked by ice, though, is simply that. A second entrance.”

    “I see. There’s something else I need to ask you about, though. Do you know anything about this staff? I found it in a room that was hidden behind a statue of what I think was an ancient Zora king.”

    Link then produced the staff from the fortress and held it to King Zora. When the Zora king saw it, his eyes nearly popped out of his head and was astonished by the sight. Even more than that, Link could see clear recognition in the King’s eyes. Link was now certain that he knew something.

    “Oh, Link…” King Zora began, when he could find his voice. “You found my great-great-grandfather’s staff. I had a feeling you would. And, as you may have surmised, that statue you saw was of him as well.”

    “Really?”

    “Oh yes. He was one of the few Zoras in our history to possess superb combat skills. And his staff was an heirloom of our tribe that was passed on to future generations when his time came.”

    King Zora went on to say that because no Zora after his great-great-grandfather desired to learn to use the weapon, all they did was enshrine it with care and hang it in a hidden room behind the old king’s statue. The statue had been sculpted in his honor, as he was often considered the greatest Zora warrior in the history of the tribe.

    “Then his daughter inscribed something on a pedestal in the room,” King Zora went on. “She foresaw that the staff would be needed again, and left it to guide the next warrior to take up the weapon.”

    Link’s eyebrows instantly rose.

    “Oh, I saw that inscription! I have no idea what it means, though I think now the part about the desires of royalty was referring to a desire of your great-great-grandfather.”

    “Precisely,” King Zora verified.

    King Zora then went on to explain that the staff was not only a weapon, but was also enchanted to help his people to survive catastrophe. During a terrible winter which struck many centuries ago, the domain had frozen over. Many Zoras who had been trapped under the ice sheet succumbed to the cold and died while others, trapped inside the domain, had starved to death because they could not harvest kelp or catch fish for food. King Zora’s great-great-grandfather, knowing that the tribe would not survive many more such winters, wished for the power of fire to be blessed upon the staff so that the domain could be thawed out in case such a crisis happened again. However, it couldn’t be carried out during his lifetime and his daughter decided to inscribe the clues on the stone pedestal in the hidden room in hopes someone in the future would fulfill that wish.

    “Oh! That pretty much explains it,” Link replied. “The courageous one wielding the staff, me, has to bless the power of fire upon it for the old king. The only question is how…”

    “My great-great grandfather had done extensive research on that, actually. But, all I know is that you have to go to the Fire Temple,” King Zora instructed. “Beyond that, I’m not sure.”

    “The Fire Temple? That makes sense. But, how was he going to survive in there? And for that matter, what did he have to do in the Fire Temple to enchant the staff?”

    “I’m afraid I don’t know. I have a partial copy of my ancestor’s memoirs, which imply that he had discovered the answers you seek. But, the remainder of the memoirs were lost when the Gerudo forced us from our former home.”

    “I see. Well, I guess all I can do is go to the Fire Temple and see what I can find. And one more thing. I found this pendant in the fortress as well. Do you know anything about it?”

    Link then produced the mysterious pendant around his neck.

    “Oh… That doesn’t look familiar to me at all, I’m afraid. Still, I hope you find out and I wish you good luck on your quest.”

    “Oh, thanks anyway. I’ll return with Ruto as soon as I can.”

    With that, Link bid farewell to King Zora and departed the throne room, glad he’d at least found the information needed to continue his search for Ruto. King Zora’s information wasn’t much to go on, but Link had a thought about what to do nonetheless. Perhaps once he revisited Death Mountain and Goron City in order to get to the Fire Temple, he could ask Darunia for assistance. Although Link doubted that the mighty Goron leader would have any knowledge on the staff at all, he knew that Darunia would likely know much about the Fire Temple. Perhaps he knew where the staff could be enchanted to wield the power of fire?

    Link raced past the other Zoras and made his way up to the waterfall entrance again. As he hopped out through the gateway, it occurred to Link that now would be a good time for another of Kelli’s lessons and decided to visit her in Kakariko on his way up to the Death Mountain Trail. He also felt it would be best to report his progress to Daphnes as well. The information Link had found was too valuable to keep from the king. He hurried along the banks of Zora’s River and immediately raced towards Hyrule Field to rejoin Epona as quickly as possible. After having lost her once, Link was not about to leave her alone again any longer than he had to. He let out a long sigh of relief when he spotted her calmly grazing on some grass right by the river’s edge, gathering that she must have been hungry.

    After feeding his horse a couple of carrots, Link swung back into the saddle and gently snapped the reins. Epona gave a light snort and began to trot towards the village. He had told Malon that he would go easy on her, and he was going to make good on that promise. Much to his relief, no monsters waylaid Link on his journey and he soon brought Epona to a halt at the village’s entrance. As he dismounted and started up the stairs, he deliberated over whether he should tell Kelli what he’d heard from Malon or if he should take the matter up with the king. He decided that it would be best to get the answer from Daphnes. He had no concrete proof of anything untoward regarding Judo’s absence and he didn’t want to worry Kelli needlessly, which would surely happen if he took his grim hunches to her. As he’d learned the hard way, she could be quite dangerous when she was angered. On the heels of that thought, however, came another. He also found himself wondering if Kelli had seen anymore action since he had last been in Kakariko. It had been a while since the enemy last attempted to strike the village, and Link was worried that their luck would soon run out. As he climbed the stairs, a strange sound reached his ears. At first, it was very faint but, as he climbed further up, it became clearer...sort of. It was a melody of some sort, having no lyrics, but very beautiful. It had a soothing rhythm, much like the fluttering of flower petals on the wind that eased a smile from Link’s worn features. As Link listened to the comforting music, he knew there was only one person the voice could belong to. When he approached the well in the center of the village, his guess was confirmed. Kelli herself was sitting upon it, humming her song beautifully. She soon noticed Link and stopped.

    “Hey, Link!” Kelli greeted, somewhat surprised. “I saw that you rescued Sunfire! I’m so relieved! Thank you so much! Oh, but what about Epona?”

    “You’re very welcome,” Link replied with a smile. “And yes, I freed them both. Epona is with Sunfire now. By the way, your voice is amazing.”

    “Oh, that’s wonderful. And thanks! I always hum when I get bored. Did you find Ruto already too?”

    “I wish I could say yes, but…”

    Link then explained everything he had learned in the Fortress of Ice as well as from King Zora.

    “I see. That does sound strange,” Kelli commented. “I’m afraid I don’t know anything about either the staff or that pendant, though. And, I’m drawing a blank on how the ancient Zora King was planning to reach the Fire Temple.”

    “That’s alright. I think I have a lead to go on anyway. So, I came by to talk to you and his majesty. I have new information for him as well, plus I was wondering if you had anymore skills you could teach me.”

    “Ah, of course. There is one technique I believe you’ll be needing soon, but I think we ought to see his majesty first. I gather what you found out is important?”

    “Yes. Oh, yes.”

    “Then let’s go. I was going to check on him soon anyway.”

    Link nodded and with that, he and Kelli headed for the stairs that led up to Impa’s house, where Daphnes still resided. It was then that Link remembered that the Hylian king’s health was deteriorating due to the stress of the present crisis and concern over his daughter and kingdom. He could only hope that the ailing ruler could hold on until Hyrule was safe again, and that his condition had not worsened. As usual, when Link and Kelli gently opened the door, they found Daphnes in his chair in front of the fire. However, this time, a heavy quilt had been draped over his shoulders. At first, Link thought the aged monarch might have dozed off. He was about to leave when the king stirred and turned to see the two heroes.

    “Ah, Link, Kelli…” he greeted, though his voice quivered and was hoarser than it used to be.

    “Your majesty, are you alright?” Kelli inquired worriedly as she approached him. “Here, let me feel you.”

    The king had been about to reply, likely with an objection, but his words were lost amidst a fit of racking coughs. Not giving Daphnes a second chance to decline, Kelli brought a hand to his forehead and gasped as she felt the near scalding heat of his flesh.

    “Oh, you’re running a fever!” she cried. “That cough could also be a bad sign.”

    “That’s not good,” Link added, his eyebrows rising.

    “I know… But don’t worry too much about me,” Daphnes assured. “There are people in worse danger right now.”

    “True,” Kelli agreed.

    “And that reminds me, I found out something troubling,” Link reported, eyeing Kelli warily. “I paid Lon Lon Ranch a visit on my way here, and Malon told me about the Royal Knights having been ordered to go to Mayia’s aid after they had been invaded. I think Mayia was attacked by the same creatures that are terrorizing Hyrule.”

    “What? Mayia is in danger too? How come I never heard about this?” Kelli inquired.

    “I apologize, Kelli,” Daphnes replied. “I didn’t want to worry you two any further. But, yes, a Mayian messenger was here not too long ago and alerted me to the situation. As I recall, however, theirs isn’t nearly as bad as ours. I suspect that we shouldn’t have anything to fear regarding their safety. Ours, however, I fear is another matter entirely.”

    “Can’t we call the knights back to Hyrule? We could use more help too. Link and I really have our work cut out for us. We’ve been lucky in gathering the Elemental Jewels and protecting Kakariko so far, but that could change any time now. And, the castle soldiers aren’t as seasoned as the knights.”

    “I fear you are correct. Leaving the kingdom without its best defenders was, admittedly, a grave mistake on my part. If I could call them back, I’d do so at once. But, ever since this crisis erupted, our lines of communication have been cut. No couriers have brought news of the knights for months now, and all those I’ve sent forth to find them were never heard from again. Now, I cannot spare another man when one less warrior could mean our deaths.”

    “I understand and agree, but I realized something else when I spoke with Malon,” Link continued. “Everybody assumed that the attack on Mayia was a random event, and that it was just coincidental that these new monsters attacked while the knights were away. But, that’s not so. The enemy which invaded Mayia must be the same one that’s attacking us now; or an accomplice, at least. The attack on Mayia was meant to lure the knights away. I’m sure of it. If Kelli once rescued the kingdom from these creatures, then it makes perfect sense for them to know of Mayia’s alliance with Hyrule, and to know we’d come to their aid if they were in such danger.”

    “Th-That’s right!” Kelli gasped fearfully. “Back then, some of Hyrule’s knights had been sent to Mayia’s aid as well. But, there was little they could do against the monsters. When I stepped in though, everything changed.”

    “…I fear you are correct,” Daphnes admitted. “Our enemies plotted a simple diversion, and I fell for it. I only wish I had seen this coming. Unfortunately, it doesn’t change our situation now. Link, I trust that you’re making progress?”

    “Yeah, but I need more assistance before I can track down Ruto,” Link replied and explained once more what he had learned in the Fortress of Ice as well as from King Zora. He also showed both Daphnes and Kelli the staff and pendant.

    “Hmm…” Daphnes contemplated. “I do know of the staff’s existence, but I’m afraid not even I know how to bestow the power of fire upon it. I agree that going to the Fire Temple is the logical course, but I can offer nothing else. That pendant also looks somewhat familiar, but unfortunately, I can’t quite place it. I desperately wish there was more I could do, Link, but I’m afraid there’s little I can tell you.”

    “Don’t worry, I’ll do my best to figure this out.”

    “Good. But before you go, I need to speak with you privately. Kelli, please wait outside.”

    “Understood,” Kelli obeyed and then departed the house.

    “So, what did you want to say?” Link wondered, though he could not help but feel that he already knew the answer to that question.

    “First of all, Link, this conversation must be kept between us, is that clear?” Daphnes warned, his tone brooking no argument despite another fit of coughing.

    “Yes, of course.”

    “Now then, have you heard anything about Judo aside from what you’ve learned from Kelli and I?”

    “No. Also, if I did, I would have told Kel right away. They are close friends, after all. Why do you ask?”

    Here, the king let out a long melancholy sigh that quickly turned into yet another coughing fit, and Link could not help but fear the worst.

    “Communications with the Royal Knights broke down some time ago with the present crisis,” the king began, his voice low and raspy from coughing. “This, you know. What you do not know, and what I wish for you to keep secret, is the subject of the last letter from the Royal Knights that reached me. It was a report of a battle that had taken place in Mayia. It described an attack that had splintered the Royal Knights, leaving them scattered. While most of the knights managed to regroup and drive back the assault, several of them, along with some messengers as well, are missing and presumed dead. And Judo…he and his mother were with them. So in truth, I did know where Judo had gone when he left, but now, I truly do not know where neither he, nor his mother is. He had taken her with him so he could guard her more closely.”

    “I see,” Link replied simply, though he was saddened by the news and the likelihood that Judo was gone. “I take it that Kelli doesn’t know?”

    “I didn’t have the heart to tell her,” Daphnes admitted.

    “I can relate,” Link confessed in turn.

    “Judo was a fine and dedicated young man. He had achieved much in his life, and he was quite eager to surprise Kelli with his accomplishments when he returned. The notion that he might be lost to us deeply saddens me.”

    “But it is just a notion? They haven’t found a body?”

    “I do not know. It has been some time since we’ve had reliable communications with our knights. Whether Judo has been found, dead or alive, is unknown to me. But, I have seen the enemy’s handiwork and, if Judo has fallen into their clutches, I see little hope that he yet lives.”

    Link was about to protest the king’s grim assessment, but reality choked away his words. Though he was loathe to admit it, there was nothing Link could do to disprove what he had heard. And, even if he or Kelli did depart to discover Judo’s fate, then whatever evil infested Hyrule would have the kingdom by the throat. Left with nothing else to offer, Link simply laid one hand upon the monarch’s shoulder.

    “The enemy will pay for this,” he vowed. “I swear it.”

    “I hope you are right,” the king replied. “And, as I have said, what has been said must stay between us.”

    “I see. I promise not to say anything.”

    “Thank you. That is all.”

    “Alright. And please get well soon.”

    With that, Link departed the house and rejoined Kelli, who awaited him at the top of the stairs nearby.

    “Well, now that that’s taken care of, shall I teach you a new sword technique?” Kelli inquired with a smile.

    Kelli’s smile, Link suspected, was only a mask to conceal her true anxiety over her friend and, though Link’s conscience seethed, he remained silent. Neither he nor Kelli was in a position to do anything about the missing Judo, and telling Kelli what the king had revealed would only make her more upset. Instead, Link simply nodded in reply.

    “Sure. But do you think his majesty will be alright?” he inquired.

    “…I really wish I had an answer to that,” Kelli somberly replied as she led Link down the stairs and towards the well. “The best that we can do for him now, though, is to keep fighting against whatever evil is plaguing Hyrule.”

    “Right.”

    “Anyway, this area should do fine.”

    Kelli halted when they arrived at the well. Link wondered what she had in mind this time around as she turned to face him.

    “Now, to show you this technique, I’ll need to you stand still and hold your shield over your head,” Kelli instructed.

    “Uh, okay…” Link agreed, puzzled, and un-slung his shield. He then raised it over his head, with some difficulty, as if to guard against an attack coming from directly above. “Like this?”

    “Yeah. Now watch closely.”

    With that, Kelli then stood atop the rim of the well and drew her sword and shield.

    “You’re taller than me, so this’ll be easier if I give myself a boost,” Kelli explained. She then leaped into the air towards Link with her sword raised. While airborne, she flipped forward over Link’s head and struck his shield, landing behind him afterwards. Link turned around after slinging his shield across his back, utter shock on his face.

    “Whoa! What was that?! You could probably slice someone’s skull clean in half with that move!”

    “That’s pretty much the point, actually, if the target isn’t wearing a helmet,” Kelli replied with a chuckle. “The technique itself is, rather aptly, called the helm splitter. It’s handy for taking off a target’s helmet or inflicting serious damage to their head, as you just pointed out. And, if this technique doesn’t somehow kill the target, you’ll end up behind them anyway, thus leaving them thrown off while you can strike them from behind.”

    “I see. This should come in handy against deadlier foes.”

    “Indeed. Now try it on me. I’ll hold my shield over my head just as you did, just so this doesn’t get ugly.”

    Link nodded and waited for Kelli to raise her shield over her head as he had previously done for her demonstration. He then attempted to repeat the helm splitter exactly as Kelli had shown him. Since she was shorter, he chose not to use the well for elevation and began his performance right away. As soon as Link struck Kelli’s shield, he landed safely behind her.

    “Yes! That wasn’t too difficult. Not for me, anyway.”

    “That’s probably because of the difference in our heights. It would be difficult to pull it off against a taller foe. So, if that happens, look for anything you can stand on to even out the difference.”

    “Ah, good tip. I’d also imagine it to be tricky to use against something that has a ranged attack since you’d need to get in fairly close.”

    “That’s right. I’ll teach you more next time. You should get going if you’re to finish what you started at Lake Hylia.”

    “Yeah, good idea. I’ll see you later then!”

    Link then waved goodbye to Kelli and headed towards the Death Mountain Trail once again.

    Since Link had already cleansed the mountain of the evil that once overwhelmed it, traversing the trail was much less hazardous this time. Very few monsters inhabited the area, the air was clean and fresh, and there were no more dark clouds and bolts of lightning to trigger rock slides. In fact, it almost seemed as if it had never been attacked at all. Link continued up past Dodongo’s Cavern, fending off the occasional red Tektite that dared to appear, and chose to practice with his new staff along the way. After quickly examining the staff, Link decided it would be best for him to wield it one-handed, somewhat like a lance, except he wouldn’t stab and thrust at his enemies. Link had never used such a weapon before, so he knew that then was the time to teach himself how to best use it. He also changed into his Goron Tunic since he was going inside the crater again. When he finally spotted the large entrance of Goron City minutes later, the hero brought the weapon to rest on one shoulder and entered the city depths to seek out Darunia.

    Unlike Link’s last visit, Goron City bustled with activity. The recently liberated Gorons were going about their business once again, greeting Link happily as he passed by. After evading several Goron hugs that might’ve broken him in two, he reached the deepest portion of the city and entered Darunia’s room. Inside, Darunia himself stood in front of the large statue which once blocked the secret entrance to the mountain crater. The Goron leader noticed Link’s presence almost immediately and smiled.

    “Ah, Link!” Darunia greeted. “There you are, Brother. What brings you back here?”

    “Hey again. King Zora directed me here, actually,” Link replied, unsheathing the staff and showing it to Darunia. “It’s about this staff. He said I need to go to the Fire Temple so I can bless it with the power of fire.”

    Darunia’s eyes widened when he saw the staff.

    “Hang on, that wouldn’t happen to be the staff that belonged to King Zora XI, would it?”

    Now it was Link’s turn to be surprised.

    “Uh…yeah. How’d you know?”

    “Ah, you see, he left instructions for my own great-great-grandfather,” Darunia explained.

    “The same one who defeated Volvagia using the Megaton Hammer?”

    “The very one. Unfortunately, the blessing never happened. The scroll containing the instructions mysteriously vanished a day later.”

    “Huh. Is it still missing?”

    “Sadly, yes,” Darunia replied. “Both Gorons and Zoras have looked all over for it, but it remains missing to this day. Dirty thieves, I’m guessing. Luckily, I might have just recently discovered a lead for you.”

    “Oh?”

    “Yeah, while we were inside the crater clearing away the damage those monsters caused, we discovered that the first few rooms in the Fire Temple had gotten banged up as well, so everyone pitched in to help out there as well as in the crater. While a few of my tribesmen and I were working on the chamber where Volvagia once dwelled, I found a hidden door behind the back wall.”

    “Go on.”

    “When I went inside, I found a tiny room that appeared to be much older than the rest of the temple. The walls were rugged and made of only rock, but in front of me, I saw an altar flanked by two unlit torches. I guessed it had something to do with the history of the jewels you’re collecting, because the altar had a slot that looked like the Jewel of Fire would fit into it.”

    “Wow. Then that has to be the place I’m looking for. It just makes too much sense.”

    “I agree. Just be careful, there’s still some debris lying around from the attack. There is simply too much work to do in one day, and I felt that it was time we took a break.”

    “Got it.”

    With that, Link entered the Death Mountain Crater. He nearly shook his head when he stepped foot inside. It hadn’t been more than a day since he was there last, and already it looked very different from before. The fallen rocks had been cleared away, the pillars that formed the entrance to the Fire Temple were standing again, and the bridges were repaired. There were still some boulders lying in the lava, but anyone could tell that the Goron tribe had put a lot of effort into fixing the place up after Link had driven the evil from the mountain. In a short time, the hero stood before the Fire Temple and entered via the ladder that descended into the fiery heart of the mountain, just above where the Magma Cavern would be.

    “Wow, the Gorons really did a good job in here,” Navi commented. “It looks almost as if nothing ever happened.”

    “Yeah. They care a lot about their home,” Link agreed.

    As with the crater, the temple also looked vastly different than when Link had last been inside. Some of the walls had been rebuilt, small newly carved statuettes of Goron ancestors lined the staircase’s railing, and the floor had even been polished. The doors also looked brand new, with not one dent in the shiny metal that replaced the old wooden ones. When Link entered the room where Volvagia once dwelt, he saw that it too had been drastically altered. There was no longer a moat of lava encircling a lone round platform that sat in the center of the room. Instead, the platform extended all the way to the walls and was covered with the same polished marble floor as in the first room. At the opposite end stood the ancient, rusty door Darunia had been referring to. As he had also said, a few piles of rock and debris were scattered about to either side from when the door had been uncovered. Link ignored them and quickly made his way to the old door, eager to see what was behind it.

    The inside looked just as Darunia had described it. Both the torches and the altar were there, and upon the altar was the slot where the Jewel of Fire could be placed. Behind this, however, was another, round recession that ran into the altar. Link guessed that that was where the staff was to be placed during the ritual. He then produced both it and the Jewel of Fire, and approached the altar. The jewel soon lit up radiantly, and its flame magic ignited both torches.

    “Awesome,” Link commented with a smile. He then inserted the jewel into its slot and plunged the staff into the round recession, allowing it to lean against the wall behind it. Suddenly, as if on cue, the flames on the torches flared blindly and the jewel glowed once more, its light growing brighter and more radiant. The glow spread outwards until the staff was enveloped by the crimson light. The staff’s dull colors soon became a smooth orange embroidered with shiny gold, rather than the sea green and blue Link had expected, while red flame-shaped orbs burst into existence at either tip. The orbs themselves soon glowed bright orange and burst into flame for a split second, then returned to normal. The flames in the torches suddenly snuffed themselves out while the Jewel of Fire’s glow vanished as well.

    “Wow…” Link murmured as he eyed the staff and slid it free from the altar. “Now this is cool!”

    “Yeah! Test it out, Link!” Navi insisted.

    “Definitely!”

    With that, Link began to twirl the staff in his hands and sure enough, the orbs burst into a stream of flame, lapping at the air with arcing streams of fire, as if he were one of those performers who twirled batons with ignited tips. When he stopped, the flames became orbs again in the same instant.

    “Awesome! Now we can take care of business!” Link exclaimed with delight.

    “I’ll say! I wouldn’t be surprised if this staff’s fire could melt the whole fortress!”

    “Ditto. Let’s get out of here now.”

    With that, the pair rushed out of the Fire Temple and back to Goron City. Once Link reentered the bustling establishment, he was greeted by Darunia once again.

    “Oh, Link! Looks like my find paid off!” he said when he saw the staff.

    “It sure did. This staff is incredible now,” Link replied.

    “I bet. It’s now become the Flame Staff, the weapon King Zora XI always dreamed of creating. He would be proud of you, Brother.”

    “I can imagine. I’m in a hurry though, so I’m afraid I’ll have to get going. Farewell!”

    Darunia merely waved as Link continued back to the top floor and out of Goron City. He definitely needed to show Kelli the staff again, as not only would she likely be impressed as well, she would probably also believe Link would be a stronger fighter with it. The hero excitedly raced down Death Mountain, eager to use his new Flame Staff to teach the icy inhabitants of the Fortress of Ice a lesson they would not soon forget.

  12. #42
    Secret Sword of Justice Kelleo's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Legend of Zelda: The Ancient Power

    And finally, the latest chapter, chapter 15. :3


    Chapter 15: The Fortress of Ice – Part 2


    Link eagerly raced back down the Death Mountain Trail, reluctantly suppressing the urge to try out the Flame Staff on every Tektite along the way. He didn’t even bother fighting the sparse monsters, as he knew he shouldn’t waste the staff’s energy or delay his return to Lake Hylia for too long. He also knew, however, that Kelli would surely be impressed with this new weapon. Although Link would not readily admit it, his pride was still bruised by how easily Kelli had disarmed him when they first returned to Hyrule and he was eager to even the score. When Link reentered Kakariko, he immediately sought out the young Sky Guardian. Thankfully, he didn’t have to go hunting for her; she was waiting for him in front of the well, just as before. And, Kelli was again humming her song.

    “Hey, Kel! Sorry for interrupting, but you’ve got to check this out!” Link blurted excitedly when he approached her.

    “Oh! Link, it’s quite alright,” Kelli replied with a smile, which turned into an expression of slack jawed shock as she noticed the Flame Staff in Link’s left hand. “…Wow! Is that the same staff from before?”

    “Sure is! I found out what I had to do to give it the power of fire,” Link confirmed, holding the staff before him. “Well, it was really Darunia who found it, as he gave me directions…mostly. I had to figure out the rest once I got to the right place.”

    “I see. I think it looks pretty cool! In fact, I might want to borrow it sometime.”

    A sly look crossed Link’s face and he jerked the staff out of Kelli’s reach.

    “I think not,” he replied teasingly.

    “What?” Kelli blurted, looking confused and more than a bit affronted. “Oh, come on! I can’t even remember the last time I saw such an amazing weapon!”

    “Well, I’m doing a lot of the legwork in this quest. I think I should get the staff.”

    “And I think I’ll start telling everybody about how I disarmed you in three seconds flat.”

    “…You make a good point. Okay, I need it right now, obviously. But in the future, I might let you try it out too.”

    “Ah, thanks so much! You should get going now, though. Every minute you waste is sure to make Ruto angrier with you. Hee hee.”

    Link groaned under his breath. When he heard both Kelli and Navi snickering at him, he groaned audibly.

    “…I’ll get you back for this, Kel,” he warned. “You too, Navi.”

    “Heh, sorry,” Kelli apologized, though Navi was still snickering. “It is true, though.”

    “Yeah, I know. Well, I’ll see you around.”

    “Alrighty then!”

    With that, Link turned towards the stairs leading to Hyrule Field. Before he could take more than a few steps, however, a familiar feminine voice filled the air.

    “Wait,” the voice rang out. Link and Kelli turned to find the Fairy of Winds hovering before them.

    “The Fairy of Winds…” Kelli uttered, with more than a hint of reverence.

    “Yes,” the Fairy of Winds replied. “Link, Kelli, I have come to aid both of you in your quest. I’ve realized that the travails you will face in the future will be even more difficult than I had originally anticipated.”

    “Really? We guessed things would get harder, but…” Link trailed off.

    “Indeed, that much is obvious. But the monsters that now terrorize this land are growing stronger and more intelligent every day. Whatever evil force is now augmenting the powers of the monsters seems to be hard at work correcting the flaws in these first experiments and concocting new ones as well. A force of these monsters discovered me recently, and I only narrowly escaped capture. If these monsters have grown powerful enough to threaten me, then the danger you face is no less. Because of this, I knew you would need some of my power to combat these creatures.”

    “But we already have the Jewel of Wind,” Kelli pointed out.

    “That is true, but you will need even more of the strength of the winds,” the Fairy of Winds explained. She then held out her hands and opened her palms. Within seconds, her magic had conjured up two pairs of brown boots, one pair in each hand. Both pairs sported white, feathered wings on the ankles. The pair in the fairy’s right hand was a set of heeled boots, obviously meant for Kelli.

    “These are special boots known as the Pegasus Boots,” the Fairy of Winds explained. “They will allow you to run faster than even the winds. You will even be able to run fast enough to dash over the surface of water. I have no doubt that you both will need such a power.”

    “Wow…” Link commented as he took his pair. “Thanks a lot.”

    “Indeed,” Kelli added when she received hers. “We’ll use them well.”

    “You are welcome. I believe now that it’s my duty to guide you both as best as I am able. When I have new information, I will seek you out and inform you of my discoveries. May the winds of fortune blow with you.”

    With that, the Fairy of Winds vanished into thin air.

    “Well, I’m glad she showed up when she did,” Link commented moments later. “There’s a lot of water and ice where I’m going. I probably will need these.”

    “Yeah, and it doesn’t hurt for me to have a pair either, just in case,” Kelli added. “Now go on, or Ruto’s going to have your head, I’ll bet.”

    “Very funny. See you later.”

    Kelli merely giggled once more at Link’s imminent misfortune as he stomped off towards Hyrule Field. This is seriously getting old, he thought in annoyance.

    Upon arriving in the field again, Link jumped back on Epona and spurred her to a gallop towards Lake Hylia to finally find Ruto. He did so with considerable reluctance, as his memories of Ruto were far from pleasant. But, he decided that he didn’t want the obsessed and mildly delusional Zora princess to give him an earful for taking so long, as Kelli had surmised. The thoughts of when Ruto first became flirtatious with him after he rescued her from Jabu-Jabu’s belly, after she had treated him like dirt and made him carry her the whole way, and then again in the Water Temple, where she remained quite eager to marry him, only annoyed him further. Still, she was, for some unfathomable reason, one of the seven Sages. That meant she was imprisoned within an elemental jewel, likely the Jewel of Water, and that leaving her in there, tempting though it was, would not help Hyrule.

    Still, since the Fortress of Ice was just that, a fortress covered in sheets of ice and freezing water, Link began to wonder if the Jewel of Ice was hidden somewhere there as well. He soon dropped the idea, however, when he remembered that each dungeon he’d gone through so far, including the small one where the Jewel of Wind had rested, had contained only one jewel. Besides that, it would be a foolhardy mistake for the monsters to leave any of the jewels together, as doing so would only make it that much easier for Link and Kelli to recover them all. And clearly, these monsters were not so foolish.

    As Link passed through the smashed fences and entered Lake Hylia once more, he jerked on the reins to bring Epona to a halt at the lake’s edge. The mare was more than a little skittish at being so close to the site of her earlier imprisonment, but she remained as brave and committed to the quest as Link himself was. He stroked her mane and long head reassuringly and then looked upon the dry crater that used to be Lake Hylia with a melancholy sigh. Link had, briefly, hoped that the restoration of the Zora’s waterfall might help the lake’s condition, but a part of him had known better. King Zora, Link was certain, could only be getting worse with the lake in this state and Ruto still missing. Link could only hold the Zora King could hold on until a solution could be found. The elemental jewel in the Fortress of Ice was the key, Link was certain of that. Perhaps, with the Flame Staff, he had a way to reach it.

    Just as Link dismounted Epona by the Lakeside Laboratory again, however, he spotted four figures down near the Water Temple. He clambered down to the dry lakebed to investigate. As he drew closer to the strange figures, he realized that they were two Stalfos and two Lizalfos. Link was about to draw his blade when he noticed that the Stalfos weren’t paying attention to him at all. In fact, it looked more like they were focused on the Lizalfos. What’s more, the lizard-like monsters themselves looked different than usual. Instead of being fearsome green bipedal lizard warriors, these two Lizalfos were a teal blue color, carried no weapons, and appeared to be terrified. As the Stalfos began closing in on them, Link realized both had navy eyes and quietly produced his bow. He then launched a few Sun Arrows which, of course, killed them quickly.

    Afterwards, Link approached the strange Lizalfos, hoping to figure out what exactly was going on. When the two finally took note of the hero’s appearance, however, they jumped away and backed against the wall of the temple.

    “Stop! Get away!” one Lizalfos demanded.

    For a moment, Link just stared in astonishment. The Lizalfos could talk too? Just who, or what, were these creatures?

    “What? Wait, I’m no enemy,” Link soon replied.

    “We don’t believe you! Just go away!” the other Lizalfos demanded fearfully.

    “Now wait a minute. I just want to know—”

    “WE SAID GO AWAY!”

    With that, the Lizalfos bolted in opposite directions, racing across the lakebed and out of sight. Link merely scratched the back of his head in confusion as he watched the strange creatures vanish in the distance, wondering why they were different from others of their kind. Unable to explain it, and determined not to waste any more time on idle speculation, he was about to continue to the rest of the Fortress of Ice. He jerked to a halt, however, when he noticed a pitchfork and shovel lying on the ground where the Stalfos had been.

    “Hey, these are some of the missing ranch tools,” Link realized as he picked them up. “How’d they get here? And those Lizalfos. What was that all about?”

    “Who knows…” Navi replied. “That was weird, though. Something is definitely different about those Lizalfos. I didn’t sense any evil from them at all.”

    “Really? Strange. We’ll have to investigate this later, though. We’ve got over half a dungeon to get through right now, and I'm pretty sure this isn’t all of Talon’s missing inventory.”

    “True.”

    With that, Link made his way over to the sheet of ice he’d discovered earlier which blocked the way into the rest of the dungeon. He un-slung the Flame Staff and, with a single twirl, spheres of flame crackled to life at each end. Link then snapped the staff in an overhead swing that launched three fireballs into the ice. The ice completely melted, revealing a second entrance to the Fortress of Ice behind it…and a small bucket. Curiously, Link snatched it from the ground. An experimental whiff told him that it had once contained the Lon Lon Ranch’s famous milk. Link glanced at the list Talon gave him, and sure enough, the bucket, shovel, and pitchfork were all on the list. Link stuffed them in the onion scented bag, grimly suspecting that the rest could be just about anywhere. He then walked into the cavernous entrance, knowing now he’d surely find Ruto and the next Elemental Jewel…and still uncertain whether or not that was a good thing.

    “Well, back into the f-frozen fortress we go…” Link uttered through chattering teeth, clearly not liking the idea.

    The first room which Link entered was much different than the ones he had previously explored. It was much larger and, judging by its central location on the map, likely served as the town center when the Zoras had lived here. Though, its location was the only thing about it that still resembled a town center; for the cavern itself had changed just as much as the rest of the fortress. As before, the air was very cold, and sheets of ice encrusted the floor and walls. Covering most of the room was a large, frozen body of water, with a frozen waterfall descending into it. Several Ice Keese made their home in the room. There was a lone door across the ice on an elevated platform, just low enough for Link to climb. He found it rather unusual that there weren’t more doors leading out of this chamber, especially considering the number of rooms in this section of the Fortress of Ice. A glance at the map showed that there were, indeed, several doors leading out of the central chamber, but Link couldn't see any of them. After a moment, he realized there was only one place those doors could be: below the ice. Link glanced at the ice sheet dubiously, wondering if the Flame Staff might be powerful enough to melt all of it. Link drew his sword and took an experimental thrust at the ice. The sword rebounded off of the ice, barely scraping it, and the echo that came back to him was very dull and very, very solid. Nursing a sore wrist and shoulder, Link realized that the lake was frozen through and through and that melting it with the Flame Staff could take hours. Frustrated, Link decided he had no choice but to go through the door ahead.

    As he struggled to keep his footing on the slippery ice while avoiding the fluttering Ice Keese, Link made his way to the elevated platform and climbed on top of it. He entered the icy blue door in front of him and proceeded to the next room. No more than five paces ahead, another sheet of ice spanned the floor, dividing the room in half. To Link's eye, it almost looked like a river of ice flowing into the frozen lake in the previous room. There were two more doors in the room besides the one Link had come through. The first was straight ahead and readily accessible. The other was to the left of the first and was sealed with a lock and chains. Suspecting that some means of thawing out the ice in the central chamber might be nearby, Link started with the open door. However, just before he reached it, a set of bars came crashing down in front of it, sealing it shut. Halting in his tracks, Link whirled to find an Armosaur standing before him with glaring golden eyes. It wielded a lance and its torso and waist were stoutly armored. Contemplating how he could put Kelli’s techniques to good use again, he first attempted a shield attack first to throw the creature off balance. However, the Armosaur saw it coming and sidestepped the maneuver. It then swept the shaft of its lance at Link in a wide arc, forcing him to bend over backwards to dodge it.

    I always did hate doing the limbo, Link mused, sensing what was to come.

    Sure enough, Link’s heavy shield and sword threw off his balance, and the hero toppled over backwards onto the floor. He landed hard on his shield arm and the pain caused the fingers of his sword hand to spring open. The Armosaur, seeing its sudden advantage, kicked the sword away from Link.

    The Armosaur, confident that it could now finish Link off, drew back its lance to strike the final blow. Link, in desperation, brought up his Flame Staff to try and fling a fireball at the Armosaur, but he barely had the staff in hand when the armored saurian’s lance struck and bit deep into the staff. The Armosaur snarled and gave a sharp tug to draw back his lance. Much to Link’s surprise, and the Armosaur’s as well, the lance would not come free. Link then remembered the hallows in the staff, which had once presumably held pearls. The tip of the Armosaur’s lance had become lodged in one of those hallows. Thinking quickly, Link grasped the staff with both hands and began to furiously wrench it from side to side. As the Armosaur had better leverage, Link had little chance of prying the lance from his foe’s hand, but that was alright.

    He wasn’t planning to.

    As the lethal tug-o-war continued, Link quickly drew up one leg and thrust his heel into the Armosaur’s knee. Knocked off balance, the Armosaur toppled…and nearly crushed the hero on its way down. Link, rolling out of the way, regained his footing and struck the Armosaur’s tail with the blazing tip of the Flame Staff. Covering his ears to a loud roar of pain, Link leaped backwards, his ears throbbing with the overpowering echoes, and hoping he could take care of the beast before it caused him to go deaf. He then tried landing a jump attack with the burning Flame Staff, but instead of taking a major blow, the Armosaur backed out of the range of Link’s weapon. It then struck Link in the gut with the pommel of its lance as he began to rise to his feet.

    “AUGH!” Link yelped nearly as loudly as the Armosaur had roared. He slowly fell to the floor, clutching his diaphragm, and began coughing from the blow, barely able to breathe. That didn’t stop him, however, from driving his feet into the Armosaur’s chest and sending it hurling to the floor as well. Link then quickly rolled out of the way, snatched up his sword, and scrambled to his feet. He rushed to the creature’s exposed back side after and finished it off. The Armosaur’s death then caused the bars on the next door to rise.

    “Ugh… That was the w-worst place to be hit,” Link groaned as he went to the door, still clutching his gut with one hand. He coughed a bit more along the way.

    “A-Are you going to be alright?” Navi inquired, either stammering from worry or from the cold, or both, as Link sluggishly opened the door and entered the next room.

    “Yeah, don’t worry,” Link assured, though his voice was hoarse with pain. “I can b-breathe again now.”

    Inside this room, a frozen canal curved into an L shape and ended in an underwater tunnel which led, judging by the map, back to the central chamber. Another frozen waterfall rose ceiling-ward at the opposite end. Next to the canal, along the wall which separated this room from the main chamber, was a small staircase. Curiously, there didn’t seem to be anything at the top except a blank section of wall. There was no door or passage. Or…was there?

    “Okay… That staircase has to be there f-for a reason,” Link surmised. “N-Nobody just builds stairs without th-there being something important at the e-end of them.”

    “Yeah, but w-what could this one be for? I j-just see an ordinary wall,” Navi pointed out.

    “Well, according to the m-map, there should be a door behind that w-waterfall,” Link noticed after scrutinizing the map again. “B-but, the ice goes all the w-way back to the w-wall. We can’t get b-behind it to reach the d-door.”

    “It would take forever f-for the Flame Staff to m-melt that waterfall. And I doubt w-whatever’s in there will help anyway. I-If you remember, the puzzles in every dungeon ch-chamber almost always affect only that chamber.”

    “That’s true. Hmm…”

    Link continued to look around the room, hoping to find some possible hint of what he was supposed to do. When his eyes strayed to the ceiling, however, the answer was staring right back at him. A chunk of ice encased what appeared to be a large pulley switch hanging from the ceiling.
    “Hey! Look up there!” Link exclaimed and pointed to the switch.

    “Whoa! H-How did we ever miss that?” Navi wondered confusedly.

    “I have no idea. But time to see w-what that thing does!” Link replied and gave the Flame Staff a twirl.

    “Uh, Link—” Navi began, but got cut off when Link fired a blast of flames right at the ice. As it melted, however, it triggered a veritable deluge which poured down on top of the green-clad hero, soaking him from head to toe.

    “Aaah! Dang it! I’m such an idiot!” he opined as Navi fell to the floor in laughter. Link shot her a glare as he wrung out his tunic again and mumbled something under his breath about Zelda.

    “What, afraid of Zelda finding you too c-clumsy to be the perfect boyfriend?” Navi taunted as she flew upward to sit atop the switch’s handle. At this, Link tried hard to prevent Navi from seeing his cheeks turn pink, but likely failed.

    “Not everything’s about Z-Zelda, you know!” he retorted.

    “Whatever you say… Y-You're just lucky she wouldn’t believe me if I t-told her Malon nearly kissed you and th-that you’re so interested in impressing Kelli.”

    “Errgh… You’re lucky I can’t r-reach you up there! …Oh wait, I can!”

    Link then immediately whipped out the Grappleshot and aimed it right at Navi.

    “Eep!” Navi cried and darted out of the way as the claw latched onto the handle of the pulley switch. Link then launched himself towards it, grasped the handle and hung there until he could feel the switch descend and activate the mechanism. Within moments, a section of the wall next to the small staircase rose, revealing a giant blue crystal the size of a Goron. It sat atop a curious pedestal made out of metal with numerous legs that seemed to stretch underground. An odd gleam shone from the legs and, when Link examined them more closely, he discovered that they were pipes of some sort. A small platform sat behind the crystal. The section of wall that was above the staircase had also opened to reveal a hidden passage back to the main chamber.

    “Wow,” Link commented as he dropped back down to the floor. “I h-highly doubt the Zoras know about th-this.”

    “Yeah. But w-what’s that crystal for?” Navi wondered.

    “I dunno. I’ll take a look at it.”

    With that, Link approached the small platform and climbed atop it. A quick glance around revealed that an inscription was etched in the wall beside the crystal and that a small recess had been carved into the crystal itself.

    “What’s this…?” Link uttered as he began reading the inscription.

    The union of the Flame and the Sky in the East will drive away the chill of the Ice. But, when Flame and Sky part company in the West, the Ice will return.

    “Ha, I get it now!” Link realized, glancing at the recess in the crystal. “I bet if I p-put the Flame Staff in that hole and shoot fire into the c-crystal, then the ice will melt!”

    “Yeah, and t-there must also be some w-way to make water f-freeze again!” Navi added.

    “Yeah, that h-has to be w-what the inscription m-means about the Ice r-returning. In order to clear this place, we need to m-melt and f-freeze the ice to r-reach the r-rest of the d-dungeon.”

    “That’s correct,” a familiar voice confirmed, emanating seemingly from nowhere. After a few moments, the Fairy of Winds shimmered into existence before Link once again.

    “Ah, hello again,” Link greeted with a smile.

    “Greetings to you as well, Link,” the Fairy of Winds replied, returning the gesture. “This crystal… My sister, the Fairy of Skies, created it centuries ago.”

    “Really?”

    “Indeed. Like your Flame Staff, the Sky Crystal is also a magical device that was empowered by one of the nine Elemental Jewels. In this case, the Jewel of Sky. The Fairy of Skies created this crystal to help control temperatures in any area when necessary. However, to prevent it from being misused, its power can only be triggered by one with the ability to manipulate fire. And, not many individuals possessed such a power. Yet, from our surroundings, it would seem the monsters have found some means to control it themselves. What’s more, this pipe system is of recent construction…as my kind would define ‘recent,’ that is. Most likely, they found the Sky Crystal and used it to freeze this place. This pipe system was likely built to ensure that the crystal could affect the entire Fortress.”

    “Yeah. Rather c-clever, admittedly. And both D-Dinolfos and Armosaurs can breathe f-fire. I d-didn’t think they were s-smart enough to build these p-pipes though.”

    “Indeed. Thankfully, however, it appears that they do not know of the crystal’s other purpose.”

    “That it can also melt the ice.”

    “Exactly. Link, as you’ve probably guessed, you’ll need to use the crystal to find the Elemental Jewel that lies here. I must insist, however, that its location be kept a secret afterward so that it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands again. But you must also proceed cautiously. Some monsters are more powerful in frozen climates than in warmer ones.”

    “I see. And don’t worry, the secret is safe with Kelli and I.”

    “Thank you. And good luck.”

    With that, the Fairy of Winds vanished once more. Link then brought up the Flame Staff and held it up over the crystal’s recess. After double checking the inscription, Link decided that the “East” must mean that the staff should be rotated to the right to melt the ice. After he had done so, he summoned another fireball and the crystal was engulfed with flame. The crystal began to glow a ruby red until the crystal itself changed to the same color. At the same time, the ice in the canal quickly began to melt until it became water and the room became warmer; so much so, that clouds of steam began to form. The waterfall now flowed again, allowing Link to pass under it and proceed to the door behind it. The frozen lake in the central chamber also melted, granting the hero access to the passages below the surface.

    “I feel so much better now that it’s warmer in here,” Link commented, exercising his numb fingers. “I swear, it feels like the Termina tropics in here now. We just need to return here whenever we have to freeze the water again, and that’ll be simple since we have easy access to this room thanks to the hidden passageway. And, if we get too cold, we can warm up for a bit using the crystal. Hehe.”

    “Let’s not waste too much time trying to keep warm, though. You still have a crazy fish woman waiting for you,” Navi reminded him, somehow managing to keep from bursting into laughter.

    “Ugh… I forgot about that,” Link admitted, displeased at the reminder. “Well, I guess we’d better get a move on. Sigh…”

    With that, Link continued his trek through the Fortress of Ice, starting with the door behind the waterfall. Now that the dungeon was warmer, it meant that the Ice Keese, Freezards, White Wolfos and other enemies that dwelled in frigid environments would be weakened, or might even be forced to flee the dungeon altogether. However, it also meant that encountering other foes, like normal Keese and Wolfos, was now possible. What’s more, even though the ice in the dungeon was now melted, the water was still quite cold, and Link would have to swim through the underwater passages in order to reach some of the remaining rooms. Thankfully, the swim allowed him to obtain the compass along the way, as well as the key needed for the door he had encountered earlier. Though he was not looking forward to re-freezing the water after a swim through one of the underwater passages, Link returned to the Sky Crystal room to return the crystal to its original state. After inserting the Flame Staff into the crystal and turning it to the left, the Zoras’ former home once again became the Fortress of Ice.

    Link spent the next few hours searching as many of the other rooms as he could. The Pegasus Boots, as the Fairy of the Winds had claimed, had allowed him to run across the surface of the water and also helped when he had to close the distance rapidly with the enemy. Eventually, after melting and freezing the water several times over and exploring areas newly revealed by the Fortress' changing geography, Link noticed the compass indicated one last treasure chest marker on the map. It was located in a tiny room behind a large, circular chamber. Link, since he was a seasoned dungeon explorer, knew all too well what this familiar scenario meant. Another major battle was approaching, but against a lesser master of the dungeon who was undoubtedly guarding the boss key. The dungeons Link had gone through in the past usually only had one such battle, but on a few rare occasions, the hero found himself faced with two. And the way things had turned out in Lake Hylia so far, Link’s opponent could very well be another altered monster like the blue Lizalfos from before or even the one responsible for stealing the horses. Whatever the case, Link suspected that this fight would be challenging and decided to prepare by practicing the techniques he’d learned from Kelli once more.

    As he made his way towards the circular room, Link scanned the map one last time. The boss’s chamber was below this area of the dungeon. He’d have to find a way to get down there once his latest adversary was taken care of. When he approached the door of the large chamber, Link took a deep breath, hoping he’d trained enough for the battle ahead. He then entered, ready to draw his blade or un-sling the Flame Staff, whichever he would need. Since Link had melted the ice in the dungeon the last time he visited the Sky Crystal, he found himself standing in a pool of warm, shallow water which covered the entire floor and spanned from one wall to the other. There appeared to be nothing else in the room aside from a light mist in the air and a large, ornate chair sitting on a cliff overlooking the strange room. Link paused in the doorway for a long moment, suddenly tense and wary.

    He’d been in a chamber very much like this one before…and he’d been lucky to get out alive.

    During Link’s visit to the Water Temple in the dark future, he’d entered a room much like this one and was faced with himself…sort of. Dark Link, as he’d come to call his doppelganger, was one of the deadliest enemies which Link had ever faced. Dark Link knew every move that Link himself would make, usually before Link had made it. If Link hadn’t obtained the Din’s Fire spell or Biggoron’s Sword, he likely would have lost the battle. Fearing that this room’s resemblance to Dark Link’s chamber might be more than coincidence, he entered cautiously, in case his enemy planned to ambush him. He scrutinized the room with unblinking eyes, anxiously waiting for his opponent to appear. His foe was quick to oblige.

    “Well, well…” a feminine voice, which was terribly familiar, soon spoke up. “What have we here?”

    Link halted in his tracks, his eyes wide and his blood running cold. For a stretching second, he couldn’t bring himself to look in the direction of the voice. It sounded exactly like Kelli’s, only it was cockier and also had a hard edge and a sultry undertone to it. Grimly, hoping his weary mind might be playing tricks on him, his gaze found the ornate chair. When he saw its occupant, his eyes nearly popped out of his head. Lounging in the chair, her legs flung over one armrest and her head dangling over the other with deceptive carelessness was a woman whose skin and attire was colored a grim gray and ebony, with the exception of her glowing golden eyes. A devious grin crossed the features of her upside-down face. What was most startling, however, was that she looked exactly like Kelli, aside from her color, her tone of voice and a strange aroma about her that tasted like…corruption. She even carried her own versions of the heroine’s sword and shield, only these were ebony and ivory in color and her sword peeked over the right shoulder rather than the left. The sight of this apparition caused Link to suddenly and grimly recall his earlier supposition that Judo might have turned to evil. Could he have been right, and Kelli had somehow been corrupted as well? Or, was this an evil counterpart to Kelli, like Dark Link? The latter seemed more likely, if only because Link could not truly believe that Kelli, or Judo for that matter, could be turned evil. But somehow, this corrupted version of Kelli seemed different from Link’s dark doppelganger.

    “I set my little trap to catch my counterpart, and lo! I get a dashingly handsome young man instead,” the mirrored Kelli continued, drawing in her legs and jumping off of the chair all in the same motion. Link then realized, with smothered dismay, that the chair she had vacated must’ve been the ancient Zora throne. Though Link didn’t have a chance to look, he didn’t doubt for a moment that this dark warrior had defaced it somehow.

    “…What are you talking about? Who are you?” Link demanded, drawing his sword and shield.

    “Ah, how rude of me,” the mirrored Kelli replied sarcastically. “I am but a…dark mirror, I guess you could say, of the girl you call Kelli. When he created me, my master named me Dark Kelli. It was only appropriate, after all. But, I always did talk too much. Might I have the pleasure of knowing your name, handsome?”

    “Great, one Kelli was bad enough…” Navi uttered in annoyance.

    “Shut it,” Link retorted and then turned his attention back to Dark Kelli. “I see. And sure, I’ll tell you who I am. But first, I want to know what you mean by a trap.”

    “Oh, very well,” Dark Kelli agreed, though once again, her tone was cocky. “Remember when your precious horses disappeared?”

    “…That was you!” Link realized. “You sent those monsters and left those notes for us!”

    “Very perceptive! I’ll admit, I wasn’t expecting to fight anyone except Kelli here. But I’m glad you came instead.”

    “Oh really?”

    Dark Kelli then strode towards Link, her gait becoming a strut that allowed a clear impression of her supple legs, while her hands tracing the hard curves of her breasts and posterior.

    “Indeed. You know, you look tough. I could use a nice, strong man like you. I’d make an excellent partner…and not just on the battlefield.”
    By this time, Dark Kelli was only a hairsbreadth away from Link and had leaned into him. Her breasts ground against his toned chest, her breath tickled his ear and her fingernails scraped over his skin in a fashion that, coming from anybody else, would’ve caused Link to revert to the shy ten-year-old he’d been when he first started adventuring. Keeping a grimace from his features, he drew back from her and tried, without much success, to look indifferent to her loathsome advances.

    “Heh,” Link scoffed. “Sorry, but I don’t think a Guardian of the Moon is quite your type.”

    Dark Kelli had been about to press her case, possibly by pressing her knee and hip between Link’s legs, but the hero’s words brought her advances, and her blithe confidence, to a sudden end.

    “…What?” she blurted, but then tried to sound unperturbed. “What is this nonsense? You don’t even carry the Moon Sword.”

    “Not yet. But I will. Of this, I assure you.”

    “Hmph. Whether or not you speak the truth, no one will find that wretched sword. It has remained buried and forgotten for centuries and it will stay that way. And, so long as it sleeps, my master’s plan will succeed at last! It's too bad you’re not interested, my master gave me free reign to pick a…warm body to celebrate with, and yours is the best I’ve seen in a while.”

    “I’d sooner sleep with a Torch Slug. And just who is your master, exactly?”

    “You’ll regret that…in more ways than one. As for who my master is, oh, you’ll find out soon enough. Hehe… Soon enough indeed. That is…if you can best me!”

    As Dark Kelli finished her sentence, her coy voice turned into a feral growl and she tore her blade free of its sheath. Link gaped as Dark Kelli charged towards him in a blur of speed. He brought up his blade as fast as he could, though only barely managed to deflect Dark Kelli’s blow. Rather than withdraw her blade, however, she bore down on Link’s defenses. And, she was much stronger than she appeared. In moments, she had forced Link nearly to his knees. Either Dark Kelli suspected that Link had been telling the truth about being a Sky Guardian or she was just that powerful…or maybe both. Either way, Link had to defeat her, somehow.

    “You know… I know every one of Kelli’s sword techniques,” Dark Kelli spoke up as their blades remained grinding against one another. “And so much more!”

    Link braced himself, finally bringing Dark Kelli’s encroaching blade to a halt. He was he realized, very lucky that he’d managed to build up his own strength over the years thanks to how much he had trained and traveled. Otherwise, Dark Kelli would have run him through by now. However, what she said greatly concerned him. Apparently, not only did she know Kelli’s skills, but she was even faster, stronger, and probably more agile than the real Kelli as well. This meant he had to find a way around Kelli’s entire fighting style, which would surely be very difficult. Before he could begin contemplating this, however, Dark Kelli pulled away from him and spun into a wheel kick. Her foot smashed into his chest with the force of a battering ram. The blow sent Link hurtling across the room.

    “AUGH!” he yelped as he crashed to the wall and fell to the floor.

    Dark Kelli had made it painfully obvious, figuratively and literally, that she knew more than just swordplay. Link rose to his feet, and realized that he had to improvise, and quick. Link soon noticed that oddly enough, Dark Kelli had not un-slung her shield. Link knew that Kelli could not use her shield very effectively. Could her doppelganger share that weakness? Or, was this just the same blithe confidence she’d shown earlier when she tried to get under his tunic? Link could not be certain, but he figured he would have to take a chance that he’d found a weakness in this powerful enemy. When Dark Kelli charged towards him again, Link angled his sword once more to meet her blade, but did not push against her this time. Instead, he pulled his sword back, allowing her to lean in again, and then he thrust his shield at her to throw her off balance. In the split second while she was flailing, he swept his sword across her torso, drawing a foul smelling mist from it. As Link had suspected, a single blow like that didn’t defeat her. She merely studied her wound and grinned.

    “Hehe, not bad, handsome. I see Kelli has taught you a thing or two,” she commented. “But, I was merely testing you. Now comes the real fight!”

    “Bring it on,” Link challenged.

    With that, Dark Kelli finally un-slung her shield, which Link had not expected. She really had only been testing him before, and what had seemed to be her weakness had only been a ruse. Still, that didn’t mean she could use her shield as well as Link could use his. Unfortunately, this hardly mattered. Link was overwhelmed by Dark Kelli’s speed and agility. He could barely find any opportunities to strike and, those opportunities which presented themselves were often gone before he could act upon them. Her blade was everywhere, whirling in attack and defense until it became an ebon blur of deadly steel. She even used some of Kelli’s advanced sword techniques once in awhile, such as the back slice and shield attack. Though Link did not yet know every skill Kelli had, he used those he did know just as well. Still, he was at a disadvantage against Kelli’s evil counterpart, as she could use techniques he had never seen before, including what looked like a more powerful version of Link’s own spin attack.
    Eventually, after Link finally managed to deal Dark Kelli several blows. She noted a slash in her tunic which nearly caused it to fall right off of her and gave Link a fiendish grin before she renewed her assault.

    “You know, all you had to do was ask nicely,” she teased, allowing her torn tunic to slip a few inches.

    Not bothering to hear Link’s retort, she began using still more maneuvers that took Link by surprise. She would back flip to escape his blade and use her kicks to throw him off balance. Link, however, was the worst off of the two combatants. One unlucky blow had cloven deep into his stomach and he was beginning to grow exhausted. For some reason, he also began to feel warmer than usual, but chose to ignore it. Suddenly, Dark Kelli had sent him to the floor once again with one of her flying kicks, and this time, Link could barely stagger to his feet. By the time he faced Dark Kelli once more, she was holding her sword skyward.

    “Guess what? There’s one thing I can do which my counterpart cannot!” she said with a devious grin. Her sword soon crackled with power and it glowed fiercely. Before Link could react, she swung her sword in his direction. Some of the sword’s energy leapt free, forming a beam of light streaking right towards Link. It came so fast that he had no chance to block or evade it. It struck him directly in the chest and sent him flying into the wall behind him once more. He fell his full height to the floor, barely moving and in deep pain. Before Link could stand up this time, however, Dark Kelli was leaping towards him with her sword angled downward for the kill. Link’s eyes widened as he realized that she was attempting to finish him with an ending blow. In frozen horror, too battered to get up and too exhausted to fight, he stared helplessly as his end descended upon him.

    ***


    He’s been gone too long.

    Kelli had been wiling away the hours near Impa’s house in Kakariko. She’d had a lot on her mind before, but now she worried even more. Link was taking an awfully long time in Lake Hylia and, try though she did tell herself that Link was surely fine, Kelli feared for his safety nonetheless. In fact, with Judo missing, Daphnes’s health deteriorating every day, and the sun and moon aligned monsters growing stronger, it seemed that everywhere she looked, things were getting worse. Her heart ached with worry and despair more and more until she came close to breaking into tears, even while she trained. And, her tears often gave way to a near panic of second-guessing. Maybe she should have taught Link the rest of her sword techniques before he went back to Lake Hylia? And unfortunately, it could very well be too late now. Kelli’s thoughts were soon interrupted, however, when Vira came fluttering by.

    “Kel, really, all this worrying isn’t going to do anything,” she said, her tone breaking no argument. “You taught me as much yourself years ago.”

    “I know, but I’d never faced these kinds of troubles before, not even in Mayia,” Kelli replied. “I’ve been feeling so afraid lately. In Mayia, I felt brave and confident because every monster I went up against fell to my blade easily. But now, I’m afraid that even if Link and I win this battle, we may still lose the war. What’s happening to the people seems overwhelming and hopeless. And, I’m afraid that these monsters will become too strong for even Link or I to handle.”

    “I understand. But, all we can do is hope for the best. You taught me that too. I was always glad I became your fairy partner because of what I learned from you. I’m definitely not the bravest fairy out there, but it doesn’t mean I can’t have faith in you or Link or anyone else for that matter. You may not have thought so, but things looked bleak in Mayia from time to time, at least, they did to me, and I probably wouldn’t have stayed if you hadn’t.”

    “That’s true. Thanks, Vira. I know I’m not the most optimistic person myself, but you’re right.”

    “Heh, no problem.”

    With that, a companionable silence fell over the pair and Kelli began to feel better. After all, Link had been practically alone in his fight during the dark future and he had prevailed. Perhaps Hyrule’s chances weren’t so slim after all. However, the smile that had partially formed on Kelli’s face vanished once more when she saw a green figure slowly enter the village, leaning heavily on a tall staff as he hobbled towards them. Nearby, a small ball of bluish white light fluttered about in frantic circles, seemingly searching desperately for something. As the figure and ball of light drew closer, Kelli’s eyes widened in shock and horror. It was Link and Navi, and the former did not look well at all. Link was barely within the village gates when his strength left him and he collapsed to the ground. Kelli’s face went ghostly pale as she saw blood pool beneath the fallen hero.

    “Oh my goddess!” Kelli gasped and quickly rushed over to him, followed by a frightened Vira. Navi had flown to his side as well, frantically trying to revive him. When Kelli approached him, she froze in her tracks. Link was in terrible shape. There were bruises and deep wounds all over his body and his left eye had seemingly vanished under a lump of swollen, purple flesh. His hair was gummy with blood and his clothes were tattered and no less stained with crimson. As Kelli carefully rolled him onto his back, she saw that he had also been deeply stabbed in the abdomen. Link had vainly tried to clamp his hand over the wound, but the blood slowly poured out unabated.

    “Link! Oh no! NO!” Kelli cried, tears building up in her eyes. She quickly knelt to his side. “Vira, go find one of the soldiers and fast!”

    “Right!” Vira agreed and sped off.

    Kelli then tried to staunch Link’s bleeding as well, but the blood just trickled through her fingers. If only she had more red potion on her. All she had was half a bottle left over from an earlier battle. She doubted it was enough to help Link, and she didn’t have enough money to buy any more. As she pressed again on his wound, she noticed that Link’s body felt unusually warm beneath her fingers. Curious, Kelli brought her hand to his forehead, and she snatched it away immediately. Link’s forehead burned as hot as a summer day in the Haunted Wasteland, the desert near the Gerudo tribe’s settlement. Most likely, his prolonged exposure to the cold temperatures in the Fortress of Ice, as well as his injuries, had made him ill.

    “Link! Can you hear me? Please wake up!” Kelli begged, tears running down her cheeks. “Link!”

    “C’mon, Link! Please hang on!” Navi added fearfully.

    Link’s eyes soon fluttered open moments later, though just barely.

    “Uhnn… Kel…” he moaned softly.

    “Oh, Link! You’re still alive! Who did this to you?!” Kelli frantically demanded.

    “In the Fortress of Ice…in Lake Hylia…” Link began through grimaces of pain.

    “Hey, take it slow! You can’t waste your strength!”

    “I know, but… You have to know… She was terrifyingly strong….and looked just like you. Only…black and white…and with evil golden eyes…”

    “What?!”

    “Dark Kelli… Augggh!” Link gasped. “She was like…an evil, enhanced version of you… I managed…to force her to retreat…but… I was lucky…to have made it back here alive…”

    “Oh my… I’d hoped you were just trying to get out of rescuing Ruto…”

    “What?! I can’t believe you would even consider such a thing, you piece of—!” Navi began angrily, before Kelli cut her off.

    “I never said I was! Listen, Navi, this is no time to fight!” Kelli interjected, vainly resisting the urge to try plucking Navi’s wings again. “Either we set aside our differences for now and work together to save Link, or he dies!

    “…Well, you’re right. So, what do you propose we do once Vira returns with a soldier?”

    “The soldier will have to help get Link to Impa’s house. It’s the most heavily guarded, plus his majesty is there and he has a warm fire going. I will go find Ruto in Link’s place.”

    “But what about the village?”

    “We’ll just have to hope nothing bad happens while I’m gone. We don’t have a choice.”

    “…Blast.”

    “Kel! I’m back!” Vira called out moments later. Following her was the same soldier Kelli had met when she was heading to the cliff behind the windmill.

    “Oh! This is terrible!” the soldier gasped when he saw Link’s limp form. “Sir Link won’t last long in this state! I’ll do whatever I can to help!”

    “Good. Get him into Impa’s house quickly, but take care not to cause him further injury. His majesty should know where to find one of the doctors,” Kelli ordered.

    “Right!”

    With that, the soldier carefully picked Link up and swung one of the ailing hero’s arms around his shoulder.

    “Kel…” Link uttered just as the pair started off. “Take the Flame Staff… You’ll need…the boss key…compass…and map too…”

    “Ah, that’s right. I’m glad you were able to get those,” Kelli replied and took the items. “I’ll be back as soon as I can. Navi, can you watch over Link?”

    “Of course,” Navi agreed. “Good luck, I suppose.”

    “Thanks.”

    “Kel, I’ll go with you!” Vira volunteered, though her tone betrayed her anxiety. “I’m scared, but I don’t want to let you go alone.”

    “Well, alright. Let’s hurry then.”

    With that, Kelli and Vira headed for Hyrule Field while the soldier carefully hauled Link to Impa’s house. Kelli, however, couldn’t get Link’s words out of her mind. The news that she had an evil counterpart out there whose abilities might surpass her own was terrifying. Her doppelganger’s handiwork also made it quite clear that this Dark Kelli was a formidable and dangerous adversary. This evil counterpart would be back, Kelli was certain of that. Even so, she would have to find a way to defeat her for good when they crossed paths, even if Link could not. When she reached Hyrule Field, Kelli noticed Epona. The mare looked terribly gloomy, no doubt worried for her master. Her saddle, reins, and stirrups were also stained with blood, likely from Link’s wounds as he rode desperately back to Kakariko. Before mounting Sunfire, Kelli stroked Epona’s cheek.

    “Don’t worry, girl… He’ll be alright,” she assured with a small smile.

    Unfortunately, Kelli could not keep a note of uncertainty out of her words. Link was ill as well as gravely injured. She could only hope that the doctor would arrive in time to help him. Suddenly terrified, she forced herself to spur her horse into a gallop towards Lake Hylia…and, she feared, her own grave.

  13. #43
    I'm back! Finally Soulmaster's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Legend of Zelda: The Ancient Power

    wow a good deal of suspense in this last chapter. as for spelling and grammar I saw no problems but I do question some of the choices with contractions when talking to the king I don't think he would have been so causal about it but that is my reaction.
    So it I take it the updates will be further apart now?

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    Default Re: The Legend of Zelda: The Ancient Power

    Quote Originally Posted by Soulmaster View Post
    wow a good deal of suspense in this last chapter. as for spelling and grammar I saw no problems but I do question some of the choices with contractions when talking to the king I don't think he would have been so causal about it but that is my reaction.
    So it I take it the updates will be further apart now?
    Thanks! And yeah, since chapter 15 was the last one I finished, the updates will be going slower now. Sorry about that. xP

    And I thought that chapter was pretty suspenseful. We'll next see how Kelli learns to deal with the crisis that's been thrown onto her shoulders. Her best friend is already missing, and now Link, her newest friend and partner, is pretty much dying. She's never faced such an issue before and it will test her courage and willpower.

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    I'm back! Finally Soulmaster's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Legend of Zelda: The Ancient Power

    The sneak peaks can be very annoying because it leaves you waiting on the edge of your seat for the next chapter.

    oh and this is one of the best lines so far
    I always did hate doing the limbo

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