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.”
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.”
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.”
“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.”
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…”
“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.”
“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.
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.”
“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.