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Thread: The Legend of Zelda: The Ancient Power

  1. #46
    Secret Sword of Justice Kelleo's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Legend of Zelda: The Ancient Power

    Yeah, true, sorry about that. XD

    And my friend gave me the idea of that line, actually. Though I was intending for Link to have plenty of funny lines anyway lol.

  2. #47
    Secret Sword of Justice Kelleo's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Legend of Zelda: The Ancient Power

    Small update. I've added a table of contents to the first post. This should make it easier to navigate the chapters. :]

    I've also added the title of the upcoming chapter, Link's Rescue. :D

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

    Okay, it's finally time for chapter 16! I decided to change the title though. Link's Rescue will be chapter 17 instead because I felt this made more sense. Well, enjoy. :3


    Chapter 16: A Deadly Crisis


    With every step she took towards Lake Hylia, Kelli’s heart pounded a bit harder. She recalled Link’s chilling description of Dark Kelli, as well as how the former Hero of Time had only barely prevailed against her, and the young Sky Guardian wondered if the creature she would face in the Fortress of Ice would be as formidable as her evil counterpart. It was already clear that the monsters she and Link now fought were far deadlier than any they had battled before, and whatever creature guarded the Jewel of Water would surely be no different. Still, Kelli recalled as well Link’s warning of the monsters that were capable of using her own special techniques. Whoever was behind these creatures must therefore be someone who knew her well; perhaps too well. Kelli paused, jerking Sunfire to a halt until the blood thundering in her ears grew quiet, and considered who might be at the heart of Hyrule’s misfortunes. Kelli had made quite a few enemies, in Hyrule, Mayia and elsewhere, but who amongst them had the means and the patience to investigate her techniques meticulously enough to duplicate them? Notu, whom Kelli had faced in Mayia, seemed like a very likely candidate. Kelli had beaten him soundly and, though his fate was unknown, she knew that, if he had escaped death during their last encounter, he did so only very narrowly. Even if he had survived, she couldn’t imagine how he could possibly recover and attack again so quickly. Besides, there was no shortage of other suspects. Dorath Riptide, the pirate lord of the Med Sea, had worked with Notu often enough to know of the young Sky Guardian, and he hadn’t been pleased when Kelli had sent his flagship to the bottom.

    I forget, did he go down with the ship, or not? Kelli wondered.

    Kelli couldn’t remember, as she’d been rather busy at the time making sure she herself didn’t pass into a watery grave. Still, if Riptide had survived, he would surely seek revenge. Kelli also couldn't rule out Achren, an assassin referred to as “Bloodwing” for her ability to seemingly fly through the treetops. Of the various outlaws and villains who had sought the Guardian of the Sun’s life, Bloodwing had dogged Kelli’s steps the longest. And, from Kelli’s encounters with Bloodwing, all quite unpleasant and several nearly proving fatal, she knew that the assassin had the skill to perform the techniques the monsters now practiced. However, Kelli had not caught wind of Bloodwing’s pursuit in nearly two years.

    More suspects, too many more, sprang to mind and Kelli was forced to cease her musings. There were simply too many and, in the case of at least half, she could not be certain if they were alive or dead. Of course, it was highly unlikely that a simple bandit or pirate could ever attain this kind of power, but at this point, Kelli feared that anything was possible.

    Having nothing to show for her contemplations, save for a headache, she resumed her trek. When she reached what used to be the fenced off entrance to Lake Hylia, Kelli was astonished to find the iron gates smashed to bits. Still, she knew she could waste no time pondering what could have inflicted such damage to the stout iron gates, and could inflict upon her as well, so she spurred Sunfire to leap over the debris and take her to the lake. Her trepidation became dismay, however, when she saw Lake Hylia’s dismal state. Much like Link, she had hoped that restoring the Zora’s Domain waterfall might help the lake, but when Kelli brought Sunfire to a screeching halt at the lake’s edge, she and Vira could only stare in utter shock. Not only was the lake still no more than a bone dry crater, but a trail of blood drops wound a wavering, staggering path across the lakebed and over the lip of the maw. Kelli had no doubt that the blood was from Link’s desperate flight from the Fortress of Ice. The trail meandered to the side of the Lakeside Laboratory, where it had pooled, and then ended abruptly. Likely, the blood had become a puddle there when Link had remounted Epona and rode off. Kelli felt her stomach turn as she tried, vainly, to gauge just how much blood Link had lost. She quickly realized he was incredibly lucky not to have fallen from the saddle and bled to death.

    “This… This is terrible,” Vira spoke up.

    Kelli felt her stomach lurch, and she could barely form a reply.

    “Yeah… Link lost…all that blood… I can’t imagine how hard, how painful, it must have been for him to climb out of the lakebed and leave in the state he was in, much less ride all the way back to Kakariko…” she said.

    As she gazed upon the lake, dry save for the blood from what might be Link’s death wound, Kelli couldn’t prevent tears from building up in her eyes yet again.

    “…If only I had trained him more!” she cried as she crumbled to the ground and buried her face in her hands.

    “Kel…” Vira uttered. “None of this is your fault.”

    “Oh, Vira! I know, but I just don’t know what to do anymore! Even if I manage to find Ruto and restore Lake Hylia, Link is still dying as we speak! And Judo is still missing, and King Daphnes is ill, and…!”

    Her words were soon choked away by sobs. Vira merely sighed, even though she understood what her friend was going through.

    “Oh come on! Pull yourself together! You certainly won’t succeed acting like this!” the fairy chastised.

    “But…”

    “I’ve known you a long time, Kelli; long enough to know you’re better than this! The Kelli I know is strong, fearless, and would take on any challenge she came across. She wouldn’t let anything stop her! She’s relentless; indomitable, even.”

    “…Really?”

    “Yeah. I still remember that time you sank Riptide’s flagship. You evaded his guards, shimmied through the bilges and planted a whole sack of bombs to blow the hull apart at the seams.”

    “I was just thinking about that, actually. Good goddesses, that was not one of my better ideas. Oh, sure, it worked great. But, I came out smelling like the whole crew had leaked on me.”

    “Yeah, but the look on ol’ Riptide’s face when his favorite boat went belly up and sank with him aboard was worth it. Seriously though, I know we’ve never faced a challenge like this before, especially with such close friends in danger. But, we’ve been in plenty of other tight-spots and we’ve made it through. If we prevail here, it will only mean we’d have grown stronger! And believe me, that’s saying something.”

    “That’s true. And nobody wants a weak Sky Guardian.”

    “Exactly. Now stand up and dry your eyes. You can’t help save Hyrule by crying.”

    “You’re right! Link and the others are counting on us. I’d be giving the Sky Guardians a bad name if I broke down in the middle of a quest.”

    “That’s the spirit. Now let’s go! We have lives to save!”

    “Right!”

    With that, Kelli clambered down onto the lakebed and began looking for the entrance to the Fortress of Ice. It wasn’t long, however, before she and Vira spotted two cave entrances at the far side of the lakebed. Kelli regarded the two openings with concern. Link hadn’t mentioned there being two entrances, but then again, he had been too weak to say much at all. Still, if she chose the wrong entrance, the delay might cost Link’s life. Kelli then produced the map Link had given her, in hopes that she could figure out which entrance to take quickly. From what she could make out, one entrance led to a section of the Fortress containing many more rooms than there were behind the other entrance. Kelli knew that she needed to take the one leading to the larger half of the fortress and, after gauging the positions of two entrances before her in relation to the map, she decided that the cave opening on right side of the lakebed was the one she sought. She took a deep breath and headed inside.

    As she and Vira traversed the tunnel through which they entered, Kelli had expected the area to grow colder. The place was called the Fortress of Ice, after all. Much to her surprise, however, the exact opposite seemed to be occurring. As Kelli approached the first chamber, she was quite astonished to find that the temperature was actually rising. Her perplexity did not end there, however, as water flowed freely throughout the first room and, where she had expected sheets of ice, there were instead clouds of steam. Kelli and Vira merely halted where they were as they observed this peculiar surprise.

    “…This is odd,” Kelli spoke up. “Why isn’t it cold in here?”

    “Yeah, I’m wondering the same thing,” Vira replied.

    Kelli tentatively dipped a finger into the water, snatching it back almost immediately and letting out a brief cry of pain.

    “Ouch!” she exclaimed, putting the reddening finger in her mouth. “It’s as hot as a boiling stew pot! But, it can’t have gotten this way on its own; and, whatever heated it up must’ve been powerful. It probably happened recently too, for it to still be so hot. Maybe Link did this while he was here? It’s the only possible explanation I can think of.”

    “I agree. Though that Flame Staff doesn’t seem nearly powerful enough to do the job. At least, not by itself. If Link did do this, he had to have used something else.”

    “Yeah. But we can’t worry about that now. We have a Sage and jewel to find.”

    “Ah, right.”

    With that, Kelli scrutinized the map once more, seeking the path to the chamber of the dungeon’s master. It was apparently located in the back of the fortress, with many rooms standing between it and Kelli. Kelli had feared that, in order to reach it, she might have to seek out and use whatever means Link had discovered to change the dungeon’s temperature. Such would be a delay that she, and Link, could ill-afford; but, luckily, the route was open and clear. However, the chamber which held the entrance to her destination was one Link had not yet visited. Whatever lay within, be it a puzzle or monsters, Kelli would have to deal with it quickly if she was going to save him. And of course, she would do so; and she’d finish the entire fortress for him as well.

    Kelli had heard a few horror stories about Ruto and, if she was imprisoned here, the Sun Guardian decided to spare Link the added displeasure of meeting the Zora princess yet again.

    As Kelli quickly made her way through the rooms Link had already cleared, her pace was brisk but she kept wary nonetheless. The heroine had only detected relatively scant traces of the presence of monsters, but this only made her more uneasy. Had Dark Kelli grown overconfident, or had she anticipated her arrival and had laid a trap? Suspecting the latter, Kelli kept her sword at the ready when she at last reached the final room before the dungeon master's chamber.

    Beyond the portal, Kelli found herself standing on a tiny platform which rose on frighteningly slender pillars that descended into a seemingly bottomless chasm. Ahead, a long canal spanned the abyss and vanished into an opening in the rock on the far side of the room. Some distance within was a large, cracked wall. A quick glance at the map indicated that Kelli’s destination was behind that wall. However, the distance was too great for her to toss a bomb and, even if that wasn’t a problem, the water was too deep and the bomb would sink. So, Kelli decided that the only way she’d break through the wall was by ramming into it using the Pegasus Boots. She then slipped them onto her feet and dashed across the surface of the water. Just as she hoped, the Pegasus Boots worked as the Fairy of Winds had promised, and the heroine slammed into the wall hard enough to shatter it. The wall crumbled, revealing an expansive chamber where platforms rose at various intervals and elevation. The large, ornate door leading to the chamber of the dungeon’s master stood on the far side. However, the force of the impact had knocked Kelli backwards and sent her into the water. Before she could climb out, a trio of navy-eyed Lizalfos dropped from the ceiling onto the various other platforms dotting the room. Kelli quickly scrambled out of the water and leapt atop the platform which held the door to the dungeon master’s chamber. With her back to the wall, and where even the slippery Lizalfos could not swing behind here, she brought up her blade. The Lizalfos, as she expected, bounded over to her using their superior jumping abilities. As they drew nearer, however, Kelli realized that these weren’t ordinary Lizalfos. Unlike normal Lizalfos, these three wore armor, making them akin to Armosaurs, but not quite.

    Almost like… Oh no!

    “Eek!” Vira gasped, apparently reaching the same conclusion as Kelli.

    “Blast!” Kelli exclaimed. “These are Armozards!”

    “H-How are we going to fend off three of them at once?” Vira stammered, her tiny eyes widening with fright. “I remember that their weak point is their tails, but…”

    “Don’t worry, Vira. These are moon-aligned Armozards, so I should be able to handle them easily.”

    “I hope so.”

    “Watch me.”

    As the Armozards drew nearer, Kelli seemed to relax her stance. Rising to her full height, she sheathed her sword and spread her hands as though presenting herself to the bloodthirsty lizards. More than a few combatants might have considered her actions to have been madness but, rather than shrieking for her friend to arm herself, Vira simply snickered. She knew exactly what her friend was up to, and that the first Armozard who thought Kelli to be easy pickings would be in for a nasty surprise. As one Armozard approached Kelli, the heroine seemed to move like lightning. Her hand swiftly darted to the hilt of her sword and, in a single blur of motion, she drew the blade and then launched herself into a whirling slash. The blow struck with such might that it knocked the creature to the ground.

    “I’m going to teach Link that move next,” Kelli decided and then finished the stunned Armozard off with an ending blow. “I know he’ll need it. …If he lives…”

    “Yeah, I’ve no doubt about that,” Vira agreed as her friend turned her attention to the two remaining Armozards. Kelli’s grief and fear had begun to return as she recalled Link’s injuries and fever, and that every passing moment brought him closer to death. Kelli knew she had to finish this bout quickly but, thankfully, the two remaining Armozards seemed happy to oblige and approached her eagerly. Kelli’s fear, by then, had turned to anger. As tears formed in her eyes again, Kelli grimaced, as though in the midst of a great exertion. She angled her sword behind her, drew back a few steps, and focused power in her blade. The Armozards, realizing her intent, drew back and whirled to either side of the young Sky Guardian, thinking themselves safely beyond the range of the coming attack.

    They were wrong. Dead wrong.

    Kelli unleashed the power she had gathered in a ferocious spin attack, but one whose range and strength surpassed that of a normal spin attack. The two Armozards , realizing too late that they hadn't drawn back far enough, were struck by the liberated energy of the heroine’s blade and sent flying. One flew into the wall with bone crushing force while the other slammed head-first into one of the other platforms, a sickening crack emanating from his skull. Both then fell to the floor, and neither got back up. That was for you, Link, Kelli thought to herself as she sheathed her sword and slung her shield across her back. Now to take care of business here, once and for all.

    At that, Kelli approached the large door and slid the boss key into the golden lock. The imposing lock and chains fell away almost immediately, allowing her to enter. As Kelli cautiously stepped inside, however, she suddenly realized that she was freezing. Whatever Link had done to warm the fortress, this chamber had apparently not been affected. It was chillier than the Mayian mountains in winter, and by a sizable margin.

    “Holy c-cuccos!” Kelli exclaimed, wrapping her arms around her torso. “It’s freezing in here!”

    “Y-You’re not kidding!” Vira replied, flapping her wings furiously and shedding tiny icicles. “W-whatever Link did to w-warm the fortress must not have reached this room. Or, maybe the m-monster is keeping it f-frozen.”

    “Well, I-I’d say—WAAAH!” Kelli’s sentence ended in a scream as she suddenly slipped on the icy ground. She soon found herself plunging down an icy slide that spiraled all the way down to the bottom of the gigantic circular chamber. Vira, muttering something to the effect of “here we go again,” quickly followed, struggling to keep up as ice continued to gather on her wings.

    “Uhn!” Kelli yelped when she finally landed in a heap at the base of the slide. As she slowly stood up, the heroine realized she had landed in the middle of a large, circular stone platform, nearly as big as Death Mountain’s summit, that rose out of a massive body of water. Vira fluttered to Kelli’s side, no doubt to make some agitated remark about the heroine’s tendency to walk right into trouble, but the sound of water rippling began to echo throughout the room.

    “W-What’s that?” Vira stammered, hiding behind Kelli.

    “I’m not s-sure,” Kelli replied, trying hard to ignore a chill running up and down her spine which had nothing to do with the cold.

    The water began to foam and roil several meters away and, suddenly, an immense form erupted from the water in a gigantic splash. Almost faster than Kelli’s eyes could follow, a massive reptilian beast leaped from the waves and landed with a crash on the platform. Its powerful body was covered in rough, icy blue scales while each of its webbed feet bore five sharp claws. Its body seemed have been formed of ice, with alternating shades of blue scales which bristled with shards of ice, vaguely resembling the quills of a porcupine, and a shiny blue jewel gleamed at the tip of its tail. Water dripped from its long, spiny tail, the sharp teeth of its powerful jaws, and the rest of its very large and muscular body. Its navy blue eyes stared at Kelli and Vira with hunger and bloodlust.

    “EEEK!” Vira yelped, darting behind Kelli’s shoulder and trembling fearfully. “W-What is that thing?!”

    “…I have absolutely no idea,” Kelli replied, slowly backing away a few steps and readying her sword and shield again. The giant lizard, whom was known as Arcquaos, the Demonic Ice Nothosaur, drew in a breath of the frigid air and let it out in a roar that blasted into Kelli’s face with a wave of hot, foul smelling vapor. Kelli forcibly swallowed a fit of coughs and quickly brought up her shield in an attempt to ward off the Nothosaur’s foul breath.

    “I know you’re as good as dead since you’re tangling with us, but do you have to smell like it?!” Vira retorted, clinging to Kelli’s shoulder so she wouldn’t be blown across the room.

    As if he understood the fairy’s taunt, Arcquaos suddenly lunged at the two, his jaws snapping at Kelli to bite her in half. The Sky Guardian continued to back away, darting from side to side to evade the creature’s fangs and countering with her sword when she could. Yet, the creature drew back and was ready to strike again before Kelli could do more than scratch its scales.

    “Vira, stay behind me!” Kelli ordered after the creature’s jaws had nearly clamped down on the small fairy.

    “Already planning on it!” Vira replied shakily, seeming to tremble in the air.

    Kelli could hardly blame the tiny fairy for being frightened, for Kelli was trembling herself after Arcquaos’ fangs missed her head by a narrow margin. Arcquaos followed this latest attack with powerful swipes of his forearms, seeking to disembowel the heroine with his claws. Kelli quickly brought up her shield, but even though it spared her from being gutted, the sheer force of the blow sent her hurtling through the air. She flew over the edge of the platform and plunged into the freezing cold water behind her. In an instant, she felt the frigid waters begin to numb her limbs, and she knew that she was as good as dead if she didn't escape quickly. She began to furiously tread water to keep her legs from freezing while her arms, searing from exertion in the freezing water, guided her sword into its sheath and slung her shield over her back. Her frostbitten body now flaming with agony, Kelli quickly swam to the surface. Her mind felt a bit sluggish from her dunking, but she knew she couldn't rest yet. If frostbite set in, she might very well lose a limb or two. And, if the icy water she was soaked with froze, then Arcquaos would, literally, have her for dessert. She turned in the direction of the platform but, to her horror, she saw Vira frozen in terror as Arcquaos loomed over her.

    As Kelli broke the surface, however, Arcquaos turned his baleful gaze upon the Sun Guardian. The creature raised its head high atop its long neck and then expelled a gale of heavy, icy wind. His long neck swung his head in all directions, sending blasts of icy breath throughout the chamber, gradually freezing the water solid. Kelli gasped as she saw the wave of ice approaching and forced her nearly spent form toward the edge of the platform. She just barely managed to climb out before the wave of ice could envelope her. The sound of Kelli clambering out of the water finally snapped Vira out of her trance, and the fairy darted away from a second blast of Arcquaos’s icy breath. As she did so, however, she noticed that the jewel on Arcquaos’s tail was now glowing much brighter and when the gale died down, so too did the glow.

    “Kelli! I think I’m on to something! You see the jewel on that thing’s tail? I’ll be that’s its weakness! Look how brightly it’s glowing!” the purple fairy shouted, though her excitement became tinged with fear when she noticed the wicked spines on that same tail.

    “…Yeah! I bet you’re right!” Kelli agreed. She quickly produced her bow in hopes of getting a clear shot at the jewel using a Sun Arrow while Arcquaos’s attention was still focused on freezing the water. However, Arcquaos’s tail snapped and swung about the chamber which such speed that this seemed impossible. Worse still, within the next few moments, the creature’s frigid breath had turned the entire pool of water into an ice sheet. Kelli realized that the beast would soon return his attention to her and, sure enough, the blue scaled head turned in her direction and the creature’s jaw parted in anticipation of the kill.

    “…Blast,” Kelli opined in frustration as the creature snapped at her with its massive jaws. Kelli leapt away but, before she had even regained her feet, Arcquaos suddenly whirled around and swung his powerful tail at the heroine. Kelli soon realized, much to her consternation, that Arquoas was every bit as agile on land as he likely was under the water. The creature would launch himself into short, twisting hops that brought his tail whistling at Kelli’s skull, and she was just barely able to back-flip high enough or crouch low enough to evade these blows. They came in an unbroken, deadly rhythm, but then Arquaos abruptly halted the assault. The creature staggered from one side to the other, his head lolling and its eyes spinning almost as much as the rest of him had been moments ago. The creature was dazed by its own attack. A split second later, a flash of inspiration flared in Kelli’s mind.

    “Hey! Fish Breath!” she shouted, regaining the beast’s slightly addled attention. She then launched an arrow right into his forehead.

    Kelli’s triumphant grin, however, turned upside-down when the creature seemed to recover from the blow almost immediately and struck again with its tail. One of the spines caught Kelli across the leg, and she fell. The Flame Staff clattered to the ground next to her and, upon seeing it, Arcquaos seemed to draw back a pace.

    This caught Kelli’s attention; so, when she got another opening to fire an arrow, she also swung the Flame Staff and sent a fireball hurtling at the creature’s face.

    Arcquaos, being a creature of the cold, screeched in pain and, his head flailed wildly. Soon, he stumbled on the slippery ice behind him and toppled over. He came crashing down upon the newly created ice sheet, the impact sending a spider web of cracks shooting through the frozen water.

    “Kelli! Now’s your chance!” Vira shouted. “Hurry, before the ice breaks up completely!”

    “Right!” Kelli agreed and rushed across to Arcquaos’s tail. Luckily, one of the spines had become lodged in the ice and, with Arcquaos too dazed to pull it free, she hacked away at the vulnerable jewel. With each blow, the beast’s roars of pain echoed throughout the chamber. The cracks in the ice, however, continued to spread and, no more than a heartbeat later, to widen. When the ice sheet she was standing on suddenly split in half, and each half seemed determined to make off with one of her legs, Kelli was forced to retreat back to the platform. Arquaos, meanwhile, has recovered and his bloodthirsty eyes fixed upon her again. Water and saliva dripping from its sharp teeth, he advanced on the Sky Guardian.

    Arcquaos’s attacks came even swifter this time around, but Kelli once again managed to evade the creature’s whipping tail strikes until the creature’s own assault left it dazed and vulnerable. After another counter-attack against the creature’s tail, Kelli decided to use this tactic for the time being, though she expected her foe to eventually employ a new strategy sooner or later. The creatures that lorded over the dungeons were intelligent enough to recognize when a particular approach wasn’t working and to employ another, and the creatures which now terrorized Hyrule were clearly very intelligent, relentless, and deadly. What’s more, it was already clear that they were quite familiar with Kelli herself given Link’s discovery that at least some of them could use her techniques as well as the existence of Dark Kelli. Despite that, the heroine managed to repeat her earlier success and struck Arcquaos’s tail twice more. Kelli, though she realized she was winning, kept her guard up and watched the beast carefully. With Link in the state that he was in, she could not afford to make a single mistake. Kelli was the last hope Hyrule had until the ailing hero recovered…if he recovered.

    After Kelli’s fourth assault on Arcquaos, the beast let out a terrifying shriek that forced Kelli to clap her hands over her ears. She watched warily but, to her surprise, the creature did not attempt to swing his tail or use his icy breath. Instead, it continued to roar and, as Kelli watched, she realized that the icicles on Arquoas body where growing. The set he’d had when their battle began were becoming longer, thicker, and sharper. What’s more, as Arcquaos stood there, more sharp icicles rose from all over his body, including his legs, neck, torso, and head. A split second later, the beast went into a lurching roll that sent these icicles hurtling in every direction. Kelli quickly brought up her arms and shield over her face, several of the frozen missiles rebounding upon impact, but others slashing into her exposed arms and legs.

    “AAAGH!” she yelped as blood began flowing down her injured limbs.

    “Kelli!” Vira shouted worriedly, then snapping her fingers as an idea came to her. “Try using the shield attack next time! You might be able to deflect those icicles back at it!”

    “W-What?! But didn't you see the way that thing moves?! I’m nowhere good enough to hit something that agile!” Kelli protested, trying to ignore the pain in her frostbitten and slashed sword arm.

    “Come on! You can do it!”

    “But… I don’t know! My shield arm feels ready to fall off after that icy water!”

    “Kel, you have to! Do it for Link! He’d want you to!”

    “…Yeah, you’re right. I’ll give it my best shot for him! I just need to remember what he taught me about using a shield…”

    You just need to practice keeping a firm grip on it, Link had said. While the creature turned its freezing breath on the water again, Kelli furiously worked to revive her shield arm. When a sheet of ice covered the water again, Arcquaos roared piercingly. The icicles then began to grow until his body bristled with icy spikes once more.

    “Keep a firm grip on it…” Kelli repeated, hoping her half frozen fingers were up to the task. Within a split second, Arcquaos scattered his icicles once again. Just before they could strike her flesh, Kelli thrust her shield forward, knocking them right back at their owner. The shield did not wobble at all, nor did it ever slip from Kelli’s arm. More astonishing still, the reflected projectile had struck its mark.

    “You did it!” Vira cheered.

    “…I did!” Kelli replied, a large smile forming on her face. “I did do it! Haha! Time to finish this beast!”

    With that, Kelli felt excitement crackle through her body, not unlike the incendiary power of the Staff, for the first time in hours. She had finally performed a perfect shield attack, something she’d struggled to accomplish since the technique was first shared with her in Mayia. Now, if she could keep this up, she’d be able to finish off Arcquaos for good. When his own icicles struck him, the beast had been stunned. The following attack with the Flame Staff was enough to throw it off balance, and once again, it toppled onto the ice, allowing Kelli to deal more blows to his tail. Arcquaos seemed almost panicked by this reversal of fortune, perhaps not expecting Kelli to be able to counter his strategy so quickly, for its next assault became an erratic mix of attacks. Even so, Kelli kept Link’s advice in mind and, much to her delight, she successfully repeated her earlier success with the shield attack. She followed these with blasts from the Flame Staff and then dealt several more blows to Arcquaos’s tail. By this time, the beast was clearly weakening from wounds and weariness, but he continued to attack Kelli mercilessly. Yet, with the momentum of the battle on her side, Kelli wasn’t giving up either.

    Still, Kelli's elation was short lived. Both exhaustion and her own wounds had begun taking their toll on the heroine as well. She began to pant after striking Arcquaos’s tail twice more. Between escaping the freezing water, dodging the beast’s ice breath, deflecting his razor sharp icicles, and avoiding his tail and claws, Kelli was left breathing hard and her vision swimming. What’s more, she also knew she had to staunch her wounds and thaw her frostbitten limbs, while they were still attached. Thankfully, Arcquaos was the worse off of the two combatants, as Kelli had dealt him grievous wounds by this time. Thankfully, the heroine’s next strike upon the creature’s tail proved to be the last. At Kelli’s final thrust, Arcquaos roared in deafening agony while the jewel on his tail sparked, cracked, and then shattered. The beast stumbled and then collapsed into the water, vanishing beneath the icy surface.

    “Ha… Ha…” Kelli panted as she heard a clanking and whooshing sound and watched as the water began to drain away. She had to admit, this had been one of the toughest battles she had ever fought. Even Bloodwing had not pressed the Sky Guardian to her limits as Arcquaos had, and this had only been her first clash with the new dungeon lords in Hyrule. She doubted it would be her last, and suspected that the next might be even deadlier.

    After the pool of water had completely drained away, a stone door was revealed beneath Kelli on the east side of the room. Once her battle-heady blood had settled, Kelli was forcibly reminded of the damage done to her by Arcquaos’s ice missiles and her dunking in the frozen water. She wanted to treat her wounds and the frostbite, and fast, but in her alarm at seeing Link’s condition and her desperate haste to save him, she had forgotten to buy more potions in Kakariko. If her legs weren’t in so much pain, she would’ve kicked herself. All she could do was carefully jump down from the platform , a decision she promptly regretted, and limp through the newly opened door.

    As Kelli expected, the newly revealed door led to a tiny chamber that contained an altar, above which floated a small, shadowy sphere. Suddenly, a light pulsed within the shadows and the darkness was dispelled. Revealed was the shiny blue Jewel of Water, the very treasure Link had likely been seeking. A blue warp portal also shimmered into existence at the other end of the chamber. The Jewel of Water then glowed brightly and another, larger figure soon appeared from within the light. Once the light faded away, the figure’s identity became clear. As Kelli had hoped, it was Princess Ruto. Thankfully, she appeared to be safe and unharmed. There was not a scratch on her blue fins and scales, though her eyes did roam the chamber as though seeking something she could not find.

    “Link?” she called. “Link, are you here?”

    “Sorry, no,” Kelli replied, rolling her eyes at the Zora princess’s obsession over the green-clad hero.

    “Oh! Kelli! Am I glad to see you!” Ruto greeted upon noticing her savior. “I was afraid I’d be trapped inside that jewel forever.”

    “I bet. I’m glad to see you safe and sound myself,” Kelli replied with a smile. “I'm sure your father will be relieved too.”

    “I’m sure, he always gets in such a state when I disappear,” Ruto admitted, her tone a little too cheerful for Kelli's tastes. “That one time I got swallowed by Lord Jabu-Jabu, I didn’t think he’d let me see the light of day again.”

    “Yeah, I can imagine,” Kelli replied, still wondering how Ruto had ever become the Sage of Water.

    “Indeed. Oh, no offense intended, but I was hoping Link would be the one to save me,” Ruto admitted disappointedly. “Has he not returned to Hyrule yet?”

    “Yeah, I thought as much,” Kelli said with a chuckle. “And as a matter of fact, he did come home not long ago. He’s already rescued Saria and Darunia, and cleansed the Kokiri Forest, Death Mountain, and Zora’s Domain of evil.”

    “Oh, that’s wonderful. I’m glad to know that he came back after so long! But…how come he couldn’t come find me?”

    Kelli’s smile abruptly faded and she could no longer meet the Zora princess’s gaze. Kelli did not bear the Sage of Water any personal fondness, but she did know that the Zora princess cared for Link…in her own clingy, irritating fashion. If she told Ruto what had happened, the Zora princess would surely be horrified, but Kelli also knew that it would be wrong of her to keep such news secret from her.

    “Well… You see, Link was here looking for you and the jewel,” Kelli began, each word demanding effort. “But, he was gravely wounded in battle. He managed to make it back to Kakariko, but he was in no condition to return here, so I came in his place.”

    Ruto’s expression, by this time, was aghast and her eyes bulged with shock. Kelli immediately regretted her words and gnashed her teeth together to keep from revealing anything else. There was no way Kelli would tell Ruto how bad Link’s wounds truly were. It would utterly destroy Ruto to learn that Link's life hung by a thread, and Kelli simply could not break Ruto’s heart, no matter how un-sagely the Zora princess could be at times.

    “Oh… I see…” Ruto replied, frowning. “The poor dear…”

    Kelli then found herself smiling again as a notion, a mildly insane notion, occurred to her.

    “But hey, you'd have been proud to have seen him in action. I swear, I think he’s gotten even better than he was the last time the two of you met. He had those monsters begging for mercy for trapping you in here, and I was hard pressed to talk him into letting me return in his place. He was so worried about you,” she embellished while, nearby, Vira mouthed “you’re out of your mind.”

    “…Really?”

    “You’d better believe it! He really went through a lot just to try to rescue you.”

    “Wow… Then he really does care about me!”

    “I’d say so! Hee hee.”

    Ruto’s cheeks colored in what, Kelli supposed, was the Zora equivalent of a blush. Kelli couldn’t quite be sure of the truth in all of her words, and was quite certain she’d stretched the truth in quite a few places, and she suspected that Link would give her an earful if he found out what she had told Ruto. Yet, this tale had done much to lighten Ruto’s spirits, and thinking about the look on Link’s face when he and Ruto met again lightened Kelli’s mood as well.

    “Then, I must go visit him! After all, Link got injured while trying to save me, so it’s only the right thing to do. Where is he at now?”

    Me and my big mouth.

    “He’s resting in Kakariko, but I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” Kelli warned. “You, uh…need to let your father know you’re safe!”

    “…Well, that’s true. I’ll go do that first then. I’ll meet you at the village later!”

    With that, Ruto rushed for the warp portal.

    “W-Wait, Ruto! Hold on!” Kelli protested.

    “Don’t worry, I’ll be fine!” Ruto assured as she entered the portal and vanished. Kelli brought up one hand and gave her face a loud slap.

    “Blast,” she uttered.

    “Well, you tried,” Vira replied, snickering under her breath. “Let’s get the jewel and get out of here.”

    “Alright…”

    Kelli then took a deep breath and grabbed the Jewel of Water from its resting place. As she did so, a peculiar warmth stole over her. It was as though she’d been plunged into a pool of warm water…except she now felt dry. Almost as though the jewel was draining away the cold of her dunking, she now felt warm and dry, and the frostbite induced pain in her limbs faded. Nodding gamely, she entered the warp portal after, relieved to leave behind the cold dungeon and its frigid perils.

    The portal briefly blinded Kelli and, when her vision returned, she found herself gently descending to the small island beneath which rested the Water Temple. She noticed that the Jewel of Water was glowing again and, realizing what this might mean, she watched the dry lake expectantly. Sure enough, water erupted from the two entrances to the Fortress of Ice, the GerudoValley River, the passage to Zora’s Domain, and the entrance to the Water Temple. Higher and higher the water level rose, until the once bone dry crater brimmed over with clear, beautiful water. Kelli was relieved, elated even, to see this, though it did not provide as much relief as she would have liked. After all, the battle to save Hyrule was far from over. The heroine also knew that Link was still in grave danger…if he was even still alive.

    “Hey! Kelli, look over there!” Vira exclaimed as Kelli was cleaning her wounds. Kelli turned to follow her fairy friend’s gaze and spotted a pair of blue Lizalfos standing at the river’s edge. She had never seen blue Lizalfos before and, more curious still, this pair had clearly noticed her, but made no move to attack.

    “Hey, that’s weird…” she commented.

    Before she could make sense of this oddity, a bright glow enveloped the creatures. Kelli averted her eyes from the glare and, when she turned back, she saw instead a pair of Zoras.

    “I don’t believe it,” Kelli uttered, her eyes wide with shock. She quickly raced across the rope bridges leading back to the mainland.

    “Neither do I!” Vira agreed.

    Once they arrived at the other side of the lake, Kelli quickly approached the Zoras. They were apparently aware of their reversion, for they were studying their newly regained fins with delight. As Kelli drew nearer, they soon noticed her, the delight on their faces seeming to grow.

    “Ah, you must be Kelli,” one said. “We thank you deeply for returning us to normal!”

    “Yes, now we can finally go home!” the second Zora added.

    “Yes, I’m Kelli. And I see,” Kelli replied. “But what happened to you two?”

    “We came here a few days ago, searching for Princess Ruto. We had just fought off an attack by monsters emerging from the Fortress of Ice. Since we suspected Princess Ruto to have been inside the fortress, one of our number returned to Zora’s Domain to tell the king what we had discovered,” the first Zora explained. “Soon thereafter, a shadowy figure appeared, along with a shrouded man with glowing eyes. The shadowy figure directed the shrouded man to cast a spell and, when we regained our sense, we found that we had been transformed into those hideous lizards.”

    “And that figure looked exactly like you!” the second added. “Only, she was dark with evil; so much so my scales crawled just looking at her. She was like some sort of twisted shadow of yourself. After we were transformed, she and the shrouded man just laughed at our misfortune and left. We couldn’t go back home looking the way we did; nor could we hope to overcome the Fortress of Ice. We lingered here at the lake, hoping someone who could break the curse might come along. We saw Link, our princess’s paramour, not long ago, but we were feared he would take us for the enemy. So we ran away.”

    “We hoped he would destroy the monsters in our former home, find Princess Ruto, and return this place to normal, but then we saw him emerge later with those awful wounds,” the first Zora finished. “He rode off on his horse, and we feared he wouldn’t survive the journey.”

    “Dark Kelli…” Kelli growled angrily, a grimace twisting her features. Her hands clenched into fists.

    “You know of her as well?” the first Zora wondered.

    “Yes, but there’s no time to explain,” Kelli replied. “I have to return to Kakariko Village at once. Link made it there, but he’ll need help if he is to survive. You both should report to King Zora that the fortress has been cleansed and Ruto is safe. I’m sure he’ll be relieved by this news, and to see that you’re safe.”

    “Ah, yes, of course. And again, many thanks!”

    With that, the trio went their separate ways. Kelli quickly mounted Sunfire, who had been grazing contently on the newly revived grass, and she immediately spurred the horse into a gallop. The young Sky Guardian raced out of Lake Hylia, leaping over the debris, and thundered onto Hyrule Field. On the way back to Kakariko, however, Kelli’s earlier fears returned with a vengeance. Apparently, Dark Kelli was every bit as ruthless as Link’s grievous wounds would suggest, and then some. More than a formidable enemy, Dark Kelli also seemed only too eager to inflict pain upon anyone who got in her way. Her dark counterpart, as far as Kelli could see, had nothing to gain from afflicting the two Zoras…except satiating a lust for sadistic pleasures, and now Kelli could see why Link had suffered so horribly at her dark counterpart’s hands. What the two Zora guards had said made her wonder, however. Could Dark Kelli be the one behind the evil that now threatened to consume Hyrule? And, if so, what could her aim be? Or was Dark Kelli in the service of an even greater villain, perhaps Notu, Bloodwing, Riptide, or somebody else entirely? Whatever the case, Kelli knew her dark counterpart would inevitably strike again. The only question was where, and when. And Kelli could only hope that either she or Link, or better yet, both, would be there to stop her.

    This train of thought soon took an even darker turn. The Sky Guardian had half expected her dark counterpart to be lying in wait within the Fortress of Ice, ready to ensnare Hyrule’s lone remaining defender. Yet, Dark Kelli had not done so. With Link near death, eliminating Kelli was surely the wisest move…unless Dark Kelli had something else in mind. What if, instead, Dark Kelli was planning to raid Kakariko Village while it was undefended? If such were to happen now, with Link near death and Kelli absent, any chance of rebuilding Hyrule would surely be lost. Kelli spurred Sunfire, urging all speed from her mount. Yet, even as those dire thoughts roiled in her gut, more appeared.

    Could Judo have crossed paths with Dark Kelli…and lost? Kelli then shook her head to banish these thoughts, unable to bear them. Even so, if Dark Kelli took both Link and Judo’s lives, Kelli vowed that she would make her evil counterpart pay very dearly…or that she would die trying. Judo was her best friend, the boy who had been at her side, through times both good and bad, when they were children. They played with each other every day. They had warded off bullies, cared for one another when they were sick or hurt, and protected one another from danger whenever they could. Link was Kelli’s partner and a newfound friend. It wasn’t just the fact that he was destined to be the second Sky Guardian and the Guardian of the Moon either. Somehow, despite that she had only met him days before, Kelli still felt a bond with Link. It was a bond of a very different sort than the one she shared with Judo, for she worried about and cared for him as her best friend, as she always had. She considered Link to be a good friend, but when he was in danger, she feared for him like she would for a brother or cousin.

    That musing caused perplexity to chase out some of Kelli's anxiety. Where had that musing come from? She had no family. She knew nothing of her parents, or if they were even alive. Kelli wasn’t even sure if she was actually Hyrulean. All she knew was that she was an orphaned Hylian girl who spent some of her childhood with Saria in the Kokiri Forest, much like Link had. When she left behind the forest of children, she met and quickly befriended Judo. Two years later, she journeyed onward to Mayia, where she grew into both womanhood and her role as the Guardian of the Sun. Though Kelli had lived amongst the Kokiri, she had long since known that she herself was not one of the forever young forest children, not the smallest clue being that she survived leaving the forest when no Kokiri could, however, her true origins remained a mystery. I just don’t understand… Kelli thought to herself. I hope I find out someday.

    Sometime later, Kelli finally approached the stone stairs leading up to Kakariko Village. Epona remained tethered and gloomy as ever without her master, as she had been when Kelli first departed. However, Kelli also noticed that the mare’s saddle and reins had been cleaned. The blood that had stained them was gone, and the leather had been freshly oiled and repaired. Perplexed, but relieved that Dark Kelli hadn’t attacked the village in her absence, Kelli quickly dismounted Sunfire and hurried up the stairs into the village. Much to her surprise, the simple wooden fence had been replaced with a partially built stone barrier and a stout iron gate. As she drew nearer, a shout made her jump.

    “Who goes there?!”

    Several figures rose from atop the wall; Kelli could distinguish at least a dozen hylian soldiers armed with bows and arrows and at least as many Gorons brandishing what looked like some sort of sling-like weapon for hurtling huge rocks. When the armed guards recognized her, however, they lowered their weapons and beckoned her to approach. Kelli, more than a little startled by these changes, mechanically strode through the gate as it creaked open. Still, she could not suppress a flutter of excitement as she realized what might be happening.

    Upon entering the village, the heroine's suspicions were confirmed. Kakariko was now an armed camp. A number of villagers had set up improvised forges and were hammering out swords, spears, shields and suits of armor, while others were carving bows and arrows. Many new soldiers, fresh recruits, Kelli suspected, were being trained by more experienced warriors. Gorons were delivering loads of iron ore to the forges while oxen carried heavy stones for the new wall’s construction. Kelli was briefly flabbergasted at the whirlwind of activity, but quickly realized its meaning.

    Link had saved the people of Hyrule before, in the dark future which only a chosen few recalled, and by exposing Ganondorf upon returning from the future, and, with him near death and Hyrule besieged by evil, the people had only themselves to rely upon.

    Apparently, they were managing well enough.

    The next time the enemy visited Kakariko, they’d be in for a nasty surprise.

    Though she was relieved that Kakariko was now well defended, Kelli was still worried. She hadn’t yet found a means to heal Link’s affliction, and there was also the question of how Daphnes was coping with the ongoing crisis. In addition to his kingdom being ravaged by an unknown evil and his daughter’s disappearance, he might very well have just lost his best chance to rectify the situation, and Kelli knew what such news could do to the king’s already deteriorating health. She quickly bolted for Impa’s house, dodging between the traffic of armed men and praying silently for both Daphnes and Link.

    Within moments, Kelli barged through the front door. Daphnes already stood at the entrance, probably expecting her.

    “Ah, Kelli,” he greeted. “It does my heavy heart good to see that you’ve returned safely.”

    “I’m glad you’re alright as well, your majesty,” Kelli replied through a fearful pant. “Please tell me, how is Link? Will he be alright?”

    Daphnes sighed before replying.

    “I desperately wish I had an answer to that. I sent for a doctor as soon as I learned of Link’s condition, but this affliction is one unknown to him. Even so, the doctor has treated Link as best as he can for now. You should go speak with him. He can explain the situation better than I.”

    “Alright. They’re upstairs, I’m guessing?”

    “Correct. Link also has a visitor, by the way. I think you may know her as well.”

    Could Ruto have gotten here that fast? Kelli wondered to herself.

    “I see. I’ll go see them immediately,” she said.

    Kelli then rushed up the staircase. The second floor of Impa’s home was a large, single room which was neatly furnished with three beds as well as end tables, wardrobes, and a modest seating area for entertaining guests. Two beds were arranged against the right wall while the other stood upon the left. Link occupied the latter bed, and Kelli's breath seemed to catch in her throat when she saw him. His eyes were closed, one of which seemingly swollen shut by a massive bruise that was covered with a bandage, and his breathing was labored and shallow. His tunic, hat, and undershirt had been removed while his left arm and torso were bandaged. The blood that matted his hair and stained his body had been washed away. However, the hero lay motionless upon the bed; his skin deathly pale and his body dripping with sweat. If not for Link's feverish shivering, one might have believed he was already dead. However, Kelli feared that she knew what the doctor was about to tell her.

    “Ah, Lady Kelli,” he greeted. “I’m glad you’ve come. It is an honor to meet you, though I dearly wish it were under better circumstances.”

    The doctor was a middle-aged man, his brown hair streaked with gray and his hazel eyes somewhat blurry from strain but still sharp with intellect. He wore a white robe and a leather satchel hung from his belt, likely containing his supplies. Kelli was about to reply when she noticed the visitor Daphnes had mentioned standing next to him. But it wasn’t Ruto as she had suspected. It was Malon, and her facial expression was no less troubled than Kelli’s.

    “Likewise,” Kelli replied. “And Malon, what are you doing here? I thought you’d be helping your father look after the ranch.”

    “I know, but he and I both agreed that it would be best if I came here to help Link,” Malon replied. “We were told what had happened when one of the guards came by and asked if we had any milk left. The doctor said it may help later. Thankfully, we did have one last bottle and we decided that Link needed it the most. When I saw the blood on Epona’s reins and saddle, I nearly screamed. I’m so worried…”

    Malon sniffled and then approached Link’s bedside. She knelt to his level to gently stroke the bangs of his hair as a tear graced her cheek.

    “Indeed,” the doctor confirmed. “I did what I could, but I fear it wasn’t enough.”

    “What do you mean?” Kelli wondered nervously, struggling to get the words past a lump in her throat.

    “I was able to clean and bandage his wounds easily enough, but Link was attacked quite brutally. There were deep cuts and terrible bruises all over him. He also lost a grave amount of blood due to the deep wound in his stomach. I was able to stop the bleeding, but he’s been infected with some sort of illness. It is unlike anything I have ever seen before, and both it and the blood loss have caused him to fall into a coma. What’s more, he is also running a very high fever. I’m afraid that unless we find a way to at least remedy this illness, then he will likely not survive.”

    “Oh no…”

    Malon gasped fearfully.

    “But-But what about a potion?” she stammered. “Surely a blue one is powerful enough.”

    “You’d think so, but unfortunately, Link’s condition has deteriorated too severely even for that to suffice,” the doctor somberly reported. “As things stand now, his final hour draws near.”

    “W-What?!” a familiar voice interrupted. The trio turned to see Ruto standing at the top of the staircase, her eyes welling up with tears.

    “Oh… Ruto,” Kelli uttered.

    “Kelli… You didn’t tell me Link was…” Ruto began, unable to finish. She then covered her face with her hands and began bawling.

    “…I know. I’m so sorry. I just…I just didn’t want to scare you,” Kelli admitted shamefacedly.

    Malon then approached Ruto and placed a hand on her shoulder.

    “So you’re Princess Ruto of the Zoras,” she greeted. “I know this is hard. Link was…is a good friend of mine as well, and the thought of…losing him… It’s more than I can bear.”

    “Yeah… But you’re not the one who…had feelings for him,” Ruto pointed out shyly.

    “That’s true. But, we all loved him dearly, in one way or another. He’s done so much for his friends, and all of Hyrule.”

    “Malon is right, Ruto,” Kelli stepped in, approaching the two girls. “And, Link isn’t just my friend, he’s my partner. Believe me, I’ll do anything I can to save him.”

    “I know…” Ruto admitted, her eyes turning red. “But, this is so heartbreaking. I just heard of what Link had done in Kokiri Forest, Goron City and for my people, and it gave me hope that these troubles might finally be ending. But now, it’s as though everything looks darker than ever. But, I can't just go home; I feel as though I’ll lose my mind if I don't do something. If you’ve no objections, I wouldn’t mind helping out here. My father didn’t want me to be gone long, but he’ll just have to deal with it. I’m not leaving Link like this, especially not after what he went through to try to save me.”

    “Link has probably gone through a lot of trouble trying to find the ranch’s missing tools as well,” Malon added. “It’s only right for me to try to help him too. I’ve already brought our last bottle of milk and cleaned up Epona.”

    “I can see why you girls are Link’s friends,” the doctor put in. “If any of this makes you feel better, all of the townsfolk are doing what they can. Soldiers are training hard to make certain the enemy cannot penetrate this town again, and many more are in training. The Gorons have brought iron ore from Death Mountain, and we are working day and night to make weapons and armor, as well as to fortify the village entrance. If we cannot save Link, we will do what he would have done. We will protect Hyrule; for it is only right after everything he’s already done for us.”

    “Wow…” Kelli uttered. “I knew Link was well-respected, but I never expected all of that. I saw a good bit of it on the way in, and I had a hard time believing it. Still, I’m so glad to hear this. Ruto, Malon, of course you both can help! I’m going to go exploring and see if I can find anything that can help Link myself.”

    “Great! As for what we’ll do…” Malon contemplated. “Um… I know! Since the soldiers are preoccupied with their training and holding the village entrance while the wall is being built, Ruto and I can climb the tower near the entrance to Death Mountain and serve as lookouts. We’ll be able to spot monsters easily from up there.”

    “Hey, that’s a wonderful idea!” Ruto agreed. “We can see any monsters coming for miles around from up there, and we can sound the alarm so that the soldiers will be ready for any enemies!”

    “Sounds good to me,” Kelli replied with a smile. “Malon, you remember my song, right? Use it if any of you need to get ahold of me right away.”

    “Of course,” Malon agreed. “Good luck!”

    “Thanks!”

    With that, Kelli departed the house. She wasn’t sure where to begin her search, but suspected that one place would likely serve as well as another. She could only hope that she found something soon, for Link may not have long to live otherwise. And if he passed away, Hyrule would lose a potential Sky Guardian…and would surely be doomed.

  4. #49
    I'm back! Finally Soulmaster's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Legend of Zelda: The Ancient Power

    Sorry it took me so long to get back here to review it.
    This one has really gotten me wondering... Ruto is definitely herself as is Malon.

    I saw no typos in this chapter so good job there.

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

    Ah, it's fine. :P But wondering what?

    And thanks!

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    Default Re: The Legend of Zelda: The Ancient Power

    Stuff like what will happen to Link and like things.

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    Default Re: The Legend of Zelda: The Ancient Power

    Ah. Don't worry, you'll find out in due time. ;D

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    Default Re: The Legend of Zelda: The Ancient Power

    And after a good while, I finally have chapter 17 ready! :D


    Chapter 17: Link’s Rescue


    Kelli charged through the door, nearly ripping it from its hinges, and raced back outside, taking the stairs two at a time. As she wove through the heart of Kakariko, ducking and weaving between the traffic of Hylian and Goron defenders, she frantically mulled over her options for aiding Link. The doctor had stated that Link was suffering from an illness unknown to any Hylian healer, and which even the famed blue potion could not purge. If Link was to survive, Kelli would have to seek out a medicine even more powerful than a blue potion. But, where would she find such a potent concoction? At first, the task seemed hopeless; but she shook these grim thoughts from her mind and forced herself to concentrate. Even in its ravaged state, it was no secret that Hyrule contained many resources. Could the other races of Hyrule possess medicines that the Hylians didn’t?

    Since Impa was still missing, inquiring about the Sheikahs’ healing arts was not possible. The Gorons were well known for being as solid in health and in body as the mountain they called home, so there was likely no help to be found there. And, if the Zoras had anything that might save the dying Link, Ruto surely would have mentioned it by now.

    What about the Gerudo, or maybe the Kokiri? Could they have the medicines we need?

    It seemed possible. For so many years, neither tribe could be safely approached by outsiders in most circumstances. And, even now, the Hylians knew very little about either the forest children or the desert women. Maybe one of those tribes possessed some means to save Link? The possibility sparked a glimmer of hope in Kelli, but it began to dim almost immediately. Even with Sunfire, travelling to either the Kokiri Forest or the Gerudo Fortress and returning might take days. Reaching the Gerudo Valley would be especially dangerous, since she’d have to cross the monster patrolled Hyrule Field and get past whatever evils surely lurked in the desert lands. The journey to the Kokiri Forest would be much shorter but, if her hunt took her to the Lost Woods, then the time she hoped to save would likely be wasted twice over navigating the sylvan labyrinth.

    And, if she came away from either destination empty-handed…she could not finish the thought, but yet another grim musing sprang to mind nonetheless. Ever since Ganondorf's banishment, relations between the Gerudo and the rest of Hyrule had greatly improved, and trade began in earnest as the desert thieves became merchants. The Gerudo could create many wondrous elixirs from the exotic plants of the desert, but nothing equaling, much less surpassing, the blue potion had ever been sold by the Gerudo.

    As secretive as the Gerudo could be, they’d never be silent when there was money to be made.

    And, upon further reflection, the young Sky Guardian was forced to admit that the Kokiri Forest didn’t seem any more promising. Granted, the “Source of Life” lived up to its reputation, but she already knew that there were no healing plants in the Kokiri Forest which could not be found elsewhere. Indeed, all manner of healing herbs in Hyrule had been documented and experimented with to create the strongest medicines known. And, thus far, the blue potion was the finest concoction yet produced.

    But, Hyrule was hardly the only country experimenting in the healing arts.

    During her adventures abroad, Kelli learned the hard way that there were some other powerful remedies available in Mayia. Yet, traveling there and back could take weeks. She rather doubted that Link had that kind of time. And, even if she did reach Mayia quickly enough, she probably wouldn’t be able to afford the medicine anyway. As Kelli recalled, the merchants in Mayia had a bad habit of raising their prices at the worst possible times; and, if they did have such valuable medicine, it would surely be very expensive. Still, the young Sky Guardian seemed to have only one choice.

    It was dangerous, but Kelli had managed to survive many hair-raising escapades over the years. She only hoped that her luck wouldn’t fail her now.

    “Where exactly are we going next, Kelli?” Vira wondered.

    “Well,” Kelli began, trying to keep a hint of anxiety from her tone, “We already know that no Hylian doctor can treat Link. So, our only real option is to look elsewhere.”

    “Yeah, I figured. What about the Kokiri Forest? It has all kinds of mushrooms, herbs, and other plants that could be made into medicine! Or, maybe the Gerudo Fortress? They might be able to make what we need from those desert herbs that they were selling before all this trouble began.”

    “Sorry, but I don’t think either would help. From what Saria told me, the plants in the forest can grow elsewhere. If they could be made into something stronger than a blue potion, I think someone would have managed it by now. We’d likely be wasting time going there there. And, the Gerudo Fortress is way too far. Most likely, it's controlled by the monsters as well. Besides, if the Gerudo could make something stronger than a blue potion, they would’ve started selling it long ago.”

    “Yeah, I suppose you're right. Frankly, I’m at a loss. What do you have in mind?"

    Boy, are you in for a surprise, Kelli mused unhappily.

    “Well,” Kelli began, weighing her words as she spoke them, “The way I see it, we have only one choice. I’m thinking we may have to leave Hyrule for a while.”

    Vira nearly fell out of the air.

    WHAT?!” the fairy screeched at the top of her tiny lungs. “But, we don’t know what’s out there! I know we’ve left the kingdom once before, but back then, we actually knew what we were doing!”

    “I know,” Kelli replied, painfully aware of just ironic those words were in the face of her plan to venture blindly into the unknown. “But, I feel it’s our best chance to find the medicine Link needs. We already know that nothing in Hyrule will help him, and travelling to Mayia would take too long. So, this is the only option we have.”

    “Well… Alright. Just promise me that you’ll be—EEEK!”

    Before the purple fairy could finish her sentence, a sudden, chilly wind erupted from nowhere and shrieked over the village. Vira latched onto Kelli’s hair to keep from blowing away but, within seconds, her teeth were chattering and tiny icicles had formed on her wings. Kelli, nearly sent sprawling by the gale, wrapped her arms around her torso in a vain attempt to ward off the cold. And, the icy gale bore down upon the rest of the village as well. Some children and elders had been blown clean off their feet, window shutters and loose roof slats were torn free, the windmill blades spun wildly until they blurred to invisibility and the Gorons, who liked the cold about as much as they did Dodongos, began shivering wretchedly.

    “What the—?! You’ve g-got to be kidding me!” Kelli exclaimed in bewilderment as she too shivered. “We j-just cleansed the Fortress of Ice! Where in b-blazes is this coming f-from?!”

    “I d-don’t know, but look up!” Vira shouted over the gale, gesturing towards the sky. Kelli then followed the fairy’s gaze and found that the sky, which had been clear and sunny a moment ago, was now overcast with grimly leaden clouds. Before Kelli could even believe what her eyes were telling her, the gale became laden with falling snow, transforming the wind into a veritable blizzard.

    “Oh, th-this just gets better and better,” Kelli uttered sarcastically, her words barely audible over the wind.

    “B-But what’s causing this?” Vira asked through chattering teeth. “It’s the middle of summer.”

    “It’s g-gotta be the J-Jewel of Ice. T-The Zoras’ waterfall s-stopped when the J-Jewel of Wind was c-cursed, right? The J-jewel of Ice must be c-cursed too.”

    “Oh no! Th-Then that means—”

    “The curse has c-caused it to summon a b-blizzard. If we don’t b-break the c-curse, the b-blizzard will k-keep getting stronger u-until it flattens the village.”

    “But w-we haven’t any idea w-where the jewel is!”

    “True. L-Let’s try f-finding the d-direction the wind is c-coming from.”

    “Uhh, okay…”

    “And w-would you look at th-that. It’s coming f-from behind the w-windmill. Right where w-we were h-headed.”

    “Oh j-joy.”

    With that, the young Sky Guardian bent into the wind and, with Vira clinging to her for dear life, trudged into the teeth of the gale. With each step, the blizzard seemed to gain in force, icy blasts clawing into Kelli’s eyes every time she tried to glance upward. However, as she trudged onward, she noticed that the sound of the windmill's furiously spinning blades grew louder.

    “I th-think it might b-be coming from behind th-the windmill!” Vira shouted, her words nearly lost to the wind.

    “I think y-you might be r-right!” Kelli bellowed in reply. “Let’s g-get up th-there!”

    The two laboriously made their way up to the windmill, fighting their way through the fierce wind step by step. As they climbed, Kelli stole occasional glances back at the village and saw, to her dismay, that the blizzard was, indeed, slowly gaining strength. The small carpet of ice crystals was now ankle deep, and the wind howled all the more furiously, kicking up blinding clouds of ivory dust. If the blizzard remained unchecked for much longer, the village would be covered in snow and ice, and its people might very well have to flee…like as not, into the waiting arms of the monsters. Yet, if they stayed, they’d likely be no better off. The village’s crops surely couldn’t grow in such conditions, and the water supply would likely freeze solid. What’s more, many villagers and soldiers could lose fingers, toes, or even entire limbs to frostbite. Not long after that, people would be dying from hunger or the cold; and Link would freeze to death before he could ever wake from his coma. That grim portent spurred Kelli onward and, before long, she had circled around to the back of the windmill. Ultimately, she came to a sight that evoked equal parts fond memories of the past and grim promises of the future: the fence.

    The lands beyond the northeast boundaries of the village, and beyond Hyrule itself, lay beyond that rough wooden barrier…as did too, apparently, the source of the blizzard.

    Kelli could see little more than ten feet beyond the fence, but she knew the familiar, seemingly benign vista of trees and grass was still there. She and Judo had come here to see it often enough, when no one was watching.

    Everyone had said that nobody who crossed the fence had come back alive, but Kelli and Judo had done so.

    After all, that was how she got saddled with the duties of being the Guardian of the Sun.

    The experience had been harrowing, but it didn’t stop Kelli from betting Judo five rupees that she’d be the first of the pair to dare the unknown lands a second time.

    Me and my big mouth!

    Well, she won the bet. Hopefully, she’d live long enough to collect…and, Judo was still around to pay up.

    Still, the wind was clearly coming from the veiled horizon of the unknown; and, she would seek it out. Before she could attempt to climb over, however, a masculine voice called out to her.

    “L-Lady Kelli! Where are you g-going?” a nearby soldier inquired, practically screaming so his words were not lost to the wind.

    “To the l-lands beyond that f-fence, of course,” Kelli replied, hoping she looked more confident than she felt.

    W-WHAT?! Are y-you crazy?! N-Nobody who c-crosses that f-fence has ever come b-back!”

    Kelli considered mentioning that she herself had done so, but decided she couldn’t afford to waste anymore time.

    “I kn-know that. Don’t even th-think about trying to s-stop me. I have a strong h-hunch that that’s where the s-source of this blizzard is. I h-have to find it, o-or we’ll all f-freeze to death.”

    “Well… Alright, I’ll admit th-that you’re p-probably right. Just be v-very careful. We m-might be a-able to hold the v-village against the monsters, b-but I don’t like our odds i-if we lose y-you too.”

    “I u-understand. When I w-was little, n-nobody really knew w-what was o-out there. I d-don’t suppose th-that’s changed while I w-was gone?”

    “N-Not really. This path h-has been sealed off f-for centuries; and ever s-since, few p-people have left Hyrule’s borders. All we kn-know are a couple r-routes to Mayia as well as M-Mayia itself. L-Like I said, a-anybody who c-climbed the f-fence never c-came back.”

    “I see. That figures.”

    “However, th-there has always been a rumor that s-some of those unknown lands w-were once part of our k-kingdom. T-The Royal Library, b-before the m-monsters b-burned it down, h-had books that b-backed up that s-story, we’ve c-come to call it Lost Hyrule.”

    “W-Wow. Interesting.”

    “Lady Kelli, as I s-said before, if you m-must go there, tread cautiously. Goddesses know what d-dangers lie out there.”

    “Don’t w-worry. I will.”

    “J-Just how are you planning t-to get through, though?”

    “Well, the f-first time I did that, I c-climbed over. Now, though, I h-have a better id-dea.”

    Before the guard could summon a reply to the young Sky Guardian’s startling declaration, Kelli gave the Flame Staff a twirl and flung a fireball at the fence. It burst into flames almost instantly, the blaze greedily chewing a gap in the sturdy barricade. The charred wood crumbled into ash, opening a gap.

    “Oh wow,” the soldier commented, his eyes widening. “I’d ask y-you to use that th-thing on the snow around h-here, but you could accidentally s-set the whole p-place on fire.”

    “Right. I’ll b-be back as soon as I c-can.”

    With that, Kelli flung one handful of snow after another onto the flames until they were doused, and then proceeded through the smoldering gap.

    On the other side, Kelli found herself in a snow-covered forest, with the winds of the blizzard still raging at her as though attempting to force her backwards. Even with the snow, however, Kelli still knew where she was. She had been in this area once before, with Judo, when the two had first discovered the Sun Sword and Sun Shield. Heady with the spirit of adventure, they had climbed the fence and ventured into the unknown. They hadn’t planned to go far but, as excited as they were, they pressed further and further into the mysterious lands beyond Hyrule’s borders. Within less than an hour, however, the children had strayed upon unstable ground and found themselves plunging into the cave, illuminated only by the faint sunlight shining through the hole through which the two children had fallen. That cave, Kelli now knew, was the Sun Shrine, which held the sword and shield she now wielded. The recollection caused Kelli to feel another pang of longing, and she wished that she could search for more traces of that journey she had taken with her missing friend so long ago. But, she knew that finding anything in the current weather conditions would be impossible. She’d be digging through layers and layers of snow for hours until her limbs fell off from frostbite.

    Although Kelli clearly remembered the wondrous Sun Shrine, her memory failed her when she tried to recall its location. She would probably have known the entrance when she saw it, if not for the blanket of snow covering everything. Still, she continued to scan the horizon, searching for anything familiar amidst the relentlessly biting winds. Although she could not be certain, but a feeling in her gut was telling Kelli that the source of the blizzard was within the shrine.

    “Vira… I think we sh-should go to th-the Sun Shrine,” she shouted over the gale a few minutes later.

    “The S-Sun Shrine? Y-You mean the place you g-got your sword?” Vira replied, nearly hoarse by this time from yelling over the wind. “But h-how do you kn-know that that’s where th-the jewel is? And f-for that matter, how are y-you going to find it?”

    “Well… We’ll j-just have to hope that I—WAAAH!”

    Before Kelli could finish her sentence, she felt the ground shudder and then crumble away beneath her feet, sending her hurtling down through a hidden crevice. The ground surrounding the crevice continued to give way, snow pouring in. Kelli landed with the wind knocked out of her, but was otherwise unharmed.

    “‘Drop in?’” Vira finished with a chuckle.

    “…Yeah, very funny!” Kelli replied in annoyance after a piercing scream left her mouth from the chill of the snow that crashed down on top of her. “N-Now get down here.”

    “Yeah, yeah, alr-right.”

    While Kelli irritably dug herself out of the snow, Vira fluttered down the hole and rejoined her friend. After finally freeing herself from the snow drift, Kelli quickly scanned her surroundings. She was clearly inside a cave; though as it was above ground, the harsh wind howled within as well. Some of the walls were encrusted with frost, while icicles rose from the floor and plunged from the ceiling like jaws. Further ahead, part of the rocky floor was blanketed with ice.

    “Vira, this m-must the Sun Shrine. I’m s-sure of it,” Kelli uttered moments later.

    “B-But how do you know?” Vira wondered, massaging her sore throat.

    “I don’t know, I just feel it. But th-there is one w-way I can prove it.”

    With that, Kelli began examining each wall, frantically looking for a special marker that would, indeed, prove that the cave was none other than the Sun Shrine. When she peered through a sheet of ice on an almost sheer section of the left wall, a smile formed on her freezing face.

    “I knew it.”

    The Guardian of the Sun then drew her sword and struck the ice as hard as she could. The frost shattered upon impact, revealing Kelli’s discovery within. It was an image of a sun carved into the wall. However, this image did not look exactly like the actual symbol of the respective Sky Guardian. It was a simpler drawing, a child’s drawing. What’s more, inside the sun were letters that read J and K with the word Forever inscribed below them.

    “Kel… Did y-you and Judo..?” Vira began, her words punctuated by stretches of shocked silence.

    “Yep. He and I dr-drew this so anyone who s-saw it would kn-know what a true close f-friendship is…” Kelli replied, her voice breaking in the middle of her sentence. She gazed upon the old carving for a few more moments, a tear escaping her eye as she recalled her absent friend. She missed Judo more than ever now, but she would not give up her search for him until the two were reunited at last. Kelli sniffled before speaking up again.

    “Well, w-we can’t stand around here all day. Let’s g-go.”

    With that, Kelli proceeded deeper into the cavern, Vira following closely behind. What they found at the far end, however, was not at all pleasing. Beyond lay a fairly large chamber. Before either of them could say anything, however, a stone wall slammed shut behind them, sealing them inside. Kelli then looked ahead once more and counted six sealed doors on the opposite side of the room. Each had a unique rune inscribed on the wall above them. Kelli froze where she stood as she realized what she had stumbled upon.

    “Oh no…” she groused. “This c-can’t be happening.”

    “W-What? What is it?” Vira wondered.

    “Those d-doors are the product of a spell c-called the Manu Propria,” Kelli explained. “Link and I w-went through another c-chamber like this just before we f-found you.”

    Kelli then described how the spell worked, and the challenge she and Link had been faced with in the cave back in the Kakariko Graveyard.

    “Yeesh…” Vira commented. “This is g-going to be trouble.”

    “I agree.”

    Kelli knew that Vira was more correct than she realized. The Sky Guardian knew how to proceed through an area enchanted by the Manu Propria spell and was aware of how tough the conjured monsters could be if she made a mistake in figuring out the correct order of the runes. The only difference was that, if she did make such a mistake, she didn’t have Link to help her this time around, and that alone would make things much more difficult. She’d have to solve the runes and fight off any conjured monsters on her own. She’d also have to work fast, for each delay brought Link closer to death. And, to top it all off, Kelli couldn’t help but suspect that the Manu Propria she faced now had been altered in some way. The runes could be more complex, and the conjured monsters might be more dangerous as well.

    “W-Well? We can’t just s-sit here,” Vira pointed out. “Link d-doesn’t have much time!”

    “I know… I’m just n-nervous,” Kelli admitted. “But I’ve g-got to do this for him.”

    With that, Kelli began flexing her hands and fingers to recreate the shapes of the runes, as she and Link had done the first time they encountered the Manu Propria. She managed to guess the first two correctly, but unfortunately, the third glowed red instead of white. Without warning, a pair of Wolfos, one with golden eyes and the other with navy eyes, were spawned from the crimson rune and slowly crept towards Kelli, their fangs dripping with saliva. Kelli quickly drew her sword and un-slung her shield, but before she could move, the two beasts lunged at her. Thankfully, the Guardian of the Sun was fast enough to bring up her shield and brace herself against the onslaught. The first Wolfos collided with the shield, knocked away and stunned by the impact. The second, meanwhile, was carried by its leap onto the edge of Kelli’s blade, the creature’s left side very nearly impaled.

    As the wounded Wolfos fell to the ground, Kelli then focused her attention on its partner. She quickly side-stepped its next assault and swung her foot into its chest, likely smashing a couple ribs in the process. Afterward, only a few quick strikes from the Sun Sword were needed to finish off the creatures.

    “N-No creature in here is g-getting any mercy from me!” Kelli declared angrily as she sheathed her bloody sword moments later.

    “Now th-that’s the Kelli I know!” Vira replied, bouncing up and down in midair.

    With that, Kelli hastened to decipher the riddle of the runes. The monsters, it seemed, were easy enough to defeat, but she knew she could not afford too many delays.

    Link’s life yet hung in the balance.

    Thankfully, she managed to solve the runes after only one more accidental summoning of Wolfos. This was fortunate, as the young Sky Guardian knew she would need to work fast and save her strength if she were to successfully conquer the challenges ahead. There was no doubt in Kelli’s mind that whatever awaited her could end up pushing her to her limits. After all, if the source of the evil which had befallen Hyrule knew of Link's condition, it would surely seek to stop her.

    What she found on the other side of the newly revealed door, however, was completely unexpected. Instead of another chamber with six more doors and accompanying runes, Kelli found herself faced with four tunnels snaking deeper into the shrine.

    Except, this room wasn't here during her childhood visit.

    “This is wrong,” she remarked. “There should just be one corridor here, not four.”

    Having a thought, Kelli scooped up a handful of pebbles and began hurling them through each tunnel. When the tiny rocks skittered over the floor, instead of passing through some illusion and vanishing into some sort of hidden death trap, Kelli wasn't sure if she should sigh with relief or fume angrily.

    Whatever monsters now controlled the shrine, it seemed, had been busy. Not only had they cursed the Sun Shrine with the Manu Propria spell, but they were also able to use powerful enchantments to create a maze of tunnels as well. The tunnels did not seem to have illusionary floors hiding death traps, but they might hold other dangers. And, if Kelli guessed correctly, these new tunnels would likely have dead ends and monsters waiting inside each of them.

    “W-What the—?! This is nuts!” Vira exclaimed, literally freezing where she floated.

    Kelli merely growled.

    “And it’s really s-starting to get on my nerves,” she replied, her hands clenching into fists. “We w-won’t get anywhere s-standing around here though, so l-let’s just pick a tunnel and h-hope for the best.”

    “Right.”

    With that, Kelli proceeded down the second tunnel from the left. Unfortunately, luck was not with her. The twisting path ended abruptly, with only a dead end and an Armozard awaiting her. She quickly drew her sword once more and charged, though she realized that its golden eyes indicated that it was a sun aligned monster. As far as Kelli was concerned, she didn’t care who or what she faced. She just wanted to find a way to save Link. And when she finally crossed paths with Dark Kelli, the Guardian of the Sun would make her evil counterpart pay dearly for what she had done to the dying hero.

    After closing the distance, Kelli thrust her shield forward and struck the Armozard full in the chest. The blow fell so hard that the creature lost its footing and slammed into the wall behind it. Kelli looked on with grim satisfaction. Her shield attack was still likely slower than Link’s, but at least she could finally use it. Better still, it stunned the creature long enough for her to deal several fatal slashes to the Armozard’s torso. Even though the beast was resistant to Kelli’s blade, it nonetheless fell in a matter of seconds.

    “D-Dang… Kel, are you r-really that angry about w-what Dark Kelli did to Link?” Vira wondered, regarding the Armozard’s corpse with no small amount of shock.

    “Yeah, th-that, and this g-goddess forsaken blizzard,” Kelli replied, her chest heaving with anger and exertion. “I'd r-rather vent my t-temper on D-Dark Kelli, but these m-monsters will have t-to do. Though, I w-will admit that these s-sun monsters are h-hard to bring down. My S-Sun Sword isn’t m-meant to f-fight them. I’ll b-be glad when and if Link gets the M-Moon Sword.”

    “Yeah, I’ll bet.”

    An experimental tap with her sword confirmed that the wall she’d plastered the Armozard into was quite solid, so Kelli made her way back down the tunnel to take another path. As Kelli pressed on, she noticed something peculiar. Ever since she entered the shrine, snow had been billowing in. At first, she thought it might be coming from the crevice she had fallen through, but when she returned to the branching tunnels, she realized the snow was coming from ahead of her instead of from behind.

    Now, I'm sure of it. This has got to be the right place!

    This revelation spurred her onward, but she remained wary. Most likely, another Manu Propria chamber stood between her and her goal, and the next tunnel would lead her there. It didn’t matter how many monsters she had to carve her way through or what traps might lie in wait. Kelli wasn’t going to give up until she recovered the Jewel of Ice. Thankfully, the next tunnel she chose turned out to be the correct one. At its far end, another stone door admitted her and then sealed her inside. And, as before, the Sky Guardian was faced with six more doors and their accompanying runes. Kelli’s first attempt to dismantle the puzzle conjured a pair of Lizalfos, but it made little difference to her. She pulverized them the same way she had the Wolfos in the previous chamber. Perhaps the gravity of her mission had unlocked some hidden wellspring of power in her being, or maybe the Sun Shrine itself had somehow empowered the bearer of its treasures. Whatever the cause, Kelli had never felt so powerful. Her shield attacks could send Armozards sprawling, her attacks blurred to invisibility and her sword arm could cleave through Dodongo hides with one blow. Even Dark Kelli would’ve probably been hard-pressed if she were to engage her counterpart now.

    Kelli soon overcame the second Manu Propria and continued through the shrine. Beyond lay a veritable gauntlet, consisting of several more mazes of tunnels separating small chambers that contained the Manu Propria puzzles. More and more monsters lurked within each tunnel, but the Guardian of the Sun relentlessly pressed on and overcame each one, no matter how tough they were. She faced more Armozards, Lizalfos, Dinolfos, Armosaurs, Freezards, and even Stalfos and Wolfos. Lizalfos Knights and their White Wolfos mounts also began to appear as well. Since more snow was billowing in to carpet the shrine floor and encrust the walls ice, Kelli was certain she was getting closer to the source of the frigid curse. Sometime later, Kelli entered the sixth, and hopefully, final, Manu Propria chamber. The runes in this room proved marginally more dangerous than their predecessors, for they conjured two Lizalfos Knights and one Stalfos with every error the Sun Guardian made. Yet, that strange font of power that had bubbled to life in Kelli’s being still lent her might beyond any she’d possessed before, and she had no trouble executing a dizzying array of powerful spin attacks and following each with peerlessly lethal ending blows to vanquish her enemies.

    By the time she was finished and unlocked the way forward, however, Kelli’s exertions seemed to be catching up to her. The Sun Guardian’s chest heaved, her posture was stooped and sweat had begun to trickle and freeze into icy veins winding down the sides of her head. Between this, and the steadily deepening cold of the shrine, she felt colder than she had while fighting Arcquaos in the Fortress of Ice. Even so, she pressed forward and, much to her relief, there was neither another knot of tunnels nor yet another Manu Propria chamber beyond. Instead, there was only one tunnel on the other side. Kelli was not hesitant to follow it in hopes that it would lead her to the Jewel of Ice and a means of taming the accursed blizzard. It turned out to be a short tunnel and within moments, Kelli found another stone door. Upon entering, she found herself inside another large chamber. This time, however, there were no more runes or doors ahead. It was a circular room, bare and empty, with no entrance save the one she just came through. Kelli had a suspicion about what this portended, and made sure the grip of her sword was in easy reach.

    Kelli had taken no more than a few steps inside the room when, as she expected, the door behind her slammed shut and sealed her in. A split second later, what appeared to be a navy-eyed Stalfos emerged from the floor. However, unlike other Stalfos, it was more heavily armored, its bleached skull encompassed by a helmet with a pair of menacing horns, and a larger, more angular shield was strapped to the undead warrior’s arm. More peculiar still, it didn’t immediately charge towards Kelli and engage her either. Instead, it chuckled deviously and then brought its bony fingers to its mouth, and let out a shrill whistle.

    “Oh no…” Kelli uttered. She had seen this a few times before in Mayia. Seconds after the Stalfos whistled, a monstrous skeletal horse unearthed itself from the ground nearby. The Stalfos then swung itself atop the undead mount and yanked on the creature’s reins, forcing it to rear back on its hind legs and neigh ferociously.

    “Eeee!” Vira yelped, darting behind Kelli’s shoulder again. “Th-That’s not what I th-think it is, is it…?!”

    “Sorry, Vira, there’s n-no doubt about it,” Kelli replied in frustration. “It’s a Stalknight. I had a f-feeling we’d eventually s-see these guys again.”

    Before Vira could reply, the Stalknight suddenly spurred its horse to a gallop and charged towards Kelli. The Sun Guardian, despite the cold air seeming to numb her from head to toe, was just barely quick enough to dive out of the way. Unfortunately, she landed on an icy section of the floor and was sent sliding into the wall.

    “Aah!” she yelped. The Stalknight, its jaw clacking in what might've been a laugh, rode towards his seemingly helpless prey but, thankfully, the ice worked to Kelli’s advantage this time. With a strong shove off the wall, Kelli sent herself shooting out of the horse’s path, giving her the time she needed to regain her feet.

    “Ugh, it’s been t-too long since I l-last fought one of these…” she groused.

    “Yeah…” Vira agreed. “Oh, w-wait! I remember what t-to do! Get rid of the h-horse!”

    “Oh, that’s right!” Kelli realized.

    She then recalled that a Stalknight was, in truth, no more deadly than a regular Stalfos once it was unhorsed. The only difference was that Stalknights wore more armor and thus, could withstand more punishment than its lesser cousins.

    As the Stalknight spun its mount and charged at Kelli, its blade angled for the kill, the Guardian of the Sun contemplated on possible strategies. She remembered that the horses Stalknights rode were too big for her shield attack to be effective, so stunning them that way would not work. In fact, there didn’t seem to be any way she could truly stun it at all. She would have to do this the hard way. However, the horse moved so quickly that landing a blow at all would prove to be difficult. Kelli’s thoughts were interrupted moments later when the Stalknight charged past her. The Sun Guardian thought to strike the creature’s flanks as it passed when, suddenly, the skeletal knight brought his horse to a halt. Without warning, the creature lurched forward on its forelimbs and attempted to drive the hooves of its hind limbs into Kelli’s chest. She raised her shield to deflect the blow but, while she managed to prevent the attack from shattering her torso, the sheer force of the impact had sent her hurtling to the floor. However, Kelli could’ve sworn she heard a cracking sound in the process…besides the ones that sounded like her ribs, that is.

    “Whoa! Kel! The horse’s b-back legs are cracked a little!” Vira pointed out, as if catching her friend’s thoughts.

    “Ah, that’s it!” Kelli replied. “I h-have to attack the legs!”

    With that, Kelli carefully watched the Stalknight as it continued to attempt to trample her and then strike her with the horse’s hooves as she whirled away. After a few near-misses, she was able to gauge the timing of these attacks, and within minutes, she leapt out of its path once again and landed a successful blow to the horse’s back legs in mid-flight. Thankfully, the horse’s eyes revealed it to be moon-aligned, like its rider, allowing Kelli to deal heavy damage with each blow. This wasn’t an easy tactic, being a half-second too slow would mean being trampled or having her chest smashed in, but from what Kelli remembered, the only way to eliminate a Stalknight’s mount for good was to break the skeleton apart and destroy the bones. Much like their riders, the horses could reassemble themselves after a short period of time. Only bombs could destroy them utterly and, luckily for her, she had plenty.

    With that, Kelli repeated the strategy as many times as she could. After she dealt several stabs and shield attacks to the horse’s limbs, the creature’s legs finally gave away sometime later, causing it to lost its balance and crash to the floor. Its rider was thrown from the saddle, sent toppling to the hard floor and skittering away on the ice. While the Stalknight remained dazed on the floor, Kelli quickly set a bomb next to the pile of horse bones and darted away. She then produced her bow, readied an arrow on the bowstring, and aimed it right at the bomb. When the arrow struck, the explosive detonated instantly, shattering the bones to dust. Moments later, the Stalknight recovered its wits and, letting out a ghastly scream at seeing its mount’s demise, scrambled to its feet and readied its sword and shield. The unhorsed knight lunged forward and, within moments, clashed blades with Kelli.

    From then on, the room resounded with the echoes of their blades. Blows were dealt back and forth and although Kelli held the advantage with her blade, the chilly weather threatened to turn the balance. She could never stop shivering, nor work the stiffness from her frozen limbs, while the cold had little to no effect on her foe at all. What’s more, as the battle drew on, the Stalknight seemed to capitalize on this advantage, and cuts and bruises from near-misses soon bespangled Kelli’s limbs and torso. The creature was able to use at least some of the techniques Kelli herself knew, just as Link had once described from an encounter he’d had with some Stalfos earlier. Still, the fight wasn’t exactly going well for the Stalknight either, as Kelli had been giving as she got, if not more. Eventually, however, Kelli’s growing exhaustion took a toll on her, and she knew she needed to end the battle soon. If not, she would fall.

    Thankfully, the opportunity she was looking for arose moments later. The Stalknight leaped into the air and aimed a jump attack at Kelli, only to have her sidestep out of the way. Kelli then launched a spin attack while the creature was rendered vulnerable by the blow’s follow-through. And as she had hoped, the blow was enough to knock it to the floor and reduce its body to a pile of bones, much like his undead mount. Kelli would have preferred to use a strengthened spin attack or even the Hurricane Spin, but she knew was far too exhausted and wounded to perform such powerful techniques. Even so, she lost no time setting a bomb near the bones and detonating it with an arrow, as she had with the horse’s corpse. The bones were shattered to powder by the explosion, finally ending the brawl for good. Kelli stooped forward, resting her hands on her knees and panted, exhausted from her ordeal. She was shaken back to reality, however, when a section of the wall seemed to rise. After a moment's astonishment, Kelli realized that what she had taken for a blank was, in reality, a concealed door.

    “Heh… F-Finally…” Kelli uttered and hobbled towards it. Her limbs were now so cold that the blood that trickled from her wounds was now frozen and stuck to her skin while her fingers and toes felt ready to fall off of her. Even so, the heroine limped through the newly opened chamber, praying that the Jewel of Ice was inside.

    The goddesses had answered her prayers, for the room Kelli found herself in was a tiny chamber containing only an altar topped by a pedestal. Above the pedestal was a cloud of darkness, from which shrieked a ferociously cold wind. Kelli hadn’t taken more than a few steps inside, however, when the cloud began to dissipate and vanish, revealing a bright, icy blue light. The light faded as well, revealing a light blue gemstone shaped to resemble five conjoined icicles, two on top and three on the bottom. Undoubtedly, it was the Jewel of Ice. As the darkness and light surrounding the jewel faded, the wind fell silent. Even better, the snow and ice throughout the chamber began to melt. Water from the ceiling plunged down onto Kelli and Vira, but the area’s drastically rising temperature more than made up for it.

    As she gazed upon the jewel, a smile slowly formed on Kelli’s numb, blue lips.

    “Such a relief,” she said. “Now nowhere in Hyrule should ever freeze over like that again.”

    “You said it. Now let’s get the jewel and get out of here,” Vira replied.

    “Right.”

    With that, Kelli took the Jewel of Ice from its resting place. Suddenly, the entire chamber began to tremble.

    “W-What’s going on here?!” Vira gasped. “Is this an earthquake?!”

    “I’m not sure!” Kelli replied, struggling to keep her balance. Before she could say anything else, however, a blinding light filled the room, forcing the two friends to shield their eyes.

    Moments later, the light vanished. After her vision cleared, Kelli discovered that her surroundings had changed. The chamber she now stood in was familiar, very familiar, in fact. Another small pedestal now rose in front of her in the center of a slightly raised platform whose surface was inscribed with a large sun. A silver hook was thrust into the wall behind it while two lit torches burned on either side.

    “Vira! The shrine has returned to normal!” she exclaimed.

    “Really? So this is what it looked like before that curse messed it up?” Vira replied.

    “That’s right. I recognize everything in here. My sword once sat in that pedestal, and my shield hung on the wall from that hook. This place brings back so many memories…”

    “Wow…”

    “Yeah.”

    Before either of the two could say anything else, a light, cool breeze blew through the tunnel and the Fairy of Winds appeared before them.

    “Kelli,” she greeted. “It does my heart good to see you unharmed…well, in large part.”

    “Oh, Fairy of Winds,” Kelli replied. “If I live long enough to save Hyrule, I am going to spend a week in the Mayian hot-springs. But, that'll have to wait. I’m…sure you know about Link…”

    “I do, indeed,” the Fairy of Winds replied, her voice heavy with sadness. “It’s quite unfortunate, to put it lightly, that he was brutalized so. Even I did not expect the foe he faced to be so strong. But Kelli, you must listen to me if he is to survive. Only you can save him.”

    “But what am I supposed to do?”

    “That, you must discover on your own. But, I can tell you this. You already have the medicine you need. You cannot see it now, but you will in time.”

    “Huh? What does that mean?”

    “Yeah, I can’t seem to make sense of it,” Vira added.

    “You’ll know soon enough. Trust me,” the Fairy of Winds assured.

    “Well, alright…” Kelli replied, though she sounded far from certain.

    “I bid you farewell for now.”

    With that, the Fairy of Winds vanished, leaving a bewildered Kelli to mull over the Fairy’s cryptic advice. Then, as Kelli’s gaze moved to the Jewel of Ice, a thought struck her.

    “…Hey, I just thought of something!” she said excitedly. “The Jewel of Ice might be able to break Link’s fever! Maybe that’s what we need to do!””

    “Yeah, that just might work! Let’s hurry!” Vira agreed.

    “Don’t have to tell me twice!”

    With that, the two hurried back through the shrine. Since the Sun Shrine had been returned to its normal state, the knots of tunnels and Manu Propria chambers had been replaced by a single passage leading back to the entrance. Upon reaching it, Kelli spied a stone ladder ascending to the surface, allowing an easy means of leaving. Another wave of nostalgia hit her then, but she just nodded approvingly and intoned, “Right where I left you.”

    As with the inside of the shrine, the outside too now looked as Kelli recalled from her first, childhood journey. The snow and ice had all melted away and the clouds in the sky had disappeared, replaced by a triumphant summer sun. The trees and shrubs were now green again and paths that had been blocked off by snow were now passable once more. Streams of water, liberated from their icy prisons, now flowed freely again and wildlife which had been driven into hiding or away all together now returned. Kelli was glad to see this and quietly reveled in the returned warmth. She had no doubt that Kakariko was back to normal as well, and couldn’t wait to return there. She was quite eager to test her theory that the Jewel of Ice could save Link and, after having done so, soak in a hot bath for the next twelve hours. Before she could take more than a few steps, however, a familiar tune filled the air. It was Kelli’s own melody.

    “Huh? Malon?” she guessed. “Is that you?”

    “Oh, Kelli! Thank goodness! You have to come back here quickly!” Malon’s voice called out in reply. Although Kelli’s song could not relay any voices or sounds, save that of the sender, the ranch girl’s tone suggested that she was in tears. And, this musing caused Kelli’s eyes to bulge and her frostbitten face to pale.

    “Why? What’s going on?!” Kelli frantically wondered.

    “It’s Link! His heart has stopped!”

    “What?! That can’t be! Is the doctor trying to revive him?”

    “Yeah, but he hasn’t had any success yet! Please hurry!”

    “Don’t worry, I’m on my way back right now. I have something that might help him!”

    “Alright, I just hope it works!”

    With that, Malon’s voice faded and their telepathic connection was severed. Kelli quickly broke into a run, racing back to Kakariko as fast as her legs could carry her. Her knowledge of anatomy was less-than-comprehensive, but she knew that once a person’s heart stopped beating, there was only a brief window of opportunity to restart the flow of blood before that person was beyond all help. A physician she’d met in Mayia, who had handled several such patients following Notu’s rampage, relayed this as he tended the wounded in the Mayian capital.

    “When somebody survives that,” he’d commented, pointing to the heavens, “It’s because they had a hand in it.”

    Hopefully, the gods would be on Link’s side as well, and would not let him die.

    Kelli tried to tell herself that, even if the doctor could do nothing for Link, the would-be Guardian of the Moon might not be beyond help. Although it had been many generations since Sky Guardians roamed the world, the Goddesses nonetheless had their ways of making sure their champions did not fail.

    Despite this, Kelli found herself running all the faster.

    When she arrived in Kakariko, Kelli leaped from the cliff that overlooked the cucco pen, launched into a forward roll so that her legs wouldn’t take the brunt of the impact, and immediately rushed for Impa’s house. Hylians and Gorons still milled about the village, some shouting their thanks to Kelli for dispelling the blizzard, but she had little time to reply. She was already panting by the time she passed by the well, but the Guardian of the Sun did not slow down. Every second that passed meant a greater chance that Link was now dead. When Kelli finally dashed up the stairs leading to Impa’s house, she immediately barged through the door and darted up the stairs to join Malon and the doctor. Ruto was absent, but probably doing her shift atop the lookout tower.

    As before, Link lay in his bed swathed in bandages and motionless, but Kelli could not tell whether or not he was still alive. She quickly rushed over to Malon and the doctor, who were looking over him worriedly. Navi was hovering nearby as well, fluttering in anxious circles through the air much the same way another would pace back and forth.

    “Oh, Kelli!” Malon called out. “You made it back! Oh my, you’re wounded!”

    “Yeah, but these injuries are nothing,” Kelli assured, realizing with horror that the doctor was not pumping Link’s chest or doing anything else. “Oh no. Is Link…? Is he…?”

    “Ah, Lady Kelli,” the doctor replied, beckoning her to approach. “Don’t worry, I managed to get his heart beating again just before you arrived.”

    “Oh, thank goodness,” Kelli replied, panting as she felt relief wash over her.

    “I can’t guarantee it will stay that way, though,” the doctor warned. “In fact, his heart could fail again at any time. Malon said you might have a possible remedy for Link’s illness?”

    “Ah, yes. Sort of. I doubt it will cure it, but I think it can at least bring down his fever.”

    “That would surely help. Let’s try it.”

    “Alright.”

    With that, Kelli produced the Jewel of Ice and held it before Link. Within moments, it began to glow brightly, and a cool breeze erupted from its core. It swept over Link, tossing his blonde bangs and sending a wave of chills through the house. Malon shivered a bit, but likely more from anxiety than the temperature, while the doctor seemed unperturbed. Navi and Vira beat their wings to keep them from freezing while Kelli felt relaxed by the cool breeze after her mad dash back to the house. After a minute or so, the breeze died down. The doctor then brought his hand to Link’s forehead.

    “I…I don’t believe it. It worked! His temperature is normal again!” he exclaimed.

    “Oh, that’s wonderful!” Malon cried happily. “Kelli, what was that magic you used? And that jewel?”

    “I’ll explain later. Link is still in a coma, which means he can still die if he’s lost too much blood,” Kelli replied.

    “Oh, that’s right…”

    “Unfortunately, Link is not yet out of danger,” the doctor added. “A fever is one of the body’s natural defenses against illness. While it is fortunate that the magic from Kelli’s jewel had brought down Link’s fever, it could return at any time to continue fighting the illness.”

    “And we’d be right back where we started…” Malon gloomily deduced.

    “Exactly.”

    “But Link is at least in better condition now than he was before, right?” Kelli desperately inquired.

    “Yes, that is true,” the doctor confirmed. “As a matter of fact, I had the potion shop mix up a blue potion. It might be possible that Link will reach such a state where the blue potion can help him.”

    “Oh, excellent. Perhaps we could try it now?” Kelli suggested.

    “It might work, but I can’t make any promises. I’ll be using a procedure we’re still experimenting with, though, since Link cannot drink the potion on his own.”

    “That’s fine, as long as you know it’s safe.”

    “Of course. I’m going to inject the potion into Link’s arm using a needle and syringe.”

    “How does that work?” Malon wondered.

    “Let me answer that question by posing another. Tell me, how much do either of you know about the heart?” the doctor inquired.

    “…Not much,” Kelli admitted, while Malon only shrugged in reply.

    “Well, I’ll try to put this in layman’s terms then. As you may know, the heart serves to pump blood throughout the body, providing it with the nourishment it requires to function. For some time now, it has been theorized that this function of the heart could be used in administering medicine to a patient who is incapacitated. If a tiny incision, the sort that a needle might make, was made in a vein and a potion forced by pressure into the incision, then the medicine would join the flow of blood. From there, the heart would pump it throughout the body. In theory, this would make it possible for a potion to heal one who could not drink it but, as you may have gathered, this method has not been tested.”

    “Maybe not, but I don’t think we have another option,” Kelli replied. “Please, do it.”

    The doctor then produced a bottle of blue potion and a most peculiar device consisting of a needle with a small tube attached to its backside. The tube had a knob inside its other end. The doctor then uncorked the bottle and asked Kelli to hold it for him. He then inserted the needle and, as he slowly pulled out the knob, Kelli could see that the blue potion was being drawn from the bottle up into the strange tube. Once the strange tube was filled, and the knob very nearly ready to escape, the doctor removed the needle.

    “Now, I carefully insert the needle into Link’s arm and slowly push the syringe’s knob back inside the tube,” the doctor continued and approached Link’s bedside. “As I push the knob, it will generate the pressure needed to push the potion through the tiny hole in the needle and into Link’s body. Oh, and since he is not awake, he won’t feel any pain.”

    With that, he took Link’s right arm out from under the blanket. He began to rigorously stroke the limb until a blue vein stood out against the flesh and then swapped it over with a cloth smelling strongly of alcohol. Then, after drawing in a deep breath, he inserted the needle into Link’s flesh. Kelli’s eyes darted between the tiny needle and the rapidly draining blue potion and, to her amazement, it seemed as though the experimental tool was working as the doctor had claimed. After the potion was injected into the hero’s body, the doctor removed the needle and quickly bandaged the pierced skin with a small cloth. Barely a drop of blood escaped Link’s veins, which the doctor explained, was because the pressure of the injection held the blood in, but all present knew that Link could not afford to lose even that much after what he’d been through.

    “Now, all we can do is wait,” the doctor finished after removing the cloth. “If our luck holds, one injection will be enough. I do recommend, however, that you treat those wounds as soon as you can though, Lady Kelli. They could become infected at any time.”

    “I know, I will,” Kelli replied. In truth, she wanted to make sure Link would recover first.

    The trio then sat down, anxious to see if Link would awaken. Kelli briefly considered apprising Ruto of the situation, but promptly reconsidered. The Zora Princess was hardly someone Kelli would consider a friend, but she knew that Ruto’s spirits were low enough as it was without this torturous waiting. In fact, Ruto’s post on the lookout tower had suddenly become quite enviable as Kelli resigned herself to waiting for some sign that Link yet lived. Minutes which felt like days passed languidly, and the hero did not stir. His eyes were still closed and his breathing continued to be shallow and labored. Every now and then, the doctor checked for a pulse, and though Link’s heart continued to beat, these pulses of life grew further and further apart. As time wore on, Malon rose from her seat and began to pace in blind arcs, her eyes brimming over with tears. Navi perched on one of the bedposts, uncharacteristically silent and her wings drooping sadly. Kelli soon buried her face in her hands as she began to sob. She had spied the doctor’s face through her tear blurred vision, and his expression had turned grave.

    And, though Kelli tried to quash it, she had a terrible presentiment about what the doctor's expression meant.

    “As much as it pains me to say this… It looks like that jewel and potion weren’t enough,” he said somberly, confirming Kelli’s grim premonition.

    “…No!” Malon pleaded. “W-What about giving him more of the potion?”

    “I’m sorry, but if that first dose couldn’t do anything, more won’t help either,” the doctor grimly reported, closing his eyes and sighing. “You see, once any amount of a potion enters someone’s body, it immediately begins to affect the body, if it can, and that’s that. I can only inject so much potion at one time, and I couldn’t possibly give Link enough to help him with only a needle and syringe. He’d have to drink the entire bottle, which he can’t. Furthermore, repeatedly injecting him would be too risky. An errant penetration, and I’d cause him to bleed further, and in his current condition, even losing a small amount of blood could prove fatal.”

    “Oh…”

    Kelli was at a loss for words. All she could do was sniffle as her tears coursed down her cheeks.

    “This… This is all my fault,” she admitted. “I’m so sorry…”

    “Kelli, no it isn’t. We all did our best and it isn’t like you hurt Link,” Malon protested, but her expression had darkened with hopelessness. “It just...wasn't enough.”

    “You don’t understand… Before I came back here, just after I found the Jewel of Ice, I was told that I already held the power to save Link, and that I realize it soon. But, I failed.”

    “Kelli…”

    “Are you serious?!” Navi blurted and flew into Kelli’s face, close enough to tear loose strands of the Sky Guardian’s eyebrows. “The Fairy of Winds told you that, didn’t she?!”

    “Y-Yes, but…”

    “Then it is your fault! We’re going to lose him and Hyrule is doomed, and IT’S ALL BECAUSE OF YOU!!”

    Navi then darted down stairs, likely shedding tiny tears all the while. All Kelli could only grimace as the cold, hard truth of the fairy's words pressed down upon her. The fairy was right.

    “Don’t listen to her, Kel,” Vira persuaded. “You can still figure this out.”

    “No… I can’t. There’s no time. I haven’t any clue where to go or what I’m supposed to do. I did all that I could… And it wasn’t enough. I’ve failed… I’ve failed Link, and I’ve failed all of Hyrule… Why?! Why couldn’t I save him?!”

    Her reserve crumpling, Kelli began to bawl in utter despair. Malon could only follow suit while the doctor, no stranger to losing patients, sighed mournfully. There was no question as to how Ruto and King Daphnes would react when they heard the news of Link’s death. They would be devastated and, given the king’s fragile health, the news might prove as much a deathblow as any the monsters would deliver. And, indeed, everyone would despair, as they’d lost a fine warrior, and one of Hyrule’s greatest heroes. In her grief, however, Kelli did not realize that she was still holding the opened bottle of blue potion. As she wept for the fallen hero, some of her tears fell inside. With each drop, a strange white glow began to emanate from the blue liquid until, at last, the vial shone like a jewel in a bed of fog.

    “What’s this?” the doctor wondered, his jaw parting in shock.

    “I…I don’t know!” Kelli replied, her eyes widening. The doctor and Malon both approached to get a closer look. The glow of the bottle grew brighter and more intense until it pulsed with such brilliance that all present had to close their eyes. When the brightness subsided, the trio saw that the blue liquid inside turned a plum purple. Afterwards, the fading glow vanished entirely.

    “This…This is remarkable,” the doctor commented moments later, breaking the short silence.

    “Yeah. I don’t understand it myself,” Kelli replied.

    “What exactly happened?” Malon wondered.

    “I’m not sure. Some of my tears got inside the bottle, and then...”

    “Ah! Lady Kelli, then they must have done something to the potion!” the doctor concluded. “I will give Link one last dose. I…have a theory about what this means.”

    With that, the doctor wiped off the needle, filled the syringe with a dose of the new potion, and injected Link with it once more.

    “You said you had a theory about what this meant,” Kelli spoke up. “What is it?”

    “During my studies,” the doctor began, his breath become ragged with excitement, “I learned of a lost elixir which could not only restore the vitality of a warrior, but render him briefly impervious to harm. It was referred as ‘Goddess Tears.’ No one has been able to concoct it for centuries, but the documents we have on the substance describe it as a purple potion. If my guess is correct, your tears strengthened the medicine!”

    “You mean, the potion might save Link now?” Kelli replied, unable to keep a note of desperation from her voice.

    “We’ll find out soon enough.”

    This time, Kelli did not bother seating herself. The enormity of the situation left her too anxious to even stand still, and she began pacing in a veritable daze. If Link didn’t wake this time, all hope would surely be lost. Still, Kelli felt confident. This must have been what the Fairy of Winds was talking about. Kelli’s tears were the key. But, how was this possible? Was it because she was a Sky Guardian? Did her tears possess the power to augment potions? Or, was there more to it than that…on both counts?

    After the doctor finished giving Link the second dose, he bandaged Link’s arm once more to staunch the slight bleeding. As he did so, the doctor brought two fingers to the side of Link’s neck.

    “I knew it! Link’s heart beat has quickened!” he announced. “The pulses are much stronger, and they’re closer together as well!”

    “Oh, that’s a relief!” Malon gushed happily. Kelli agreed, but would the hero wake from his coma?

    Fortunately, the Guardian of the Sun soon received her answer. Seconds later, a soft moan escaped Link’s mouth and his eyelids slowly fluttered open. Kelli gasped and rushed over.

    “Link! Link, can you hear me?!” she inquired.

    “Ah, Link!” Malon added, following her.

    “…Huh?” Link uttered exhaustedly.

    “Oh! He’s awake! He’s finally awake!” Malon cried, a smile forming on her face for the first time in hours.

    “Malon?” Link replied, his voice still rather faint.

    “I’m here too, Link!” Kelli said. “Oh, I’m so glad you’re alright!”

    “Me too!” Malon seconded and hugged the hero.

    “This is truly incredible,” the doctor commented. “Lady Kelli, if I’m not mistaken, your tears must have some form of healing powers! It would explain how they transformed the blue potion.”

    “Really? Let’s find out!” Kelli replied. She then wiped her eyes, as they were still a little watery, and placed her hand upon one of her wounds. Within seconds, the bloody cut vanished and her skin looked as smooth as though she’d just returned from a session with the Hyrule Castle Town’s finest beautician.

    “Whoa…” Kelli uttered. “I don’t believe it… But, how did this happen? I don’t understand.”

    “Neither do I. I’ve never seen such a phenomenon before,” the doctor replied and then turned to Link. “Your tears obviously possess potent healing abilities though. Just look how quickly they revived Link when all else failed.”

    “Yeah…”

    “Wait… What are you talking about? What happened to me?” Link wondered, and attempted to sit up after Malon let him go. “Aaaugh!”

    “Please, just relax,” the doctor coaxed, forcing Link to lie back down. “You’re still in pretty bad shape. To answer your question, though, you were brought here by one of the soldiers after you returned from the Fortress of Ice. You had gone into a coma just after. You’re lucky to be alive.”

    “Oh…” Link replied. “And yeah, I can tell. My whole body aches.”

    “I bet it does. You have a few broken ribs, a couple swollen joints, and bruises everywhere.”

    “Aw man…”

    “You lost a lot of blood due to that stab wound in your stomach as well. Your heart even stopped for a little while.”

    “…Are you serious?”

    “Afraid so. You’ll have to stay in bed for awhile longer. Potions can’t be directly applied to broken bones, so you’ll have to let them heal naturally. And you have to take it easy. One of those broken ribs could accidentally pierce a lung or your heart, and even Kelli’s tears likely wouldn't help you then.”

    “Ugh, that’s just great…”

    “So, that means Link should make a complete recovery after all?” Malon guessed, her tears now those of joy.

    “That’s right. Miraculously, but yes,” the doctor confirmed.

    “Oh, that’s so wonderful! I’m so relieved!”

    “So am I! Ruto is going to be quite happy as well,” Kelli replied.

    “Oh, she definitely will,” Malon agreed. “I’ll go give her the good news right now!”

    “Wait a minute, Ruto is here too?” Link inquired, his already pallid features paling even further.

    “Yep. She’s been worried sick about you ever since I rescued her,” Kelli confirmed with a wicked smile while Malon rushed downstairs calling the Zora princess’s name.

    “Oh no…” Link groaned, bringing a hand to his face. “Ow!”

    Kelli merely giggled. She knew Link would probably give her an earful when he found out what she had told Ruto, but it didn’t matter. He was awake and would recover as long as he stayed in bed and rested, and that was enough for her. The hero had a ways to go before he’d be able to fight again, but at least Kelli knew that Hyrule still had hope after all.

    The evil that stifled Hyrule had allowed its best chance for victory to slip away. What’s more, the Sky Guardians now had five of the Elemental Jewels.

    The next time they took the field, they would make the dark forces rue the day they set foot in Hyrule.

  9. #54
    Secret Sword of Justice Kelleo's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Legend of Zelda: The Ancient Power

    Small update. The title of the next chapter has been added to the first post. :3

  10. #55
    Secret Sword of Justice Kelleo's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Legend of Zelda: The Ancient Power

    And finally, a new chapter! :D


    Chapter 18: Lost Hyrule


    After Malon had raced out to fetch Ruto and the doctor had gone downstairs to speak with Daphnes about the startling events behind the hero’s recovery, Link let out a heavy sigh and, for a long, long moment, simply enjoyed being alive. His battered form feeling spent after that small exertion, and then feeling spent twice over when he recalled the purpose of Malon’s departure, he sagged back against his pillow and stared at the ceiling. When she saw his somber look, Kelli’s giggling trailed away and her lips curved downward.

    “Hey, you can’t blame Ruto, you know,” she pointed out. “Seeing you for the first time in seven years, and all the while, worrying that you might die no less, had to be really hard on her.”

    “Yeah, I know. She does have a right to see me, as much as I hate to admit it,” Link agreed. “And…truth be told, I…do consider her a friend.”

    “Oh, is that so?”

    “Yeah. She may have forced me to carry her around inside Jabu-Jabu’s disgusting stomach, and she may be kind of annoying, but there are qualities about her that I do like. I think she would make a good ruler for her people someday.”

    “Heh, I see.”

    “I mean, I have to admit that she’s loyal and that she’d do anything to protect the Zoras. And when she really cares about someone, at least, more than she does for herself, she really cares. She can be pretty smothering about it, believe me, I know, but I have to credit her sincerity, seeing as she risked getting in trouble again to come here.”

    “Yeah, that’s true. I’m really surprised to hear this from you, hee hee.”

    The Sky Guardian’s mischievous tone caused Link’s still-pallid features to pale even further and he tried, without great success, to raise himself up on this elbows. When that didn’t work, he tried to glare at Kelli, but his wincing from the pain made the gesture less-than-intimidating.

    “Hey, just keep this between us!” he demanded. “If she finds out I’m talking about her like this, she’ll never leave me alone!”

    “Okay, okay, don’t worry,” Kelli agreed with a smile. “Still, I’m sure once you confess your love to Zelda, she’ll be bawling like a baby.”

    “Watch it,” Link warned, painstakingly lowering himself back onto the mattress.

    “Oh, but poor Ruto would surely be hurt.”

    “You’re lucky I can’t get out of this bed right now!” Link grumbled. “Still, you do have a point. I don’t know what I’d say to Ruto to soften that kind of blow. I mean, if I did have feelings for someone else, which I don’t.”

    Link’s placations rapidly gave way to frantic stammering as a hint of embarrassed red climbed his cheeks. Kelli, by this time, was feeling light-headed from holding in her laughter.

    “Heh, I’ll believe that when I see it,” she struck back, her tone more smug than dismissive. “Now don’t worry, I’m sure Ruto understands that she can’t be all over you due to your injuries. I guess she’ll have to settle for little fishy kisses.”

    Link sighed again.

    “Gee, I feel so much better now. I swear, I—”

    “Link! Oh, Link!” a familiar feminine voice cried, causing Link to pale like a sick Wolfos. Ruto had rushed up the stairs and barged through the door, followed by Malon. Link cringed as the Sage of Water threw her arms around his neck.

    “Oh, I’m so relieved that you’re finally awake!” the Zora princess gushed, her cheeks soaked with ice-blue tears. “I was so afraid that I was going to lose you.”

    “Y-Yes, it’s good to finally see you too, Ruto,” Link reluctantly replied. “Hey, you’re hurting me a little.”

    “Oh, sorry about that!” Ruto apologized and let go. “I guess I got carried away. It’s been seven years, you know? I still have no idea how we missed each other that day that Ganondorf was banished. But you’re back and that’s what matters!”

    The Zora princess then pecked Link on the cheek, and Link found Kelli’s quip about “little fishy kisses” to be dreadfully apt. Ruto’s lips were cold, and scaly, and gave Link yet another reason to hope that the Sage of Water would ultimately be disabused of the notion that they were “engaged.” Kelli and Malon both giggled at Link’s obvious discomfiture, prompting another piteous glare that only made them chortle louder. I really need more guy friends, Link thought in annoyance. Judo, where in blazes are you?!

    “Well, Ruto and I have to get back to the lookout tower soon,” Malon spoke up once the hilarity subsided. “We decided to keep watch for any enemies while you rested.”

    “Ah, yes, that’s right,” Ruto added, with obvious reluctance. “Much of the village has also taken up arms. They’ve fortified the entrance to the village and new recruits have been joining the village’s defenders ever since you came back with those awful wounds. Malon and I volunteered to serve as lookouts right when Kelli went off to look for something that could help you. The Gorons have come down to aid us as well.”

    “Really? Wow, I see. I never knew people had so much respect for Kel and I. Of course, I probably shouldn’t be surprised,” Link replied.

    “Heh, true,” Malon agreed. “Oh, and also, I brought the ranch’s last bottle of milk for you. It should help speed up the healing process.”

    “The last bottle? Dang, I don’t know what to say.”

    “Don’t worry, you need it more than anyone else.”

    “I agree,” Ruto seconded. “And don’t worry, Malon and I have also agreed to take turns coming back to check on you. You’ll be well taken care of!”

    “Oh joy,” Link murmured under his breath, again cursing his lack of male friends to draw off obsessive female admirers. “Well, thanks for the help.”

    “You’re welcome! We’ll see you later, handsome!”

    With that, the two girls headed downstairs, leaving Link wondering why there was never a horde of attacking moblins around when somebody actually wanted one.

    “Hey, where’s Navi?” Link wondered, finally realizing that his fairy friend was nowhere in sight.

    “Oh, um…” Kelli began nervously. Link shot her yet another glare and, this time, he was met with silence.

    “Alright, what did you do this time?”

    “What?! Nothing! She got all up in my face! I revealed that after I found the Jewel of Ice, the Fairy of Winds had given me a clue on how to save you! I couldn’t figure it out at the time and I thought I had failed. Navi started screaming at me and said it was my fault you were dying. Afterwards, she rushed downstairs. She’s probably outside.”

    Link’s expression softened a bit, then his glare vanished altogether amidst a grimace as his wounds made themselves known once more.

    “Oh. Figures…” he remarked. “She’s like that when she’s really worried about me.”

    “Yeah, I’ll go get her and see if she’s cooled off,” Vira offered. “She’ll feel better knowing that you’re okay.”

    “Good idea, thanks.”

    With that, Vira flew downstairs. Moments later, there was the sound of another person ascending the stairs, rather laboriously, from the faint gasping and wheezing that echoed from beyond the door, and Daphnes entered, a look of profound relief on his careworn face.

    “Oh, Link, I’m so relieved that you’re finally awake,” he said. “The doctor told me everything. Kelli possessing tears with such extraordinary healing powers is incredible, and practically unheard of since ancient times.”

    “Yeah, I can’t argue with that,” Link replied. “The doctor said I’m stuck in bed for a while, though. I’m sorry that this had to happen, your majesty.”

    “Don’t worry, you fought as hard as you could. And, from what I’ve gathered, you and Kelli have made great strides in cleansing our lands of this blight. Rest as long as you need.”

    “But of course. Are you doing alright? I’d imagine a lot of people were scared when they heard about me being so near death.”

    “Oh, I’m fine…for now. Yes, it was hard. I had actually believed that all hope was lost when I learned that your heart had stopped. But, the goddesses gave us a miracle in the form of Kelli’s healing powers. And, perhaps, another in how the people have risen to the challenge.”

    “They did indeed.”

    “Speaking of which, Kelli, I believe I know what this means about you. But…as much as I wish I could tell you, I’m afraid that I cannot at the moment.”

    “What? But why?” Kelli wondered in surprise, and more than a hint of incredulity. “If it has to do with my parentage or my past, I simply must know. I hardly know much as it is.”

    “I understand, believe me,” Daphnes replied, a hint of empathy in his tone. “Revealing this information now, however, could seriously harm our efforts to save Hyrule. I know it sounds farfetched, but you must trust me on this. The time to tell you will come eventually.”

    “Well, alright. But when that time does come, I have to know everything. Sometimes, I feel like I don’t know who I truly am. Aside from being a Sky Guardian, that is.”

    “Don’t worry, you have my word.”

    “Thank you.”

    As this exchange concluded, Link could not keep his brow from furrowing in skeptical consternation. He had not forgotten that Daphnes had studiously avoided informing Kelli of Judo’s disappearance in Mayia, and the likelihood that he was no longer alive. And, the former Hero of Time found himself wondering if the troubled Hylian king would keep this latest secret to himself as well.

    Link cut off that musing by mentally kicking himself. He had, after all, lost the right to profess forthrightness some time ago. After all, he could have told Kelli what Daphnes had revealed, just as he could have told the Gorons and Zoras of Termina what had really happened to Darmani and Mikau. Yet, he had not done so.

    Whether that was for the best or not, he still could not say. The king, meanwhile, seemed to catch Link’s thought and offered what, on a less worn face, might have been a reassuring smile.

    With that, Daphnes turned and departed the small room, leaving two anxious adventurers in his wake. A heavy silence soon fell over the room as Link sighed once more and turned his gaze toward the ceiling. He didn’t exactly relish the thought of remaining abed with so much evil remaining in Hyrule, but he also knew that hunting for another of the Elemental Jewels in his current state would be suicidal. Even rising to a sitting position seemed to exhaust him more than fighting an Iron Knuckle. But, if what Malon said was true and the bottle of Lon Lon Milk that she brought did speed up his body’s healing process, perhaps he would be up again soon enough. When he tried to sit up and open the bottle, however, his arm suddenly felt like it weighed more than Death Mountain, and he irritably sagged back against his pillow. Kelli frowned again when she noticed the hero once more wearing a somber expression.

    “Hey, Ruto didn’t really embarrass you that much, did she?” she wondered.

    “Actually, no. I’ve been more concerned about something else for once,” Link replied. “I know, surprising.”

    This time, rather than splitting open with laughter, Kelli’s expression became pinched with worry.

    “Oh, I see. What’s the matter?”

    Such a simple question, but with such a complicated answer, Link mused unhappily.

    He knew that he was about to say what he had long ago vowed to never even consider. Yet, he knew as well that his latest brush with disaster had proven that he could no longer remain silent.

    “Well…” he began. “Kelli, in all honesty, I don’t think I’ll really be able to help save Hyrule this time anymore.”

    “What?!” Kelli blurted, thunderstruck and angry. “Link, that’s complete nonsense! Hyrule needs you and I need you and you know it. You’re the Guardian of the Moon.”

    “See, that’s what doesn’t make sense. Kel, just look at me. I’ve nearly been killed twice already. And the only reason I survived at all was because of people who just happened to be there to save me. Next time, I probably won’t be so lucky. And Dark Kelli is an extremely powerful enemy. She’s merciless and more skilled in every way than either of us. If she hadn’t chosen to retreat, I’d have died right there. She’s…frightening.”

    Link turned over in bed and grimaced as he felt his heart lurch at the memory. Unthinkable as he had once considered such a thing, it was true. Ever since his encounter with Dark Kelli, he’d been gripped by an undeniable fear and dread of her power.

    Link had battled dragons, phantoms, terrors of the deep and horrors from beyond the grave, yet each and all of these paled in comparison to the Sun Guardian’s dark counterpart. Against such an enemy, he, the former Hero of Time, the hero of Termina and the most implacable enemy of all who would threaten Hyrule…just…didn’t…have it!

    Kelli, hearing his confession, however, didn’t seem inclined to show Link any mercy either.

    “Alright, who are you and what have you done with Link?” she wondered, folding her arms.

    “I’m serious,” Link insisted. “Just the mention of her name makes me shudder. I don’t know if I could ever face her again after what she did to me.”

    “Link, listen to me. Bloodied and cleaved or not, you’re still a Sky Guardian and you’re meant to be one for a reason. You were chosen by the goddess of the moon herself, just as the goddess of the sun chose me. If she didn’t believe you had the makings of a powerful Guardian of the Moon, you would not possess those powers.”

    Link glowered a bit in reply. Aside from a few of Kelli’s techniques, he truly had little idea just what “powers” he was supposed to have. And, thus far, they hadn’t exactly done him much good. Yet, hadn’t he felt the same way when he’d awoken as the Hero of Time, a ten year old boy in a man’s body stranded in a world so much darker than the one he’d known? The recollection of those tribulations, and how he’d eventually prevailed over them, softened his glare.

    “Well, I hope you’re right,” he replied, though his tone was still skeptical. “But it doesn’t mean that I’m not afraid.”

    Here, Kelli’s stern expression softened a bit. Her fingers curled around Link’s and tightened in a grip of reassuring strength.

    “I know,” she admitted. “I honestly don’t blame you for that. I would probably be scared too. But you’ve done a great job already. You’ve defeated monsters who knew techniques of mine that I haven’t taught you yet, and without the Moon Sword no less. Dark Kelli is just…out of our league for now. But so was Ganondorf. And, that didn’t stop you from defeating him when you finally did face him. We just have to make sure you’re ready the next time you meet Dark Kelli…if I don’t get to her first, that is. And, by the looks of those muscles of yours, I can tell that you’re a lot stronger than me physically, and you’re more skilled with a shield. With my techniques combined with your own skills, you’ll become a real force to be reckoned with. Eventually, you might even surpass me. Given time, Dark Kelli won’t stand a chance. But again, no promises that I won’t beat you to her.”

    “Hm… Yeah, I guess that’s true. You haven’t taught me everything yet. I guess this means that once I’ve recovered, we’ll train hard and not let anything stop us.”

    “Now that’s the Link I know.”

    As the words passed her lips, however, Kelli suddenly felt a heavy weariness descend upon her. Though she had done little since her fight with the Stalknight inside the Sun Shrine, aside from wait for some sign that Link would recover, the exertion of her flight through the enchanted blizzard and the frantic search afterward had now caught up with her. Her breathing was slightly labored, her eyes were glazed over from fatigue and her limbs felt heavy and leaden. Still, she chose to shrug it off as only natural, especially given all that had happened since Link was injured. However, Link soon noticed the heroine’s exhaustion.

    “Kel, are you alright?” he wondered, arching an eyebrow.

    “Huh? Oh, of course,” Kelli replied, a yawn punctuating her words. “I’m just tired from all the action I saw today. Especially since I had to travel through a frozen shrine just to find the Jewel of Ice.”

    “Oh wow. Believe me, I know how you feel. The Fortress of Ice felt worse than that winter Snowhead suffered under Majora’s curse, during my time in Termina. So, anyway, what do you plan to do next?”

    “Well, I’d like to…to…AAACHOO!”

    Kelli’s words were abruptly cut off as she let out a violent sneeze, so loud that the noise made Link grimace, and the force sending the young Sky Guardian stumbling. She snatched at one of Link’s bedposts before she could hit the floor, though her eyes were still bleary. Link’s eyebrows rose again and, though the motion left him breathless, he quickly reached out to feel Kelli’s forehead.

    “Yeesh. I knew it,” he assessed. “You’re burning up. It must’ve been that cold shrine. Kel, you’re too sick to go anywhere.”

    “I’ll say,” a familiar masculine voice agreed. The doctor had returned from downstairs, followed by the fairies.

    “Huh?” Kelli uttered.

    “You’ve got a bad cold,” the doctor pointed out succinctly.

    “Yeah,” Vira agreed. “Your nose is all runny and red now and everything.”

    “I-I’ll be find. Honest,” Kelli insisted through a stuffy nose. “Really, I…AACHOO!”

    Link threw up his hands to ward off a hail of flying mucus. Needless to say, this did not serve to convince the doctor.

    “I’m afraid I must disagree. Besides which, it’s quite late. You really should get some rest.”

    “Alright, alright,” Kelli conceded. “Could I at least get a bath though? A hot soak might warm the bones.”

    “That’s not a bad idea, actually. But, come straight back here, get under those covers, and rest afterwards. If I have to, I’ll arrange for one of the Gorons to carry you back here.”

    “Trust me, that threat’s worth taking seriously,” Link spoke up. “I swear, one Goron hug is worth a full bomb bag.”

    “Oh, alright…” Kelli fumed.

    With that, the doctor informed the young Sky Guardian that he would see to her bath and, as he departed, Kelli sighed and gratefully shed her gear and pulled off her boots. Although tempted to just drop them, she knew from prior experience that such carelessness might prove costly, so she carefully set them down beside the bed.

    “I’ll have to tell you about by plans toborrow, Link,” she said, sniffling.

    “I don’t mind at all,” he replied.

    “Hey, Link!” Navi greeted, somewhat sheepishly. “I’m so sorry I left. I was just so upset… I thought you were dead.”

    “I know, don’t worry. But I’m alive…more or less. We’ll be back in action before you know it.”

    “Well, okay. Just don’t try anything stupid.”

    “Right, right.”

    “Frankly, I think this waiting qualifies as stupid…” Kelli opined as she paced impatiently. “Preventing your death probably left whoever’s behind this evil off balance. We should press on, before he can recover, not lay around snoring!”

    “Hey, at least you didn’t get beaten nearly to death! I got my butt handed to me; and by a girl, no less. You’ve got it easy!”

    “Yeah, think about others besides yourself for once!” Navi snapped.

    “What?! You think I don’t care about Link?! For your information, I nearly froze to death getting that jewel! And, I nearly froze to death before that chasing after the Jewel of Water and saving his “fiancée” after he stumbled back here!”

    “Now hold on! This is definitely no time to be fighting!” Link cut in, cringing more from Kelli’s choice of words than from the lingering pains. “And I never meant that, Navi.”

    “Whatever. I just don’t think she has any right to complain.”

    “I’b not “complaining” just because I’b sick! I’b worried because both Link and I are stuck in bed when we should be pressing our advantage. We could be bedridden so long that the eneby has tibe to recover or attack the village. Or both. And, that could be very bad!”

    “Kel, don’t worry. This shouldn’t last long,” Link assured, though he felt as though he was shouting down her objections. “And besides, if the village as well-protected as you and the others said, everyone can hold out until we’re back on our feet.”

    “Well, that’s true. I still plan on leaving toborrow, though.”

    “With luck, I’ll be able to go with you.”

    His words were met with glares from both Kelli and Navi but, before either of them could speak, the doctor returned and informed Kelli that her bath was ready. Once she left the room, however, Navi glanced at the heroine’s gear next to the bed and her tiny face screwed up with indignation.

    “Well, I’m not going to sleep up here with her,” Navi decided and petulantly flew back downstairs.

    “Sigh… I’ll go with her. It’s best that his majesty isn’t left alone anyway,” Vira added and followed. Link, meanwhile, resigned himself to a night that would be boring at best and unpleasant at worst.

    While Link was reflecting on the sour note upon which the evening had ended, Kelli made her way to the bath and, to her delight, found it brimming over with sudsy, piping hot water. Despite the warm, summer evening, she still felt dreadfully stiff and very nearly frostbitten from her escapades in the Fortress of Ice and the cursed Sun Shrine. The steaming water almost as welcome a sight as a fairy spring, she eagerly disrobed.

    As she made her way to the tub, however, she caught sight of herself in a mirror affixed to the wall.

    Not for the first time, her lip curled in displeasure at the sight of her reflection.

    She moved closer to the mirror and studied her body critically. After spending near to half her life adventuring abroad, she was all muscle and sinew; toned and hardened into a fighting form that even the renowned Knights of Hyrule could envy.

    But, this had come with a price. One which her earlier encounter with Malon and Ruto had brought to mind.

    Her hands, marred and calloused from years of wielding a sword, rose to cup her breasts.

    If these were any smaller, I’d be a boy, she mused sourly.

    She felt a tinge of envy for Malon who, although a working woman, was nonetheless quite alluring with her well-endowed figure, brilliant red hair and sonorous singing voice. It was no secret that the ranch girl had more than a few male admirers, and that her father’s perpetual sleeping likely had to do with his labors chasing them all off. Even Ruto, who was quite a catch by her people’s standards, had her obvious charms. The intricate, graceful undulations of her fins, the way her scales gleamed in the sun and her sinuous grace beneath the waves all attracted many a pair of unblinking eyes…though her obsessive personality tended to overpower these assets.

    Kelli’s figure, by contrast, was bespangled with scars and most of her feminine curves had been worn away by a life spent scrambling through caves and dancing through waves of enemies with a length of steel in hand. Her skin did not retain the pale softness that Malon boasted, despite the ranch girl’s laborious lifestyle, nor the river pebble smoothness of Ruto’s scales. Instead, her flesh was weathered by sun and wind and brushes with death until it looked like leather and felt rough to the touch, even where it was unmarred by scars.

    And, her narrow waist and almost non-existent hips didn’t help her appearance either.

    Blowing out an angry breath, she ran her fingers through her long tresses. Her hair, which was probably her only true vanity, had long since grown out of her formerly boyish locks and now cascaded well past her hips. More than once, she’d found herself pondering the wisdom of letting it grow out so much. Long hair could more easily get caught in narrow passages or, worse, an enemy could grab a handful and drag her in close for a killing blow. Still, despite her adventurer’s instincts warning her that such was a pointless risk, she’d kept her hair brushing her waist.

    Why that was, she could not say. What she could say, however, was that those blonde tresses had not come away undamaged either. She could tell that the once golden strands had tarnished to dingy brass. And, the fringe looked as though she’d cropped it herself with her eyes shut.

    Which, in fact, was true. She had always adventured alone, often far from civilization and its various amenities for weeks at a time. And, despite so many years of handling a sword, she’d always been so jittery around scissors.

    Nabooru, by contrast, had a long mane of fiery hair as fine as red silk. How such a thing was possible in the dusty, sweltering desert was beyond Kelli. And, the question become doubly vexing as she found a clump of strands near her temple which had been gummed together by monster blood. The corners of Kelli’s mouth drew downward once more.

    She turned, craning over her shoulder to see her bare back, and her disposition soured further.

    Her skinny hips had, at times, caused her to be mistaken for a man, in one particularly dreadful instance, by a drunken harlot in a bar who’d decided upon Kelli as her bed warmer for that even, and had torn the Sky Guardian’s shirt off before realizing her mistake, and the Sun Guardian’s buttocks was as rough as the rest of her after so much time in the saddle.

    At least there’s too little for the lecherous men to grab, she mused, giving her posterior a harsh slap.

    The young Sky Guardian had never been much for dolling herself up and trying to lure in the boys. She’d spent the days of her youth in the sun rather than before the vanity, scrambling up trees and swing oaken swords at imaginary foes. The boys had readily accepted her into their rambunctious circle as one of their own, and she could run and tackle and make mischief with the best of the opposite sex. The boys had forgotten she was a girl, literally, in some cases, and Kelli in turn soon found herself regarding with disdain the less-adventurous of her gender.

    One of Kelli’s guilty pleasures had been enjoying the looks of slack-jawed astonishment that would overtake the other girls’ faces when Kelli strode home spattered from head to toe with mud and with bloody nosed boys trailing her and making improbable threats.

    Such rambunctiousness had been tempered, at times, the hard way, as she began adventuring. She was still as undaunted now as she had been then, though she had also learned the value of forethought and thinking on her feet. This, coupled with her talents with the blade, had made her an exceptional warrior and a famous heroine. Yet, during her time abroad, she’d met many ladies who were possessed of such regality and grace that she felt as scruffy as a beggar by comparison.

    Zelda sprang to mind, this particular recollection burning hot in Kelli’s mind. Zelda was, in certain, subtle ways, much like Kelli herself. The Hylian princess’s tomboyish nature was probably the kingdom’s worst kept secret. As a child, Zelda had been known to behave like the son Daphnes had never had, embarking on hair-raising escapades and going through dresses the way Link went through arrows.

    Yet, when she so desired, Zelda could indeed look the part of a daughter of kings.

    Her lustrous golden hair, her smooth, pale cheeks, her shapely bosom, her graceful figure, her dazzling eyes and her delicate, finely boned hands, not to mention her penetrating intellect, her immaculate manners and her unshakably serene composure, all gave her a regal bearing that marked her as a queen in all but name…

    …and, all despite seven years of passing herself off as a boy.

    Such a performance, apparently, was truly of the sort seen upon the stage of history but once in a lifetime.

    For Kelli, it seemed, had attempted playing a similar role and emerging with the dexterity of a cat, but not even the barest fraction of Zelda’s grace.

    In fact, as Kelli let her mind’s eye paint Zelda’s image alongside her reflection, the Sky Guardian felt almost like a decrepit scarecrow by comparison.

    Scoffing in frustration, and wondering why she even cared about her looks with so much evil afoot, she angrily lowered herself into the hot water. She flinched slightly as she felt the burn, but soon eased herself down and let out a contented sigh. The lather of soap, bubbles forming in the water like translucent pearls, heaved and parted as she brought up one leg to be scrubbed down.

    When her fingers probed the tanned surface of her thigh, however, a different sort of steam left her nostrils.

    “Forget the shaving blade,” she remarked, fingering the strands of fine stubble. “I might as well use my sword to get rid of this.”

    And, indeed, she might have to. She hadn’t exactly been keen to reclaim her old shaving blade after having put it to different use in order to escape Dorath Riptide’s brig.

    Once through the brig’s lock, again through the jailer’s rear end…and, she’d decided she was better off leaving it behind.

    And, that impromptu rock climbing she’d added to her “relaxing” stroll on the Mayian coast hadn’t done much for her pedicure either.

    She let her leg slide back under the water, silently willing the foam to re-gather and conceal it from view. Again, she fought down a tinge of envy as she tried to focus solely on the gentle lapping of the hot water, melting away the strain of the day. She relaxed into the languid warmth, letting the heat loosen muscles cramped by cold and exertion, while the gentle lapping of the water coaxed her still pumping heart to a simmer and…

    …and, suddenly, she was freezing.

    She was jolted awake from her stupor, vaulting upward and her eyes shooting open.

    To her astonishment, the full moon shone directly overheard.

    She fumbled for the edge of the tub, seeking to pull herself upright, but her flailing hands found only more water…which, rather than piping hot and sudsy, was cool and clear.

    What’s more, she suddenly realized that the bottom of the tub had inexplicably dropped away and that she was now afloat.

    Righting herself, she discovered that she now stood waist deep in a small pond, alders and elms rising on three sides while expansive grasslands began at the pool’s edge and stretched on until they vanished amidst the moonlight on the horizon.

    The roof, the room, the house and even the village were nowhere in sight.

    As her gaze darted in all directions, her hands reflexively clapped to her body to shield her modesty…only to discover that she was clad in a deep blue, two-piece bathing suit.

    Again, her numerous scars, leather-rough skin and gaunt form were on display before the thousand winking eyes above.

    “I must look downright ugly compared to Zelda and Nabooru,” Kelli spat at the water.

    “Funny, I don’t remember you being so hard on yourself,” a strange, masculine voice called out in reply.

    With a gasp, Kelli whirled and beheld an approaching figure. Though the full moon shone on the small pool of water, whoever had spoken yet lingered upon the fringes of its radiance. The confused Sky Guardian could make out a tall figure, well-muscled but with a sleek and slender build. When he leaned forward by the barest fraction of an inch, she could see a pair of brown eyes catch the moon’s light.

    Though the Sky Guardian had tensed at the sudden intrusion, she found her alarm strangely ebbing away. For some indiscernible, confounding reason, she was not afraid of this man.

    He had discovered her alone, unarmed and practically naked in the middle of nowhere but, to her stupefaction, she was somehow certain that this man did not mean her harm.

    As he approached with taunting slowness, finally entering the moon’s revealing illumination, she was finally able to make out his features. He was clad in crimson trunks and was, indeed, well-muscled. Hard domes rose from his arms and chest, giving mute testimony to his great strength. He walked with the grounded grace of a natural fighter and, though his feet were bare, the brush and pebbles did not seem to bother him. His hair was short cropped, light brown in color, and his bangs dangled across his forehead in boyish tendrils. What caught Kelli’s attention, however, were the brown eyes and mischievous smile that lit up his face.

    A handsome face…yet, there was more than that.

    Strangely, the light in those eyes and the slyness of that grin, was somehow…familiar.

    Kelli, it seemed, was not the only one to find familiarity in this strange meeting, for the man began to draw closer and his gaze flicked to her sodden tresses.

    “I always did think you’d look better with long hair,” he remarked approvingly. “It gives you more of a wild flair than that puff ball everyone wanted it tied into.”

    The young Sun Guardian scoffed good naturedly, mostly to keep her confusion from showing. Still, she’d heard some dreadful men spout some terrible lines over the years, never at her, thankfully, but that one was just abysmal. Of all the things to begin a flirtation over, he had chosen…

    Wait a minute, how did he know how I used to wear my hair?

    Whereas quite a few of the women she’d regarded with some envy would wear their hair down and attract approving stares by the hundreds, Kelli had often been told that hers had the look of a tomboyish mop. Thus, her elders would often force her golden tresses, which seemed to grow back faster than they could be cut, into a “fashionable” bun which looked like an overlarge wart, held together by pins that pinched into her scalp.

    The infuriating discomfiture of the “puffball,” as the man had so aptly called it, was matched only by its fragility. The pins would come loose and fly in all directions if Kelli had so much as leapt from tree to tree too suddenly or vaulted onto a roof too violently…which she usually did on purpose for that exact reason. After nearing pulling out all of their own hair in frustration, her elders had thrown up their hands, made some rather rude remarks during which the word “baldness” had been repeatedly used, and abandoned their efforts to tame Kelli’s tresses.

    Amusing though the recollection was, it still left Kelli wondering how this man seemed to know this about her.

    Rather than answer her unspoken question, however, the man chose to confound her again.

    “That’s how you caught my eye way back when,” he said, drawing nearer. “You were always so adventurous, so daring. You never gave up on what you wanted to do. Frankly, this look gets that across. I like it.”

    Despite the chill of the water, Kelli could feel a strange warmth climbing her cheeks. Though her adventurer’s instincts were still clamoring that there was something untoward about this meeting, she felt no such alarm from this man.

    Again, she sensed that, despite the fact that she had never seen him before, she nonetheless knew him…but, from where?

    Who else had made her feel accepted, just as she was?

    “I thought you would’ve preferred more voluptuous ladies,” she remarked, wondering if this encounter might be too good to be true. “Lush hips, bountiful breasts, a little more in the way of a backside?”

    The man looked almost amused at the notion.

    “Meh, they got old after the first few dozen,” he said dismissively.

    This time, Kelli’s suspicions were blown out of her thoughts…and, not just by the transparency of the lie. Though she had allowed this man to draw nearer than any other who’d approached her, she could sense a tentativeness to his touch and, when he made his claim about his previous “conquests,” a bit of lip vanished between his teeth.

    This man, for all his rugged charm, likely hadn’t bedded even one of those woman he had so dismissively referenced.

    And, odd though it seemed, the uncanny focus of his eyes made Kelli strangely certain that she herself was the reason.

    Not that this stopped her from playfully flicking a fistful of water into his face.

    “Oh, you cad!” she chastised, making a less-than-convincing show of trying to swim away.

    She led him on a merry chase, and indeed, an ever broadening smile was on her face as he pursued, until he snatched her by the ankle. With a single, effortless tug, he brought her so close to him that she could breathe in a rich, earthy scent which wafted off of him.

    “Adventurous, daring, persistent and not afraid to play hard to get,” he assessed. “Not a doubt in my mind, you’re just what I’ve been looking for. And, everything I hoped to find when I saw you again.”

    One of the young Sky Guardian’s eyebrows rose at these continued implications that the two of them had met before. And, once again, she vainly sought to recall where she had seen him.

    Her mind’s eye probed her memories, ranging far and wide, yet the inward search yielded no insights.

    “You seem to know a great deal about me,” Kelli remarked, her tone going husky. “But, I know practically nothing about you.”

    It might’ve been the Sky Guardian’s imagination, but she could’ve sworn that she saw a flicker of pain ripple across the otherwise jovial expression. Yet, it was gone so quickly that she wasn’t even sure if it had been real. Regardless, the man chuckled good naturedly and brought up a hand to caress her cheek.

    “Maybe that’s part of the attraction,” he suggested.

    “Okay, incredibly, your lines are getting worse.”

    “Maybe I can prove myself in…other areas?”

    Before Kelli could make any more teasing remarks, he swooped in and crushed his lips against hers. At first startled, the Guardian of the Sun sagged and surrendered to the kiss.

    She still had no idea who this man was, nor anything about him; save that he had long admired her, had cared for her and was the only person who had made her feel beautiful.

    His hands roamed up and down her back, his hands even more calloused than hers and yet not flinching in the slightest from her own worn flesh, while his tongue gently probed the inside of her mouth. Not one to be outdone, Kelli matched his passion and leaned into him, sweeping her hands over his broad, tanned back and tantalizingly pressed in her nails.

    The pair broke away, gasping and light-headed, but their arms were still wound about one another.

    “I still don’t know who you are,” Kelli admitted, and this time she was certain of that brief flicker of pain crossing his face. “But, I hope I can see you again. You keep saying we’ve already met, and I believe it, but I want to know where.”

    “Maybe the problem is you’re looking too far away, and the answer is right under here,” the man suggested, playfully flicking Kelli’s nose. “Well, I want to see you again too. And, if I can manage it, I will. But, like you, I have my duties to perform.”

    “What sort of duties?” Kelli inquired, hoping his answer might yield a clue as to this man’s identity.

    “Urgent,” he answered obliquely, “as well as being very important.”

    Before Kelli could even roll her eyes at this ridiculous reply, he crossed the gap again and their lips met once more. This time, their passion blazed like the Gerudo Desert in midsummer, the Sky Guardian’s entire form engulfed in such warmth as she had never felt before. His lips migrated to her neck and collarbone, then blazed a fiery trail lower and lower, while her breath grew shorter and shorter and...

    …and, suddenly she couldn’t breathe.

    Her eyes stung, her vision swam and, she realized with a scream, that the man was gone.

    The scream, however, came out as a gargle, her tongue writhing at the scalding bitterness pouring into her throat.

    Vaulting upward, and then collapsing to a slick, cold surface, she shook herself back to awareness and saw, with relief and disappointment mingling in her gut, that she was back in the room where her bath had been drawn. She lay crumbled upon the floor, water running down her sprawled form. She glanced back at the tub, the waters still roiling from her furious exit, and realized that she must’ve dozed off and slipped under the water.

    How close she might’ve come to drowning, she could not say. Yet, in truth, her attention was still riveted on the…

    …She was almost loathed to call it a dream, for it had lent her that which the waking world never had. A sense that there was someone who saw her, in her entirety, and accepted her just as she was.

    And, she could tell that the dream had been as vivid as her imagination told her. For, despite her immersion in the hot water, she felt gooseflesh on her body and she was more lightheaded from the encounter than her near-drowning. As she clambered to her feet, bracing herself against the wall, she suddenly became aware that what she had taken for the pounding of blood in her ears was instead coming from the door.

    Before she could react, the doctor crashed into the room, shouting in alarm…which took on a different tone when he noted Kelli’s state of undress.

    “AIIIIIEEEEE!” the Sun Guardian screeched, vainly trying to cover her nakedness.

    The doctor, who’d only seen women in this state after they were too far beyond the mortal coil to object, cringed in fear that he might soon embark on a similar journey and spun ‘round.

    “Lady Kelli, forgive me,” he implored, a hint of panic in his tone. “I heard gargling and coughing noises, and I feared—”

    “Well, you were right,” Kelli conceded, her alarm becoming embarrassment as she wondered whether the doctor might’ve heard anything… compromising. “Almost. I did slip under the water, but I’m alright. I probably should get to bed. So, would you mind…?”

    “Ah, yes, of course.”

    With that, the doctor performed a truly remarkable feat of surgical dexterity by forcing the mangled door back into a closed position without spying the nude Guardian of the Sun a second time. Kelli, meanwhile, snatched up her clothes and, discovering that they’d become soaked at some point during her frantic escape from the tub, instead bound a towel about herself and flung her clothes over the windowsill to dry. As she left, however, she caught sight of herself in the mirror once more.

    Perhaps, if that man in her dreams saw beauty in her worn form, there’d been something to her that she’d overlooked?

    With a sly smile, Kelli made her way to her bedding, wondering what other surprises might visit her in the realm of dreams.

    Link had been more than a bit perplexed when Kelli returned from her bath without having redressed but, between his earlier acquaintance with her fast temper and the likelihood that she’d make some reference to his crush, alleged crush, he amended, on Zelda, he decided to hold his tongue. He did, however notice that Kelli’s previously foul mood had been replaced with a hint of sly smile and, after burrowing under the covers and sneezing once more, she fell asleep almost instantly. Link, however, found himself lying awake, staring at the wall and restlessly turning over again and again. His most recent, and, perhaps, most narrowly avoided, brush with death had left him too wary and anxious to even close his eyes. But, if he was going to make good on his promise to be up and about soon, Link knew he should at least try to rest. Still, whenever he forced his eyes shut, the face of the one who left him bleeding and in a coma leered at him from the darkness. Link had been wounded many times before in battle, when he was a child during his adventures in Termina, his quests in Hyrule during the dark future and many other times during later years, and he’d slipped death’s grasp many a time. But, he’d never come so close to finally dying, nor had he been so savaged as he had been before finding himself faced with Dark Kelli’s onslaught. His still churning thoughts wandered to the heroes of yore he’d read about during his time abroad, how each of them had some manner of nemesis who pressed the skills of these heroes to their very limits. More than once, the tales involved these heroes being defeated, though only for a time, by their nemesis; and, Link wondered if this was how they’d felt after such a defeat. Link decided that this had to be so, for even the bravest of heroes could not be truly unafraid of death. He snarled in frustration, fought to rid himself of these thoughts so he could rest. And soon enough, his eyelids grew heavy and he dozed off.

    As time passed, however, Link’s breathing grew labored again and he began to toss and turn more violently. His lidded eyes began to dart back and forth as images began to intrude upon his sleep, causing his labored breathing to turn ragged and a cold sweat to bespangle his brow.

    For though Kelli had met the man of her dreams when she had slumbered, Link was faced with the girl of his nightmares.

    He and Kelli were standing in a fairly small room, bare and empty save for a window that even Navi and Vira might consider cramped. Stone walls rose on all sides, the strange chamber illuminated solely by the light of a full moon outside. Distant treetops were visible, far below the window, suggesting that Link and Kelli must be high up in some kind of tower. Suddenly, dark clouds billowed in to blot out the moon, and bolts of lightning crisscrossed the sky in dazzling hairlines. One of those hairlines, inexplicably, seemed to writhe its way through the tiny window, striking the floor in a cloud of dust and smoke. Then, to the two adventurers’ horror, Dark Kelli then emerged from the cloud, standing between the two Sky Guardians. Her gaze lingered upon Link for a moment but, with such speed that she seemed to blur to invisibility, she whirled around to grab Kelli by the collar of her tunic. Link quickly reached for his sword, but found that his sheath was empty. His sword was gone. Kelli tried to draw her own, but Dark Kelli proved the swifter. Her perverted facsimile of the Sun Sword clove into the heroine’s neck, crimson squirting into Dark Kelli’s face as Kelli’s face went still.

    Link gaped in horror as his partner collapsed to the ground motionless, her eyes frozen open in a perpetual stare of horror. He then tried to un-sling his bow, but he wasn’t quick enough. Dark Kelli snatched him by the arms and shoved him against the wall, snickering as she did so. Link could only remain petrified with fear as the dark mirror image of Kelli sheathed her sword and threw him to the floor. She punched him, kicked him, and smashed him into the wall, knocking the breath from Link’s lungs and spawning hundreds of stars that danced before his eyes. When Link was too breathless, battered and bloody to do more than writhe in agony, Dark Kelli yanked him to his feet once more and shoved him against the wall yet again. This time, his wrists fell into the waiting grasp of a pair of manacles that clamped down upon him. She snickered again as she gazed with pleasure upon his misfortune and the fear in his eyes.

    “Well… Time to have some fun,” she said with a devious grin.

    Dark Kelli then slowly removed her gear, tunic, and boots, leaving her clad only in dark gray undergarments. She also threw aside her headband and proceeded to trace the curves of her breasts and hips as she nudged closer to Link. The powerless hero, realizing what she intended, frantically struggled to break free and escape, but it was no use. Her onslaught had left him far too weak to pry himself free from the manacles’ iron grip. Dark Kelli then grabbed his tunic and literally ripped it off, its pieces drooping from Link’s arms. She did the same thing with his undershirt and yanked off his gauntlets and boots as well.

    “Hehe… You’re mine,” she whispered as she pressed her breasts against Link’s chest. She then reached for his leggings…

    “NOOOO!!” Link howled and sprang up from his pillow. He grimaced when he felt a somewhat sharp pain in his torso.

    “Agh…”

    “Huh? Wha?” Kelli uttered, having been awakened by Link’s scream. “Link, are you alright?”

    “Kel!” Link gasped and slowly laid back down so he didn’t irritate his broken ribs again. “I-I just had the most awful nightmare about…her…”

    “Oh…”

    “It was t-terrifying…” Link stuttered, turning over and gritting his teeth in fear. “We were in some kind of stone tower. Sh-She killed you right in front of me. Then, she beat me to a pulp again. And then, she took off most of her clothes…and then most of mine… She was about to…to…!”

    Kelli’s eyes widened as she listened to Link’s words.

    “Oh by goddesses…”

    Tears began to trickle into Link’s pillow.

    “I can’t do this! I can’t take this anymore!” he bawled. “I keep seeing her and hearing her dreadful giggling… Her face is everywhere! WHY WON’T SHE GO AWAY?!”

    “Link, just calb down!” Kelli coaxed, shouting both to force her words past her congestion and to make herself heard over his hysterics. Seeing Link continue to writhe and bawl, she wound her bed’s blanket around herself and snatched at his shoulders, trying to restrain him without causing further injury.

    “I can’t… I just can’t…” Link continued, shaking.

    Just as suddenly as they had started, Link's convulsions stopped and he fell limply to the bed. At first, Kelli thought that Link might've passed out, but then saw that his eyes were still wide open…

    …Gaping with terror, hatching in his mind like locust and devouring him from the inside out. Then, he began shaking again and his mouth feverishly formed mute words.

    “Hey, is everything alright up here?” the voice of Daphnes worriedly inquired from beyond the door. He had rushed up the stairs again and pounded urgently at the door. Kelli, shuddering at the effect this news might have on the ailing monarch, tried to shout back that nothing was wrong, but a renewed outburst from Link soundly contradicted her words. Bracing herself for the worst, Kelli snatched up her clothes, which, thankfully, had been dried out and delivered to the foot of her bed, and tried to think of how to explain Link’s behavior. Her rushed planning ended prematurely when Daphnes burst in, followed by the fairies. Ruto and the doctor had returned home for the night while Malon stayed in another villager’s house.

    So much the better, Kelli decided. I can barely stand seeing Link like this, I doubt either of them could.

    “Yeah, Link, we heard you scream!” Navi added, rousing Kelli from her musings.

    “What happened?” Vira wondered.

    “Oh, uh, yeah. Sorry we woke you,” Kelli replied, suddenly fearful of what harm the truth might do to them. “Link just had a bad dreab, is all.”

    The Guardian of the Sun’s words ended in a snort as she vainly tried to clear her clogged sinuses, and she worriedly pondered whether her slight deception would fool the three visitors.

    “Oh, I see. I understand. He has been through quite a bit,” Daphnes recalled, though Kelli could swear the wrinkles around his eyes deepened a bit.

    “Indeed.”

    Kelli sneezed once more after responding.

    “Still, he’s shaking quite a bit. Are you sure he’s alright?” Daphnes inquired, his too-wise stare suggesting that he already knew the answer.

    “Well, I don’t know,” Kelli answered, grimly aware of the true gravity behind the simple words. “I really don’t know.”

    Link, meanwhile, had seemed to have lapsed into a fevered slumber, though he continued to shudder and gasp…and Kelli had no doubt as to the cause.

    I swear, if I meet this Dark Kelli, I will beat her like a rented mule and then turn her into a rug!

    The Hylian king clapped a hand, almost skeletal from age, but still possessing a commanding grip, over Kelli’s shoulder, and Kelli reluctantly relayed what she knew about her evil counterpart.

    “This is dire news indeed,” Daphnes intoned, his voice again weary and strained. “I had hoped that this Dark Link, of which I was informed all those years ago, would be the sole attempt at such a perversion. But, it seems I was wrong. And, it seems this Dark Kelli is far deadlier. No one has ever known Link to fear anything before. To many, he was veritable personification of courage and bravery. If Dark Kelli could…break him, then I fear we are lost.”

    “I dow,” Kelli replied, again cursing her clogged sinuses. “I’ll do my best to help him.”

    “We will too,” Vira seconded. “Right, Navi?”

    “Yeah. I’ll…try to remain civil,” Navi agreed, though she regarded Kelli with narrowed eyes.

    “Thank you,” Vira replied.

    “And I thank you all,” Daphnes added. “Kelli, are you feeling any better? The doctor told me of your cold before he left.”

    “Yeah, somewhat,” Kelli replied. “I can see that it’s dawn dow, so I’ll be heading back out shortly.”

    “To Lost Hyrule?”

    “Yep. I believe I’ll find bore clues to our situation there.”

    “Very well.”

    “Wait, ‘Lost Hyrule?’” Link wondered, apparently aroused from his feverish trance but still trembling.

    “Oh, sorry. I forgot that I haven’t explained it to you yet,” Kelli realized. “Lost Hyrule is a land that was once part of Hyrule itself. Or, so one of the guards told be.”

    “It’s true,” Daphnes added. “Lost Hyrule has long been shrouded in mystery, and there is very little which is reliably known about it. Only a handful of ancient texts provided credible information and, alas, all were lost when the enemy destroyed the royal library. If memory serves, however, they described a land to the north that was once part of our kingdom. However, the land was erased from the map and sealed off. How and why this happened remains hotly debated, though little more than conjecture has emerged of late. However, the fence behind the windmill here in Kakariko apparently marks one of the paths into Lost Hyrule.”

    “One of the paths? There’s bore than one path?” Kelli replied.

    “Yes, the texts say there are at least two paths. But, I fear the second is lost to us. Reportedly, it’s somewhere between Castle Town and Gerudo Valley, but I suspect that it has long since been sealed off by a landslide, one which was…arranged to ensure that Lost Hyrule would remain inaccessible. I also believe that such a tactic could not be used here, for fear of putting villagers in danger or causing Death Mountain to erupt. Even so, either from fear or lack of interest, not many people are eager to discover what’s beyond the northern boundary of the kingdom. As the guard probably told you, few have left these borders since those paths were sealed off, except for those traveling to Mayia. This is all anyone knows, though. Any maps or other books pertaining to that mysterious land have been lost.”

    “I see…”

    “Interesting,” Link commented. “Man, I wish I didn’t have to miss out on the fun.”

    “Oh, don’t worry,” Kelli replied with a chuckle punctuated by sniffles. “I’ll bring you along when you’ve recovered. Besides, I probably won’t be able to explore all of it on by first trip anyway. So, you can help be out later.”

    “Ah, thanks a bunch.”

    “You’re welcob. Now please, Link, try to relax, okay?” Kelli insisted as she pulled on her boots and grabbed her equipment. “It’ll help speed up your recovery.”

    “Alright, I will.”

    “Great. Well, see you later!”

    With that, Kelli headed downstairs. Vira offered to go with her again and Daphnes bid the pair fairwell once more. Hopefully, Ruto would return to help Malon with the watch while Kelli and Vira were away. As Kelli herself had pointed out last night, the enemy might have been thrown off balance when the attempt to slay Link had backfired, and the possibility that their foe would make some drastic move was very real. She also hoped that she wouldn’t get lost while exploring. The area was called Lost Hyrule for a reason, after all, and Daphnes did say that whatever maps of it that had once existed were now gone. Perhaps, once Link and Kelli had driven back the shadow that now stifled Hyrule, their explorations of Lost Hyrule could be used to dispel the mysteries of that land and to replace the destroyed maps? Being a consummate adventurer, it took Kelli but the twinkling of an eye to become enamored with the idea. For now, however, she still had to blindly venture into the unknown and could do little more than simply trust her instinct, as well as the goddesses, for guidance.

    Kelli soon made her way back to the fence behind the windmill, glad that she wasn’t forcing her way through a blizzard this time around. The sun shone overhead in a cloudless sky, and the only evidence that the blizzard had happened at all was a sudden abundance of muddy puddles. As Kelli drew nearer to the boundary of Lost Hyrule, she found herself wishing that Link could be with her to see this mysterious land. But, she knew he would get to see it in time…at least, she hoped so. She hoped that Dark Kelli hadn’t broken Link’s spirit and, more to the point, that her dark counterpart would not interfere with this exploration.

    Much though she wanted to feed Dark Kelli to a Dodongo, Kelli knew that trying so now would likely prove foolhardy.

    As the Sun Guardian passed through the fire blackened gap in the fence, she paused to let her gaze rove over her surroundings. Malon’s urgent news about Link’s heart stopping had caused her take the last leg of her excursion at a full run, and thus she took a moment to examine the land with greater care. The area around her was heavily wooded, with many trees, shrubs, and other plants, while streams and additional paths coursed through the copious greenery. It was not clear whether this area might have once been inhabited but, if it had been, whatever settlements that were once here had long since been abandoned and overgrown. That musing, however, sparked another. Had Lost Hyrule still been inhabited when the land had been sealed off from the rest of Hyrule? Daphnes had never mentioned anyone who might be living out here, and information on Lost Hyrule was quite scarce. Despite this, however, Kelli noticed that the path she was walking on was significantly wider than the paths that branched off of it. This likely meant that it had to be a major thoroughfare that people had once used. Seeing as it would obviously be the easiest path to travel, Kelli chose to stay on it.

    During her travels, Kelli kept alert for anything suspicious or out of the ordinary while enduring her constant sneezing at the same time. For quite a while after she had passed by the Sun Shrine, however, she saw nothing but more plants, small wild animals, and the path wending ever onward. She crossed over a small bridge that spanned a tiny stream, little more than a trickle of water that she could walk through like she would a puddle of rain, idly wondering if the fact that the bridge was still standing could mean that these lands were yet populated. Mere minutes later, however, Kelli found the path branching off into two equally sized routes. One branch continued northeast while the other meandered to the west. Right at the edge of where the path split, there was a signpost with arrows pointing down each of the branching paths. The signpost had vines snaking around it and it was slightly crooked, perhaps from being bent by the wind or the wood warping from the rain. Kelli quickly approached, fervently hoping she’d find some clue as to which choice would be the wisest to take.

    “Hey…” she uttered when she saw the writing on the sign. “Vira, this writing… It’s not quite our tongue, but I can still understand it. It bust be an older dialect of Hyrule’s language.”

    “Yeah, I can read it too,” Vira agreed. “I think the sign pointing to the west path says “Skyview Village.” …Say, Kel, do you think the village might be inhabited? After all, somebody was keeping up that bridge we crossed.”

    “My thought exactly. But, I’d rather have more information before I go around meeting the locals. For now, let's try this other path. The sign says “Sun Temple.” Let’s go there first. We’ll save exploring this village for when Link is able to go with us. That way, if something goes wrong, we have a better chance of dealing with it. ”

    “Alright, that’s fair.”

    With that, Kelli and Vira continued going straight and took the northeast path.

    “Kelli, wait a moment,” a familiar feminine voice called out. Kelli halted and turned around to see the Fairy of Winds hovering before her once again.

    “Oh, Fairy of Winds. I apologize, I’b a little sick. Is there something I should dow?”

    “So I can see… And yes. I can tell you about the Sun Temple,” the Fairy of Winds replied. “And, I was also there not too long ago. I sensed a great deal of evil inside, more than I’ve felt at than any other location in Hyrule, save the castle. You must tread cautiously.”

    “Alright. Thanks, I certainly will. Dow what else can you tell me about this temple?”

    “Well, firstly, and most importantly, it was the original resting place of the Sun Sword and the Sun Shield. Centuries ago, those chosen by the goddess of the sun were led there so they could take up the legendary blade and, with it, the mantle and duties of the Sky Guardian. Similarly, the Moon Temple, located on the other side of Lost Hyrule, once housed the Moon Sword and Moon Shield.”

    “Wow…”

    “When the Master Sword came to be, the blades were moved to underground shrines, where they were thought to remain for all eternity. No one saw them again, until you and your friend Judo unwittingly discovered the Sun Shrine. Thus, the Sky Guardians stopped appearing until you chanced upon their legacy.”

    “I see. It all bakes sense now. After that, the Hyruleans had doh bore use for the temples or the shrines, so they cut this area from the bap and sealed off the only paths leading here. This way, doh one would accidentally find the blades…or so they thought.”

    “Exactly. I shall tell you more when Link is present. This information is of utmost importance to both of you.”

    “Alright, I understand. I still want to explore the Sun Temple, as there may be another jewel there. I promise to be careful.”

    “I’m glad to hear that. I’ll see you again when you bring Link here.”

    Kelli nodded and the Fairy of Winds vanished once more. With that, the Guardian of the Sun made no hesitation to continue down the path, more eager than ever to explore the Sun Temple. Along the way, she contemplated what Skyview Village was like, or rather, had been like, and if it might relate to the Sky Guardians. Kelli knew better than to consider that it had the word ‘sky’ in its name as being coincidental. Hopefully, this information would be at least part of what the Fairy of Winds would have to say later on.

    Sometime later, Kelli found herself at another bridge, only this one spanned a river the size of the one near Kakariko Village, and the bridge was made of stone. Though this bridge was still standing, it didn’t seem as well kept as the one Kelli had found earlier, as a number of its blocks were overgrown with moss and vines, and some were even cracked or chipped. She quickly crossed, hoping the bridge wouldn't disintegrate beneath her and that she would spot the Sun Temple soon. Despite the Fairy of Winds’ warning, she very much wanted to destroy the monsters inside as soon as possible, and, hopefully, recover an Elemental Jewel as well. The jewels that remained missing were the Jewel of Shadow, the Jewel of Spirit, the Jewel of Light, and the Jewel of Sky. The first three surely imprisoned their respective Sages, namely Impa, Nabooru, and Rauru respectively, and thus, were probably hidden in places related to each. The Jewel of Sky, however, was a mystery. Still, Kelli believed that if a jewel was in the Sun Temple, it would most likely be that one.

    As the Guardian of the Sun left the bridge behind, she belatedly realized that, in her surprise over learning about the Sun Temple, she had neglected to ask the Fairy of Winds if Lost Hyrule might be inhabited. That the bridges were still standing suggested that someone was here, maintaining them, possibly living in Skyview Village. But, Kelli had no idea who they were, where they might be, whether or not they were friendly or if they knew anything pertinent about the Sky Guardians. Mentally kicking herself for the oversight, she vowed not to make the same mistake again when the Fairy of Winds next presented herself.

    Sometime later, Kelli finally beheld what was surely none other than the Sun Temple itself. It was a large, almost palatial building with stone walls the color of the sun's golden rays and lofty towers that pierced the sky. Breathtaking raised carvings, similar to the bird-like motifs upon the Hylian shields, adorned the structure as well. Though the building was still quite beautiful, its long abandonment had left its mark. The ancient stone blocks of its walls were cracked in places, and overgrown with moss and vines, much like the bridge Kelli had crossed earlier. What might’ve once been stained glass windows were now gaping holes giving free admittance to the elements. And, most glaringly, some of the bird carvings were crumbling away under the ravages of time. A pair of large, golden orange double doors marked the entrance to the ancient, yet magnificent temple. Right above these doors was a large sun emblem of the same color, the very same symbol inscribed upon the hilt of the Sky Guardian’s sword and the face of her shield. Two flights of stairs led up to this grand entrance.

    Before approaching, however, Kelli decided it would be prudent to test the Fairy of Winds’ claims. With a silent incantation, she invoked her ability to sense the presence of evil. Her irises glowed golden and her hair stood slightly on end while the sun emblem appeared on her forehead again and her magic-enhanced eye pierced the temple walls and roamed within the structure. To her vision, the temple stood amidst a veritable fount of darkness, billowing outward in shockwaves, while previously inaudible roars and growls now resounded deafeningly. The Fairy of Winds had been right…in fact, she’d understated the case a little. Kelli’s power detected the presence of more monsters within the Sun Temple than everywhere else she’d been to combined, aside from Hyrule Castle. Kelli could not suppress a nervous gulp but, after a moment, she spurred herself onward.

    Before Kelli could start up the stairs, however, a dark, feminine voice that sounded eerily similar to her own spoke up.

    “Hehe, we finally get to meet.”

    Kelli looked up to find a twisted, gray skinned reflection of herself sitting in the stone curve of one of the bird carving's wings, one leg draped over the other. Despite her grim coloring and malevolent demeanor, Kelli was struck by how much this figure resembled her. Only, her eyes were colored a baleful golden glow. Kelli knew right away who this was, and her lips peeled away from her teeth to expose a clenched jaw.

    “YOU!” she snapped. “You’re Dark Kelli!”

    “Good guess,” Dark Kelli replied cockily. “That must mean the handsome young warrior I met in the Fortress of Ice made it back to you alive. You sound a little worse for wear yourself though. Haha, how humorous.”

    “Shut up! Oh, and I dow you did more than just ‘beet’ Link. Disappointed that you failed to kill hib?”

    “Ah, of course there’s no use trying to hide it from you. Yes, I am very disappointed. He seemed to pose little threat to me, yet victory slipped away from my grasp when he somehow survived my ending blow and then stabbed my sword arm! It was too painful to even lift my blade, so I was forced to retreat. But oh, it’s such a shame that I had to resort to violence. All I wanted was a little…companionship, and he had to go and hurt my feelings.”

    “Ha. As far as I dow, you deserved every bit of it for what you did to him.”

    “Hmph. He brought his near-demise upon himself. You know, he has such a nice body and he’s quite lucky for it. Oh, what I'd give for someone like that to while all those long, lonely nights. I just kill men that I’m not at all pleased with. I would have spared Link’s pain, had he cooperated, despite him claiming to be one of those wretched Sky Guardians.”

    Kelli silently cursed the vast distance between herself and her evil counterpart. Still, if what Dark Kelli had said was true, then the wound in Link’s stomach had been caused by an ending blow. No man could take such a blow and live to tell about it, let alone still have enough strength to strike back…except, so it was said, one meant to serve as one of the goddesses’ chosen warriors. Apparently, the goddess of the moon had chosen well in selecting Link to be the next Guardian of the Moon. If a warrior like Link could perform such a feat as Dark Kelli lamented over, then he truly did have the makings of a powerful Sky Guardian. Kelli recalled telling him that eventually, not even Dark Kelli would be able to defeat him and she was now certain that her judgment had been correct. She just needed to get Link himself to believe it.

    “We’ll dever cooperate with you,” Kelli hissed, shooting Dark Kelli a glare.

    “That’s quite unfortunate for you then,” the evil twin replied.

    “Oh really? Then get dowd here and let’s find out if that’s true!”

    “Ah, tempting, but I’m afraid I have other plans at the moment. But don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll have some fun eventually. Ta ta for now! Hehehe!”

    “Doh you don’t! Wait!” Kelli angrily shouted. But Dark Kelli merely laughed at her counterpart and, with a flick of the wrist, conjured a cloud of smoke. Once the wind had broken up the opaque vapors, Dark Kelli was nowhere in sight. Kelli cursed her luck and could only hope that Dark Kelli’s alleged plans had nothing to do with Kakariko, the sages, or Link.

    Even if the source of the evil plaguing Hyrule had been thrown off balance by his recovery and the retrieval of two more Elemental Jewels, it seemed that whatever shock Dark Kelli might have felt had long since passed.

    And, given Link’s account of this particular enemy, that meant trouble.

    Now who could that man in Kelli's dream possibly have been? ;P

  11. #56
    J'ai Envie De Toi AetherX's Avatar Moderator
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    Default Re: The Legend of Zelda: The Ancient Power

    A long, long time ago, in a thread not so far away, some dude promised that he'd review every fic that won an award in the Spring Awards. That guy was me. Though it's taken me a long time to get around to it, here I am! Here's the way my reviews work: I start out with some responses to specific parts of the story, then I break it all down into three basic categories and critique. You on board? Let's roll...

    RESPONSES:


    BREAKDOWN:


    OVERALL:
    When I first started reading this I wasn't really looking forward to it. The plot looked unoriginal and the characters bland. But as time progressed, the story began to unfold and pull me in. By the last two chapters, I was hooked! The beginning of this fic was okay, the middle pretty good, and the most recent parts were fantastic! You've improved immensely as time has gone by and it shows clearly in your writing. I look forward to more.

    *****

    I apologize for ranting and any confusing sentences. I'm quite tired and this is my second review in a row (the two together have taken me about four hours). If you want any examples or clarifications just let me know and I'll do my best to oblige.

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  12. #57
    Secret Sword of Justice Kelleo's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Legend of Zelda: The Ancient Power

    Quote Originally Posted by AetherX View Post
    A long, long time ago, in a thread not so far away, some dude promised that he'd review every fic that won an award in the Spring Awards. That guy was me. Though it's taken me a long time to get around to it, here I am! Here's the way my reviews work: I start out with some responses to specific parts of the story, then I break it all down into three basic categories and critique. You on board? Let's roll...
    Haha, of course I'm on board. ^^

    Is there such thing as plot armor for locations? Plot fortifications?
    I...don't quite understand what you mean here. xP

    Bit of archery terminology here: that should be "nocked" not "notched." The reason for this is that the little notch on the back of arrows where they slip around the bowstring is called the nock. Learn something every day.
    Oh. Oops. XD

    This bit surprised me. As far as I could tell, Navi and Kelli had practically no interaction. You'd think Navi would talk just as much when Kelli was around, but she was pretty much silent. I know you changed this later in the story, where they have a pretty important and explosive relationship, but I was put off in the beginning by the lack of Navi in scenes with Kelli.
    She could've heard Link say her name.

    I had to bring this up. Opined is a good word and kudos to you for using it, but you use it A LOT, and it often (like in this case) doesn't actually fit. Vira's hardly stating her opinion when she says she's glad to be free. I'd say that's a fact. She of all people would know how she feels :P
    Ah, I see.

    That's right, all of Chapter 18. This sucker's 12,000 words long. I don't know if you realize, but that's about three times as long as the average fancfiction chapter and just under a quarter of the average novel (or so they say). I'm not complaining, but I think it would have been better off to divide this chapter up into two.
    Hey, I don't HAVE to stick to the averages, do I? I like long chapters anyway. And trust me, this isn't the longest story chapter I've written (my Fire Emblem fic has longer ones lol)

    PLOT: The key to this story is definitely the pacing. During the Death Forest bit I became a little disenchanted. I was afraid that you would attempt to stick to the games' formula, which, although quite fun to play through, isn't all that interesting to read. Dungeons tend to be where the plot grinds to a halt as you attempt to reach the next goal. The fact that you lured me into thinking that this was the case and then throwing in The Fortress of Ice, where Link entered, left, came back, and got his butt kicked, was a stroke of genius. It surprised the hell out of me, and that rarely happens in fanfiction. You've pulled off exactly what a fanfiction should be. This feels like it could easily be a Zelda game, but it's still original and interesting. The elemental jewels are very Zelda-ish and nothing new, but they get the job done. The fact that not all of them were in full-fledged dungeons was a relief. Like I said, the dungeon scenes were not that interesting. The fights were well written and exciting, especially as you improved over the course of the fic, but the rest of the dungeon stuff was just glum and blah. Puzzles aren't very interesting when someone else is describing them to you and you don't get to do them yourself, for example. The plot ebbs and flows between lighthearted and depressing, which is exactly how it should be. Besides the dungeon thing, I have no real criticism for the plot. It isn't mind blowing, but it gets the job done and I want to keep reading, which is all that really matters. The whole deal with Judo adds enough mystery to sate my appetite so I shouldn't complain.
    The story feeling like it could be a Zelda game was my intent, actually. I wanted to create a Zelda adventure that could make a great game. I also wanted to create dungeons. But I'm glad you're enjoying the story nonetheless. :)

    CHARACTERS: As with everything, they started off kind of weak, but then got much better. Let's start from the top: Link. you've certainly fleshed him out beyond the wordless protagonist of the games in a way that fits with his background. It's very clear that he holds the Triforce of Courage, as he's completely fearless and a little reckless to boot. He and Kelli make for an excellent and amusing team. They work together well when necessary and bounce of each other humorously (and sometimes literally) often enough to keep things entertaining. The best part about all of that: they do it without going out of character. You've clearly put a lot of thought into this, because you don't need to force your characters to do anything, they just do what they feel is right. There are some exceptions, however. First off, despite that fact that Kelli is supposed to be as battle hardened as Link she kind of cries a lot (particularly wherever Judo's concerned). I can see that she's going through some damn hard situations, but still... she's supposed to be a hero! I suppose the fact that her tears are magical kind of forgives that, but still. Perhaps Judo as a potential lover explains things a bit... I mean... what? The dark man in the dream wasn't Judo. Certainly not! That was... Ganondorf! No... DARK Ganondorf! Yeah!
    Actually, Link doesn't hold the ToC in this story. The ToC left him after he was sent back in time at the end of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, so yeah. Doesn't mean he isn't still as courageous as he always is though. And Kelli cries a lot because she's worried about Judo. For all she knows, he could be dead. I'd cry sometimes too if I were in her position. And of course the man in her dream was Judo. lol

    Also, I'm surprised you didn't have anything to say about Dark Kelli. Imo, she's badass and one of the best villains I've ever come up with.

    The second half of Chapter 18 was AWESOME, by the way, as well as Navi's jibes at Link's feelings for Zelda throughout the story. Being heroes doesn't mean that they aren't teenagers. Insecurity and worrying about romance, one's body, sex, and the opposite gender ALWAYS happens. To include that in a LoZ story was a stroke of genius. It made the characters so much more real. But I digress. The other issue I have with Kelli is this: WHY ISN'T SHE GOING ANYWHERE WITH LINK! I understand they don't want to leave the village unguarded, but they do it anyways from time to time. To be honest, if monsters attacked and overran Kakariko's defenses and beat all of the royal guard, I don't think Kelli being there is going to help much. Just my opinion.
    Yeah, I love having characters make jibes at Link's feelings for Zelda. XD And Kelli will go places with Link soon. She and Link will explore Lost Hyrule together, for example. And the only time they leave the village unguarded is when they have no choice but to do so.

    The other characters, like Navi, Vira, Malon, Ruto, Daphne, and whoever else, are portrayed accurately (where applicable) and really add to the story. They each bring out different sides of the main characters, which is the point of supporting characters in my opinion. Well done.
    Awesome, thanks. :D

    WRITING: On the technical side of things, I don't really have any criticisms. There was the occasional forgivable typo, but nothing that ruined my immersion in the story. If there was some advice I'd give, it would be to watch your word choice. Sometimes you use words that are much more flowery then needed or are just completely unnecessary. "Opined" would be a good example of this, as I explained in my responses. If something is done or said in a plain or ordinary way, then don't try to make it extravagant. Too often these days writers think that using the word "said" is a cardinal sin. It's not because it almost always fits. Moving on to other kinds of description, I have to say that you've done quite well. The characters and environments of Hyrule come alive wonderfully. Just remember to show, not tell, and things should stay that way. The dialogue was yet another place where you shone. How each character spoke and what they said fit them perfectly. Arguments and bickering are surprisingly difficult to pull off, but you managed it to great effect, especially the latter. The bickering between Navi and Link in particular was quite humorous, a phenomena surprisingly scant in fanfiction.
    Ah, I see. And I don't mind using "said," I just think using it too much is bad. And thanks a bunch. :)

    OVERALL:
    When I first started reading this I wasn't really looking forward to it. The plot looked unoriginal and the characters bland. But as time progressed, the story began to unfold and pull me in. By the last two chapters, I was hooked! The beginning of this fic was okay, the middle pretty good, and the most recent parts were fantastic! You've improved immensely as time has gone by and it shows clearly in your writing. I look forward to more.
    Yeah, I started this story several years ago, and I revised it several times over. lol I'm glad you enjoyed the story so far! :)

    I apologize for ranting and any confusing sentences. I'm quite tired and this is my second review in a row (the two together have taken me about four hours). If you want any examples or clarifications just let me know and I'll do my best to oblige.
    Oh wow lol. And no, I understood your post for the most part, don't worry.

  13. #58
    J'ai Envie De Toi AetherX's Avatar Moderator
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    Default Re: The Legend of Zelda: The Ancient Power

    INITIATE QUOTE WAR

    Quote Originally Posted by Kelleo View Post
    I...don't quite understand what you mean here. xP
    Plot armor's what keeps main character's from dying from injuries (or just getting injured in the first place). Therefore, plot fortification... nevermind, bad joke.

    Oh. Oops. XD
    No biggie, you got your point across (PUN) and that's what matters.

    She could've heard Link say her name.
    I get that, but I just thought it was odd how she kind of disappeared after Kelli showed up. Not that big of a deal.

    And Kelli will go places with Link soon. She and Link will explore Lost Hyrule together, for example. And the only time they leave the village unguarded is when they have no choice but to do so.
    That's what I figured.

    I really need to stop doing everything on Bulba after 10PM...

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  14. #59
    Secret Sword of Justice Kelleo's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Legend of Zelda: The Ancient Power

    lol, you are funny. XD

    No, I mean it. I'm laughing so hard right now!

    Anyway, if you're okay with those things then, I've got no complaint. :P

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