Chapter 55 - The Evil Revealed
Rolling to the side as the gnashing teeth clamped onto thin air, Link yelled out to Apolloni, “Quick, hand me one of your scimitars!”
She pugnaciously shook her head as she drew them out of their fastenings, perched cumbersomely beneath her robe. Link leaned to one side as the sharp spike of its leg landed past his shoulder, creating a sizeable hole in the brick flooring. The end of each appendage was funneled down to a sharp nail-like penetrator. Furious with the Gerudo’s refusal at his request, he sprinted weaving through the wriggling legs as the creature circled around trying to locate its prey.
“You stupid woman!” Link roared. He slid underneath its bulking mass deftly avoiding its club of a tail swishing over him. His goal was to snag the mask and escape from the unholy temple. Apolloni’s safety was moot at this point.
The Gerudo back flipped over a roving leg as it rammed into the ground, intending to impale her to the floor. She sliced upwards at the closest snout which had made a sweeping dive to snap her in half. Blood spurted from the wound as the sword sliced off its nostrils. The beast toppled back onto its eight legs thundering with the sudden pain. Another shudder shook the temple as Apolloni lost her footing, looking up she bounded sideways to avoid the stamping tail.
“Dear Goddesses!” She exclaimed as she beheld the beast recovering quickly from the injury. Within seconds it was fully healed without a single scar to show for it. “What in Din’s name is this creature?” She scanned the chamber for Link only to find he had vanished. Her eyes narrowed as the dropped mask was no longer in the room, the only remnant of his escape was the crumpled robe discarded on the floor.
Ducking under another bite that aimed to rip her head off, she dashed into the corridor and tore down the passage. Gracefully avoiding the reaching hands of the undying, she retraced their steps back to the entrance. A booming crash erupted behind her as the conjoined creature demolished the bricks of the door frame before smashing into the wall opposite trying to skid to a halt. Contorting its two halves to rest several leg prongs on either wall, it began skittering down the hallway like a demonic spider after her.
Apolloni rushed ahead of the snapping maws and emerged free from the temple into a cacophony of sound. A pitched battle was raging through the town plaza. Ganondorf was holding his own against several robed mages who were sniping from the rooftops. Kotake and Koume were circling above raining destruction and hate, efficiently incinerating unfortunate souls or melting them into nothing more than small puddles. Impa was roving through the crowd of cloaked tyros slicing them in half and ripping out their organs, anything to delay their inevitable reconstruction.
Apolloni scoffed in disdain, they were betrayed. The apprentice wizards were merely hiding, waiting to attack only after they had entered the temple! A horrible grinding noise issued behind her. Glancing briefly, she ran towards Ganondorf as she struggled to remove the awfully stifling cloak. Finally free from the musty clothing and only adorned with her fresh-breathing Gerudo robe, she brandished her scimitars and began slicing heads off the nearest targets. Townspeople or not did not matter to her, they were all Nevachrean and deserved to die.
The front façade of the temple exploded in a flurry of flying bricks and bodies. The debris flew through the air, slamming into nearby structures, crushing various people and smashing the pitiful fountain. Ganondorf’s eyes grew as he regarded the raging beast. It swung its two snouts in various directions trying to pinpoint its lost prey. Upon seeing Apolloni fighting alongside him, it began scuttling over screeching in rage.
Ganondorf swiftly erected a shield warding off the nearest magick blast before vaporizing the despicable tyro on the spot. Twirling around to fire a pulse of dark energy at the monster, he smirked as it ripped off two of its legs causing it to topple over in shrieking agony. Its multitude of limbs writhed in the air like some disgusting insect. His mirth at its misery was short lived when he noticed new spines growing out of its stumps. He grunted in pleasure, this was going to be a lot more fun than he thought.
Link was dipping and plaiting through the chaotic mess, nimbly avoiding several magickal discharges that would have killed him. He looked up to the rooftops and saw Saria trembling with fear, unable to move from her position. It was apparent no one had noticed her small form.
“Saria!” Link called out to her.
She looked down with fear in her eyes, “Link! Please save me!”
He shook his head, “I’m sorry, I can’t. You have to help us. Do you see the front gates?” He pointed down the row of streets to the fortified wall, she numbly nodded her head. “You have to open them and let Xavier, Nabooru and Merin in! We need their help!”
Link proceeded to say more but had to dive behind some stacked crates as the wall next to him exploded in a flood of boards and bricks. Cursing at the contemptible mage, Link’s inner furnace broiled with hate. Without even thinking, he conjured up iron knuckles that encased his fist, each tip ending in a barbed spike. He tore down the street before slamming his fist into the man’s chest with a loathsome cry. Tearing through bone and sinew, he gripped the object he desired and ripped the heart beating from the man’s chest.
Saria yelped in shock at Link’s sudden brutality, her voice jolted him from his rage-filled haze. Link looked down at his blood drenched hand in stark clarity at what he had just accomplished. He dropped the heart to the ground as if it was something abhorrent. The man clutched his chest as he collapsed reaching out for his missing life force. Link stepped back a few paces as he considered the viciousness of his action, he was actually starting to enjoy it.
Kicking the heart clear away from the man’s outstretched hands, he gazed up to Saria. “Now! Go open the gates now!” Without a further confirmation, she flew from the roof and sailed over to the outer wall. Satisfied that they would be getting additional assistance as well as provide a way to escape, he kicked the man hard in the chin knocking him unconscious. That would buy them some time before he recovered his heart.
Link noticed Ashley pacing up the street towards him; bow in hand with arrow nocked and a quiver with a dozen more. “Are you going to help?” The boy nodded silently. “Are those tipped with the poison?” Link pressed further, the boy continued to affirm his questions. “Very well, follow closely behind me and let’s deal with these bastards.” Link grinned as he apparated a short sword in his hand.
Adjusting the mask of Ballos on his hip loop, confirming it secured to his waist before moving. He dashed off down the lane as Ashley shadowed him closely. Link glanced up at the second floor window as a mage spilled out of the frame. Falling to the ground screaming, his body enlarging with blistering blood boils. Link turned around to thank the young boy, Ashley merely bobbed his head.
A roar from the opposite side of the plaza directed their attention to Xavier bounding into the fray, flipping unsuspecting wizards and stabbing others with her deadly tail. Several bolts of magick redirected themselves to smack the Cyn’Taak directly in the face. It recoiled back from the pain but ultimately shook off the spells. Link opened his mouth in wonder, the Cyn’Taak were magick resistant! His eyes riveted on a few men racing towards the beast with spears ready to gut the creature through, the Cyn’Taak were definitely not impervious to weapons however!
“Merin!” Link yelled out as her and Nabooru materialized from beyond the row of buildings flanking the plaza. The Gerudo turned in his direction, quickly slicing off the head of the nearest mage. “Xavier will protect you from their magick. You protect her from their weapons!” Without asking for expounding information, she gave a curt nod before launching into the nearest opponent.
Nabooru ran up to Link’s side as they faced the behemoth encompassing the focus of everyone’s attention. It attacked anything in the vicinity, making no distinction between friend or foe. The twin snouts of teeth were currently in a heated battle over a hapless mage. Their combined might tore the man in two, each maw greedily swallowing down its half of the body with a sickening guttural gulp.
Seething with broiling wrath, Link gripped his dark sword with anger. Giving a single gesture to Nabooru they bounded towards the conjoined abomination. Ashley trailed behind them providing cover fire from several rooftop snipers, many crumpling where they stood as their bodies filled up with bloody carbuncles.
Ganondorf growled at the intrusion to his engagement but said nothing as Link surged in lopping off the nearest leg. “That is for punching Malon and getting us captured so many cycles ago!” Link brimmed with ire.
Accepting a lift from Nabooru, he leaped onto the creatures flopping bodies or what was still recognizable as Talamir and Timner. Bending low as the nearest opening of gnashing teeth swept over his head trying to snag him at the neck, he carved the sword upwards in a curving motion, cleanly slicing off the head. “That’s for letting Barrachas escape with Zelda!” Link cried with manic fury.
The repellant head arced through the air before hitting the ground, thrashing and shrieking. Not wasting time, Link hopped off the beast bringing his sword down on the remaining neck that had swooped low to bite at Nabooru. Utilizing gravity as his ally, the sword cleaved through the entire fleshy mass, spraying noxious blood across the two of them.
Link landed on the ground roughly before standing up to his full height, spitting on the despicable head bellowing at his feet. “And that’s for my own damn comfort!”
“Link, watch out!” Nabooru pointed.
He grabbed her and hurdled to the side, they landed crudely on the dirt as the sharp limb punctured the ground where he once stood. They looked on in disbelief as two snouts squirmed out of the neck remnants, biting and clawing at the air with their gnawing teeth. Link sighed. Was there no end to this? It seemed impossible to do any lasting damage against this thing.
“Get out of here!” Ganondorf rumbled, jerking his head in the direction of the stables. Seeing the confused look on Link’s face, he growled, “You have more important matters to deal with. Let me and the witches deal with this!”
Ganondorf kicked the dirt near them before facing the recovering monster. A scream alerted Link to the unfolding situation Ganondorf alluded to. He bounced to his feet as he saw Barrachas gallop out of the front gates with Zelda across his lap. He was riding Harden! Malon was fruitlessly running after him crying with indignant passion.
Nabooru and Link stopped short of the weeping Malon, “What happened?” Link asked concerned as he noticed a stream of blood falling from her hair, painting the side of her cheek and neck crimson.
“I don’t know!” She sputtered. “The man ran into the stalls and knocked me out before I could do anything to react! Before I knew it, he was riding out of there with Harden!”
A single drop on the head made Link regard the sky, the storm was about to break which would make it harder to see Barrachas on the plains. If they were going to chase him, they needed to do so now. Placing two fingers to his lips, Link whistled for Epona, within moments, she was at his side rocking her head in anticipation of the ride. Both Link and Nabooru hoisted themselves into the saddle as Link took the reins.
“I wish Harden would respond to my calls like that.” Malon spoke forlornly.
“Maybe you should teach him a song he likes.” Link murmured, indicating Epona.
“I did! He just doesn’t respond to anything!” She cried.
“Stay here and be safe Malon.” Link intoned, giving her a heartfelt look.
She nodded her head as she watched them race off towards the open plains. Ganondorf scrutinized the exchange before calling the witches to him. They floated down and landed primly beside him. “Yes, my king? What is it you ask of us?” The two crowed in unison.
“I think it is time you revealed your true natures. Your king has need of your services.” With a wave of his hand, he warded off the hobnailed tail, blasting it clean off its body. The two crones looked at each other uncertainly but with a bow, they did as he requested. Clasping their hands together, a dull glow emerged from between the two sisters as incantations were uttered. The luminosity grew brighter as the two witches merged into a single being.
Ganondorf smirked as he confronted the horror with the joined witch elders behind him. “It’s up to you now Link. I’ve got this one.” Laughing at the fiend’s impotent thunders of anger, he dashed in to strike the first blow.
The sky was pouring in torrential waves as they galloped across the open plains. Link’s objective was in sight. Barrachas was heading northward, to the army or to the distant mountain range, Link could not be sure. Saria noticed their exit from the capital and chose to follow them from above, her wings beating wildly against the swift wind currents of the storm. She could just barely make out their shapes in the rain.
Barrachas noticed their pursuit and hurled streaming bolts of lightning from his hands. Link swerved Epona to avoid the deadly beams of electricity as they crackled through the air. Not to be destroyed before reaching his goal, Link’s inner hatred apparated a bow into his hand. Nabooru was surprised to see such skill; did something happen that made Link so adept at conjuring weapons?
With the grace of his many cycles of practicing, Link nocked an arrow to the bow and fired. Flying true, it hit the unholy priest in the shoulder, its force knocking him clear off Harden. The bundle of robes and limbs flung to the ground, rolling as it hit the turf. Without any clear direction, Harden slowed its gait before curving around to come back towards them.
“Shouldn’t you help Link now?” Saria squealed.
“There is nothing I can do to help him right now!” The little sprite said, her blue glow peeking out from above the collar of her tunic.
“What is that man?” Saria asked hesitantly as she saw the dark figure slowly push himself off the ground and remove the arrow shaft.
“It is a demon from long ago. Link has no hope of defeating it.” The fairy said dismally.
Zelda was just coming to as she noticed Link ride up beside her on Epona. Sitting up more firmly on Harden, she shook her head as if to dispel any remaining traces of magick left in her head. Fully awake, the three of them turned to the wretched priest. Hunched over at an abnormal angle, he glared at them with his yellow eyes.
“You fools have royally pissed me off!” Barrachas’ voice grew deeper, its tone reverberating as if several voices were speaking as one. Several spines pierced the man’s back before spreading out to their full length. Utilizing the freshly opened wounds as leverage the man reached back behind and gripped the sides of the lacerations before pulling the skin apart, ripping and tearing the husk of epidermis off its body revealing the grotesque brown mass beneath. Link sat on Epona horrified as the creature discarded the fleshy disguise like trash.
The horses nervously stamped their feet in the presence of this unnatural demon. It was spindly in appearance. Its skin hanging off its bones like it had been starved for centuries. There were brown spikes dotting its spine and trailing down the outer edges of its arms and legs. The head was oblong in shape. Its short muzzle ending in a circular orifice with a circular band of teeth, its sunken yellow eyes glowered at them with revenge.
“Oh dear Goddesses.” Zelda breathed. “It’s a Hunger.”
“A what?” Link asked stupefied; he couldn’t take his eyes off the thing.
“A demon from the old world. It eats anything to maintain strength and mass.” She muttered dazedly.
“How do you know this?” Nabooru asked nervously. She had never faced a demon before and was quite unwilling to attempt it now.
“I don’t know.” Zelda hissed. “I just feel like I’ve seen something like this before. Whatever you do, don’t get near it. Any part of its body can-”
Zelda screamed as the Hunger reached out its arm, elongating it to impossible lengths before plucking Zelda swiftly off Harden. With the other arm, it grappled the horse around the stomach. The horse’s eyes bulging and its nose flaring in panic as the demon’s nails dug into its flanks, the horse kicked and whinnied with fright. Nabooru yelled as the demon’s stomach split down the middle, opening to reveal the grisly mouth within.
Within seconds, it stuffed Harden into its belly before the disgusting maw closed itself crushing the terrified horse. Bile rose in Link’s throat as the outline of the horse was still frantically kicking from inside the Hunger. A sick, crunching sound was heard accompanied by one last final cry from Harden. The outline distending from the Hunger’s abdomen contorted and turned in upon itself perversely as the demon gleefully digested the poor horse. Link blinked twice to confirm his eyes were not deceiving him. The demon’s body was slightly larger than before, more muscle mass had emerged from its body. The skin was no longer drooping and seemed to fit more smoothly on the bone structure underneath.
“Harden!” Zelda screamed.
Strengthening its grip on the princess, the Hunger’s forked tongue emerged from the round opening. “As much as I would love to eat you, you are far too precious a prize for that!” It turned its focus on Link, “As for you, I could make an exception.”
Link barked in shock as the Hunger’s free hand stretched wide, the limb expanding outward in a mouth with its throat tunneling back down the arm. He tried to steer Epona away from the nauseating, toothed cavity. He grunted in pain as the teeth sunk into his flesh, the Hunger brutally yanked him off of Epona. Nabooru quickly grabbed the reins and maneuvered the horse clear away from the demonic beast.
Link’s green cap flew off as the demon rammed him to the ground, its teeth piercing deeper into his waist. He cried out in agony as the Hunger stalked closer to his prone form, its legion of voices gutturally giggling in manic pleasure. “You pitiful mortals. You honestly believe you can defeat the hordes of the Undying? You couldn’t win then and you can’t win now! If it weren’t for your precious Goddess Hylia, your race wouldn’t have prospered!”
Its deleterious saliva dripped down on Link’s face, slightly burning him from its searing heat. “What are you talking about?” Link tried to press down on the limb encompassing his body. It only further tightened its grip making him yelp in throbbing pain.
The Hunger observed Nabooru hanging back on the horse, she was unsure of how best to tackle the demon. Its beady eyes flicked back to Link, pressing him deeper into the grass with its appendage. “That stupid fool of a general truly believed I was here to help his cause! All I needed was the souls of thousands…tens of thousands to revive my master! All had to be united by a single common element.”
Zelda cried out as the Hunger bent low to grab the mask of Ballos from Link’s waist. With a flick of its neck, it flung the wooden fascia a good distance away. “What better way to spit in the face of her champion than to use elements of his visage to corrupt the innocent?” It gurgled happily at this. He craned his neck to look at Zelda, her eyes wide staring at his grotesque form. “With the essence of Hylia in my clutches, there is no need for this stupid war!”
“Hylia?” Zelda murmured uncomprehendingly.
“No matter.” The Hunger crooned, the voices emitting from its throat sending imaginary bugs skittering across Link’s skin. Its pupils locked onto Link’s own as its stomach split open in a disgusting display of slaughter. Blood dripped from the gaping jaws as bits of remaining horse flesh fell to the ground.
“Link!” Saria screamed from above. Blinking the rain from her eyes, she soared down at blinding speed hoping she could get there in time.
Its sniggering pulsated the ghastly innards of the demon, it taunted Link cruelly, “Eating you whole would be such a clean death for you. No…I think tearing you apart and having your friends watch you die before I devour them is far more appealing!”
The three women screamed as one. The mouth clutching Link collapsed on itself splitting Link cleanly in half. The Hunger raised its arm high in triumph as the chunk of Link’s body slowly traveled down its arm to be consumed in its belly. His body split into two, he looked down in shock at his legs that lay several feet away from him. Link’s only thought as he watched his life force gushing out from below his rib cage was that he was dying.