Chapter 88 - Race to the Temple
The dragon landed with a shudder. Several of the watchers backed up several paces, keeping a wary distance between themselves and the beast. The sinuous Kokiri floated down from the back of the creature, her gossamer wings flapping gently, before alighting next to the tall, tanned skin man. She looked up into his commanding eyes without fear, for she knew he’d never harm her, despite all the bad things he had done to her friends.
“Where is Link?” Ganondorf grilled decisively, his voice strong yet somehow gentle when conversing with her. He had not forgotten the cycles spent together back in the desert, the fondness still remained.
She sniffled slightly, the cold air while riding the dragon had whipped at her face ferociously and instigated her nose to run. She knew she would be brought down for a few days after this by some bug or another. “I saw them just beyond the first row of tents. I helped provide some cover fire for them to reach you.” She pointed off towards the encampment, perched about a half mile away from the drawbridge leading into the ruins of Hyrule Town. “They were riding Xavier. Link doesn’t look good at all.”
A quaver in her voice alerted Zelda to Link’s condition. “What happened? Did something go wrong?”
Saria clasped her hands together behind her head as she arced back to look at the sky, tears welling at the edges of her eyes. “It all went wrong Zelda. He lost his wings.” A gasp from Zelda brought Saria out of her horrid memories of the sight, looking down helpless from the dragon to see her best friend slowly dying atop the Cyn’Taak. “I don’t know if he is going to survive.”
“Did he bring the sapphire at least?” Apolloni interjected, drawing scathing glares from both Zelda and Saria. Merin kept silent and reclusive behind Ganondorf, her eyes to the ground.
Ganondorf pressed a hand against Apolloni’s abdomen and firmly pushed her back. His eyes locked on hers, demanding obedience. “Stay your tongue woman. We don’t just need the sapphire alone. We need Link as well. We need all the sacred stones, the ocarina and Link. Without him, this whole plan fails, if indeed the Master Sword still claims him as its master.” A small smirk splayed across his features before it evaporated. Zelda blinked but was unsure if she had even seen it.
“How goes the battle?” Zelda asked furtively, eager to get the subject off of Link’s ultimate destiny.
Saria looked back down and gazed over at the raging pyres, billowing smoke rising high into the sky. It was quite unclear if it was snow blowing around them or just ash. “Darunia arrived from the east a short while ago with some help.” Zelda nodded; eager for her to continue. “Ingo has brought both Nevachreans and the Zoras to assist us in the battle. They are cutting a trail straight through the army. The Sheikah should be following close behind Xavier. The Gorons are electing to stay behind and wipe up the remainder.”
“Ho ho ho! And the Gerudo are having a grand time slicing up the bastards!” All eyes turned to the sky as Kotake dived down amongst them, levitating several feet off the ground on her broom. She turned to her king directly, “Our mightiest spell has worked wonders on our people, my lord! They are unstoppable! For every one they cut down, two more take their place!” She cackled ominously.
Ganondorf arched a single eyebrow. He was not altogether pleased at this news. “You marched the Gerudo without my consent? That was not part of the plan, they were to arrive later.”
The witch waved a hand at him, as if to assuage his fears about the situation, “With our magick, it needn’t matter when they marched! They are invincible!” She gloated boisterously.
His expression steeling even further, he glowered at the old hag, “What did you do to our…to my people?” After a pause, “Where is your sister?”
A small croak in her throat indicated a force was being impressed upon her that the others could not see. Apolloni was practically wallowing in the internal assault Ganondorf was imposing on Kotake. “My…lord! She…er…met an untimely demise against the Nevachreans back in our sanctuary. She could not make it here.” She gurgled pitifully.
Ganondorf scoffed venomously, “And yet you have her powers now.” The crone gasped as blessed relief washed through her mind. “I will deal with you later witch.” With a huff, he turned towards the plains as they all spotted a lumbering figure running towards them. It was Xavier with two passengers onboard. Alongside was another figure who was remarkably keeping pace with the swift behemoth.
Presently, Xavier arrived panting before unceremoniously dumping her cargo by flopping to the ground exhausted. It had been a grueling fight through the frontlines before the final dead sprint to the drawbridge. There were many nicks and cuts denting her once pristine armor that adorned her body. Malon was especially thankful for her ability to repel magick. They had been attacked on several occasions by demons and mages but they all were dispelled by her innate resistance.
Malon staggered back under Link’s weight as she tried to maintain balance after being suddenly thrown off the Cyn’Taak’s back. She collapsed to the ground with him over her, the blood still flowing freely down his back and soaking her clothes. Zelda’s eyes bulged at seeing the brutality of his loss and raced over to him, kneeling quickly to inspect the nubs of where his wings once were. She lamented the loss of those beautiful appendages, remembering the times she spent massaging them to relieve his tension. It was one of the few times she was intimately close to Link.
“What happened? How did…why?” Zelda’s mind reeled at seeing Link in such a horrid state. She wasn’t sure if anyone could heal him now.
Malon’s attention was briefly diverted by the presence of Kotake, her toxic stares going unnoticed by the witch. At length, she directed her eyes back to Zelda, “One of Naar’s men ripped them off his back.” She hiccupped slightly, “I saw it happen. Please, Zelda, is there anything you can do?”
Zelda looked down on Link’s fading existence and pondered if she even had the ability to bring him back from the brink. Would her inherent powers of her former divine self be enough to heal such a wound? “Flip him fully over.” She directed.
Malon was weak after her short imprisonment by Naar, her arms aching from holding herself up during the arena match. Saria came over to help her and Zelda turn him over so that his back was exposed. He was completely unconscious, not responding to any external stimuli. Zelda placed a hand over each of his oozing injuries before closing her eyes and drawing on her inner being to bring forth the powers she hoped would heal him.
Sweat began trickling down Zelda’s brow as the others looked on with interest. Kotake glanced up briefly as the Sheikah carrying Giana finally caught up to them. She placed the little tyke on the ground. Giana immediately sprang into Saria’s arms. They both sat down in the brown, withered grass nearby, their eyes rapt on the scene unfolding before them. Giana’s tears glistened as she cried for her ailing knight. He promised he would return and play castle with her! What would she do now if he died?
A soft luminescence flowed out from between Zelda’s fingers as she strained to insert her energies into his back. She could feel his life force fading, she pleaded with the great Goddesses of old that he be spared. She recalled his death in her arms centuries ago and dared not think about having it happen again. Who knows the countless of other times where her champion had died in her arms? Was fate such a cruel master?
Her body shook as a pair of comforting hands was placed atop hers. She jerked her head up to see a smiling man kneeling across from her beside Link. His smile was unsettling yet kind, he did nothing but stare at her with his lidded eyes. His presence was calm, but his purpose was certain. He spoke clearly with conviction, indicating those that stood behind her. “Save your energies my lady. Give the task of bringing Link back to those who have that power now. You will need your strength for what’s to come.”
Zelda blinked and gazed around at the confused looks of the group hovering over her. She turned to Malon, “Did…you see?” Still crying from the ordeal, Malon looked despairingly into Zelda’s eyes. She had not seen the man. She searched the others and realized they also did not notice the man who had comforted her. “Ballos?” Zelda whispered.
She stopped the flow and got up to her feet. She turned to Ganondorf causing a small cry to explode from Malon, “What are you doing? Are you going to let him die?”
“No.” Zelda said calmly, knowing fully what she had to do. “Ganondorf, heal Link.”
He gaped at her for a few moments, wondering if she had actually said what he had heard. “What?” He asked plainly.
She pointed down at Link, “If you are truly going to be the just king and ruler of Hyrule, with a queen by your side,” she paused to ensure he comprehended the full meaning of her statement, “then you will show mercy and grant Link another chance. If you cannot do this for one of my subjects, how can you hope to say you’ll do the same for yours?”
Ganondorf’s expression was unreadable, the gears turning in his head. He knew she was playing him in front of the others, to test to see if he’d stay true to his course of guiding his people to prosperity. If he wanted her as his queen when he claimed Hyrule, thus winning the hearts of her people, then he should have no qualms with helping out her subjects. “Very well.” He grated.
Sweeping back his cape, he knelt down beside Link. Malon’s eyes were wide as she watched in horror at the Gerudo king cupping his hands over Link’s back. Swirling vortexes crackled in the space between the bloodied nubs and his fingers as the healing process began. Kotake touched down and waddled over to observe his technique. She began to open her mouth to offer advice but promptly shut it, realizing he would most likely be cross with her doing that.
Malon was so engrossed in sending daggers towards the witch that she barely noticed when a sharp intake of breath signaled Link’s return to the living. With a tired grunt, Ganondorf brought himself back up and looked down on Link, “It is done. I haven’t utilized that magick in a long time.” His expression was quite haggard and he looked rather ill. Without a word, he swept past Zelda and retook his position between Merin and Apolloni.
Zelda aided Malon as she rolled Link back over, his head on her lap. He looked up into Malon’s eyes wearily and smiled. She began weeping with happiness, cradling his head in her arms, kissing his forehead. As much as Zelda loved Link, her heart melted at seeing the two of them reunited at last. They truly did love each other. Why should she have been mad at that? This just wasn’t their lifetime to be together, she mourned. It was Malon’s time to appreciate her champion.
“What happened? Where am I?” Link queried anxiously. He looked around him and saw a rather eclectic group of people he never expected to see together again: Zelda, Xavier, Giana, Saria, Ganondorf, Apolloni, Merin, Kotake and a Sheikah he didn’t recognize.
“We are at the gates of Hyrule Town. The Temple of Time is not much further. We must make haste if we are to make it there before the Gerudo get here.” Saria informed grimly.
“The Gerudo?” His confused eyes trailing back to Ganondorf. “What’s wrong with them?”
Malon assisted him into a sitting position. She cringed at the dried stubs of flesh protruding from his back. They had congealed over and were flaming red but at least they were no longer bleeding. The tunic she had made him was stained beyond all repair with his own blood. “They are cursed with a vile magic that makes them impossible to kill. They are growing in numbers the more they die.” She stated with malice in her voice.
Link’s eyes swelled at the news, “That’s worse than…”
Ganondorf growled. “I did not order this.” His eyes bore holes into Kotake’s own. She shriveled back at his fury. “I will deal with you appropriately when the time comes, until then, you may be of service still. Come!” He demanded of everyone. The Gerudo king tethered the horses to a nearby tree behind some shrubbery. Assured that the horses were suitably concealed, he motioned to the others to follow him across the drawbridge. Kotake situated herself on her broom and hovered nearby, taking simple delight in freezing several fish still surviving within the water below.
Saria spoke a few words to the dragon, it punctually lifted off the ground with a flurry and whisked southwards toward the still raging battle. She could see it gleefully spreading flames across a wide swath of men. She grabbed Giana’s hand and held it tightly in her own, preferring to instead walk beside the small girl to give her solace that she was nearby. The Sheikah patted Xavier’s back and proceeded to walk alongside the creature across the moat.
With assistance from Zelda and Malon, Link rose precariously to his feet. He wobbled for the first few steps before leaning on both of them for support. He spoke out to the frosty air, “Navi?” No response. “Navi?” He asked again with urgency.
I’m here. A weak voice returned.
He sagged with relief. “Thank the Goddesses. I thought I had lost you.” Malon and Zelda looked at each other but decided to stay quiet, letting Link have his moment with the fairy residing within him.
I am a part of you now Link. I do not die unless you do. Navi explained faintly.
“I just want this war to end. I want all of it to end.” A sobbing cry wracked his body as he began to weep. Zelda and Malon began to struggle in keeping him up, he was becoming dead weight. It was as if he had given up.
Just a little further Link. Please be strong. Navi consoled.
“Either have that ugly creature of yours carry him or I’ll slice his limbs off to make him lighter for you!” Apolloni fumed. “You are holding us up!” The three Gerudo were almost across the bridge before she had turned around to see them lagging.
Glaring at her, Zelda whistled for Xavier to come up alongside. “Can you help carry him?” She asked.
“‘nything for him.” She rumbled. With surprising grace, she scooped Link up as Malon and Zelda laid him down. The Cyn’Taak held Link in her arms like a child, he was grateful for the aid. He still didn’t feel strong enough to walk or fight yet. His whole body felt numb from having lost his wings. She walked forward awkwardly after Ganondorf, she was unused to carrying things in her arms as she traveled. Seeing as they were finally going to be able to keep up, Apolloni nodded her head and kept walking onward into the town proper.
Seeing that all was in order, Zelda left Malon who was walking beside Xavier, her hand on Link’s arm. She proceeded directly to the front of the line and kept stride with Ganondorf. Merin looked up at her before casting her eyes back to the ground. She seemed defeated and completely cowed. Zelda wondered what she was going through emotionally. Apolloni sneered as she made a conscious effort to step away from the golden haired princess.
“Ganondorf.” Zelda began. He said nothing but kept going, acknowledging her only by a clearing of the throat. “You mentioned something about a danger here.” She looked around alertly. “Mind telling me what it is now?”
“I cannot say.” He said vaguely, “All I know is that I feel a presence here that is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It has a dual nature that I can’t define.”
Zelda shivered at his description of the unknown threat. With only the sound of their footsteps clattering across the square, rebounding off the walls of the devastated homes, they slowly entered the main gates into the marketplace. Zelda looked off to the side and remembered the stables where she had secured the horses and escaped with Impa. It seemed like a lifetime ago.
The sky had turned a darker shade of grey. It was clear the sun was going down beyond the dense layer of clouds. It seemed like yesterday they had escaped from the torrid arena and Naar’s foul presence. Their perception of time was warped due to the intense nature of the calamitous events happening around them.
Silence pervaded the group as they made every effort to stay quiet, slowly progressing into the market plaza. Zelda and Ganondorf looked up at the dismal looking facades, the window shutters banging erratically in the wind. Off in the distance they could hear the squeak of an unhinged door, barely hanging on to its foundational structure. Several skeletons were left strewn across the cobblestone streets, their bones having been picked clean of all meat by wild animals. It was a ghost town. A small whimper escaped Giana as she gripped Saria’s hand tighter and bundled in closer to her.
The shining, malevolent aura gleamed morbidly through the rooftops. They charted a swift course across the central piazza toward the alleys that would lead them directly to the temple. A small skittering of feet across the rooftops roused Apolloni from her vigil, her scimitars coming out with a flourish. Merin followed suit with Zelda brandishing her baton. Xavier growled at the phantom menace, pulling Link closer to her body. She looked positively frightening with her armor.
A buzz of wings flashed over their heads before flying into an upper floor window, swiftly banging the shutters shut behind it. A tinkle of laughter echoed back at them from within the house unnerving them all, it sounded like a child. Another whoosh of wings and a gust of wind brushed past Saria causing Giana to shriek. Ganondorf let loose a blast of malicious energy at the sinister form. It left nothing but a deep scorch mark on the stones.
A rustle of leaves and more cackling laughter incited Ganondorf to action, “We must move now.” There were more sounds, more girlish laughter, and the pitter patter of feet all around them; constantly eluding their searching eyes.
Apolloni whirled around, her scimitars at the ready, “Where are they? Why can’t we see them?” She shouted heatedly.
Saria’s heart thrummed intensely. She could feel the heartbeats around them. They were flitting to and fro throughout the buildings, getting closer. “Dear Farore.” She breathed. All eyes turned to her. “It’s Kiera all over again.”
A sudden intake of breath caused them to witness the Sheikah stumble. She was staring back at them confused, wondering why they were ogling her. A trickle of blood dribbled down her lips as she brought a hand to her mouth. She looked down in horror as she saw a gaping hole in her chest. They could see the buildings beyond her through the cavity. More giggling surrounded them as a squishing crunch was heard several meters away behind a planted tree that had long lost its will to live.
“I’m…” The Sheikah uttered before collapsing.
The heartbeats were getting faster. Saria could hear the frantic flutter of wings rocketing closer. She saw a flicker of shadow before seeing the flying shape hurtle towards Ganondorf, a split blade twirling in a fan-shaped pattern, eager to plow a hole through its victim. “Behind you!” Saria screamed, pointing hysterically behind the Gerudo king.
Taking the warning, he spun around before erecting a swift barrier that knocked the spinning body head over heels into the nearest building, demolishing the wall with it. In a frenzy, four other shapes descended upon them. Kotake was frantically blasting several of them from the sky, burning them to charred remains as they fell to the ground. Panicking, Xavier curled up in a ball around Link, letting her armor deflect the blows of the spinning blades.
Apolloni stabbed her scimitar through the air, her lip curled in a sneer as the familiar sound of steel piercing through skin was heard. The ethereal wings twitched wildly as the Kokiri stared at the Gerudo with hatred in her eyes. After a few more spasms, the diminutive body slumped onto the weapon dead.
“What manner of sacrilege is this?” Zelda exclaimed. She spun around her to see five Kokiri corpses. Three of which had been charred, one was seemingly dead after having been tossed through a brick wall, and the other was drooping over Apolloni’s scimitar. They all were naked and had diaphanous wings, not unlike Saria’s. Saria was holding onto Giana tightly and was crying incoherently, the nightmares returning to her.
Ganondorf used a boot to kick one of the scorched cadavers over to view the face. They were still youthful and looked full of innocence. He spat to the side, “This is despicable, even for me.” He growled. “When this is all over, and the Triforce in my hands, I will ensure Naar pays for this.” He turned and shared a look with Saria before looking off towards the Temple of Time. Malon and Zelda regarded each other, each knowing that they couldn’t let that happen. Neither Naar nor Ganondorf must be allowed to acquire the Triforce.
Apolloni gasped as she began to slide the Kokiri off her blade. The girl’s head shot up, giving her a rather eerie stare with her head half tilted. With astounding speed, the Kokiri grabbed the blade and brought it straight through her to the hilt. Apolloni meant to drop the weapon but was too late as the girl wrapped her arms and legs around Apolloni and drove her teeth deep into her neck. She shrieked as blood was drawn. She thrashed trying to get the awful creature off of her neck but only served to have it dig deeper into her larynx.
Zelda swiftly raised the baton and bashed the Kokiri against the head with the spikes protruding. It budged little but continued to sink into Apolloni’s flesh. Zelda smashed again as Merin ran a dagger through the heart of the little girl. Giana was skirling manically, Saria held her tight. It wasn’t until Ganondorf thrusted forward with a well aimed magick bolt to the heart that the Kokiri loosened her hold enough for Zelda to crunch the Kokiri’s head in with her baton.
Zelda was heaving but wasn’t allowed to rest as she beheld the bloody spectacle at her feet. Apolloni choked and coughed, staggering over to lean on Ganondorf who was quickly inspecting her wounds. Zelda followed Malon’s gaze as she indicated the charred corpses nearby, they were slowly dissolving their burns and the skin was becoming fair yet again. A scrabbling of brick alerted them to the first Kokiri Ganondorf had killed. She was crawling over the rubble she had blasted through and was quickly gaining momentum in their direction.
“They can all heal!” Zelda shouted.
“We cannot win this battle. We must make for the temple now!” Kotake trilled, throwing a bolt of ice towards the rampaging Kokiri. Deftly rising into the air, the Kokiri sailed over the frosty pulse and soared over towards the witch, her blades spinning. Merin weaved in low and brought her sword upwards in an arc, catching the girl as she glided through the air, slicing her completely in half. The wings flapped vainly before the two halves fell to the ground with a gruesome splatter.
Without any further guidance from anyone else, Xavier unfurled and snatched up Link before making a beeline for the aura surrounding the temple. Ganondorf assisted Apolloni as Merin watched their backs. Kotake soared high into the air to provide cover fire for them. Zelda and Malon held hands as they raced after the fleeing Cyn’Taak. Saria boosted Giana into her arms, asking the girl to calmly wrap her arms and legs around her as she lifted off into the air. Her wings were straining under the combined weight but she did her best to maintain their loft.
Zelda saw what Saria was doing and cried out, “Saria don’t! Come back down!”
A whisking of wings accompanied by a demonic snicker informed Saria of the incoming peril. She barrel rolled to the right, nearly frightening Giana right out of her arms. The girl was frantic at being so high and was quite alarmed at the world being turned upside down. Her legs slipped out and she screamed. Only her arms, enfolded around Saria’s neck, was keeping her afloat.
“Please don’t drop me! I don’t want to die!” Giana squealed. She looked up into Saria’s eyes with tear stained cheeks.
“Hold on!” Saria rasped, her strength ebbing. She casted her eyes towards the darkened horizon to see they were not far from the temple. Only a minute more and they’d be there! “Please don’t let go!” Saria instructed desperately. She tried to reach around to bring the little girl’s legs back up around her waist.
Another flash of light played off a Kokiri’s coiling blades, temporarily blinding Saria. She attempted to feint to the right but a flutter of wings and a twisting jerk forced her out of the movement. A blood-curdling cry erupted beneath her. She fearfully looked down to see Giana release her grip, her entire left leg had been sliced off. Blood was streaming everywhere. She watched in horror as the little girl looked up at her in shock before plunging to the ground below.