Chapter 90 - Settling the Past
His vision blurred before his sight. He could not decipher what it was that lay before him, there was a piece of his view that was strangely absent and it felt wrong. The sound of waterfalls began to creep into his hearing, perking his ears to the possibility of where he was. The liquid began to form before him and crystalize into clarity as it poured down the walls of the chamber. A presence was felt beside him as he sprung up onto a knee, gazing his lone eye on the auburn robed figure.
“Easy there Link. You were almost dead upon coming here. You can relax.” The old man placed a comforting hand on Link’s shoulder, massaging the tense muscles underneath.
Link’s confusion was evident on his face, “What? Where?” He thrust a hand up to feel his right eye. The last thing he could remember was searing pain in his skull as the white tile of the temple was drenched in red.
He had just touched the corrugated wound, completely sealed and fleshy with a fresh layer of scabbing when the old man brought his wrist down firmly. “It will do no good to dwell on the injury.” The man’s commanding voice brought Link’s focus back on his stormy grey eyes. “You need to concentrate on what you need to do next.”
The man brought Link slowly to his feet. He looked all around him at a place that was familiar to him. It was a chamber of light. Shimmering rays filtered through the cascading water running down the length of the room, encompassing all the surfaces. Pillars of luminescence pulsed with magickal energy which brought the water back up to the ceiling to repeat its endless cycle. Beneath them were several colored panels with various symbols depicting each race of Hyrule.
Link turned his attention to the old man. He was familiar to Link. He recalled his tawny robes complete with a rubicund girdle and cloth breastplate draping down to his feet, the symbol of the Triforce on its center. The man had a thick mustache that extended past the mouth towards the cheeks and connected up to the receding hairline encircling the top of his bald head. His eyes were creased with warmth and concern for Link, a sense of peace was about him.
“I know you.” Link gaped openly. “Rauru…”
The man nodded, “It’s been a long time Link. The last I had seen you was only a few days ago, but it must have been cycles for you.” Upon seeing the muddled look on Link’s face, he clarified genially, “In the Sacred Realm, time is of little meaning or consequence here.” He raised his arm to indicate the chamber they resided in. “With Hylia’s help, I built this place long ago to house the Triforce away from unworthy and unscrupulous hands. A space outside of time was deemed to be the perfect place to safeguard such a relic.”
The mention of that hunted artifact brought lucidity to his purpose in being here, he had almost forgotten since pulling the Master Sword. “Where is the Triforce? I don’t see it.” The ball in the pit of his stomach was tightening, that singular goal that everyone was working toward was nowhere to be found.
Rauru sighed deeply, closing his eyes as he considered how best to explain it to the lad. At length he opened them and gestured to the platforms representing each race, “These were once home to the sages of Hylia, bound by the vow their spiritual ancestors had made during the war with the interlopers, the Twili; the very tribe that sought to obtain the Triforce for their own nefarious ends and was banished forever for it.”
“I don’t understand. Where are the sages now? Were they not here when we exiled Ganondorf in the future?” Link queried; his mind a mess of thoughts and emotions. They had struggled so hard to get to this point, only to find the one object that they seeked gone.
Rauru’s brow furrowed with consternation, “Yes. You knew them well: Impa, Darunia, Saria, Ruto, Nabooru and of course myself. Once Ganondorf was sealed away, I released the sages to live out the rest of their lives in their time, only asking that either they or their descendants be able to be called upon to fulfill their duties as sages should the need arise.”
Link scratched the back of his head idly as he gazed around the empty room, “I don’t get it. Aren’t they still the sages now? Why do they not remember who they are? I’ve been traveling with Saria, Nabooru, Impa and the others for a while and none of them have mentioned this duty. Is it because we are still in the past of that future and their awakening hasn’t happened yet?”
Rauru brought his hands up and extended both index fingers side by side, “Do not confuse the sages with each other. They may be the same persons,” he began to separate the fingers and split them apart, “but they are two different people. Each are unique to their own times.”
“Why wouldn’t they be the same? I understand that they might not have the memory of being a sage yet since Zelda sent me back to the past before they were awakened but wouldn’t they grow to become a sage?” Link reasoned.
“Not necessarily. There is no guarantee that they would even become a sage in the timeline you’ve come from.” Rauru explained.
“Timeline?” Link asked quizzically, arching an eyebrow.
Rauru dropped his hands to the side, “That’s right…you wouldn’t know.” Tucking his hands back into the sleeves of his robes, for it was ever so slightly chilly in the Temple of Light, he walked a few paces away from Link; his eyes lost in the undulating flow of the water around them.
After a time, he spoke softly so that Link had to strain to hear, “Hylia…or rather Zelda did something so unique in the history of our world that she altered the course of time. By utilizing the ocarina blessed by herself long ago, she sent you back in time to a point where you could alter history. By doing this, she ripped the fabric of reality and created two worlds, two times existing alongside each other but never interacting with one another.” Rauru took in a small breath as he let the full gravity of what was done sink in, “Yet…the Triforce reigns over each.”
Link was utterly baffled at what Rauru was spouting. If he didn’t have so much respect for the man based on their previous experiences together, he would think him unreservedly mad. “That makes no sense. If the Triforce is a part of both worlds, then why isn’t it here?” He motioned up to the ceiling where he figured the Triforce must have been.
Rauru turned to face Link, the folds of his robes creasing with the movement, “Link. I have spent cycles studying the Triforce and investigating its properties during my tenure as its caretaker. I have witnessed countless generations rise and fall during my lifetime. That one moment in time when Ganondorf touched the Triforce and split it into three parts was the first time anything like that had ever occurred. The knowledge of this unique failsafe was revealed to me at that time.”
Link stood enraptured at Rauru as he watched the man pace around the platform, “You and Zelda, along with us sages sealed Ganon into the abyss, hopefully never to be seen again. However, as long as he held the Triforce of Power within him, he could never die. So I suspect he will eventually be freed one day. Regardless,” he waved a hand to dismiss the possibility, “by sealing away one part of the Triforce with him, it applied to each timeline separately. The Triforce never returned here once you all left to return to your own worlds. It remained separated the moment it was sealed with Ganon. That is the timeless nature of it.”
Link’s teeth grinded faintly as the gears in his head shifted and turned, trying to make sense of what Rauru was saying. He spoke hesitantly, looking down at the backside of his palm, “If what you say is true and the Triforce is still split, then why do I not have the Triforce of Courage? I remember the glow fading the moment I was sent back. If I still have it, why can’t I see it?” He stared longingly at the blank slate that was his skin, no soft glimmer emanating from within his flesh.
Rauru shook his head sullenly, “I do not have that answer for you Link. I may be a scholar on the Triforce but I do not know everything. The moment you came back, perhaps the Triforce felt it was no longer needed. Or maybe entering a brand new world reset your mark, or identifier, meaning you have to earn it back again. Or maybe it’s been with you this entire time and you were not aware of its presence.”
He pointed to the scarlet wound in Link’s face, at the trails of dried blood caked on his cheeks just below his right eye, which was now gone. What was left was a sunken red hole that had been sealed over. “I suspect, however, that it was the Triforce of Courage which has saved your life. This leads me to believe you still have it, for if you did not, you would most assuredly be dead due to that injury.”
Link raised his fingers to feel into his skull. He gasped at the shocking nature of it and began to panic. “If it saved my life, why didn’t it heal me completely?” He exclaimed anxiously.
“Calm yourself.” Rauru soothed. “I said it saved your life, I never said it’d fully heal you. Only the Triforce of Power has that ability. This likely triggered upon you entering the Sacred Realm with the Triforce of Courage. The Triforce looks out for its owner, even if they are not aware of it. You may have the ability to regenerate things or save others for a few hours but it won’t last. That is not the domain of courage.”
“How do you know this? Didn’t you say you only knew about the Triforce splitting when it happened? How do you know the properties of each of its parts?” Link grilled, he wanted answers and the truth seemed to be dancing just outside the range of their conversation.
“I don’t know all the properties.” Rauru exhaled. “This is a fairly recent event and I have yet to study all of the implications it poses. I can only infer from what I’ve observed from my perch here in the Temple of Light.”
A tremor rocked the room, causing Link to loose his footing. Rauru merely swayed but remained standing where he was. “What was that?” Link probed.
Another rumble shook the chamber. Without emotion, Rauru explained, “Reopening the Sacred Realm has undone the seals I have placed upon this temple. This reality will soon collapse onto itself and we will be thrust from the very timeline you came from, since it was from there the door was opened.” He glanced down at Link’s hand, noticing a faint flicker of the Triforce. “You seem to be tainted with the lust for more than just courage Link. Power? Wisdom?”
Flummoxed, Link gazed down to see a dull flicker of gold on the backside of his palm. “What do you mean? Is it still mine? Shouldn’t it be? It did save me.”
“This war has changed you Link.” Rauru murmured cryptically, “You are not the same youth I knew a few days ago. I would warn against doing anything that would cause you to lose control of yourself. The Triforce will leave its bearer and find one more suitable for the fulfillment of Hylia’s will, as a safeguard against having it be lost forever or falling into the wrong hands.”
Link’s eyes grew wide, “If I have a piece of the Triforce then that means…Zelda and Ganondorf…” He let the words trail off as the enormity of the truth settled in.
Another shake thundered through the room, the water had ceased flowing and remained suspended in animated motion. “Indeed. I suspect we are going to be deposited into a rather unsettling situation the moment this realm fails.” He indicated Link’s eye, “If that is any indication, I should expect to defend myself the moment we materialize.” Rauru’s shoulders slumped, “So this is the world I shall grow old and die in.”
Without another word, the two of them looked at the darkness spreading from the corner of the room, the water around it warped and bended inward upon itself, expanding outwards in an ever spiraling loop of blackness. Sucking in the very light around it, it hastened its journey towards them. Link tensed, his hands instinctively going to the sword at his side, only to realize it was not on him.
Rauru raised an arm to placate Link’s rising fear, “Do not be afraid. We will find ourselves in the Temple of Time soon. Remember that you will have the Master Sword in your hand. May it grant you the power you seek and the courage as well.” He closed his eyes as the void enveloped them both.
The pure, marble columns slammed into place around them. The filtered light of the moon blinded them as they rammed into the ground, breathless and weary. Link rolled over onto his back and sat up quickly, his knuckles white from holding the Master Sword so firmly in hand. It was strangely silent yet he knew they were not alone. The interior of the chamber had piles of debris and rubble strewn across the tile. A great battle had been raged here.
Down the darkened hallway leading to the main foyer, he could see bodies visible through the opening. He craned his neck to see Rauru standing beside him, literally humming with energies unseen. He was prepared to fight alongside Link. Shakily getting up to his feet, he checked the Master Sword to ensure it felt true in his grip. He summoned an appropriate shield and began stalking down the corridor to assess the situation.
Link inhaled abruptly as he viewed the scene. Naar and Argonim were still alive. In their possession were Giana and Saria with swords at their throats. The five demonic Kokiri were fluttering just beyond and above them, awaiting further orders from Naar. Opposite them were Zelda, Malon, Ganondorf, Merin, Kotake, Apolloni and Cayla. Xavier was sprawled on the floor whining, his heart broke to see that her tail had been lobbed off and was twitching spastically beside her. Her armor had been blunted and bent from countless blows. There were several dead Sheikah nearby, dead in the service of their charge. The situation was clearly at a standstill.
All eyes turned to Link and Rauru as they entered the atrium. Dead silence permeated the group as all gauged what the next course of action should be. Ganondorf spoke first, “Well? Did you get the Triforce?” His hand still raised against Naar, sweat poured down his brow from maintaining the aura that protected them from the general’s demonic magick.
“It is gone.” Link said with finality. “This was all for naught. It had been split the moment it was touched by you seven cycles ago Ganondorf.”
The Gerudo king’s face contorted with rage and confusion, “Speak clearly boy! I was never there to touch the…” Dawning realization hit Ganondorf as he recalled what Kotake and Koume had said upon his release from Hyrule prison, a boy from the future had come back and changed what was to pass. His voice was barely above a vicious whisper, “I had it. It was within my grasp. Was I denied?” Link stood unmoving, not giving any clarifying information.
“Impossible!” Naar thundered. “I’ve read all the texts on the Triforce! It cannot split! It’s never happened!”
“Agreed.” Rauru stepped forward, disdain evident in his voice. “It has never happened, until now. A new aspect of the Triforce has been revealed to us through this singular act. Because of Hylia’s will, you were always destined to fail Naar. Because you aligned with demons who serve Demise, you are forever barred from ever acquiring the Triforce. Hylia laid measures down to ensure that evil would never claim the Triforce as their own so long as her reincarnated vessels returned to defend it.”
The Kokiri, Josclyn, roared down from above and skidded just feet away from Rauru, staring him down savagely. Link noted several foreign agents moving beneath her skin between her rib bones and two familiar scars on her cheeks, his fingers flexed on the hilt of his sword. The Kokiri shouted, “Ludicrous! There is no such magick that exists that can bar us from claiming the Triforce! You are lying!”
“Josclyn?” Naar queried. This was a side of her he had not foreseen.
Link thrust up his sword, causing the girl to flutter back a few meters, hatred burning in her irises. “Here is but one of the demons you have been working with Naar. Knowingly or not, you have cast your lot in with them and thus suffer the same failure they will. What I want to know is how a demon can be inside someone who has a piece of the Goddess within them.” He pointed his blade at the incandescent wings behind her. With firm resolve he indicted, “I know who you are…Thanan.”
The girl gave a crooked, leering smile before stepping back and flying up to meet her sisters. “Looks like the gig is up. We’ll have to kill you all and take Zelda for ourselves. At the very least we can use Hylia’s soul to revive Demise and spread death across these lands!”
Naar loosened his grip on Saria as he stared up at the five Kokiri, “Even if you are demons, Barrachas made a deal. You must uphold your end and assist us in subduing Hyrule!”
Josclyn spread her arms wide, “Did we not already do that? We have no need to lay bound to petty Huma vows! We answer to one master alone!”
Ganondorf sensed that a heated battle would erupt on four fronts. It would be a conflict that he would have a difficult time winning. He needed to unbalance one of his opponents to the point he had enough leverage to work with. He turned his sights on Naar, who was still gazing up incredulously at Josclyn.
“How quaint,” Ganondorf mocked. “that your very own nephew should be the one to kill you.”
Naar’s face swiveled to Ganondorf, “What nonsense are you speaking now?”
Ganondorf extended a hand in Link’s direction, “Behold! Your sister’s child stands before you. I remember what you said about the king of Hyrule, for I was there when I erected the barrier for him to isolate your country. I may have been young but I was strong enough to sustain the aura all this time. I recall a beautiful Nevachrean woman whom the king had recently claimed as his queen. She was holding a baby boy.”
His eyes turned to Link as the puzzle pieces were jig sawing together. “I actually hadn’t made the connection until after you told me about the king and after I learned of Link’s origin of birth. Shortly after exiling your country from the world, he ordered the boy slain to prevent any foreign blood from tainting his lineage.” Ganondorf sneered.
Naar’s eyes darted back and forth between Ganondorf and Link. He was not sure what to think of this. What was Ganondorf playing at? His sister was dead and so was the child she carried. Why this claim now?
Ganondorf pressed onward, “I remember vividly the queen taking the sword in place of her son in efforts to protect him. She was spirited away by her Sheikah kin to the woods. The king died shortly thereafter by unknown causes.” His voice lingered on the final two words.
“No!” Zelda shouted. She did not want to believe that her very own grandfather would have been so tyrannical that he would order the son of her own grandmother killed for the mere fact that it was not his own blood. Her eyes yearned for Link as he stood uncertainly, his eyes vacant as he looked upon the group.
“Coming from the very man who destroyed that barrier the moment he felt it was convenient enough to allow us in.” Naar rebutted, retightening his grip on Saria, causing her to emit a small yelp. “I do not believe your lies Ganondorf.”
Zelda gaped at Ganondorf disbelievingly, “You put all of Hyrule at risk, the very Triforce itself, so you could get the opportunity to escape and reclaim power? You shame your people Ganondorf. You say you fight for their cause, but you only fight for yourself!”
The Gerudo king twisted his neck to glower at her, “What business is it of yours what I do with my people?” He snarled.
“Learn your place wretch!” Kotake crooned scornfully. “The Gerudo have always survived, regardless of the odds. What does one simple country like Hyrule matter to us, if we can profit from its destruction?"
“How utterly delicious!” Josclyn hummed, an errant finger scratching the scars at her lips. “I just might watch you all tear each other apart and pick up the pieces!”
Saria squeaked as she saw what the Gerudo king had really been doing the entire time, he had been gathering energy in his free hand to explode outward in a devastating burst at Naar. She began to squirm as she could feel the wicked energies building in pitch, encircling his hand. It wasn’t until Naar could hear the crackling of the air that he was alerted to the imminent danger.
A ringing whinny echoed throughout the vestibule as all eyes turned to the newcomers. Framed within the doorway were two figures atop a brilliant, brown mare. Link cried out in delight, “Epona!” She neighed excitedly in response but was held firm to the spot by Ashley. Behind him in the saddle was Nabooru, her scimitars out and ready.
Utilizing the distraction, Ganondorf’s hand exploded with dark magick black as pitch. It surged forward through the air as Saria screamed. Quickly dropping Giana to the floor, Argonim shoved Naar aside as he took the full force of the blast. It sailed him through the air before shattering the wall beyond. A small tremor quivered through the temple as the very foundations shook. Naar dumped Saria as he fell to the ground before rolling up onto a knee with an apparated longsword in hand. Saria whisked off towards Link, hovering just slightly behind him, her breath coming in fast.
The entire hall spiraled into bedlam as everyone got to their feet and rushed forward to attack each other. Naar swiftly kicked Cayla back as he twirled around to slice Apolloni at the waist. Growling at missing his target, he thrust out his hand and let loose a blast of energy towards the horse at the entrance. Seeing the danger, Ashley kicked Epona’s flanks and galloped into the fray.
Hooting with glee, Josclyn ordered her fellow Kokiri to descend upon the chaos and devour them all. Each of their bellies ripped open as they soared over their heads, raining drops of crimson onto the combatants below. Several insect-like demons slithered out and plopped down to the floor before skittering across to their respective marks.
Malon screamed as she saw one heading straight for Giana, the little girl was screeching as she tried in vain to back away from the vile abomination. Link summoned a trident before hailing Malon and tossing her the weapon. Swiftly catching it, she dove in and stabbed the creature, impaling it to the floor. She screamed in rage at the disgusting bug before racing over to protect her little sister. Rauru swept past them but not before erecting a barrier of light that enshrouded them both, his eyes fixated on the witch above.
Link’s eyes were only for Naar as he sprinted towards the heated battle. Ganondorf was defending himself from both the general and a ravenous Kokiri bent on slicing him to ribbons with her spinning blades. He blasted an arm off the young girl before raising his sword to parry the incoming blow from Naar. He reached a hand under his raised arm and let loose a pulse slamming it directly into Naar’s stomach, sending him reeling across the floor.
“Zelda!” Nabooru called out. Zelda turned to see Nabooru cartwheeling off Epona and pointing with a scimitar at Link’s rucksack he had given her. “Remember the mask! We need to destroy it!” Zelda nodded her head as Nabooru charged into the gaggle, weapons swinging.
Kotake zipped in and out of the flapping wings, throwing balls of ice and fire at the chortling Kokiri whirring past her. Zelda bobbed and weaved as balls of raining hate descended from above; trying to reach her rucksack that Link gave her. She almost stumbled over the limp tail of Xavier. She cast her eyes upon the pitiful creature. It looked up at her as it tried to get up on all fours.
“‘Ommy…” It wailed gutterally. Zelda’s heart was aggrieved to see the Cyn’Taak in such pain.
Ducking low as an arrow from Ashley whooshed over her hair, implanting itself firmly into one of the flying Kokiri, Zelda raced to the haversack. She looked away as the unfortunate girl exploded in a screaming plethora of blood and boils. “Xavier!” She called out. “Can you protect me long enough?”
“I ‘hink so…” The Cyn’Taak groaned; its arms wobbling as it pushed its massive bulk back onto its feet. It lumbered over, briefly smacking away a Kokiri as it dove in for Zelda.
With the behemoth at her back, Zelda rummaged through the sack and brought out Majora’s mask. She regarded the chilling object in her hands with dismay. Was this truly necessary? Was Link to find the proper owner of this mask so that it could be destroyed? How important was this task that Ballos himself delegated it to Link? Why did he feel she would know who the proper owner was that he would entrust her with this task? Why did she feel the inner need to decide the owner now? She watched the unfolding battle before her and despaired. Who was its rightful owner?
A rumbling of brick and debris distracted her, Argonim creeped through the hole in the temple wall and was slowly reforming his body. He had spotted her nearby and was actively crawling closer with renewed vigor. Urgency pounding in her brain, she looked again and scrutinized each person.
She discounted the Kokiri out of hand. The mask would take control over them completely and be ineffectual to their cause. She turned to Naar, currently clashing swords with Link, each of them a blur of motion and steel. She shook her head again. The old man mentioned that Naar could never claim the Triforce and was doomed to fail. He wouldn’t be strong enough to withstand the power of this mask. She needed someone to be internally strong willed who would be able to rise above the ancient power of the mask so they could destroy both the evil within it and hopefully the person bearing it.
Her intuition had her watching Ganondorf. She remembered all those stories Link had told her when they were younger. He had touched the Triforce before. It had split. Did he have the Triforce of Power within him still? Even though they changed the course of history? Would the Triforce be enough to combat the malice and power of the mask she held? Could he nullify it to the point where they could finally destroy it and incapacitate him at the same time?
Gritting her teeth in determination, she commanded Xavier to follow. “Please defend me until I can reach Link.” The Cyn’Taak growled its assent as it scampered after her, repelling the magick raining down from above and swatting anyone who got near her. It felt weak due to its blood loss but it was dogged in the endeavor to protect its mother. Argonim bellowed as he saw his quarry getting farther away from him. He seethed, just she wait until he regenerated fully and then he’d have her.
Naar laughed as he grabbed Cayla’s ponytail and yanked her head down as he jabbed a knee into her face. Tossing her aside, he ejected a blast towards Link’s midriff before spinning around to smack his sword into Ganondorf’s with an ear splitting clang. Navi screamed out the trajectory of the magick bolt as Link leaped to the side.
“You always have my back Navi.” He exhaled.
You know it! She chimed, feeling much better after being healed along with Link from the Triforce of Courage.
Link’s eyes bulged as he saw Zelda streamlining towards them with Majora’s mask firmly in hand. Xavier was beside her deflecting various Defilers and Kokiri. He yelled out, “What do you think you are doing?”
She gave him one hard look as she brought the mask up level to her chest, “Doing what you asked me to do!”
Ganondorf was alerted to the new situation a bit too late. He spun around to strike out at Zelda just as she placed the mask directly onto his face. For one excruciatingly long moment, the air was still. Ganondorf’s fist was outstretched towards her but was hovering just inches from her head. She stood breathing heavily as she gazed upon the bloodshot eyes of the mask.
“What did you do?” Link whispered.
The horrid green pupils swiveled towards Zelda’s face and locked onto her. A shiver went through her soul as the horns from the mask protruded outward slightly. A small giggle emitted from deep within Ganondorf before it erupted into a ragging cackle. It was eerie and high pitched, the sound was not his own and yet was. The mask cocked its head unnervingly and looked down upon her trembling form. A cold wind had blown in from the busted doors of the temple, snow was blustering in.
“Good evening Hylia. It has been a long time.” Majora simpered.