The Legend of Zelda: The Alternate Link

Chapter 29: Wormhole

The deeper they descended, the more they came to rely on Link's lantern and the softly glowing teal runes on each gear-like step to illuminate their winding path. A few steps later, the natural light pouring in above their heads was abruptly cut off. The foursome stopped their descent and peered upwards to identify the culprit, be it a passing cloud or some unknown foe. It turned out to be neither. The door had silently shut of its own accord, sealing off their main light supply. While this incident shouldn't have registered as particularly alarming in their minds, it did, for some reason, in Link's. If the strange staircase really led to the guardian's chamber then it made sense for the door to close since it had done so for every other guardian, but for some reason the closing of this door unnerved him.

They continued their descent, Link shrugging off the ominous feeling as his own paranoia. The orange light flickered in a small pool around the small group as they walked. The steady ticking sound persisted in their ears, and Link chose to focus on the echoes their own footsteps made instead since the other sound was beginning to irritate him. A few seconds later a new sound greeted his ears. It was a low rumble that gradually grew in intensity. They all came to a halt for a second time, wary of the unknown noise that seemed so out of place. Suddenly it became more than a mere noise as the entire chamber they were climbing down shook. They all fought for their balance on the narrow steps while the ground they were standing on vibrated and the walls continued to shift, unaffected.

Just when Link thought that the quake was settling down, an even larger tremor rumbled through the cylindrical chamber. This made it even worse as everything seemed to tip to one side. Fortunately, the strangely smooth wall of black was there to support them, so they didn't have to worry about losing their balance. Barely thirty seconds later, the passage tipped the other way which caught them all off guard. Link slid dangerously close to the edge of the steps where a normal spiral staircase would have a guardrail to prevent people from tumbling over the side to their deaths.

Zelda let out a gasp of terror as she completely lost her balance and was about to fall off of the staircase. Link quickly grabbed her hand, and pulled her back as best as he could since he was losing his balance as well. Beside him, Kid and Tetra were holding onto each other, trying to maintain their balance by using each other for support. When the room tipped in the opposite direction once again they all fell against the wall, grateful that it was there to catch them.

The chamber then began to writhe as if it was alive, swiftly tilting one way, and then the next so fast that they didn't have any time to find their balance, much less maintain it. With one final, forceful tremor, they were all launched over the edge of the still shifting stairs and into the blackness in-between. Link tried to grab onto the pieces protruding from the passing stairs which were the closest saviors. However, his speed, coupled with the routine movement of the stairs, made this attempt impossible. All too soon the ground rushed up to meet them.

Link righted himself and prepared for the landing, planning to roll forward in an attempt to spare himself some damage. Just as they were about to hit the ground, the chamber tilted once again, and they all ended up falling a relatively short distance before slamming into the wall. The chamber righted itself, and they all fell to the floor, disoriented but unharmed.

Unfortunately, they had little time to get their bearings for the floor, which was a large black gear similar to the previous door, began to glow with a white light in three different spots. From these circles of light three bulky forms materialized. Only when the light faded could Link discern exactly what they were. Three Darknuts stood firm on the other side of the room. The one in the middle was donned in coal black armor, almost resembling a knight. Two additional Darknuts flanked its sides. However, these were a bit different than the traditional Darknuts he was accustomed to seeing. Their chests and shoulders were quite broad, even underneath their red and gold armor; their headgear was shaped less like a helmet and more like some sort of mask in Link's opinion, and they held up swords in front of them with a thick shining silver blade and a circular shield to match their colorful attire. They both also wore billowing capes like it was some sort of fashion statement which Link didn't understand. Wouldn't capes be a hindrance in battle?

By some miracle the monsters had not yet noticed their presence.

"What the heck is going on? They're just monsters. Where's the guardian?" Tetra wondered, keeping her voice low so as to not disturb the enemies on the other side of the room.

"I don't know, but this is definitely strange. Opening a weird door like that would have to lead to the guardian," Link replied quietly.

"Maybe it's a mini boss?" Kid suggested. Link shrugged. He supposed that could be it, but why? They hadn't had to fight any mini bosses before.

"Whatever it is, we should engage it in combat. Goddesses only knows when this place starts to move around again. Even though there's no danger of falling, battling will be increasingly more difficult on uneven ground," Zelda pointed out.

Link nodded his agreement and quickly formulated a battle strategy. There were three Darknuts. Alone, one was dangerous. Two were deadly. Three, you might as well start digging your own grave. However, they had numbers on their side as there were four of them. He didn't know the power level of the two unfamiliar Darknuts, but he figured that since there were two of them, their amount of power overall would equal that of the traditional Darknut that stood in the middle.

"Alright, Zelda, Tetra, you two take the one on the left. Kid take the one on the right. I'll take the one in the middle," Link announced, attaching his lantern, which had miraculously survived the fall, to his belt and drawing his sword and shield. Kid drew his weapon as well, and Link hoped that he hadn't misjudged Kid's skill. He could take a Darknut on by himself, right? If Kid had any qualms with it, he didn't voice them. In fact, he looked more ready than Link felt. The princess unsheathed the sword at her hip and Tetra her dagger.

Simultaneously, they all moved forward and charged the monsters to which they were designated. The black knight turned around upon noticing Link, who was smart to keep his distance as the Darknut took two powerful swipes in the air, possibly in an attempt to deter him. Link didn't back down. He twirled his sword in his left hand to taunt the monster. It worked like a charm, and the Darknut brought its already raised sword down with one swift movement. Link leapt to the side, barely managing to dodge the strike and thrust his blade forward. The direct hit caused the humanoid creature to stumble back a couple steps, shedding a piece or two of armor as it did so. It quickly recovered though, and Link back flipped out of range of its next slice.

Link backed up, luring the Darknut away from the others to give them space to fight their own battles. Out of the corner of his eye, Link witnessed Kid effortlessly perform the helm splitter on the monster he was dueling, instantly relieving it of its helmet. This gave Link an idea, and he returned his attention to his own battle. He nimbly leapt out of the way of another one of the Darknut's hefty vertical slices and executed another jump attack. Once he landed, he used a shield bash to keep it off balance and performed the helm splitter. The Darknut's helmet clanged to the ground, but Link paid it no mind. He wasn't finished just yet. Link attempted a jump attack. Big mistake. The Darknut whirled around faster than any normal person could when weighed down by armor. Its round shield slammed into his stomach, emptying his lungs of necessary air and sending him flying into the wall.

Link dropped to his hands and knees, fighting to regain his breath, barely feeling the throbbing in his stomach. He was fortunate that it had been the shield and not the sword that struck him. Had it been the blade, he feared that he'd be dead. The clanking of armor alerted him to the approaching threat, yet he couldn't bring himself to rise as he was still struggling to get a decent breath.

The Darknut's black boots came into his view, which was directed at the floor. Link cringed, waiting for the blade to descend and pain to explode across his exposed back. Link looked up at his assailant and watched, almost as if in slow motion, as the Darknut's large sword began to come down towards him. A blur of green and a giant gleaming blade of steel slammed into the Darknut and the creature was knocked completely off its feet and away from Link. Link then stared up in disbelief at Kid who was standing with his back to him, his own sword and shield on his back, gripping the colossal sword that once belonged to the Darknut that he'd been fighting in his hands. Link guessed that it was now dead as, at a quick glance around the arena, he only counted two enemies.

'Where in all the land of Hyrule does Kid come from?' Link silently wondered in awe as he took deep breaths to provide his lungs with oxygen, 'His strength is astounding!' Link watched as the Darknut recovered and marched towards them, anger burning bright in its eyes. Kid rushed to meet it, clashing the huge sword of his fallen enemy with the Darknut's own broadsword. The monster continued to try to bring down its sword anyway, but Kid wouldn't relent. He pushed back, but it seemed that the strength of his power bracelets was limited. Upon realizing that he had no chance of winning, Kid let go of the monstrous blade, ducking and rolling out of the way and drawing his own sword and reflective shield as he did so.

The Darknut only had eyes for its new opponent, and Kid wasn't one to disappoint. He was incredibly fast and made maneuvering around to the rear of his lethal foe look like child's play. Kid landed a few decent hits on the Darknut before it managed to turn around. Kid leapt out of the way of its next slice and thrust forward with his smaller blade. The Darknut easily blocked the attack with its shield, and Kid back flipped away as it took a few swipes in an attempt to strike him. This dangerous dance continued for the next few minutes, the ground becoming more and more littered with the glittering black armor of the Darknut.

The battle had carried over closer to Link who had almost fully recovered by now. Gripping his sword tighter in his left hand, Link got to his feet, ready to help finish off the Darknut. However, another direct hit from Kid and the Darknut shed the last of its armor. Kid watched it warily as it took an agile leap back, sensing that it was different from his previous foe. Of all the things he expected it to do, Kid did not expect it to throw its treasured sword directly at him like a boomerang.

Kid stood frozen to the spot, alarmed by the fast approaching weapon spiraling towards his face, but at the same time unable to move. Link ran towards his younger companion, barely thinking as he jumped in front of Kid, fully prepared to take the hit head on. Then a peculiar thing happened. Time stopped. It didn't slow down as it seemed to in particularly crucial seconds of life. It didn't speed up either. It just stopped. Dead. In its tracks. The ticking sound that had been filling the room before the battle noises had drowned it out was absent.

The sword was suspended in the air, still on its deadly course towards them. The Darknut was still in the process of unsheathing its other sword. Link glanced back at Kid who blinked back at him in confusion.

"You're seeing this too, right?" Link checked, arching an eyebrow and wondering if he was already dead or just plain crazy.

Kid nodded numbly too shocked to say a word. Neither of them dared move, afraid that the world would leap into action and they would be killed. Keeping an eye on the unmoving yet advancing blade, Link reached behind him and held onto Kid's wrist. Then, with one swift movement. He leapt to the side, pulling Kid with him. Instantly the spell was broken and the airborne blade whizzed past them with inches to spare.

"I don't get it," Kid stated.

"Me neither," Link admitted, and then he turned his attention back to the Darknut. He was just in time as the enemy had every intent to cleave him in two and brought down its sword. Link blocked it with his shield, stumbling back from the force of the blow, but luckily Kid was back in action and engaged the now stealthy Darknut in combat while Link regained his footing. Battling the Darknut was much easier with two people. However, it was, by no means, less precarious. They both had to be on guard at all times since their enemy housed crafty methods of battling them both in unison. After a few minutes the monster fell down in a heap on the floor and disappeared in a puff of white smoke. They had both gotten out of the skirmish unscathed.

"Took you long enough," Tetra spoke up in a bored tone as Link and Kid sheathed their weapons.

"I didn't see you helping," Link shot back at her.

Before Tetra could reply with one of her no doubt witty comments the entire floor lit up with the same white light that had spawned the Darknuts. No monsters appeared. Instead the floor disappeared, revealing that the strange staircase of gears continued. Luckily none of them had been standing in the middle, and they all landed on a stair. Quickly getting to their feet, they made haste down the staircase, hugging the wall in case the chamber decided to come alive again. Mere seconds later, it decided to do exactly that.

This time, they survived the tremors, which were slightly milder in nature than the precious ones, without being thrown off. Once they reached the bottom of the stairs, they were presented with a room identical to the last. This time, only two columns of white light appeared. Two monsters literally flew out of them. A pair of Aeralfos now inhabited the room. Unlike the previous enemies, they were alert as soon as they materialized and immediately took notice of the intruders.

"What are those things?" Kid wanted to know, drawing his sword and shield as he gazed up at the creatures.

"They're Aeralfos," Link began. He was about to go into more detail but had no time to do so as their foes swooped down without warning. They all scattered to different sides to evade the attack. Link whipped out his gale boomerang, intent on hitting both Aeralfos with it. However, he was dismayed to find that the Aeralfos had split up. One was focused on him and the princess while the other had chased Kid and Tetra to the other side of the room.

Silently hoping that Kid and Tetra could manage on their own until he could make his way to them, Link hurriedly informed Zelda of his battle strategy, and then released the gale boomerang at the Aeralfos hovering above them. A mini tornado consumed the boomerang and the Aeralfos raised its circular shield, which resembled a bulls-eye, to deflect the weapon. The boomerang flew back into Link's hand, and he switched it with expertise for his clawshot which he fired at the target-like shield. Instantly the Aeralfos was pulled down to the ground, and Zelda attacked it with swift and precise sword strikes. Meanwhile, Link put away his clawshot and unsheathed his sword.

The oversized lizard with wings managed to put its shield between Zelda's sword and itself. Link took the opportunity to slice its exposed back. Feeling that it was outmatched on the ground, the Aeralfos beat its powerful, leathery wings and took to the sky. Then it exercised a power he did not remember it having. A jet of fire shot out of its mouth and straight towards them. Link and Zelda deftly dodged the attack, and Link took out his gale boomerang once again. The Aeralfos was still breathing fire, and Link chose to put a stop to that with the power of wind. He let the boomerang fly towards his enemy. Immediately, the assault stopped as it used its shield to prevent the boomerang from making contact.

Link dragged it down with his clawshot again, but just as he did so the room rumbled with a now all too familiar sound. The entire chamber tipped to the left causing Link to momentarily lose his balance. Fortunately for the Aeralfos, its wings kept it aloft just above the now sloped floor. Noticing its opponent's struggle the monster took the moment to thrust its sword forward straight for Link's neck. Upon seeing this, Link purposely surrendered all hopes of regaining his footing and fell hard onto his back, barely dodging the long blade. Link rolled back to his feet and slashed at his opponent. The Aeralfos leaped back and Zelda, who had managed to reclaim her stability, thrust her sword into its back eliciting a growl-like shriek of pain from the creature. The sloped floor acted much like a steep hill and running up it was next to impossible. Link was not able to get there in time before the Aeralfos freed itself of the princess's blade and took to the air. This time, it flew high up into the ceiling and disappeared out of sight.

Link and Zelda kept their eyes on the sky, waiting for the creature to reappear, but it never did. Link wondered if it had died up there or was nurturing its wounds. Whatever the case, they were both forced to focus their attention on the younger members of their group who were struggling to dodge the attacks that the other Aeralfos was bombarding them with.

Letting the gale boomerang loose on this second foe, Link let himself half run, half slide, down the sloped floor towards his companions with Zelda in tow. The Aeralfos, apparently able to sense the wind coming towards it, used its wings to maneuver around the object, causing the boomerang to miss its target and return to Link's hand. The floor suddenly shifted once again, this time tilting in the opposite direction to create a fairly steep slope. Instantly, Link lost his footing and fell. By the thump behind him, he could only infer that Zelda was on the floor as well.

Ahead of him, Kid and Tetra both stumbled forward, trying to run down the new slope in an attempt to preserve their balance. This ended badly though, as the slope was even steeper than the previous one. Tetra was the first to trip, and she slammed hard into the ground. The Aeralfos, which was still aloft, saw this as its opportunity to strike and sucked in a breath. Link scrambled to his feet, but the incline forced him to his knees before he could even attempt to take more than a couple steps. It was like trying to climb up a rock wall with no rocks.

Kid who had stopped in his tracks as soon as he realized that Tetra wasn't beside him, took notice of her predicament. Just as the Aeralfos let loose its fiery breath Kid managed to reach Tetra. Link almost couldn't watch but found that he was unable to turn away. The jet of flame traveled closer and closer to their small forms, and he was sure it was going to consume them. However, a second later they seemed to be magically teleported a couple feet away from the blast.

The room then chose to realign itself, and Link got to his feet, contemplating what he'd just witnessed. Kid and Tetra regrouped with them, and Kid exclaimed breathlessly, "It happened again!"

"What did?" Link wondered.

"Time stopped!" Kid announced with obvious excitement. Link realized that this was the culprit for the so called "teleportation" he'd seen.

"How so?" Princess Zelda questioned him.

"I don't know. Everything just froze," Kid informed her.

Before anyone else had time to speak their mind, the Aeralfos dived down towards them with surprising speed. Now that the ground was level they had no difficulty dodging it. Their enemy lifted itself into the air again, and Link threw his gale boomerang at it, causing it to raise its defenses. He used his clawshot to bring it down, and they all worked together to attack it. With all four of them dealing blows, it didn't have a chance to recover or even escape to the sky. The Aeralfos eventually fell and disappeared in a puff of white smoke.

"Link, watch out!" Tetra warned him.

He heeded her advice without question and rolled forward. A second later the Aeralfos that had disappeared before slammed its sword down in an attempt to strike him. However, it missed its target and was rewarded with its blade getting stuck in the ground. With one slice of Link's sword, the already weak monster succumbed to its inevitable fate, disappearing much like the other had.

The floor disappeared as well, and they were presented with the continuation of the spiral staircase. They decided to take the short intermission to try to make sense of the situation.

"What happened right before everything froze the first time?" Princess Zelda inquired as they began to descend the steps.

"I was about to get hit by a sword that the Darknut threw," Kid supplied.

"And then I jumped in front of him and time stopped," Link continued.

"And the second time Kid jumped in front of Tetra when she was about to get burned by the Aeralfos' attack, correct?" Princess Zelda clarified. Tetra and Kid nodded in confirmation.

"I'm noticing a pattern," Princess Zelda mused, "All throughout the temple we've been sacrificing things in exchange for others. It seems to me that when one of us takes an action to make the ultimate sacrifice, in other words, giving your life for another, time will stop long enough for those involved to spare themselves."

"As convenient as that is, I can't help but not trust it," Tetra admitted, "I mean, it's not natural for time to just suddenly stop. It doesn't make sense." The feeling was mutual with the rest of their party, and so nothing else was said.

Upon arriving at the next landing, no one was surprised when three circles of light appeared, dropping off enemies for them to battle. There appeared to be three Stalfos, but all of them were unfamiliar to Link. The one in the middle wore golden armor that covered most of its boney body. It wielded two swords, both with their own unique design. The two Stalfos to either side of it weren't weighed down by any armor, except for small helmets atop their heads with orange tassels coming out of them and what appeared to be necklaces around their necks. They both wielded identical maces with deadly looking spikes on the clubbed end.

"I hate Stalfos; they take forever to kill," Tetra voiced her opinion in an exasperated tone.

"Not if you know how to kill them," Kid informed her, grinning. He obviously had a plan.

"When have you two ever come across Stalfos?" Link asked. Up until now, Kid and Tetra had only displayed their fighting abilities. They'd never been candid enough about monsters before to complain or voice strategies.

"None of your business," Tetra declared with so much certainty that Link almost believed her words held truth.

The Stalfos had no interest in their conversation and began to advance. The lavishly garbed skeleton was much swifter compared to its associates who were slowly coming closer, their large, and no doubt heavy, maces weighing them down.

Kid suddenly pulled out a blue bomb and lit it. Link knew that Kid had bombs because of the previous guardian battle but never had he witnessed him using them. Besides, a child carrying explosives was unnerving to say the least. Link needn't have been so anxious, for Kid knew how to handle the bombs. He threw it towards the two slower Stalfos and it landed on the floor, its fuse still burning. Kid then took out his boomerang, although Link couldn't understand why, and ran towards the laggards. They instantly took interest in him and Kid smartly kept his distance while luring them closer to the ticking bomb.

Link tore his eyes away from Kid and to the Stalfos quickly approaching. He, along with Tetra and Zelda, circled around it in an attempt to figure out how to properly fight it. So far the only thing that Link had observed was that it seemed to move its two swords into different positions, leaving specific areas of its body unprotected. As soon as it switched its defenses again, Link aligned his sword so it would hit the Stalfos' exposed side. After a single slice the Stalfos immediately used both its swords to prevent any more attacks from making contact. Link distanced himself just in time, for a second later the monster cut the air with the blades.

From behind him, a loud boom sounded, echoing around the entire chamber. He could only infer that it was the product of the bomb detonating. Even though he knew this, he couldn't help not taking a quick peek. Link momentarily took his eyes away from his foe and glanced over his shoulder. He was a bit alarmed when he saw the disembodied heads of the two Stalfos hopping around the room while their bones littered the floor. This sight didn't cause Kid any concern, and he released the boomerang he was holding once the two heads were close to each other. The boomerang paralyzed the bouncing skeleton skulls. Kid wasted no time in whipping out his Skull Hammer and smashing them to pieces in one swing. The heads, as well as the disassembled bodies they belonged to, dissipated into white smoke.

Link was forced to return his attention to the more advanced Stalfos before him. Zelda attempted to strike it with magic, creating a ball of Din's Fire and launching it at the monster. However, at one swipe from a single sword the spell was nullified. Link was unsure whether he should be surprised or not, but glancing at Zelda's slightly startled expression, he knew that her attack wasn't supposed to be cast aside so effortlessly and grew concerned. Just what were they fighting? Had they actually reached the guardian this time or was it merely another dangerous distraction?

The heavily armored Stalfos wasted no time in bombarding them all with attacks from its dual blades. They expertly dodged the attempts and once the Stalfos held up its swords in defense, Kid chose to step forward and attack it on its open side. Similar to Link's previous experience with the monster, he couldn't get in more than one hit before he was forced to retreat. Zelda attempted it next, but after a single strike the Stalfos held up its swords in an X formation, a seemingly impenetrable barrier of steel. Tetra, however, saw it as an opportunity and thrust her dagger forward into its exposed lower stomach. Instead of wasting the time to slice its swords down, the Stalfos felt that it was much easier to use the pommel of its sword to strike the young girl squarely in the forehead.

"Ouch! You'll pay for that!" Tetra pledged, reeling back and putting a hand to her sore head. The Stalfos disagreed and rushed forward intending to end its small foe. Tetra leaped out of the way and the rest of them took advantage of its lack of defenses and attacked. They managed to get in five hits before the Stalfos regained its guard. They then resumed the tedious process from before, darting in to land a single blow and shying away as soon as the Stalfos raised its swords to defy them. Some of the Stalfos' gleaming armor had fallen off which Link regarded as a good sign.

After taking two more direct hits, the Stalfos distanced itself. Link thought that it would fall to pieces. However, it surprised everyone by revealing two additional boney arms, each wielding a weapon. Now that the extra limbs had been revealed, Link felt vacuous for not noticing them before when they were folded neatly across the skeleton's midsection disguised as armor.

As if this upgrade wasn't challenging enough to deal with, the room decided to tilt to the side again. The only fortunate thing about it this time was that just as their balance was compromised, so was their foe's. Everyone managed to stay on their feet and the Stalfos possessed the coordination to regain its lost balance and slide down the slight incline towards them, its three swords and one axe held aloft threateningly.

Either dodging or blocking the attacks thrown their way, the small group of four circled around their multi-armed enemy. Link and Kid attempted to attack from the front while Zelda and Tetra tried to catch it by surprise from behind. The plan almost worked, but the floor leaned the other way, and their scheme was foiled. After a few minutes passed, the chamber leveled out, and they tried again. This time, it worked quite well, and after a few hits the Stalfos' golden helmet fell off its head, revealing a hollowed out socket with a glowing red pupil; a third eye.

The loss of its head protection angered it. To express its fury the creature attacked even more fiercely than before, scarcely leaving an opening and always staying close to one of them. Kid tried blowing it to pieces like the other two Stalfos. However, the results were not desirable since the bomb only succeeded in blowing its arms off. The Stalfos reassembled itself in record time and the group of four were forced back on the defensive before they could abandon it.

It took much precision and observing of the enemy to finally defeat the unique Stalfos. Once they had eradicated it, the floor disappeared to reveal the continuance of the staircase.

"Does it ever end?" Tetra groaned in annoyance as they began to descend the steps.

"The steps or the monster attacks?" Kid asked.

"I'd take either one," Tetra replied seriously. Link had to agree. This was becoming excruciatingly repetitive.

Upon reaching the next landing Link had a strong suspicion that it was the final one. It might have been the fact that there was a small fan set into the back wall, spinning around faster than seemed possible with no notable breeze in the room, or it might have been the pale purple colored floor that contrasted with the black void of walls circling them that gave him the hint. This time, the white lights dotted the floor like stars in the night sky, and when they faded, so many monsters stood in the room that the floor was barely visible. A multitude of low class monsters, such as Chus, Keese, and Bulblins inhabited the room, backed up by stronger, more challenging enemies like the ones they'd faced on the previous three floors.

Link, who hadn't sheathed his sword after the previous battle, gripped the hilt tighter in his hand as the decent-sized militia of monsters began to advance. The less challenging enemies were positioned in the frontal lines and the more challenging inhabited the rear of the army. Keese swooped down on the small party first and were easily dispatched. The Chus came next, however, just as there was variety to the Stalfos and Darknuts, these also came in two different forms. Some were just as he remembered, vibrantly colored amorphous blobs without individual identities of any kind. Others weren't as featureless and sported large bulbous eyes and silly grins. These Chus would hop around occasionally and reduce themselves to mere puddles of goo to move around before popping up again. A select few seemed to have a wave of electricity leaping around them which provided a shield for their gelatinous bodies.

Kid appeared to have some sort of experience for defeating this particular variety and stunned them with his bright yellow boomerang while Tetra finished them off with her dagger. Link and Zelda quickly dealt with the blobs slithering along the floor so they didn't have time to combine and become dangerous. The Bulblins followed soon after. Each wielded a weapon of some kind, be it as complicated as a sharp edged machete or as simple as a large, sturdy stick. These were dealt with in a much slower manner as there were at least ten of them and the monsters didn't leave them much space to maneuver. A few more bright flashes of white light appeared from behind the horde of enemies. A few seconds later a group of Keese rained down from the sky and more Chus squirmed their way to the front.

"Do me a favor and stay dead when I kill you!" Tetra reprimanded a Keese as she knocked it off its course with her dagger.

Link concentrated on slaying the Bulblin before him while fending off any small foes inhabiting the air or ground. After a few minutes of fighting it became apparent that the outcome was decided as soon as it began. There was no way for the foursome to prevail over all of the monsters when every single one of them regenerated shortly after being killed.

"This isn't working," Kid announced as he ducked under a Bulblin's weapon and stabbed it in the chest. It disappeared in a puff of white vapor, but they all knew that wasn't the last of it.

"There must be something generating all of these monsters," Princess Zelda pointed out as she used a strong gust of wind magic to blow the lighter advancing foes off their feet. The ones weighed down by armor, such as the Darknuts, Lizalfos, and Dynalfos, stood their ground and continued to approach.

"There are too many!" Tetra cried, as she was forced back towards the wall. Link, who was the closest, rushed over to help her. A dark purple Chu with big eyes was almost upon her and just as it jumped to attack her, Link used his shield to create a barrier. The Chu bounced off, melted down to an invincible puddle, and then popped up to attention once again.

"Deal with that one, I'll get the others," Link ordered her, turning to deal with the three five Bulblins and other forms of Chus that were fast approaching.

"I can't," Tetra informed him begrudgingly.

"Why not?" Link wondered, focusing on dispatching the enemies before him.

"Because weapons don't have any effect on it," Tetra said, abandoning the dark colored Chu and fighting one of the Bulblins instead.

Link found that hard to believe but finished off the most menacing enemies in close vicinity before turning to address the rogue Chu. He slashed the gelatinous blob with his sword and was surprised when its body dispersed in perfectly round orbs and reformed itself a second later, completely unfazed.

"Kid! Get over here with your mirror shield!" Tetra yelled. Link wondered what that had to do with anything.

"I'm kinda busy at the moment!" Kid returned. "And besides, I can't do anything. There's no light!"

"Link has a lantern," Tetra supplied as she ducked under an attack of one of the more advanced monsters.

"That won't work," Kid shouted, "It has to be natural light."

"Why?" Tetra wondered in frustration. Link hurried over to help her with the Dynalfos that was attempting to injure her.

"I don't know!" Kid replied in exasperation as the conversation kept distracting him from the battle he was currently engaged in with a Darknut.

Link used a shield bash to momentarily disable the foe in front of him and performed a helm splitter. Tetra took the opportunity to harm the monster with her dagger, but after a couple hits, it lashed its tail out in an attempt to knock her away. Tetra's reflexes were sharp and she easily jumped over the spiked tail and continued the assault. However, the Dynalfos' shield prevented her attacks from getting through. Link performed a jump strike from behind while it was distracted and ended the creature.

Link and Tetra, along with Kid who had finished off the Darknut, regrouped with Zelda and attempted to come up with a plan as they battled, their backs to each other.

"Any time we kill one that white light just brings it back," Tetra began the conversation as she cut down some of the enemies in front of her, "so there's really no point in killing any of them since we're just wasting our energy."

"But if they're here then they have to be protecting something," Kid spoke up, using his shield to block a sword strike.

"Could they be protecting the guardian?" Link suggested as he ended an overconfident Bulblin.

"There would be no need to protect the guardian because each guardian can only be defeated if their power source is taken away," Zelda answered, brandishing her sword in front of her to wield off advancing foes.

"We haven't even reached the guardian yet though!" Tetra pointed out.

"Maybe the guardian is disguised somewhere among all of these monsters," Kid proposed. They chewed on that idea for a while as they fought the seemingly immortal monsters.

Link then tried to think about the room layout. If the guardian wasn't disguised as a monster then that meant that something of value had to be in the chamber. The floor was a different hue than the last three, but that didn't signify much. The walls were blank faces of shadow. The only notable thing in the otherwise ordinary room was the fan set into the wall at the back of the chamber, propelled by the memory of some long forgotten wind. He couldn't tell what lay behind it as a result of its quick movements, but he could infer that whatever lay beyond it was what gave the never dying monsters purpose.

"I bet they're guarding whatever's behind that fan," Link voiced his thoughts to his companions who briefly switched their attention from the foe they were battling to the fan at the back of the room.

"Seems probable," Zelda nodded her approval.

"That makes sense," Kid replied.

"One problem, how are we going to get to it? It doesn't look that fan's stopping anytime soon," Tetra said as she redirected her attention to the pesky wide-eyed purple Chu that had finally rejoined in the action.

"We could throw something into it to jam it," Kid recommended, killing a couple keese that had gotten too close.

"Those blades don't look like normal blades," Link pointed out, taking another glance at the swirling colors of the fan. It was luminescent and almost looked like crystal.

"That wouldn't work anyway. It is moving so fast that anything that attempts to get past it will either be repelled or shredded to pieces," Zelda informed them, "Which means the only way to stop the fan is to stop time."

"In case you've forgotten, that only works if someone is about to take a hit that will kill them. You're proposing that we do so voluntarily? That's suicide!" Link exclaimed. They didn't even know what was behind the fan. Were they willing to potentially die for an unknown prize?

"It's not suicide if you don't die," Tetra interjected with a smirk.

"It's still attempted suicide," Link muttered, refusing to back down which was a bit ridiculous because he'd been the one to point out the fan in the first place. However, he didn't anticipate his companions to take it this far. There was still the possibility that he was wrong. What if there was nothing behind the fan? Then what?

"Two of us will have to lure away one of the large enemies towards the fan and the other two will have to hold the remaining enemies at bay as best as they can," Zelda said, already formulating a strategy.

"How are we going to decide who does what?" Kid wondered. It was apparent that no one wanted to play the part of the victim.

"We'll decide based upon ability," Zelda answered him. "Anyone who can use large attacks that take out more than one opponent at once should defend. The other two would be in charge of getting the item behind the fan."

"Okay, I'm on the suicide mission team then," Tetra announced, "Who's my partner?"

"I'll be on the defense team," Zelda notified them, batting away the machete of a Bulblin.

Link and Kid were undecided since they both claimed that they could handle a group of enemies by their selves. Kid volunteered to team up with Tetra, but Link opposed the pairing because their group had the more dangerous job. While the children technically weren't his responsibility, he felt that they were, and that was enough. Letting them both run off alone to taunt death wouldn't help Link protect them. If he was with one of them, then he at least had a chance of doing what he regarded as his job. For this reason it was decided that Link and Tetra would attempt to retrieve the object behind the fan while Zelda and Kid kept the majority of the enemies away from them.

As expected, Tetra was unhappy about the arrangements, but there was no time to argue because of the swarm of monsters in the room. When the opportunity arose, Link and Tetra slipped out of the heat of battle. Most of the creatures ignored them, but they drew the attention of a few powerful enemies from the outer edges. A Darknut and two Dynalfos were approaching them, and Link became worried as they ran to the back of the room, the monsters in tow. The plan was positively insane and beyond dangerous. Their little trick of stopping time wouldn't work unless the hit one of them was about to take was deadly. It wouldn't stop either of them from getting injured if they were too reckless. Speaking of reckless, Tetra was practically the definition of the word which made him even more apprehensive than he already was.

"Be careful, and don't deliberately try to get hit," Link ordered as they both reached the fan and turned around to face their pursuers.

"How are we expected to stop time if you're setting rules like that?" Tetra snapped at him, "One of us has to leave ourselves open to attacks."

"No, one of us has to leave ourselves open to life threatening attacks, not every attack they throw at us," Link corrected her, "and that will be me, so block and dodge everything, and if I'm about to get hit shield me, got it?" He could tell that his partner in crime didn't appreciate him giving the orders, but she nodded begrudgingly since she knew there was no room for a full blown argument. The pair both turned their attention to the monsters that were almost upon them. The first to arrive were the Dynalfos which Link quickly dispatched since they were more of an injury inflicting nuisance than a death threat.

This left the Darknut which engaged them in combat immediately. Their timing and placement would have to be perfect or the entire plan would fall apart. If they managed to freeze time and were too far away from the fan, then they wouldn't be able to reach whatever lay beyond it because as soon as they got out of range of the deadly blow that would be on its course towards them time would resume. The problem was that fighting a Darknut required much maneuvering to do actual damage, so battling it from the front was impossible. Well, it could be done, but being backed into a wall was much more likely in that instance. Link fought the creature from the front while Tetra used even closer ranged attacks on its back. It shed the black armor like a second skin, and soon it jumped back from Link, preparing to throw its original sword at him.

Link had planned on standing there so Tetra could stop time by running in front of him, but he soon abandoned all hope of that notion succeeding and leaped to the side to avoid the spiraling sword heading straight for him. In jumping backwards, the Darknut had caught Tetra off guard and knocked her down. She was just getting to her feet when the Darknut whipped out its second sword and whirled around on her. Link ran over and used a vertical slice to announce his presence to the monster. The Darknut targeted him instead, and Link backed up towards the fan, knowing that any near death experience he had now would be up close and personal with a sharp sword.

Tetra lingered on the side lines, poised to step in when necessary. Link was charged with the difficult task of identifying a life taking move while avoiding every other one. It didn't seem like such a challenge at first since any hit from a sword could kill a person in time. However, this exact hit had to end a person's life immediately. Seeking out such a move was tricky to say the least. If he chose the wrong one then either one or both of them would be seriously injured.

After agonizing minutes of toying with the Darknut, Link still hadn't found the opportunity he was searching for. Every sword strike had to be parried or blocked so they wouldn't inflict an injury. Every shield bash, countered, and every single action was a distraction, pulling him further away from his goal.

"Use some kind of big fancy move that will leave you wide open to attacks afterward," Tetra suggested, as she watched the fight, occasionally batting away weak enemies that forced their way out of the main swarm.

Even Link had to admit that it was a relatively good idea for their cause. Link decided to try a maneuver that almost never worked for him with Darknuts. He executed a jump attack which the Darknut dodged just as he'd anticipated. As he landed on his feet, the long sought out move was discovered. The intimidating monster swiped its sword horizontally in front of it in retaliation. Link knew it was coming and couldn't help flinching as the blade inched closer and closer to his neck. He willed Tetra to hurry, and as if she'd heard his silent plea, the young girl appeared a second later. Time halted in its tracks for the third time that day, the sword of his enemy a breath away from doing harm.

Link looked back to the fan, its blades had stopped their indefinite revolution and he peered past them and into the shallow chamber they concealed while in motion. Out of everything he'd imagined seeing, he was stunned to see the bottom of a diamond shaped bottle, a golden light pouring out of it. It was the last tear!

"What's the tear doing there?" Tetra wondered, noticing it as well.

"I don't know; I'm just as confused as you are. I thought the guardian was the one carrying it…" Link trailed off in thought.

Tetra continued it for him, "…unless the guardian is carrying it, and we're really…inside it?"

Link didn't want to believe the theory, but the more he thought about it, the more probable it became. The large gear-shaped door opening and closing behind them must have been the mouth, and the trembles from early on must have been the guardian moving around, stretching its limbs, or lack thereof, after being inactive for so long. The steady ticking sounds that had been present for the duration of their time in the strange cylindrical chamber was what passed as its heartbeat. By the layout inside he inferred that on the outside it looked like a worm of some sort. The monsters' presence puzzled him a bit, but he figured that they were the guardian's defense system, just like ordinary people's bodies had natural ways of fighting off diseases and whatnot, so did the guardian. The difference was that its body generated monsters to purge what didn't belong, namely, Link and his companions.

Tetra seemed to come to the same conclusion and said, "If we really are inside the guardian and it functions off of that tear, then once we remove it, it won't be able to regenerate the monsters anymore, right?"

"That's what should happen," Link agreed, "but I have a feeling that the whole time stopping feature is part of the guardian's doing. If it's not functioning anymore then will that make time immediately leap back into action as soon as we take the tear out?"

"Probably; which means we're as good as dead," Tetra replied, eyeing the sword that was on a crash course with them. The danger was imminent. Neither of them could move from their current position or time would resume.

"Alright, let's do this," Link proposed after a few seconds of contemplation, "I'll take the tear out, as soon as that happens, get down"

"What about you?" Tetra asked.

"You be ready when time starts up again, and I'll worry about myself," Link told her. He actually hadn't planned very far ahead, but the way that he saw it, there wouldn't be enough time for him to duck fast enough. He'd just have to take what they came for and pray that some miracle would spare him.

Fortunately, they had stopped time directly next to the fan which gave Link easy access. He reach past the blades, careful to stay in position as much as he could. Grasping the bottom of the bottle in his hand, Link waited until he had a firm grip on the slippery glass before attempting to pull it out of the wall. It slid completely free with just a couple decent pulls. As soon as it was out, Link drew his arm back, wary of the frozen, crystal-like blades of the fan. With the bottled goddess tear in his hand, time sprang back into motion just as predicted.

With it came the reanimation of the sword on its judgmental path. Link's eyes widened briefly as it traveled far too quickly towards its destination which was, unfortunately, him. Just as the blade was about to touch his neck it burst into a fine white dust, along with its wielder. The pallid particles blew away and evaporated into the air, taking with it every single monster that once inhabited the room. However, it did not take away Link's adrenaline which was still going strong as he stood there trying to process what had just happened. The steady ticking sound of the guardian's heartbeat was slowing dramatically, becoming more and more irregular by the second.

The foursome weren't allotted much more than a few seconds before a deep rumble echoed throughout the entire chamber. Sparks leaped off of the now unmoving fan to Link's right. He and Tetra distanced themselves from it before it was consumed in a mini explosion. The walls near the fan followed suit a few seconds later, and it was then that Link realized the guardian had a self-destruct button, and he'd just activated it.

It didn't take them long to come to the conclusion that they had to evacuate the premises lest they wanted to be blown to pieces, which no one did. Without question, they all bolted up the staircase of protruding gears which were now still. Even taking the steps three at a time, Link wasn't sure he was going to make it when he felt the heat from the explosions brush his legs. Trying not to think about it, he continued to run up the steps after everyone else.

The way up was much swifter than going down which may have been because of the fact that they were practically sprinting up the stairs or because there were no monsters to fight. It was most likely both. Regardless, they reached the top much quicker than expected, and to Link's great relief, the mouth of the guardian was wide open. They all hurried out of the dying guardian and didn't stop running until they reached the pool of blue light that had materialized a couple feet away.

Link was the last to reach it and felt the heat rolling in waves off of the guardian as it exploded in a shower of sparks. The deep blue light engulfed him before he could be harmed and whisked him away to the shore of the spring.

"You got the last tear," Kid pointed out, noticing the bottle clutched in Link's hand after they had all caught their breath.

Link nodded breathlessly. "Yeah, turns out we were inside the guardian the entire time."

"Really? I knew something unusual was going on, but I would have never guessed…" Zelda trailed off in thought, her tone a bit more nonchalant than seemed appropriate in reaction to the information.

"We have all the tears now," Tetra spoke up, changing the subject since apparently voluntarily walking into a death trap wasn't an interesting enough topic to discuss, "so what do we do next?"

"The subsequent line in the riddle was 'Reawaken the servant who dreams', correct?" Zelda checked.

"Yeah, but I have no idea what that means," Tetra confirmed with a curt nod.

"Maybe the tears can help us figure it out? I mean, we had to collect them for a reason, right?" Kid suggested. Link set the diamond shaped bottle carefully on the ground and dug around in his pouch, pulling out the other special glass containers with their goddess treasures nestled securely inside. As soon as the last bottle was out in the open, all of the tears began to react, spinning around in their confined prisons of meticulously crafted glass in ecstasy.

Link and his companions were mesmerized as the different colored tears shot up out of their separate bottles as if they couldn't stand being there a second longer. Nayru's tear, a calming blue-hued raindrop, and Din's tear, a mini flame of bright red, danced around each other before combining, sharing their colors. Farore's tear, a lively shade of green, and Hylia's tear, a bright gold that brought the sun to shame, engaged in a similar greeting and combined, their colors blending together. Now two separate balls of light, they spent less time with ritual shows and embraced, blue mingling with gold, red staining green, gold spreading its wings to cover red, and green stretching its eager fingers over blue. It took a burst of color for the goddess tears to agree on a single shade. Now a silvery white orb of light, it raced out of the open gates of the spring and towards Faron Woods.

They all passed through the open gates and looked to the right. The orb floated just a step shy of the suspension bridge. Once it was clear that the sphere of united tears would not move, Link walked over to it, his companions trailing behind him. Just as he reached out to touch the orb hovering in the air, it sped ahead, stopping after a few feet.

"It's leading us somewhere," Tetra concluded immediately.

She was about to chase after it, but Link called her back. "Wait, we need to get Midna first and the horses too. We don't know how far it's going to take us."

"Alright, but let's hurry!" Tetra sighed in slight exasperation, changing direction and running back towards Ordon. They all followed her and soon arrived at Link's house where they quickly explained the situation to Midna, who seemed eager to get going as soon as possible, and hastily mounted the horses. Link urged Epona forward and soon they were approaching the ball of white and silver that had waited so patiently for their return. Upon reaching its checkpoint, the congregation of tears moved out of their reach, and the chase was on.


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