"Ok, that was very strange. I'm on the ship, waiting for Arbiter and the others to get back from exploring the tomb. I go to check on Casey, our chronicler. She and her pet fell asleep awhile ago. And I see this…cat, whisper – ehm, purring into her ear. Skinny thing, I could see the bones under it's skin. I turn around to check if it the window was open or something, and when I looked again, a few seconds later, it's gone. Just…vanished. So I did a quick check on the windows, doors and vents. Everything was secure; no sign of any entry, at least nothing that a cat would make. Was I just seeing things?"
Arbiter never enjoyed feeling helpless. As a warrior and soldier, he always wanted to be in control of the situation. He commanded ships and led troops into battle. He led his forces with honour and strength. Finding out that he was fighting for the selfish manipulations of the prophets was a crushing blow, but he recovered and fought back. He was a warrior. Warriors went down fighting.
He understood that the soldiers under his command could be killed. He was not naïve or arrogant enough to assume that he could lead a mission with no fatalities. He knew that his forces were capable of handling themselves, and were responsible for their own lives. He understood all that.
And yet watching Link, someone that he had thought of as inexperienced, fight a battle for their mission and he himself being unable to do anything, it made him feel uncomfortably helpless.
The barrier surrounding Link and the Hero's Shade was impenetrable. More magic he thought with a groan. The walls wouldn't break against fists or energy swords, and they were too high for him to throw any grenades or weapons over to Link. Bullets were just as useless, and using them risked the projectiles ricocheting dangerously around the room.
All Arbiter and the others could do was watch.
Link was doing very well. He seemed to match the Shade skill for skill, attack for attack, block for block. The two heroes were evenly matched…too evenly matched in regards to swordsmanship. Every time one of them lunged, the other dodged. When Link counterattacked, the shade blocked. When the shade moved to the right, Link followed his movements. When Link attacked, the shade weaved out of the way.
Both parties parried, blocked and lunged, getting only a few inconsequential cuts each. This stalemate would have to be broken somehow.
Needed a breath of air, Link rolled away from the Shade's reach and raised his shield. The hero in white never missed a beat. A bow, not unlike the one Link once had, materialized in his hand and the shade notched an arrow to the string. On seeing the weapon, Link quickly took out the crossbow Masha had customized for him. However, before the hero of Ordon could notch an arrow, the hero's shade had already let a larger arrow loose.
Link saw it coming, but couldn't raise his shield fast enough. The arrow ended up grazing his arm, drawing blood. The arrow flew into the barrier on the opposite side, where it dissipated. Link winced, but managed to finish notching a red arrow to the crossbow.
The hero in white readied another arrow, but this time it was he who was too slow. Link aimed at the shade and fired a red arrow straight at the shade's bow. The arrow was even faster than the shade's had been, and connected with it's target before the shade could even register the danger.
When the arrow struck, several things happened at once. The force of the impact smashed the glass holding a reddish fluid, causing the fluid to spill out all over the weapon and it's wielder. On contact with the air, Masha's formula burst into flames within a second. As a result, the shade's bow and part of his tunic caught fire.
A look of shock passed over the shade's once-stoic face, as he hurriedly dropped his burning bow and slammed his hands over the burning areas of his clothes to put out the flames.
That confused Snake. Why would an ethereal being that created a form for itself to face Link in combat be so worried about fire? Wouldn't he be invulnerable or something, being a reincarnated ghost? Arbiter had an answer, however…this ancestor of Link's had made himself 'human' to give Link a somewhat fair fight.
The shade still had a few tricks up his sleeves, however. Smiling very slightly, the hero in white cusped his hands. A glowing blue orb appeared, which he raised over his head as if showing it off before using it. Before Link could notch another arrow, the shade slammed the orb into the ground, creating a bright flash. When the light had died down, the shade was surrounded with a blue, diamond-shaped shield.
Link was in the process of firing another red arrow at the shade, and the crossbow discharged it's projectile directly at the target. The red arrow hit the shield, splattering the red liquid all over the blue shield and apparently setting it ablaze. But the burning solution simply dripped off the diamond, the hero showing no signs of pain or discomfort.
Link didn't seem to react, and Snake wondered if the kid knew how to curse.
With a very effective shield to protect him from any more attacks, the shade placed his smaller shield onto his back. Drawing his sword, he charged at Link, the shield moving with him.
Link quickly put the crossbow away and raised his own sword just in time to block the shade's first attack. However, an instinctive attempt at a counterattack proved fruitless. The sword simply clattered on the magic shield uselessly, causing the shade to smirk. The hero in white took the opportunity to attack again. Link realized it was coming, and swiftly dodged the stab motion. The sword still cut into his side, however.
Link rolled out of his opponent's range, taking stock of the situation. The shade could attack, but as long as that magic shield was up, Link couldn't harm him. He'd have to resort to evasive manoeuvres until he thought of something.
The hero's shade followed Link, not having any long-range weapons to use and not needing to fear any attacks. His own attacks became more daring and reckless, with long sweeps and jump strikes Link had to constantly roll away from. All that time, the blue shield still prevented the hero of Ordon from landing any solid hits.
Link had an idea. It was a longshot, but an idea nonetheless. Taking out the crossbow, Link notched a white arrow to the weapon. Another jump strike from the shade forced him to dodge, but he managed to load and ready the ice arrow. The hero pointed it at the base of the shade's magic shield and fired.
At first, the shade smirked as the arrow harmlessly smashed against the magic barrier. When the glass shattered, a blue fluid leaked over the magic shield and onto the ground. Before it could simply drip off, however, it froze. The hero's shade suddenly found his shield fused to the ground with ice.
Link doubted this would work.
The shade smirked, and a red orb appeared in his hand. Within the shield, the hero in white raised this new magic orb and slammed it into the ground. Suddenly, a cascade of fire appeared in a circle around the white hero. Like an explosion, the flames emanated from the hero, melting the ice. On seeing the wall of flame approach him, Link hurriedly crouched behind his shield. The cascading fire seared around him, burning the few areas that the shield didn't cover.
Luckily for the others, the flames stopped before the barrier.
The hero's shade, freed of the ice, smiled slightly and began to cast another spell. A red orb appeared in his hand, and he had raised it above his head to send another pulse of flame out…
When suddenly the blue shield disappeared.
Link wasted no time. His hand grabbed the pistol Aven had given him and in the blink of an eye, he fired. The hero's shade didn't have time to cast the spell or grab his shield. The plasma blast hit him square in the chest, detonating with enough force to propel him backwards. The hero in white fell to the floor.
Link knew how to finish this. Drawing his sword, he leapt high into the air, bringing the sharp blade down onto the shade's chest.
The master sword impaled the hero in white, and time seemed to stand still for a brief moment. Strangely, the shade uttered no cry of death or pain, or even defeat. Instead, he smiled slightly and vanished. The hero in white disappeared into a white puff of smoke that quickly dissipated. The final words of Link's ancestor were "Well done. You may take what you seek…and my most valuable treasure."
Link removed his sword from the tomb's floor, catching his breath. The hero in green raised his eyes to see his ancestor's coffin move. The lid on the stone box shifted, slowly but steadily, to reveal the body of the ancient hero. Thankfully, there was no smell.
The force field holding the others back vanished. Snake was about to step forward, but Arbiter stopped him. The commander nodded quietly to Link. "You know why we are here."
Link nodded back, understanding. He approached the open tomb with respect, and peered inside to look at what his ancestor had become. Somehow, the hero appeared as though he had been buried yesterday and not centuries ago. Link could see the resemblance he shared with his descendant. His green tunic and shield showed no sign of decay or age, much like the rest of the tomb. His hands were crossed over his chest, holding something. On top of his wrist was a small, golden triangle.
The Triforce of Courage.
Link picked it up and smiled. Mission accomplished. He was about to turn around and return to the others…
When strangely, the words of the grinning cat rang through his mind.
The thing you seek only serves to hide the thing of true value…
You may take what you seek…and my most valuable treasure.
Was there something else? Something under the Triforce? Something that apparently had more value than what the league had been sent after? Link looked at the lying figure. His hands were still clutching something…Very carefully, Link moved the hero's dead fingers away from what he was holding in death.
An Ocarina. It was small, made of what seemed to be the finest sapphire. The mouthpiece had a tiny but visible gold Triforce symbol. It seemed immune to the effects of age, strangely even more so than everything else in this timeless tomb. It almost appeared to be glowing.
Link picked the instrument up carefully. Was this his ancestor's most valuable treasure? It seemed odd that a tiny musical instrument would be so valued by the hero. Why would this be important?
Nevertheless, Link tucked the Ocarina into his pocket and turned around to present the Triforce to Arbiter. This mission was finished…his questions could be addressed later.
"Alright…mission to recover Triforce of Courage a complete success. Artifact recovered with no loss operatives. I guess there's not much else to say…Oh, Lara has collected several documents and catalogued the stories written in the tomb walls. Link will need to translate them for archaeological purposes. O-kayy, end of record."
The League's designated 'Archive's room' was a library near Gordon's lab. 'Mendel Family Library' was a large, respectable public place with a huge collection of thick books. Casey found the place dull. The entire area was brown and other shades of brown, and the books were boring treatises on genetics and evolution. Still, it was a good place for the Chronicler to work. Few distractions.
Out of respect for her new roommate in the 'archives room', Casey had temporarily foregone using the audio diaries and was now quietly sorting through the written records – letters, pamphlets, memos, that sort of thing. Link was nearby, transcribing the texts and documents Lara had collected from the tomb. Casey wondered how exactly he was able to translate old Hylian to English, but then again, this guy was a whiz at figuring things out quickly. He probably learned old Hylian at the Castle Town college, or whatever they had.
Casey was a bit miffed that after being on an active assignment – in which she herself did very little – she was immediately back to these pamphlets, figuring out who said what and why it was relevant. Of course, the tale these stories told was interesting enough to keep her attention, but she really wanted to get out into the world again. Working this place day after day was getting dull.
She wondered if Link thought that way too. Probably not. Or if he did, he didn't show it. Casey shrugged and looked back at her papers, following a rather interesting gossip page detailing the exploits of Sander Cohen. Casey tensed at the name, but kept to her work, humming as she did.
Link continued to read the tales of his ancestors, never taking his eyes off the weathered papers Lara had gathered. This was a fascinating story. Tales of wind sorcerers, travels through time, wands and witches seemed to leap off the pages to him. He had never known much about his lineage. This link to the past was, in his opinion, the best thing he had gotten out of this mission.
He half-listened to Casey's humming, and suddenly recognized the tune. "Prayer." He suddenly announced.
Casey blinked. "Wha?"
"That tune you're singing. I heard it before."
Casey turned to look at Link. "Seriously? I've had that tune stuck in my head since we got back from Hyrule." Casey scratched her head. "No idea where I got it…what is it about?"
Link shrugged. "Prayer. It's a song played when Hylians pray to the goddesses for aid." Without really thinking, Link took out the blue ocarina and put it to his mouth, trying to emulate the music.
He was not successful. The notes he hit, while in time, were all the wrong ones. Although he quickly managed to figure out how to make noise through the holes, he couldn't figure out which holes to cover to make the right musical notes.
Eventually, Casey sighed and took the Ocarina out of his hands. "Here." Casey did a few test blows, to see if the instrument was in tune and which notes were which. Both Link and Casey were surprised at how well the sound carried with this ocarina. The music produced seemed…alive, somehow. Not the lively Casey had experienced with her electric guitar, but an odd sort of mysticism that seemed to both calm and invigorate.
Eventually Casey produced an almost-perfect rendition of Prayer. Almost. The last few notes escaped her for some reason. Smiling sheepishly, she handed the Ocarina back to it's owner. "Real nice quality. Where'd you get that?"
Link shrugged, deciding not to tell her about the tomb and the cat's riddle. "An heirloom." He quickly changed the subject. "Where did you learn to play?"
"My uncle collected instruments like that. I'd try them out whenever I was over. He said I'd be good in an orchestra, buuuut I decided to go into rock for the hell of it."
Casey blinked. "You don't…oh, of course not. It's something like what I was playing in Fort Frolic, only…more so. And louder. And cooler. I have a band…" Casey's eyes became faraway. "Wonder what's happening with them without their guitarist. It's been a while, actually…"
"Will they be okay?" Link asked, concerned.
Casey smirked. "Course. They're tough guys. Besides, we didn't have anything lined up. We're not all that close, actually…they can handle without me. Then again, they haven't really experienced a vanishing guitarist like Ilia has, so I can't really say."
Link nodded. "Cannot wait to go back?"
"Yeah…" Casey agreed. "This place is awesome, but…" Casey held up a letter to the editor regarding tax cuts. "There's only so much of this I can handle at a time. It felt good to be out."
Link smiled in agreement. There was a slight pause, still a sense of awkwardness between the two. Casey wasn't sure how far she could go with the reaction to her last attempt and the childhood friend. Link was just…unsure how to speak to this girl. Eventually Casey sighed aloud. "Well…might as well get back to work." She motioned to a nearby camera. "Lamb is watching." She quipped.
"Yes." Link returned to his tales of bravery and heroism, while Casey returned to gossip pages and grocery lists.
Casey broke the silence. "Soooo…what are you reading about?"
"The Cipher Lab in Orre desert is supposed to be abandoned. That gang of thieves was destroyed years ago. So why is the lab working again? The energy fence is back online…in fact, it's better than before. And I saw a truck going in there making some sort of delivery. Couldn't see what was delivered, but I got the license. 1V0 – 4TT3R. What's going on there?"
Sofia turned off the audio diary. She and Arbiter had met in the board room to discuss the latest word from the League's sponsors.
Sofia started to explain. "A law-abiding citizen turned this in to Orre's police, prompting an investigation. They found that the area was indeed operational, but they couldn't investigate further. The shield around the area is almost impenetrable and locked from the inside."
"Why does this matter?"
"It wouldn't, at least not at the level of the League. However, tracing that vehicle put it at the scene of a political kidnapping." A tap on a nearby screen produced an image of a light brown chipmunk Therianth. "Sally Acorn, an important figure. Our sponsors have informed us that it is imperative we find her, and there is reasonable evidence that she is inside that facility."
"Very well. But you claimed it was impenetrable."
"Almost. The investigation found an air duct on the outside of the field, leading into the headquarters. Too small for a human. An electromagnetic field to prevent robots from entering. But large enough to accommodate a small mass. A Pokemon."
Arbiter glanced at the screen to see Casey conversing with Link. He saw where she was going.
"Why would the police not use one of their own Pokemon, then? I was under the impression they were commonly available."
"They are. But the recent ban has decreed that Pokemon cannot be put in any dangerous situation. It's well enforced in Orre. And the current chief of Police is…in my opinion, a bureaucratic, belligerent fool. He will not listen to reason, claims anything against the law is not for the police to use."
"But we're not the police, are we?"
"No." Arbiter took a very deep breath. "Very well. I will inform Casey and her pet of this assignment." The Sangheili left to pick out a strike team and mobilize the troops.
For some reason, Arbiter did not feel confident. Everything before had been successful. The Anubis Stone, the Triforce and even the Mercer campaign were successes. Why did he have this nagging feeling that failure of some form was around the corner?
He didn't notice the emaciated creature watching him from the shadows. The cat watched Arbiter and Sofia leave the room, his dangerous smile widening slightly. As soon as they were out of earshot, he chuckled quietly. "Purrrrfect." Soon he would have a taste of REAL power.