Link had Zelda alter her course so that instead of going more-or-less up the middle of the plain, she moved on a southeasterly course, moving nearer to the edge of the woods that defined the plain's southern border.
Link had thought there would be food, wood for fires, and possibly even places to shelter in the forest. It was easier to make good time on the plain, where there was nothing to hinder Zelda's run, but the forest provided more opportunities for forage and necessities.
However, as they neared the forest late that afternoon, Zelda suddenly wished they were back in the middle of the plain.
The trees were large and dark and the interior was a thick tangle of vines and brush. It was even more ominous than the lifeless plain. Zelda wondered if the area had always had something of an evil air about it, or if it had become that way since Nagadii had opened the rift.
"I don't like the looks of this forest," Link said, eyeing it with the same distrust as Zelda.
Neither do I. There's something wrong here—this whole place is wrong.
"I know. But I don't know what to do about it. We can't go down the coast, back into Hyrule; we'll be caught long before we make it to Erenrue. And even if we had a ship, there's ice in the ocean to the north of us; it's only navigable for a brief time in the summer. And there are no harbors, and even if you get shore, you still have to go over the mountains to get to Pallis. It's all but impossible to go in from that direction.
"That leaves us this," he concluded, sounding less than happy about it.
When the light began to fade, they decided to stop for the night. There was one tree that had strayed out, alone, onto the plain. It was not more than fifty feet from the edge of the forest, but some distance away from it was better than nothing.
"Tomorrow, we'll try the mountain side," Link said, as he broke up a small pile of wood for a fire. "I haven't seen anything worthwhile in the woods, and I definitely don't want to hack my way through it to look closer. Near the base of the mountains there might be some caves or rock shelters where we can stay."
"That would be better than here," Zelda said, still looking at the forest with suspicion.
"We'll switch up tomorrow," he promised.
With unspoken agreement, they sat with their backs to the big tree and put the fire between them and forest. It gave Zelda the creeps even to look at it, but she preferred that to turning her back on it.
They ate their smoked fish in silence.
The wind picked up, blowing from the northeast, and it made their little fire gutter; occasionally a gust threatened to blow it out all together. The temperature steadily dropped as darkness descended.
Link unfolded the sheet and blanket he had taken from the abandoned cabin. "I'm glad I decided to take these."
He took off his shield and propped it up against a tree root so that it acted as a little wind barrier.
"Why don't you go to sleep?" Link asked Zelda, even as he unsheathed his sword and put it across his lap.
"What about you?"
"I'm going to stay up."
"You can't go without sleep," she argued.
"No, which is why I was planning on waking you up around midnight to take the second watch," he said with a little smile.
Zelda took off her bow and quiver and propped them up next to her. Then she lay down on the ground next to Link.
"I forgot what it was like to sleep on the ground," she complained.
"You'll get used to it," Link said, covering her with both blankets, tucking the edges in around her.
"Why don't you lie down and cover up, too?" she asked
"I don't dare lie down; I'll fall asleep."
"At least cover up a little bit."
It took several minutes of arguing and wrangling, but in the end Link stretched out a little more, Zelda curled up against him, and they tucked the covers around both of them. He left his sword at his side where he could easily reach it.
Zelda settled her head against his shoulder and he put his arm around her, holding her close.
"Alright, so I'm glad you talked me into this," he said, looking down at her with a smile.
"Why are you in love with me?" she asked bluntly. "It's not like I treat you very well."
"I have no complaints."
"Well, I mean, when we first met; I kept trying to get rid of you."
Link chuckled at the memory. "Yes, you did."
"But you didn't take 'no' for an answer."
"I rarely do," he said, grinning.
"But why were you in love with me when I was being so awful to you?"
"Well, I fell in love with you long before I actually met you in person. You would have had to treat me horribly for a long time before you overcame all those years of love."
"Yes, but why?"
"I don't know," he admitted. "I just know the first time I saw you, I fell hopelessly in love with you. It was fate, I suppose."
"Then why did I hate you when I first met you?"
He laughed. "Probably because we're both prideful—which can cause clashes at times. And we've discussed the fact that we're both equally stubborn. And… maybe I was showing out a little the first time we met."
"Maybe more than a little," he allowed.
Zelda fell asleep before she could continue the conversation; she had worked hard all day and still wasn't one hundred percent recovered.
It was a growl that woke her up.
Link's hand was suddenly over her mouth, keeping her from crying out in alarm. Don't move, he warned her.
She stared at the red glowing eyes that were looking at them over the fire. She couldn't see what they belonged to, but whatever it was, it dark and hulking. She thought it might be a wolf, but as it paced back and forth—its unnatural red eyes staring at them constantly—she decided that it didn't move like a wolf. It was cringing more—its head close to the ground—and was shuffling its feet.
What is it? she asked Link.
I think it's a demon. Even speaking telepathically, he whispered, as if he was afraid it would hear him.
Zelda began to tremble with fear. The eyes that were staring at them were appraising. It was trying to decide if it was worth going around the fire to get to them.
Very slowly, Link slipped his hand out from under the blanket and grasped his sword by the hilt.
It's getting bolder, he said, as the creature paced closer to the fire.
It's going to come around the fire in a minute or two, he warned. I want to be on my feet when it does. When I give you the word, roll away from me and get your bow and arrows as quickly as you can. Back me up.
Zelda gave the slightest nod—less because she was afraid of being seen and more because she was so scared she could hardly move. When the wolf attacked them, it had been so sudden, fear didn't really have time to settle in and freeze her up. But sitting there helplessly, being hunted, made her fear response go into overdrive.
I'm going to move when it's on the other side of the fire, Link said. That way it will be as far from me as possible. Be ready.
Zelda held her body tense, ready to jerk away. She watched as the eyes went to the left, paused, then moved back towards the fire.
Zelda flung herself to the right, rolling out of the way. But before she could make a grab for her bow and an arrow, Link was slammed back into the trunk of the tree—he and the black, shaggy hyena-beast both crying out.
A moment later, Link gave a big shove and threw the demon off of him. It was only then that Zelda saw that Link's sword had run it through.
"Holy mother of the gods," he gasped, staggering away, looking at the demon in disbelief. "It jumped me over the fire. I expected it to come around, but it jumped right over the fire. I didn't hit it so much as it skewered itself."
He let out a shaky breath. "Gods, that was scary."
"So, it isn't just me, then?" Zelda asked, finally finding her voice.
Link shook his head. "No, it isn't just you. I've killed some pretty ferocious animals in my time, but that…." He just shook his head in disbelief.
"Didn't… didn't Gardamon say we couldn't kill them?"
"Yes. We need to go before it recovers and figures out where we are."
Link hastily kicked dirt on the fire and gathered up his shield, the blankets, and the bag of food. Zelda transformed and he hopped onto her back and wrapped the blankets around himself, trying to use them like a cloak against the cold night.
"Take us as far away from here as you can," he said. "Head back towards the middle of the plain."
Zelda set off at a gallop, wanting to put as much distance between them and the demon as possible. Although she eventually had to slow to a walk, she didn't stop moving.
The sky was beginning to lighten a little when Link finally called a halt.
"We need to stop before I fall off," Link said wearily.
They were in the middle of the exposed plain, but Zelda reasoned that they would at least see something coming—especially as day was beginning to break.
She changed back and they lay down together, covering up. They were both too exhausted to bother with a watch, and blindly hoping that nothing would attack them in the middle of the day, they fell into an exhausted sleep.
Eventually, the light grew so bright, neither of them could sleep. The sky was still overcast, but based on where the light seemed to be concentrated, it looked to be around noon.
"Does the sun never shine?" Link said, offering a rare complaint.
"I don't know; I've never been to Erenrue," Zelda replied.
They ate their fish in silence—Zelda was already getting tired of it, which didn't bode well for the next twelve days—then they started out again.
Zelda took a northeasterly track, taking them closer to the mountains. While the mountains looked less ominous than the woods, they also looked less hospitable. Their sides were steep slopes of jagged shale with white snow at the peaks being the only relief from the wall of gray.
They kept their eyes open, but there was nothing that looked like a cave or shelter in the rocks.
Most of the daylight was gone when Zelda noticed movement up ahead.
There's something coming this way—birds, or something.
"I can't see anything."
My eyesight is better in this form, she explained.
She paused and they both peered into the dim light. Zelda saw the red eyes before she could identify the black forms.
Demons! Birds or bats or something. Straight ahead.
Link quickly unsheathed his sword and shield. "Let's get them," he said, sounding eager. Zelda wondered at his courage, but figured after the demon-hyena that snuck up on them the night before, some demon-bats would seem tame in comparison.
Zelda trotted forward and met them as they swooped in with high-pitched, barely audible squeaks and clicks.
Link almost lazily struck them out of the air—left, right, left, right.
Then something moved out of the corner of Zelda's eye, and she turned her head back to look. There was another group of bats—at least a dozen—approaching their right side from the rear and moving fast. With Link being left-handed, it was going to be a lot harder for him to fight them on that side. And if Zelda turned to meet them head on, the rest of the bats would be attacking them from behind.
Zelda made a snap decision. She suddenly went to her knees, throwing Link over her neck; he hit the ground and rolled several times before coming to a stop on his back, stunned.
But she was already on her feet again, bow in hand. She shot one bat after another with frightening rapidity and precision. It was as if she had no fear—only perfect focus. They were no more than targets being tossed at her.
The last bat got too close for her to shoot, but she didn't hesitate or stop to think about what she should do; she stabbed it with the arrow in her hand as if she was using a sword.
When she was sure everything was down, she hurried to Link's side.
"Link, are you alright?" she asked, looking down at him.
"Yeah, I think so," he said, still looked stunned. "What happened?"
"A second group of them were coming up on our right side, and I was afraid they were going to hit you before you could deal with them. So I put you on the ground and shot them down myself. It's really a job for a bow and arrows anyways."
Link blinked at her, as if it was taking him a minute to comprehend what she was saying.
"That was a pretty good plan," he admitted.
"Thank you," Zelda said, unable to suppress a smile. She felt pleased that she had finally proven herself worthy in a combat situation.
Link held up his hand and she pulled him to his feet.
"I'd only ask you to change one thing," he said, dusting the dirt and grass off his clothes.
"Give me a warning—even just one word—before you throw me off; I nearly fell on my sword. And while there are one or two things that might warrant me doing that on purpose, I would rather not do it by accident."
Zelda blanched. She thought he might get bruised a little, but she had trusted that he would be able to take the fall without real injury. She hadn't considered that his own weapon could wound him if he landed on it wrong.
"I'll warn you next time."
"Thank you," he said. Then he gave her a smile.