The Garden of Farore: Chapter Twenty-Three

LINK had been wandering the upper floor alone for a long time before ending up at the twisted room. Unlike Zelda and Diomedes, he had never encountered the twisted corridor and was at a loss to explain his apparent change of alignment. The best explanation any of them could come up with was that some strange magic was at work in that room and its adjoining area. They were all very thankful to leave the unsettling phenomenon well behind, heading off in the direction from whence Link had previously come. As they walked, Zelda did her best to explain to Diomedes most of what was going on--the information about the Amulets of Legend, the Knighthood and the Sacred Realm, plus what they knew of their mysterious enemy. It was not the easiest of things to explain, particularly as Diomedes had several hundred years of intervening history to catch up on.

"H'm!" he said meaningfully, when she had finished. "And you don't know who sent the Stalfos troops out into the desert after you, or made those Goriyas? Don't suppose the King's upset any sorcerers recently?"

"Not that I know of," Zelda admitted with a sigh. "We are worried, though. Whoever it is, he or she has powerful magic--magic of a sort that I have not seen in Hyrule for a long time."

"Th' same magic that resurrected me, if you will," Diomedes commented. "Been wondering about that."

"Well, Ganon is certainly not responsible," Link broke in. "Not unless something has happened to change the course of history. I defeated him in single combat. We'll be free of him for at least another three hundred years."

The Stalfos halted in mid-stride. "You defeated Ganon?" he exclaimed. "Why, you mean you're the Hero in this time? Goodness me... so you and the Princess are on this quest together?"

"We're not alone," Zelda told him with a smile. "Or at least, we weren't, until we became separated in that magical fog. We have to find our friends before we go on to look for the Amulet--that's our present goal. They are hopefully together--a Gerudo, called Sofia, and..." She paused. "I don't really know how to explain our other companion. Have you heard of Dark Link?"

Diomedes dropped his javelin.

Once they had restored him to a semblance of order, he seemed to grow thoughtful, and turned away from them to stare silently into space. Zelda waited uneasily, knowing that the Stalfos had something to say, and at the same time wishing that he would not say it. Finally, he looked back at them, and spoke. "Yes," he said gravely. "Yes, I know of Dark Link." There was something strange in his tone.

"And?" Link prompted, frowning slightly. "Can you tell us something about him? All we know is the little that was written."

Diomedes approximated a sigh. "He's evil, my lad--evil in a way that you don't see nowadays. And he's very, very old. Don't ever underestimate his skills, or his cunning. He plagued us for many years even after old Ganon had been sent packing. I hunted him down once, with a group of my best soldiers and trackers and the Hero. We followed him for months, right across all of Hyrule and Calatia, and he was as wily as an old fox--many times we lost the trail completely, and only picked it up again by some lucky chance. Finally we cornered him in the northern forests at the Lotharia border. He fought hard right to the end, but at last we overpowered him, and bound him in cold iron to take back to Hyrule, never taking our eyes off him for a moment. Then I got up one morning, after we'd journeyed with him for two days, and found that the soldiers I'd set to guard him were both dead. Dark Link was gone." He paused for a long time, and then reluctantly finished the tale. "I had fifty men when I started on that hunt," he said, by way of ending, "and when we got back to Hyrule there were seven of us left."

There was a long silence. Finally, "Farore's Wind," Link said quietly, and looked at Zelda.

"He has helped us so far," the Princess began. "If he wanted to kill us, he would have abandoned us when the Goriyas attacked, and taken Sofia's weapon as well as your own, Link. -In fact, if what Diomedes says about him is true, we should be dead many times over by now."

Diomedes shook his head doubtfully. "Obviously, m'lady, I wasn't there when you met up with him, but I find it hard to believe that he'd help you out of the goodness of his heart. Not that one. There must be something else behind it--you'd be foolish to turn your backs on him."

"Maybe he is lonely," Zelda suggested again, softly. Then she paused, and looked at the rickety wooden door set into the wall before them.

While they talked, they had traveled the length of the corridor, and now they had arrived at the bottom of a winding flight of steps. If the map was right they were now standing on the ground floor; beyond was a large, rectangular room with no distinguishing features. Where that led the Princess was unsure, but now she drew out the map and looked at it--wondering if they were going to end up back in the hall from whence she had started. "Where would an Amulet be hidden..?" she mused, frowning as she ran her gaze over the ancient diagrams. The highest floor? The basement, perhaps?

Diomedes glanced at them both, and then reached out and laid his hand on the latch of the door. Although the wood looked truly ancient, dark-stained and warped with sheer age, the latch was as shiny and new as if it had been placed there yesterday. It turned easily, without the hint of a squeak, and the door swung silently open. Nervously the three companions stepped through, glancing around in the suspicion of an ambush.

It was a big room with a raised ledge to their right; into the wall here was set a door, though they would have to climb up to it; the ledge was chest-high and there were no steps. The ceiling was lost in cobwebs and in darkness; the timeworn bricks were crumbling and patched with great splashes of green and brown lichen. Although there were no windows, light came from somewhere--perhaps from within the room itself. Certainly it did not come from the golden torch beside the door; although its gilded brightness shone still from beneath its layers of dust, the flame at the top had been dead and cold for a very long time. This pale greenish radiance stemmed from somewhere else, a power present within the stones themselves perhaps. Zelda glanced to her left and shivered at the painting she saw hanging there: four feet high, and three wide, it was a dark and horrible canvas. The picture was of a woman in her late twenties, with a twist of dark hair and deep green eyes; although she was beautiful, there was a sense of wrongness about her, a dreadful sinister cast to her pale Calatian face. She wore a dark red gown, the color of old blood, and she was sitting in darkness with her long-nailed hands folded gracefully in her lap, gazing out at the artist with sly half-lidded eyes.

Link made a face as he saw what the Princess was looking at. "Yeuch, who's that?" he muttered, shivering theatrically. "Not much of an oil painting, is she?" He smiled at his pun--Zelda would have laughed, if the woman's cold eyes were not so unnerving.

"Come on," she said, pulling back her blonde tresses. "Whoever she is, she is none of our concern. We should go on."

"Right!" The green-eyed warrior walked smartly across the floor, his bootheels clicking on the tiled surface. Zelda glanced at the floor and saw in surprise that a mirror image of the painting lay there, painted onto the tiles themselves--but the image was confused, its parts out of order. Link paid it no heed, walking right across the face and leaving bootprints in the fine dust. He clambered up onto the ledge, and tried the latch of the door.

It was locked. Irritated, Link rattled the handle once or twice, and then he kicked the door to see how strong it was. It did not budge.

"Link?" Zelda asked shakily.

The tiles on the floor were glowing green. A fell light burst upwards from the tiles to bathe the whole room in that horrid shade. Lit by it, Zelda looked at her hands and shivered at the pale, dead cast the light lent them. Something was terribly wrong here... the sense of ancient peace that had characterized the Temple was wholly gone, replaced with... evil...

There was a scraping sound of stone on stone. They froze all three of them--Link in the act of slipping down off the ledge, Diomedes turning from his examination of the painting, Zelda staring at the tiles on the floor. One of them slowly slid downwards from its position, filling the empty space. With another scrape, another tile moved into the place where the first had been. Zelda drew in a sharp breath as she realized--the puzzle was solving itself. The face on the floor was recombining to match the one on the wall.

With a poisonous hiss, the wall painting vanished, and the blinding light on the floor began to dissipate, revealing a standing form--the woman of the painting! Her black hair twisted around her shoulders like snakes as she lifted her hands, terrible anguished hate gleamed in her viridian eyes, and she let out a scream that chilled them all to the bone. That dress was not red but white--it would have been white once, still was so in splotches around the hem--but it was stained, soaked, drowned, in dried blood. Zelda felt every part of her body and soul freeze at the sound of that dreadful noise, and a horrible fear seized her; Link doubled up as if in pain, sinking to his knees before the creature. Unable to drag her eyes away, Zelda saw another terrifying thing--the woman had no feet. She floated a few inches above the ground, the hem of her dress hanging loose.

"A banshee!" Diomedes gasped. "Nayru protect us!"

The banshee screamed again, floating toward Link with her hands held high. The fingers were tipped not with the smooth red-painted nails that had seemed to be within the painting--but with sharp claws, tipped with dried and crusting blood. A freezing wind swept through the room with her movement. Link lifted his head weakly, afflicted with the agony that the banshee's voice brought to men who heard it, and watched in paralysis and fear as she advanced on him. Her jaws fell open, revealing bristling bone-white fangs.

"O Goddess," Zelda whimpered, unable to do anything to protect her friend. She clenched her fists, willing herself up, but the banshee's enchanted voice had her in its power and the fear held her frozen like a statue.

The warm green light in Diomedes' eye sockets blazed up into holy fire as he hefted the bent javelin. Its point glimmered brightly with reflected emeralds. The banshee turned, saw him and screamed again, but he did not falter in his own advance though her power physically blasted him backwards. "Undead..." he shouted with effort over the howling, "cannot... harm... undead!"

The banshee's eyes snapped open and her screaming stopped abruptly as the full import of his words sank in. With an awful wail of despair she began to float backwards, but it was too late. Diomedes heaved the javelin at her and it pierced her breast. Not blood but dark ichor began to flow out, and she fell backwards like a rag doll as the iron point bit deep. The spell of her voice broke momentarily, allowing Zelda to stagger upright. The Princess felt as if she had been dunked into freezing water--she was shivering violently, and her skin felt as if it were burning with cold--but she managed to unsling her bow and, trembling, find an arrow to set to the string.

But even cold iron could not hold back such evil for very long. The banshee's hair flailed around like a nest of serpents as she slowly floated to her feet again. The javelin dropped from her breast, tearing a hole in the blood-crusted dress; the dull bones of her long-dead ribcage gleamed palely in revealed light. Lacking a weapon, Diomedes strode forward and caught the specter's hands in his own; he strove with her, trying to force her back, away from the living.

Link got to his feet, bent over like an old man. The serpentine dagger fell from his nerveless grasp and he fumbled for it on the floor. Zelda saw him, and cried out, "No, Link!" She lifted her bow with a great effort and with shaking hands set an arrow to the string--the freezing temperature in the room had crusted ice onto the cord and she hoped that it would not snap--drew, and fired. The arrow flew straight, slammed into the banshee's back, went straight through Diomedes' ribcage and shattered on the far wall.

The banshee was overpowering Diomedes at last; he struggled stubbornly as she forced him slowly down, her fouled claws scoring lines along his wrist bones. She had stopped screaming in order to concentrate on subduing the Stalfos; instead, she emitted long, dreadful wails that, although they were terrible to hear, lacked the soul-freezing power of her shrieks.

Zelda watched helplessly, then something fell to the floor at her feet with a soft clink. She looked down in shock and saw that it was the faŽrie arrow they had found earlier. The Princess snatched it up, feeling along its length; it was undamaged and shone palely with its own, pure light in this chamber of horror. A sign? Zelda wondered. Knowing nothing else to do, she lifted the white arrow and set it to her own bow, muttering, "Link First, help us..."

A warmth spread along her arm as the arrow's shaft came into contact with the bowstring; the ice on it and on her clothes melted and hissed away. Bright golden flame played along the point of the white arrow, making it shine too brightly to be looked upon directly. Squinting, tears running down her cheeks from the cold wind, Zelda sighted along the burning length of the arrow. The warmth surrounded her, relieving her muscles of the freezing lethargy that had afflicted them. The banshee turned, her mouth dropping open as she prepared to scream again; now there was fear in her eyes. Zelda took a deep breath and loosed the arrow. It flew like a streak of golden flame, blazing, and sank deep into the chest of the undead creature. Diomedes let go of her and fell backwards onto the floor with a clatter.

Screaming, the banshee slapped at her chest where the arrow had entered. Fire blazed out from the entry point, devouring the creature. In moments she was a flaming torch. Link and Zelda watched the macabre spectacle in shock and revulsion as the banshee screamed and beat at herself. Then there was a great lick of fire that reached the high roof of the room, and the horrifying spectre dissolved in a vile cloud of smoke.

A thin clatter on the floor marked the arrow's return; it fell to the ground in the place where the banshee had been a moment before. A stain on the tiles, like an oil-mark, showed where the woman's face had been; the picture was gone. Zelda walked over and picked up the white arrow, then stared at it dumbly, unable to fathom what had happened. Had the spirit of Link First..?

"Farore's Wind," Link sighed, staggering to his feet again. "What was that?"

"I don't know," Zelda muttered, looking at the thing in her hand. "I must show this to Dark--perhaps he will be able to explain it."

"Whatever it is, do not lose it!" Link told her. The banshee's power was broken, and the freezing coldness of the undead was already leaving the room. He clapped his hands together smartly, warming them. "The door?"

It stood open. The torch, forgotten by all until now, was burning again--a gentle, green radiance, the light of Farore. With the death of the banshee, peace had returned to this part of the Temple of the Forest. The healing radiance flowed over them, cheering their chilled hearts. Diomedes got to his feet, brushed himself down as if nothing of note had happened, and bent to pick up the javelin again. "All right, chaps?" he asked mildly.

Carefully Zelda slipped the white arrow back into her quiver. A new kind of hope was blossoming in her heart... the Hero of Time, it seemed, was watching over their quest. Whatever ancient power resided in the arrow, it had woken when they had need of it. "This Temple is not our enemy," she said softly, understanding. "It is only the evil that has infected it that makes it dangerous to us. If we defeat the evil, we might be able to reclaim the Temple and Amulet as one."

"That's easier said than done, milady," Diomedes told her, walking over. "Well, shall we go on?"

 

 

Dark Link and Sofia stared up at the latest obstacle to block their path. They had finally come to the end of the labyrinth, or so it seemed--a path led steadily upwards into a drier area. With Dark Link's guidance, Sofia had to admit, she had made much better progress than when she had been alone; he seemed to have an unnerving sixth sense about some things, such as which passageways were dead ends and which way to take. They walked side by side, reluctant companions on their journey.

Now they had come to a stop, seemingly for good. In front of them, a staircase led up and out; a bright light of daylight shone above, filling Sofia with a yearning to get on. But the stairs were broken, their stone foundations long since crumbled. A yawning gulf of empty blackness separated them from the top some eight feet above them, and there was nothing to climb to bridge the gap.

"I don't believe it," Sofia spat bad-temperedly. The stair had been gone for a good long time, it seemed, as the edges of the chasm were dulled by erosion. "Now what?"

Dark Link glanced at her without expression. "Give me your weapon."

She blinked. "What?"

He unslung his pack and once again produced the coil of thin rope. "Your weapon. I have an idea."

Sofia just stared at him, barely able to believe that he would actually ask her outright for her scimitar. She could not imagine what would happen if she placed the hilt of her blade into his hand--accepting his help had been one thing, trusting him with this was quite another!

Dark Link sighed and straightened up, slinging the coil over his shoulder. He faced her directly, openly, his crimson eyes meeting her amber ones with no hesitation. "I can get us over this," he said softly, "or not. It is your choice. If you do not wish to leave the labyrinth--and Din knows I would prefer not to have to go out in the sunlight--keep your blade. Otherwise, give it to me and then take the rope."

She looked at him for a long moment, trying to stare him down, but he kept his head up, watching her with a clear, cool gaze that never faltered. Sofia grimaced, wishing that she had been stranded with Zelda or Link--anyone but Dark Link! Slowly she reached down and drew the scimitar from its sheath. She turned it in her hand and held the hilt out towards him. Dark Link took the blade without a word and turned away, uncoiling the rope. Sofia watched in fascination as he wound the slender cord around the hilt of the scimitar, weaving it over the cross piece and then tying it tightly. He tested the knot, and then tossed the blade lightly in his hand, feeling its altered weight.

"Hold the end of the rope," he instructed her, "and do not let go. If my throw fails, we do not want to lose your sword." Sofia took the end and wound it around her wrist, confused as to his plan.

Dark lifted the scimitar, narrowing his eyes as he judged the distance. Smoothly he drew his arm back, and then threw the recurved blade point-first. It flew through the air with a deadly hum and thudded into the stone at the top of the stair, embedding itself nearly to the hilt. Sofia gasped involuntarily, shocked at the skill and power of the throw. He glanced at her with a flash of crimson, and then tugged the rope's end hard. It held. "Climb," he said softly.

Sofia took a deep breath, and then leaped into the chasm with the rope held tight in both her hands. She hit the rock face with a wince and thud, and clung to her lifeline as tight as she could. Arms straining, she began to walk up the wall, pulling herself arm-over-arm up the rope's length. Ever-conscious of the abyss beneath her, she was grateful when she reached the top and managed to scramble over the lip of the stair to stand on the solid ground. The passage came to an end a few feet away; there was a vertical shaft which led upwards, and from here fell a shaft of pure, bright sunlight. For a long moment she just stood in that light, taking in deep breaths of beautifully fresh air and staring straight up towards the open air. Then she turned back to Dark Link, who stood waiting silently on the lower platform.

"Throw me the rope," he said softly.

She knelt down and, carefully, worked the scimitar free. The blade grated on the stone, but came out straight with a little effort. Sofia pulled the rope up, untying the weapon from its end, and then she stood up and looked at the shadow. He looked back up at her, unafraid, calm... expectant. Sofia sighed as she realized she could not leave him there--no matter what she felt towards him, he had saved her life back down in the labyrinth. She sheathed her sword, then took the rope's end and tossed it down, keeping hold of the other end. Dark caught it as it fell, and looked up at her. Sofia took a deep breath, tensed herself with feet wide apart, and prepared to take the strain of his weight. She nodded.

Lightly he sprang out over the emptiness. Sofia felt the jerk on the end of the rope, but was surprised--he put almost no weight on it. She pulled the rope up quickly, length by length. In a moment his slender black hand appeared, clutching the top of the stair; he hauled himself up, discarding the rope. Sofia coiled it back up and wordlessly handed it to him.

"Thank you," he said in his calm, soft voice, as if what she had just done had been nothing.

Sofia glanced at him, feeling she knew not what. "You're welcome," she said eventually, knowing no other way to respond.

Dark Link glanced at the bright light, and winced, reaching for the hood of his cloak. He drew it up over his head to protect himself from the sun's rays. His blank crimson eyes gleamed narrowly beneath the overhanging shadow as he looked at her. "Shall we go?" he suggested lightly, motioning toward the passage end with one hand.

Silently Sofia nodded, then as he turned to go she impulsively stopped him, reaching out her own hand and catching his arm. "Wait," she said quickly, then unsheathed her small curved Gerudo knife. He turned towards her, eyes widening slightly. Sofia held the hilt out to him, and attempted a smile. "You should have something at least," she said, "in case we're attacked."

Dark Link flashed another smile--a real one this time, that made his eyes light up and smolder with ruby-red sparkles. "Thank you," he said again, and took the dagger as if it were something precious. In a way, it was, Sofia thought--it was trust. Although she felt nervous walking beside him as they headed out into the sunlight, it was nervousness tempered with a new strength--what she had just done had been the right thing to do. The ladder that led up the shaft was broken and rotted, but it was a simple matter to climb the jutting-out bricks, for the wall was irregular and rudely built. Dark Link went first--Sofia wasn't about to let him get behind her with a dagger in his belt, trust or no trust--and she followed quickly, climbing swiftly and easily, her muscles responding to the less strenuous work.

The shaft ended up in another garden, Sofia realized as she clambered out behind the shadow. It was some sort of raised well, now emptied of water; she heaved herself out onto the edge and then dropped to the ground, her feet sinking deep into a lush carpet of grass. The sunlight was bright and cheering through the mists that still cloaked the upper airs of the place. She glanced at Dark Link, who leaned against the wall to take advantage of the shadow it afforded; his eyes were closed and his breathing fast as he huddled beneath his cloak, and she realized that the light was somehow a source of physical pain to him. Unable to offer any help to him, she looked around instead, seeing that they were standing in a brick-built alcove. Beyond the garden opened out into an orchard, ringed round with huge stone walls that stretched up into the mists; a small stone bridge led over a stream which flowed through the grounds. Everything was overgrown and wild but bore the marks of having once been cultivated; Sofia looked up at a small old apple tree which was flourishing near the well. It was ripe with golden fruit and she picked one, realizing she was hungry. It tasted as sweet as summer.

Dark Link pushed himself off the wall and stood upright, clutching the cloak around himself. "Come," he said softly, and strode forward into the light. Sofia followed him into the garden, crunching her apple delightfully in her teeth. It was not as large as it had first appeared, she saw; it was vaguely triangular in shape, separated into two by the watercourse that stretched across it. Riots of wildflowers bloomed across the breadth of the garden, and wisteria stretched up the stone walls for many feet. The door was nearby, set into a recess in the wall; three steps led up to it. The small flowers of the wisteria hung out over the door, perfuming the air with a soft, powerful scent. The air was full of it, and of the tiny hummings of iridescent insects feeding on the flowers. Sofia shook out her ponytail and tilted her face into the light, grateful for the warmth of the sun on her damp hair and clothes. With a slight, almost wistful smile, Dark Link glanced back at her. "You like the sun?" he said.

Sofia did not answer; she felt afflicted with a strange sadness at his words. She walked forward and up the steps to stand in the doorway, looking into the shadowed passage beyond; it made her sad to have to leave the garden, but now they had escaped the labyrinth she was very eager to find and rejoin the others. Dark Link led the way, and Sofia followed him out of the light. The door swung quietly to behind them; they were in a corridor with a door at each end. They walked it silently, each preoccupied.

"The sunlight," Sofia began, curious. "Why does it... hurt you?"

He looked at her quickly, cool and as expressionless as ever. "It is alien to my nature," he said softly, after a moment's pause. "I was created of darkness... light weakens me as any shadow. It is the one thing that could truly destroy me." He paused again. "I tell you this because you trusted me."

They had reached the end of the corridor. Sofia opened it and stepped out into a small, square room. Ahead, a staircase led upwards to what must be one of the higher levels of the Temple. She glanced around, seeing the shattered, dust-covered remains of clay pots against the wall, and beside the door a heavy golden torch, cobwebbed almost to invisibility. She reached out and rubbed off some of the dust, and the gold gleamed through like fire.

"Interesting..." Dark Link hissed, standing beside her as he gazed at the artifact. A moment later his eyes narrowed and he turned his head suspiciously. "Ware," he said, almost conversationally. "We are not alone here."

"What do you mean?" Sofia asked, turning to stare at him.

"Do you not feel it?"

Then she did feel it, a coldness in the air--a sense of death. The hair began to stand up on her arms as she felt the chill set in. There was a soft click from behind her; she whirled and tried the door, but it did not budge--it was locked! Sofia cried out and violently rattled the handle, but nothing happened. Dark stood back, perfectly calm, as if he had been expecting such a thing. A cold wind began to blow from nowhere.

"What is it?" Sofia shouted at him.

"A ghost," he said softly, "an unquiet spirit. Are you prepared to fight?" Her dagger was in his hands, and though he stood seemingly relaxed, Sofia saw the lines of tension in his frame and realized he was ready to spring. She drew her scimitar quickly, drawing heart from the familiar scrape of steel.

The woman appeared out of nowhere in the center of the room, black hair twisting serpentlike. Her cobalt blue eyes flashed with an evil light as she lifted her clawed hands and screamed. Sofia let out a cry of pain at the dreadful sound, shrinking back from the gruesome creature. With a ripple of cloth and a silent grace Dark Link dropped down before her, and struck at the banshee with the dagger; a moment later he let out a gasp of pain and flung the blade from him. It skidded across the floor, its hilt covered with freezing ice. "Back!" Dark Link cried, shoving Sofia away as the banshee turned towards her. The clawed hand swept forward and smashed into Dark Link's face in a cruel backhand slap; the force of the blow flung him into the wall like a discarded doll.

Sofia held her scimitar protectively across her body as the banshee turned on her. With an awful moan the creature floated towards her, clawed hands stretching out hungrily to grasp her prey. Concentrating desperately despite the freezing cold, and the dreadful noise of the banshee's cries, Sofia ducked out of the way of a slash. A wound from those encrusted talons would surely fester.

Dark scrambled to his feet and grabbed the strap of his leather satchel that had fallen discarded to the floor. He ripped open the strap and rummaged within. "Keep her busy!" he shouted to Sofia, pulling out a cloth-wrapped wooden torch and tinder box. Kneeling on the floor he struck the flint again and again, trying to kindle the rags on the torch.

The banshee advanced, and Sofia retreated, circling with the ghost as if they were performing some sort of dance. She watched intently, dodging each blow by a hair's breadth. Annoyed at the resistance afforded by her prey, the banshee screamed again and the awful noise froze Sofia to the spot. She struggled to escape even then, refusing to give in to sorcery. Then Dark Link's torch kindled with a heavy whuff of flame. The banshee's head whipped round and she focused on the shadow, seeming for the first time afraid. He lifted the flaming brand, his crimson eyes shining brightly, and leaped towards her. The claws came down, but Dark Link slipped through their net and shoved the fire right up into the banshee's face. With a deathly, unreal scream she collapsed in a flaming, writhing heap before dissolving into a foul smoke and stench, leaving an oily stain on the floor where she had burned.

The golden torch in the corner had started to shine. Sofia looked towards it in surprise, feeling a healing radiance spill out from the cerulean flame and light the room in beautiful shades of blue. Dark dropped the smoldering brand and pulled the hood back over his face, then bent down to retrieve his discarded dagger.

"Are you injured?" he asked softly, looking towards her.

"No..." Sofia exhaled, calming herself. "You fight well, Dark Link."

"And you, Sofia." He lifted the leather satchel again, slinging it over his shoulder without bothering to fasten the straps. There was a thin thread of red blood glistening on his lip. "Now... we must hurry. The evil has been broken here, but it remains elsewhere in the Temple."

"How do you know?" Sofia asked.

Dark Link glanced at her. "I know, because Link First knew. He drove back the Poe Sisters when he came here. We must do the same before we can find what we seek."

 

 






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