Prologue: Chapter Three

ARE you all right?"

"I... think so, Princess."

"You fainted. They carried you. I don't know what happened after that. I think I fainted too, in the end. It was so hot."

"I know. Are you all right?"

"Yes thank you, Link."

Pause.

"A fine start to our quest!"

"We could not have done differently, Link. It was the only way through. And we could not have known that they would take us prisoner."

"Still we should have been more careful. We could have..."

"What could we have done?"

"I... know not. What will they do?"

"How would I know?"

Pause. He contemplative, she silent, watchful.

"Princess?"

"If you do not start calling me Zelda, I will hurt you."

"Zelda."

"Yes?"

"Where are we?"

"I know not. I woke up here. You did not see where we arrived?"

"Not a thing. The last thing I remember is the desert."

Light, sudden. A curtain was drawn back, throwing bright sunlight into their prison, which was revealed to be a wide tent woven of rich fabric--purple, red and gold. The barbaric designs in the weave seemed crude and yet beautiful in a way that Hylian work was not. There was passion in the pattern. Surrounded by red and purple it was almost like being imprisoned in a vast womb. The sound of his heartbeat seemed amplified in the crushing blood-colored space. Link sat up with a wince--his wrists were raw and bleeding and his left hand had gone numb, being crushed underneath him when they had dumped him in the tent. Now a dark shape was framed in the doorway of the tent.

"Who is there?" Zelda asked. "Tell us why we are bound! What harm have we done you?"

The figure entered the tent, pinning back the thick curtain with a strap of felt so that the light continued to stream in. There was a cushion beside the entrance and this the figure took for a seat, easing itself down with agile grace. Now that it was out of the direct light, the figure revealed itself to be a woman dressed in the garb of the desert hunters. She had a long and vibrant twist of red-blonde hair and in her hair were leather braids. Two streaks of blue paint were drawn across her cheeks accentuating both her cheekbones and her amber-colored eyes, and she was young, maybe the same age as Link and Zelda. She raised a dusky fist to her breast and bowed her head in the traditional greeting of the Gerudo. "Me ■in mod-sefa licao leng swa wel," she said, difficult words falling easily from her lips.

"And what is that supposed to mean?" Link said wrathfully.

The woman smiled, dark red lips parting slightly to reveal a glimpse of gleaming teeth. "It is the greeting of our people," she said in perfect Hylian only tinged with the glottal accents of the Gerudo. "'I am pleased by the qualities of your heart and mind'. You are my guest, warrior."

"Is this how you treat a guest?" Link demanded, jerking at his bonds.

"Be still," commanded Zelda.

The woman inclined her head, her amber eyes flashing. "You came creeping out of the forbidden lands like thieves. My people thought you were fugitives from justice. Although your Ălfan justice is not our way!" She scowled.

"Elven justice?" repeated Link. "I know not this word "elven"."

"Ălfan," the woman corrected. "It is our name for you, longears. My people say that it is synonymous with "dog"." Angrily Link strained against his bonds but the rawhide thongs were too strong for him to break. The woman sat back. "You must explain to me why you have come here. Since your kind blocked the pass, we have seen nothing of you--and that is well with us, for we want nothing to do with you. Now you come out of the east. Why do you not stay in your own place?"

Link looked at Zelda and she shook her head slightly--no.

"You must tell me," the woman insisted, "and I may be able to free you, once I know that you are not criminals."

"Are you the leader of this Gerudo band?" Zelda asked.

The woman laughed loudly, an uninhibited sound. "Since you enquire so politely, I will introduce myself!" She laid her left hand, palm inwards, upon her right breast. "I am Sofia, only daughter of Thorkelin, King of the Desert. My father rules over all of the humankind, which you call Gerudo."

"So you're a Princess too?" Link began and then gulped.

"Ah," Sofia said softly.

"Link!" hissed Zelda in fury.

The Gerudo woman nodded slowly as if something had been confirmed to her. "You, warrior, cannot be a princess. Although your features are somewhat like a girl's, your muscles betray you--unless Ălfan women have grown spectacularly ugly since the last dispatches out of the east. So the disheveled girl is some princess from the eastern lands? Now I know your name is Link, but what is hers?"

"Tell her nothing," commanded Zelda.

Sofia sighed. "You must be honest with me. Lucky it is for you that my father the King is not here, or he would have had you executed. Your best chance is to tell me all, now, before he returns to deal with you himself."

"Why would you wish to help us?" Link asked suspiciously.

The Gerudo woman shrugged and then smiled, her teeth a flash of white in her cinnamon-colored skin. "Perhaps I am a fool. I like to think that people are innocent until proved guilty--even if they are Ălfan."

"Why do your people hate Hylians?" Link questioned.

"Why, why, why? You think we are barbarians, that we are inferior because we do not live as long, that we are animals because we hunt and fight instead of toiling in the ground. So you drove us into the desert many years ago and blocked the way. Ah yes--maybe we have short lifespans in the eyes of the Goddess, but there is such a thing as race memory. We have not forgotten. We built our lives without you and now you come back."

"Only two of us," Zelda pointed out reasonably. "And we have done injury to no Gerudo."

"This could go on forever," Sofia snapped. "You must choose--do you tell me what you are doing in our lands, or do you stay here until my father returns? It is nothing to me--indeed you probably do me a favor by making me kill you. I may not be popular with my people if I save you." There was a long silence and then the Gerudo woman stood slowly. "So be it," she said heavily and stepped toward the tent's entrance.

"Wait," Link said, unmindful of Zelda's fury. "I will tell you what we were doing in the canyon."

Sofia sat down again. "Well, tell me, warrior," she said quietly.

"We sought the Spirit Temple of which legends tell," Link responded. "We knew that it was somewhere past the Gerudo's Valley, but we did not know where. We set out to find it and ran into your people who took us prisoner."

"The Spirit Temple?" repeated Sofia in astonishment. "And your name is Link? Why, have you walked out of the pages of history and into sunlight? I suppose the girl's name is Zelda!"

"It is," Link said boldly.

"Link!" Zelda snarled.

"Enough, Princess!" he said turning to her. "We have to confide in her now. Things have changed. And besides, she may know how to get to the Temple. We do not have a chance on our own!"

"That is true enough," agreed Sofia. "And I do know where the Spirit Temple lies. Your name is truly Link? If you lie, you will suffer for it."

"Why would I lie?" Link said in genuine confusion.

"We remember," Sofia said, "the hero Link who came to my ten times great grandmother and saved her from evil spirits in the temple, sent by the dark King Ganondorf. He was the only one of Ălfan descent who was ever accepted as an equal of my people, though it is long since he died, they say. Even your lives do not last a thousand years or more."

"This many times great grandmother," Zelda began cautiously, "Was her name Nabooru?"

Sofia smiled. "Your pronunciation is painful, but you are correct. My family guarded the Spirit Temple for many years. Naburu was the first. But since I am youngest-born, I do not guard the Temple. That responsibility will go to my brother Galdenor when my father dies."

Link exchanged meaningful glances with Zelda. This unfortunate accident had brought them face-to-face with a part of their history--this woman was a direct descendant of one of the Seven Sages who had locked Ganon in the Dark World. Perhaps the confrontation had been meant to be. Perhaps it was written upon one of the pages of the Book of Mudora, a page which the Book had not yet seen fit to reveal. "I feel Destiny," he muttered to the Princess, quoting an ancient proverb. When it is written in the stars that two stories shall draw together, that is to feel Destiny.

"Chwedl a gynydda fel caseg eira," Zelda replied in ancient Hylian. A tale increases like a rolling stone... She understood what he had thought but not said aloud.

Sofia crawled over to Link, and withdrew a dagger from her belt. "Hold still," she told him. Link winced when the tip of her blade pricked his wrist but Sofia was careful as she worked the blade through the rawhide. It was sharp and cut through the leather in a moment. Link groaned as he brought his hands back round, rubbing his numb fingers. There was a circle of blood around each of his wrists where the strips had bitten into his skin, and dried blood smeared the palms of his hands. His shoulders, too, ached and flamed as he flexed them. Sofia cut Zelda's bonds and then sheathed her dagger, sitting back upon her cushion. "I trust you so far," she said, "but you have not told me much of any use. So you seek the Spirit Temple--for what? Are you suppliants to the Sand Goddess?" She sneered. "I thought your kind followed different gods."

"You take pleasure in being offensive," Link said bitterly. "I tell you, we have no quarrel with the Gerudo."

"And what does Gerudo mean in your language?" Sofia asked lightly.

Link did not answer, for he was sure that she knew already. "Be that as it may, I do not hate your kind. They have done me no harm." He touched the raw skin on his wrists. "Well, no considerable harm," he amended.

Sofia smiled. "Well, you are honest in your speech, at least. That makes my heart quieter within me. Will you tell me why you wish to go to the Spirit Temple?"

"No," Zelda commanded again.

Link touched her hand with his. "Reconsider, Princess. She may help us if she knows the whole story. And do not forget that we are in her power."

Zelda was silent a long time, and then she sighed and bowed her head. "You are right, Link. I will tell her the object of our quest and then she can judge for herself whether we are good or evil. Let us sit, Sofia, and you may hear why we have come so far from home without the knowledge or the blessing of my father."

 

 

Sofia was silent for a long time after she had heard the tale. "I know nothing of any amulets," she said finally, "nor of any Legendary Knights. If what you say is true, then the hero Link was one of them. But none of our tales tell of such a knighthood. And it is in your book?"

"You should know," Zelda said coolly. "Your people took our belongings, and the Book of Mudora was in my pack. I assume you have already gone through our equipment?"

"Of course," the Gerudo woman said shortly. "But I did not read your book. It was no business of mine." She rose then and motioned to the open tent flap. "It is for you to follow me now, and I will take you out of here. You must show me what is in your book, and then I will see if I can help you in any way."

"We are grateful to you for your understanding," Zelda said in a stiff, polite voice.

Sofia smiled shortly. "This way," she said.

They found themselves in a city of tents. The sheer volume of humanity crammed into this shaded corner of the desert was astounding to them. A labyrinth of colors surrounded them, blues and greens and golds and reds--every single tent seemed different and unique. The wide sandy path wove between the thousands of dwellings with seemingly no regular order. Zelda turned her face away when she saw naked children playing upon the sand. Scruffy lurcher dogs and fat furry puppies sprawled with the children, yielding tolerantly to their small inquisitive hands. The Princess's ears were buffeted by the gutturals of the Gerudo tongue. Despite all Zelda and Link had heard about barbarism among the Gerudo kind, there were only happy faces to be seen within the kaleidoscope of life. "This is Gaelaidh, the greatest town of our people," Sofia said to them as they proceeded through the city. "We spend much time moving around in the desert, but there are always many people here. Some live here all the time. It is a center of trade for us."

"Does your father live here?" Zelda asked.

"He would," Sofia answered, "but he rarely stays. He journeys all over our land to see to his kingdom."

Zelda said nothing but Link knew what she was thinking--how different this was to her father's kingdom back home, where the King stayed in his castle and sent only his couriers to the different corners of the realm to dispense his orders and collect news. Sofia's father might be a barbarian and a primitive, but surely he knew far more of his realm than Zelda's father did. Perhaps he even cared more about his people, considering how King Harkinian made such easy judgements about quashing a rebellion or raising taxes in some far-off occupied land.

"Here is where I have put your belongings," Sofia said, indicating the open flap of another tent which stood before them. The weave of this one was more skilled than the others they had seen, being crafted with scenes of battle cunningly woven into the fabric. Sofia ducked through the flap and Link went after. After a moment's hesitation Zelda sighed and followed the others.

It was not dark inside. Light shone through the fabric of the tent which they now saw to be thin and translucent. The sun found its way through the delicate weave, its rays taking on the color of the fabric through which it passed. The inside of the tent was spacious, and it filled with a rainbow of colors every time light shone upon it from outside. Sofia lifted up their packs and tossed the bags to them. "Show me your book," she said.

Zelda withdrew the Book of Mudora from her belongings. It was obvious to her that her bag had been meddled with, but the searchers had thoughtfully repacked everything in it with as much care as was necessary. She held the Book of Mudora lightly in her fingertips and laid it upon the floor. Sofia and Link crowded close as she opened the book at the page which was marked.

"See--here," Zelda said, touching the page. "It tells of the Legendary Knights in detail." Link frowned as he examined the book--he had studied Ancient Hylian only in passing and found it difficult to spell out the archaic language.

Sofia sat back, her eyes growing cold. "I cannot read that," she said.

"Well, in that case you will have to trust us that that is what it says," Zelda replied.

The Gerudo woman snorted. "Hah! How would I know that you speak the truth?" she demanded.

"Hylians do not lie," Link said coldly. "We have our own code of honor."

Sofia ignored his words. "There is only one way that I can find out if you are speaking the truth," she said slowly, "and it will not please many. I have to take you to the Spirit Temple."

Link exchanged pleased looks with Zelda. "Thank you," he said emphatically. "This is very important to us."

"Thank me later," Sofia said roughly. "If you are lying, the Goddess will surely swallow you. Now, stay here. I will fetch horses and water for the journey."

"Some water right now would not go amiss," Link said, realising that his throat was terribly dry.

"All right," Sofia nodded. She ducked out through the tent flap and was gone. Soon enough she returned, leading three wiry horses. Link examined his mount with interest. The Gerudo horses were slimmer and more streamlined than Hylian mounts, and their coats were splashed with white on brown or black. Their manes and tails were braided.

"Good horses," he said approvingly, accepting the filled water skin the Gerudo woman handed him. He drank deeply and then gave the water to Zelda, who took it gratefully.

"Our horses are faster than any others," Sofia said matter-of-factly, "and they will endure far longer than the animals you people ride." She mounted, sitting easy in the saddle as one who had ridden all her life. "Let us go."

They rode out of the city of tents at a walk--it was not just that this seemed expected of them, or that Sofia led the pace, but Zelda feared that one of the Gerudo children would fall under the feet of her horse and she watched constantly in case one would. The dogs ran between the horses with abandon, and the horses, for their part, seemed quite used to this obstruction. They stepped high to avoid kicking the pups.

"Set your face to the tall stone on the horizon," Sofia said, gesturing, "and keep the sun on your right if we are separated."

"Separated?" Zelda questioned in sudden unease.

The Gerudo woman nodded slowly, loose strands of her red hair bobbing about her face. "Of course. In this land, sandstorms rise with no warning. When the sirocco wind blows, all sensible creatures take cover. The desert hates life and will bury it if it can."

Zelda shuddered involuntarily. Link glared at the Gerudo woman and nudged his pony closer to the princess's one. He leaned over and whispered, "Pay her no heed, Princess. She is trying to frighten us."

Sofia looked at her two companions from beneath her dark brows. "You would do well to listen to my words," she said quietly. Urging her horse forward, she moved out in front of the others, leading the way across the golden sand. The golden sky hung low over the sand, and in the far distance the two flowed together in a maelstrom of molten metal-colors. Link and Zelda exchanged meaningful glances, and Link rolled his eyes.

They rode for the better part of the day. The sun rose high into the sky and lay like a furnace overhead, bearing down upon the teenagers with the strength of a volcano. Link and Zelda took regular drinks from Sofia's water skin, but the Gerudo woman refused water. "Save it if you can," she said, "we may need it if we are thrown off course." The wiry desert horses did not seem to need water, plodding along with their heads down against the sand-pregnant breeze. Their patchy coats did not exude sweat.

Finally the sun began to drift down towards the western horizon. At the same time a slight breeze began to blow, but it was not a cool breeze. The air was hot and dry, and it flowed over them taking from them any moisture it could glean. Link knew he was sweating profusely yet his skin was dry and crusted with salt and sand, for the heat evaporated water almost instantly. Their water skin was just over half full, and neither he nor Zelda dared to take any more. As the wind rose, it began to pick up the sand and carry it along. The ground beneath them seemed clouded with a golden mist as the desert's surface was stirred up.

Sofia looked ahead into the long golden emptiness. "We must move faster," she said simply.

Zelda wiped crusted sand from her brow. "This heat," she said softly in despair, pitching her voice so that only Link would overhear. "I cannot bear it much longer."

"We must, Princess," he answered quietly. "Come on, let's follow. If we ride faster, perhaps we will cool down."

The Gerudo woman stepped up the pace, her keen senses always on the alert. She scowled and looked up at the amber sand-shrouded sky. "I don't like this," she muttered. "There is a heaviness in the air--we are in for a storm, a big one."

"Dangerous," Link suggested. He waited for her to say more.

"The sirocco wind is the most powerful force in nature," Sofia told him. She raised her hand and pointed to a great spar of stone jutting out of the desert far to their left. The tall rock was gnarled and twisted into a fantastic spiralling turret shape. "That monument you see there was once a perfect obelisk, many thousands of years ago. My ancestors carved it when they first came to the desert realms, after their journey across the ocean. It is made of a stone so hard that it can only be carved with special tools. The sirocco wind carved it into its present shape with nothing more than sand." Sofia's eyes were grim. "It can flay the flesh from your bones in just a few minutes. Many a time I have seen sandblasted fragments and known them to be the remains of some creature caught out in the storm. We have to reach shelter before the wind rises."

"But where?" Link asked. "I see nothing at all for many miles!"

"Appearances can be deceptive," the Gerudo woman told him. "The Spirit Temple is not far from here. But I truly hoped that we would not have to take refuge inside."

"Why?" Zelda asked. "Are you leading us into danger?"

"In a way," Sofia answered. "I know the Spirit Temple. The ancient guardians of that place will not like my bringing Ălfankind there, even if you are the descendants of the Hero."

"Can't you call us Hylian?" Link grumped.

"If you call me Human," Sofia returned with a smile.

"It's a deal," Zelda laughed. "We don't call you Gerudo, and you don't call us Elven!"

Sofia's face split into a wide grin. "I like you two," she said warmly.

Zelda sighed. "If only our two races had not been divided all those years ago!" she said wistfully. "We could teach each other much."

Sofia inclined her head in agreement. "But," she said, "we will have to speak of such things later. The storm is coming. Can you feel it?"

"I can feel it," Link said. The air was tense, taut. There seemed to be a darkness in the sky even though the sun was nowhere near setting, and the sky itself was no longer golden but a hard bright bronze. Little curls of wind brushed at their faces and clothing and pulled at loose items or folds of cloth. There was sand ever-present in the hard air, and Link felt a scratchy feeling in his chest whenever he inhaled. He coughed hard and spat into the sand.

"Don't, if you can avoid it," Sofia told him. "You are wasting body moisture."

"It is that important?" Link asked in surprise.

The Gerudo woman looked grim. "You have never been lost in the desert with only a single waterskin to keep you alive," she said quietly. "In this world, everything counts. Faster."

They galloped across the hard compacted sand, the wind tugging at their clothes and whipping the short-trimmed manes of their mounts. There was an urgency in Sofia's movements now as she led the way across the desert, choosing always the way between the dunes. And the wind grew ever stronger. Sofia drew a fold of her loose garments over her mouth and nose and fastened it there with a pin.

Soon the driving sand clouded their vision. It got into the eyes and stung unbearably. It scoured the cheeks and any exposed skin elsewhere, and left rawness behind it. It stained the clothes and wore them down. The wind poured itself over the dunescape, pooling in the troughs between the waves of sand. And the sirocco approached from the northeast. They could see it, a patch of golden darkness beneath the sky, a whirling fury of sand that covered the horizon for many miles.

Sofia reined in her horse and stood in the stirrups, looking toward the storm that moved fast to cut them off from their direction. Suddenly the red-haired woman leaped from her saddle and began opening saddlebags. She pulled thick, loose garments out and tossed them to her wordless companions. "Put these on," she ordered brusquely.

Zelda handled the coarse linen breeches and long-sleeved tunic with disgust. "I cannot wear these! They're horrible--and they smell!"

"If you don't wear them, the sand will carve you into a dinner for the vultures," Sofia said coldly. "These are desert clothes to protect you from the storm."

Link was already half into his clothes, putting them on over the top of his light tunic. "Zelda, do as she says," he begged. "She knows more than we do."

Zelda frowned but complied with a sigh. The neck of the long shirt was very high and reached past her mouth and nose to leave only her eyes and forehead exposed. Once they were both clothed in the desert hunters' garb, the red-haired woman showed them how to put on the linen turbans the Gerudo wore in the deep desert. Dressed as Gerudo and caked in sand as they were, Zelda found she could hardly tell Link from Sofia save for the fact that Link's eyes were green and not amber. She supposed she looked the same.

"Now cover the horses' eyes," Sofia said, touching an embroidered ribbon that was tied to her saddlebow. Link had noticed it before but had assumed it to be decorative. "Our horses are trained to accept this over their faces."

The storm was nearly upon them as they remounted their considerably calmer animals. Now that, with the wide ribbons affixed to their bridles, the whirling sand was hidden from them and only the howl of the wind was to be heard, the horses no longer shied, and instead stood square, shifting their feet against the drifting sand. "Nice trick," Link said admiringly.

"We always travel prepared," Sofia said. "Now, we ride into the storm. Keep moving to avoid being buried, and keep the light to your left. If you see anything within the sand, do not speak to it!"

"Within the sand?" Link questioned.

"Did you not used to call this place the Haunted Wasteland?" Sofia suggested. Link and Zelda exchanged anxious looks.

Then the storm covered them.

It was a hurricane of sand. Link could see nothing except the golden haze, could hear nothing except the wailing of the wind, wolf-like and angry. He could not even tell whether his companions were within arms' reach or a thousand miles away. His horse shivered at the touch of the sand upon its flank, but the Gerudo beast had been through such storms before and had the weight of experience upon its instincts to flee. Link lifted his head with difficulty against the burning wind and sand, and saw a lightness against the storm's fury. That patch of molten gold must be the sun! He remembered Sofia's advice and turned the horse's head to the right. Snorting, the strong beast plodded forward against the fury of the Sirocco.

Link fought to remain alert. The sound of the wind was somehow soothing against the chaos in which he was immersed. Was this what it had been like in the beginning of time, before the Goddesses came to Hyrule and formed it into a shape more pleasing? Was this what it had been like, a frantic burning nothing with no way to tell which was sky and which was sand, which way up and which way down? He leaned over the horse and patted its sand-covered neck. The animal's thick coat served the same function as his coarse clothes in protecting its skin from the corrosive effects of the sand.

He sat up suddenly against the wind, intently listening to the soughing of the hurricane. It seemed as if there were voices within it, a sadly wailing chorus calling him to lie down and rest! The storm would pass soon, they told him, what need to continue moving? Just stop and... rest eternally in a godsent respite from the fury of the storm.

Wherefore need this anxious toil?
Why endure the sand and soil?
Lie and sleep upon my breast,
Lie and take your gentle rest.

"I will... not give in," Link struggled. He shook his head furiously, fighting against the seductive power of the Sirocco's voice. The horse laid its ears back and jerked its head, trying to turn against its rider's will and kneel down in the dunecrest.

I will keep you safe and warm,
I will hold you in my form.
Sleep the ending of your fight,
Sleep your cooling in my sight.

"Must... not..." His head nodded forward and his hands slackened on the reins. His horse whinnied suddenly and its hooves skidded on the sand as it tried to kneel with a rider on its back. Struggling, the horse shook its head and attempted to regain its balance, made clumsy by the embroidered band tied over its eyes.

You will never fly back home,
To the place where your kind roam;
Sweetly submit to this land,
And I, the Goddess of the Sand.

"Sorcery," Link gasped. His hands tightened again on the reins. "Up, damn you!" He dug his heels into the horse's sides and with a convulsive jerk the animal shook itself out of the magic and sprang forward.

Link brought his free hand up to his face and slapped himself twice, smartly. The shock of the blows brought him fully to again and he leaned forward over the horse, urging the beast on. The horse complied eagerly, trotting smartly between the dunecrests and through the golden haze of the wind. The voice of the storm rose to an unearthly wail of frustration. The Sirocco had lost her prey! In thwarted fury the wind tore at the horse and rider, scorching Link's clothes with its sand. But it failed to completely penetrate the tough fabric that covered the rider, or to spook the faithful horse.

The sun was low now, though little could be seen of it through the storm. He ascertained his direction once again and guided the horse to the correct point of the compass.

Suddenly,
as if
summoned
by a greater power,
the wind
died
away.

Link coughed sand from his lungs, the silence ringing suddenly in his ears. He leant over the side of the horse and spat a mouthful of sand onto the ground, then lifted his hand and wiped encrusted sand away from his eyes. "Damn," he wheezed, but the sound came out so pregnant with sand that he was forced to cough again, bringing up another mouthful of the golden dust. He dismounted and sank to the duneslope weakly, his legs no longer fit to carry him. The horse whuffled and lowered its head, working its foamy jaws. There was sand on its lips and exposed tongue.

It was evening. The sun hung low in the western sky, and behind him the darkness raced away over the shining sand in search of easier prey. The sirocco had passed him by, but what of his friends? Link felt too exhausted to search for them, and he was desperately thirsty. In retaliation, the storm had taken every little reserve of moisture he possessed within his body--or at least, that was what it felt like.

There was a jingling of harness and a horse's soft snort. Wearily he turned his head and saw Sofia rise out of the dunes like a seraph of the sand. Her horse was now a uniform sandy color as it topped the duneslope, and Sofia could have been a sand sculpture of herself but for the bright amber eyes that glittered from beneath the golden folds of her turban. Behind her came a similiarly-coated Zelda on the palomino pony.

"You're all right," Link coughed.

"So are you," Sofia said in surprise. "I thought you would be lost for sure when you were separated from us and the Goddess lifted her hand against you. Not many have challenged the desert and lived. You are full of surprises."

"Water..." he begged.

"Can't do it," Sofia said flatly. She unhitched the water skin from her horse's side and removed the cork. A thin trickle of sand dribbled from the neck of the skin. Upending it, Sofia looked unflinchingly into Link's horrified eyes as a long stream of pure golden sand hissed from the bulging water skin. "The Goddess took what revenge she could by stealing our water."

"Then we are dead," Zelda sighed, wiping sand from her face.

The red-haired woman smiled, her eyes gleaming in shadow. "Not so. There is an oasis at the Spirit Temple. And it is not so far away now."

Dismounting, she looped the reins of her horse over her arm and gestured for them both to look forward, where yet they had not turned to see.

"Behold the Desert Colossus!"

 

 






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