Prologue: Chapter Four
THE Desert Colossus," Sofia said softly, "the crowning glory of my people, and the monument to the Goddess of the Sand."
Ahead, dark rock walls broke up the monotony of the sandy skyline. The light of dusk fell upon an immense shape rising out of the sand; dark, hard and unreflective. The giant stone mountain had been carved into the face and figure of a woman sitting cross-legged on the ground, her ancient stone hands outstretched in suppliance or blessing, a seraphic smile carved across her granite features, her stone eyes closed in bliss. Birds circled the skies around the colossus, though they were too far away for the watchers to tell what kind they were. At the base of the figure there was some kind of platform or low pedestal, made hazy by distance.
"Goddess of the Sand," Link said softly, testing the phrase. His eyes widened. "The storm... then that was her voice!" He told the others all that had transpired while he had been separated from them in the sirocco, and all that he could remember of the song that he had heard.
"The Goddess is not an easy mistress," Sofia agreed. "We honour Her first and foremost to protect ourselves. If you get on the wrong side of Her--as you may have done, Link, by resisting Her call--She can make life extremely difficult."
Link gasped. "But that's not fair! If I die, she's pleased with me, and if I don't die, she gets angry at me and tries to kill me anyway?"
"I am afraid so," Sofia sighed. "My people built the Desert Colossus in order to give thanks to the Goddess for letting us live here. For many centuries it was a sacred place to all of my race. There were great caverns within the Colossus where we stored gold and great treasure, and in the greatest of these we paid homage to the Goddess of the Sand, calling the place the Temple of the Spirit. We made burnt offerings there, of incense and of the flesh of animals, and the Goddess smiled upon us. Our secret rituals took place there in ancient times. But then the evil witches Koume and Kotake came to the place of the Goddess and cast a shadow upon it. It took the bravest warrior that has ever lived to overcome the witches and send them on to the otherworld. But the temple remains a place of darkness, and I do not know what we shall encounter there."
"That is a terrible story," Zelda said softly.
"We cannot forget that it was one of our own who made common cause with the witches and brought about the desecration of the Temple," Sofia said flatly. "Most of my people have renounced Ganondorf Dragmire as our leader, but there are still sects who honour him as King. He was a great King once. Now that he has become a monster, my people are not as they were of old. We have many daughters but also many sons. Some magic that lived within us has been broken and some of the old ones maintain that we are a lesser people because of it."
"Would you want to go back to the old ways?" Zelda asked.
The red-haired woman smiled and began to unwind her turban. "I think so. Most of us would. Perhaps some final defeat of the Evil King would bring back the strength of our blood--that is what the elders say. I do not know whether to believe it."
Link glanced at Zelda and knew that she was thinking the same thing as he. Sofia's story came together with their own here. "Sofia," Link began hesitantly, "would you consider coming with us and becoming a Knight?"
"I?" Sofia said in surprise. "A Knight?"
Zelda shrugged. "All I can say is, it seems more than chance that we met in this way. We came searching for the Spirit Temple and were brought straight to you, the only one who would or could help us. And you also have a powerful reason to wish Ganon destroyed!"
Sofia was silent a long moment, her eyes fixed on the distant spectacle of the Goddess's monument, starkly black against the darkening sky. The first stars were appearing in the deep blue as the sun slipped down below the horizon. "Come," she said eventually, mounting. "We need water. The oasis is near the Desert Colossus, beyond those walls you see. I will lead you to the entrance of the Colossus."
The wall seemed to grow higher and higher as they came nearer, revealing itself finally to be twenty or twenty-five feet high, a natural outcrop of black marble wind-etched into fantastical designs. Sofia turned their course toward a near-invisible gap in the stone where one wall slipped behind the other. The way was surprisingly tight, barely enough for two people to pass side by side. They went single-file.
Zelda felt a strange chill as she stepped into the gap--the passage from sun into shadow? "It seems well protected," she said cautiously, looking up at the forbidding stones.
Sofia's face was closed, expressionless. "The place was chosen to be so, to keep the foolish far from here. We are in the realm of the Goddess now and She does not welcome uninvited guests. We must be cautious." Her eyes lingered on Link as she said this. "I will not lie to you. We are going into a dangerous place. I will make what preparations I can, but I must ask you both to be wary."
"I see," Link said grimly. "But you haven't answered our question about becoming a Knight. Would it please you to have a hand in destroying Ganon?"
Sofia sighed. "I will think it over," she said eventually. "I know one thing--my father would not approve. Even if I choose to come with you, he will take some convincing, and I will not go against his will. I will make my decision after we have found what you seek in the Temple."
Link nodded slowly.
"This way," she said, and guided her horse to a dip in the sand where a palm tree sprang seemingly out of nowhere. They topped the dune to see a pool of clear water cradled in a natural rock outcrop, bubbling up from a spring in the center. The crystalline liquid lapped gently at the edges of its bowl, and green algae grew upon the bottom of the pool. "Drink your fill," Sofia said, reining in her horse, "and I will fill the water skin. This stream is fed from the source of life and its power to revitalise is great. The place is well-known to my people as a place of healing." She paused and smiled slightly. "It is said that he once stopped to drink here--your Hero of Time."
Link looked at Zelda, who looked back. They both broke into smiles. Then they leaped from their horses and as one ran to the water's edge, reaching out laughing with cupped hands and drinking in the clear cool waters of the spring. Link immersed his head and came up with dripping wet hair. Zelda, a little more self-conscious than her companion, splashed water all over her face and washed off as much of the sand from herself as she could. Sofia smiled at them both and knelt at the water's edge, refilling the skin to its brim.
"Had your fill?" she asked gently.
"I feel much better," Link said thankfully. "Water! And plenty of it! We had better fill everything we've got, while we still have the chance. Can that waterskin be repaired?"
"Don't worry," Sofia smiled. "We made it to the Temple, we shall make it back. As long as we take care and do not offend the Goddess, we should come back to Gaelaidh within two days at the most. Come with me now to the entrance of the Temple--leave the horses here, they will not stray far from the pool."
The three companions trudged through the drifting powdery sand towards the imposing spectacle of the Desert Colossus. Now that the sun was gone, the heat swiftly dissipated from the desert and left the sand bone-white and cold. Link found himself once more glad of the thick desert clothes--earlier they had provided sanctuary against the fury of the sandstorm, and now they served to keep him warm in the chill of the desert night. Above, the sky was unclouded and glistened with hundreds upon thousands of stars. The full moon, a haunting ghost of the sun's earlier glory, hung like a pale jewel low in the veil of night that overstretched the sands.
Link looked forward at the base of the statue where lay the slab of stone he had noticed before. Now it appeared that it was some kind of plinth with steps leading up to it. Above the stone, at the very base of the Colossus, there was a dark rectangular splotch. He pointed it out to Sofia. "Is that the entrance, that black place?"
"It is," Sofia said. "You have sharp eyes, warrior."
"I saw that ages ago," Zelda said crossly.
Link smiled. "Well, you should have said something, Princess," he said lightly.
The red-haired woman tossed back her long braid, letting it fall unhindered down her back. "We will have to wait out the night on the steps of the Temple. I will only enter that place during the day--to go in during darkness is too foolhardy."
Zelda yawned. "In that case, I hope it is all right to sleep on those steps," she said quietly. "I am exhausted."
Link had one hand on the hilt of his short sword; his eyes were watchful as he trudged through the shifting sand. Despite his own fatigue, he felt excited. The massive monument, worn by a thousand years of exposure to the harsh desert elements, towered against the darkening sky, and the young Hero sensed the sleeping power of the place. He had come here once--his ancestor, the greatest warrior ever to live. History had sunk deep into the stone, and Link could not shake the strange fancy that it knew, and remembered, like a living thing. But when he craned his neck to look at the massive face, the expression of the Goddess revealed nothing.
Their footfalls clicked and echoed on the cold stone as they ascended the stair to the top of the plinth. It stood some eight feet above the desert surface, smoothed and rounded by the sand and wind of time. Here and there a few fragments of coloured tiles still clung, shreds of a memory of former grandeur. Against the wall, a few splinters of ancient wood half buried by drifting sand suggested that there once had been doors; now, though, the Spirit Temple stood forever open. Close to, the stone facade was riddled with cracks, and rubble littered the sand beneath the massive flanks.
"Is it safe?" Link asked, staring upwards.
Sofia's laugh was humourless. "Safe? No. But dangerous in a different way, I think. You are worried about the building? Do not be. The real danger is within--we are safe enough here in the lap of the Goddess."
Link looked around and realised that their platform did indeed rest upon the crossed knees of the Desert Colossus. "What a wonderful place," he muttered sleepily, and then lay down upon the hard stone, pulling off his thick Gerudo shirt to serve as a pillow. He shivered in the cold night air, but was too tired to remain awake and cold for long. The Princess, too, was becoming inured against hardship as her exhausted body demanded rest. Curling up against the cold, Link and Zelda dropped down at last together into a bottomless sleep.
Stars gleamed like pale beacons in the clear night sky. The young woman sat cross-legged, gazing upward. All was still.
Can this be real?
A faint smile crossed her face. She turned slightly, glancing at her two sleeping companions who lay wrapped in blankets upon the steps of the ancient temple. A boy and a girl, fine-boned, fair and graceful--human, it seemed to her, until one noticed the too-large eyes, the pointed ears.
They were said to be fair to look upon, and to live for many times the span of men. They were said to steal infants from cradles.
There was a story of an ancient king who had fallen into darkness. They featured in it, the fair ones: the legendary warrior who had come out of the east was of that strange and beautiful race. Yet after so long, so many centuries, the folk of that green land beyond the mountains had dwindled to nothing more than a legend, half-believed by children and the very old.
Why now, after so long? And why to me?
Their invitation had shaken her more than she was willing to admit. She had felt... drawn to the strangers from the moment of meeting. There was a rightness about it. And that frightened her. It was as if she were a leaf fallen from a tree, that now swirled and eddied in the grip of a mighty river.
What will my father say..?
Like the sudden turn of the tides upon an estuary, when the water for a moment seems to stop its endless progression down towards the sea before flowing backwards up its hoary banks and lashing the long-suffering plants with the salt-sea spray, so too was the change from dawn to day as the sun, having passed beneath the earth lighting up the underside of the world, now raised its burning golden head above the desert's rim and poured onto the sand pure molten gold. Light and heat returned to the sandy world of the western realms, as a fire, having been smoldering for hours in a darkened room, is now blown back into furious and rejuvenated life. Sofia was the only one awake to see the dawn; her companions, exhausted by two days of pure travel, slept on. She let them lie until the whole of the sun's furnace was visible above the rippled surface of the dune.
"Link? Wake up," she said softly, laying her hand upon the sleeping form of her Elven companion. "See, it is already day."
Link yawned achingly and sat up, blinking sleep and sand out of his eyes. "Morning already," he said wonderingly. "I feel as if I haven't slept at all."
"I am sorry," Sofia said with a sigh, "but we must go now. We are in least danger if we enter in the morning, when the power of the light is still on the increase. On no account must we be caught inside the Temple during the night. Now, ready yourself while I rouse Zelda." Link nodded and stretched, running his fingers through his long tangle of reddish hair.
He stood up and stretched all his muscles, loosening himself again in readiness for whatever the day would demand of him. Looking back where they had come, into the east, he saw the sun a burning brand in the sky. As yet, the heavens still carried a hint of blue within them, but the wind had already begun to howl between the dunetops and it would not be long before the sand in the air turned the sky once again to amber.
Sofia touched him lightly on the shoulder. "We must go now," she said gently. He turned to see Zelda examining the dark black cavern of the doorway, attempting, it seemed, to make out what lay within the Desert Colossus.
"Wait," Sofia ordered, striding past the Princess. The red-haired woman stood in the doorway of the Colossus, her flame-red hair swinging in a long braid behind her, and raised her arms. In ringing tones she declaimed, "Feond!" Link and Zelda exchanged looks once again. Paying no heed to her companions the red-haired woman went on in her own tongue. "No her cuhlicor cuman ongunnon lind-hæbbende!" she said loudly, and dropped her arms to her sides again. "There," she said turning to the others. "I have said that we come with no evil intentions."
"Your language sounds as if it is very difficult to learn," Link said thoughtfully.
Sofia smiled and shrugged. "No more difficult perhaps than yours." Turning, she threw out her arm toward the entrance of the Colossus, and without waiting walked lightly into the impenetrable darkness beyond the great carved doorway. Zelda took Link's hand as they followed the red-haired woman into the darkness, and his free hand he laid upon the reassuring hilt of his plain iron shortsword. He squeezed the Princess's hand reassuringly as they were enveloped in darkness, and felt her squeeze back. By the cool play of air across his face he judged that they were in a large cavern; the floor felt smooth, as if tiles had been laid and a true floor made to cover the rock that must lie beneath.
It had seemed full dark within, but this was not entirely the case. Faint reflected light was shining from somewhere far above. Their eyes adjusted slowly.
Inside the Spirit Temple all was cool and faintly musty. Link and Zelda stood in a wide foyer--Sofia waited for them at the top of the stairs where the room extended back much further. Looking around Link saw that the walls were decorated with a hundred thousand tiny characters in a pictorial script. He stared at them with a wondering, uncomprehending eye. Zelda too examined the room with every sign of fascination.
"Come," Sofia said finally. Her words seemed small and empty in the ancient magnificence of the temple. She indeed was dwarfed by the tall columns at the top of the stair. "I know not where to look, but we must start somewhere. We will go to the inner sanctum."
Zelda shuddered as she climbed the tall stone steps. "I do not think that this place likes us."
The steps seemed to have been designed for taller people than those who now used the Temple--it was necessary to lift the feet higher than usual to ascend the ancient stairway. Link looked around the place, with its ceiling disappearing into darkness, and wondered if the architect had set out to make the visitor feel small and unimportant.
There was a tall archway to the right, but it had been bricked up. Sofia gestured to their left where there was a similar, open arch. "This leads to the inner levels of the Temple." The face of the red-haired woman was reverent. "Every step we take is walking on history. They say the Hero of Time came this way when he freed the Temple from the witches' evil magic."
"We know that story," Zelda said coolly.
"But did you know about this stone?" Sofia asked, indicating a great slab of granite upon which they walked. The outlines of a crescent moon and star were still visible upon the stone, although any finer niceties of the design had long vanished with the passing ages. The red-haired woman stamped once on the stone to illustrate her point. "They say that when he entered, the Hero of Time found his way blocked by this stone." She turned to face the others, eyes alight. "But with a wave of his hand he made it sink into the ground!"
"I don't think I quite believe that," Link said wryly. "It looks like rather a large stone to make disappear."
Sofia shrugged. "Believe what you will." She reached up and unhooked a burning brand from a wall bracket, where it cast shadows upon the walls. "I will go first. I know the way."
Link leaned close to Zelda as they walked. "How was that brand still burning? Are there people here? And why was there no ash beneath the torch?" he demanded.
"Link, I do not know," Zelda said desperately. "Why don't you ask Sofia?"
"I don't trust her," Link hissed. "All this talk about the power of the Sand Goddess! What does she really want?"
"I don't know," Zelda sighed. "I believe she is in earnest--she does mean what she says about there being darkness here. She believes. But to me it just feels old... old and sad."
Sofia led them surely through a labyrinth of twisting passages and great natural caverns in the stone. "There were many traps set here by the sorceresses," she said in answer to Link's wide gaze, "but they were mostly disabled when the Hero of Time came to this place many years ago. Even so, I will be happier when we have accomplished our task, and can be gone from here. I do not want to spend any more time here than I have to."
"Oh, really?" Link said smoothly, leaning against the warm stone wall of the corridor they were in. "Fascinating. Sofia, I haven't seen anything dangerous so far. Are you sure there really is something bad in here? Have you seen it?"
Sofia looked down.
"That's what I thought." Link gave her an appeasing smile to lessen the sting. "Maybe it is merely a story. I can't deny that there is a presence of some kind in this place, but all holy places feel that way at least a little. Perhaps this one is just stronger than most."
The red-haired woman shook her head. "No, Link, that is not so. There are too many dark stories about this place. The nomadic tribes will not come within miles of the Colossus."
"Your sand goddess again?" Zelda said, unable to keep a derisive note out of her voice.
"Have a care," Sofia warned ominously. "Do not speak of her like that, not in the very heart of her realm!"
The Princess Royal narrowed her eyes and flicked back her beautiful golden hair. "Is that so," she said coldly, facing Sofia with glittering ice-blue eyes. "Well, let me tell you something. I have for many years studied both our gods and yours, and I have never found anything that tells of the great power of the Sand Goddess! All this fear" -she motioned to the Temple- "is just vapors. There is nothing dangerous here!"
"Be quiet!" hissed the red-haired woman frantically.
It was the wrong thing to say to the Princess, who was tired and nervous and annoyed by all the mystery. "Nayru's Love!" she shouted in fury. "I'll be quiet when I like, thank you--"
There was a skittering sound around the bend of the corridor.
"Oh no, oh no," Sofia moaned. "That was your last mistake!"
"What did I do?" screamed Zelda.
The red-haired woman reached into her tunic pocket with her free hand and withdrew a small curved dagger. In the other hand she held the torch aloft, taking up a defensive position. "The Sand Goddess does not take well to hearing the names of foreign gods within her walls," Sofia said emotionlessly. "We must prepare ourselves for a hostile reception."
"You two," Link sighed. "It was only a little sound! Maybe it was a rat!"
Sofia pointed wordlessly to the wall. They could not see around the bend of the corridor, but the light from the eternal torches that hung all along the walls was enough to cast shadows. Now upon the wall a shadow appeared of a giant, sinuous shape. There was a soft menacing rattle, and a scrape of scales on stone. Then with a throaty hiss the top of the shadow expanded into a cobra's hood. A snake--the width of a man's waist!
"We must leave," Sofia said urgently. "Now! Run!"
"We won't leave until we get what we came for," Link growled, drawing his sword. "I have fought before! I don't fear monsters!" Without waiting for either of the others to speak, he charged around the bend to confront the caster of the terrifying shadow. For a moment the silhouette of the warrior was outlined on the wall, and then he was enveloped in the coils of the serpent.
"He cannot face it alone!" cried Sofia. "Follow me!" She ran around the corner after the young warrior, her own blade in one hand and the burning brand held high in the other.
Zelda fumbled for the short bow she had brought with her. The thick desert clothes she still wore covered it, and she could not get hold of it fast enough. The sound of a desperate battle reached her ears as she finally got the short bow strung and raced to the fight that awaited her.
The serpent was even bigger than she had imagined it. With a raised hood fully six feet wide, and coal-black, the giant cobra was occupied in crushing Link beneath its coils even as Sofia thrust the still-burning torch at its iron-hard green and copper scales. His arm waved weakly, stabbing still. Its eyes, ruby-colored and tiny, gleamed malevolently from atop its broad and blunt-nosed face. A true King Cobra... Opening its fanged maw wide the great snake lunged at Sofia, who barely sidestepped the lightning strike. Zelda saw with horror that the immense reptile was still coming out of a wide circular hole in the floor of the tunnel--its tail was still below and they had not yet witnessed the full length of the animal. They had seen such holes, covered by gratings, before, but Sofia had not been able to say what they were for.
"Hold on, Link!" Zelda cried, nocking an arrow to her bow. She dropped to one knee to aim better, and loosed her arrow just as Sofia slipped her dagger between two of the snake's armor-plated scales. The arrow hit a scale and bounced off with a clatter--the cobra was clad in mail stronger than the most powerful of mortal weapons.
The snake hissed and struck at Zelda. She screamed reflexively and dived to the floor. The snake's head shot past her and its blunt snout smashed into the wall, knocking out a shower of loose bricks. Seeming hardly to feel the wicked blow the cobra withdrew its head and swayed and hissed venomously, its fangs dripping black globs of poison onto its own hissing coils and onto the hard tiled floor.
"It is too narrow to fight it here!" Sofia cried. "We must lure it into an open space and attack from the flanks!"
"Surely if we lure it out, it will have more freedom to strike at us!" Zelda returned, finding another arrow. Indeed, the cobra seemed to be trying to free its tail from the hole in the floor, and its coils lashed to and fro as if it would swat at its puny attackers, but the gigantic snake was unable to move freely in the confined corridor. Zelda remembered seeing a snake stun a small rodent with a whip of its tail once, and she shook as she imagined the bone-crushing damage that could be done if the tail of this behemoth connected with one of them.
Sofia waved her burning brand at the snake's small eyes, and the great beast reared back again, seemingly afraid of the fire. Link struggled, almost overwhelmed by crushing coils.
"Sofia!" cried Zelda. "Maybe we can use the fire!"
"How?" the human woman shouted back.
With a leap, the Princess Royal was beside her companion. "Light this," she said, holding out an arrow and proffering the wooden stem. "I will aim for the monster's eyes and see if I cannot hurt it somehow." Sofia nodded grimly and held her branch to the arrow's haft, keeping her eyes always on the monstrous snake in readiness for the moment when it would again attack.
Link struggled free suddenly. Grasping his sword in both hands, the brave young warrior let out a battle cry and leaped forward to bring his blade down with all his strength. The cold iron prevailed against the giant snake's unearthly flesh, and his blade sank almost to the guard in the monster's flank. With a brittle snap, the sword broke only an inch from the hilt, leaving Link with a useless piece of metal in his hands.
That stung! The giant cobra screeched in fury, lashing its coils like a tempest. The end of its tail came free from the hole in the midst of its furious convulsion, and whiplashed into Link's chest. He was thrown almost twenty feet right over the snake's back and slid for a further five along the floor before coming to rest, semiconscious and groaning. With a bubbling hiss the snake shot after him, curving back upon itself in the confines of the passage. "No!" cried Zelda, racing after the snake with her flaming arrow nocked. Sofia's dagger sped past her on the wings of the air, aiming to hit the serpent in its neck. Sofia hit home before Zelda did, the blade burying itself in the monster's flesh just below the spread of its fearsome hood.
But she was too late to save him. Rearing over the fallen warrior, the giant snake gave a fearsome hiss. Then it snapped down and buried its poisonous fangs in his shoulder. Link cried out in agony and was still.
"Oh no!" cried Zelda in despair. The snake turned to meet her, jaws agape, as she drew the arrow back with all her strength. In her mind the Princess Royal whispered a prayer to Farore, Goddess of Courage, as she let the arrow fly. Some goddess indeed guided the Princess's aim, for the eager iron bit into the very eye of the monstrous serpent, blinding it on one side. With a screech the giant cobra flung itself from side to side across the width of the corridor, attempting desperately to rid itself of the burning deadly fire and the stabbing pain that had entered its body.
Sofia passed Zelda then, just as her knife had a mere moment before. Moving like an avenging wind the young Gerudo woman leaped into the air and delivered a terrible kick to the serpent's yawning jaw. The snake's head was jerked violently back by the power of the blow, and it shook down its length, stunned.
Zelda snatched up the discarded torch and lit another arrow from the magical flame. She fitted the arrow's haft to the waxed string of her rosewood bow, and dropping to one knee waited grimly for the perfect moment to present itself. Sofia, coming to rest on the flank of the snake, walked boldly up its broad back and tore her dagger from the monster's neck. Dark gore spattered. Before the snake could recover its strength once more, Sofia leaped backwards and landed beside the Princess Royal.
Letting out a savage bubbling hiss the serpent turned its head towards its still-moving prey. Its endless coils clattered against the tiled floor as it slithered around to attack once more. Zelda bit her lip hard and released the arrow. Singing in flight, the fire-laden shaft, carved from one of the sacred aspens in the royal forests back home, found its mark in the softer skin around the serpent's nostrils. The snake shrieked and fought an invisible assailant, ichor dripping from its wounds, but Zelda was already setting fire to her fourth arrow. The fifth she let fly would be her last.
Sofia flung her dagger once more, but this time the Gerudo-forged blade hit one of the serpent's impregnable scales dead center. With the force of her throw the scale cracked, but that was all it did. The dagger fell spent to the ground and was buried beneath the snake's shifting coils.
Zelda loosed her arrow as the young red-haired woman sprang once more to attack with bare hands. The arrow missed the snake entirely and embedded itself in the wall at the far end of the corridor. Furious, Zelda said a word that she certainly had not heard at court, and flung her bow down. The very next moment, as Sofia's fists pounded on the serpent's indifferent flanks, she was snatching up her bow once more and taking her last arrow from the small quiver she wore.
The arrow lit eagerly, shining with the fire from the eternal torch. The Princess Royal fitted her final arrow to the bowstring, and then took aim. Quietly, Zelda spoke one word of entreaty. Not Farore, or Nayru, or even Din, not the name of any goddess or deity to whom she might appeal. The word was "Link". The serpent was whipping about, trying to locate Sofia among its own twisting coils, and Zelda knew that she could not hit it. Deliberately, the Princess closed her eyes to the horror and released the arrow.
She did not see what happened next.
Sofia, though, saw the arrow speed through the air like a shaft of lightning, flaming like a comet with the eternal fire. She saw it smack straight into the serpent's broad face, between the two glittering eyes. The snake froze in mid-whip, mouth agape in a soundless scream of pain. Then it fell twitching, the arrow having penetrated to the core of its reptilian brain.
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