The Garden of Farore: Chapter Twenty-Six

SOFIA winced and bit her lip as Link took careful hold of her arm; blood from the slashes was running down to her wrist and had stained the side of her trousers where it had dripped. It was a nasty, painful wound, but not life-threatening; he cleaned it up as best he could with the little water they had with them, and bound it with a strip of bandage from Zelda's pack. "We will have to clean that properly when we get out of here," he told her, tying the wound up.

"Fine by me." Sofia flexed her fingers, grimacing at the pain it caused her. It was an improvement, and after a moment she turned to him and smiled her thanks. "You have a gentle touch with the healing arts, Link."

He shrugged slightly, embarrassed at the praise yet pleased to receive it. "It must come from my sympathizing with you, Sofia--I have been wounded many times, and I know just how painful it can be!" She laughed and nodded, then turned her attention to checking her weapons; the scimitar's edge needed whetting, though that would wait a while. Dark Link had her dagger still.

Despite having taken a blow that would have felled most Hylians, Dark seemed to be in good spirits. Joelle had thrown him to the ground with a force that should have broken bones, but to Zelda's amazement he had sat up when she called his name. He looked a little tired, but seemed otherwise unhurt, and she found no injuries when she insisted on checking him over. Irritably he waved her off, pulling his cloak around himself as if to ward them all away. "Attend to those who need it," he hissed.

The influence of the Poe Sisters was finally gone from the Temple--at least for now--and there was a quality of light in the great hall that seemed different somehow to that which had been before. It was a healing light, a signature of rebirth and hope. The Temple was once again the domain of Farore, Goddess of Courage. The four torches shone brightly with their respective hues of agate, jasper, garnet and amethyst, and now those jewelled colors mingled into one pure diamond light. Below them, the shaft stretched down deep into darkness; Link knelt at its edge, gazing down into nothing, and saw the broken remains of some mechanism hanging there by ropes and pulleys. At least they had rope, thanks to Dark and himself. He smiled to himself, proud that he had somehow managed to pack all the right gear.

A faint breeze against his chest reminded him of the battle with the Poe Sisters; he glanced down and saw that his tunic was hanging in tatters, baring his skin. Four thin scratches were revealed, welling blood in places, although the skin had not been broken badly. Link grimaced, realizing that he too had been exposed to whatever poisons might have been on the banshee's claws. After a few seconds more he forced himself into action, drawing the coil of rope from his pack and going over to the amethyst torch. With quick, deft movements of his hands he tied the rope around the torch and then went back to the shaft, paying the line out as he did so. He could only hope that there would be enough to go all the way with; if not, he would have to climb back up the shaft again. "I'm going down," he said to the others.

"Be careful!" Zelda cautioned instantly. "We must avoid becoming separated again, no matter what!" She glanced down the shaft, and shivered at the darkness. "Are you sure about this?"

"It is the only place left to go," Dark said softly, gaining her attention. "If you want that Amulet, you must go down there. If it is here at all, that is where it must be." He seemed unconcerned about descending the shaft--even eager, in fact. Perhaps its shadows appealed to him.

"Tell you what, milady," Diomedes said brightly. "I'll stay up here, if you like. That way I can mind the rope and be here to offer assistance should you need it. Top hole, what!"

"Would you?" Zelda asked quickly. His words had kindled a new worry in her; if the rope broke while they were down in the room below, would they be able to get back up? Was there even another way out of the Temple's lowest level? She hoped so, for she couldn't even begin to entertain the possibility of being trapped down there to starve.

"Consider it done!" He lifted his hand in a jaunty salute. "I'll wait for you here, and chase off any more bally ghosts that dare to show themselves. No problem, eh?"

"It sounds like a good idea," Sofia agreed. "I say we do as he suggests." She walked forward and tugged experimentally at the rope with her good arm. "I should go first--if I fall, I don't want to take anyone else with me."

"Oh, no you don't," Link said grimly. "I am going first! When I reach the bottom, I'll call up to you to say that it is safe. Then, if anyone falls, they can flatten me." Without waiting for their assent, he strode forward, took hold of the rope and lowered himself into the shaft, disappearing quickly into the darkness. Zelda and the others clustered around its edge, trying to make something out; in fact, as he was climbing he was visible as a faint silhouette against the darkness; there was some sort of light source down there in order to give that effect.

Link climbed quickly, mindful of his friends' concern; he did not wish them to get worried and come down after him before he was ready. The sides of the shaft were steep, and grooved with marks as if something had been used to moving up and down. He had seen an elevator once at a building site, a box-like structure within which could be loaded bricks or other things too heavy to carry all at once. A team of strong men hauled the box up via an arrangement of ropes and pulleys to take it to the level at which it was needed. Link wondered if such a thing had once been present here, although he did not understand how, or where the pullers would have stood. He walked his feet steadily down the rough-hewn rock face, hanging onto the rope. It was narrow, but not overly so, and reasonably easy to climb. All the same he was starting to become concerned about the length of the rope by the time his feet touched the end of the shaft and he was swinging in space. Swiftly he slid down the last ten feet or so, landing with a thud on the floor of a large octagonal room something like the hall from whence he had come. He blew on his hands, which were tender with rope burns, and looked up at the shaft with its rope hanging down. Far in the darkness above, there was a square of light. He took a deep breath, and then called up, "It's safe!"

For the moment at least, he thought, turning to look around the room itself. It was smaller than the hall had been, and empty of features or other doors. One thing that interested him was that there were two great stone blocks sticking out from the wall into the room itself; he walked around them both, but was unable to ascertain any possible function or why they were there. In one of the walls was an open iron gate that led into a small alcove; a handle was set into the floor here, and when he pulled it there was a grating of stone beneath his feet as some mechanism moved to and fro, but nothing seemed to happen otherwise. He turned and came out, noticing then the other iron gate opposite. This led onwards through a great wide corridor, to a huge stone door. Link took a few steps towards it, curious to see what could be on the other side, but then there was a hissing on the rope and Sofia appeared sliding down the slender cord. "Well met," he said jokingly.

"Whew!" She wiped her good hand across her forehead; she was sweating a little. "That is some climb with a bandaged arm! It will be interesting getting out again, I can tell you..."

Link smiled slightly. "Diomedes will probably be happy to pull you up, if you call up to him and ask. He seems strong enough."

Sofia glanced up at the shaft involuntarily. "Goddess," she muttered, unable to suppress a smile. "You certainly choose some interesting friends, you two. First Dark Link and now an undead monster! And yet there is something about him that makes me want to trust him..."

Link shrugged. "Why not? He used to be an officer in the Hyrulian Army, after all--dedicated to serve the Royal Family beyond death." A moment later he stopped dead when he realized what he had just said. "No pun intended," he added quickly, for the benefit of the absent Diomedes. Without saying so, though, he was wondering now whether the Army's oath could be part of Diomedes' unexpected resurrection? Or was it just part of the same magic which had summoned the evil Stalfos troops?

The rope shook again, as Zelda appeared out of the shaft. She dropped to the ground and winced at the sharp pain that shot through her back and legs. "Ouch! I need more practise at this sort of thing..." Straightening up she examined her palms as Link had, wincing again at the pain in her long-suffering hands. Needlework and the harpsichord were no preparation for the sorts of things she had had to do with them recently. She was developing calluses. Losing interest in her hands she looked around, examining her surroundings for the first time. The big stone door that lay at the end of the corridor intrigued her. The Princess withdrew the map once more and examined it, realizing that the skull room lay just beyond. Whatever was in there would shortly be revealed to them.

"The last obstacle," Dark Link said softly from just behind her. Zelda screamed and whirled round; she felt both embarrassed and angry when she realized who it was.

"For Nayru's sake!" she exploded. "Do you have to keep doing that!?" Link and Sofia stared at them both.

"You should be more alert," he answered simply, and then glanced away from her, examining the room with sharp crimson eyes. "Well... it seems that we have finally arrived at our goal. Beyond that door will lie the Amulet, if it is here at all. Yet I cannot believe that we will gain it without a fight. Our enemy is near."

"How would you know?" Link asked, getting cross. The shadow said nothing, merely gazed at him with an air of smug superiority. There was a faint, cold smile on Dark Link's face; he drew Sofia's knife from his belt and held it lightly in his hand, weighing the blade.

Zelda stepped forward, drawing Link to her side with a glance. "I will check the door," the Princess said after a moment's silence. "Sofia and Dark, please keep an eye out for danger."

"It won't open for you," Dark Link remarked matter-of-factly.

"Why?" Irritated now herself, she turned back and looked him in the eye. His gaze was steady, calm and full of conviction.

"Link must be the one to open it. The door will open only for the blood of the Hero of Time." Dark laughed. "You had better hope that our young Hero is of pure lineage!"

"I am a direct descendant," Link said confidently, drawing his serpentine dagger. "It will open for me!" With that he smiled at Zelda, reassuring her, then turned on his heel and walked smartly off down the corridor. The others watched him with varying degrees of nervousness, alert for the possibility of a trap. As he walked under the overhang of the corridor's roof, there came a click from the stone around him; with a sudden lurch of fear Link turned and made to run back towards the others, remembering the switch mechanism he had pulled earlier. He never got there--just as he started to run, an iron portcullis slammed down to block the entrance, locking him into the corridor apart from the others. Link grasped the bars and shook them, but they were firm.

Zelda and Sofia looked shocked; Dark simply raised an eyebrow.

"What--what is this?" Link gasped, realizing that the bars could not be moved by any of his force. The mechanism was still as strong as it must have been in the days of the Hero of Time. He hit at the grating with his sword, striking sparks. "Get me out of here!"

"You will be safer in there, I believe," Dark remarked, glancing up at the shaft's entrance. "Our enemy reveals himself at last--get to the door and open it. We will defend this room."

"But-" Link began. The shadow just looked at him.

Zelda sighed, trying to control her anxiety. "Do as he says, Link," she said at last, ignoring Sofia's angry gestures. "He knows more than we do--we have to trust him now."

He looked at the three of them, indecision visible on his face. It went against Link's moral framework to leave the Princess alone to battle whatever it was that threatened, even if something as valuable as the Amulet were at stake. He glanced from Zelda to Dark, trying desperately to make up his mind, and then struck at the bars in sheer frustration. "Why does this have to be so difficult!?"

"Just GO!" Zelda cried. With one last glance at his Princess, Link turned and fled down the corridor. The stone door at the end beckoned him with the promise of a fulfilled quest--but behind him, he felt once more the cold shock of evil and it brought him up short. Halfway down the stone corridor he turned again, fearing unbelievingly that it was the banshees returned, but the sense of evil was different this time... not so old, not so malevolent, but stronger, vital, deadly dangerous. Link was sorely tempted to race back up the corridor again, to draw his bow and attempt to help his friends, but Dark glanced hotly in his direction and the flash of crimson made up the mind of the young Hero. Trying to close his ears to the sounds, he turned back and walked towards the door. It was the hardest thing he had ever done.

"Back against the wall," Dark ordered. The three backed away from the shaft, from which came now a cold blast of air. On the ground beneath it, a mist began to coalesce--the same strange white fog which had surrounded them in the garden and had separated them before. Zelda reached out nervously and found Sofia's arm; her other hand brushed Dark's cool black fingers. He took hold of her hand with surprising strength. Linked together, the three awaited the arrival of their foe.

Something cackled shrilly within the fog. It was not a human laugh. A pale yellow gleam began to shine within. "What manner of demon is this?" Zelda whispered, half to herself. As the mist began to fade, all three of them tensed and gripped their weapons, prepared for anything--a Goriya, a Stalfos, another ghost.

The mist faded away, and as they saw clearly, Sofia laughed in contempt. "Is that it?" she said.

A small, ragged form floated in the center of the room, still wreathed in trails of white. It was the size of a three-year-old child; no bigger. Layer upon layer of thin rags wrapped tight about it so that it was almost spherical, but there was a gap, and within this dark hollow space glowed two bright yellow lights like eyes.

The apparition dangled a lighted lantern from one spindly rag-wrapped arm. It chittered at them like a rodent.

Zelda stared at Dark, willing him with her eyes to explain this bizarre apparition.

"I believe this may be another ghost," he muttered softly in her direction, fear now coloring his voice. Zelda experienced a stab of cold terror, realizing that this was the first time she had seen Dark Link afraid. "We must hold it off long enough for Link to get the Amulet. The gate that closed was for his protection."

"This little thing?" Sofia said, smiling in disbelief. "What can this do?"

"Do not judge your foe by his size!" he hissed at her. "You come from the desert--you know! What do you fear most, the lion that you see, or the scorpion you do not?"

Poe put its head on one side and looked at them like a curious child. It swung its lantern back and forth, back and forth...

The air began to go cold.

"I was right," Dark Link muttered, "it is another Poe. But I know not what manner of ghost this is. This is no natural dweller within the Temple; it has been sent here by another, to fetch it." Poe began to drift from them, bobbing through the air. It floated towards the passage whence Link had gone.

"We have to stop it," Zelda said. She let go of Sofia's hand and reached slowly back to find the Fire Arrow, but Dark touched her arm to tell her no.

"Save it," he muttered under his breath. "It is too small and swift a target."

"Then what can we do?" Zelda cried. Poe hesitated at the sound of her voice, and bobbed back round in their direction, its lantern swinging back and forth, back and forth. It seemed to struggle with itself.

The impasse was broken when Poe began to move towards them, spinning its little lantern like a bolas. Sofia had her scimitar in her hand already and her eyes were narrowed as she intently watched the tiny ghost, wishing to give it no advantage of surprise. Following the example of her friend, Zelda unslung her bow and drew an arrow, aiming steadily at the bobbing ball of rags.

"I am going to disappear," Dark hissed, reaching up to unfasten his long cloak. "It will throw fire. Beware!" With that, his shape simply faded out of sight, as a shadow caught in morning light. The cloak billowed empty to the ground. Zelda nearly dropped her bow in surprise despite being forewarned, but then Poe rushed and drove all thoughts of Dark out of her mind. She let fly with a regular arrow, and the slim shaft slashed through empty fluttering rags to clatter on the ground; with a cry like the squall of a babe the ghost bobbed up high and twirled its lantern. A great gout of dark flame washed forth and burst against the back wall. Screaming they fled from it.

"Shoot it!" Sofia cried, rolling along the ground. "Shoot it again!"

"It does no good!" Zelda shouted back. "Didn't you see? There is nothing in there!"

"Then burn it! Use the Fire Arrow!"

"I cannot," she whispered. Poe hurled itself round and round near the ceiling of the room, chittering and swinging waves of fire from its lantern. Zelda fumbled to set the slim white arrow to her bow, found it and drew back, trying to find a clear aim. The ghost flew back and forth like a streak of lightning; she followed its erratic movement hopelessly, always a half-second behind.

Poe saw her. It swooped down cackling, swinging back the lantern for a fatal blow. Without warning Dark Link faded into sight again, right in front of her; he caught the lantern on the blade of his dagger and batted it off to the left. Flames licked up along the wall. Poe yanked the lantern back, but he faded out as it whirled and struck at the place where he had been.

"That is unnatural," Sofia muttered, pronouncing each word slowly and with emphasis. There was disgust in her voice.

Zelda did not have time to answer. She fired, but Poe bounced out of her path and the white arrow flared into the far wall and lodged there. Swiftly she drew another regular arrow and sent it on the same path; this one caught Poe in the shoulder, but again it bit nothing more than cloth and spun on into empty air. There were only three arrows in her quiver now. She drew another and set it grimly to her string. Once she ran out, she would have nothing but a small clasp knife with which to defend herself.

Link stared at the door in a mixture of confusion and panic. He could find no way of opening it; there was a great golden key set into the lock, but the mechanism seemed to be jammed--rusted through perhaps--and it resisted all his strength. The green-eyed Hero nearly despaired there and then, but then steeled himself to do what was necessary. There was always a solution to these puzzles--he simply had to find it. Determinedly ignoring shouts and the bizarre chittering cries from the room behind, he stepped back and stared at the door, willing himself to see the puzzle and its answer. It took all his self-control not to rush back and help his friends, and concentration was hard. It had to be the key... he laid his hands upon the golden hasp and strove to turn it. The great lock demanded more strength than he had within him, and it was like fighting with a mountain to move the tumblers. Link's eyes narrowed in determination. He was the descendant of the Legendary Hero--by Farore he would not let a mere lock stop him! The fire of courage blazed up within him, and he tightened his grip around the key with increased will... and began to turn.

Dark Link faded into view again, right beside Zelda--she nearly planted an arrow into him before realizing it was he. "Ware flame!" he called, crouching at the ready; Poe stopped spinning and backed away slowly, letting its lantern dangle down below.

"How do we attack this thing?" Zelda shouted.

"Cut it, burn it, I care not!" he yelled back.

"Break the lantern!" Sofia said from across the room. Her face shone; her eyes were wild. "Can't either of you see? The lantern is the source of its power!"

Poe began to swing again. Zelda fired. Some goddess must have guided her aim, for the arrow slashed through the cloth wraps that bound one spindly arm. Again, the rags flapped empty. Musty fragments fluttered down--and the lantern fell like a stone and bounced twice upon the tiled stone floor, its thin silver chain following with a musical sound.

There was a moment of impasse. The wrappings fluttered madly. Then, Poe dived for the lantern. At the same time Dark Link threw himself forward. His outstretched fingers closed around the clinking silver chain; Poe grabbed the other end. They fought for a moment in a strange tug of war. Zelda watched in fright and horror as the tiny Poe dragged Dark across the room, he digging in his heels to no avail. Swooping upwards, Poe lifted the shadow right into the air, but still he would not let go. It spun the lantern twice and shook him off; he hit the wall and fell at the base of it. Poe flung a great gout of fire down over him. Zelda screamed and clutched at herself in terror as the flames roared; something burned bright for a moment or two within, and then was gone. Poe hovered over the inferno, cackling madly.

There was a step. Sofia grabbed the Princess's flailing arms and forced them down. She stared hotly into Zelda's eyes. "Shoot it," she hissed. "Shoot it now!"

"It killed him!" she screamed.

"Shoot it, Zelda, while it is distracted, or it will kill us too!" The Gerudo grabbed her hand and dropped the Fire Arrow into her unresisting palm. Zelda shook and dropped it. Sofia slapped her hard across the face and handed it back to her. "Shoot it!" she shouted. "Now!"

Zelda closed her fingers over the Fire Arrow. Taking a deep breath, she raised the white arrow and set it once more to her string. The bow blazed with sacred flame. She drew back until the string sang and the wood creaked with strain. "Link First, save us," she whispered, closing her eyes, and loosed the arrow. Poe turned just in time to catch it full in the face. There came an unearthly scream as the rags caught fire. Poe flailed and beat at itself, dropping the lantern in its agony.

"It's over!" Sofia cried jubilantly, racing to the discarded lantern. She raised her scimitar high above her head, holding it in both hands, and brought it down point-first with all her strength. Glass shattered thinly. Sofia leaped back with blade in hand as a flood of burning liquid gushed out on the tiles. A vile, noxious stench arose. Above, Poe squealed and thrashed and burned like a brand. The flaming rags fluttered wildly. And still it did not die.

Suddenly, from an unexpected quarter, Sofia's dagger flew. The curved Gerudo blade transfixed Poe and flung it backwards through the air; then pinned its fluttering, flaming rags to the wall. It writhed and wailed, growing weak. The broken lantern burned itself out with a hiss and stink, and the rags smouldered as the flame consumed them. A chill wind rushed past them, beat itself weakly against the walls, and died.

"Is it dead?" Zelda panted.

"It died long ago," came a soft voice. "But now, perhaps, it will rest."

Dark Link lay huddled against the wall at the center of a great scorch-mark. His clothes were gone; burned away it seemed; but there was not a mark on his bare skin. He pushed himself to hands and knees and stopped there, hanging his head in exhaustion.

"How--" Zelda began, and paused. She did not know how to go on from there. "I thought it had killed you," she said. "I saw you burn."

"It will take more than that," he said weakly.

Zelda stared around. As one in a dream she walked across the room and picked up the Fire Arrow where it lay. She tipped it, feeling its weight, and then slipped it slowly back into her quiver. Dark's cloak lay discarded on the floor; she stooped for it, lifted it in her two hands, and went to him. "Here," she said softly, laying the dark blue folds about his shoulders. He shuddered and raised one hand to clutch at the collar and pull it close.

"Sofia?" Zelda said, turning.

"Yes," the Gerudo woman answered shortly. "I am fine." She reached up and tore her dagger from the wall, shaking off burning bits of rag. "How?" she demanded. "How is he still alive?"

"Obviously, you would rather it were otherwise," Dark Link said, getting to his feet. He wrapped the cloak tight around himself and shivered visibly beneath its thick folds, but his eyes glowed bright, and cold, as he stared at the angry Gerudo. Sofia glared back, refusing to back down.

"Please don't quarrel," Zelda begged. "I cannot bear it!"

Sofia sheathed her scimitar. "I wonder," she said coldly, "if we haven't killed the weaker monster and let the greater one live on."

Dark Link made no reply. He leaned against the wall for a moment and closed his eyes, his face betraying his exhaustion. Then, with an indrawn hiss of pain, he stood straight, and limped to the iron grating that had blocked them off from the passage onward. Now as he approached the grill rattled upwards on its rails, opening the way for them to pass.

At the other end of the corridor, the great stone door stood ajar. A warm green radiance blazed out from within, glimmering off the bright intricate metalwork of the golden horned key within the lock. Link had to be within, if he were anywhere. The three companions walked slowly towards the light, without so much as a glance back--they were weary now to the point of exhaustion after the horrors they had fought within the Temple. Somehow, though, each knew that they were at last at the end of the quest. Zelda glanced sideways at Dark Link, seeing how he was forcing himself to stay upright, and felt a great upsurge of pity for him. Without saying a word, she gently put her arm around his waist and let him lean on her. He silently accepted her aid.

They stepped through the door, into the green light, and each blinked at the brightness in the large room beyond. A curving flight of steps led them up onto a round, circular plateau ringed by ropes. In the very center of the circular arena, there was a pattern on the tiles, a compass-like design with the familiar golden triple triangle at its very center. A shimmering fountain of light burst upwards from this in a pillar-shaped beam; as it bathed them in its radiance they felt their great weariness ease and all pains begin to fade. There was a sweet green scent in the air, full of ancient perfume; their feet scuffed through drifts of something that rustled and crackled at every step.

Zelda knelt for a moment, and stood up with a handful of dried petals that crumbled and slid through her fingers. "Flowers?" she said doubtfully, glancing at her friends. Sofia smiled nervously and shrugged; Dark just raised the hood of his cloak to shield his face against the light.

As they approached it became apparent that the room was not empty. In the center of the pillar of light stood a rough-hewn wooden bier, lashed together with lengths of creeper. Dry and dusty leaves and flowers were scattered everywhere about it. At its foot, fragile now, lay the rusted lace of an ancient iron shield. And clasped in ancient withered hands, a child's toy sword. With an abrupt lurch Zelda realised that she and her companions were invading a tomb--but there was no fear or darkness here, no sense of things left undone. A great aura of love and peace overlaid all.

Link was standing beside the bier, gazing down into the heart of the light. He turned now, and smiled when he saw them. "I did not think I should take it," he said, "until we were all here."

"Nayru's Love," Zelda whispered, overawed. "It's him, isn't it?" Beside her, Dark shivered and turned his face away.

"I think so," the young Hero said. "But it's all right, Zelda--he wants us to take it. I am sure of it." His face was very calm and a forest-colored light was in his eyes.

On a thick bed of dried flowers, at about chest height, lay the goal they had come so far to find. Zelda realized now that she had had no idea what the Amulet would even look like. Her imaginings paled into insignificance beside the thing itself. It was simple, deceptively so; in fact it was nothing more than a green jade medallion, carved with intricate patterns of leaves and flowers, set upon a delicate gold chain that rippled softly in the light. It was a thing of ancient fragile beauty.

"Take it," Zelda urged. Although their nameless enemy could still be nearby, she and the others knew instinctively that into this place of power no evil could come. The room was consecrated to Farore, had been blessed by the Legendary Knight himself--Link First, wielder of the forest's power.

Emerald flame played over the medallion as Link took a deep breath, calming himself. Hesitantly, he reached out into the green light. His fingers closed around the golden chain... the tension in the room became unbearable... then, with a light touch he grasped the Amulet in both hands and lifted it gently upwards, out of the light. A few old petals stirred and fluttered. Link held the shining pendant up for inspection, then offered it to Zelda; she shook her head. "Link," she said softly, "it's you."

He nodded slightly, as if he had been expecting that, and then slowly slipped the golden chain over his head. The jade medallion burned brighter as it settled against his green-clad chest and then seemed to settle: its light faded to a sleepy glow. He touched the gem gently, vowing there and then to equal the achievements of his legendary ancestor. They would defeat Ganon for good--he knew it.

The light flared up and became a roaring fountain of power. They gasped each one as they were enveloped by the blinding radiance; for a moment the whole world disappeared around them. Then, with a soundless explosion and a green sun-flash, the light receded. They were standing all together in the garden at the Temple's entrance, and the light of the setting sun shone like emerald-tinged gold through the trees. The four companions glanced around in surprised delight, feeling themselves renewed. Prowl bounded up yowling and sank her claws into Link's leather boot.

"Well, well," came a soft, chuckling voice. They turned in surprise to see Greenfinger once more; the old gardener was sitting on a treestump nearby, gazing at them with affection in his bright eyes. "You were quick, eh? Only a day and night have I been waiting for you."

"We were there that long?" Zelda asked in amazement. She realized that she had completely lost track of time while she had been inside.

Greenfinger nodded gravely. "You were, little Princess. A mere eyeblink of time it is to a tree. I see that your errand was successful. So," he added with a teasing smile, "have you saved the world yet?"

"Not yet," Link sighed, fingering the gleaming medallion upon his chest. "We have one of the things we need, but there is a much longer journey ahead..."

"Hmm." The old gardener nodded, laughter in his eyes. "Let's hope the dark one learns patience before then!" He smiled at Dark Link, who looked put out. "Ah, never mind an old fogey like me--when you're as old as I am, you'll understand. All in good time, my friend. A ystyrio, cofied... hawdd cynnau tan ar hen aelwyd, eh, bach?" Dark seemed about to say something, but then he stopped dead and just looked at Greenfinger, amazement evident in his eyes.

What did he say? Zelda wondered, trying to translate in her head, but the soft flowing cadences and dipthongs of the ancient tongue were hard enough to read, let alone hear.

"And now," Greenfinger said, turning his attention back to the others as a group, "you have some good-byes to say here, I think?" For the first time, they saw who else was standing in the clearing.

"Diomedes!" Zelda cried in delight. "What are you doing here?"

He looked somewhat embarrassed, as far as he could be said to do so. "I wish I knew, milady. Was minding my own business in the hall, and suddenly this green light jumped out and wafted me here! Most off-putting--" He might have said more, but Zelda walked up to him and gravely took his hand.

"Thank you," she said softly, smiling at him. "For everything."

Diomedes coughed. "All part of the service, milady. I'm just happy to have helped. You going now, are you?"

"We must," Link agreed. "The other Amulets await us--and so does whoever it is who is after them!"

The Stalfos nodded thoughtfully. "Well... good luck. Give old pig-face a kick from me when you see him, what!"

"What about you?" Zelda asked. "Will you be all right here?"

"Oh, don't worry about me. I'll stay right here, look after the Temple. These old bones could do with a rest after all the excitement." He nodded at that, pleased by the thought. "Might even do some gardening, who knows? I'll keep the place in good repair." With that last, Diomedes gave her one final salute, the dignified gesture of an old veteran soldier to a young Princess, and turned, and walked back through the opened door, into the Temple of the Forest.

Zelda paused, and glanced at the others. "Then... I suppose there's only one thing left to do," she said quietly.

Sofia grinned. "Let's go home!"



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