Shadow's Mastery: Chapter 80

LINK was sick. He had not often been sick in his life, and he was not enjoying the experience now. It hurt to breathe in or out; it hurt where they'd beaten him, and most of all it hurt where his arms had been tied, wrenched cruelly above his head, so that he had to stand on tiptoes or bear all his weight in his shoulders. His naked body burned hot and cold. He hung limp in his bonds, watching the flicker of a single torch through the bars of his cell.

Time passed.

He might have slept for a while; he was not sure. At any rate he did not dream, though dreaming would have been a welcome relief from the pain, and the memories.

He was stumbling blind in the darkness, bruised and grazed from collisions with rocky walls, his right hand resting on Dark's thin shoulder--but how light, how terribly fragile the shadow's body felt, as if a strong breeze would puff him into smoke. There was nothing left of him but bone and skin. Dark was sick, too, but it was a sickness of the brain. There was something in his head that should not be there. Occasionally, so closely twined together as they were here, Link felt it twist, writhe like a loathsome serpent as it sought to shake him off, but his grip was strong--stronger, so far, than the other.

I am here, he sent, over and over, wordless messages of support and strength. I am your friend. Let me help you.

Dark pushed at him, sharp and peppery. Go away. I hate you.

But he did not shake him off, leave him and go on alone, as he could so easily have done.

Down, down, endlessly down. They walked a winding stair for many minutes, and Link knew by the cold feel of the air that an abyss lay close on either side. But Dark never hesitated, never put a foot wrong. Many times there were terrible sounds, and Link knew that something was watching them, poised to attack. Each time Dark stopped, turned his head towards the watcher, and did something--or that other that walked with them did something--and sullenly the horrors drew back again. And after a moment Dark would walk on again, and Link with him.

Now and again he thought he heard Zelda's voice, but it was too faint and faraway to make anything of it.

When the lights first appeared, he took them to be hallucinations: more than once in this blind black journey he had seen things that were not really there. But they grew slowly in his sight, those tiny pale-blue sparks, until he could see the strange outlines of boles and branches, rising and twisting in weird alien curves from the black earth.

"Trees?" He stared around him, barely able to believe what he was seeing. They walked now through a long glade of black earth, lined by the strange glittering shapes that seemed only partly there; they were translucent, like glass, only outlined by that frosty glow around their outer edges. There were no leaves. He reached out as they passed close to one, but snatched his hand back before touching; the cold of it scorched his flesh. "What are they?"

Dark glanced back. His hair floated fine as thistledown around his face; his voice, when he spoke, was slow and dreamy. "Styx trees. They grow from the bones of the slain, and only in this place. Only their wood can endure the touch of the waters of the Underworld."

"Water?" he said, then pricked his ears; somewhere ahead he could hear a river rushing.

Dark did not slow or stop; Link had to hurry to catch up. The ground was sloping downwards now between the strange trees, and getting wetter. His boots slithered through mud. Something else had control of him now, and he was drawn on, whatever else he might have wished to do: something took hold of him and carried him down a last steep slope and onto a smooth surface of fine dark sand or mud, that gave unpleasantly easily beneath the feet, so that he had to shift his weight constantly to avoid sinking. Dark waited for him a little way off, two disembodied glowing orbs of red. Beyond, lit faintly by the eerie trees that stood along the bank, a wide flat expanse of something was moving slowly. It was not water, or at least, not water the way the lake had been. Like the trees, though it reflected light, it did not seem to be entirely there. It was a void.

But this shore was not barren, as the last had been. A few yards away, upon the bare bleak mud, a boat rested.

It was a strange vessel indeed, even to Link who had seen many. In hue it was dull and colorless, carved of a black wood that showed no grain; it had no sail or mast, being low and slender and in shape more akin to a gondola, or the pole-boats much used in the south Calatian fen-country. A lantern, octagonal and wrought of an unfamiliar clear substance that was not glass, burned with a very steady bluish frame at the prow, which curved over and around in a long smooth spiral. The boat seemed large enough to take six or eight with ease, sitting two by two on the narrow seats, but it lay empty.

"Dark--there's a boat--!"

"There is always a boat." The shadow stated it as a simple fact, with a slight shrug of his shoulders: how was it that Link would not know such a simple thing?

This whole thing is unreal, thought Link. Like a dream--or a nightmare. Was there not a legend of a ferryman, long ago..? A shudder wracked him then.

Dark brushed past him, light as a ghost, then paused at the water's edge. He turned, and something changed in him again--for a moment he was himself.

"This boat was sent for me," he said softly. "I ask you one more time--will you not go back? As a favour to me?"

Link held himself for a moment against the cold, wincing at a twinge of pain from his wounded arm. "Absolutely not," he said, and took a little heart at the way his voice rang out, warm and living in the thick darkness. "There's plenty of room there for two."

"As you wish, then," Dark said softly, and turned from him, and vaulted lightly over the low side.

The boat rocked as Link scrambled aboard; he found a seat and sat down. The strange vessel glided out without a ripple or the slightest sound; it might have been sliding on ice. Swiftly the shore faded from their inadequate light, and in a few short breaths they were adrift in the dark.

That darkness was oppressive, a physical weight which made him conscious of the vast thickness of stone piled above his head. How deep were they--a mile? Two? It was not like the darkness beneath Death Mountain; it was older, colder. There was little real chill in the air, but he shivered all the same with a coldness of spirit.

Link had chosen a seat near to the prow, and the lantern's eerie glow fell ice-blue on his left side; it turned the skin of his hands to a deathly pallor. He turned them over and looked at them, front and back. The bruise on his right was livid in the corpse-light; dirt was crusted into the lines of his palms, ground into the web of old scars. Tamaranch...

"Do... do you remember that day, when we went to the island?"

"...Island...?" Dark's voice was distracted and vague, as if he could not quite remember what the word meant.

Link closed his eyes and summoned up the image: it was hard, for some reason, here. "The sun was bright, and you steered the boat. Remember?"

"Did that... happen?"

"Yes. We were both there. Think back."

"I... remember... light... on the water..."

"That's right."

"But... there is no light here."

He sighed. "No. That's true."

"It was... a good time. Wasn't it...?" There was something almost pleading in Dark's tone then, and Link looked up quickly, sudden hope making his heart lurch.

"I thought so," he said. "On Koholint--"

A coldness, dark and alien, entered the shadow's voice. "There is no Koholint here."

I wasn't talking to you, Link thought, but did not speak aloud. His skin crawled. He wanted to jump up and begin laying about him with his sword; instead he sat quietly on the black board seat and held his hands in his lap with an effort of will. He had to keep his focus; he had gone over this a hundred times in his mind. It was the only thing he could do, the only way he knew that might still save his friend: the confrontation that every Hero came to sooner or later. It was just that... he had not thought he would have to face it twice in his lifetime... He felt like a cow in the slaughtering chute. But doubtless Dark feels worse... He eyed the shadow, and saw terror and misery written deep in that fine-featured, once impassive face: the mask had cracked for good now. Dark twisted a fold of his trousers in a fist that shook with strain.

The boat glided on in a silence so absolute that his heartbeat sounded loud in his ears.

At last the motion changed and the lantern swayed on its hook: they were turning. A speck of pale light appeared and grew until it became a landing stage crafted of the same black wood, and lit by another faery lantern high upon a pole. Beyond it, a shore of crystalline black sand curved away into endless night until, at the limits of the light, it met a vast shadowy wall.

The boat slowed and turned broadwise as it approached; it glided to a neat halt beside the landing without any guiding hand. Link stood up slowly, and leaned forward with some care to take the lantern off the prow.

It was not difficult to climb up onto the jetty, though the wood felt unpleasantly slick and chill under the hand. They walked together across the shore, and the black sand crunched like snow underfoot. As they left the lake behind, a great flight of stone steps appeared out of the night, leading up to a pair of vast shadowy doors some twenty feet high. One of the doors stood ajar, leaking blackness more intense than before.

"This is an evil place," Link said.

"Evil was done here." Dark spoke softly, with the tone almost of a ritual response.

He lunged, caught the shadow's sleeve. Power filled him, and a rage, a determination to have it out here and now. "Who are you really?"

"I am..." Dark stopped, stared at him vaguely. A dazed look crossed his face.

"What's your name? Tell me your name!" Link shook him, desperate, knowing that it was his very last chance.

The shadow looked at him for a moment longer, then pulled away and started up the steps, placing each foot with care.

Link stood for a moment staring after him, his hands shaking, a weight in his chest; he wanted to run, or be sick. Perhaps both.

He drew in a breath, and shouted:


Dark stopped, poised on the top step. His body stiffened, his shoulders rose, and suddenly a strange kind of sheen seemed to play over him, a flicker of colors on the black, like oil rainbows. Link held his breath and stared in a mixture of wild hope and despair. Dark's head half-turned, and in the weird blue light of the lantern a tear glistened on his cheek. Then he turned and went inside, gliding soundlessly through the half-open door.

Link sucked in air through his teeth, tightened his grip on the lantern's ring, and went up the steps after him, taking them two at a time.

Inside the Temple it was worse than he had expected, and he had expected it to be bad enough. Light glistened off terrible carvings; he could barely stand to look at them, had to keep his eyes focused ahead, or on the ground. He felt nauseous, hot and cold. The black stone flags upon which he walked were crusted here and there with stains, and felt sticky underfoot, like static. Marble statues stood in alcoves along the length of the immense hallway; they might have been beautiful once, but it was impossible to tell, for each one had been deliberately defaced. The Underworld stench was choking here, and dust floated thick in the stagnant air.

Dark was only a little way ahead, drifting through the night. Link caught up with him in a few steps. Slowly, step by step, the lantern's blue light revealed what lay ahead of them--another huge pair of doors, standing open, revealing an inner chamber.

"Come back with me," he said. "There's still time."

The shadow turned and looked towards him--his expression was not pained now but still, peaceful. It was the look of one who had nothing left in the world to care about. "No," Dark said softly.

One of the doors had been smashed off its hinges and leaned at an awkward angle against the wall; the other still stood. Dark moved away from him, stepped through the gap, and Link heard him let out a long sigh.

He had seen this chamber before, in a dream--but the lofty arches had been lit by flame, not steeped in impenetrable darkness. And the monstrous chair of black stone at the far end had not been empty, then. It was empty now. But the presence was still palpable, buzzing in his head like a thousand carrion flies.

This is where it all comes from, he thought, stumbling through the doorway on legs that did not want to obey. The evil in the world... it's here...

Dark spoke aloud, finishing his thought. "The Light and Dark Worlds are joined in this place. The heart of the Shadow Temple, a shrine to Hyrule's bloody history of greed and hatred. The Sheikah made it to worship their nameless god."

He stared. "This is the Shadow Temple? But--I thought it was in Kakariko. Galdenor's map--"

"That was but one gate; we came by another. All of the Underworld is a temple to Shadow..."

Dark turned towards him, eyes wide; his hand moved suddenly to the hilt of his plain sword. Link leaped back a step and grabbed for the hilt of his own blade before realising that the shadow was looking past him, towards the door.

"Well, well," said a familiar voice. "Look who we have here..."

And, holding her skirts up daintily with one hand, Sepultura stepped through the doorway.



"Remarkable." The voice was rich and smooth as poured honey; he recognised it from somewhere. "A good twelve hours, all told, and not a peep out of him, not a whimper. These boys are made of stern stuff."

A woman's voice, shrill and sulky. "You are too lax with him, Carock. You should let me--"

Half-laughing. "What, and deprive his Majesty of such a handsome gift? Besides, you heard his offer, you witnessed the answer. No. I say the boy shall remain whole, at least until he has been brought before the throne a second time. We'll do nothing irreparable. Never before has a Hero been taken alive."

"He is too dangerous," Sepultura said, a whining note in her voice. "Should he escape--"

"My darling, where would he go? All the same, I'll break his legs for you if you like. No? Then trust me, for now."

"You had better be right, my lord--that is all I have to say on the matter."

"Oh, he has it. I'm certain of it. The strength in him!"

"He has never seemed particularly remarkable to me," she sniffed.

The man was pacing, back and forth; his voice took on a teaching tone. "The thing with these boys is, you don't know their mettle until you test it to destruction. Chip away the coal to get at the diamond, as it were. You were right to seek me out, my love. Only I possess the knowledge, in this day and age..."

He drifted.



Sepultura hadn't been alone. She stood, hands on hips, smirking at the pair of them like a cat that had gotten at the cream. Stalfos, ten or twelve of them, filed in behind her--but they seemed odd somehow, different. Older. Darker. There was no rust on these swords; they gleamed. Each monster bore a burning brand in its free hand, and hooked it into a wall bracket as it passed, so that the great room filled swiftly with a dull red light.

The final figure, shrouded in a black cloak, might have remained unnoticed had he not hastened forward, laying back his hood upon his shoulders with long white hands. A voice like poured honey rang out into the silence.

"Dark Link, old boy, how wonderful to see you again!" Link flinched; the tall figure ignored him entirely, but brushed past him to clap the shadow affectionately on the shoulder. "Why, you old villain, you haven't aged a day..."

"Carock," Dark said softly, puzzled, suspicious.

Farore's Wind! thought Link. Carock--the Wizzrobe prince--the sorcerer who laid the curse on Zelda Second! This was ancient history brought to life!

He recalled the Wizzrobes they had fought and overcome, albeit in great haste, in the tunnels beneath Death Mountain: repulsive withered crone-like figures, barely more than bones and skin, their corpse-white flesh foul to the touch. His grandfather's voice: They sold their souls to dark powers, long ago, in exchange for mastery of the sorcerous arts...

The man before him did indeed carry a staff set with a red gem, but he did not look ancient. Nor did he wear rags: in fact it was quite the opposite, for his finery would have made Harper the castle bard look stylishly underdressed. When the thick fur cloak fell back, his finely woven tunic glittered like a peacock's tail, in shades of turquoise and green and gold brocade.

"And you must be the young Hero. My dear boy, you look so much like your ancestor. Which one are you now, hmm--four? Five? I'm afraid I'm a little out of touch..."

"Where are the others?" Sepultura said, coming forward. A hateful, eager light burned in her eyes. "The Princess and the Gerudo--are they here too?"

He backed away from her, gripping his sword so tightly that his fingers stung. His mind whirled desperately. How many could he take down before her magic felled him? If Dark helped... but the shadow was standing quietly to one side, just watching, his own sword still in its scabbard. He wasn't even touching the hilt now.

"Now, now, my darling," the man purred, "be patient. Don't rush things. If they're here, we'll pick them up soon enough." He made a gesture with one pale hand and a few of the Stalfos slipped quietly out of the room. "Now, let's have a look at the boy..." He glided forward in a rustle of expensive fabrics, laid a hand on Link's shoulder, and gently plucked the sword out of his suddenly weakened grasp. The touch of his long ringed fingers was firm and vaguely unpleasant. "Lord of Blessed Night," the man murmured, gazing down into his face. "You're the spit and image of the Second, child--you know that?" In another moment he turned away, and spoke to Dark. "How did you string him along, old boy? Our master will be pleased with you..."

"I came of my own free will," Link said. "For my friend."

The Stalfos had gathered close. He was being stared at now from all sides, like a deer that had blundered into the midst of a wolf pack. They were fascinated by the strangeness of him--too fascinated, for the moment, to attack. But it would come.

Carock handed the serpentine dagger casually to a Stalfos, then turned back to him, cupped his chin in a hand and raised it, looking intently at his face. His flesh was very cold. After a moment the painted lips quirked in a slow, curious smile. "And what did you hope to accomplish by this very brave, yet undeniably stupid gesture?"

He hadn't known until this point.

"Let Dark go," he said.

The man flashed his brilliant smile again, swept his arm out dramatically towards the shadow standing there. "My dear boy, do you see any bonds on him? Any ropes, or chains perhaps? Your... friend came for the same reason we did: because he was called."

It was hard to remember what was important. He shook his head, more to clear it than to disagree. "He came, because he was constrained to do so..."

There was no-one sitting on the huge black throne, but all the same, Link had the distinct impression that someone was watching the proceedings with deep interest. Blood-flies buzzed in his ears, and he swayed.

"And again I ask--what do you plan to do about it?"

It was an immense effort even to speak, now. "To offer myself," he muttered thickly, "in his place."

"No," breathed Dark, horrified. A ripple ran through the silent audience.

"You think very highly of yourself, boy," Carock said, straightening. There was no faux-friendliness in his tone now. "Do you know who it is you would replace? Dark Link, Ganon's own Master of Assassins? Shall we have two Heroes fight it out for the honor of being our King's right hand?"

Sepultura was the first one to look round. A cold breeze blew from the darkness at the far end of the room, stirring her mass of black hair and tugging at the light silk of her gown. The sorcerer turned his head, pulling his fur cloak tighter at the throat, and his eyes narrowed as he gazed towards the empty throne. Something invisible swept the length of the room, bringing a sense of nameless dread; the Stalfos shuffled uneasily.

"His Majesty has heard your offer," Sepultura said quietly. "He will consider it. But in the meantime..." She approached now, slowly, placing each foot with deliberate care, and the Stalfos made way for her. A vicious smile twisted her beautiful face. "We have a little matter of a medallion, I believe..."



The Medallion. That was it. They'd taken it from him, beaten him to the ground. And brought him here. This was a momentary respite between...

He couldn't go on any further. He couldn't remember from here, couldn't go into the dark place. The blood was crusted on his bare back; when he breathed in deeply he felt the scabs crack. Some of the stitches on his chest had torn, too. Some of his teeth were loose.

Koholint. Think of Koholint. Think of good things, think of a time when everything was right with the world. Sunlight on the water.

If he closed his eyes, and tried really hard, he could almost feel it...

It was hard to breathe. When he relaxed into his chains, it felt as if his shoulders would pull out of the sockets; if he tried to stand, to take the weight off his arms, his muscles soon started screaming with the strain of balancing on his toes. Every time he thought he had escaped, the pain woke like a hungry beast, and dragged him back.

A key turned somewhere in an iron door. Footsteps approached along the corridor, slow and deliberate--more than one set. They were coming back. Shameful tears stung his eyes, of fear and exhaustion; he fought to keep them back, biting his tongue until the pain of it drowned out everything else.


No. Don't call her. Don't let her know. Don't bring her here.

But he had to do something. He couldn't face it again. He knew he didn't have the strength; he would break this time. Instead he reached out desperately in a different direction, towards Dark. The bond that they had forged on Koholint was still intact. The shadow was here somewhere, perhaps even in a nearby room, though he could not tell for sure. A weird, indistinct, cloudy presence hovered close to him.

He reached out and brushed the shadow's mind, and felt misery and terror and agony pouring off the other in a great flood. Dark's pain swamped him without warning; there was nothing rational in it, just a torrent of raw emotion seeking any channel of escape that it could find. It was too much, too fast, and he had no saved strength to deal with it--he was in tatters himself. Link's first impulse was to back off and throw up his own defenses to save what he could; instead he centered himself and reached out again, into and through the storm, as he might have done with a frightened child: projecting wordless thoughts of comfort and love. There was a confusion, and a drawing back, and then, only half lucidly, a sense of recognition--as a pain-maddened wolf, crouched for the spring, might suddenly recognize the man who once had tended its wounds.

It's all right. I'm here.

Like a slash of teeth: I hate you--go away!

No. I'm your friend.

The fogginess of Dark's thoughts cleared a little. ...Link? What... how...?

You remember me, don't you? He was smiling now despite his own agony. Dark was still alive, still himself.

Link... He could sense the other struggling to form coherent thoughts; it was so hard, so hard now not to give in to the monster that gnawed within. I... feel... your pain...

I'm sorry. I'm trying to keep it back.

A long silence, then with new resolve, Give it to me.


I know pain. I can take much more than you. This is nothing. Give it to me for a while. There was a kind of reckless strength in the shadow now, as if he had found one final reserve and meant to burn it all; he seemed in this moment more himself than he had been for a long time--since Koholint, in fact. Let it go.

I can't--

You can. Like this. And Dark simply reached out and took it from him, gently but firmly, as a parent might have plucked a bright and shining knife from a toddler's playful grasp.

Link's breath escaped him in a long sigh. He hadn't realised how close to the edge he had been. His body slumped of its own accord in the cruel bonds, and, without even meaning to, he slept the deep dreamless sleep of utter exhaustion.



The shock of the water brought him round with cruel speed; it was like hitting a wall of ice face-first. He coughed and spluttered, gasping as the freezing liquid rushed down over his bare skin. Half-stunned by the shock of it, he forgot where he was and tried to get his feet under him, to stand, but could not; his whole body was agonisingly stiff.

"That will do, Gomez--I think he's awake now. You may go. No, leave the second bucket here; I may want it later." The sorcerer's voice again: Carock, his mind recalled dazedly. He raised his head with an immense effort, but did not have the energy to shake the dripping tangles of hair away from his eyes. Instead, he peered out awkwardly through sodden locks. The man stood a few paces away, hands on slim hips, watching him with a teasing smile on his china-doll lips. Pink tinged water was bubbling along the blood-gutter cut into the floor, flowing past the toes of his gleaming patent-leather boots.

"Glad you could join us again, dear boy. How are you feeling?"

Link stared at him mutely and waited for the blow. He knew well how it went by now.

No--something was different. A different atmosphere in the room. After a moment he turned his head a little. No grinning Stalfos stood behind him; there was no whip, no club. And...

"The young lady has business elsewhere," Carock said. "I hope you're not too disappointed, but it's just you and me for now. About time we had a private chat, wouldn't you say?"

"Don't know where they are," Link mumbled; his mouth was so sore and swollen that he could barely get the words out.

The man sighed and flicked a stray ringlet back with an actor's extravagance. His purple hair was oiled into twisting curls; it gleamed slickly in the light of the torch. There was a cloying scent around him, rich and spicy-sweet. "Yes, we know you don't know where they are," he said, in a mocking, world-weary tone. "It's all you've said since we brought you down here. Furthermore, I myself have no interest in where 'they' are, so we'll leave it at that, shall we?"

Link swallowed painfully, watching the man, and tried to work it out. Some sort of trick?

"Wha' you want..?" he managed to say at last, in a husky whisper. His voice quavered like that of an old man.

The red lips drew back slowly, revealing a double row of perfect teeth. "Ahh... Finally. I was starting to think we'd knocked you witless. Well, my boy. You know my name. Do you know who I am?"

"...Imprisoning War..."

"Oh, very good! I am impressed--my compliments to your history teacher!" The man laughed brightly and clapped his hands twice, playfully, with the innocent delight of a child. "Now, let's try a harder one. What have you done to Dark Link?"

He blinked stupidly, blindsided. It was hard to concentrate. "Huh..? Dark?"

Abruptly, the man's mood seemed to shift; he drew back, drew himself up, and his gleaming eyes narrowed. "Yes, Dark," he said softly, mocking the word. "What have you done to him? The poor boy's snapped like a brittle twig. He's making even less sense than you are."

Link drew in a breath, let it out again. The rhythm comforted him. He began to concentrate on it.

"I'm the reason you can still speak at all right now, you know," Carock said. "I've been protecting you from her. You might at least show a little gratitude. Whatever possessed you to do it?"

"...My friend..." he mumbled. "Help..."

Another mood shift: a twist of dry sarcasm. "Well, you've done a fantastic job."

He roused himself with an effort, fought back the fog in his head. "Where is he?"

The man leaned close to him, gazing avidly into his face. There was something mesmerising about the liquid scarlet of his eyes: they were like deep pools, wells of blood surrounded by darkness. It might be possible to drown in eyes like that. "You really do care about him, don't you?" he murmured silkily, so close that Link felt the puff of air from each word. The cloying sweetness of that exotic scent, unpleasant and sickly, filled his awareness, and he wondered what it was that it masked. "How remarkable. However, what you seem to have failed to understand is that he doesn't feel the same way about you."

"You're wrong," Link said flatly.

"No!" Carock spat, his eyes suddenly blazing. "You are deluded. Dark Link is not a nice person. We are none of us nice people. Has he ever spoken to you about Kasuto?"


Another dizzying shift. The man sighed and drew back, raising a hand affectedly to his brow, and was once more the world-weary aristocrat. "Oh come now, you were doing so well. Kasuto, my boy. The Hylian province completely destroyed during the Imprisoning War. I'm told that even after all these centuries the land is still uninhabited--too many ghosts, or some such superstition. Now. Do you know who led the Dark Army?"

He did. "It... it was a long time ago."

"They barred the doors and burned the people in their homes. Children were hacked to pieces in the street. Dogs and cats..."

"Stop it!"

"Your dear friend led that advance," Carock said, leaning close once more. "He was Ganon's general. He set the first torch."

"What do you want?" Link snarled, sickened.

"Good boy. That's more like it. You'll want a bit of that where you're going." The man spun on his heel, strode to the table that stood by the door, and began to fiddle with the tools laid out there. Something clinked, and Link found himself shaking; he gritted his teeth, shamed by his weakness, his helpless fear. He couldn't see--Carock's back hid what he was doing. "You know," the man went on, in a conversational tone, "you really ought to thank me. The young lady wanted me to blind you. I turned her down."

He remembered something like that... some argument. "So you could give me to Ganon instead?"

"All due precautions being taken, of course." The man whirled suddenly, and laughed as Link flinched back in fright: the thing he held was just a cup, a battered and rather grimy bronze goblet streaked down its stem with green corrosion. "Oh, don't look so down, dear boy. You may still get a chance to help your friend. Drink." He held up the sloshing cup and the sour scent of cheap, doctored wine filled the air. Link pulled his head away.

"What's going to happen to Dark?"

"Well, my boy," Carock said softly. "That rather depends on you, doesn't it? You see, some feel that my old comrade is no longer reliable. Perhaps you were on to something there, eh? After all, things do change, and he never has liked to move with the times. Whether he can be restored to his senses or not, no-one can deny that he's, ahah, getting out of date. An armored knight, as it were, in a world of cannon." He tapped the edge of the goblet with a long-nailed finger, smiling coyly. "Whereas you... you're strong, my boy, strong and young. Perhaps it's time we had a new Dark Link, hmm?"

He spat, accurately. The man didn't even bother to wipe his face, but just laughed at him, bright and joyful as a child. "It'll be a pleasure working with you, dear boy. Now drink. You'll need it."



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