Shadow's Mastery: Chapter 88

THERE were three guards, two men and a woman, and they wore identical expressions of dour dislike. Kleox hadn't bothered trying to start a conversation. He'd have had little enough to say to them anyway.

They walked in single file, forming a small procession along the bank of an underground river--a real one this time, with real water which caught the lantern light and threw it back in scatters of green sparks. He paced quietly, his gaze fixed on the back of the man who led. His own sword bounced on the Sheikah's hip, in its battered leather sheath; he would very much have liked to have it in his hand, but he knew well that the other guards, following behind, were alert and waiting for any sort of move on his part. Anyway, his hands were tied. The bond was only a leather thong--he could have bitten through it in a second, and it wasn't even what he'd have considered tight--but getting rid of it would delay him long enough for one of them to put a bolt in his back. They carried their crossbows openly, and kept them loaded.

The tunnel stretched on and on. Only their footsteps broke the heavy silence--that and the rushing of the stream. He glanced at it now and then, rippling in the lantern light: they were heading up the stream, against the flow. He knew what that meant: although the way felt monotonously level to his feet, they were actually traveling steadily uphill, towards the surface. Looked like these cheerful fellows were actually going to play him fair. That was a new one: he'd more or less dismissed what the Gerudo had said back in the stronghold. Oh, she'd believed it all right, what she'd been told, but he was used to these sorts of games. Hylians were always fond of them. He'd assumed it was a comfortable little fiction: they'd take him out to some remote place and do away with him, and that was freedom of a kind, wasn't it? He had fully expected, walking out of that foul excuse for a court, that he was going to his death. But if that was the case, they were putting forth an awful lot of effort on his behalf. How far now--five, six miles? He was coated with rock dust, and his legs ached.

Behind him, the woman spoke, pitching her voice in a low, carrying tone.

"Terce? We'll stop for a while."

The leader turned his head and nodded brusquely. Kleox waited quietly as his escorts set down heavy packs, adjusted the shutters of the little lanterns they carried, and finally let themselves down one by one onto the rough rock floor, wincing as they stretched out muscles made sore by repetitive work. After a little while he crouched down too, and watched them.

They looked alike--well, most Hylians looked similar anyway, in his experience. The Hero and his companions were at least distinct to his vision, with hair and skin colour to mark them out; this lot, on the other hand, were almost impossible for him to tell apart. They all had the same slight build, colorless skin and blood-red eyes, and they dressed identically, in blue and gray, with the weeping eye stitched on the breasts of their tunics in a red like old blood. One of the men--the one who was called Terce--had brown hair; the other two were ash-blond. He settled down on the cold ground and watched them pass around a small flask. They didn't offer it to him. He hadn't expected them to.

"Not far," the woman said as she capped the flask, and he glanced at her quickly. He'd already pegged her as the real leader of this little expedition. She was facing away from him, looking at the two men lounging on the shore.

"Which gate are we going for?" the blond man said. His voice was a little higher than Terce's, and softer; Kleox wondered if he was younger. "Kakariko, is it?"

"Pine Ridge," said the woman.

"Bit out of the way, isn't it?"

"Best for everyone." Her eyes didn't flicker, but her head did turn for a moment, very slightly; it was the first time she had so much as acknowledged Kleox's presence.

The blond man turned his head and spat. As a statement of opinion it was eloquent. It seemed to serve well enough for all of them, for no further words were exchanged for some minutes. At length the woman heaved herself back to her feet. "Best get on," she said.

This time, after only a short distance, they turned away from the stream and began to make their way through an awkward hedge of stalactites, mostly around knee height. In the lantern light everything glistened with wet; his feet splashed into cold puddles thick with slimy mud. With his hands tied it was hard going.

Had the Princess and her friends left yet? Were they heading down, even now, into the heart of shadows? Some part of him hoped they'd changed their minds and picked the sensible option. He knew, though, that it was a futile wish. They'd got it into their heads that Dark Link needed rescuing, and by Din they would give it a try, never mind practicality or logic. He thought of the boy's damaged hands and lacerated back, and felt an odd sadness: that was how it would end up, with all three of them dead and the medallions in the hands of this Carock character. It was inevitable. By Link's account the sorcerer was a lot smarter than Sepultura--not that that was saying much.

Those children, whether enemies or accidental allies, had been part of his life for a long time. It was going to feel strange to be out of it. He'd be his own master again now. He'd almost forgotten how that felt.

The group was heading upward now, visibly upward along a long twisting tunnel, and the air was growing drier again. He flicked his tongue out to taste it, and clearly scented, underneath the dankness of stone, a waft of fresh clear air. Trees and rain! They were really going to do it--they were setting him free. He hadn't quite believed it until now.

They rounded a final corner, their feet scuffing through a thick layer of dust--and there it was, some twenty yards ahead: a great carved gateway of black polished stone. Beyond, just visible at the edge of the light, were the first few risers of an upward stair.

The man named Terce fumbled with buckles and detached the longsword in its scabbard. He tossed it down unceremoniously before the gate, then shrugged the leather satchel off his shoulder and threw that down too. Then he seemed to hesitate. The woman gave him a sharp look, and with a scowl he crouched to set down his little lantern too. Kleox watched silently.

"Cursed waste," Terce said as he stepped back.

The woman shrugged. Then she drew a small tapered dagger from a hip sheath. She turned toward Kleox, looked at him directly for the first time, and he felt a flash of instinctive doubt and fear at the loathing in her eyes: was this it, then? Was this the double-cross?

The knife slashed down and parted the bond about his wrists. An instant later he winced reflexively; the blade had grazed him, though without drawing blood.

"Take the things and go," she said coldly, turning away.

He went quietly over to the pile and bent to pick up his sword. The worn hilt felt good in his hand; it completed him. He straightened up and saw the three of them standing together, side by side, watching him. The woman had her fists propped on her hips.

"Impa wishes me to deliver a message," she said. "It is thanks to the Princess that your life was spared, and you would do well to remember it."

"I have a good memory," he growled.

"Good. Then remember this--if you're found down here again, we'll kill you." She spun on her heel and strode away, and the men followed silently. He stood where he was, watching the little green lights bouncing in the darkness, until the bend in the passage cut them off from view. Then he stooped, and picked up the lantern and satchel. With light in one hand and his drawn sword in the other, the bag slung across his back, he turned, passed through the gate, and began to ascend the long and weary stair.

He climbed for a long time in silence, with only his footsteps and the harsh panting of his breath to break the silence. It was a monotonous, exhausting journey, but he did not stop: with every step the scent of the outdoors grew stronger, and only his weariness prevented him from beginning to run.

The way was similar, at first, to the other stair, the one he had descended earlier with Sepultura, but it decayed as he climbed until there was only the barest hint that steps had once been carved in the crumbling, rubble-strewn slope. More than once he had to stop and dig to clear a path. He worked carefully, for the ceiling of the tunnel was riddled now with cracks and fissures. For a while, struggling with the largest blockage, he wondered if the Sheikah had purposely brought him to a blocked stair, to trap him cruelly in the dark: but the scent of fresh air was growing ever stronger, and when he finally forced his way through it was to stumble out onto a level surface. The stair opened out into a low natural cave, strewn with rubbish and dead leaves, and directly ahead was the late afternoon sun, sinking in a blaze of scarlet and gold.

He'd been using his sword as a makeshift digging tool; he sheathed it now and walked forward to stand at the opening, where a narrow ledge jutted out for a foot or so beyond the cavern's edge. Below him the hillside fell away in a harsh broken landscape of scrub trees and boulders to a dark green treeline: he was looking down into an overgrown valley. As far as he could tell, it was uninhabited--no twists of smoke, no clearings, just deep unbroken green. None of the jagged peaks in his field of view were familiar.

Kleox was not normally given to contemplation, but he sat down now, resting his back against the sun-warmed stone, and watched the sky for a while.



He woke with a guilty start: the sun was sinking fast behind the tallest peak, and there was a new chill in the air. His muscles felt cold now and sluggish, and he cursed himself for a fool as he staggered to his feet. Tired or not, he hadn't meant to fall asleep. That was weakness. Dangerous weakness.

The mountainside offered little in the way of shelter for a Lizalfos alone. Ordinarily he would have had no objection to spending the night inside the cave--it was dry, and there were plenty of sheltered spots where he'd be out of the prevailing wind--but what bothered him was that dark opening at the back. If he had come up it, so could something else, and he didn't like the idea of that at all. He'd look for somewhere a little more secure.

There was no path, not even a goat-track. He made his way down awkwardly, slipping and sliding on the loose pebbly slopes. The going had to be slow out of necessity, and it was doubly so due to the soreness in his legs and feet. He was in excellent condition, on the whole, but the past few days had been a nonstop struggle for survival, and he was very nearly spent. There--he'd admitted it. He was worn out. Used up like an old knife. He bared his teeth in a wry, savage grin; Sepultura, at least, would have no more of him. Up until today he'd been certain that his death would come at her hands.

What now?

The thought came unbidden out of nowhere, as he was inching his way down a sheer incline held together by scattered tufts of hillgrass; and it startled him so much that he almost lost his footing, and slithered down a few yards in a scatter of torn turf and loosened pebbles before getting his balance back. What now, indeed? He didn't know. He hadn't thought about it. There hadn't been time or reason, until now.

There was no sound in the valley but the rustle of wind through leaves, and the occasional lonely shriek of a bird of prey. Twilight was descending fast on the hills; the farther peaks were already lost in darkness. He glanced down and saw that he was still a good fifty yards above the treeline. They were old-growth trees, too, never cut by Hylian hand; the forest was black and dense below him in the gathering night. He was absolutely alone here.

That in itself did not frighten him: he could make do for a while, was more than capable of fending for himself in the short term. But sooner or later he would have to seek out his own kind, if he was to survive. Ah, yes. Bully his way into another warband, kill one or two of the weaker and more expendable ones to show he meant business, then he could lead...

And then what? he thought sourly, lowering himself over a drop. Pillage and burn. Steal sheep and cows and grow fat, until the soldiers come. That had been the height of his ambition in the mines, his grand, magnificent, secret plan, and now he saw it for the tawdry nonsense it had always been. The witch had been right about him. Only a stupid, na´ve animal could have thought that one up.

His hand--wounded by that falling gate so long ago--slipped, and he lost his grip. He didn't even have time to cry out; he hit the ground on his back, on top of the Sheikah satchel, and then he was tumbling head over tail down the steep slope, out of control. The world was a whirling chaos of earth and sky. He tried to catch himself whenever he could, tried to dig in his claws, but the loose scree just crumbled away at his touch. A rock slammed into the side of his head, and his vision filled for a moment with brilliant starbursts. Then he had reached the edge, and went straight over it, slithering in a flood of earth and pebbles. The trees reached up eagerly to receive him. Leaves whipped across his face; branches snapped under him with sharp, brittle, firework cracks.

He landed hard on his side, and rolled again with the momentum, but the slope was less sheer here, and the way was obstructed by the trees. After only a few yards he fetched up sprawled across the gnarled roots of a mountain ash: dizzy, breathless and covered in muck from the damp forest floor. It had rained here quite recently and the lower leaves of the trees were still wet and dank.

For a few minutes he lay quite still. The forest settled slowly back into stillness as a last few pebbles bounced and rattled down from the overhanging lip of the cliff above; one actually hit him, on the muscle of his upper arm, and it stung like the sting of a bee. He was frightened to move. Something would be broken--a leg, his back. Crippled, he'd starve to death, if he didn't die of thirst first.

He sat up. Nothing was broken, though a lot of him was hurting enough to justify the error. He'd lost a few more scales: several grazes were just beginning to well dark blood. A few feet away the Sheikah lantern glittered in the shadows, half-submerged in a muddy puddle but still burning merrily. He shook his head, soothed his elbow dully and thought about cursing, but there were no words he could think of that would encompass the sum of his feelings.

You Din-cursed idiot! You deserve every last insult she ever threw at you!

At least there had been nobody around to witness that humiliation. The old witch would have laughed her head off. He still felt shaky; when he glanced back over his shoulder, he could not even see the top of the cliff over which he had tumbled. Leaves masked it from sight. The drop had to have been ten, fifteen feet at the very least; if the branches hadn't slowed him, if the ground hadn't been so muddy...

It was very dark now--nearly night. He got up stiffly and limped around for a while, collecting his scattered belongings. The satchel was hanging on a tree branch, just out of reach; he threw clods of dirt at it until the twigs supporting it snapped, and it fell. He had a bad few minutes when he could not find the sword--but it turned up eventually; the lantern light cast a gleam on the pommel in a pile of last year's fallen leaves. He brushed the dirt off with the palm of his hand, and slung the battered blade over his back.

The forest was still and cool and silent. He tasted the air but sensed only trees and damp and rot. No beasts of any size, as far as he could tell. He'd never been anywhere so isolated.

Where in Din's name have they dumped me?

The moon was up there now, somewhere--he could sense it--but the night was clouded, and anyway the thickly clustered trees prevented any glimpse of the sky. He lifted the lantern's shutter and began to walk, heading downhill. Although muddy the ground was comfortably firm, with little undergrowth, and the going was not difficult. It would have helped if he had not been bruised and scraped all over, but there was little he could do about that.

The trees loomed over him as he descended into the valley: mostly oaks now, and aspens, but with an occasional beech or elm for variety. Wide, broad-leaved trees for the most part--that suggested he was somewhere south, maybe even near the Calatian border. Temperate trees did not withstand the harsh northern winters: the snow weighed down their wide branches, and snapped them off.

Calatia... He thought about it for a while. He knew the country only by name and hearsay; it had lakes, and the Heroes generally came from there. He wouldn't find other Lizalfos in Calatia--if he was going to rejoin others of his kind, he'd have to look north, head for Death Mountain. That was going to be a long and weary trek.

A fallen tree trunk looked welcoming in the gloom. He splashed through puddles and sat down on it, sighing at the ache in his overworked muscles. Not getting any younger...

He pulled the satchel into his lap and opened it. It was mostly empty. There was a small amount of food wrapped in cloth: dried spiced meat and bread. It was the same stuff they'd given him before. He ate everything, then drank from the rainwater pool that had collected around the log. The water was muddy-tasting but he was too thirsty to care.

The short break put new heart into him. He snatched up the empty bag (well, you never knew, it might be useful for something) and went on, following the easiest way down without much conscious purpose: he was looking half-heartedly for a sheltered spot now, somewhere to sleep. He was not very familiar with woods, on the whole, and he had not expected it to be so damp. It hadn't been like this in Kokiri Forest that night, despite the rain--but of course he'd had fire then, torches to light the way and a cloak to keep him warm. He could have done with some fire right now; if he saw a bit of flint he thought he might try to kindle one, using his sword blade as the steel.

I'll survive.

He was bruised, weary and lost--but he felt as if a weight had been lifted all the same. He was free.

Very gradually the slope leveled out until he was walking on more or less level ground. It was wet and cold, and he quickened his pace to avoid getting too chilled; his feet kicked through deep drifts of fallen leaves, half-rotten and dripping with wet. Maybe he'd made a mistake going downhill; maybe he should have stayed up on the hillsides. It would have been drier.

Then, a few yards ahead, looming out of the dark half-masked by branches, he saw the wall.

His first reaction was fear: instinctive and instantaneous, learned from a lifetime's experience. Hylians! He'd stumbled onto some settlement--were there guards? Were there soldiers?

But Hylians were usually obvious to the nose, and there were no scents that registered: no smoke, no kept beasts. If there had been anything of the kind he'd have picked it up long ago. For a little while he stood perfectly still, scenting and listening--the night was calm and quiet. And the wall was old and neglected, its stones weathered and coated with moss. Well, that put a new spin on it. Maybe he'd found shelter after all.

He began to walk again, following the wall. It stood some ten feet high and from what he could make out it wound round in a long slow curve. Looked like some kind of an enclosure or boundary marker--it was too big to be a building. He considered climbing, but there were bulges and cracks suggesting subsidence, and he guessed that he'd find an opening soon enough. In a few more minutes he was proven right: he came upon a pile of rubble sprawling out into the path. The remainder was low enough to step over. He did so, pushing through the fringe of leaves, and came out suddenly in clear moonlight.

The place had grown wild for a long time, but trees had not reclaimed it yet. He was looking out over an expanse of hilly, more or less open land. Grass grew thickly everywhere, waist-high in some places; shrubs and sapling trees had straggled in a little way from the edge of the wood. The scene was starkly lit--after the close darkness of the forest the brightness was disorienting. He waited a while longer, wary of the exposed terrain and alert for any movement, but saw nothing to alarm him.

Eventually something did catch his attention: a few paces away a dark rectangular stone stood upright, jutting out of the grass. It did not seem to be part of anything, but it was obviously deliberately placed. He came closer and crouched to examine the faint marks carved into the surface. There was a triple triangle, badly eroded, and under it a faded succession of the scratched sigils he recognised as Hylian. He didn't have the magic to learn their message, but he didn't need it: he knew what this place was now. There were more stones visible all around.

Cursed strange place for a graveyard...

He was no longer worried; the valley was self-evidently abandoned by living Hylians, who'd have kept the place clear and neat if they'd remembered it. As for the dead, Kleox had no fear--by Din he'd spent enough time around Stalfos to be used to that by now! If anything tried to crawl out of the earth while he was here, he'd make it regret the error. Clouds were drifting over the moon; he opened the lantern's shutter a little more and began to walk, pacing through the silent rows of graves.

Just let me find somewhere dry...

In truth, most of the place was probably suitable--at least it wasn't running with wet like the woods had been. And the grass, although damp, would be soft enough to sleep on comfortably, which was almost more luxury than he was used to. He passed several likely spots, including one place where a toppled tombstone provided decent shelter from the wind, but kept going. His curiosity was up now.

When he first saw it, it gave him a nasty jolt. Some ten or twelve yards away, a square plinth provided a vantage point, a couple of feet off the ground, and someone was standing on it. Looking right at him. His sword was out of the scabbard in the instant before he realised it was a statue. The woman shone stark white in the moonlight, and her features were still sharp despite long exposure to the elements. She wore flowing robes and clasped her hands to her breast in a posture of deep sadness.

He cursed under his breath--his heart was still pounding--rammed the sword back into the sheath and turned away.

And then turned back, and looked again.

It wasn't that he hadn't seen such things before--he had, both in Kakariko graveyard and in the grounds of the Temple of Time. Hylians were funny about their dead and sometimes liked to make a permanent note of what they'd looked like, though why you'd want to know who'd once owned some pile of crumbling bones was beyond him. Unless it was to make it easier for Sepultura when she came to raise them, but that seemed unlikely. In any case, it didn't usually bother him one way or another. There was just something about this statue that he didn't like. It was the sadness, and the way she was looking directly at him--as if she expected him to do something about whatever was bothering her.

Deliberately he turned, cut his gaze from the thing and began to walk--not directly away, which would have been admitting something, but moving along a parallel course. He'd get out of its line of sight. He fixed his attention on the far corner of the field, where some ruins lay black and broken in the moonlight: probably the temple this place had once belonged to. That would be an ideal shelter.

His unease did not diminish with distance; rather, it grew. At last he stopped and, half unwillingly, turned his head to look back.

It was still looking at him.

The body was twisted slightly, now, in his view, but it was still looking at him. The head had turned.

Not possible!

"Idiot," he growled savagely under his breath. He'd made a mistake, that was all. Hadn't seen it right the first time. What in Din's name was wrong with him lately?

He began to walk again, moving in long reaching strides just this side of panic. He paced a wide arc through the grounds, keeping a good distance between himself and the tomb at all times. The thick grass tangled his feet and he tore it. The tombs were not laid out in orderly lines; he floundered around them, stumbling in and out of dips in the ground that had been masked by the vegetation, and finally twisting his ankle painfully on something he hadn't seen. That settled it. To the Dark World with this--he'd take his chances in the forest.

When he looked up again, the statue was in front of him.

He might have made a small sound; he wasn't sure. At any rate he did not wet himself, and that at least was to his credit. The worst part of it was that the thing did nothing at all. It simply stood there, still as stone, and looked down at him (the head was tilted down now) with that sad, mournful expression. The full moon hung low in the sky, bathing it with an eerie silver glow.

He was aware, suddenly, of the ridiculousness of his fear. It was obvious. First he'd had a shock seeing the thing, mistaking it for a Hylian when he'd thought himself alone. Then the moonlight was constantly shifting as the clouds passed by, playing tricks: he'd probably seen it from the back the first time. And by then he'd been so unsettled, he'd gotten turned around trying to avoid it, and accidentally gone the wrong way. It was all understandable.

Relieved to have sorted that out--it was surely better to be stupid than insane--he took a step back to appraise the thing again, top to bottom. The stone woman stood sad-faced and lonely, pressing her hands to her breast, waiting for one who would never come. It was really quite an eerie piece of work. An apt choice for a graveyard monument, if rather lacking in comfort.

He glanced down at the plinth. It was all carved in one piece of the same pale stone, with silver specks of quartz embedded here and there to catch the moonlight. Only four stark symbols had been cut into the smooth polished side: one word. He stared at them for a moment, then up again. The woman had not moved visibly, and the gray moss creeping slowly over her clasped hands was undisturbed.

A perverse humor struck him. He bared his teeth in a savage grin.

"So what in the Dark World do you want?"

And in the next instant he'd leaped backwards with all his strength, slammed into another gravestone and ended up flat on his back in the grass. The statue moved.

With a grinding, juddering screech the woman bent clumsily at the waist. Dark fractures shivered up her form as she did so, and several chunks of stone clattered into the long grass. Her arms came down in a series of jerks, accompanied by earsplitting cracks. As the clasped hands came open, moss peeling away in strips, he saw what she had been clasping to her breast, and a chill ran right through him.

"No," he said, scrabbling backwards through the wet grass. "No thank you. I'm done with all that."

The woman's expression did not change. Well, it couldn't, could it? She was made of stone. It even made a stupid sort of sense. After a little while he stood up slowly, without taking his gaze off her--she was still now in the new position, leaning forward from the pedestal, stretching out her cupped hands as an offering. A small fragment fell from her arm and bounced into the grass.

"I told you, I don't want it. It's nothing to do with me!"

The sad stone face did not answer. If it had, if it had even altered its expression in the slightest way, he could have walked away from it. But you couldn't argue with a statue.

"Look--why me? What am I supposed to do with it--give it to the old witch?"


Slowly, hating himself, he reached out and closed his fingers around the shining thing. He lifted it out of her cold palm, and the golden chain made a soft, shifting, tinkling sound, almost too high to be heard.

There was a crack, and then another. As if struck by a giant, invisible hammer, the stone woman fell into pieces. He stumbled back and fanned clouds of rock dust away from his face; when he could see again, a few moments later, there was nothing before him save a pile of shattered, unidentifiable fragments.

He looked down at the thing in his hand: a carved medallion on a golden chain. It was horribly, sickeningly familiar.

"I'm not getting back into this mess," he said. "You hear me? Getting out of it the first time cursed near killed me, and I'm not going back to her. I'm too old for this."

He spun, and hurled the medallion as hard as he could. It was a good throw. The golden thing soared away into the night, shimmering brightly for an instant as it caught the moonlight, and tumbled down out of sight into the long grass.

There. That was that.

For a long time he stood, looking down at the pile of rubble. The shadows shifted back and forth, dark and light as clouds drifted over the moon. The night was still.

Finally he bent and scooped up the lantern--he'd dropped it in his first fright. It wasn't damaged.

He turned, and walked away.



Five minutes later he was searching the grass where the thing had fallen, and cursing bitterly.



Sunrise found him sitting on a gravestone, watching the lightening sky. He'd curled up for a while in the lee of the ruined church, but he felt, if possible, more tired than before.

The carved gem was a rich buttercup yellow--both like and unlike the others he had seen. He wound the chain slowly through his fingers as he thought. It was only about the fiftieth time he'd gone over it all.

They'll find me. She'll find me. They've found all the others so far; they'll find this one.

Take it to Sepultura, then. Do it before she came looking. She probably wouldn't kill him outright, though he'd have been a pretty big fool indeed to expect any sort of reward.

What I should do is throw it away. Drop the cursed thing down the nearest well. That would be the sensible option.

He couldn't do that. He didn't know why, he just couldn't. Perhaps that Impa woman had been right about him all along. You are one of Ganon's creatures... A dog faithful to its master, was that it? He remembered the thing that had taken hold of him on the shore of the underground lake, and a shudder went through him despite the sun's building heat.

Din blast it, why me? I never wanted any of this in the first place. I don't want power, I don't want to rule--all I want is to stay alive a little longer. Is it so much to ask, to just be left alone..?

The sun was fully up above the trees now, and its heat was strong. He soaked it up, breathing slow and deep. There was a haze over the grass now as he looked down the slope: the dew was burning off. There was not a breath of wind; the sky was pale and cloudless. It was going to be a scorching day.

And he wouldn't be seeing it. He'd made his mind up, he realised, sometime in the last few minutes. Or it had been made up for him. He slipped off the gravestone and stood, the grass pressing cold and damp against the hard, callused soles of his feet. The Sheikah satchel lay discarded on the ground; he scooped it up and slung it roughly over his shoulder.

With sword in one hand and pendant in the other, he could not hold the lantern. He stared down at the glittering jewel and for a moment entertained a silly thought. No, he wouldn't do that. No thank you. He flipped open the satchel and unceremoniously stuffed the thing inside, then snatched up the lantern. It was going to be a long, weary walk, but at least he'd have light this time.



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