As Ravio registers the two warriors for the tournament, Joshua stands outside in the biting chill of a cold Death Mountain. Definitely not the one they're used to, and for a Gerudo, the cold of the desert feels like a summer day compared to this. He uses his fire magic to keep warm, but it does nothing to hide the severe environment from his skin.
But what keeps his mind entertained is the steady stream of viewers and potential participants. From what he could gather, this tournament is the biggest one of the season. Apparently, the tournament is a competition to gain the right to face the champion of the Treacherous Tower, and apparently this champion is the strongest person in Lorule. Is that saying much for a world that's dying, Joshua thinks so. The strong survive, that's a primary belief of the Gerudo Clan.
"Hey, here." Lana appears, holding a cup of a hot drink. Joshua happily takes it and drinks in its warmth. "I see not even the King of the Gerudo can overcome Death Mountain, no matter the temperature."
"You are more than correct, I hate its heat and its chill. Anyway, aren't you cold?" Joshua gestures to Lana's partially bare arms and upper chest. She takes notice of his eyesight, though he's as quick to look away. He also pushes the thoughts of the old Lana and of especially those of Cia. Din knows how damaging thinking of Cia, whose whole appearance and mannerisms were that of sinful lust, can be to those who saw her up close and personal, even years later.
"No, I am fine. I have protection against the elements with my magic. But thanks for the concern… May I ask you a question?"
"Well, it's more or less me asking you why you haven't asked me the burning question on your mind. I know it's there, swirling in your head. 'Who is Lanacia?' Is that somewhere on the mark?"
Joshua sighs and looks out to the snow-swept mountains. True, that has been on his mind. Lana hid her true past for a while, and Cia was just as forthcoming. But neither explained anything past the splitting of their soul. What is the Guardian of Time? How does one get the job? How long has Lanacia held the job? As they wait for Ravio and the tournament to start, Lana does have a point. No better time to ask than now. "Well… What is the Guardian of Time?"
"We are an ancient order of mages that have our roots in the Era of Time. When the Sage of Time thought about the ramifications of the Hero returning to his childhood could have on history, Queen Zelda raised an order of mages in secret to guard the flow of time. We were to protect, watch over the present, and ensure the future. For centuries, our sect hid in the Temple of Souls secretly, exiled from the world to perform our duty. We had our own little community of men and women, so while the outside world was forsaken to us, we enjoyed our haven."
"But I don't recall a community of time-seeing seers during the war."
Lana sighs. "You wouldn't. The Valley of Seers has changed much since the war between Hyrule and Labrynna. Because of someone's foolishness to venture to the outside world and use magic… We were attacked by some mages who found us, led by a vile woman named Verona. We defended ourselves as best we could, both sides took heavy losses...but in the end, Verona won. She got away to continue the war, but she left two survivors. A female who just became the age of a woman, and a slightly older man, the town's best warrior. One, born with powerful magic and destined to become a succeeding guardian, the other just had exceptional skill with the spear."
Joshua's eyes widen, but the cold air forces the eyelids back down. "Wait… That's how you know Volga? He was...one of you?"
Lana nods. "Yes, but not for much longer. He wanted us to leave the duty of our people behind and fight in the war. I… I guess you know my path. Bound by duty, I stayed behind, assuming the title as the last Guardian of Time. I used magic to halt my aging, and for the last half-millenia, I was alone in the temple until my soul split in half. Volgan never returned...or he couldn't, that is. But I didn't even know he was the one and the same as Volga until Lana and Cia merged as one again." Lana steps forward, her head directed towards her cup. "And...yes, we were in love then. But that was before the Spirit of the Hero...and the Successor of the Demon."
"So not the first time you bound yourself to duty over another."
"And not the first time I've continued to regret it… But I can't do it. Not as long as I have the arduous task of keeping Hyrule's history in check. Just as you have a kingdom to rule, a queen to choose… Although it's my fault that hasn't happened yet."
"Your Lana got in the way, and Cia indirectly killed Lady Aveil, did she not? No need to spare my feelings, everything that happened back then was my fault. If I didn't let darkness into my heart, if I didn't become jealous and envious of past Zeldas, the war would have never happened. You know it, you all do, but no one wants to say it. Just as it was my fault the Labrynnian mages found us, it is my fault Hyrule suffered a year of war. I don't deserve happiness or love. I deserve my eternal torment of loneliness and work. I am Lanacia, the last Guardian of Time...and I shall punish myself with that for the rest of time. No hero, no princess, and no warrior-king can save me from a fate as such..."
"You sure you two want to do this?" Ravio looks quite fearful as he leads us to where the participants are to enter the arena. "I mean, you got to now, it cost me 600 Rupees to enter you both, but are you certain this is the right course of action?"
Lana nods. "So far, it is the only way. So what are the rules?"
"Well, there are over a hundred competitors. So the first part is to thin out the competition. How, I don't know. There are a lot of tough guys in this crowd, some men, some beasts. You might be out of your league. Not to speak ill of your sex, but Lady Lana, I hope your personally reconsider. You don't look like a tough girl to me."
Joshua smirks. "You haven't seen her bad side. She's the devil. Worse than me." Lana smiles through her laughter while Ravio gasps fearfully. Joshua turns to her, "We do as best as we can together, increase our chances of advancing. Not that I think we need to."
"Yeah. Most of these brutes are magicless, so we have that advantage. I doubt they have as much experience fighting a large group of enemies."
"Wha… What have you two done back in your world?"
Lana turns to Ravio, pairing a wink with a huge grin. "Wish us luck, Ravio! Watch us from the seats!" Blushing (and more than happy to leave the stuffy hallway of fighters), Ravio practically runs out the corridor to the warriors' amusement, then they face forward as the mass gathering continues to wait to be called into the arena. Neither are exactly calm or confident they will make it through this tournament easily, and with the winner taking on the champion… Lorule's fighting strength must be gauged first before any idea of the champion's own power can be hypothesized.
"Welcome to the 64th Treacherous Tournament! Today, I bring to you over a hundred born fighters and blood-thirsty warriors, and all of them are the scum of Lorule! But to narrow down the competition, they must go through a culling. Most will die now, bit for those who live, it is another step closer to the champion! Warriors, come forth to the arena!" The Gerudo King and the Guardian of Time move along with the rest of the competitors into a grand arena. As the participants spread out, Joshua can get a full view of the massive interior of the Treacherous Tower. In comparison, the refurbished Arbiter's Grounds is smaller in overall size but the ground where the fighters are situated is slightly larger. He then takes in the roaring crowd, cheering for blood and death in the gladiator contest. This is much different from the wars of the past and even the Gerudo's own adaption of the sport, but even then, he soaks in the atmosphere.
"You're enjoying this."
Joshua chuckles at Lana's statement. "Of course. What's more thrilling than a fight that might kill us?"
"The man has a point." Lana and Joshua turn to see a woman around Joshua and (physically) Lana's age approach them. Donned in full black armor, with red hair that flows down her shoulders, and piercing crimson eyes that makes their souls shake. But what is truly shocking is the magical presence of the woman. It's beyond all the Loruleans that have potential and stronger than the Hyruleans. She smiles as she steps up close to Joshua, "I can tell by the fire in your eye that you were born to fight? But what for? Is it for glory? For honor? For survival? Whatever it is, it is deep inside you. Compared to the woman beside you, I think you have a good shot of facing me at the end. But only, of course, if you display your true power."
Joshua frowns. "My true power?"
She smiles and brings her face just mere inches from Joshua's. "Yes… Even the power of the Goddess Din… That's the only way you'll best me." A surge of power flows from the woman, causing the rest of the competition and the crowd to gaze in awe. Joshua steps out the dark aura of the woman as she snickers at the fright on his face. "Fear… Unbecoming of a king, especially of your people… Ah, don't look so flustered, sorceress. It messes with the few features that are pretty on you."
"It looks like the champion Arguro has set eyes on two specific prey! We'll have to watch them ever carefully if she sees something in them!"
Lana drops her jaw. "Ar-Arguro?"
Joshua's fear turns to rage immediately. "You're the Dragon Knight of Shadow!"
"And the strongest one of the women, second only to the Knight of Time. Killer of Argorok, the Queen of the Skies. And soon, I'll add another title to my name. Killer of the Gerudo King and the Sorceress of Time. Killer of the Beholder of Power, for whoever is its bearer by the end of things. So don't disappoint me, you two." Arguro turns away, leaping up into the crowd for a special seat of her own.
"This is not good news. But only Aquamenta had the power of time. But where's he?"
"If I had to bet, he's toying with Link and Zelda." Joshua drops his glare from the general direction of Arguro to the White Sorceress, then down to her right hand, the power of the gods faintly making its presence known. Tempting as it is to take it from Lana, he says nothing and looks back up to her worried face. She heard what Arguro said, that only with the Triforce of Power can she be beaten. Lana withholds herself from using the relic, while keeping it from Joshua all the same. The right thing to do would be for her to surrender it to him, but that's just as unlikely as him taking it by force.
"And now it's time for the competition to begin! The first challenge is the culling! The rounds end when all the monsters are defeated, and those survivors will be assembled into the bracket. First up...the masked King of Lizards! King Helmasaur!" One of the gates around the arena opens, and out comes a giant red-skinned quadruped with a bony white covering its face. As it appears out the shadows, it's spiked tail whips down, creating a veil of smoke and screams as the battle begins.
Lana takes hold of her Book of Sorcery as the other competitors either rush to or from the Helmasaur King. "Shall we wait it out or join the fight?"
Joshua looks back up to the crowd, then glares at the Helmasaur King. "On my honor as a Gerudo, I don't back away from a fight!"
Lana smirks. "You're just mad she hurt your pride. Both of ours… If our experience means anything, that mask is vital to defeating it. We have to break it somehow. I don't have any bombs on me."
"Me neither. Figures we'll need to do this the old fashion way." Joshua outstretches his hand, summoning the trident. Upon contact, he chuckles and lets electricity crackle down the weapon. "Let's go!" Joshua and Lana brisks through the sea of Loruleans, As they come close to the Helmasaur King, Joshua leaps in the air, gripping his fist and charging it with the combined powers of fire and lightning. Falling, he punches the monster's mask, causing a giant explosion around him and all those around the monsters. Feeling he succeeded, the King of Thieves smirks until he hears an irritated rumbling underneath him. As the veil of smoke clears slightly, it's revealed that his powerful punch barely made an impact. "What the-Ngh!" Helmasaur King knocks Joshua back with its spiked tail elsewhere in the arena, and in its rage fires a trio of fireballs that further splits into fourths.
Lana intercepts a blast with a barrier, saving herself and the people immediately behind her, but as for others caught in the path of fire, they're incinerated to their deaths. Dispelling the wall, she glances at the monster's mask, seeing it largely intact. A dent where Josh made contact is present, but it's so minimal it might as well not be present. Considering his power, that should have been more than enough to break the bone… Lana begins to rack her brain for ideas. Brute force rarely worked on 'boss' class monsters before. King Dodongo was impervious from the outside, but they fed him a dinner of bombs while he inhaled. Manhandla needed its four heads to be stunned before its weak point was exposed, so they whacked him with a boomerang. Argorok, the Twilit Dragon, had to be brought down with the hookshot (and, before then, a literal moon) to be fought. Gohma's laser-blasting eye was vulnerable to a shot from an arrow. All this to say… Link and Linkle, the two people who would have such equipment on hand, are not here… Wait, Link might not be here, but someone who can pass for him is.
Creating platforms out of thin air, Lana hops from one to another as she heads towards the crowd to Ravio. The Lorulean merchant, sitting in the front row, looks frightened by the fight below, so when Lana approaches him, he starts to speak nonsense. "Ravio," she says sweetly as she hovers in front of him, "do you have something that could break the monster's mask?"
Ravio gulps and slowly reaches for his pouch. "I should… Maybe this will help?" Ravio holds out a hammer, large enough to be a weapon of its own. Lana's old selves remember the Goron Chieftain who wielded a hammer back during the war. Taking it, she smiles and pats the Lorulean on his head in thanks before leaping down to the ground. Sensing the magic within the hammer, Lana skips forward, creating a cube platform to leap off of. The Helmasaur King eyes her as she becomes airborne, and propels the end of its tail at her. Lana twirls and dodges, falling with a yell as she strikes the mask in the same spot as Joshua. TO her amazement, it creates bigger cracks than the king's own attack, so seizing the opportunity, Lana flips back into the air and imbues the hammer with more power for a second strike.
The bone exterior finally shatters, revealing the Helmasaur's true face and true weakness. A green gem, right there in the middle of its forehead. "Scepter of Time, come forth." Trading the tome the old Lana used for the scepter that was once Cia's primary weapon, the Guardian of Time points the scepter at the monster's weakness as four dark orbs surround her. "Forma et figura, the Hero of Legend! Strike the enemy before me!" The orbs take shape in the form of Link, and each red-eye shadow follows their mistress' command as they charge towards the Helmasaur King and strike his weak point. It's not enough to destroy it, but it matters not to Lana as she takes to the air again above the monster, charging a blast in her left hand. "Mors." The single blast fires from her hand and impacts the Helmasaur's gem, shattering it on contact.
After the combustion of the Helmasaur King, Lana lands back on the ground, casting away the Scepter of Time. Taking a breath, she angles her head up towards the champion's booth, barely able to see the face of Arguro, but Lana can tell that the Dragon Knight of Shadow's earlier ignorance has been put to light. She demolished that monster, all without the Triforce of Power's aid, and for the most part, by herself. And like the champion, the arena is dead silent by the display of her power.
"That… That… That was brutal! That woman dispatched the Helmasaur King all by herself! If our champion truly did see potential before, we're all witnesses to it now. I"m not sure if we're going to have the other monster come out, we're down to nearly half our original competitors, but- Oh no!"
That scream coupled with the sound of a gate being battered against alarms Lana and the remaining competitors. Bending the inner side of the gate is a raging metallic hand. Lana prepares herself as the hand punches through the gate, revealing it to be a hand with an eye in the palm, and it flies straight for the gathering, only for another hand to grip it. This second hand, formed by dark magic, wrestles the monster to the ground, the combined sounds of flesh and metal being crushed echoing across the stadium. As the wails of the gauntlet ceases, Lana makes her way through the crowd to see exactly what she thought was happening.
In front of the monster's decaying corpse is Joshua, the dark limb recessing into his right hand. As the dark power vanishes, he turns around, his golden eyes flashing with rage before cooling off to their normal shade of gold. He nods to her as he puts the Trident of Power away. "Good work."
"How… How did you…"
"Seven years of anger...and I figured Ganondorf's power might be useful." He looks up at the champion's box, and his begins to flare again. Lana follows his gaze as both Hyruleans look to the Dragon Knight above, the woman cracking a venomous, lustful grin.
As expected of them, Lana and Joshua have advanced to the main competition. They've shown Arguro that their power is nothing to be trifled with, but being unable to truly defeat a Dragon Knight before, will Arguro's desire come true? And if so, who will be the one to bear the Triforce of Power?