The monsters' trail has led the split hero westward through the Faron Woods, then north, into the Gerudo Desert. Along the way, they further explore and practice their powers with the Four Sword. They follow the trail further north to the vicinity of the Snowpeak, where they see with their own eyes fresh troops of Ganon's marching out of a valley and making towards Hyrule. A warning is sent to the princess with their last homing pigeon. The split hero now seeks to find and destroy the portal before anyone else can join the invasion.

Snowpeak's foothills weren't nearly as well-forested as the Links would have liked; the cover would have been welcome. As it was, they kept a weather eye out for hostiles as the rode hard into a valley. The company of monsters they'd hidden from had marched and rode out of the adjoining valley, and they needed to sneak over to look for the portal. It would also be a good idea to stash their horses away while they worked. There was a spring. During the thaw, with the snow melting off the mountain, it looked like it fed a stream that ran all the way down to the river gorge. They slipped the bridles off their mounts and turned them loose to drink from the spring and graze on the grass and reeds surrounding it, and prepared to make their way over the ridge.

It was steep going in most places. They climbed angled uphill, boots and hands finding purchase for the hike. Green kept his eyes up for sentries, letting the others pick their route. They reached the heather-covered top of the ridge, where the wind was strong in their faces. But it was no time to take in the feeling or the view; the heroes inched their way forward to look down at their destination, cautious of enemy eyes still.

Sure enough—moblins, down on the floor of this steep-walled gash, about twenty of them. They weren't particularly vigilant with no reason to suspect trouble coming, but they weren't napping, either. They sat with their spears leaning on their shoulders and spoke in their own language, but they did not eat or play at dice or enjoy other distractions.

Up at the ravine, about five hundred feet away, they caught sight of their target: another tall and wide mirror standing in its ornate rectangular frame, surface dark, flanked with braziers as the first one had been. Two moblins stood near it as well, hurling spears at a tree to occupy themselves. It was well-chewed by the force and accuracy of their throws, and unfortunately, the quadrifurcated hero was downrange, so their eyes were pointed in their direction.

Quickly they slipped back, putting the lip of the ridge between them and the gaze of the moblins. Said Red, "Well, there it is. How about we get around behind the mirror, take care of those two, break it, and get out of here?"

"I'm game," agreed the thin hero.

It was slow going, making their way up past the head of the ridge, and across the mountain's shoulder. Green's eyes were constantly on the moblins down in the distance; he needed warnings about his footing. The last thing they wanted to do was to send rocks rolling down the mountainside to alert the enemies while they were out of bowshot. Finally they got around behind them, moving closer when their backs were turned to throw, and pausing behind trees when one turned back to the throwing line after retrieving the weapons.

Now they were close, down on the valley floor behind the sentries. The giant whispered, "I'll sneak up on one. Shoot the other when he's over getting spears." He drew his hammer and gripped it resolutely. Green pulled out his bow, Purple his ice rod, and they watched for their chance.

A moblin hurled the last spear. It hit square, apparently on what they were considering their target, because the monster turned to its fellow, laughing and raising its fists in triumph. It pointed downrange, and the loser waved a disgusted hand at it, then trudged over towards the tree. Red looked at the others, nodded, and broke cover.

It still impressed his companions how someone of his size and bulk could still be quick. He wasn't as stealthy as the nimble Green, but he was quiet enough to move up on the triumphant moblin without it noticing. Then he rose upright and swung the hammer laterally into its lower back, knocking it onto its face with a thump and a grunt. As it landed, he pounced on the moblin, finishing it with one crushing blow.

Its fellow turned at the sound. Red had been wise enough to crouch, for a ray of blue magic streaked out, hitting the monster in its face and freezing its jaw before it could shout the alarm. Then three arrows loosed at once buried themselves in its chest, it staggered, and pitched over. One after the other they vanished loudly with puffs of smoke.

Green, Blue, and Purple jogged out from behind the tree. "Piece of cake," said the large hero in a low voice, still aware of the monsters down the valley. He turned towards the mirror and patted the head of his hammer. "Let's do this."

"Wait," the tinker forestalled him with a hand on his elbow. "They'll probably hear the glass breaking, we'll destroy it from a distance and run for it."

"All right, good point." He put the maul away, and together they started for the ridge between them and their horses. At the foot of it, Blue turned back and extracted a bomb.

"Why that?" Red asked him. "They're sure to hear it. You could throw a rock from even farther away, or Green could shoot it."

"I'll feel better knowing it's been bombed, not just broken. Okay, compromise." He pulled out one of his bombchus, placed the unlit bomb in its back, and continued some distance up the ridge. There he stopped to wind up the device and lined up its path straight to the mirror. "Okay, buddy, this is what you were made for," he said to the clockwork rodent. His fingernails tugged on the fuse, and he released it. It rolled away rapidly, explosive hissing. "Made daddy proud," he whispered after it, missing the uncomfortable look that passed over Red's face behind his back.

Unable to tear themselves away, they watched the cheerily-rolling device run down the hill with its deadly payload. The sunlight gleamed slightly on its black carapace and on the dark mirror, and the wind brought the smell of the burning fuse to their noses. Blue's timing was good, for right at the foot of the mirror, the bombchu went off with a boom.

The mirror's surface spiderwebbed with cracks at once and its frame warped, but it did not shatter instantly. Instead the cracks flared a violent yellow-white. With an ominous whining, its face began to glow.

Blue and Purple were about to comment in troubled voices that the mirror in the cave hadn't done this, when all four of them were struck with lightning. It arced out of the portal and touched them in the chests. For just a moment they were filled with pain, and an unfortunately familiar sensation of being pulled forward by a river. Blinded, warped, dazed, and helpless, they lost all sense for a few seconds in the vertigo and flight.

When it passed, ache permeated their bodies, and they would not be surprised if they were smoking slightly.

Green groaned, lying on his back, head still spinning. Dizzily, he said, "I don't know about you guys, but I'm getting really tired of being sucked into portals like this."

"Yeah," growled Red, the sound making the archer blink. Something was wrong…

He tried to sit up and look at his burly companion, and was amazed at his sudden disorientation. There was an odd brushing sensation and rustling noise as he struggled to roll upright. Then he saw them: feathers. Why were there feathers when he saw his arms?

A sinking sensation entered his stomach, and he looked up. His companions were not around him. In their place, were other things. A ball of feathers ruffled itself into the shape of a small, horned owl, dark-purple its plumage except for a white breast and throat, and black tips to its wing and tail feathers. Its large eyes were violet when it looked at him. Beside the owl was a hulking and hump-shouldered bear, its coat red and brown. Movement in the corner of his eye attracted his attention. His head jerked to that side, and he thought for maybe a moment that his thin, begoggled counterpart was still with him. But instead it was a long-armed, black-blue-haired ape that sat up and gaped around.

"You're kidding me," it said, with Blue's voice, large lips forming the words. Green looked down at himself, and saw yellow-scaled, taloned feet and wide wings. He himself was in the shape of a falcon. The feathers of his dorsal surface and hood were dark green, his underside yellow-white, barred with green.

The tinker-turned-primate got to his feet, head tilted back to the sky. Thick, churning clouds obscured most of it, sheet lightning flickering frequently amongst them, but where the firmament was visible, it was a goldenrod yellow. His eyes dropped back down to the earth, and he noticed the twisted and nigh-lifeless stakes that were supposed to be trees. The soil was gray, and a haze of brown grass grew low to the ground here and there. "I don't believe it…" he said. "We're in the Dark World."

"The mirror was a trap," spoke the owl, giving his feathers a frustrated puff. "That had to be it. We sprung it when we broke it." Waving as he walked on taloned feet, he made his way to the shining shards of glass that lay heaped in a pile.

"First he splits me, and now he turns me into a bird," said Green, literally swelling in anger as his quills and hackles stood up. "I thought I was mad before, but now…"

"Hey, at least we're alive," the bear reminded him, sitting on his haunches and looking about.

"Alive, maybe, but now what? We just destroyed the way home!"

"Green, simmer down," said the bear.

"Why? You got a plan already?"

"Green, please," said Purple, nudging awkwardly through the mirror's smoking debris with his beak.

The ape knuckled over. "Here, let me help you with that, I've still got hands." He carefully picked up splinters of glass and set them aside.

"Thanks…" The peregrine had started to argue with the grizzly, making Purple's eyes slit. He pivoted his head around over his shoulder and shouted, "Green! Please, be quiet for a minute. I need to concentrate."

His face turned back around to the glass, and the ape told him, "That was disturbing."


"That thing you did with your head."

"Sorry… There was a spell on the mirror."

"Um… We knew that already from the one in the cave." Purple's head twisted purposefully around to glare at him. "Yeegh! Stop doing that!"

"Don't impugn my memory. I meant a different spell."

"Well, it must be from the trap, or maybe it's different on this side of—What's this thing?" Blue held up between his ape's fingers a chip of some sort. It looked like it was part of an orb that had been shattered, very smooth and iridescent white. Possibly, it was the brightest thing there was in this twisted place. Its inner angles were marked with fine and even graduations that somehow reminded the transformed heroes of a tree's age lines, or the layers of an onion.

"Loaded with magic, is what it is," replied the owl, eyes opening a little wider as he looked at it. "That's the source I sensed… There's another one, there." Blue picked the other piece out of the glass and held it in his palm for the mystic to examine. "I've got an idea what it was, but there was another spell placed on it," said Purple. "It's fading so quickly, though… Why do I keep coming across these things too late?"

"Couldn't tell you. Just our luck, maybe." The ape held the two pieces against each other, but they wouldn't fit together. "You can still sense the magic, though?"

"Seems that way."

"What about your spells?"

His beak formed an incantation and his claw tried to make the gestures, but he shook his head. "No good. I can't get the moves right, and the focus doesn't want to come."

Said the falcon, "Can we talk about what we're going to do next now? We need to decide something."

Purple's eyes narrowed and he waddled around to face Green and Red. The bear heaved a sigh as he saw his expression. "Purple, come on. He's right, and—"

"Shhh," the mystic interrupted. He shifted his head to the side, then launched forward and beat his wings. He flew around the top of one of the stunted parodies of pine trees, and immediately, he glided back down to them. "There's monsters coming, another group like the last," he hissed. "We need to get out of here."

"Blast," growled Red, lumbering upright. "You two fly out of here, we'll hide somewhere."

"The trees are thick that way," said Purple, pointing down the valley's right-hand wall with his wing. "They're coming up the other side."

"We'll find a good place to hide from above," Green said, stretching his wings and heaving into the air along with the owl.

"Don't let them see you, either," the tinker warned as he knuckled hurriedly towards the tree line. He was soon overtaken by Red. With no foliage to the trees, they would have to put more distance than normal between themselves and the enemy to avoid being spotted.

As grizzly and primate hugged their wall of the valley, the birds caught a draft whistling down off the mountain and rode it along the ridge. Green climbed higher and glided, turning his eyes down on the earth below. They were even sharper than they'd been while he was human, and his vision easily picked out the column marching up the valley, as well as his companions fleeing. They'd left not a moment too soon. He watched as the monsters at the head suddenly picked up speed, rushing forward to the shattered mirror. As he watched, the leaders of the group gathered around the fragmented portal, making him slow his glide. What were they talking about? What would they do with the mirror gone?

"Guide them," he called to Purple. "I'll catch up."

"Stay out of their sight," the owl reminded him, and beat his wings once as he soared a little lower to their earthbound fellows.

Green banked back to the dark mountainside. Several hundred feet above the broken mirror, he landed on a boulder, folded his wings, and turned himself to the valley below to watch.

Many monsters were searching the gray clearing for the culprit who broke it, while those gathered around the portal continued to talk. The falcon became concerned for Blue and Red as the lizalfos entered the gaunt trees, but before they could get too far, or pick up their trail, the leaders called all back. While Green watched, they reformed the column and turned back out of the valley. He threw himself forward off the rock and spread his wings, catching another current and soaring off high.

That, as it turned out, was a mistake. He left the vicinity of the mountain and was buffeted by violent and contrary gusts of wind this high up. Now he understood why the clouds boiled as they did. He fought the air for a time, refusing to fly lower and risk being spotted, but the constant wingbeats and unpredictable gusts sapped his energy, forcing him to descend. At the very least he banked over the ridge and the adjoining valley where, back in the Light World, the four of them had left their horses.

Spotting his companions, he folded his wings and went into a dive, relishing for just a moment the incredible speed and vertigo of the maneuver. He pulled up as he neared the ground, slowing and coming to perch in a tree.

"Hang back," he said. "They're leaving the way they came."

"Already?" asked Blue, grateful for the chance to stop. Knuckling along, trying to keep up with Red, wasn't agreeing with him.

"Yeah, they turned around and left."

The owl lit in a tree as well, tilting and turning his head this way and that as he listened. Red came striding back to them, sat down, and said evenly, "Maybe we should take this opportunity to decide what we're going to do."

"I'm all for getting back home," put in Green, head turned so he could watch the company of monsters through the treetops.

"Me, too," said Blue. "So where do we find a portal?"

"We start looking for one," the falcon stated. "Granted, that's easier said than done, but I sure don't want to stay here."

Purple said, "Ganon's not going to take this lying down. He'll try to get another portal so he can keep sending troops into Hyrule. That's to our advantage."

"We head for Hyrule, then. Well, what passes for Hyrule in this place, that is," said Green, and the others nodded.

When they left this gray valley after the monsters had put some distance between them, it was an ugly sight that greeted them. Here, instead of the yellow and red sands and scrublands of the Gerudo Desert, spread a fetid and nigh-endless marsh. Clinging black mud gave rise to twisted vegetation the color of lettuce gone bad—small islands of turf scattered here and there among unmoving pools of dark water, tangles of slimy vines and creepers, and gaunt bramble stands that rose from the water. It was likely that it covered just as much ground as the desert, but they couldn't tell with certainty, as the mire gave off a fog that obscured long-distance vision. The air smelled terrible and moved with large, buzzing insects.

"Yuck," declared Red flatly. "All right, let's get on with this…"

The gift of flight was a relief to Green and Purple, letting them avoid the mud. They could fly ahead somewhat and rest on the solid clumps of turf.

Blue and Red weren't so lucky. The bear jumped between the 'stepping stones' of sod where he could, and where he couldn't, he waded through the mud and water. He turned back after one to check on his companion, and found the ape up to his chest, making slow progress through the mire. His long arms were raised to keep them out of it, and his expression was one of acute discomfort and misery.

He hauled himself onto the island Red stood waiting for him on, digging his fingers into the sod and getting his lower body free with a sucking sound. "Climb onto my back," the bear said.

"No, no, don't worry about me."

"Blue, come on. Climb on."

"No. I don't need to be carried."

"Blue, please. You're not built for this. We'll move faster if you ride on my back."

The ape looked out over the swamp, crestfallen at the sight of how much ground they had to cover, then to his burly counterpart. "You're sure you don't mind?"

"I don't. Hop on," he said with a toss of his head towards his shoulder.

"Thank you…" The ape moved over and climbed up, sitting behind Red's hump and placing his hands on either shoulderblade. "Any time you want me to get down, just say so."

"Just hold on." The bear began to run, prompting Blue to grip his coat with the digits of his hands and feet. He leapt the gap between two clumps of turf, then slowed to wade through a wide span of water.

Soon the earthbound transformed heroes were covered in mud. It clung to their fur and splattered their faces. The birds were unable to stay clean, either, sinking with their claws into the sodden earth and getting mud on their breasts and bellies. They picked out routes of stepping stones for Red and Blue, making their path a zigzag across the swamp. A fairly-straight causeway was spotted north of them, but it was the path that Ganon's troops used, and despite the mud and bugs and stink, they had to stay away from the heavier-traveled area.

Despite caution, despite the filth covering them, they were still too bright for this place, their colors standing out in the green drab. It began to give them the feeling of being watched, and as they went deeper, the insects seemed to get hungrier for them. Blue slapped them away from himself and Red and the birds were soon constantly fluffing their feathers in irritation. Then a creature attacked them, rising out of the water with a gurgle. It was a dome-shaped lump of rubbery flesh, half-again the size of Red's human skull, sporting five tentacles on its top, which it flailed at them as it approached.

"Roper," said Blue. "Gross." He looked about for a rock, but the bear merely lifted a muddy paw and crushed it with a heavy blow. Its arms whipped about in its death-throes, slapping Red across the nose.

"Ouch!" he said, jumping back and rubbing his snout against his upper foreleg as it went to smoke. In time, the spot swelled and turned very tender, impeding his sense of smell and making his eyes shut slightly against his will.

Ahead of them, Green was almost surprised by an amphibious predator of some sort. Its cyclopean head emerged from the muck and launched a poisonous ball of spittle at him where he stood on a hillock. He jumped aside at the last moment, wings half-raised, and glared back at the thing. The thing opened its mouth to spit again, and he flew at it, sinking his beak into its eye and soaring on past it as it shrieked.

More such monsters attacked them through the long slog. The rest of the already-dark day was spent getting out of the swamp, moving from hillock-to-hillock, wading where necessary, fighting off ropers, amphibians, and serpents. The falcon finally spotted the marsh's edge through the mists, segueing into drier land.

Exhausted, stung, and covered head-to-tail in mud, they walked onto it gratefully. Water was found at the swamp's edge, tea-colored, but still a sight cleaner than what they'd been splashing through for the past several hours. It didn't look wholesome enough to drink, but it would do for a wash. Red sloshed right in a large pool and rolled over. The black mud bled off him, dirtying the water in seconds. Green and Purple chose their own smaller pool and waded in just to their bellies. They ducked their heads to splash the water onto their heads and backs, rubbing the mud off their wings by folding them forward and rubbing their heads and necks against them. Then they came back out and fluffed their feathers to dry them, and groomed and rearranged plumage with their bills. Blue dunked his head and scrubbed the mud out of his coat, then came back to the surface to drip dry.

When Red was done with his soak he shook himself mightily, spraying small droplets everywhere. He growled and rubbed his stung face against himself again. "I itch all over," he said.

The ape knuckled over to inspect his nose, which was running besides being inflamed. "It's still swollen… It may be like that for a day or so." Something black on his side drew his attention. Thinking it was a ball of mud too stubborn for the water, he tried to pick it out of his coat, but found it to be living and slimy. "Oh, man, that's why you itch… You've got leeches."

"I do?" He turned his head and squinted at the offending parasite. Red growled, then reached back and bit it with his front teeth. It burst, seeping its own innards and the bear's blood into his mouth. He sat down and began looking for more, finding them on his legs, paws, and belly, and systematically chewing them off, regularly pausing to scrape his long tongue against the roof of his mouth and shake his head to try and rid himself of the taste. Those he could not find or reach himself on his sides and shoulders, Blue worked on, pulling them off with his fingers where he could, and where they refused to let go without hurting Red, he bit them off and spat them out.

"You don't have to do that," the giant said as he worked.

"You got these carrying me through that," he replied. "If you hadn't, I'd probably be pulling them off myself right now, too. It's the least I can do."

"I appreciate it."

When the final leech was removed, Blue took a moment to pat out the last of the water and remove the twigs caught in his coat. The birds finished their grooming, all were tired, and night was coming on in the Dark World.

All wanted to put a little more distance between themselves and the swamp, and did so, walking on until its offensive smell was no longer detectable and the only clue of its existence was the fog on the horizon. Spread out before them was a brown prairie scattered with a new kind of twisted tree and bramble. Little could be made of it in the failing light, but it was something they'd pay attention to in the morning.

They sheltered that evening in a burrow found in a nearby hillside. Red expanded it considerably, digging with his strong claws, while Blue gathered fallen tree limbs and bushes. The bear enlarged the hole so all of them could fit inside. He went in first and lay down, chin on his paws, followed by the birds. Last came the ape, who pulled the brush into their burrow's mouth to hide and protect them somewhat. At the very least, its removal would warn them of a threat. Then he curled up on his side.

They could only fit snugly. It was warm in the hole while the wind whistled in the dark outside. The split hero was unexpectedly far, far from home, transformed unwillingly into animals. Each other, probably the only friendly beings to be found in the Dark World, were all the comfort they had.

"What are we going to do for food?" The bear asked. "It's hard to eat monsters if they disappear when they die, and I don't know if there are any proper animals."

"You would hunt and eat something?" Blue queried him.

"We've done it before. You know we've hunted deer."

"We had fire available to us back then, and we might not be able to find anything like a deer here… I don't know; we'll do what we have to, I suppose. What do the monsters eat, if they do eat?"

"Water is another concern," said Green. "I hope we'll find some good to drink out on the field, or thirst will get us before the starvation."

"Sleep," said Purple, his eyes already closed. "We'll get to it in the morning."

They overslept. The night was long, and the sun weak and veiled by the corrupted Golden Land's heavy cloud cover. Despite that, they'd had anxious dreams and felt no more rested from the extra sleep. This morning, they were also hungry.

Red's nose was considerably better, so that was something positive. They pushed out of their burrow, stretched and yawned, and looked around.

Morning didn't improve the dying field. It brought sharper relief to the warped trees, hedgerows, and slate-gray rock formations.

One thing shined in the distance, but it was no encouraging beacon when they recognized it for what it was: the Golden Pyramid, Ganon's stronghold. It was a distant, broad, tarnished edifice of stepped, dark-yellow stones that stood against the sky. The pyramid was grand, but the shadow it stood in (or cast out from itself?) marred it, changed its commanding stature to a brooding and menacing hunker. Its terraced sides seemed to shimmer at this distance as a mirage does. The Links resolved to stay away from it at this time.

They skirted it to the south, and saw that Lake Hylia was dominated by a vast, domed glacier here. The Links went to its edge, where there was melted ice. The water looked clearer than any they'd seen here, and smelled all right. Risking it, they found that it had an unpleasant metallic taste, but it slaked their thirst, and they drank as much as they could before continuing. It was brought home to them again how much they didn't belong when a pair of dark shapes were seen flying in the direction of the woods (what a nightmare place that must be here). The bright animals seemed to attract their attention, because they diverted for them. At the sight of them gliding closer, Green took to the wing as well, climbing high into the dark sky.

They were kargarocs, large airborne creatures something between huge birds and flighted reptiles, with their sharp beaks, crests, wattles, and claws, and bat-like wings of leathery skin. Blue stooped to pick up small rocks from the ground. He threw at the one in the lead as they got closer, hitting it in the chest. The two of them came to a hover out of the reach of the rearing bear and considered their prey.

It was then that the falcon dropped out of the sky like a green meteor and plowed into one kargaroc's wing, greatly disrupting its flight, possibly breaking its fingers, and making it stagger towards the ground.

The monster didn't touch the ground, but it came close enough for Red to wrap his paws around it, pull it down, and destroy it with a bite. The other found itself being pelted in the head and neck with rocks while Purple flew around it, tearing wing membrane with his sharp beak when it was distracted.

When it turned to snap at the offending owl, Blue nailed it squarely in the side of the face. Its flight suffered as a result, and he knuckled over, jumped up, grabbed it by the tail, and dragged it to the earth belly-up. He fought to keep its wings pinned to the ground and dodge its darting bill, and ended up taking a rake from its talons. The ape cried out, then jumped towards its head, holding one wing and its throat down with his gripping feet. Both his hands lifted a large rock from the ground, and with it he ended the monster bird's struggles.

"Let's get out of here," said the ape, dropping the stone as the kargaroc vanished and nursing the gashes on his side.

The rest of the day's journey was harrowing. Other minor monsters saw fit to attack them on sight and there was little cover to use. Then they came across a settlement: a bokoblin 'village' hidden in a copse of trees and underbrush that they'd been hoping to hide out in for a while. With no interest in fighting where it wasn't necessary, they watched the two-dozen monsters for a minute. They were making weapons, it seemed: knapping flint into spearheads and binding them to shafts, whittling tree branches into sword-like shapes, or fashioning thick hides into protective vests, sewn in with bones and sticks for decoration. The transformed heroes left the village behind without causing a stir.

Wandering on, hours away from the bokoblin village on the flatlands' eastern stretches, they spotted another settlement at a distance—no, more a camp, actually, for it was made up of tents. Its occupants were another troop of bulblins, their bulbos tethered to stakes driven into the dead ground.

This time some luck was with them, for there was a hedgerow for them to hide in a mile away from the camp. Their second day in the Dark World was coming to a close.

"They must be on their way somewhere," said Red.

"I see carts of some kind," Green told them. "The tents, they look like they're made out of some sort of hide. Pretty sturdy, but not permanent."

"Where are the uglies getting these skins?" wondered Blue. "Them and those bokoblins. There's something that doesn't vanish when it dies."

"From the way it looks, it could be the same kind of skin," said the peregrine. "And they kind of look like…" He trailed off.

"Like the bulbos," finished the bear. "Ah… Gentlemen, we may have found a solution to our food problem…"

It was a tremendously risky undertaking, and hardly the most savory, but the heroes were desperately hungry. They'd been traveling and fighting for two days with nothing to eat, and the birds especially used a lot of energy when they flew. Perhaps the other two could go on for a little longer, but Green and Purple needed the sustenance, and they still had no guarantee of getting back to the Light World where food was more readily available.

So it was, that in the dead of night when the bulblins were asleep, Blue found himself sneaking up on the camp. The owl, on silent wings, scouted ahead for him, and brought him word when all was quiet and the watchmonster asleep. Slowly he moved with his hand held out in front of him in the dark, until he came into the faint underlight of the low-burning fire.

That was as deep as he dared go into the camp, and found himself the outermost bulbo he could. He stroked the creature's neck, declaring his presence and hoping he didn't scare it and wake anyone. He wrapped his large hands around the stake and worked it out of the ground, hoping to make it look like the boar pulled itself free.

Its bridle gave a faint jingle, making him bite his lip. A bulblin's snore caught in its throat nearby, making him freeze for a minute, ears trained for rustling and limbs tensing to carry him away to hide. When the gargling returned to normal, he let out the breath he'd been holding. He gave the reins a gentle pull, but the boar stood where it was. Blue tugged again, and it still did not move.

He softly patted its shoulder, but it continued to stand. "Come on," he breathed. Harder he pulled, and it actually pulled its head back this time, resisting him and giving a soft grunt. This made him grimace, and come back to its side to soothe it. He rubbed its neck, glancing this way and that. A monster shifted in its tent somewhere. Blue softly trilled close to its ear, imitating a bulblin as well and quietly as he could, and this time when he pulled on its reins, it did not resist. He made the soothing noise again, and it actually began to walk with him, cloven feet making faint sound on the ground and clacking once over a stone, almost making him jump out of his skin.

The ape led it on, trilling occasionally, now spitting distance outside the camp. There was the faintest sound of wind and feathers, and from the ground near him came Purple's low, urgent voice: "Keep going."

As fast as he dared. Finally, fifty yards away from the closest tent, he clambered up into its saddle and nudged it forward at a walk, torn between peering forward for obstacles in the dark and keeping one eye behind him. The owl glided past, whispering, "Go," and he encouraged a little more speed out of the boar.

He rode it to a dry riverbed a half-mile away, where Red was waiting. It clopped down the bank, and he dismounted. There he undid its cinches and pulled off its saddle, and held its reins while the bear lumbered over. Green was already perched on a boulder, and Purple touched down beside him.

"Sorry about this, buddy," Blue said to the bulbo.

Raw pork would not have been to their human taste. But as animals, and starving as they were, the split hero had to admit that it hit the spot, even the ape. They'd slept while waiting for the dark night to make the theft. The four ate as much as they could hold, then Red dug a hole and buried what remained—perhaps they'd have to come back.

The faint dawn was approaching when they left the riverbed. Purple and Green flew ahead to the briary thicket up a hill at the edge of the plain, and Blue rode on Red's back, employing his trick with a branch again to wipe out the bear's tracks behind them.

They hunkered down in their hiding spot to digest for a bit. Blue had kept the saddle, cinches, and other straps. Seemingly unable to let his hands be idle even as an ape, he was making something with them. He tied the saddle to his own back with the reins, so it formed something like an overlarge papoose basket. The edge stood even with his neck, and he lifted Purple up to it. He'd created a perch for the birds to ride on and save their wings. The ape bound a cinch around his forearm as well, simulating a falconer's gauntlet.

Green kept watch, perched in a nearby low tree. "They're stirred up," he reported, looking in the direction of the bulblin camp. Not only were they breaking camp, but a few were searching for the missing boar. They got so far as to mount up on another bulbo to follow the trail, making the heroes tense. But the camp leader called them back, and they reluctantly dismounted and got back to packing.

"I think we should follow them," said the peregrine. "It looks to me like they're going to battle."

"That's what I thought when I was down there," agreed Purple. "There were spears and hatchets."

"I'm also seeing bundles of arrows, and more than enough leather armor for them to wear."

"You think they could be carrying supplies for all his troops?" asked Red.

"You know, that would make sense…" The falcon trailed off, looking in the distance.

"Because if they are, it'd be better if we got to the portal ahead of them," said the bear.

Blue pointed out, "We don't know where it is, though."

"Yeah, that's true…" replied Red. "Well, do we know which direction they're headed in, at least?" The peregrine didn't answer, only continued to stare. "Green?"

Surprised, his head snapped over to the bear, then back again. "Sorry," he said. "I saw something funny."

"Funny-cheer-me-up, or funny-weird?" the giant in ursine skin asked.

"Funny-weird, I'm afraid. There it is again." His sharp green eyes narrowed some. "It's hard to pick out because it's dark, and thin, but it's long…"

"Like a snake?" prompted the primate.

"Exactly like a snake. A really big black snake. I spotted it coming from that way out on the plain, then it went into those trees where the bokoblin village was… It's kinda coming in this direction—wait, there's more than one. I think that's the bushes we hid in when we saw the camp, that's where they're headed now."

"Are they using the same path we did?" asked Purple, exchanging a glance with the others.

"They could be, yeah… I think they are."

Blue pressed his palms together. "Guys, I hate to be the one to say it, but I think we're all thinking it… But it sounds like we're being tracked."

AN: I suppose it's been a while since I've done a good cliffhanger, so there ya go. These landscape chapters take me so long to write, even when it's something like the desert…

Oh, and how do you like their animal forms? It's one of the original ideas I had when hashing out this story: split them, and put them through the Dark World, but give each one their own animal form. Green is a peregrine falcon, Red is a brown bear, Blue is a fictional species of ape somewhere between a chimpanzee and an orangutan, and Purple is a fictional species of a small, horned owl—except they have their colors.

(For those who may have not played ALttP, when Link first enters the Dark World, he's stuck in the form of an anthropomorphic rabbit, unable to use his weapons or most of his items. The Dark World changes the forms of those who enter it to reflect what's in their hearts. The reason the hero was given such a 'weak and cowardly' form, and/or the reason the team is not anthro versions of their animals, you may ask? That will be addressed in a later chapter.)

Please review! I missed them last chapter, and I'm anxious to hear reactions to this one!