It's great to see some of you again! And thanks to everybody for the reviews! They were so sweet and I'm glad to see that people are as excited for this story as I am! So thank you bunches to TheSageofHyrule, Kamil the Awesome, Split Infinitive, bethroxy, Snowyflakes, TwilightQueenMidna, andKattheamazing for your reviews!

Disclaimer: I don't own Zelda


CH. 2

Zelda took a hesitant step back, her foot accidentally crushing the purple iris she'd dropped. Under the shade of the tree she no longer felt warm. The rest of the garden, bathed in sunlight, seemed so far away. She didn't smell the plants or dirt, and she didn't hear the rustle of leaves or the calling of songbirds. All her senses were completely focused on the gold-cloaked man before her.

"You . . ." she paused, swallowing. "You were in my dream."

A small smile tugged at the corners of his mouth, the only part of his face that was visible. "Your Triforce aids you. My name is Talisman." He inclined his head. "It's an honor to meet you, Princess of Destiny."

"I'm Zelda," she nodded. She did quick glances around the garden, but no one was in sight. "How'd you get in here?"

"We can converse later," he told her. "We must move quickly. They are coming."

Zelda swallowed, realizing that her dream had beenwarning her. She felt anxiety course through her veins, turning them to ice, but she willed herself to be strong. She knew something like this would happen one day. "Who are 'they'?"

A pause, then, "The four generals."

A memory flashed through Zelda's mind, a passage in her book over evils. She shivered. "Them? What do they want?"

"They want to kill everyone that stands in their way, which includes the king, his army, you, and the Hero. They're also after the Master Sword. Is it safe?"

She nodded. "It's in the Temple of Time, under the castle."

"Good. Do you know who the Hero is?"

"Yes," she supplied eagerly. "I met him earlier today. He's a boy who works at Lon Lon Ranch. His name is Link."

"Is he there now?"

"Yes."

Talisman turned abruptly in a swirl of gold. "We must get to him, quickly, before they do. Where are your horses?"

"This way." She hurried in front of him, taking the path to lead them to the stables. A thought entered her mind that maybe she shouldn't trust Talisman, but she rationalized it away. If he was opposing the four generals, then he was good. And aside from that, she just felt that he could be trusted. Her Triforce of Wisdom seemed to be telling her so.

"It's just over here," the princess said, starting to jog. She glanced back at him, strands of hair blowing in front of her face. "Can you explain to me what's going on?"

"I'll tell you what I can on the ride there," he acquiesced.

LoZ

The fading sunlight turned Link's temporary room red as he prepared to go to bed. He pulled off his boots and tossed them near the small wooden dresser, where he kept the rest of his meager belongings. Shadows began to slant from his bed and the chair that sat in the corner.

Changing into some loose clothes and tossing his dirty ones to the side, he crawled into the bed, pulling the covers up over him. He watched the sunlight on his far wall as it became vibrantly red until it was the color of blood. He frowned, his body tensing in a sense of apprehension. It was so . . . quiet.

Link shook the thought from his head, closing his eyes. He'd be heading out again soon, and he needed to decide where and what kind of employment he'd be looking for. He was honestly growing tired of farm labor. Maybe he could work at a shop or a small restaurant. And he could try to find a place to stay with his employer or in an inn.

He swallowed the lump in his throat, squeezing his eyes shut. All by himself again.

But isn't that what you want? he thought. You want to be alone so that old wounds aren't reopened.

He bit his lip, holding back a sob. Yes, but sometimes it's just so hard.

As the sun dipped below the horizon stars appeared over Hyrule. Link fell into a light sleep, curled up under the white covers. It wasn't long after that a noise downstairs awoke him. He blinked, looking blearily about his dark room.

There it was again, a persistent knock on the door. He heard a creak of springs as Talon got up. Link closed his eyes again, not really caring who it was. Burying his face further in the pillow, he-

"Who in tarnation are you?" Talon's shout brought Link from his doze. The Hylian frowned, looking at the far wall.

"I'm not letting you in here," Talon continued, "not until you-oh."

Silence, or he was talking too quietly for Link to hear. The boy sat up, running his fingers through his thick hair. What was going on?

"Link!" he heard a girl's voice shout, accompanied by thunderous footsteps as someone ran up the stairs.

Link sprang from the bed, his bare feet hitting the wood floor. He felt adrenaline erase all traces of sleep. He wasn't sure what to expect or do when his door was flung open and a breathless Zelda stumbled in.

"Princess?" Link asked incredulously, too shocked to nod his head in respect.

A man entered behind her, completely covered in a gold cloak. He was a contrast to Zelda, seeming calm and composed.

"Link, we have to go," Zelda said. "Now! Get your things!"

"Wha-?" the boy began, eyes wide.

"Link, what's goin' on?" Talon's voice sounded, his body hidden behind the other two.

"Link?" Malon asked, behind her father. "What's happening?"

"I don't know," he quickly responded, taking a step back.

Zelda grabbed his boots, throwing them at him. He caught them clumsily as she said, "People are coming to kill you. We have to leave, right now."

"I-"

"Please make haste, Hero," the man in the cloak said calmly.

Link frowned up at him, then sat back on the bed, pulling on his boots. "Okay, but am I going to get an explanation?"

"Yes, but there's no time right now," Zelda replied. She grabbed his green shirt from the floor, throwing it to him.

Tugging off his shirt and putting the green one on, Link decided his loose, white pants were good enough for now. He'd change as soon as he could.

"Have you any important possessions?" the man asked.

"No, just me," Link responded.

"Then let us go."

Link followed the two as they pushed past Talon and his daughter and went down the wooden stairs. Link glanced at the two bewildered farmers.

"What's going on?" Malon asked, blue eyes like two full moons.

"I don't know," he said truthfully. "I'll be back."

"Hurry!" Zelda shouted.

Link hopped down the last few steps and they went outside. The fresh night air was cool down his throat, the ranch quiet as the animals slept. It was a moonless night, making it all the darker. He turned to see a large brown horse waiting for them, flicking its tail rhythmically.

The man got onto the horse before helping Zelda on behind him. He reached out his large hand for Link. After eyeing it hesitantly the boy took it and got on the horse behind Zelda. He wrapped his arms around her waist as they took off with a jolt, the wind roaring in their ears.

The Hylian boy looked down at the ground, watching the horse's legs as they became a blur. A cloud of dust was drifting up behind them. His body was jostled, and he clung closer to the princess's warm body to keep his neck from being tossed around. He looked forward, realizing their destination was Hyrule Castle.

"Link," Zelda shouted over the wind, "this is Talisman; he's here to help us." The man made no move in acknowledgement, completely focused on riding.

"Please tell me what's going on."

"There's too much to tell right now," she replied. "Just know that there are people coming to kill me, you, and a bunch of other people."

"Why?"

"Because they're evil! They want to take over the world!"

Link's throat was becoming raw from yelling the wind, so he closed his mouth, deciding to wait until they stopped to ask his questions. The ranch faded to blackness behind them, and the horse quickly made its way over the grass plain. He could see the lights in the distance that signified Castle Town.

"Wait!" Link shouted, and Zelda's sky blue eyes looked to his face in response. "Will Talon and Malon be safe?"

"The evil people don't know who you are," Zelda replied. "So they'll be safe."

Link felt content in that knowledge. He didn't want them to be hurt because of him, even though he was dumbfounded as to why he was in danger anyway. But he figured he could trust the Princess of Hyrule. At least until he got an explanation. He didn't like anyone telling him what to do.

The soft thud of the horse's hooves turned into a sharp clack as they rode into Castle Town. Link watched a few people and stacked buildings speed by, a fountain shimmering in what little starlight there was. The area cleared around them and became the guarded grass path to the castle. Link stared up at it, eyes wide. He'd never seen Hyrule Castle so close before, and felt grounded by its majesty. Four towers seemed to rise up to the heavens, the outside walls looking impenetrable. Hyrule's blue flags rippled out in the wind.

Zelda had told the guards to expect their return, so the path was quickly opened for them without delay. Talisman took them right up to the staircase entrance of the castle. He dismounted in one fluid motion, helping the princess and then Link off before they had time to get oriented.

"We must take him to the Temple of Time," Talisman said simply.

"What?" Link asked, bewildered.

Zelda nodded hurriedly. "Follow me." She grabbed Link's hand and raced up the steps and into the castle.

As they jogged along, Link stared at his surroundings. The carpet was soft under his boots, and marble columns lined some of the walls. Banners depicting Hyrule's history hung motionlessly against the stone, and gorgeous paintings were speckled throughout. It smelled of dust, burnt torch, and rich lavender.

Zelda led them down a maze of halls and a staircase, her blue dress dancing around her legs. She was panting, her face flushed, but she was focused. Talisman was a silent shadow behind them, almost making no noise as he moved.

The princess took them to a wooden door at the end of a hallway. She gripped the handle and her Triforce piece glowed. Link took a step back, mouth falling open. With a click the handle turned and they headed down a narrow, dust-covered staircase.

Talisman shut the door behind them, and Link at first thought they'd be plunged into darkness. But there was a light coming from the bottom of the stairs that allowed them to see just enough. They went down quickly, footsteps seeming alarmingly loud. Once they reached the bottom, Link took in the Temple of Time.

It was a wide chamber, the floor and walls made entirely from smooth gray stone. Torches lined the room, seeming to glow with a blue-like light, making the boy assume they were spelled. A thick red carpet ran from the foot of the stairs and to a large door on the far side. Engraved in the door was the Triforce, beams of light shooting from it.

"Wow," Link breathed, a smile coming to his face. His voice echoed slightly, the temple being completely silent.

Zelda beamed back at him. "Amazing, isn't it? It just has this feeling of . . . power."

Link nodded, feeling it, too. It was as if an energy was hovering about the area, rich and uplifting in its strength.

"You will remain here, Hero," Talisman said.

It took Link a moment to realize that the man was talking to him. He frowned up at him. "What? Why? And why do you keep calling me that?"

"You are the Hero of Legend," Talisman answered. "Your destiny lies with the Master Sword, and so here you will stay until I evaluate our next action." He looked down at Zelda. "Princess, you will come with me. We shall see how we can counter this threat on the other fronts."

"Okay," she nodded.

"No, wait!" Link gasped. "I'm no hero. And I'm certainly not that hero."

"You are, Link," Zelda responded. "You were in my dream. I know you're the one."

"I'm not!" he protested, feeling panic surge up inside him.

Talisman reached into his cloak and pulled out a small sword, handing it to Link.

The boy took it and raised one eyebrow. "Why are you giving me a sword?"

"Protect yourself and the Master Sword," Talisman told him. "That is the first step of your destiny."

"I have no destiny!" Link shouted. "I'm worth nothing!"

Zelda felt hurt stab into her chest. She opened her mouth to reply when Talisman said, "We will discuss this later. Right now we must go. Princess, come. Hero," he looked to him, "we will return. Trust only us."

And then the two hurried back up the stairs, leaving Link standing there.

By himself.

In the Temple of Time.

Staring at where they'd last been.

He felt the cold sting of abandonment, but shoved it away. He didn't need to feel that again. He looked down at the sword in his hand. It was heavier than he'd expected. He could see his own tired, dismal, and curious expression in its blade.

Link looked around at the temple, so silent it was almost deafening. He laughed shortly, shaking his head. "Hero, huh?"

He started to pace, swing the sword experimentally. His footsteps and the slice of the blade through air echoed, making his every move much louder. He wasn't sure what to make of the whole situation. He felt overwhelmed, so much so that he was oddly calm. His mind drew up a million different stories based on the little information they'd given him, each with exciting and terrifying outcomes. But he knew that he wouldn't be able to pass any judgment until he received a full explanation. Once Talisman and Zelda returned, he'd demand it.

Click.

Link stopped, his sword arm going limp at his side. His pointed ears jumped to high alert, his body tensing. What was that?

Click.

Link's blue eyes looked frantically around the room, and he slowly turned on his heel so that he could survey it completely.

"Talisman?" he called out, his voice echoing back to him.

No answer. No sound.

Link backed up until he was against the wall, his heart starting to hammer. His eyes probed the shadows in the corners and on the ceiling where the torchlight didn't touch. He swallowed; his throat tight.

No sound.

Some of his muscles unclenched. He took a tentative step away from the wall, glancing about. He was just thinking that he'd been imagining it when a growl tore through the temple and he was tackled.

Link's head cracked against the floor as he rolled over, his sword sliding out of his grasp. He came to a stop and sat up, head swimming.

A man crouched a few feet in front of him, wild-eyed and baring a row of sharp fangs. Link started as he took in the man's claws that replaced his nails, the sharp bone-like spines that protruded from his back, and his hunched, animal-like pose. He wore dark clothing and had black hair, his jaw square and muscles strong.

A grin stretched across the man's face and he issued another growl.

Link sprung forward, scooping up the sword as his opponent leapt at him. He brought the blade up but it was easily knocked aside. The man backhanded him, sending him sprawling. A kick threw him into the wall, where he hit roughly and slid down.

Link moaned, still weakly grasping the sword hilt.

"Talisman left you here?" the man laughed, his voice rough. "He must really underestimate us."

Link pushed himself to his hands and knees, his body hurting. He struggled to get one leg under him when the man sprang forward, shoving him back against the wall. His head hit again, vision swimming. The man held him there, glaring bestially.

"Who are you?" he demanded.

"My name's Link," the Hylian moaned, trying to push his opponent's hands away. He dropped his sword so he could get a better grip.

"Where's Talisman?"

"I don't know, let go!" He kicked out, catching the man in the ribs.

He snarled and his claws sliced Link's side. The boy shouted in pain, writhing. Giving a dark sneer, the man brought his hand up to his face, showing his claws covered in blood. "Awfully spunky for a little-" He paused, dark eyes slightly narrowing as if something came to his attention.

Link was disgusted to see the man lick the blood off his claws, feeling his stomach turn. The man paused, then looked up at him with a start, eyes wide.

"You?" he said, sounding shocked. "But you're just a child."

Link didn't know how to respond so he didn't, merely struggling to get away. Suddenly the man wrapped an arm around his waist and threw him over his shoulder.

"Hey!" Link shouted, kicking. "Hey! Put me down!"

"Shut up, or I'll cut out your tongue," he snarled. He started walking toward the opposite wall.

"Talisman! Zelda!" Link screamed, fear coursing through his veins.

"I said be quiet!" His words were accentuated as he jumped onto the wall, quickly crawling up into the shadows of the high ceiling. Link held on tightly, eyes wide. The man gripped a protruding column and looked to a small black portal that hung in the air. With a grunt he leaped at it and went through, and Link watched the Temple of Time disappear from his vision.

LoZ

Link had long since given up struggling. He lied as a dead weight over the bestial man's shoulder as he was carried through thick, dark woods. The scent of bark was almost suffocating, small insects hoping in the thick grass.

Link didn't know how long it had been. The man could travel quickly, and showed no signs of tiring. Link was slightly more relaxed. He figured if the man wanted to kill him, then he'd already be dead. He knew that Talisman and Zelda had said that people were trying to kill him, so either they were mistaken or this man wasn't one of those people.

His captor's pace started to slow and Link arched up, glancing to see why. They were approaching a stone manor, vines snaking along its worn gray walls. Steps led up to two wooden double doors. It was two stories tall, and stood as silently as a gravestone in the woods.

"This is where we're going?" Link asked.

"Shut up." The man crawled up the steps and shouted loudly, "Acroff!"

There was a moment's pause before the two doors swung open to reveal another man's smiling face. His grin was wide, stretching from ear to ear. He had white hair and blue eyes. His clothes consisted of darker colors, too.

"Rolox!" the man said jovially, eyes sparkling. "You've returned! And you've brought a little boy! I told you to stop being a pedophile!"

The man, Rolox, let loose a feral snarl and Acroff danced out of the way, laughing. Link was carried inside and the doors were closed with a thud. The Hylian took in the large foyer. It had navy blue carpet, torches lining the walls. It was rather dark inside, shadows clogging up corners. At the far end of the room stairs ascended to a higher level that held one wooden door, the wood shining.

Link was relieved when he was set down, and he wiggled his toes to get feeling back in them.

"Are the others here?" Rolox asked.

"Nope, not yet," Acroff responded, walking up to Link. He grinned down at him. "Hi! My name is Acroff."

Link eyed him suspiciously. "I'm Link."

He received a smile in response, then Acroff straightened and looked to the other man. "So why is he here?"

"He's the Hero."

Link's head whipped to face his kidnapper, eyes widening before narrowing. "What makes you think that?"

"I tasted your blood," was the simple answer.

Acroff shook his head. "Rolox is unsociable." A growl from the other man. "You'll have to forgive him. Oh!" His blue eyes moved to the three slices across Link's side, the blood staining his green shirt. "That's no good! Rolox! That's no way to treat our new best friend."

"I'm not your friend," Link snapped.

As if not hearing him, Acroff reached into a pocket and pulled out a dark blue cloth. Link glared at him but allowed him to bind it around his middle. As he worked, Link turned to watch Rolox as he paced a few times. Then the man straightened and his spikes, claws, and fangs retracted. He crossed his arms, looked to the door before glancing at Link. A smirk stretched across his face as he took in the boy's shocked expression.

Done, Acroff straightened, glancing in the dark man's direction. "Rolox is a half-beast shifter, one of the last of his kind."

Link turned back to Acroff. "I've never heard of that before."

"You wouldn't have, they originate from the other side of world."

Rolox snorted, returning to his pacing. "Tell him everything, why don't you."

Link watched as Acroff sighed, looking to the side, evidently in thought. Rolox turned, beginning his pacing toward the far wall. His adrenaline spiked and Link started to run, eyes fixed on the door. But he had only gotten two steps when a staff was stuck in front of him. He hit it, the wind being knocked from him. He stumbled back, gasping.

Holding his stomach, Link looked down at the staff. It was black, so polished that the torchlight created red streaks on its surface. Dark blue patterns spiraled along it, rising up from the surface until they met and created a larger orb over the top. Link traced the staff up to Acroff, who held it with a smile.

"Sorry, but we can't let you leave," he said sweetly.

"You can't keep me here!" Link shouted. "I'm not this Hero that everyone thinks I am!"

"You are," Acroff said, his voice laced with such conviction that the Hylian was taken aback.

Link frowned, glancing over at a glaring Rolox. His eyes danced over the torches and to both doors before going back to the white-haired man. "What are you going to do with me?"

There was a creak as the entrance doors opened, allowing in a cool breeze. Acroff turned away from the boy, beaming at the large man who walked through. "Ganondorf! So lovely that you're back!"

Link's eyes widened as he took in the monster of a man. He made Rolox seem small, towering in both height and muscle. He had a dark green tint to his skin, and fiery red hair that complimented the torches.

Ganondorf snorted and said in a voice that was dripping with sarcasm, "So great to see you, too."

There was a steady clack, clack ,clack and a woman entered. Her chin was held high, an aura of complete authority about her. She had long black hair and equally black eyes. Her skin was a golden tan, her face thin. She wore a black corset and similarly colored gloves and boots. She had a knee-length skirt that was hued a deep purple and slit in three places, making it fall in pieces around her legs. A whip bounced at her hip. Link was stunned as he watched her enter, Ganondorf shutting the doors behind her. She was beautiful.

She scanned the other three before her eyes fell on Link. "Who's this?"

"The Hero," Rolox responded.

Ganon snapped him a surprised look as the woman raised an eyebrow.

"The Hero?" she said. "He's so young. Are you sure?"

"Positive."

The woman smiled and walked up to him, Acroff backing away to join the other two men. Link shrunk back, looking at the whip.

"Hello, dear," she said. "My name is Sephora."

"I'm Link," he replied hesitantly.

She placed her hands on her knees, leaning down so that she was more level with his face. "You don't need to be afraid, we don't hurt you."

"You kidnapped me," he stated.

"I'm very sorry about that, but you're important to us." Her expression fell, her eyes looking at him imploringly. "We need your help."

Link felt himself calm down, although he had no idea why. Something about Sephora's presence was so . . . comforting. The torchlight shone on her hair and leather clothes, the scent of lilac coming from her.

"Why do you need me?" he asked.

She straightened, still smiling. "Have you heard that you're the Hero?"

"Talisman told me," he replied. "But I don't believe it. I'm no one special."

"What else did he tell you?"

Link shrugged. "Not much. Just that people were coming to kill me and others." His eyes glanced over the four. "Are you those people?"

"Yes, he was talking about us," Sephora answered. "But, as you can see, we have no interest in killing you. So that's all he told you? It must be because he was thinking up more lies." She paused. "Do you trust him?"

"No, and I don't trust you, either," he said defensively.

She smiled. "Smart boy. This world is full of mean people. And that's exactly what we're trying to fix."

Link felt bitterness claw at him, the image of his dead parents flashing before his eyes. "You can't fix it; the world is full of too much bad."

"It is now," she said calmly, the torches crackling in the background. "It didn't use to be."

He frowned up at her, blue eyes narrowing and catching the glow of the fire. Ganondorf, Acroff, and Rolox were all dark shadows that stood watching some feet away. "What do you mean?"

Sephora turned on her heels, pacing slightly, each step making a loud clack. "There was a man once, a long time ago, who went by the title of 'the Master'. The entire world was under his rule. There was no violence, there was no war. Only peace."

"Really?" Link asked, his interest piqued. "What happened?"

She smiled, the red light shining on her black leather. "Unfortunately someone that he trusted most dearly was . . . interested in the Master's wife, and of his power. The man scarred the Master's face, and sent him into the Realm of Eternal Darkness. A place of chaos and blackness. A punishment." She shook her head sadly. "That man that betrayed the peaceful ruler-that was Talisman."

Link started, eyes snapping wide. "Talisman?"

"Yes," she nodded.

"How do you know this?" the boy demanded, doubt and certainty playing a tug of war inside him.

Sephora stopped in front of him, her pretty face falling. "The Master . . . is my father. He ruled so long ago, and since his betrayal he's been a prisoner in the Realm."

"I . . ." Link paused, eyes desperately searching about the room as if he would see something to settle his dilemma. "I don't know what to believe."

"That's understandable, dear," she said. "You've been through so much tonight already. But, Talisman didn't explain anything to you, did he?"

Link shook his head slowly. "No, he didn't."

"Do you know why he keeps his face covered? After he locked away my father, he tried to rule himself. But his son saw him for the traitor he was. He branded a 'T' in his face, so that the world would know what he had done." She sighed heavily. "But then Talisman locked his own son away in the Realm of Eternal Darkness. Society since has crumbled. War, hunger, greed, murder . . . It's all happened because my father was overturned by a traitor."

Link chewed on his lower lip, his mind spinning with all that had been thrown at him. He felt so lost; he didn't know what to do. Sephora bent down until her face was level with his, her black eyes staring deep into his dark blue ones. He felt himself calm, and she said, "Tell me, Link, is the world peaceful now?"

His parents . . .

All the blood . . .

Killed for no reason other than the money in their pockets . . .

He was all alone . . .

So alone . . .

He hated it.

"No," he said with conviction. "It isn't."

"Will you help us?" she implored.

The Hylian ran his fingers through his thick blonde hair, letting out his breath heavily. "Can I have some time to think it over?"

A sad smile graced her lips. "I'd give you all the time you'd need, dear, but unfortunately we only have until midnight before the cycle changes. You see," she shifted her weight, drawing back slightly, "This is why we need you. You're the Hero, and so you're the only one who can pull the Master Sword. The Master Sword is a key. It opens both the Sacred Realm and the Realm of Eternal Darkness. But it can't open both at the same time. It shifts between them every year. One year it can be used to open the Sacred Realm, and the next it can be used to open the other one." She licked her lips. "Today is the last day for it to open the Realm my father is a prisoner in. Tomorrow it will be back to the Sacred Realm."

She stood up, and Link sighed, turning his options over in his head. Everything she was saying made perfect sense. He wondered why it was he felt obliged to trust Talisman. He didn't know the man any more than he knew these four. Less, actually, now that Sephora had explained the situation to him. He supposed it was just because Zelda was with Talisman. But what did he owe to Zelda? Her family's rule hadn't saved his parents. She was pretty, and seemed so nice, but maybe she was misguided, too?

Link looked back up at her. "What will you have me do?"

"Pull the Master Sword, enter the Realm of Eternal Darkness, and rescue my father."

He ran his hand over his face, the gears in his head turning. The flickering torchlight sent shadows sprawling across the floor, and created warmth that brushed against his skin. For a moment, a breeze crept through the entry door and caused the torches to flicker, darkening the room and causing cold to caress them momentarily.

Link looked over at the three men, then back at Sephora.

"Well?" she asked.

He nodded. "I'll do it."


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