Legend Of Zelda Fan Fiction ❯ The Legend of Link: Lucky Number 13 ❯ What's Done In The Dark. . . Pt. 06: Ghost Dogs ( Chapter 38 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]

Author's Notes (Small version): Link's about to make some seemingly rash decisions in the next few chapters that are going to make you question my motives, hopefully. It's intentional, and, as always, serves a larger point that'll be tied up quite nicely. Just remember that.

Chapter Thirty-eight

So, where was I? Oh, right, the following day. So, anyway, I start things off with various incarnations of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The plan was to tell my kids the whole backlog of my life, or at least fill in the blanks for my son. As you can imagine, this didn't exactly go over well. Not at first, anyway. Little by little, however, there was a transition in my tales that saw him change his stance towards my blatant hypocritical statements against violence, while slaughtering people in times of need. Fact of the matter is that I never expected him to understand it. I just wanted him to hear it from me, not my uncle, or some shitty little coward. The height of the discussion came when he interrupted me, and asked a simple question.

"You don't enjoy it, do you?"

I explained that I only took particular pleasure in a handful of instances: One, my father; two, Rampart; three, Magi; and four was Ganondorf. And don't even ask how I managed to keep it together explaining that can of worms. Needless to say, I ended up telling the tale of my children's deaths twice-once to Link and again to Zelda. I told him everything first, seeing as how he'd lied about telling his sister that I was back due to the whole feeling like she'd take me away thing.

What kind of question is that? Of course it was painful, you ass-clown! You live through four time spans of pain and misery, and then tell your kids about it-tell me how you feel then. You stand there and look them in the eye, tell them that they've each died, and how you failed to prevent it. See if you don't redefine the word "painful" along the way somewhere. They forgave me, sure, but I could tell that was a little revelation they hadn't heard about. Anyway, Junior didn't seem to hold it against me.

The last thing to do on this most hideous of days was to restore my children to their true statuses of demigods. As I said the day I allowed Junior to get his ears pierced, no one would hurt my kids again. Hence, I put their powers in the earrings. If I wasn't there to protect them, they'd call upon the stores of powers in their ears to defend themselves. Clever, huh? See, with a little concentration and control (or lack thereof in emergency situations), they got access to a percentage of their true power at any time. However, the limitations taught them not to be reckless and not to rely on magic all the time.

Enchanted Earrings: Ask for them by name.

I called them together for this disclosure in the Sacred Meadow. I told them that while these powers opened up a new gateway of possibilities, they were also going to open up a new set of hardships as well. They were going to have to be cautious of people out to use them for their powers. Accepting these powers would also mean their lives would possibly extend far beyond those around them. They wanted specifics, but I could give them none, because all I'd learned in my time among the gods was that the demigod equation was one big variable.

They could be almost as strong as me or leagues weaker. They could live forever unless a god killed them or live millennia before ever seeing old age and millennia more before dying. This wasn't exactly a difficult proposition for Zelda, as both Nabooru and I weren't exactly looking to take the dirt nap for … well, ever. On the other hand, Junior had certain mortal ties. Who? Do the words coming out of my mouth even reach your brain anymore? Well, I imagine his mother was a gigantic mortal tie, but that's just me.

I actually offered all the Gerudo that option some time after the incident with the Sheikah. A good chunk of them took me up on it, but a few, those still at the fortress, declined. They called it "unnatural" or, in Sepaaru's case, said they wouldn't know what to do with forever. Heh, I guess you can understand my reaction to their presence in the forest that night a little better now: I had offered these people immortality, and then most of them smiled all up in my face knowing full well Nabooru's fucking around on me. The falsified bullshit of it just pissed me off until I get the real story, and found that they were as clueless as I was.

I digress, though.

So, my son, never knowing of the previous offer, asks if he can have a moment to talk to his mom. I oblige the request and put the proceedings on hold while he tears off through The Lost Woods. This leaves me in the presence of Zelda, whose first question is whether or not I've gone to see Nabooru. I hadn't. "But tomorrow," I said, "I'll go tomorrow, I promise." She accepted it, barely, which doesn't explain why I'm standing here in Hyrule Castle's main lobby. Why am I here? Well … see, Sepaaru told me today was a gathering day for a status report from the surrounding kingdoms. What? Of course I'm not avoiding Nabooru. I just think it would be better to check in on the council and see if they're trying to come back into Kokiri. And hey, I couldn't exactly ignore the summons from Fate and Destiny either.

Enough about that, though. As I was saying, Junior went to talk to his mom. Well, the conversation yielded an impressive result. And by impressive result I mean I ended up in the middle. See, he told her that I would be hurt if she chose to die, and that I really wanted her to be immortal.

"I consider you family, so the boy isn't feeding you a complete line." It's cute when your kids think they're smarter than you, even when you can read their thoughts. "Nevertheless, the choice is up to you."

Keep in mind that she's looking at me this whole time with the biggest "are you shitting me" expression on her face, which lent me credence to believe she wasn't going to agree to it. And when I was absolutely certain she was about to deny it, two important interruptions occurred. The first was a message from Fate and Destiny. The second was Zelda's less than welcoming statement: "It's not like he's holding a sword to your throat or anything." The latter only seemed to irritate Sepaaru and spur her into accepting the offer, while the former just informed me to show up in twenty minutes.

"Is this reversible?" Sepaaru asked calmly, to which I nodded. "Then it looks like I'll be there to make sure you go to bed on time permanently, kid." Junior's only response was ecstatic thanks, before it was time to proceed.

"One last thing of note: This may hurt," I told the kids, who both exchanged a look of marginal worry. "On the plus side, Ms. Sepaaru, this'll be painless. Now, if you two want to go through with this, hand over the earrings."

Again, there was that look of apprehension before they unclasped their earrings and did as instructed. I held Zelda's in my left hand and Link's in my right, crushing them into powder without much warning. With that, the released torrent of power manifested in a couple of plumes of light that seemed to touch the heavens themselves, before each wave curved at my discretion and smashed into my children. Their bodies leapt into the air with a violent lurch, as the power forced itself in through their eyes and mouths. I'd be lying if I said that I found it easy to watch them convulse like that, but, for whatever reason, they didn't seem to be in any pain at all. Minutes crawled by and the proverbial storm ended with a concussive explosion. Their bodies hit the ground simultaneously, wheezing and shaking before they both puked all over the place.

"Are you two all right?" Sepaaru asked, concerned by the lack of expressions following the vomiting.

They didn't reply so much as numbly stand, and look at their hands in a silent astonishment.

"Freaky," Zelda whispered in a long drawl.

As she looked up at me, her eyes lit up before returning to natural azure. In much the same way, Junior's eyes twinkled incandescently purple before they settled. They were strong, I noticed with a touch of fatherly smugness, irrepressibly stronger than I ever thought possible. And despite that power, neither looked any different.

"Link, are they okay?" Sepaaru was quick to ask the longer the silence held.

"Fine," Junior whispered, though still staring at his hands. "I'm fine."

He looked up at his mom and smiled in the next few seconds, ebbing into a rather ruckus fit of belly laughter. For a moment, I felt worried, his laughter seemed almost maniacal. Given the bloodline he's a part of, I don't think it was such a bad thing to assume the worse for a second. Between my tenuous grip on reality and his grandfathers' penchants for megalomania, there's a whole lot of insanity wrapped up in that kid. Think happy thoughts, though, right?

"So, now that that's done," I said to break the increasingly eerie silence and giggle fits of my son. "It looks like it's your turn now, Sepaaru."

"I guess so," she said rather nervously. "You said this won't hurt, didn't you?"

I raised an eyebrow, surprised by how unsettled she was. "Might tingle your toes, but it won't hurt."

"Go ahead," she then said with a shaky confidence, but an underlying trust in her voice.

Much as I'd done with my kids and anchoring their powers to an artifact, I'd done the same for Sepaaru. I lifted the charm of her necklace-a silver snake coiled around the blade of a sword-from between her breasts, which looked like a highly questionable act for what it was. Dismissing the odd looks from everyone, I ran my thumb over the creature's head and the eyes that once appeared to be silver opened. The eyes were glowing red rubies, and the immortal essence I'd locked in them was unlocked, and enshrouded her. Sepaaru gasped as her skin illuminated briefly then dulled, ending with the fortification of her life force.

"Is-Is that it?" she asked nervously, patting herself as if to check for missing chunks.

I released the necklace and said, "Yep."

"But I don't feel any different," Sepaaru continued. "Are you sure it worked?"

I laughed, but told her, "If you'd like, I could run a sword through your stomach and test it out."

No one was amused, save for me and Sepaaru. What can I say? We're sick, sick people.

"Well, now that that's all settled, I've got a meeting with the Big Two." Zelda, not surprisingly, makes one last hard sell on her mother's behalf. Trying my damnedest not to show frustration, I calmly acknowledged that I hadn't forgotten.

"Just making sure, since you're into charming people's snakes and all," she said rather snidely, before shrugging and attempting to make a small skip off top of the maze toward the Forest Temple. I say attempt, because Zelda launched so far into the sky that she appeared to be little more than a speck.

"Awesome!" Junior whispered in wonderment, giggling as his sister landed four inches away from where she started.

"Visualize how far you want to leap the next time," I informed her, smirking as she stared at me with incredulity. You could almost hear her eyes screaming, "What the fuck was that?" "This god thing is more than big balls of light. Unlocking your mystical abilities also unlocks the physical ones. And, physically, the force that holds normal people to the ground no longer has the ability to hold either of you. So don't be surprised when other things you took for granted suddenly require serious thought and effort. But like I was saying, I'll be back in a little while."

Naturally, this is the part in the story where things go hideously wrong. But, anyhow, seems it's time for this little council meeting to start. I'll tell you more afterwards.

Having taken his sweet, sweet time warping them there, Link and Sepaaru had arrived mere moments before the announcement of the council members. The Hylian members had long since gone in and been seated, but the Sermonian sect, as usual, ended up late due to their journey. And in the muted light, Link noticed plenty of new Sermonian faces standing around the hall. Meanwhile, they observed the simply dressed gentleman and his escort poised against the wall with typical elitist views: "He was too frumpy," "Too plain," "Too unrefined looking." As usual, Link didn't care.

"Whoever you are, state your business," a Sermonian servant demanded shortly after entering the hall from the throne room.

"I'm Link, the Gerudo King. And this is my guard, Sepaaru," Link replied. "So, what do you think we're here for?"

This newbie to the system had heard the name before, even saw the massive paintings of the man that lined the walls behind him. Needless to say, Link was a lot larger than the paintings seemed to suggest. Of course, the paintings were done before his little ascension to godliness, but few knew that.

"My apologies, sir," the servant said, bowing at the waist. "Please sign in."

Link took the quill and did as instructed, smirking as he was last on the list.

"Very good, sir, I shall announce you all in if that is everyone."

No one said otherwise, so the servant opened the large double doors and began reading names. The servant read the twelve names of the Sermonian diplomats in succession, ending with Arthur's voice calling the meeting into order as his servant paused for breath. Link stood with his back against the foot of one of his portraits, arms folded while waiting to hear his name read. He overheard the servant interrupt his king, telling him that there was another name on the list. He and Sepaaru shared a minute chuckle.

"Well, spit it out," Arthur replied, leaning his head into his right hand.

"Lastly, the Gerudo King … Link," the servant said, before he bowed and backed out of the room … along with the air in everyone's lungs.

Link unfolded his arms and chuckled again, but walked over the threshold. Stopping just inside the door, he scanned the room and its faces. Zelda's mouth hung slightly open, as did Arthur's, while Impa clutched fiercely to her daughter's throne, memories still fresh in her mind about what had happened some seven years earlier. His eyes glided slowly to the Sermonian table, causing all twelve members to comprehend their fathers' and uncles' tales about the son of their lord living among mortals in Hyrule. They attempted to bow before him, but it came out as one hideous thud, as their heads smashed into the table.

"Well, that's new," Link mused, his eyes finally coming to rest on the seemingly empty Hyrule section. The fixture of his eyes narrowed the minute he spotted her-Nabooru, his wife … FORMER wife, he had to keep telling himself. To the untrained observer, it was nigh impossible to tell if he was upset or focusing. This was her first time in the council since he'd left. She'd opted to have Sepaaru, Varia, or her daughter go on in her place, according to Sepaaru. "Ah, so there you are," he announced before cracking a large smile, taking the uncomfortable attention off his wife … FORMER wife. "I apologize for being late, but I see somebody had to leave early."

It was a safe lie, seeing as how the mind-scan he'd performed revealed that no one knew where he was or the circumstances that saw him leave. Well, Zelda knew. But for whatever reason, she hadn't told. He continued his rouse, trotting over to his wife and Varia's position like nothing had ever happened, with Sepaaru close behind. Varia was shocked he even came, considering the picture Nabooru painted was that he didn't want to have anything to do with them. Yet, there Link was-making light of his pain to put on a positive public air for Nabooru's pride.

"Uh, you can have my seat, sir," Varia said, standing behind Nabooru as Link thanked her and sat down.

Sepaaru stood behind her king, knowing full well he didn't need the protection, but nonetheless grateful for the invitation, even if this little show annoyed her for some reason.

"Thanks," he replied, scooting in and going so far as to give his wife a quick peck on the cheek. "So, what have I missed?"

Nabooru, for all of her internal hopes for happiness, knew this was a show. It made her heart ache, because with everything she'd done to him, she didn't expect Link to even acknowledge her existence. There he was, though-sitting there putting on airs to make sure the Gerudo didn't end up banished again. But more important than that, he was doing it for her specifically.

"What have we missed?" Arthur asked, putting the formal affairs on hold. "No one's seen hide or hair of you in years. If I can be so bold … sire, where were you?"

And the godly hold was still in effect.

"Can't exactly say, you know," Link replied, though pointed skyward for effect.

And, like sheep, those not in the know nodded as though he'd given them some real exclusive information.

"Well, if everything's okay on that end, I guess we can get the boring stuff out of the way," Arthur stated, falling back into the kingly monotone. A throne-side servant handed him a stack of parchment, which Arthur and Zelda mulled over for a moment. Well, he mulled, she sort of blankly stared at Link.

"What's on your mind, Zelda?" Link asked from the confines of his mind.

"You," she replied hastily, "are you okay? I thought I saw you before, but-"

"It was me, but I don't think this is the time or place for that discussion," he thought back to her.

Arthur cleared his throat then, saying: "Well, looking at this, I can't help but notice the production slide. Hyrule continues to grow and expand, minus a slight decline in Gerudo business these past few months, where as Sermonia seems to be in the grip of a depression. Weapons production-our greatest commodity-is down nearly forty percent in the last month alone. As my governing hand there, I want answers for this."

Link reclined back in his seat, slightly shaking his head about the length of time he'd wasted listening to these types of things. It wasn't a total waste, he had to remind himself. His children at least lived in a kingdom where they didn't have to live in fear of war breaking out over the smallest detail, and he'd had a hand in making that so through these little wastes of time.

"… I propose we raise the taxes," a diplomat named Armine suggested.

"You can't raise the taxes on people that have nothing," Link said offhandedly. "People are leaving the country in droves to seek opportunity elsewhere, and I've yet to hear one reason as to why that is. So, before you put the squeeze on the loyal, how about you tell us what's really going on there?"

Nabooru laughed to herself, allowing her amusement to show in the form of a small smile on her lips. It was one of the admirable qualities about her husband-

"Former husband," she told herself morosely.

Still, it was always amusing how everyone figured him not to be paying attention when he leaned back in his chair and fidgeted with his fingers. He was typically absorbing some hidden message from the proceedings that no one else caught, and he'd throw it out there and resume fidgeting as though nothing happened, leaving the speaker pathetically fumbling.

"I assure you, both of you, that everything is under control," Armine prattled on.

"And the rest of you," Arthur asked in lieu of Link's little outburst. "Are you so sure that this is just a minor setback in the chain of operation?"

Again, Link stopped fidgeting and just looked at them. They squirmed under his gaze, which made Nabooru smile despite the enormous guilt pounding her. She missed that about him, too-how he intimidated people without trying. Chancing a glance, she looked up at him and noticed he still had that air about him that said he was taking this all deathly serious, and fucking with it would only piss him off. The truth, Nabooru knew, was that he really didn't give a damn. Outside of anything that would have an affect on his family's lives, Link didn't care. However, his face didn't say that, and the twists in the tales of his reputation didn't make risking a lie worth it. So, staring at him usually yielded one result with these stuffed robes: They'd fold like wet laundry.

"We've lost the mines," Armine said in one long blurt, folding to the eyes of the god before him. "We thought we could take them back! But … the men started leaving. Countries came ringing with demands to be paid lest we be conquered."

"What!" Arthur shouted, actually getting out of his seat. "How in the hell do you expect me to believe that? Sermonia possesses the largest military in-"

"Possessed, sir, possessed," Armine whispered, rubbing his thinly trimmed beard. "After your father's death, the men began to lose faith. Some became mercenaries. Others joined our enemies or came here. Paying our enemies off or selling them supplies were the only things we could do. But without the mines for metal, the blacksmiths left in bunches, which killed weapons production almost instantly. And, on top of that, some of those dogs even raided our farms for surplus!"

Link looked at Arthur slump back into his seat a broken man. To think, twenty years ago this would've been hilarious. Maybe time does soften the heart, he thought, giving the notion actual consideration for the first time. Nabooru stifled a squeak as his head suddenly snapped toward her. Could he forgive her, the mother of his first child, the same way he'd forgiven a man that once supposedly took "everything" from him? Link placed his left hand around Nabooru's right and brought it to his lips. Tears fell from the Gerudo Queen's eyes, as it wasn't a guarantee that he'd forgiven her, but Link's quiet way of saying that she could have a chance.

"So, my homeland is defenseless and dying," Arthur said after some inscrutable mumbling. "How many of these so-called warriors have made encampment at or around our ore mines?"

The Sermonian diplomats huddled, whispering figures for a moment, before their mouthpiece spoke.

"Well, if my sources are true-"

"How many are there, Armine?" Arthur shouted through his gritted teeth.

"Roughly 10,000 per mine," he whispered. "And they're cities, not encampments."

Arthur cursed and slammed his fist into the arm of his throne.

"And how long has this been going on for them to establish cities?" Zelda's question made the entire table look at the floor. "That long? Why didn't you ever say anything?"

"With all due respect," a member Link was unfamiliar with replied, "we figured we were on our own. The prince … the king hasn't set foot on Sermonian soil in nearly twenty years. We established treaties for joint use of the mines, but when they began to take more than their fair share, we were already grossly outnumbered and losing soldiers daily to one cause or another. So, they decided to call our bluff."

"Are you saying I somehow don't care, Malore?" Arthur asked of his indirect accuser.

The man didn't reply verbally, but his look seemed to suggest that if the boot fit, Arthur wore it. Queen Zelda held her husband's hand as he tried to make sense of things. For all the wealth and power Hyrule had come into over the last few years, there had only been the one proverbial monster at the door since the one called Ganondorf. And that monster came in the form of the Chonoes, a warrior sect from Kroatoa that his father's men spoke of as vile beasts that thirsted for the carnage of war and little else. Kroatoa willingly submitted to a kingless kingdom, and became a part of Hyrule after one encounter with Link left their fiercest warriors nearly extinct.

Link, Arthur thought in equal parts awe, jealousy, and fear. That name alone kept the wolves at bay. Hyrule's military was thin, thicker now that Sermonian soldiers had joined on, but still thin enough to lose a battle to a serious threat. Of course, there were the rumors to consider, though. Hyrule was home to great mystical energies, but also the Hero of Time-the man said to never age and fight beyond death itself. Even his father-a man once called the Hellhound of Battle-was afraid of the latter. If Zelda hadn't taken the bait, namely himself, his father would've signed the treaty, because he truly didn't believe his armies could stop Link. It wasn't until he'd come face to face with the man that Arthur started to add weight to the rumors. There was always this kind of vibe coming off him-like an energy-that kept a crowd transfixed and made men play the roles of boys when in his presence.

It was a thick potion to swallow that, as a king, a single soldier-nay, more a rogue operative-wielded more control over the people than he could ever hope to. And what's more, even mentioning his name to some kingdoms caused their once stubborn kings and nobles to sign anything placed in front of them with giant smiles. With Zelda's murals and artwork decorating the halls, visitors were sure to keep the name on their minds-and the fear in their hearts-when they stepped across the threshold. This was the Hero of Time's country, and if they forgot it … well, they'd seen the artwork of disfigured bodies and men lying dead at his feat like slaughtered chickens. His wife's penchant for the gruesome was a bit disturbing, but, as his father once told him, "Kings are merely soldiers who've forgotten the battlefields they've fought upon to gain power, and, as so, they live only to forget the madness of battle so they may grow fat and old in peaceable comfort." So, reminding these once battle-hardened individuals of their mortality with paintings of death and destruction at the hands of a hero that seemed to take sport in destruction didn't exactly thrill them.

Why am I even the king of this country in the first place? Arthur thought to himself.

He could've given the order to have Link executed long ago, way before his little ascension, and the Hylian Knights would've keeled over with laughter, because whatever he'd done to them made them unable to fathom Link's death by another man's hand. Arthur knew that his own men felt threatened by the hero, so much so that they could only rely on petty insults, and even those stopped if he showed the slightest agitation. Arthur watched men that had instructed him in the art of war as a boy bite their tongues when Link had the floor. His fucking role models, his mentors, all reduced to cowards because of a stupid legend! UGH!

To wield that kind of power, have that kind of respect, have that much effortless control-Arthur suddenly felt very small in his own court.

"Sir!" a messenger shouted, stumbling into the throne room carrying a bucket.

Several knights, comprised of Sermonians and Hylians, followed him in battered and bruised gasping for breath.

"The marauders … they aren't settling, your highness!" the Hylian knight wheezed. "They … they still think … think we have it!"

"Make that `two monsters,'" Arthur muttered beneath his breath.

"Have what?" Link asked, as something interesting was afoot.

"The … Triforce!" the Sermonian knight gasped. "They still think its here, and demand it and the device to control time!"

"And … and … and …" the skinny messenger hiccupped. "They said if you send more liars, they can expect worse!"

He dropped his bucket, and the remains of a missing messenger spilled onto the floor. The four people present at the Hyrule table frowned at the spill of remains, accustomed to the violence. Their Sermonian halves, however, looked faint.

"Well, I'm glad I didn't eat breakfast this morning," Sepaaru mused, earning a stiff elbow from her sister for the flippant transgression. "Sorry."

Link, on the other hand, sat transfixed. The man had obviously been bludgeoned to death and then mush by something, probably a mace or several if he had to guess. Before the full ramifications of what was happening could set in, someone whistled from the main hall. A young man, maybe thirty or thirty-five in Link's eyes, walked in completely unhindered by guards or otherwise.

"My, my, my-Hyrule's gotten big and fat these last few years," he noted with a humorous bitterness, waving his hand dismissively at Arthur's attempt to summon guards. "You'll find that I've incapacitated your soldiers. Nothing like this gentleman spilled on your nice floor here, but they'll be asleep long after I leave."

"Sorcerer, right?" Link asked, earning a slight bow from his mystery man. "So, what is it that you want?"

"Some kingdom," he said, "landlords speaking for their kings and queens, tsk-tsk. I'll do you a favor this once, and put this one to sleep so we can discuss the terms of my so-called marauders vacating of your land."

Without much thought, he said an incantation and tossed a bottle at Link's head. Forgoing the mystical showmanship, Link opened his mouth and simply inhaled the bottle. No one was surprised but the sorcerer himself.

"I'm a grown man, and I sleep when I'm ready," Link told him in short order, once again leaning back in his chair and twiddling his thumbs. The Gerudo women around him laughed, bringing a slight frown to the newcomer's pale face.

"I suppose you can listen, commoners," he said deftly, clearing his throat. "My name is Carrion …"

"As in dead meat?" Queen Zelda asked, arching an eyebrow to such a foul name.

He gave that arrogant little nod that Link figured everyone born into royalty possessed.

"I only require three things from this land: The Triforce I've heard so much about, the device to control time, and for you all to deliver a message to the Hero of Time. Tell him-if he still exists-that history is ready to write a new legend, and that his time is up. Fulfill those requests and we'll be gone by nightfall."

And there was silence-complete, unyielding, disbelieving silence. Slowly, however, laughter began to swell and grow from Link's chest. Tears would've formed in his eyes if he still retained that bodily function, but nevertheless this was hilarious. Carrion looked at the king and queen for some sort of reply, as they too sputtered to keep the laughter in check.

"Aaah," Link sighed, still chuckling occasionally. "Who put you up to this? Victorious? Did that fucker do this to cheer me up?" Link decided to play along. He cleared his throat, slammed his hands on the table, and stood up. "I am the Hero of Time! Ha-ha!"

Despite the mockery, the mage didn't denounce the claim. Instead, he furrowed his brow and looked at the large man with bad prose. Yes, turn the blonde hair white with old age, remove the goofy sideburns, add some earrings, and he looks exactly like the Hero of Time in the pictures out in the hall, Carrion thought with a deceptively docile smile.

Link came out of his hero's monologue to a salvo of laughter, but retired to his seat still smiling. "Look, `Carrion,' tell my uncle thanks," he said through the haze of ebbing laughter. "Now, run along, we've got serious issues to discuss."

"Oh, I'm very serious, Link. It is Link, right?" Carrion replied, warping from the doorway to the Hylian table in front of his quarry. From under his dark robe, he unsheathed a sword and swung it for Link's head. Killing a man of such legendary reputation under cowardly means wouldn't tarnish his legacy one bit, Carrion decided on the spot, because legends were supposed to always be on guard. Killing him like this would just prove that Carrion was faster and more skilled.

Well, it would've proved such if the woman's blade hadn't interfered.

Sepaaru held Carrion's sword mere inches from Link's head, reflexes having dulled none. And for Carrion's disbelief at her speed, he also couldn't help noticing the absolute calm in the man's face that he'd nearly killed. Yes, this really was the great hero! He doesn't even blink with his death resting on the sword of a woman! Carrion thought with mirth.

"Strange, the great Hero of Time has a woman do battle for him," he goaded, removing his weapon and taking a step back.

Sepaaru glared at the moron, refusing to sheath her weapon in anticipation that Link let her beat him to death. Okay, that came from a bad place, she thought. It was a tad bit weird for her to desire to kill someone, especially since this someone couldn't exactly hurt Link. For a moment, her and Nabooru exchanged glances. They were feeling the same instinctive hatred. And although Nabooru could understand her own thirst for Carrion's blood for having the stones to even disrespect her husband like that, Sepaaru's similar reaction caught her by surprise.

I told her this would happen, Varia thought to herself, shaking her head at both women's simplicity.

"You can't beat her, so there's no point in trying to erase me," Link finally replied, completely oblivious to the thoughts of the women surrounding him.

"Are you suggesting that a woman can defeat me?" Carrion asked in genuine regale.

"She's the strongest flesh-and-blood warrior you'll ever find that hasn't been conjured up," Link replied with matter-of-fact clarity, shocking most with his faith in the woman. His conviction even startled Sepaaru, but she would try her hardest to prove him right, as usual. "So, you see, I'm not suggesting anything. I'm telling you a fact: Fight her and you'll die."

Carrion still wasn't impressed, and saw fit to say so. "Oh, and if I somehow `squeak' by, do I get a shot at you? Or is this your way of saying that your flesh and blood is too weak and too old to compete?"

"I said that she was the strongest flesh-and-blood warrior around," Link replied with a sly little smirk, as he nodded up at Sepaaru and released her to do with Carrion as she saw fit.

Sepaaru took the shield off her back as she rounded the table and slid it onto her left forearm, adding, "But he never said that he was flesh or blood." She chuckled in a creepy unison with Link that made Carrion's skin grow colder.

"If you squeak by, I guess I'll have no choice but to … fight," added Link, with that same deceptive veneer. Gods, he missed playing the little head games.

"You can't be serious about this, Link," Arthur says, obviously a bit flustered by my seemingly reckless decision.

I smile at the concern, but it's unnecessary. Sepaaru's never stopped training, and I don't doubt that she'll be able to lick this buffoon. Well, yeah, of course I know he's a sorcerer and has magic at his disposal. However, considering the things I've thrown at her mind and body, he'll have to dig deep. Oh, come on! I'm not doing this to show off my skills as a teacher! Besides, weren't you always bitching to see how the training paid off? Here's your chance. I also want to see if a hunch I've had about her is right in regards to her physical strength.

"Whenever you two are ready," I tell them, smirking as Sepaaru takes the offensive with a flying kick to Carrion's face.

His body sails through the air and hits the floor, sliding to a rest against the steps to the throne. The spectators take a breath in awe, where as I, again, smile. Her speed is still as devastating as I remember. Carrion hauls himself up, a bit taken off guard by her strength as well.

"First one's free," he says with an indecipherable "heh" punctuating it.

Sepaaru doesn't reply, choosing to keep her eye on the sword in his right hand and the left he has hidden among his robes. Too much staring, I can't help but think, noticing that she jumps some as he charges her.

"Wait for it," I whisper to myself, watching him stop and spin counterclockwise to lop her head off with his sword. It's too high to connect, and she sees it too. "Good girl." The hidden dagger in his left hand hits her shield instead of flesh, and Sepaaru takes a leap back, clearing twenty-five feet easily.

"Oh, so you're not an amateur," Carrion remarks, lacking the condescending smile of earlier. "What do you take me for, Link? A-"

As he wastes time bickering at me, Sepaaru seizes the moment and clears the space between them in a damn near an instant. Now that had to burn. Sepaaru connects with a roundhouse to his jaw that sends him clean over the Sermonian table. Ha! Ha! Oh, and it even busted his nose! That's great!

"Well, I could've mistaken you for a child's ball the way you bounced off that table," I reply, chuckling as he struggles to stand. "But, since I know how strong she is, I'll let you answer."

I must admit Sepaaru's ego has seemingly calmed down. Back in the day, a little praise made her get sloppy, but now … now she's all over this guy. If I didn't know any better, I'd think this was almost personal. I'm-wait a minute, he's back up. Wow! What kind of lousy weapons does he think I make? The Sermonian diplomats dive for cover as a wave of flame shoots out of Carrion's hand, incinerating most of their table in an effort to char my former pupil. Sepaaru easily blocks it with her shield, the latent mystical energies that I imbued it with arching the flames away from her exposed flesh. She's standing there too long, though. The fire grows, swelling beyond the rims of her shield, and begins to reach for her flesh.

"Burn, wench!" Carrion shouts, kicking the embers of the scorched table up into the air as he marches toward her, flames still pouring from his palm.

What the hell is she doing? I fight the urge to interfere, but Sepaaru keeps standing there. I built the shield to resist fire, not her body! And, as my patience draws to a close, she does an elaborate flip over Carrion's head, hits the wall, and pushes off like an arrow before he has time to react.

He screams as her sword slashes into his back. Sepaaru tucks into a ball and rolls off to a side to observe her handiwork, licking her top lip in satisfaction while he flails in pain. "It's too easy," she thinks to herself, not in pride but anticipation. "His skin isn't real."

Ah, so she heard it as well-a slight grinding. Perhaps our friend is hiding something under all those robes. I know that it's cold out, but not that cold.

"You can stop the games," Sepaaru says, speaking to him for the first time during the encounter.

And in that instant, Carrion stops shrieking and laughs.

"You caught me, huh? So, I guess the real question is whether or not you're sure you want to catch me?" The question is rhetorical, as his robes turn into a black liquid and absorb into the porous gray metal adorning his skin. His body begins to pulse with lesions, something below the surface puffing it out and misshaping it.

"Great, Link comes back and our guests' faces start coming off," Arthur mutters, watching Carrion's head split to reveal two canine ears poised atop his head.

The hideous shedding of skin continues, culminating in one giant popping sound that reveals his true form. Uh, that's … new to me. In the tatters of Hylian flesh is an eight-foot-tall dog in a suit of armor. His fur, despite being in rotting flesh for who knows how long, is a healthy sheen of brown and black. Even his slender face has a sort of regal nobility about him, despite the snarling and bared teeth. I'll give him some credit, because the name makes more sense now, since he seems to hide himself in the dead skin of others. What? No, I'm not going to pull her out. Oh, wow, he turned into a big puppy. Ooooh! Scary! I crapped scarier than that after Zelda's apple pie … with the meat substitute that time. Don't ask, I think my ass finally came back together a few years ago.

"Frightened?" Carrion asks Sepaaru, laughing as though his face has frozen her with terror. He drops the dagger and sword to grab the giant ball mace off his back.

A race of dog people … yeah, okay, sure that's scary. I mean, it's not like Hyrule has races like the Zora, a race of fish people that have eyes on the sides of the backs of their heads. Oh, and the Goron race is such a rare sight around these parts. Basically, if you don't have a third head coming out of an orifice, no one here's going to give you a second glance.

"Maybe if she were a soup bone there'd be something to fear," I add to the stalemate, arching an eyebrow as he even growls like a dog.

The snarl turns into laughter again, as he says, "Still over confident in your guard, I see."

With speed that sincerely surprises me, Carrion bashes Sepaaru in the gut and knocks her through the double doors. So, his strength and speed enhance without the hindrance of the flesh. Calm down! She's immortal, remember? Even so, I have to wonder how much that hurt her.

"Sepaaru," I call out from my mind, "are you all right?"

"Think he cracked a rib," she thinks back to me, gasping even in her thoughts.

"You can stop if you want," I tell her, stunned that an unguarded shot like that only cracked anything. It should've broken her ribcage …

Sepaaru comes back through the door, breathing a tad harder than normal, surprising her foe. "I'm not done yet," she tells him … tells me, frowning up at the towering creature.

Carrion turns the handle on his mace, causing spikes to jut from the once barren ball end. "Silly me; I always forget the spikes!" He slams it down for her head, but Sepaaru doesn't dodge. Instead, she bears the entire load against her sword … with one hand. "What … form … of sorcery is this?"

He trembles to his very armor with exuded force, yet Sepaaru's body doesn't move at all. I was right-she is that strong. I originally forged that sword of hers as a gift and because she kept breaking the Gerudo standard. It wasn't like I thought they were bad smiths or anything. I just wanted her to have a reliable weapon. Thus, the indestructible blade was born. At the time, I thought it was me that was swinging too hard when the blades cracked or shattered during sparring.

"I was wrong," I find myself admitting in whispered undertones, as Sepaaru pushes Carrion back into the throne room. "It isn't magic. It's Gerudo stock, my friend." I warp from my seat to his side, causing the skittish Sermonians to scatter for the throne and their king. Carrion's eyes dart back and forth between us, nervous that he's fallen into a trap.

Sepaaru screams and pushes his mace up with a force that makes him stumble. She capitalizes on his lack of balance, and slices into his armor with a furious assortment of slashes that makes me oddly reminiscent of the Iron Knuckle encounters from years past. The kill would seem near, but Sepaaru opts to wait. Carrion's got that familiar look in his eye. It's the look of a desperate madman that's physically outmatched, but can't deny his urge to kill the "inferior" being that's demeaned him. So, instead of forming a plan, he'll do something stupid.

He charges at her, mace raised high in both hands, and swings …

"Pull back," I whisper to myself. Like a puppet under my control, I watch Sepaaru move her head back, and Carrion's mace barely miss her. "And release." Sepaaru's teeth grit and she swings her right hand, sword still in grasp, and connects with his jaw. Carrion's body flies, twirling like a corkscrew thirty some odd feet into the wall at his right, and just slides down. It was as though a battering ram hit him. There are no rouses this time, though. He's unconscious. "Why didn't you kill him?"

Sepaaru breathes through her mouth for a moment, regaining her composure almost instantly.

"He said he leads the people that put that guy in the bucket. He's useless dead," she explains, smiling at me. "Besides, after all the stuff with the kid earlier, I figured I'd try not to add to the body count unless absolutely necessary."

Well, I imagine there are going to be words about this, so I'll fill you in a bit later. For now, I've got things to do in regards to our friend here.

Author's Notes (The Big Finish): I'll take a guess at the group consensus about my absence: There's probably some confusion as to why I appeared briefly in the form of e-mail to some of you back in January. And there's probably a bit of speculation as to what I've done with the last several months between this update and the last. To answer those questions, I'll go in order: Number one, don't let an internet service provider punk you. If you know you don't owe them, let's say, $300 dollars, and they refuse to believe you, don't pay it and roll over. Chances are they're trying to scam you and the corrupt fucker in charge will get his day. And when his day comes, it'll all be worth it, because you'll get a sweet deal on internet fees that'll make being without the net worth it. Number two, I resumed collegiate courses during the down time, thirteen hours worth to be exact, and I somehow managed to write about nine new chapters of the Link story. Sorry to the Tenchi and Outlaw Star crowd, but I can't express to you how difficult it is to even look at those stories, let alone edit them. Plus, there's this whole new OVA to consider in the Tenchi-verse, with him getting a fiancée (the woman that's living there in Tenchi Muyo! GXP Episode 17, an episode that also explains Mihoshi and the rest of the Galaxy Police's superhuman abilities, not mention reveals that Tenchi can run in excess of 50 mph rather effortlessly) and a BIRTH sister … Yosho's OTHER wife that seems all too willing to bone her grandson… all the Juraians turning out to be Earthlings (if the sub is to be trusted) … and don't even get me started on the guy with the five Lighthawk wings from the last episode of the first Tenchi OVA. If you thought I was looking to take Tenchi too far power-wise, download the first episode of that OVA off Animesuki.com and see over the top for yourself. In closing, I know this isn't as tailored as a personal e-mail, but I figured I'd kill about fifty birds with one stone. Take care, and thanks for the patience.