**All Standard Disclaimers Apply**
Book Three in the Doppelganger Trilogy
by Jennifer Wolfe
Stasis (n.)- "A state of static balance or equilibrium. A state of stability, in which all forces are equal and opposing, therefore canceling each other out. "
It is easy for those who are alive to forget death. We trudge through our small days and toil over our small concerns, hating and loving, working and dreaming. We are shades walking the land unawares with the bright flames of our souls burning atop shrinking candles. But as our wax melts and our wicks burn down, time ticks away moment by moment, and our flames begin to extinguish. It is in the twilight hours of life that we remember death. Will there be a place for us on the other side of the black veil? Will it be peaceful? Will we wander the earth with unfinished business, lingering as ghosts in the places we once lived? Did I live life to its fullest? Did I do what everyone else wanted me to do and never make time for my own destiny? Did I find love? Did I find success? Will my family be taken care of? What will become of my soul? In these moments of mortality we turn to legends left behind by the dead for answers that the living cannot give.
In Hyrule many of those legends have been lost to time. Shreds of their content still lingers in the living memory of the Sheikah Tribe, a people destined to watch over the portal to the land of the dead forever, eternal stewards of lost souls. Some legends said that hateful souls who strained and raged in life were doomed to wander Hyrule as poes, black in death as their souls were in life. They were to carry their hate like a lantern for all eternity. Some legends said that adults who died lost and alone would become Stalfos, and children would become Stalchildren. These would become hostile and attack others who are lost. Then there was the mass of souls who were simply not ready to pass over. These souls, having not accomplished anything in life, linger in the realm of the living full of regret that their lives had not shown very brightly. Their one sustaining hope was to have a second chance to really live, but there are no second chances once death has come for you.
In the Shadow Temple, the Ferry of the Dead accepts good deeds as passage to the Fields of Eternal Rest. Those souls who lived a life of mediocrity show up at the ferry with nothing to trade. The red hooded ferryman flips through the pages of their lives like instruction manuals and finds nothing of significance to warrant passage. Having no coin to pay, they linger on the shores and the ferry leaves without them. Listless, they drift down into the river of souls that carries the Ferry ever onward. They are doomed to float like mist beneath the ribbed hull for all eternity and bear the great and good souls of the world upon their backs, invisible in death as they had been in life.
Upon the deck of the ghastly Ferry, Ikal of the Sheikah, the Destined Holder of the Triforce of Power, and her companion Adrienne waited. Ikal's eyes seemed to glow in the dark. Each eye was rimmed on the bottom by a strip of red that thickened toward the outside of the eye and turned upward in a single curl, then thinned dramatically to trace the upper edge of her eye as well, but only halfway across the lid. Two red tear drops seemed to seep out of the thick red under her eyes and trace their way down the upper part of her cheek, stopping just at the crest of the apples in her smile. These tattoos shone as well, red lights in the shadows. She stood erect and prepared, wakizashi in hand, a black cowl thrown across her shoulders to leave her arms free. Beside her, Adrienne was as simply clad, as ever, in a cotton tunic covered by a brown leather jerkin and a pair of pants. Her pale, white hair and brown eyes were as wary as a wolf's, and since she had no weapons she stayed close to her Sheikah protector.
As ready for attack as Ikal was, there were no Stalfos jumping from the deck of the ferry to ambush them. Zelda had purified the temple when last they were there, and its restless souls seemed settled. No undead monsters wandered its halls and those deadly traps that had been invisible were visible again. Death hung about the Shadow Temple like a sad veil, but it was no longer malicious. Their passage, though slowed by Adrienne's awkwardness in her human form, had been safe.
The ferry reached the end of its track and began to the shudder. Ikal and Adrienne ran and jumped off the edge, landing safely on the stretch of stone that made up the shore. From there it was a simple walk across the bridge: an old raven statue that had been knocked down ages ago by the Hero of Time if the journal was to be believed.
There was one iron door straight ahead of them and one off to the right. Ikal headed for the one ahead. She put her hand on the cold metal handle and paused.
"Adrienne," she said, turning to the other girl with all seriousness in her red eyes. "You've come with me this far, and I thank you, but you can't come with me in here."
Adrienne crossed her arms over her chest and stuck her chin out. "You can't stop me," she said.
Ikal growled under her breath. "I could pull rank on you," she said. "In our pack, I am your superior."
Adrienne rolled her eyes. "You could, but you won't," she said. A small smile crept onto her face. "Ikal, I'm not here because I think I'm going to be able to protect you from anything else. I'm…" she bit her lip, frustration creeping onto her face a little before she shook it off and continued. "I'm helpless, Ikal. In this body, so far, I am helpless. Someday I will change that, but today I can't pretend that I'm going to be able to save you from anything. Despite that, I believe that I can help protect you from yourself. I can't do that if I'm not in there with you."
Ikal's body language softened. She stepped forward and placed her hands on Adrienne's crossed arms. "Dri, I can take care of myself. I'm a grown woman."
Adrienne smiled. "Dri, huh?" she said, loosening her arms and taking Ikal's hands in her own. "You've never called me that before."
Ikal pulled her hands out of Adrienne's grasp, a blush creeping onto her cheeks despite herself. "This isn't the right time for that…" she murmured, looking away from Adrienne's face.
Adrienne tilted her head in confusion, much as she used to when she was a wolf. "Of course it is," she said. "It's always the right time. In this world you never know what is going to happen next. Especially in this haunted place. I should know—I died once already, in the Arbiter's Grounds the day you brought me back to life and gave me this new body. We don't know what could happen in there or if we'll ever be able to make it out again. The past is over and done, and our future is uncertain. The only moment we have is this one. And in this moment," she took Ikal's hands again and stepped closer, their bodies almost touching. "In this moment," she whispered, "I want to hold your hand and plead with you to let me come with you. To stop you from doing anything stupid, like making yourself not feel anything anymore, ever."
Ikal swallowed and stepped away, her face bright red. She turned and grabbed the door handle again. "Fine," she said, more to make the wolf-girl stop touching her than anything. "You're just going to get in my way, but fine. I'll let you come."
Adrienne grinned. If she were still a wolf, her tail would be wagging as she followed Ikal through the doorway. On the other side, there was a series of thin walkways just wide enough for one person to cross. The two girls crossed the maze of twisting walkways, both visible and invisible, and finally stopped in front of a large door. It was made of a dark black iron with red rust along the bottom. Protruding from it was a skeletal head, its mouth open wide as if it were laughing. Its bony fingers protruded out of the bottom of the door, curling downward as if to hold to the door closed. Adrienne stepped behind Ikal a little, looking up at the figure of death with trepidation, but the Sheikah only paused for a moment. She took a quick, steadying breath and hooked her fingers under the bottom of the door. Grunting a little, she thrust it upward and they passed safely through.
The chamber beyond the skeletal doorway was round and had a greenish hue. The floor was made of octagonal stones, but the walls made even Ikal shudder. The walls and ceiling were made of human bones held in place by strips of iron. They seemed to have been packed in so tightly that they were solid, almost stone-like. Watching over this chamber of the dead were four demonic figures on each of the four compass points. Their faces were green and their large, fanged mouths grined as they rested their chins in their hands. Behind the girls, one of the demons rested above the skeletal doorway, seeming like some dark spirit guiding the skeleton who now barred their way back.
Ikal took a deep breath. She walked over to the circular pit in the middle of the room and looked down into the blackness beneath.
"That's where we're going, isn't it?" Adrienne said as she came up beside Ikal. The Sheikah nodded, and the wolf-girl sighed. "Figures. You three are crazy that way. Well, let's go then."
"You're not afraid?" Ikal asked, turning her glowing red eyes to meet Adrienne's gaze. The glow from her eye tattoos reflected off of Adrienne's pale skin, and made the earthy contrast of the other girl's eyes more prominent. The wolf-girl's eyes were a rich hazelnut brown flecked with hints of green that reminded something within Ikal of the forest that Adrienne came from and made her want to search them.
"Of course I am," Adrienne answered. The green in her eyes seemed to reflect the green in the room, as if in defiance of the red glow from Ikal. "But it doesn't matter. We have to go anyway, and we'll be together."
Ikal's brow creased. She remembered a different day in Shadow Temple, so long ago now that it seemed like another life. She had said those same words to her princess. "We'll be together," she had said to Zelda in the darkness of the entryway, where they stood shivering at the mouth of the evil-filled temple. "And when we're together, we can do anything..." But Zelda had shaken her head. "We couldn't save Hyrule together Ikal...we needed Link. I need Link, but he's not here," the Princess had said.
Ikal felt her head fall within her breast again, as it had that day. Those words, "we'll be together", hung in her like a stone. She shook her head. "It doesn't matter if we're together," she whispered, looking down into the blackness of the pit. The darkness seemed to swell out of it, reaching up with boney fingers and a laughing face to pull her in. "It doesn't matter because we can't do anything together...not like Link can. I'm not Link."
"No," Ikal snapped. "Don't. Please. Let's just get this over with." Without waiting for the brown-eyed girl to follow, the Sheikah jumped into the pit and soon disappeared in the blackness. Adrienne took a deep breath, shot one last look at the demonic faces grinning down at her, and then she followed the Destined of Power into darkness.
They fell for a long time.
Eventually the light from above faded to total black. The black seemed to go on for a while, as they fell and fell. Eventually, though, a light began to appear from below. It grew bright and brighter, until suddenly they were surrounded by blinding light. They splashed at the bottom shortly after.
Ikal flailed for a while in confusion-she'd expected to land on a giant drum, as the Hero of Time had ages ago, not in some random body of water. She felt more than heard the second splash as Adrienne landed in the water nearby. Gathering her wits about her, Ikal looked around for the pale body flailing, her eyes wide with panic. Adrienne had not had to swim as in her new body yet, and it was clear that it was not coming naturally. Ikal kicked her legs, propelling herself toward the wolf girl. Adrienne grabbed onto her hand as the Sheikah swam within reach, and Ikal drew her close.
Wrapping a firm arm around the wolf-girl's waist, Ikal looked around to figure out which direction was up. A faint light seemed to come from the direction to the northwest of her, so she swam toward it. Slowed down by the extra weight as she was, it took awhile for her to get them to the surface. When they did break the surface of the water, they took a deep breath of air. Adrienne was coughing, her white hair hanging wet in her eyes. Ikal focused on keeping both of their heads above water as she looked around them.
"I don't see anything," she eventually said, her brow furrowing. One hand was holding Adrienne about the waist, while the other was helping her tread water. "I don't see land, I don't see walls, I don't see a ceiling. I don't see anything." Indeed, all she could see was water and a bright, clear blue sky in every direction. She thought she could even see the sun above them where she would expect the hole to be, shining its yellow light upon the sea.
Adrienne started kicking her legs too, trying to figure out how to tread water in her new body. She was clumsy and not very effective, but at least she was trying. "What are we going to do?" she asked. "What does this mean?"
Ikal frowned. "I don't know," she said in response to both questions. "I can't tread water forever, especially while swimming for two." She turned them in a circle, looking increasingly concerned. "I can't see anything," she said again. "I can't sense anything either, with my extra sight. It's as if none of this is real..." Ikal's eyes widened. "That's it. None of this IS real. It must be an illusion cast on us by the temple."
Adrienne scrunched up her face. "It sure feels very wet for an illusion," she said, doubtfully.
Adrienne perked up, looking around. "Did you hear that?" she said.
"I did," Ikal said, spinning them around again in an effort to see where the voice was coming from. "But I don't see where..." even as she said it, a silhouette appeared in the distance. Adrienne started to wave her arms above her head, but Ikal just focused on treading water and holding the wolf-girl steady as the boat grew larger.
When it came close, the Sheikah could see that it was no more than a rickety row boat captained by a young man. "Ahoy there!" he called to them as he let the boat coast to a stop alongside the two girls. He rested his oars inside and leaned over. "What are you girls doing in the middle of the Lanayru Sea?" he said, leaning his elbows on the side of his row boat. He lifted his eyebrows as he looked at Adrienne. "And one of you unable to swim, at that. Where's your boat?"
"If you give us a ride," Ikal huffed, "I'd be happy to tell you."
"Oh yeah!" The boy jumped up as if a snake had bit him. He braced one foot on the side of the boat and reached a hand down toward the water. "Come on, I'll help ya in!"
Ikal passed Adrienne to him first. When she was safe inside, sitting on a plank of wood in the back, the Sheikah climbed aboard herself. She sat beside Adrienne as the boy sat in the prow facing them and began to row again. Though she was shivering slightly, it was actually very warm out. They would be dry in no time with that hot sun beating down on them.
Now that they were safely out of the water, Ikal took the opportunity to take a close look at their savior. Though she had first taken him to be a hylian boy, she saw at once that he was not. His hair may be blond, like the hylians, but his eyes were a light red, almost a salmon color, and there was something about the bone structure in his face and the lankiness in his build that reminded Ikal of her own race. As she looked closer, she could see that his clothing was a light blue with orange and yellow triangles like feathers pointing downward along the legs and waist. As he pulled back, she could see a Sheikah eye on his chest, but it was gold and had no tear falling underneath. There was no doubt that this boy was a Sheikah, she thought, but the manner of his tribe was curious.
"You are Sheikah," she stated. "Who is your tribe? Why do you use the ancient golden eye of our people instead of the weeping red eye we use now?"
The boy shook his head. "As far as I know, there's only one Sheikah tribe, all of us happily serving Her Grace, and our eye has always been gold. It's not red or crying...we don't have anything to cry about. Why would we cry tears of blood when a life of servitude to Her Grace is so wonderful?"
Ikal frowned. Vague facts from early in her Sheikah history bugged her mind. She could hear Impaz's voice in her memory. This is the tale of the Sheikah's early history, said her memory. Once, we were a golden-haired race, children of the sun and the light. Our eyes were the color of the great Salmon and we made our living off of the sea. We had no sorrows and no regrets. The world was bright, and we lived and fished as happy servants of the Goddess Hylia.
But one day, the Demon King Demise came out of the earth with his demon hoard. With his magical black Master Sword full of evil, he sought to rule the world and cast down the Goddess. He hunted our people down, because of their service to Hylia, as well as the Hylians that our Goddess protected on behalf of the three Godden Ones. Our people eventually fled underground to protect themselves from persecution, abandoning the all those who were still dying on the surface. They changed the golden Sheikah Eye to red in sorrow for our slain and began sneak around so as to avoid detection. We began to spend more time under the moon than the sun. Our hair changed to the silver of moonlight from the gold of the sun, and our eyes darkened from salmon to blood red. We became a people of shadows rather than a people of the sea.
Only one of our race stayed on the surface to serve. Impa the Servant we call her now. She was the last servant of the Goddess. Gifted with magical powers, she helped the Goddess Hylia fight the Demon God Demise, but it was no good. Alone, she was not powerful enough to protect Her Grace or the hundreds of Hylians who were being slain. To save them, the Goddess Hylia sacrificed herself to seal the Demon King. Overcome with grief, it was Impa who changed our tribal symbol. She added the tear to the symbol she wore to signify her sorrow over the Sheikah's betrayal. This is the history of our beginnings as it has been passed down...
"What is your name, boy?" Ikal asked, surfacing from the memory. If the symbol was still golden, then they must somehow be in the age before the coming of the Demon King and great Sheikah Hunt that slaughtered so many.
"Bran's the name," said the boy. "And you're Ikal, and that's Adrienne."
"How did you know that?" asked the wolf-girl, speaking up for the first time.
Bran shrugged. "She told me you would be here," he said, pulling back on the oars in a rhythmical pattern. They moved through the water at a steady pace.
"Who told you what, exactly?" Ikal asked. If they were somehow in the far distant past, how could someone know where they would be and what their names were before they even arrived?
"Her Grace knows everything," he answered, as if that were explanation enough. "I'm bringing you back to her now. She'll answer any question you have." His tone broached no further questioning, so Ikal sat back. Adrienne was shivering. Absently, Ikal draped an arm behind her and rubbed her back.
"You'll dry off," she said, resisting the urge to yawn. "The sun is warm, at least." With nothing to do but sit in that light and relax, the Sheikah was starting to feel the weariness in her body from their urgent, sleep-less flight of the past couple days.
Adrienne frowned. "If it is a sun. And anyway, the wind is cold," she replied. Still, she leaned against Ikal's warmth. The Sheikah allowed it, wrapping her arm firmly about Adrienne's shoulder. Soon the wolf-girl's eyes drifted closed and she fell asleep. Ikal felt herself starting to nod off as well, the rhythmical swaying of the boat in the water and the warmth of the sun affecting her ability to stay awake. I must stay awake, she told herself, trying to shake the sleep from her head. We shouldn't trust him…he might be another trick of the temple….
She must have dozed anyway, however, for the next thing she knew they were being awakened by their mysterious savior.
"Hey, you two better wake up. We're almost there," he said.
Ikal and Adrienne sat up. The Sheikah rubbed the sleep from her eyes and blinked in the reflection of the sun off the quiet waters of the sea. Adrienne yawned and stretched beside her. "How much longer?" she muttered, exercising the muscles of her toes and ankles.
Bran set an oar down and pointed ahead of them. "There, you can see the island."
Ikal and Adrienne looked past the Sheikah boy. Just beyond him, as he said, a small stretch of land had jutted out of the sea as they slept. It was very close to them now and Ikal could make out some of its features. There seemed to be a beach for the rowboat to land on, but behind the beach a thick forest of trees and underbrush waited. The forest swept upward, covering the base and middle of the mountain that made up most of the island. It also had the troubling side effect of concealing whatever path or structures or living things hid beneath its canopy. Above the tree-line, Ikal could just make out a temple of sorts at the peak of the mountain. Up there, it was too high up for much vegetation o grow, besides some sage brush and cheat grass, so it appeared barren and lifeless.
Bran hopped out as the boat hit the shore. He held it steady as Ikal and Adrienne climbed out, and then pulled it the rest of the way in. Once it was safely on the shore, the young Sheikah set the oars inside the boat and wipes his hands on his shirt.
"Okay then, the path to the temple is that way," he pointed to the northwest side of the beach, "and I'll be waiting down here for you when you get back." The two girls turned to look at the path. It was little more than a less-dense patch in the forest, barely a path at all, but some mossy cobblestones could be seen peeking through the undergrowth between the trees there.
"Wait a minute," Adrienne said, "you expect us to go all the way up there to see someone we don't even know?"
Bran raised an eyebrow. "I don't 'expect' you to do anything. You are going to go up the mountain to meet Her Grace. It has been foreseen."
Ikal sighed. "It's okay, Dri," she said, laying a hand on the defensive wolf-girl's shoulder. "Thank you for the ride, Bran." She nodded at the young man and then took Adrienne by the elbow and dragged her toward the path. "I don't know if this is a hallucination or if it's real, nor do I know if these people are friends or foes, but either way I don't think it's smart for you to argue with them," she growled.
Adrienne wrenched her arm from the Sheikah's grasp. "Someone has to question what's going on here," she growled right back. "Goddesses know, you're just rolling with it like it doesn't matter if it's a trap or not."
Ikal gritted her teeth. She almost responded by saying 'that's because it doesn't. They don't need a third destined to save the world, so what's the point?' but even as the words were on her tongue, she thought better of it. It sounded stupid, even in her own head. Instead, she just squared her shoulders and walked a little faster, heading to a pile of driftwood on the beach just beyond the pathway.
"What are you doing?" Adrienne asked, her voice still snapping with irritation despite the curiosity edging into it.
Ikal stopped at the pile of driftwood and starting sifting through it. Finally, she seemed to find something she was looking for: a long staff-sized stick, mostly straight and mostly dry. She snapped off a couple loose branches, peeled the rest of the rotting bark away, and then held her hand out for Adrienne to step back a few steps. The wolf-girl complied, and watched as the Sheikah swung the staff through a couple routines. Finally, she swung it around her back once and then held it out to Adrienne.
"It's just driftwood," she said as the wolf-girl took the staff from her. "But it'll work better than nothing if you need to defend yourself."
Adrienne swallowed. "Defend myself against what?" she asked. "Ikal, I don't know how to use one of these things. Not that long ago I had claws and teeth and a big, shaggy pelt remember?"
"What's there to know?" Ikal asked, chuckling a little. Her tone was sarcastic. "Someone tries to attack you, you hit them with the big stick. Got it?"
Adrienne rolled her eyes. "YEAH. Sure. GOT IT."
"Whatever," Ikal said. "Let's get going. It's going to take a while to get to the top."
Adrienne made a face when Ikal's back was turned, which the Sheikah pretended to ignore. The brown-eyed girl sighed. She thought about staying on the beach, just to be obstinate, but of course she followed the Sheikah woman anyway. It was she, herself, who had insisted on coming in the first place, and Adrienne was more convinced now than ever that Ikal needed her there.
Within the forest, the light dimmed dramatically. A few dappled rays hit the mossy cobblestone path, just enough to light their way through that dark underbrush. After a few twists and turns, Adrienne didn't know which way was out even if she had wanted to go back. Ikal kept a hand ready on her wakizashi, peering through the foliage to see what was ahead.
Suddenly, the path disappeared. They came into a large clearing, completely empty except for soft grass beneath their feet. There was something unnatural about how even and un-blemished the ground was, and how round the space. On the other side, Ikal could see where the path continued. A feeling of warning churned in her stomach. "I would have that big stick ready if I were you," she said to Adrienne as she drew her wakizashi and stepped into the middle of the clearing.
The trees rustled. A flock of birds took flight. Ikal could hear heavy breathing, and it wasn't her own. She saw their clubs first, wrapped in vines and rusty spikes, before the rest of the Bokoblins emerged from the trees. They weren't the blue or purple-skinned Bokoblins of her own time, but rather a pig-faced, brown-skinned variety wearing simple clothing made from animal hide. They were a primitive evolution of the species from the Sky Era, if Ikal's memory of Zelda's history lessons (which the Sheikah always helped her study before her big tests) served her.
Though Ikal wondered how they could be facing such ancient foes, she had no time to think on it. She leapt into action, pulling Adrienne to her side as she sliced at the beasts with her wakizashi. They advanced from all sides. The Sheikah kicked at them and punched them as if her hands and feet were blades, whirling in a protective circle about her white-haired friend. A new bokoblin emerged from the woods every time one fell. Ikal danced a deadly tango, her body a blur of motion. Her teeth were gritted, her brow furrowed in concentration.
It was only a matter of time before one of the monsters approached Adrienne and Ikal was unable to help her. The Guardian was entangled with four of them when two broke the tree-line and advanced on the wolf-girl. Their mouths hung open, slobbering as flies buzzed about their heads.
With a panicked yell, Adrienne took her staff in both hands and swung it sideways as hard as she could. The wood slammed through the two Bokoblin's skulls, smashing them against each other. The monsters' eyes rolled back in their heads and they slumped to the ground where they stood.
Ikal spun around. She grabbed Adrienne's free wrist and looked from her to the bokoblins and back. "You okay?!" she asked, knowing the answer already.
"Yes!" Adrienne shouted. "Duck!" Ikal obliged, and the wolf-girl jabbed the bokoblin approaching Ikal from behind in the face with the butt of the staff.
"Thanks!" Ikal said, grinning. She returned to her remaining opponents, and Adrienne focused on attacking the ones who approached on her side. With both of them fighting, it wasn't long before the hoard slowed down and, eventually, trickled off.
The two girls were bent over and panting, sweat rolling down their faces. Ikal, accustomed to fighting, was in better shape than Adrienne but both felt tired. Dead and unconscious bodies lay strew about the women's feet. Blood dyed the green grass red. Having caught her breath first, the Guardian looked about at the carnage and then up at Adrienne.
"You did well," she said, smiling despite herself. "You were a big help. Thank you."
Adrienne wiped some sweat off her brow and straightened. She tossed the staff in the air and caught it, cocking a half smile at the Sheikah. "It was no problem…just hit them with the big stick, right?"
Ikal just laughed in response. She walked toward where the path continued on the opposite side of the clearing, knowing Adrienne would follow. The shade under the canopy cooled the girls' skin down soon enough. Ikal kept a wary eye on the tree line on either side of them, but she could see no sign of a pending attack. "Keep your guard up," she told Adrienne. "I get the feeling that they aren't the last enemies that we're going to see."
The path turned right, left, and then right again. It seemed to be switch backing up the mountainside, which would take longer than a straight shoot up but would also be easier. They passed over some stepping stones in a shallow creek and up a steep, rocky incline. When they reached the top of the rocks, the land flattened out for a moment in a wide, rocky plateau. A few barren pine trees dotted the landscape. On the other side, Ikal could see the cobblestone path continue.
"I have a hunch this is going to be another ambush," Ikal said, drawing her wakizashi again. Adrienne nodded and made sure she had her staff in both hands. They advanced together, armed and prepared for what may come.
Ikal was expecting more Bokoblins, so when hulking blue-black forms belonging to two Dark Lizalfos of the Sky Era and one towering, six-armed, armored Stalfos appeared her mind went into a white panic. There was no way that Adrienne could survive or help in a fight like this, and her wakizashi appeared small compared to the length of the lizalfos' spiked tails or the stalfos's six curved and blood-stained scimitars.
"Adrienne, run," she said, crouching down, her eyes flickering from one hungry, slathering enemy to the next.
"No," Adrienne said, clutching her driftwood staff in hands that shook. "No, I'm going to help you."
Ikal grit her teeth. "You can't help me here! Run! Back to the boat!" She shoved Adrienne back toward the steep incline, praying the girl would be smart enough to climb down where she would be safe. There wasn't time to make sure of that, though. The Lizalfos approached together, their gray throats glowing black with the dark fire welling up in their bellies. Behind them, the stalfos clacked his teeth in a sound that was almost like a laugh and starting grating his swords against each other.
The Sheikah kept her eyes on the lizalfos, the more immediate threats. She had never fought a foe like them, and her knowledge of ancient monsters was not good. One thing she could deduce on sight: the spiked balls at the end of their tails was obviously their main weapon, and the stone plates on their arms would make effective shields against any oncoming attack. She could also deduce, from her experience with dodongos in the Goron Mines, that the dark glow in their chest and throat could be some sort of dark fire.
The lizalfos on the right took a deep breath, while the one on the left coiled the muscles on one side of his body and poised his tail for a swing. They struck at the same time. Ikal jumped straight up into the air, leaping over the dark fire as it splayed out across the rock, and the spiked tail as it swung where her legs had been. She did a summersault in the air and twisted her body around, landing lightly on her feel behind them. Before they could realize where she was, she slashed at the back of their necks with her wakizashi. Their hide was thick, almost like rock, and the steel of her small blade seemed to just scrape against the scales and do no lasting damage.
The lizalfos spun around. They seemed to almost grin as the Guardian held her wakizashi up. They advanced on her, and behind her the stalfos had had enough of waiting for his turn. Ikal's breath came fast, her heart pounding in her chest. She never thought that this was how her story would end. Behind her, the stalfos lifted two of his scimitars and aimed their blades at her neck. In front of her, both of the lizalfos were taking deep, dark, hot breaths.
"HEY! Don't touch her!"
The lizalfos paused, looking around for the voice. Adrienne darted to Ikal's side from where she had been standing by the climb down.
The wolf-girl ignored Ikal's protests. She swung the staff as hard as she could at the lizalfos' heads. The driftwood bounced off with a hollow, ringing sound, and their heads snapped back around. They hissed, their eyes seeming to start glowing with malice and fire. Adrienne had spun around, though, and swung her staff at the wrists of the stalfos. His skeletal hands smashed together, the scimitars clanging against each other. He dropped them in surprise, and Adrienne started to grin until he uncoiled his last two sets of hands, four scimitars flashing out where once there had been two.
Adrienne shrunk back. She dropped the staff, knowing it to be useless, and groped for Ikal's hand. "I'm sorry, Ika," she whispered. "I tried to help…."
Ikal was trying to reach for one of the dropped scimitars. If only she could reach one, it would be strong and sharp enough to fight them, but the stalfos had dropped them just behind himself and to grab the hilt she would have to pass under his lowest pair of swords. Still flattened her body and stretched her arm toward the hilt while the lizalfos took a deep breath, and the stalfos raised his four swords high.
The stalfos screeched as he let his four swords swing. Ikal's hand was almost on the hilt. Just a little bit more...
"DON'T TOUCH HER!"
Ikal spun around. Adrienne had picked up her staff and stood up. She held it in both hands above her head as the scimitars came down, and the blades cut through wood and flesh, and blood began to drip on the Sheikah's head as the lizalfos let their fire fly, and Adrienne was screaming as her back went up in black flames and the deep gouges in her shoulders, still open and bleeding, were set aflame as well.
"NOOOOO!" The sound ripped from Ikal's throat, and somehow it was more than one voice that emitted from her. The screams of countless Impa's who had carried the Spirit of the Guardian screamed from her throat. Her eyes flooded completely white, no pupil and no iris, and the Triforce of Power glowed on the back of her hands. A wind seemed to pick up around her body. It turned into a blood red aura and radiated power about her body. The stones around her floated into the air and the rock they stood on dented beneath her.
Ikal's body began to float into the air. Her hair tossed about her face, her teeth gritted as tight as her fists, and the Triforce of Power glowed brighter than the sun itself overhead. The red aura of power seemed to fill the clearing with a bloody light.
The lizalfos screamed in panic and all three of the monsters turned away, suddenly afraid. Ikal reached out her hands toward them, fingers bent as if to grab them. The red aura of power shot from the Guardian's fingertips and wrapped around the monsters' throats like leashes. She jerked her hands upwards, and the bodies were jerked into the air like rag dolls on a string. She heard lizalfos' necks snap, saw their eyes roll back in their heads, but they weren't quite dead yet. The stalfos squirmed and swung his scimitars in the air, fighting to the very end.
"You have killed my friend!" came the voice that was a million voices within Ikal. "You will pay eternally for your transgression!" A portal appeared above the monsters' bodies. Within was a white nothingness: the space between dimensions. There they would live forever in a suspended nothingness until they were driven mad and killed themselves. The white pools in Ikal's eye sockets began to fill with red, like the blood red pools of Dark Link's eyes. Her face was twisted with anger, power, and hurt. She raised her palms upwards, and the monsters began to float up into the portal.
"Ung," a small voice below groaned. "Ika…please…"
Ikal's eyes widened. She looked below her to see Adrienne trying to hold herself up, the skin of her back charred by fire, blood rolling down her front from the seared scimitar gouges in her shoulders. Her face was slick with sweat, her eyes feverish as they struggled to stay open. The wolf-girl reached toward the Guardian. "Please," said white-haired girl, her hand shaking. "Don't…don't lose…yourself…"
Tears formed in Ikal's eyes. All at once, the anger in her heart was gone, and the red receded from her eyes. Only white remained, and the red aura of power about her. She curled her hand into a fist and the portal closed. Then she jerked her other hand, and the bodies of the monsters exploded in a spray of fire and bits of flying flesh and bone.
The power of the Triforce faded. Ikal's body floated to the ground beside her friend. Her red eyes appeared in the white of her eyeballs, back to normal. Her muscles felt weak as she knelt by Adrienne's side and gathered the girl in her arms.
"Thank you…" Adrienne whispered. The wolf girl tried to smile, but it looked more like a grimace. "I told you…ugh…that you needed me…" she said, her voice barely audible. She coughed, and blood bubbled up from her mouth and stained her lips.
Ikal brushed the sweaty hair back from Adrienne's face. "I still need you," she whispered. Tears welled in her eyes, her hands shaking and she brushed the back of her fingers over Adrienne's cheeks.
Adrienne shook her head and tried to smile. "No," she whispered. Her fingers found Ikal's wrist, and she curled them loosely, hanging on. "You have the alphas…" she coughed again, and her weak body shuddered. Her eyes fluttered closed, and then struggled to open again. "You're one of them, a Chosen…so far above me…"
Ikal grit her teeth. "No," she said, the sound half a sob and half a growl. A tear escaped her eye. As it rolled down her chin, Ikal reached inside of herself for the strength she had left. She hoisted Adrienne's body in her arms, careful with her wounds as she cradled her to her chest. The red aura of power formed around her again, radiating off of her body like waves of heat. "You're not dying again," Ikal growled, her face defiant in the face of weakness. "I am the holder of the Triforce of Power. I will not let you die again, not while I have the power to save you."
Ikal held Adrienne close and she began to run. She pushed through the exhaustion left by the unfamiliar power, pushed through the weakness left by their fight up the mountain. She gathered every bit of power and strength within her, and she ran. There were more clearings, more monsters, but she blasted them away with her power and kept running. The aura left dents in the ground where her feet slammed into the earth.
The Guardian burst into the temple at the crest of the mountain with her eyes white with power, the red aura radiating around her. She saw a set of ornate doors straight across from them carved with the symbol of the Goddess Hylia and began to walk toward it. Adrienne groaned in her arms, hot and weak with fever and blood loss. The clock was ticking.
As the Sheikah reached the center of the room, a large black chain suddenly appeared over the ornate doors. A large padlock appeared next to it and it locked itself on the chains, sealing the doors.
The hair on the back of Ikal's neck stood up. She walked over to the doors and set Adrienne down in front of them. The white-haired girl groaned, the fever strong enough now that the only lucid words Ikal could make out of the girl's mumbling were "Ika" and "wolf". The girl was getting weaker by the moment. Ikal growled deep in her throat. The red aura around her body grew more intense, and started to glow with the oranges and yellows of fire. There was an evil presence in the middle of the room. Ikal turned slowly.
When she saw what waited, her heart seized in her breast as if shot through by an arrow. Standing in the middle of the room was a black shadow with red bloody pools for its eyes. It bore Ikal's own countenance. The Dark Ikal laughed. A black aura appeared around it, matching Ikal's own power. Then it opened a portal and reached inside. It pulled out a large naginata, bigger than itself. It had a red handle and its blade was made of a black, shining metal shaped to look like the wing of raven. Ravens were said to watch over the dead in the Shadow Temple, hence why there were statues of them all over the temple, and they were the guardian animal of the Ancient Sheikah. The golden piece that joined the raven-winged blade to the hilt was engraved with the Sheikah symbol. This was no shadow weapon: this was the fabled Sheikah Naginata, rumored of in legends of Sheikah heroines dating back to before the age of the Hero himself. The Dark Ikal grinned and swung the legendary weapon around, the blade trailing fire behind it through the air. The shade slammed the butt of the hilt into the ground and laughed. It beckoned her forward.
Hello Doppelganger Trilogy fans, and welcome to the third and final book of the Doppelganger Trilogy! Make sure to fave and watch this book so that you don't miss the rest of the story, and as always please review! Reviews are my favorite way to connect with readers and get thoughts and feedback on the book.
In other news, Hyrule Warriors is addicting, and the Sheikah Naginata (briefly shown at the end of the chapter) is the final form of Impa's naginata weapon. So, a little nod to the new game. Which is wonderful. And I'm such a huge HW Zelimpa shipper it's kinda ridiculous. So yeah...
I look forward to hearing from you in the reviews! Until next month, readers, when National Novel Writing Month ("NaNoWriMo", the event that made this chapter possible to come out this year at all) begins again.
~The Wolfess a.k.a. Jennifer Wolfe
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