**All Standard Disclaimers Apply**

Book Three in the Doppelganger Trilogy
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Stasis
by Jennifer Wolfe

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Chapter Twenty Five: The Seashell Sword

The midday sun beat down on the wreckage. Wind blew sand through cracks and holes in the hull which gathered in drifting piles in the ship. In the cell by the captain's quarters, the wood sprite was trying to brush the sand out of his friend's infected wounds. Were Oni conscious it might have hurt, but the pale man had been in and out ever since the infection started. At the moment, he was unconscious. Where he had been weak with hunger before, his whole body now burned and sweat with fever. He mumbled nonsense and saw visions only he could see.

Twig brought rags soaked with sea water to cool him down, but it didn't seem to help. He wasn't sure what else to do for his friend. The man was dying. The wood sprite knew that, and he already tried everything he could think of to save him, but none of it seemed to be working.

When Oni was discovered, Twig had kept his presence hidden from Dark Link and his minions. He had been successful so far. He came close to getting caught once after the crash, but then he and Oni were left alone and the wood sprite set about trying to help in whatever way he could think of. At first, the sprite tried to try to find a way to heal the oncoming sickness seeping into Oni's body. He stopped the bleeding with some old rags he salvaged from elsewhere in the abandoned ship. He was very small, so he could only carry a few at a time through the dilapidated wreckage of the ship. This process took longer than Twig liked, however, and most of the rags weren't very clean. With the dirty rags, damp quarters, and cold night air, it wasn't too surprising when infection set into the open wounds. Oni developed a fever that made him burn and sweat along with a night time chill that set his body to shaking.

Once Twig managed to stop the bleeding, he tried to deal with the infection. He looked all through the ship, but there were no medicines on board. He returned to Oni's side and watched him, trying to cool his fever and unable to warm up his body. Now he tended to the wounds as best as he could and tried to think of something else he could do to help.

Feeling the clock ticking on his friend's life, the little sprite stopped clearing the sand out of the wounds. He made a decision while he watched his friend mumble in his fever-induced delirium. He would left the ship and his friend behind and go look through the island. He didn't know what he would find—whether medicine or food or death—but for Oni, he would try. There was nothing here, and leaving the pale man alone was dangerous, but there was nothing here that would help keep Oni alive. Twig leaned over Oni's ear and tried to explain why he was leaving and that it was only temporary. The pale man didn't acknowledge his presence, let alone that he had heard or understood the sprite's words. Twig sighed and left to begin his search.

While Twig was on the island trying to save Oni's life, the fever raged on. Visions appeared to him. Oni didn't know when he was dreaming or awake, what was real and what must be false, or whether he would survive this. The visions just kept going, voices whispering in his head, telling him stories, begging his help.

In a moment of lucidity, the pale-eyed man saw a bird. It took him a while to make out what he was seeing, as his eyes did not want to deliver a clear picture to his mind. Finally he realized that he was seeing a simple white seagull. How it had gotten into the closed-off room, Oni didn't know or think to ask. How he knew that he could ask it things and it would probably answer with words, he also didn't ask. He just knew it was all true, so he didn't question his sanity when the gull perched on one of the cell bars Oni was laying on and started speaking.

"The Nightmares sent the monsters to burn our homes and attack our people," said the gull. Oni looked right into the bird's small, black eyes and the gull gave him visions. Faces swam in his mind: a red haired girl with a flower in her hair, a monkey building a bridge, a man on the telephone, a whole village of talking animals. He didn't understand, and the gull didn't explain. "We had nowhere to run. They hunted us down, one by one." More visions. A village on fire. The river running red with blood. Corpses in the water, so many bodies, everything burning. "Our deaths weren't enough for the Nightmares… they turned all of their servants against each other after that, and all the monsters killed all of the other monsters until only one was left. He threw himself off of a cliff, at the Nightmares' behest…the Nightmares... they will follow the Dark One… they will destroy all that is good and all that is bad in the world, until only darkness is left… you must stop the Nightmares before they reach Hyrule… you must..."

"I can't," Oni groaned, his throat dry and hoarse, his lips cracked and bloody. The gull's eyes bored into him. He reached out toward the gull with shaking, weak hands, as if to shoo it away, but it was out of his reach. It just tilted its head, its eyes demanding that he comply with its wishes. "I'm dying," Oni said. "I can't help you… I can't help anyone… I can't stop him."

"You must… no choice… avenge us… stop him…" The gull hopped onto Oni's chest. It picked at his bandages with its beak, pulling each blood-soaked bandage off one at a time. Oni saw more visions. Himself and Dark Link standing in a grove far, far away. Oni held a sword that shone with a white aura. It clashed with a dark sword. Sparks flew off of the swords like spirits leaving them. The dark sword lodged in Oni's gut. Blood in Oni's mouth. Dying, he was dying, but it was Dark Link who was screaming and screaming and screaming, the evil sword was screaming and Dark Link was screaming and Oni was dying but there was a smile on his face.

"No… no… I don't want to die…" Oni groaned. He rolled around on the bars, dislodging the gull with the last of his strength. Some of his wounds split open, and the green-tinted skin around it oozed puss all over the bars beneath him. He didn't know if his eyes were open or closed, if he was awake or asleep, or even if he was in the ship talking to a bird or being stabbed to death in a foreign wood far away. It was all real to him.

The seagull few to the corner of the cell farthest from Oni. It landed in a puddle of seawater. The sick man watched as its body seemed to grow larger and twist into another shape. Where the gull stood before with its black, demanding eyes, the ghost of a girl in a sun dress with a flower in her hair now crouched in the cell. She looked dirty and afraid. He reached out to her, but his hand could not reach far enough. Her eyes were so sad as she looked at him. There was something in her arms, something he couldn't quite see, something wrapped in white cloth like gull feathers and glinting gold, and the girl started singing. She sang a song so beautiful and so sad that Oni felt as if it would heal all of his sorrows and carry him away on a gust of wind in the air.

"We are the spirits of Koholint Island," whispered the ghost girl. Her feet were bare as she crawled over to him and knelt at his feet. "We waited for someone to overcome the darkness, and no one came. Now you have come, you who are full of light, but the darkness has won on this island. It is destined to fade, and us with it. Take this Seashell Sword. It is filled with the light of our spirits. With this, overcome the darkness in your world, before it is too late. We beseech you…"

The girl faded away, as did the voices and the visions. The last thing Oni saw as he fell back into unconsciousness was a single seagull watching over him from the corner of the cell. He did not realize that the weight on his lap was real.

~! #$%^&*()_+

Hours later, twig returned to the ship with a single banana in hand. He had not been able to find medicines of any kind. He was not familiar with these tropical plants and he couldn't tell which ones would heal and which would harm. He couldn't find anything in the ruins of the villages, let alone medicines. He checked both Mabe Village and the one hidden on the other side of the island with a sign that called it the Animal Village, but there was nothing that would help Oni. He had at least been able to find a tree on the beach that had a full bunch of bananas growing on it. They were a little past season, and he couldn't carry them all at one time, but some food was better than no food.

The wood sprite brought the banana into the ship with difficulty. It was bigger than he was, after all, and much heavier than a pile of rags. But Twig was determined, and he finally got the banana into the room where Oni was locked up. He found the pale man completely unconscious and unmoving. His fever had gotten worse, some of the bandages had come undone, and one of the infected wounds on his side had split open. It was as if the man had been thrashing about, but Twig didn't understand how that could have happened. Oni didn't have enough strength left for something like that.

Twig set the banana into Oni's limp hand. There was no reaction. Crooning to himself, he crawled up on Oni's shoulder and started patting his cheek, speaking to him in growls and grunts that grew increasingly louder. Oni didn't respond at first, but Twig persisted and eventually the pale man opened his eyes. When he finally focused on Twig, the sprite growled at him and pointed to the banana in his hand.

"For me?" Oni croaked. He tried to lift his hand, but it fell back down. He didn't have enough strength to lift it. Tears came to his eyes and his shoulders started to shake, but Twig was there. He jumped down and peeled the banana, then lifted it up in his tiny arms and jumped back onto Oni's shoulder. Carefully, the wood sprite fed his friend.

When it was gone, he got rid of the peel and went to fetch a broken coconut he had seen with fresh rainwater in it. That was harder to get to the ship than the banana was, especially without spilling the water. This time, however, he at least found his friend awake. That was a comfort to Twig, and Oni seemed to take great pleasure from the fresh water, even if he did choke on it a little. His throat was so dry that too much water hurt just about as much as it helped.

Twig growled a question at the pale man, but Oni shook his head. "No more," he said. He wasn't full, but he felt a little queasy. So much healthy food and clean water at one time made his stomach uneasy. It had become accustomed to sour wine, moldy cheese, and mealy bread. "Thanks," Oni croaked out of his dry throat. Then he closed his eyes and allowed himself to fall back asleep.

The wood sprite growled to himself with worry and displeasure. He wished he had found medicine, and he wished Oni had been able to eat more. He was considering bringing more bananas and water back for later when he noticed the pile white linen lying across the bars next to Oni. It hadn't been there when Twig left the first time, and he frowned as he moved over to look at it closer. He didn't remember it at all. He was sure he would have noticed some clean white linen when he was looking for bandages, right?

Twig didn't know what he would find underneath, so he pulled the linen aside cautiously. The first thing he saw was a polished bronze hilt. The grip was wrapped in black leather, and the round cross guard had an inscription around it that Twig couldn't read. He jumped back to the opposite side of the cell in alarm, chattering angrily at it as if it had bitten him. Oni did not react to this, and Twig soon calmed down and rushed back over to it. He didn't know how Oni had come by this sword, but he had a feeling that it was important. The wood sprite knew that he needed to figure out how to hide it if he didn't want the evil man to find it.

Twig grumbled as he looked around the room, trying to figure out how to hide a giant sword. At first he could think of nothing, nowhere that it could be hid where no one would be able to find it. It was so big! Then it hit him—the outside of the ship was made of wood. Twig, being a wood sprite, had a special relationship with wood.

He went over to a particularly healthy-looking beam of wood in what used to be the floor of the cell. It was now the wall nearest them, and it was one of the only sturdy sections of wood around them. Closing his eyes, Twig placed both of his flowery hands on the wooden beam. A hollow soon emerged from the wood in the shape of the sword. Twig picked up the sword and, with much labor for a creature so small, managed to push the sword into the hollow. He then closed up the wood around it and checked it for signs differentiating it from the rest of the ship.

Satisfied with his work, and tired out from all of his exertion, the wood sprite hopped back over to his friend and crawled into his white cap. Curling up in Oni's white hair as if it was a feather bed, Twig sighed and soon followed his friend into a fitful sleep.

~! #$%^&*()_+

Dark Link and his Darknut army returned the next morning. Four of the dark soldiers carried their master on their shoulders at the front of the army, while the others carried various large trees that they had chopped down elsewhere on the island. Unknown to the shadow being, Twig watched them from within the ship as the four carrying Dark Link set him down on the beach and began to fan him with palm fronds. The rest of them lined the tree trunks along the shore and began to hack them to proper size with their battle axes. The ones who didn't have axes got to work taking the broken beams out of the ship's hull and examining the wreckage for what could be salvaged for repairs in other areas.

Now that the Nightmares were consolidated within the suits of armor, the sun shone bright and hot upon the island. The sky was clear of storm clouds and the black mist was gone. Dark Link laid back on the beach with his eyes closed as four Darknuts fanned him. Again, he wished that he could experience pleasure, as he was sure that a normal being would be enjoying every moment of this. Dark Link could be pleased with positive results or angered by negative results, but this was all in his head. He couldn't experience the pleasurable emotions of sunning on a beach while other did your work for you.

Still, that was exactly what he did while his new army went to work repairing the ship. To those looking on, it would seem as if they didn't need Dark Link's input to complete their work. The truth, however, was that they just didn't need to communicate out loud. The Darknuts gave reports and asked questions within Dark's head, and Dark responded in kind. There was a constant flow of questions and answers happening in complete silence, and the shadow warrior was glad for the test run. They worked together in perfect harmony. Demise's gift couldn't have been better suited to his chosen Champion.

It wasn't long before the repairs to the hull were complete, and Dark Link ordered the Darknuts to work together to push the ship back into the ocean. At high tide, they all worked together, including the four that Dark had used for his fanning, and heaved the ship back into the water. It floated, but it rode low in the water, letting Dark and his army know that it needed a few repairs on the boards that had been lying on the beach. The Darknuts immediately went about the necessary work chopping, hauling, and hewing more trees. They took the boards underwater to do their work on the ship itself—one of the benefits of not being alive. They didn't need to breathe.

Once the ship was appropriately seaworthy, they split into two groups—one that worked on repairing the masts, and the other that worked on getting the water out of the hull and putting the rest of the ship in order. This work completed at about the same time, and the Darknuts delivered the message to their master.

"THE SEA SHADOW IS READY TO DEPART," he heard within his head. Dark stood up and wiped the sand off of his clothes, letting them know that he was coming aboard. They lowered a rope ladder for him, and once he was aboard they stood motionless and waited for orders.

Dark looked around the ship. It wasn't anywhere near fully repaired, but it would get them back to civilization in good time. Dark wasn't entirely sure where they were or what direction they would find land, but so far the blessings of his God had been upon him. Demise would help him find his way back to Hryule. All he had to do was stay alive until they reached land—and in the interest of ensuring that happened, Dark sent a couple Darknuts to find food on the island. While they climbed down the ladder, the shadow went to the newly-repaired captain's cabin to check on his prisoner.

Twig was hidden by the time that Dark got to the makeshift prison adjoining the captain's cabin. Oni was passed out again. His fever was no better, and some of his wounds were turning unnatural colors. Dark Link opened the prison door with the key he kept on his person and kneeled down next to the pale man. He looked closely at Oni's injuries and growled under his breath.

"Stupid fragile fleshies," he muttered. He didn't have the proper medicines to treat the rancid wounds, and he didn't have the right tools to just lop off the limbs that were infected. What he could do was feed the pale man and get him some blankets to help him stay warm. If his body was fed and warm, perhaps it would be able to fight the infection itself.

The Darknuts returned in an hour with armfuls of food they had gathered from the island, including bananas, coconuts, berries, and other various protein-rich nuts. Dark Link took these and began to store them in crates to keep them at least a little fresh during the journey home, then sent the Darknuts back out to bring more. He wasn't sure how much the pale man could eat, and he wanted to get him well fed and strong enough to fight off that infection. In the interest of that, the shadow hero also sent out some Darknuts with empty barrels to collect and bring back fresh drinking water. Fleshies needed water in addition to nutritious food, and neither he nor the Darknuts needed any of this.

By the time that they had enough food and water for Oni for the trip home, as well as enough dry blankets and bedding to make sure the prisoner was comfortable and warm, Dark Link had lost track of the days. Without having a feeding schedule for his living monsters, he had stopped paying attention to night and day. They were both equally bright to him and the Darknuts.

They set out from the shore of the desolate island at night with the wind at their backs. The Sea Shadow skipped across the dark waters as if it was flying. The Darknuts sailed the ship without needing direct input from their master, so Dark Link began the process of nursing Oni back to health. He gave him food and water as the pale man was able to consume it without throwing it up. He dried out and cleaned out his quarters, laying down bedding and blankets. He tucked the pale man in a night, at least until Oni was conscious enough to do it himself.

All the while the unwanted feelings showed up again. He suppressed them even more now than he had before. Every time they showed up, one of the Darknuts would ask him what was wrong. The Nightmares did not have feelings either, and they were confused by the feelings of guilt and sorrow and even fondness that popped up within their master. Dark told them nothing, and not to mind. That it was a side effect of this being he was caring for and they didn't need to know anything else. It was the one point on which they differed and argued, but in the end the Nightmares deferred to Demise's Champion. Demise would not have picked a flawed hero, they assumed.

Dark Link did not know whether he was flawed or not. If the Hero of Light could be flawed, and he most certainly was, then perhaps the Hero of Darkness could also be flawed. Nevertheless, he could not afford distractions right now. When Oni was starting to eat and drink on a regular basis, Dark stopped going in. He sent a Darknut in with the food at meal time and spent most of his time on deck navigating.

For a while they were definitely lost. They began sailing away from the island in a southward direction, basically sailing in a straight line away from the beach they had shipwrecked on. After sailing aimlessly for a few days, straining for any sign of what direction civilization was in, a red-eyed, black-winged keese suddenly appeared over the Sea Shadow. It circled right over Dark Link's head, cried out a few times, and then headed to the west. The Hero of Darkness needed no encouragement. He ordered them to follow the keese through the night, and away the ghostly ship went. Dark Link manned the helm himself, making sure they stayed the course. Land would come before they knew it, and then he would finally be able to move forward with his plans.

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Author's Notes: Hello everyone! April's chapter here for your enjoyment. Only six chapters left and an epilogue! I hope you're enjoying the journey as everything moved closer and closer to the end.

Thanks for reading! All reviews are read and deeply appreciated.

~The Wolfess

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