"Fall back, brothers!"

All too eager to oblige, the Gorons practically fell over themselves in their haste to follow the order. The beast let loose a mighty roar and gave chase.

"We cannot let the mines suffer any more damage than they already have! This shaft is nearly about to collapse as it is!"

He glared at the beast, a proud fire in his eyes. Gripping the stout war-hammer in his hand, he swung it casually over his shoulder and charged forth. While it would not at all be true to say that he cared not whether he lived or died that day, he would still prefer to give his own life as the price to save his people from the dragon's fury.

"Come and get some, you fiend! I will be the one to strike you down, as my ancestor before me once did!"

A mighty swing of the hammer. A loud crunch of splintering bony horn. An intense bestial cry of pain and anguish. The beast fell at his feet, but not without consequence – its mighty tail slammed into the tunnel's support beam and snapped it like a brittle twig, bring down the stone it had once held up with it.

As rubble surrounded him he couldn't help but smile, content at least that his people had made it out alive.


The three of them had returned to Fairhill safe yet shaken, and while some questions had been answered, several more had been put into their minds. Either way, they could all agree that they were exhausted, and so made their way to Link and Lori's grandmother's house to rest. If anything, it would give them an opportunity to see how Midna was doing.

Sure enough, as they entered the house, Midna's laughter was what greeted them. "I had no idea a woman of your age would have that sort of sense of humor!" she said between laughs. "Usually the old people I've been around are all fuddy-duddy types."

"Well, I do feel it necessary to keep things clean around the grandkids, but we're both adults and you seem like the type to enjoy that sort of joking." Grandma glanced toward the door with a warm smile. "Speaking of, looks like they're back with your friend," she said. "Hello, kids!"

Midna turned around as well, and upon seeing them she had a look of concern cross her face. "What's got you all so solemn?" she asked. "Things not go well out there?"

"...Not quite," Zelda said. "We ran into your brother."

"I see." Midna stood and made her way to the door. "The cut on my leg was just a surface wound, so I'm good to set out for a family reunion. Any of you got an idea where he went?"

"You aren't seriously thinking of going after that guy alone?" Lori asked, clearly worried. "He seemed like really bad news, and he's got a buddy with him now who's probably way worse."

Midna grinned. "He may have a new friend at his side," she said confidently, "but he doesn't have power like I do." Before she opened the door, she approached Zelda and gave her a quick kiss on the forehead. "I promise you'll see me again." And with that, she was gone, leaving a bright red blushing Zelda to stand flustered at the unexpected affection.

"So, what's the plan of action now?" Lori asked.

"Well, um..." Zelda's face was still flushed from Midna's parting gift, though she was quickly able to compose herself. "Going on what Farore told us, we should seek out the rest of the Triplicate Sonata. I had been meaning to take a diplomatic visit to Goron City and meet with their chief for some time now, and this seems like as good an opportunity as any."

Link nodded in agreement. Even without Zelda's decision, he would've wanted to follow Farore's suggestion himself. After all, he had reason to trust her – he had technically known her most of his life.

"Farore, eh?" Grandma chuckled knowingly. "You must've had quite the adventure in the woods, young ones. To think that my grandchildren would be directly involved with the powers that be."

"I hope you guys don't mind, but I'm gonna keep to defending the home front," Lori said with a laugh. "I mean, you know how I am, Link. If I tag along, I'll probably get lost so often that you'll be spending more time looking for me than looking for that song or whatever."


Once they had gotten some rest and food, Link and Zelda headed out of Fairhill. Due to the circumstances of Zelda's arrival to the village, she was without a horse of her own, and all of the village's few horses save for one were more used to the plow than the road. So they made do with riding double on Epona. She had been a bit disagreeable with the notion of two simultaneous riders at first, but Link had managed to coax her into accepting the extra weight.

As they rode, Zelda noticed something odd standing out in the middle of the field. "Link, can we go check that out?" she asked. He nodded and directed Epona to head toward the object. The closer they got to it, the more they came to realize that it was some sort of camp with a distinctly non-Hylian-styled tent. A large black horse was hitched to the post that had been set into the ground beside the tent, grazing peacefully while his rider presumably slept within. "That tent looks like something the Gerudo would make," Zelda said, seemingly worried. "And that horse...isn't that Mas'ud?"

Sure enough, the horse did look very similar to the one that Ganondorf rode, and the fact that he did not seem to spook as they drew closer lent more credence to that idea. Cautiously, Link dismounted Epona and made his way to the tent's door to peek inside. He lifted a flap and saw the figure of a large man sleeping. The man's back was to Link so he couldn't see his face, but that bright red hair on his head all but confirmed what they had believed. Link crawled into the tent and gently nudged the man's shoulder, and as he stirred he rolled over and opened his tired eyes.

Ganondorf gave a shout and reached for one of his swords. Link responded with a shout of his own, shuffling backwards and holding his hands out in surrender, while Ganondorf paused in his half-asleep reaction and took a closer look at his supposed assailant. "Link...?" he asked groggily. "Is that...is that really you?" Link nodded, smiling nervously, and Ganondorf dropped the sword and instead gave Link a hug. "I'm sorry, I wouldn't have reacted like that had I known," he said. "I've been on-edge for a bit lately."

"What's going on in there?" Zelda's voice asked from outside the tent, and soon enough she too poked her head inside. "Ganondorf! What are you doing here?"

"Zelda..." Ganondorf let go of Link and moved toward her. "I've been looking for you... I tried to get into Castle Town, but there were countless suspicious people crawling the streets in search of you as well. I'm so glad you're..." He winced, bringing his arms close to his chest. "Dammit, they must be getting worse..."

"You're hurt, aren't you?" Zelda asked. She bent down and made her way inside the tent, which was already cramped with two people in it, let alone three. Link was thankful he wasn't terribly claustrophobic, and that the people he was sharing this small space with were both people he knew well.

Ganondorf nodded, groaning from the pain. "My arms," he explained through clenched teeth. "My caretakers from childhood cut open my arms for some weird ritual, and I doubt it's just the blood loss that's caused me to feel off since then."

"Let me take a look," Zelda said. "I may not be a fully trained doctor, but if what I remember of what you said about your caretakers correctly, it may be closer to something I would have more knowledge of."

"Of course," Ganondorf said. "That's why I was looking for you in the first place."

Zelda took Ganondorf's right arm in her hand and gently peeled the bandages back, revealing one of the large wounds underneath. Immediately small drops of blood began to seep out, thankfully not nearly enough to suggest the wound had been dangerously re-opened, but enough for Ganondorf to take in a sharp breath from the sudden pain. What bothered all of them more was that the area around the wound had become slightly green, and while it didn't seem that it had become infected, there was no real way to discern that with what they had on hand. Of course, any alternate explanation would only raise further questions. "I think I can handle this," Zelda said. "You're all right with me trying magic healing, right? I haven't gotten much of chance for any practical application, but I have practiced quite a bit."

"Anything's better than letting it go untreated," Ganondorf said. "Just be quick about it if you can."

Zelda held her hand over Ganondorf's wound, a soft glow forming in her palm and slowly shrinking the wound's open space. "So what happened with the Amulet of Power?" she asked. "We saw that...someone else had it, someone who clearly shouldn't have."

"You had the misfortune of running into Zant as well, I take it," Ganondorf said. The wound now reduced to a mere scar, albeit a large one, he moved the left arm over to have the process repeated. "I'd won the amulet in a fair combat trial, and then that creep just snatched it from me and poofed away. Lucky that that wound wasn't nearly as deep as these."

"Do you want me to take care of that as well?" Zelda asked.

"Nah, Urbosa patched me up after that," Ganondorf said. "It wasn't too terrible, my pride was more wounded in that instance than my body."

"Well, at any rate, I am glad you're safe." Zelda took her hand away from Ganondorf's second arm would, her work complete, and smiled. "After all, it would be a shame to lose a friend like you."

Link put a hand on Ganondorf's back with a smile of his own, as if to confirm Zelda's statement. Ganondorf couldn't help but laugh. "I'm so glad to have run into you guys. You have no idea how much of a relief it is."


"So you're going around to important points in Hyrule for pieces of some kind of song?" Ganondorf asked as the three of them made their way up Death Mountain. They had to take the long way around the mountain as it would be all too easy for her to be recognized if they took the path through Kakariko Village, and they had no way of knowing whether or not Yiga clan members were covertly hiding among the rest of the villagers waiting for this exact sort of slip-up.

"The Triplicate Sonata, yes," Zelda explained. "We were told that the Gorons had a section of the composition, so we'd intended to ask their chief for help."

"And what's the song supposed to do, anyway?"

Zelda thought for a bit. "We weren't told the specifics," she admitted. "Only that it would help banish some dark force."

The path soon came to a point where it would be unsafe for the horses to continue with them, so they left Epona and Mas'ud tied to a post and walked the rest of the way. Eventually they had arrived at the entrance to Goron City, where two Gorons stood guard outside armed with large hammers. "Oh! Humans!" the left Goron guard exclaimed upon seeing the three approach. He nudged his fellow guard and directed his attention toward them, not in an aggressive sort of way but more as though he saw them as an interesting curiosity. "What brings humans up here on a day like this?"

"Greetings, gentlemen," Zelda said politely. "My name is Zelda, soon to be queen of Hyrule. My friends and I have come to speak with your chief on a matter that effects all areas surrounding my kingdom, that is if he so permits."

"Doesn't sound like too big of an ask, we haven't had anything serious going on lately that would require Darnym's immediate attention," the right Goron guard said. "So who are your friends?"

"Hey, I'm Ganondorf, king of the Gerudo," Ganondorf said, holding out a hand to shake. Both the guards accepted his offer in turn, though he winced as they both had gripped his hand a bit tighter than he was expecting. "And this guy here's Link, son of Fairhill Village's finest blacksmith." Link smiled, not wanting to bother clarifying that his father was Fairhill's only blacksmith.

"Oh yeah, Fergus of Fairhill, I've heard of him," the left Goron guard said. "He's no Biggoron, but he's pretty skilled."

"Well then, if that's all you need, we'll take you right to Darnym personally," the right Goron guard said with an amicable smile. "Just be careful and watch your step. It's the season for our lava pools to be active, and while that's just fine for us Gorons, it's much too dangerous for a human making an unfortunate misstep."

The Goron guards opened the large metal gates to the city and led the trio inside. The air inside the caverns was sweltering, most likely due to the convection of heat from the aforementioned lava pools that several Goron citizens were relaxing in. Link regretted that he was the only one that was wearing long sleeves, and as they made their way to the chief's room he could feel the sweat on his back making his shirt stick to his skin. He could only hope that some sort of relief would come soon.

Upon entering a large chamber that had many large banners featuring the Gorons' emblem along the walls, they approached an older Goron with long hair-like rock formations running down his head, wearing a large necklace adorned with polished black stones. "Welcome, human guests!" the Goron said in a booming, enthusiastic voice. "I am Darnym, chief of the Gorons. What can I do for the three of you?"

Zelda stepped forward, taking charge once again. "Chief Darnym, I would like to humbly request your assistance in locating a part of an ancient musical piece," she said. "We have reason to believe that a section of this music has been entrusted to the Sage of Fire, who was likely one of your people in the far past. You wouldn't happen to know anything about this, would you?"

"The Sage of Fire?" Chief Darnym thought for a bit. "That would have been Darunia, my ancestor. The only place I could think of that would have anything related to what you are looking for would be in the Fire Temple, but..." He shook his head. "I cannot let humans such as yourselves go into the Fire Temple. Just look at you! You are woefully unprepared to go so deep into the mountain, you would surely roast alive."

"But if we can't even take a look–" Ganondorf began to say, but was interrupted by Darnym holding up a hand.

"I said you are unprepared," Darnym restated. "I did not say I would not help the three of you to become prepared. If you are dead set on making your way to the Fire Temple, I can give you some essential supplies and provide you with a guide who would know the mines very well."

"That would be much appreciated, thank you," Zelda said with a light bow.

Darnym laughed. "No need to be so formal, brother!" he exclaimed. "If what you say is true, it would be ridiculous to refuse you aid."

"B-brother?"

"Of course! The royal family of Hyrule and my lineage have gotten on real swell over the generations, so of course you and your friends are honorary Goron brothers." Darnym then realized just what Zelda was questioning. "Wait, you're one of the humans that use the other word, aren't you? I keep forgetting that's a thing." He smiled sheepishly and chuckled. "Anyway, I'll get you set to go soon enough, and I'll try to remember what the other word for 'brother' is in the meantime."

"It's 'sister', Chief Darnym."

"Ah, yes, that's it. Thank you, sister!" Darnym gave Zelda a hearty pat on the back, but accidentally knocked her off-balance. "Whoops, sorry about that." Ganondorf and Link exchanged looks of shock, and both hoped that they wouldn't end up being on the receiving end of Darnym underestimating his strength as well.


Soon enough, Link, Zelda, and Ganondorf were led to the entrance of a tunnel, where their guide was waiting for them. This Goron had long fibrous rocks resembling hair that was tied into a ponytail and wore a belt over his shoulder that was used to hold a mattock. In his hands he held three bottles of charcoal-colored liquid, which he offered to the three of them. "You guys are gonna wanna drink this before we go in there," he said with a friendly smile. "It's fireproof elixir, specially made for non-Gorons sensitivities. I'll warn ya that it smells awful and probably tastes worse, but it'll keep the heat in the mines from burning ya."

Zelda accepted one of the bottles cautiously. "Thank you very much, um..."

"Name's Blairmor," the Goron said, handing Link and Ganondorf their elixir doses. "I'm gonna be your tunnel guide. I know those mines like the back of my hand, so you'll be good with me."

"I'm sure you'll forgive us for being a little wary of this little concoction," Ganondorf said, an eyebrow raised. He removed the cork from the bottle and took a whiff, immediately reeling away from the fumes. "Smells like death."

Link opened his elixir dose and sniffed it as well, and immediately wished he hadn't. The smell coming off the liquid within the bottle reminded him of when he and Lori were children and had decided to try cooking for the first time, but they had thrown just about anything they could find into their grandmother's cooking pot and the resulting sludge hung around in both its solid form and the ever-present stench for months, to the point where if the kitchen walls became damaged even years after the smell would briefly return to haunt them. He knew he didn't want to think about that anymore, so to go ahead and get it over with he pinched his nose and downed the whole thing in one gulp. It definitely did taste way worse than it smelled, but the effect was instant and he could feel his body cooling as though a brisk breeze had somehow worked its way into the inner mountain. He coughed a bit, the horrid taste still in his mouth, but nonetheless he gave his friends a thumbs-up and a smile. Following his example, they both downed their elixirs as quickly as possible.

"Well then, if you three are ready, let's get going," Blairmor said. He led them into the tunnels, and even through the effects of the elixir Link could almost feel a heat sensation as they passed by exposed lava streams. "So yeah, these are the Goron Mines," Blairmor told them, beaming with pride. "The Fire Temple used to be the only thing this deep in the tunnels, then we started carvin' 'em out for resources. Obviously we kept the important parts intact, and we always pay our respects to those who came before us."

"So how far in is this thing?" Ganondorf asked.

"Shouldn't be too far, if I remember correctly," Blairmor said as they took a left at a forking path. "I'll be honest, last time I was in here wasn't exactly for temple purposes, so while I remember the way I don't have a good estimate of the travel time. I mostly work on the other end with the magnetic ore, you get a lot more precious stones through this route than workable ore veins and, well, let's just say I have a track record for snacking on the job." He scratched his head and laughed in a slightly embarrassed manner, though no one else seemed to get it. Seeing this lack of reaction, he shrugged and kept the group moving.

As they continued through the tunnels, the lava streams became more frequent, turning into large pools that those with less stony skin had to be careful to avoid. They followed Blairmor through the winding tunnels when he abruptly stopped. "What is the matter?" Zelda asked. "Have you forgotten the way?"

"I'm feeling somethin'," Blairmor said, a worried look on his face. "Kinda feels like a–" He gasped, his eyes widening. "Everyone get out of the way!"

It happened as if in slow motion. Cracks began to form in the ceiling, quickly spreading out and turning into separate stones that fell to the ground. Blairmor shielded Link with his bulk and Ganondorf had managed to grab Zelda and get out of the way before the ceiling crashed down on top of them. "That was much too close..." Zelda said breathlessly. She pried herself from Ganondorf's grip and approached the new wall cutting them off from further progress. "Did you see what happened to the others?" she asked. "From what I could see it looked as though..." She couldn't bring herself to say what she believed had happened, but her face told all that her words could not.

"I don't know, I was..." Ganondorf shook his head, approaching the wall as well. "Hey! Link! Blairmor!" he shouted as loud as he could, his voice reverberating in the tunnel and causing Zelda to flinch. "Are you guys all right?!"

No response. Ganondorf and Zelda looked at one another with equally worried expressions, fearing the worst, when a muffled voice made its way through the wall. "We're okay!" Blairmor shouted back. "I'm going to see if we can find another way around to get to you, just sit tight!"

"Just be careful!" Zelda called out. There was no more response. "I hope nothing else happens on their end..."

"They'll be fine," Ganondorf said. "Gorons are as tough as the mountain they live in, and Blairmor seems like he was looking out for us."

Zelda nodded. "That does appear to be the case." She examined the wall once again, and sighed. "Well, we might as well get to somewhere that's perhaps more open than this," she said. "I would just feel safer."

The two made their way further along in the tunnel, not sure where they should go but moreso wandering than anything. As they continued onward, Ganondorf began to feel an odd sensation all over his body. Was it the elixir wearing off? Some sort of weird itch? Either way, it was really starting to get to him. "Hey, uh, Zelda," he asked, "are you starting to feel the heat again?"

"No, I'm not," Zelda said. "Why, do you think that's happening to you?"

"Just checking." He could tell now that it wasn't his heat sensation returning. It was something deeper, something scratching at the back of his mind and twitching at the ends of his muscles. He reached out a hand with the intent to gently place it on Zelda's shoulder as a sort of reassurance to them both, but instead his hand acted on its own and gripped her arm tightly. Too tightly to be seen as anything but aggression. "Zelda..."

"What's wrong?" Zelda asked, trying to sound calm but with an obvious panic rising in her voice. "Ganondorf, please let go, you're hurting me!"

With a sharp yell, Ganondorf managed to regain control of his arm and loosen his grip on her. Immediately that feeling in the back of his mind began to protest, demanding that he exact the revenge he had sought all this time. Revenge? What had Zelda ever done to him to warrant such feelings? What hadn't she done? What had those witches done? "Zelda, please," Ganondorf said, unable to stop himself as he reached for his swords. "Please, get away from me for your sake. Run as far and as fast as you can."

"I don't understand," Zelda said. "Tell me what's going on!"

"Just...RUN!"

Ganondorf's eyes seemed to roll back into his skull briefly before returning focus, an odd glare present in them as his mouth formed a sinister smirk. He advanced on Zelda, a dark laughter resonating from him as an equally dark aura seemed to radiate from him, and in the cramped tunnel Zelda could see no other course of action than to obey what her friend had demanded before whatever had taken him over had made its presence known.


"We'd better be careful from here on out, brother," Blairmor said as he and Link made their way through the tunnels. "I had no idea the structure in this section of the mine was so unstable."

Link was looking around the walls and ceiling, trying to look out for any signs of another cave-in. He tried to swallow to alleviate the dryness in his throat, also tried to reason with himself that it was the heat starting to get to him again and that his friends were most definitely fine and not being trapped under more collapsing stone.

Blairmor frowned, putting a hand on Link's shoulder. "I get that you're worried about them," he said. "We'll get to them, though. I promise we will, even if I have to dig out a new tunnel myself." He grimaced at the idea. "Let's just hope it doesn't come to that. I'd hate to compromise the tunnel structure any further than it apparently has been already..."

As they continued through the tunnel, Link began to notice an odd sound on the other side of the rock. He stopped and put his ear to the wall. "What is–" Blairmor started to ask, but Link motioned for him to be quiet. He closed his eyes, straining to figure out what that sound really was...

Screaming?

Link's eyes shot open and he let out a gasp – yes, that was definitely screaming and shouting. He turned to Blairmor, the unease of his awful speculation clear on his face. "Outta the way, Link," Blairmor said, grabbing his mattock from his back and holding it out like a weapon. "Looks like we got no other choice." Link did as he was told and quickly moved away from the wall.

Soon Blairmor took a hefty swing, bringing the mattock down onto the wall with a loud CRACK! Again and again he swung, the stone booming in time with his own strained grunts. It was a surprisingly fast carving, but it wasn't fast enough. Link looked around, desperate for anything he could use to help speed up the process–it wasn't like he was going to try tunneling with his sword, after all. His eyes fixated on something that looked rather out of place: a large crate containing several bulbous blue flowers, or perhaps fruits, with a red center and an odd fraying stem that gave the objects the appearance of explosives. Without thinking, he grabbed a few of the plants and ran back to the wall, pulled the stem out of one, and hurled it.

BOOM!

Several layers of shattered stone fell to the ground, the echoing explosion followed by both he and Blairmor coughing from the smoke and dust. "Watch it with those!" Blairmor groaned, waving a hand in front of his face to clear the way for cleaner air. Sure enough, when the dust had settled, a new tunnel was opened before them. "I mean, I guess it worked," he admitted sheepishly, "but next time you're gonna handle bomb flowers, maybe give everyone around you advance notice please?"

Link shrugged, and they both made their way into the tunnel. The sight before them was shocking, at least to Link–unless something else in the tunnels was messing with his mind, Ganondorf was attacking Zelda! He seemed to be doing his best to slash Zelda with his swords, while Zelda refused to fight back, instead dodging swipes or using her own rapier to guard against his blows. "Stand still, girl!" Ganondorf shouted, in a voice that seemed almost as uncharacteristic as his current actions.

"Get control of yourself!" Zelda cried. "This isn't like you!" She held her rapier over her head to block another strike, yelping as the blades clashed.

Even with the fight between his friends, Link couldn't just stand by and watch. He rushed in, blade in hand, and stood between Zelda and Ganondorf, blocking more blows with his shield. "The boy..." Ganondorf muttered to himself, glaring at Link as he stared back with a look of betrayal. His moment of distraction turned quickly back into rage as his attention turned from Zelda to Link. "Not this time, you little pest!" he shouted, slashing at Link repeatedly.

Despite the constant attacking, Link couldn't bring himself to fight back. This was his friend, his brother in arms! "You refuse to attack?" Ganondorf sneered. "Your counterparts always hold onto their precious courage, and yet now you act the coward. Taking you out now will be–"

A large fist suddenly connected with the side of Ganondorf's head. He collapsed to the ground in a heap, leaving Link and Zelda confused. Blairmor sighed, massaging his knuckles after his hit. "That was a close one," he said. "Are you really sure this guy's your friend, with him treating you like that?"

"This isn't how he normally acts," Zelda said. She made her way over to the unconscious Ganondorf, concern clear on her face. "I don't know what happened just now, but I do know one thing: whatever was acting through his body, it was not Ganondorf." Something caught her eye on his arms – in the area where his wounds had been, the odd green discoloration had expanded. It had previously only been around the scar on each forearm, but now both areas had spread out a good inch or so. "What in the world..."

"Hey, uh, you guys mind if I restrain him?" Blairmor asked. Zelda and Link both gave him an odd look. 'Y'know, just in case he wakes up and he's still...murdery."

Zelda sighed. "I suppose that may be a necessary precaution."

With a nod, Blairmor removed the belt that had been used to hold his mattock on his back. He then wrapped it around Ganondorf with as snug a fit as he could manage, pinning his arms to his sides, and when he was confident it would hold him he buckled the belt. He then picked up the unconscious Gerudo and carried him on his shoulder. "Wouldn't be right to leave him here alone," he said. "C'mon, then, let's get going. The Fire Temple's not going to be too far from here."

As they made their way deeper into the tunnels, Link couldn't help but wonder what exactly had made Ganondorf act so unlike himself. He also couldn't help but notice that something was nagging at the back of his mind, a thought that he knew couldn't have been of his own doing, as its wording was completely alien to his thought process.

The threat is currently subdued. Attempting to eliminate it in this circumstance would have a 95% success rate. It would be wise to take this course of action.

"What?!" His sudden outburst startled both Zelda and Blairmor, the latter moreso because he had no idea Link was even capable of speech. He looked around, trying to find the source of the sound even though he knew where it had come from.

"Is everything all right, Link?" Zelda asked.

Link nodded. He didn't want Zelda to worry. He especially wasn't going to listen to whatever voice had wormed its way into his brain, not if his interpretation of what it was telling him to do was correct.

If that is the course of action you wish to take, that is acceptable. I shall be your guide, but in the end you are the one in control.

It was about that time that Ganondorf began to stir. He groaned a bit as he slowly opened his eyes, presumably still in a great deal of pain from the hard impact to his head. "What happened..." he asked groggily. His eyes then shot open as he realized what was going on. "Zelda!" he shouted, trying to wriggle free from Blairmor's arm. "Is Zelda okay? Where is she?!"

"Seems you've come to your senses," Zelda said, letting out a sigh.

As soon as he heard her voice, Ganondorf stopped squirming and instead tried to crane his head over to look at her. "Are you all right after...whatever happened while I was out?" he asked, clearly not wanting to even theorize on what he might've done. "I didn't hurt you, did I?"

"I have no physical wounds, no," Zelda replied abruptly. "I would rather talk about that incident later."

"I...see." Ganondorf hung his head in shame. "Look, whatever happened just now, I'm so sorry, I had no control or even awareness of my actions after telling you to–"

"Later, Ganondorf."

Suddenly the tunnel walls began to shake. A low booming sound could be heard coming from a good distance away, through a shaft that they hadn't been in. "Another tunnel collapse?" Ganondorf asked, his body tensing and his legs instinctively lifting up as though he intended to make a move.

"No, the vibrations are different," Blairmor said, taking hold of his mattock in his free hand. "Think we've got an uninvited guest comin' in. Link, Zelda, get ready for a fight."

"What about me?" Ganondorf asked. He didn't get a response. Link and Zelda had their swords drawn as the booms grew louder and closer, along with a scratching sound and a noise that sounded like air being repeatedly pushed through a narrow tube. Soon enough they saw the source of the sounds: a gigantic reptile covered in gold and brown scales thundered its way in, its roars echoing through the tunnels as loud as its stomps had been. Jagged ruby spikes jutted out of its spine, its shoulders bore large emerald lumps, and one silver and two ruby horns grew out from its forehead.

"Okay, forget what I said about fighting!" Blairmor shouted, turning to run. "You can barely fight a regular Dodongo without bombs, much less the king!"

Blairmor fled down the opposite tunnel, with Link and Zelda close behind and the thunderous commotion from the King Dodongo signaling it wasn't too far off in its pursuit. "Where are we going?!" Zelda shrieked.

"Back into the tunnel me and Link were in!" Blairmor shouted. "It's less room, but we can get some bomb flowers back there and stand a chance against that monster!"

They ran as fast as they could, and soon enough they came across the crate that Link had found the bombs in. Link skidded to a stop and approached it, reaching inside to find only two left. He grabbed them anyway – two bombs were better than none, after all. "Will that be sufficient?" Zelda asked.

"If we use 'em wisely, they will," Blairmor said. "But unless we can get a clear shot into the beast's mouth with at least one of 'em, they're not gonna be much use."

"I think I have an idea," Ganondorf said. "You're gonna have to drop and unbelt me first."

Blairmor gritted his teeth, nervous. "I don't know about–" His train of thought was interrupted by the sounds of King Dodongo's pursuit. "On second thought, we don't really have time for second thoughts!" He put Ganondorf down and removed his belt, freeing his arm movement. "All right, what's the plan?" he asked.

Ganondorf grinned. "Just wait." The rumbling echo from King Dodongo's movements grew louder as the beast presumably drew closer. A flash of gold and red came into view around the corner and Ganondorf ran toward it, swords drawn. "Hey, you ugly beast!" he shouted. "You wanna mess with any of us, why don't you try taking on a fellow king!"

King Dodongo let out a mighty roar, swiping at Ganondorf with its massive claws. But Ganondorf was quicker than his somewhat bulky frame would make him seem, and he dodged out of the way just in time to suffer no damage aside from some slashes in his cloak. He responded with a yell of his own, presumably to try and establish dominance against the beast, though it seemed to have little success. He slashed at King Dodongo's impenetrable hide with his swords, doing nothing more than irritating it. Zelda's eyes widened as she realized what he was doing. "He's not actually trying to fight the Dodongo," she said. "He's trying to distract it!"

"Well, he certainly didn't look like the type of guy to provoke a Dodongo without thinking it through at least somewhat," Blairmor said.

Link held out one of the bomb flowers quizzically. "No, not yet!" Blairmor insisted. "Gotta wait for the perfect opening or you'll do more damage to your friend than that thing!" Sighing, he pulled the inactive bomb back towards him with a hint of disappointment.

"C'mon, you ugly brute," Ganondorf said with a snarl. "You know you wanna open up!" He charged at King Dodongo once more, leaping out of the way as the beast had decided to charge at him as well. They turned to face each other once more, and King Dodongo opened its mouth wide, taking in a deep breath as a flame within its belly began to become visible.

"NOW!"

Pulling the stem and setting it ablaze, Link gave one of the bomb flowers a hearty toss toward King Dodongo. It inhaled the bomb just before it went off, and once it did smoke billowed forth from its nostrils as it let out a roar and keeled over. He ran over to King Dodongo to finish it off, but Ganondorf was closer – he leapt onto the beast and delivered the killing blow with an angry yell. The beast let out one final cry, then fell silent. A silence hung over the group as well as Zelda and Blairmor approached cautiously. "Wow," Blairmor gasped. "I'd heard tales about how to pull it off, but I've never actually seen anyone take out a King Dodongo before! That was amazing!"

"You're sure it's dead, right?" Zelda asked. "It's not going to get up and try to attack us in an injured frenzy, is it?"

"Looks plenty dead to me," Ganondorf observed. He gave the beast a quick once-over to confirm his analysis, then nodded in a sort of agreement with himself. "Shame to have to take out such an imposing creature," he said in a solemn tone as he retrieved his swords. "But you do what you have to do sometimes, even if it isn't pretty."

"You, uh...you guys wouldn't find it too weird if I grab one of the back crystals, would you?" Blairmor asked sheepishly. "I've heard they're either super-valuable, a delicacy, or both. I'll be sure to pass on the Rupees to you guys if it pays out, promise!" None of them said anything, just giving him an odd look, so he shrugged and took that as the go-ahead. He made his way over to the creature's body and used the sharp end of his mattock to carefully pry off one of the crystalline clusters along its spine, grimacing as a bit of organic matter presumably came off with it. "That shouldn't be too hard to clean off..."

With the beast felled, the four continued on to their destination; the remnant of the Fire Temple. All that seemed to be left of it was a few walls around what looked like a prayer room of sorts, a symbol resembling a flame drawn on the ground. As they approached the center of the room, torches surrounding that bit of decor began to light on their own, a warmth and sense of welcoming radiating from their glowing blaze. A red light formed directly in the middle, growing larger and larger until it was roughly the same size as Blairmor, then taking on the appearance of a Goron. It was like looking at Darnym in his prime years, with his "hair" taking the appearance of large spike-like clumps around his head and the Goron emblem tattooed on each of his muscular biceps. "Greetings, wielder of the Master Sword and companions!" the Sage of Fire announced in a booming voice. "And to my young Goron brother as well!"

"No way..." Blairmor gasped, dropping the Dodongo crystal he had brought with him in surprise. "You...you're really Darunia! Hero of the Gorons! I'm not just imagining things, right?"

Darunia beamed. "You've got that right, for the most part," he said. "It's good to see that my people have thrived after all these years, and it seems you've kept up the alliances with the humans as well! So, what can I do for those allied with the Blade?"

"We have come seeking your portion of the Triplicate Sonata, good Sage," Zelda explained. "The Sage of the Forest has already imparted her portion with us, and the goddess Farore has explained the plan that this musical piece would help to accomplish."

"Ah, that old thing?" Darunia smiled. "That will be no trouble at all. Just give me a few seconds..." He held out his hands and a set of drums manifested in front of him. He then proceeded to play a short tune on the drums, one that seemed to continue from Saria's piece perfectly. "All right, there you go," Darunia said. "Now if I remember correctly, the portion that the Sage of Water was meant to be the next part, so if you think that would make it easier to keep in your mind then you should probably go there for your next part."

"Thank you very much," Zelda said with a short bow. "We will take your advice." And with that, Darunia's form dissipated.

Ganondorf shook his head and shrugged. "Well, I can't carry a tune in a bucket, so I hope you guys know how to do this music thing."

"There's no need to worry on that matter," Zelda said. "I have plenty of musical training to carry this tune in the metaphorical sense." Link nodded in agreement, having fooled around with some instruments himself in the past.

"At least that part's taken care of," Ganondorf said.

"I still can't believe I got to meet a legend like Darunia..." Blairmor said, still in awe. After allowing himself to bask in the moment for a little while longer, he picked up the crystal and said to the others, "We'd better make our way out, then. There's probably not that much time left with your heat resistance, so we gotta get you back into the open air before you start cooking."


AN: Goron tiiiiime! And we're getting to see a taste of just what happened with Ganondorf back in the Spirit Temple with his witchy grandmas. Yes, it does involve his namesake. Also I'm pretty sure this is the first chapter where Zant hasn't appeared at all since his introduction, that's a surprise considering he's my fave villain. Maybe next time. Or maybe I'll give some more spotlight to Ghirahim, who knows? Not me, I haven't plotted that far yet.

Fun fact, the Goron chief's name, Darnym, literally came from me being unable to come up with a good name for a Goron chief and just writing it in my notes as "Dar-name". Then I remembered that the "nym" part of words like synonym and pseudonym came from a word meaning "name" and it would sound fitting so I went with that. My laziness in figuring something out earlier on helped out later in an unexpected way yet again! In a less lazy move, I couldn't decide whether to use the OoT design of King Dodongo or the Hyrule Warriors design, so a friend I asked for input suggested I combine the two, and that's exactly what I did. Wonder if anyone'd be willing to draw that combo, that'd be cool. Not me just yet, though, I don't currently know where I'll be at in my art queue by the time this goes up but hooooo boy that thing is looooong and it's looking highly unlikely that it'll be more opened up by then.

—Jess aka PuppyLuver256