The Deserts Rose

A/N: This fanfic goes along with my other one, A Ruby Surrounded By Sapphires. It is the time that elapsed between the last chapter and the epilogue; Sheiks time with the other Sheikah. While there is mention of Link, Zelda, and all them, this story is about Sheik and his growth. Dont come cryin to me about the lack of Sheik/Link romance. Also, this story is in third person instead of first, as I wanted to get not only Sheiks perspective but the other Sheikah as well.


Warnings: Slash, violence, angst, cute little kids


Disclaimer: Zelda, Sheik, and the word Sheikah aren't mine. The ideas, plot, and Sheikah culture ARE.

Chapter 10

Aqua

"Link."

The blond man smiled wider. His eyes twinkled with happiness. Sheik swallowed thickly, eyes darting to the hand Link held towards him, beckoning him to come. He couldn't not come to Link's call. Sheik stumbled through the shallows, keeping his eyes unblinkingly on Link as if the man might disappear if he didn't. He grabbed Link's hand and threw himself into his embrace with a soft, upset noise. Link wrapped his arms around him, rubbing soothingly along his back.

"Oh, Goddesses, Link," Sheik murmured. "I've missed you. I've missed you so much. What are you doing here? No, it doesn't matter, just stay with me.."

He knew he was babbling but the sheer relief of feeling Link's warmth against him once more. He heard the faintest chuckle and then Link slid his strong fingers into Sheik's hair, easing his head back. Sheik shivered at the lips that pressed to his own, moaning at the familiar taste. He thought he felt water inching up his body, but it didn't matter. Nothing mattered as long as Link was by his side. He felt Link smile against his lips, felt those familiar hands curling tighter around him, and Sheik relaxed utterly, submitting himself to the other man.

----

It was infuriating to be left behind all the time. Tallic kicked a rotting tree trunk moodily and began to pace as Bridae sat on a steadier log with her staff resting in her lap.

"Ugh, I'm not a baby!" Tallic snarled out, kicking again. Bits of putrid log and a few insects went flying from the force of her boot. "He can't keep leaving me!"

"Tallic," Bridae admonished gently, setting her dark eyes on the girl. "You know he's protecting you."

"I don't need protecting." Tallic scowled, folding her arms over her chest. "What good is training if he won't let me use it? And he's the one that got skewered back in Orn."

Bridae sighed a little. Children.

Then she paused and tilted her head, eyes narrowing as she sensed something. Tallic continued to grumble and kick the tree but Briade ignored it. Something was prickling at the edge of her senses and there was the same decay and putridness to it as with the whole swamp. Bridae grabbed her staff and got up, trying to pinpoint the strange magic.

"Tallic," she said sharply once she had, silencing the girl's tirade. "Something's wrong."

Tallic frowned and one hand went to her sword. There would be time to be angry later. Without another word, Bridae shot off into the trees and Tallic ran after her. There were confusing spots of magic everywhere but Bridae navigated through as best she could. When she came to the edge of the lake clearing, her eyes widened.

"Sheik!" she cried out, watching as the blond man disappeared under the surface of murky, scum filled water, hands of slimy gray wrapped around his body.

"No!" Tallic snarled. She threw off her cloak and unbuckled her boots and belt without even thinking. She was not losing him!

"Stop," Bridae said, grabbing Tallic's shoulder. "You can't rush in-"

"He'll drown!" Tallic snarled back, jerking from the older woman's hold. "I'm not losing him to some lake monster!"

Bridae looked back over the strangely calm water and pursed her lips. Lake monster, lake monster, why was that familiar to her? Old stories the other Kasuto villagers had told her. Dangers…

"Oh Goddesss," Bridae murmured, eyes going even wider. "This is Lake Morpha…"

Tallic gave her a sharp look. She'd heard stories. Traders gone after going too far west, lost in the arms of beautiful creatures that turned out to be monsters of the deep. That made up her mind. She dropped her belt and sword, then toed out of her boots. The stone would be too heavy, useless.

"Tallic, can you swim?" Bridae murmured, mournfully.

"Some."

"Child…He may not be…"

"No. They drown them first, then eat them," Tallic grumbled. "He has to drown first."

The mage swallowed and looked back at the water. She hesitated only a moment more before drawing out the Areo stone from her pack and pressing it into Tallic's hand.

"I don't know how much good this will do. I will help you as much as I can from the land."

The child nodded, her face grim, then stuffed the stone into one tunic pouch. With that, she waded into the murky water with only her knife and the stone, trying not to let the stench of the water get to her. She only hoped Sheik was still in one piece when she got there.

The water held a sickly warmth when Tallic plunged down into it. She didn't swim well, Desert raised as she was, but she could still remember traveling with her parents to an oasis or two and her father's gentle instructions. She let that fill her as she pushed herself through the water. It was hard to see, bits of algae and things she couldn't identify floating about to distract her eyes, but she didn't let that stop her. Sheik. She had to find Sheik…

Movement on one side. Tallic grabbed out her knife and twisted in the water, trying to follow the dark shape. It was gone seconds later. Tallic tried to calm her suddenly racing heart. She returned to the surface, took a breath, and then dunked down again.

More shapes moved about in the dark water. They didn't look right, too long and strangely bulbous. The lake monsters were curious, taking the weight and measure of her. She tried not to let it scare her.

Finally, she caught sight of something lighter in the water. Tallic swam for it and reached out. Her fingers curled in long, blond hair. Before she could congratulate herself, something swiped at her near Sheik's head with long, spindly fingers. Tallic jerked back as best she could and brought up the knife. Hardened iron cut cleanly through one finger and a sudden roar of pain that echoed through the water nearly deafened her. Sheik's motionless form shoved against her and Tallic latched on, trying to ignore the darker color permiating the water near by or the second echoing scream.

Hooking one hand under Sheik's shoulders, she tried to get to the surface but something grabbed her leg. Tallic forgot a moment that she was underwater and screamed, only to get a mouthful of the disgusting water. She kicked at the strong grasp around her ankle, but it wouldn't dislodge. Tallic panicked and grabbed the stone. Immediately, power surged through her, hot and painful. It ripped through the water around her in strong jets of air. Tallic heard another scream but she couldn't tell what was going on. Instead, she grabbed Sheik and swam, gripping the stone tightly.

Tallic broke the surface and gulped down much needed air. Bridae yelled something from the shore but before Tallic could respond, she felt the fingers curling higher on her leg and was dragged under.

Sheik was jerked from her grip. Tallic tried to reach after him but the monster was pulling her under faster. Another hand grasped her waist. Tallic slashed at it wildly with her knife as the stone pulsed in her hand. More jets of air shot through the water but the monster stubbornly held on even as inky blood soaked into the water. Tallic's lungs burned.

And then, suddenly, she was hurtling up. Tallic shot out of the water, propelled by a massive burst of air and magic. She felt herself arc and opened her eyes, immediately wishing she hand't. The lake monster still had hold of her. Blood oozed from it's grayed, slimy skin and it's horrifying mouth full of sharp teeth screamed at her, bits of another meal stuck between. It was long and shaped almost like her on top, but bony and skinny with long, thin arms and gigantic hands. A mound of distended flesh clung to its belly and the rest of it's body was long and thin like a fish with dark fins and spines down the back. Flexible spines stuck out from its head like hair. Tallic screamed and it shot up a notch when the monster bit into her hip, ripping through flesh easily.

They hit the ground as one. Tallic whined out a pained gasp but she felt dazed. She absently heard the thing screaming out with rage and pain, felt the tickling of magic on her skin, but her vision fuzzed over. And then it went dark.

She knew it was far later when she woke. Tallic opened her eyes and shivered, curling tighter in the blanket she found laying over her. She was moving, a slow canter she recognized. Evalus…? But she was laying oddly and there was a warm body against hers…

When she'd awakened enough to have any sense, she realized she was in someone's lap with their arm around her to keep her still and in the blanket, his other hand grasping the reins.

"Don't move," Sheik murmured before she could say anything. Tallic bristled at the order but the moment she tried to move, pain left her gasping and still again. "I told you."

"Hush," Tallic shot back. She shifted carefully, just enough to get a look around and realize they'd left the marsh and were back in the sands. "Where..?"

"Back to Boh," Sheik replied. He sounded tired and worn and when she got a look at his face, he looked even worse. There were bruises on his throat and face from long, thin fingers grasping too tightly.

"What about the stone..?"

Sheik paused and glanced at her. He dug into his pack and then drew out a dark blue stone that didn't quite seem solid.

"The monster that attacked us. It was in her belly."

Tallic made a face. She could just see Sheik cutting it open and having to loot around for their prize. Gross.

"So, we got all of them now."

Sheik nodded. Ahead of them by a good ten yards or so was Bridae, scouting things. Sheik led Evalus slowly to keep from jolting the girl in his arms. Tallic was quiet a while. She felt sleeping and sluggish, but somehow more proud of herself than ever before. She'd saved him. All on her own, she'd saved Sheik because she was brave and stubborn. Tallic fell asleep to that thought.

Sheik glanced down at her when he realized she'd been still a long while. He traced over Tallic's young, pale face and felt a sudden pang of guilt. If only he hadn't fallen for the lake monster's siren song… He'd put Tallic in danger with his stupidity. That took what little enjoyment he might have gained from gathering all four stones.

The journey back to Boh seemed to take longer than any other. They traveled in the night, slept in the day, and moved at a less fevered pace. Tallic healed well with treatments with the Akasha stone. They did it slowly to keep from knocking any of them out. With four powerful magical artifacts in their packs, they weren't going to make the mistake of leaving themselves open to attack and robbery.

Somehow, they managed to get to Boh unmolested. Sheik felt a sudden relief swell through him at the sight of the village. Even if it was old and run down, he'd still come to think of it as a second home. Tallic brightened immediately. She walked beside his horse with pride, hand on the pommel of her sword so that no one would miss it. Bridae held more reserve, but she dealt easily enough with the stares of red Sheikah eyes wondering why something so strange was parading through their town.

They were met in the center of down by none other than Ar'chern. The old warrior lifted one thick brow at Bridae but he accepted her easily enough.

"Well, look who's back," he muttered. "Still in one piece?"

"Mostly," Sheik replied as he dismounted. He handed the reins to Tallic, who was too happy to be home to sniff at him. Sheik moved over to stand before Ar'chern. "We have the Stones."

The old man's brows both lifted. "Truly?"

"Yes. And I'd like to be the one to put them back in their rightful places."

"I suppose we can work that out." Ar'chern folded his arms over his chest. "But maybe tomorrow, after a good rest."

Sheik agreed and pulled out the satchel he'd put the four stones in. Ar'chern took it solemnly and promised to watch over them with his life. Then Sheik led his companions off back towards Ze'rin's shop. He stabled Evalus on the way and thought about dropping Tallic off at the orphanage, but that didn't seem quite right. Tallic wasn't really an orphan anymore. She was his apprentice and in some ways, he thought of her as something a little more like a daughter now.

Ze'rin jerked him into a crunch of a hug when Sheik arrived. He laughed at the old man's exuberance and then let Ze'rin treat the four of them to a meal. Ze'rin demanded stories and they indulged him easily. Tallic spoke for the most part, retelling glorious battles with gory and somewhat exaggerated detail. Sheik didn't hold it against her and Bridae looked amused.

The next morning, Sheik and Tallic headed to meet with Ar'chern about returning the stones. Bridae stayed with Ze'rin, mentioning something about too much fun in one lifetime.

Ar'chern was speaking with the old Archmage Dae'rin'tul when Sheik and Tallic arrived. Both men waved the two younger in and they took their places at the table.

"Good, you're not too late. Lazy, sleeping the morning away," Ar'chern murmured, but there was a teasing lilt to take away the sting.

"It's good to see you alive and well," Dae'rin'tul said after without hiding the soft smile on his face. He set his head on his folded hands. "I'm told you wish to replace the stones to their places?"

"Yes, sir," Sheik remarked.

"Who else would?" Tallic sat back in her chair, arms folded over her chest proudly. "This is our quest."

Sheik almost told her off but then he spotted the amusement in Ar'chern's eyes and the smile on Dae'rin'tul's face. He relaxed a little.

"We'll gather a few men to accompany you out to the temples," the Archmage murmured with mirth in his voice. "But I think the two of you can likely take things inside yourselves."

"What about the other one?" Ar'chern lifted a brow as he remembered. "The lizard?"

"I think she means to rest," Sheik responded, shrugging one shoulder. "It's been a difficult journey. Bridae will be staying with us."

Dae'rin'tul rubbed his hands together. "I should like to meet her when this is over. She sounds fascinating."

Sheik wasn't really sure how to take that, but he nodded anyway. Ar'chern left then, rounding up the small guard contingent he'd decided on, then led the group of warriors out of the village. People watched as they went, curious over the parade but also somewhat weary. Sheik frowned.

"We were hit by raiders three times since you've been gone," Ar'chern explained with a frown. "Lost a few people. But that just makes it more important that the Stones get put back into place."

The blond man nodded grimly. Yes, it did.

They reached the first shrine near nightfall. Tallic was cranky over the walk but she livened up once they broke to make a meal and rest. The night seemed so very still after the journey they'd taken. Sheik sat up, staring out into the dark sands. He could see mirages moving about, illusions waiting to stir him up inside, but Sheik didn't have the will to be stirred. He closed his eyes and rested.

Morning brought Sheik and Tallic to the entrance of the Aqua Shrine with the Aqua stone safely in Sheik's pack. They entered it cautiously and fought off the swarm of keese. When the flying beasts littered the ground, they searched through the wide entry room for any other nasty surprises. Sheik frowned a bit. The room was so very much like that in the Fira Shrine. Perhaps it would react much the same, moving rooms about and trying to kill them.

And, as it turned out, Sheik was right. Aqua lured them deeper into the temple, throwing more keese, a few shell blades and stingers when they had to swim through flooded corridors, even blade traps here and there. The puzzles were similar and Tallic grumbled over each one, wondering why anyone would go to so much trouble.

They found themselves eventually in a corridor that split three ways. Sheik frowned, glancing down each one. Finally, he decided to go right down the middle, even as his skin itched with warning and remembrance. Tallic was just as tense, holding her sword at the ready. Gunk and blood from kills smeared her clothing, even a bit on her face. She looked like she was born to fight and Sheik couldn't help being somewhat glad he'd decided to take her on the journey after all.

The hall stopped dead with a huge, familiar door. Sheik pursed his lips and brushed dust from the engraving. He didn't feel better when he made out the word Biri. The little electric jellyfish weren't too much trouble, but still, it worried him. Frowning darkly, Sheik searched out the unlocking mechanism. The door gave a loud crack and then a groan before it started to open.

Tallic stepped back, holding her sword. She thought absently that someday she should learn how to use a bow. Especially when she spotted a group of blue tektites inside.

The room was wide and long but the ceiling was a bare few feet above the water level. Water filled what might have been a gigantic room. The tektites shivered and skittered about on the surface. Sheik stepped slowly forward, looking down over the short drop off into the water. It was huge. He could see to the bottom far below, making out the intricate tile work. But something seemed off. Long, snake like strands of dark blue lazily curled through the water, moving with the faint current but otherwise still. He frowned, not trusting it.

"On guard," he murmured quietly, then turned his eyes to the tektites. Summoning up power, Sheik shot off a spell and skewered one tektite with a shaft of life. The spider like creature screamed out with pain and gave a last wiggle before going still and sinking down into the water. The others jerked with attention and then jumped towards them. Sheik stepped back, drew his sword again, and the two attacked. The tektites weren't much. They killed them off easily enough, but Sheik still watched the last body sink. He frowned as it passed down and then was suddenly seized. The blue strands curled around it and drew it back into a darkened cave on one side.

"Damn it," Sheik muttered. "There's something down there. It think it's a giant biri or bari… Something like it."

Tallic frowned, not knowing the terms, but she still held her sword. Sheik thought about how to do this.

"Did you listen in those magic lessons?" he asked suddenly.

"Well, yeah-"

"Know any attack spells?"

Tallic blinked a little. "Um. Yeah, a little air magic. Bridae said something about elemental correspondences I didn't understand-"

"Doesn't matter right now." Sheik looked back down into the water. "I need you to try and sling spells through the water. It will be harder than just doing it normally, but you should manage. Cover me. I'm going to try and get to the platform without getting killed."

"What?!"

Sheik didn't wait. He sheathed his sword and drew out a smaller knife before dropping smoothly into the water. He could see the blue strands, now surely tentacles of some kind, and avoided them as best he could. They weren't very thick, maybe the width of his arm, but they curled around in on themselves everywhere and were constantly moving. Sheik swam between them, heading for the far side of the chamber. Below, he could see the platform and the rest for the Aqua Stone, but it looked so big in comparison, as big as the Fira Stone had been.

Contemplating that, he didn't see one tentacle until he'd almost hit it. Sheik banked hard to one side but over shot it. Something brushed his arm and then pure agony surged through him. He screamed as his body lurched hard, then gripped the Areo stone even as he sensed jets of air shooting through the water. The water surged, swirling about as tentacles tried to close in on him but the force of the water kept them at bay. He thought he heard screeching some where off but that didn't concern him as much as getting to that platform.

Sheik swam hard but the water moved with him, pushing him faster than he could have gotten alone. He reached out, fingers straining, and grabbed hold of the edge of the platform. Below, he could see the ethereal river pulsing about. Maybe that would be enough to defeat the monster… He shoved the Aqua stone into it's holder and was nearly blown off when the water around the platform suddenly shot back, leaving a pocket of air behind. With nothing to hold him up anymore, Sheik dropped right into the river.

It hurt, pain surging through him just as hot as the pleasure building in his body. He felt humbled and yet godlike. Goddesses, could a man truly survive feeling this twice?! Sheik looked up to the stone and saw it was enlarging, growing to fit the holder. It glowed with blue light, casting it over the tiled floor and the wall of water only feet away.

Sheik stared through the water. He heard Tallic call something from above but she seemed so insignificant. Within the water wall, he could see tentacles flailing about and something glowing in the darkness of the cave. Sheik smile. This power was more than enough to get rid of one insignificant little worm.

Without hesitating, he drew up the magics into himself, far more than he'd felt before. He condensed it, gave it purpose and claws, and then with a few mere words, he let it explode form his fingertips into the water. Jets of claws and teeth raced between thrashing tentacles, ripping them apart with ethereal jaws. The thing in the cave screamed and started to come out, but the magic got to it. Sheik barely saw any of the jellyfish like creature before he tore it to shreds. The sudden rush he got from killing it was overpowering. He laughed, a dark pleasure riling through him.

"Sheik!" Tallic yelled from above. He finally looked up at her, still grinning even as he saw the horror on her face. She hesitated, staring, and then the water rushed back over the whole room. Sheik was swept from the river and thrown into the swirling, part ridden water. He was shocked back to his senses and swam hard, breaching the surface none too soon. Tallic was there to pull him out once he got to her and he laid panting for a while.

"One down," the girl said quietly, staring down into the carnage. She looked rather sick. When Sheik glanced in, he did as well.

----

Story's almost over. Time to wrap things up. I think it'll only take one more chapter but it may take two.

Also, sorry about any mistakes you see. I couldn't get hold of my beta and it's been so long I figured I'd post as is.