The Legend of Zelda: Legacy of Darkness

Author's Note: I'm back in action! Mostly because its holidays, and life has slowed down enough to bring this chapter to you! Thank you for all of your awesome support… and so sorry for the long wait with this chapter!

Oh, and while uploading, FFnet did that thing where it smashes words together... I tried stay vigilant, but I'm not sure if I caught them all. Sorry if I didn't.

DISCLAIMER: I don't have any legal rights over anything but the intertwining, okay?


Chapter Twelve: The Thorn of a Rose


DAY FOUR: DAWN

Wind was grazing past Link – he could feel it tugging at his tunic and his Kokiri cap. Around him, the gentle rustling of wind between leaves locked in his comfort. This was not the place of the dead… here, this forest was bursting with life. Cerulean eyes sweeping around him, Link took it in.

The Lost Woods.

Not the treacherous ones where he had found the skeletons… no, this was more familiar territory, the areas of the forest closer to the Kokiri Village. Moving through the woods as well as he could, Link made his way to the entry that he remembered.

If these were the woods, then… Saria would be here. She would be here, like she was always there when he had been growing up with these eternal children. Growing up…

Link glanced down at his hands; there were no gauntlets, nor were they calloused, or even particularly large. For a moment, Link stopped walking in the hazy light and soft winds of the forest. Turning and adjusting his body, Link quickly came to a conclusion: time had not passed here, and the body of a child was still his.

Feeling even lighter now, Link began racing to the glowing light of the entry to the Kokiri Village. No Spiritual Stones, no Sages, no war… he'd come to the entry now, and once he came to the small fence overlooking the village, Link searched quickly for his old friend.

Then Link heard it from behind: a crunching of boots on dead leaves, and the gentle tinkling notes from an ocarina. Link whirled.

"Sari – your… your Highness?" Link had only just managed the proper address for the blonde girl in front of him. White and pink cloth wrapped around her for a headdress, and also as the dominant colours of her dress. Her large, crystal blue eyes widened when she saw Link, and she removed the ocarina from her lips. Wait… isn't that…? It had been, hadn't it? The green and white paint was fading, and the instrument was only meant for a child's grip.

The Fairy Ocarina. Saria's.

But then what was it doing in the hands of the Princess Zelda?

"Link, I've been looking everywhere for you! You must come, there's something at the castle that – "

"Why do you have her ocarina?" Link cut in suddenly. Any other time, he would have been aware of his blunt discourtesy towards the heiress of the Royal Family – right now, that hardly mattered. Somehow, one of his oldest and most trusted friend's gifts was sitting in the Princess' hand, and somehow, Link wasn't the least bit comfortable with it.

"Wha-what, Link? That's not important, right now, its – "

"Give it back!" Link cut in once again, demanding. Anger was pounding in his veins, racing through his childish palms as they tightened into small fists.

"Link?"

"I want it back!" Link burst out, moving towards her. The princess, looking utterly startled, moved back instinctively, clutching the instrument protectively.

"What are you talking about?" she began, desperation clear. Fear was tingling in her eyes, and it was only provoking the child-Link further. "Link, this is my family's! It's been passed down by the Monarchy in Hyrule for as long as the legend of the Triforce!Link! Look!"

Once she held it out for him, Link did a double take and jumped backwards.She's right, you know. No! Link argued. He had just seen… it doesn't matter now, so for the love of the Goddesses, just apologize. I…

"Prin-princess… I'm sorry, I didn't…" Link began, still completely confused. The Fairy Ocarina had become the Ocarina of Time, its robust blue paint glimmering slightly in the bright afternoon sun over the Kokiri Village. Furrowing his brow, Link was about to continue, when Princess Zelda held up a hand to silence him.

"It's all right, Link, I understand," and suddenly her voice was lighter, stronger, more mature. And suddenly, Link had to tilt his head backwards just to look up at her.

"Zelda?! What… what's going…" This was no time for titles and the likes – the Princess had rapidly grown into a young woman before him; she now resembled what she had looked like that last time Link saw her, a number of months ago. Glancing down at his hands and bare legs though, Link was aware that he still remained a child.

The Princess smiled down reassuringly during his flabbergastion, and held out something for him.

"Link, don't worry. I will take care of things, all right?"

At first, Link thought it was going to be the Ocarina – but instead, in her hand, was a crimson rose.

"YourMajesty! I don't understand – " He was cut off though, when the Princess pushed the rose onto him, and Link eventually opened his hand and accepted it.

"Farore!" Link cursed, dropping the flower suddenly. The rose, unfortunately, hadn't been tended to, with thorns still pricking out. Examining the wound, Link found himself fascinated with the fluid oozing out. A red so dark it was almost black, forming a small, lumped circle as it gathered on his digit. The light caught it, bringing out the luscious red as the small mountain avalanched down his finger.

Stop it, Link. The small, warm rivulets of blood ran down his thumb, and Link raised the thumb closer to his face. Suddenly, it was very cold and Link was very alone – no village, no ocarina, no Princess. And suddenly, Link had never been happier for the solitude.

The smell. Oh Goddesses, it had to be the smell.

The warm, fresh, vital scent wafted towards him, and somewhere in his mind, Link was vaguely aware that this was a dream. But this, this was so real… so…

"Dammit!" Link sat up with a start, clutching his hand to his chest. Rubbing sleep out of his eyes with his other hand, Link quickly glanced down his hands. Yes, they were all there, calloused and muscled as ever. Glancing down at himself, Link remembered having awoken briefly in the middle of the night to disarm himself and strip off the thick travelling cloak he bore. The cloak, he had bundled up and, after peeking over at Carrie to make sure she didn't need it, he had settled the makeshift pillow under his head. However, his legs were not bare, but clothed in his white leggings just as he remembered.

At least he hadn't actually shrunk and gone back to being a child – one time was more than enough for that experience.

Now that his mind had cleared, Link was quickly able to find the thread to the end of the dream. What had…? Link studied his hand very carefully – no wounds, no blood. But… the sensation had been so real… Link laid back down, slowly, now that his breathing had calmed. Just lie down, Link; don't think about it. You were so close; you could have given in. But I didn't… it was a dream. So you were fantasizing, then. No!

Groaning, Link squeezed his eyes shut and forced the argument from his mind. His cloak was a rough substitute for a pillow, scratching at his bare neck since he had removed his cap. His shaggy blond hair was scattered against his cloak and shimmering in the moonlight; Link breathed deeply.

And sat up almost immediately.

This isreal… dammit! Scrambling to his feet, Link paused where he stood and took another deep breath of the smell penetrating the room, to be certain. Yes, yes it was there.

Blood! It had to be! The scent that had been wafting towards him from his own cut – Link recoiled in disgust at the thought, drinking his own blood – it was now practically flooding the room. For Link, it was, anyways – Carrie remained completely still in her sleep, only shifting every-so-often.

Blood.

There were only two possible answers: something had been killed recently in this place, or a predator was carrying the stench of a fresh victim.

Link wasn't sure which one was worse.

But whatever it was, it needed to be taken care of, and quickly. Dropping to his knees, Link groped about in the dim light of dawn for only his sword and hat. Link stuffed his cap on, and ripped the Templar from its scabbard, leaving the sheath behind. Stumbling, Link got to his feet and shot out through the door of the room.

The smell. For the love of Nayru, where was it coming from?

As ridiculous as it felt, Link lifted his head up and sniffed, searching through the many layers of the scent to find some kind of clue. Standing in the hallway, with the blue carpet under his feet and the morning light only just beginning to filter through stained-glass windows, Link concentrated.

There – to the right of him, from where he and Carrie had arrived. The general direction, anyways. Grip tight on his sword, Link moved quickly towards the oaken staircase, not particularly caring that it wobbled as he raced down it.

He was getting closer. Goddesses, the source was right there, it was –

Four-saken roses.

He should have known, known right from his dream – he should have recognised the tingling scent of the flower amongst the thick smell of flesh and blood. Circling the small, oblong room, Link felt the maddening rush of blood through his own body. Why did these roses smell… it was coming from this room, Link was absolutely positive…

Link paused for a moment, studying a particular patch of roses carefully. His eyes shifted through the leaves and petals, through the stems and thorns – unsuccessful.

"Please step aside," a voice suddenly penetrated Link's frenzied concentration, and the blond whirled. A young woman stood near him, her bright blonde hair hanging around a sickly, blue-tinged face. Her expression was an odd one: a dreamy, almost vacant expression adorned her, and even her mahogany eyes seemed hazy. On her slim – almost stick-like – frame, she wore a simple pink dress hemmed in white. She took a few light steps after Link moved over, and the woman continued in a dazed voice, "I wish to water the roses."

"Who – " Link, now almost completely out of his panic, struggled to gather the words together. "Who are you?" The woman, clutching a watering can to her chest, looked at him vaguely, and replied simply,

"I am Rosa; I look after these white roses."

"White roses?" Link gave a start. Since when were they ever…?Watching Rosa, however, he understood with a sharp realisation. As she poured the watering can over the 'white' roses, blood came filtering out for the roses to absorb. Link tensed – the stench, while putrid, was intoxicating to his addled brain – and hissed quietly, "You… you're a vampire?" Was she a threat, then? Link's sword-hand remained limp at his side, but his grip tightened on it.

"Yes, my soul has been cursed," Rosa answered, not sounding particularly morbid. Not sounding as though there was any emotion, really. She turned to him, eyes studying him for a moment before continuing, "And you, you are no different really – so why are you so surprised? Surely you noticed the scent of my roses?"

Link jerked forwards, prepared to snap something, growl something, to hither – he was not one of them. Not yet, and by the Four Giants he never would be. But he wouldn't – no, it would not be right. This woman had posed no threat to him of what-so-ever; there could be no justification to striking her. So instead, reigning in his outrage, Link said softly, "I did notice; that's why I'm here."

"But that is not your only reason, is it?" Rosa had not moved her gaze from him, and Link could not deny he was more than just a little unnerved.

"I…" Link began, thinking through his words. "I'm here, because I'm not doomed yet. There's still time." Rosa merely raised a delicate eyebrow at this, but said nothing. Instead, she continued to move the watering can over other patches of roses, while Link stood in silence. He contemplated saying something – this was chance to talk to a vampire, a real vampire that wasn't bloodthirsty or possessive. To be completely honest, Link hadn't even known such a thing existed.

"I believe," Rosa spoke up before pausing a moment, as if collecting her thoughts. "I believe, you are foolish to trudge through my Master's labyrinth, but I will pity you. Inasmuch, there…" Rosa stopped again and looked up now, the watering can being presumably empty. Using one hand, Rosa eased her hand between her own rosebushes, and withdrew a clutched fist. She smiled very slightly – not wickedly, nor deviously, but a sympathetic smile – and continued, "… here is a key for the building. Maybe it will be of some use for you…" And she opened her outstretched hand, revealing a rose-pink key.

Link almost smiled, if it wasn't for the disturbing similarity between what was happening now, and what had happened in his dream. Granted, instead of the Princess Zelda giving his inner child an ocarina-turned-rose, he simply had a vampire rose-tender giving him a key… but it was odd, all the same. This whole villa, this castle… this world was strange. The very absurdity of the situation he was in was simply beyond comprehension, at this point.

Accepting the key, Link started to find his hand sweep through hers, as soon as the tangible object was in his hand. Looking up, he saw the young woman fading away, becoming transparent even as she spoke her good-bye to him: "… good luck, adventurer. Do not lose your life too quickly…"

Link, though confused, left quickly and made his way back up to the room to inform Carrie of his discovery.


I

n a quiet room, Carrie stood. She moved softly, but again, she realised that nothing in this place seemed truly to effect her save the ground beneath her feet. And glancing down, Carrie realised that even there, her feet seem to just barely be floating above the hardwood floors. Searching the room, Carrie knew it was familiar, it had to be…

"Ca… Carrie?" a timid voice said, and Carrie whirled at the sound. That voice, it was, it had to be…

"Beth?!"

Beth smiled, a gesture that spread to her pale cheeks and lit up her emerald-green eyes. How flushed she still was though, and how pale was her skin. No doubt that being taken hostage during her fever hadn't helped with any remedies. Carrie moved towards her past the wooden table, and exclaimed again, "Beth?! Is everything okay? Are you okay? We didn't get a chance to talk—were we talking? Or was it just in my head? Are you sure you're okay? Completely? Or—"

"Carrie! Calm down, I'm fine."

"Still ill, though."

"I know," Beth sighed, annoyed, and Carrie laughed in relief at the familiarity of the gesture. Beth raised an eyebrow at her, and Carrie merely shook her head.

"Sorry, its just…"

"You miss us?"

Carrie hung her head, but did not respond. How could she? The true guilt and shame—and the realisation of how stupid she had been—was finally catching up with her. Running away, honestly. And where had they come? What had honestly been accomplished? Wincing when her thoughts turned to Anthony, Henry and Cornell, Carrie was startled when Beth continued, "… its okay, Carrie. We're proud of you, you know that?"

"What?" Carrie asked in disbelief. "You're just saying that to make me feel better, Beth, c'mon. I know I nearly gave you all a heart-attack when I shot off like that…"

"No, Carrie, honest!" Beth moved close now, and again, Carrie noticed how much more in tune with this strange dream realm Beth seemed to be. Carrie almost snorted though—Beth always had been more of the airhead. Maybe Beth had noticed, because a mischievous smile glittered on her face.

"Don't worry about it, Carrie. At least you know how to get here now, so we can talk." Carrie raised an eyebrow now, and replied,

"So I won't be getting any lectures, then? I could come home without a blemish to my name?"

Carrie had meant it as a joke, a cruel one, perhaps, but a joke none-the-less. Beth, however, looked deeply alarmed and replied, "Carrie! You can't come home! It's too dangerous!"

"But wandering through this forsaken place isn't?" Carrie asked incredulously. She wasn't sure why she was doing this—in fact, Carrie was pretty sure that she had said the exact same thing to Cornell, earlier. But this wasBeth; the sane one; the one who was supposed to think clearly, goodness.

"But you're helping the children, aren't you? I heard you and the others found Anthony, already!" Fair enough, but Carrie still felt a little jarred at the lack of consideration. But again, Beth revealed her extensive empathy, when she smiled a little sadly and replied, "But yes, we miss you Carrie. We miss you more than I could even begin to explain—but I mean, those children need you more. You know that, and you know what you can do to help them."

Carrie, feeling childish for her earlier agitation, nodded rather formally. "Yes, you're right… it's just… I'm homesick, too, I guess. That's all." And seeing Cornell again didn't exactly help, Carrie thought wearily.

"I know," Beth crooned consoling, putting a hand on Carrie's shoulder. Carrie jumped at the movement – she hadn't realised that Beth had moved so close. Pulling back, Carrie asked with a sudden desperation,

"But what if I fail? I haven't done anything so far yet… what if I let you all down? What if…" Hysteria seizing her, Carrie clenched her fists together and moved away—only to find Beth's grip on her shoulder tightened.

"Carrie, listen to me," Beth said calmly, quietly, steadily. "You will do fine, understand? You're panicking, that's all. You're a perfectly strong, perfectly lively young woman… but the bonds grow weaker."

"What?" At this point, Carrie was so utterly confused she didn't even bother to go into more detail; the expression on her face ought to have told Beth that much.

"The bonds, Carrie, the bonds on the Prince! There are only five days to go! I can feel it, I—" Beth was lost for words, and was gripping Carrie's arm so tightly now that the blood had stopped flowing. And yet, somewhere, Carrie heard a faint voice calling out. Ignoring the present for a moment, Carrie concentrated harder—it was familiar, but yet…

"Carrie," Beth whispered, throwing her arms in an embrace of the girl. "Carrie, what am I going to do? The children, they're running in a panic, and I've got to keep ahold of…"

"… ammit!… Car…t up!" it was so faint, but Carrie was certain… Cornell? Had been her initial reaction, but this voice was younger, it…

"… the place is a mess, we need you so much, and I…" Beth broke into sobs and buried her face in Carrie's neck, but Carrie barely felt it. The world was fading around her, and the voice was getting louder, clearer…

"… Please! We have to—"

"Link!" Carrie attempted to call out, pushing an almost translucent Beth away from her. The world was rapidly fading away, and Carrie was almost spiralling through the floor…


"Dammit! Carrie! Carrie, get up!" Link was once again feeling an increasing unease. He had been standing here for more than what was necessary to wake someone out of a normal sleep… had Carrie actually passed out last night? Was she that exhausted? Should Link have put her into the bed while she was sleeping, for her own sake? Dammit, Goddess-dammit… "Carrie! Please! We have to – "

Finally, Carrie stirred from her so far rigid sleep. Link watched her eyes stirring beneath closed-lids anxiously, before grabbing her shoulders and shaking her once again.

"Wha…?" Carrie's words were mumbled and stirred into one mixture, but Link was just relieved to hear the girl trying to make some sort of contact. By the Peaks of the Mountain, Link had been scared. Now, seeing Carrie's eyelids flutter open and the familiar scowl working its way onto her face, Link left her side to begin re-arming himself with everything he'd previously left behind.

He heard the girl fumble to her feet, and begin to shrug on her shawl and cloak. Once he had finished gathering up his belongings, Link turned to her and said, in mostly a rush, "Carrie – come on, we have to hurry. I have a key, so we'll head – "

"Wait, you have a key? What? Link?"

Link began tapping his foot impatiently; the girl was sitting on the bed, still sleep-plagued, attempting to adjust her cloak around her. Scowling, Link said, "Look, we just… we have to leave this place. Don't ask why, understand? Just come on." With that, Link strode from the room. The point had been made on Carrie; she stumbled to her feet quickly, following after him in silence.

As soon as Link was in the hall again, he turned and faced Carrie. He sighed when he saw the sulky expression on her face, no doubt for being chastised. "Look," Link began, trying to douse the flames. "I'm sorry; I shouldn't have snapped at you. But we need to leave – I've got a key, and I bet that has something to do with it – and that should give us some sort of escape, all right?" He really didn't think she needed to know the entire story, of the pounding smell of blood in his head and the arbitrary meeting with a vampire. Maybe she needs to know. Maybe you need to be quiet. She already knows your secret… what harm… That's enough!

Carrie opened her mouth to speak, and Link forced himself to listen in the dim silence of the hallway. Expecting an angry outburst, or a reply with indignation, Link was completely dumbfounded when she said, "It's fine, Link. You don't have to apologize… let's just get moving, all right?"

"I – but…" Link shook his head, remembering the urge to leave this place and the possible chance of demons. Instead, he only nodded in appreciation and began to make his way down the hall, testing each locked door with the key Rosa had given him. Carrie trailed behind, not looking focused – in fact, she looked incredibly somber. Link winced when he first saw this expression – it wasn't one that suited the girl. Link would have said something, only, now was really not the time for such matters.

"Damn!"

Stumbling through an unlocked door only confirmed that.

Groaning slightly, Link brought himself to his feet and looked around quickly. Carrie had followed through, albeit, a bit more gracefully then he had, and was scanning the wide room as well. No particular threats were in sight – there were some stylish sofas and a few chandeliers; four long-paned windows with billowing red curtains, which startled Link; an adjoining room to the left that was separated by two marble pillars; and to the other side of them, there was a large double doors.

Chancing his luck, Link beckoned for Carrie to follow him to the double doors. His boots padded softly against the blue carpet, barely disturbing the silence of the villa. Upon arrival, Link raised a hand and attempted to open the door – and it worked.

Link pulled back quickly – through these doors, there was a winding white staircase; nothing fathomable to fall down. Dammit– where would this key lead, then? Do we even need to find out? Couldn't we just continue on without them? That would be ridiculous, though, if it turned out they did need whatever the room had to offer, and only had to turn back. But then…

"Argh! All right, Carrie, here's what we'll do – you head back into the hallways, and – " Link looked up – the girl still looked unusually reserved. Concerned, Link grabbed her shoulders, causing her to meet his eyes. "Carrie, what's wrong?" Better they figure it out and solve it now, then have it weighing her down later.

Carrie flinched slightly, and shook her head. "Nothing! Just… this place, you know? I think… we shouldn't have stayed here for a whole night or something… it's so… empty. Like…" Link frowned at her, searching her blue-brown eyes intently for any other flickers. Yes, she was lying: that much was easy to spot – but at least something was out of the way and they could worry about the rest, later.

The girl must have noticed, because she ducked her head quickly, hiding behind her bangs.

Link sighed. "I know, Carrie." Wonderful, Link; just play along with the lies. Link ignored the voice, and continued, "I don't want to be here any longer than I have to either. That's why we have to pull it together and get out of this place, okay?" Link paused, waiting for some kind of reaction form her. Angry, annoyed, exhausted…

"Right." Carrie looked up, face set. "Fine, okay, we'll get going. What was I supposed to do?" Link would have laughed, if this had been at all an appropriate time to. Instead, he pulled out the rose key that Rosa gave him, and placed it in her hand. "Take this," he said, as he began to steer her back to the hallway doors. "Its got to unlock one of the rooms we didn't get a chance to explore yet. I'll come up and find you; just leave the room unlocked for me."

"Wait! Where are you going then?" Carrie asked, even though she was already in the halls. To his surprise, she still hadn't put up much of a fight.

"I'll be heading downstairs, to see what we should expect, okay? Don't worry – "

"I'm not worried! Not about me, anyways… just save your own sorry – "

"Carrie," Link interrupted disapprovingly, though a trace of laughter had found its way to his voice. This was more like the Carrie he knew. "Carrie, I'll be fine– just be careful! I'll only be a few minutes – "

"Yeah, yeah, okay, Link. I'll see you." And with that, she turned and began jogging slightly down the dimly lit hallways; Link closed the door behind her. Quickly, he moved back to the double doors, and stepped through. Just a quick check, and he'd go check on Carrie. Even she had to be able to stay out of trouble for a few minutes.

Taking his first few steps down the marble staircase, Link gripped the railing. The last thing I need, he thought with gritted teeth, is another tumble down.


Padding softly against the velvety blue carpet, Carrie made sure to keep one hand pressed against the wall. Dammit, what had been going on with Beth? What was all of this? Lifting one hand from the wall and examining it, Carrie frowned in the lightly dancing shadows from the candles. Even to Carrie, her skin seemed pasty and pale at this hour in the morning. But… how long had they been sleeping? An entire day, maybe?

Carrie winced slightly as she lowered her hand and continued down the passage. Maybe Link had been right to pester her, irritating as it may have been.

The eerie softness of her boots crushing the carpet was not once interrupted save for the occasional whistling of raspy winds. This only alarmed Carrie – there were no windows in sight, after all, except for those through the heavy oak doors that lines the hallway. So far, she'd been able to open only three – the one she and Link had slept in, the one that Link had departed in, and another one she'd found, which seemed to be some sort of store room. Now, with the stain glass windows that lined the adjacent wall shimmering slightly, Carrie breathed deeply before taking the first few steps to the plunge of darkness around the corner.

So far, nothing.

Summoning up her rejuvenated strength, Carrie quickly located another oak door, and performed the familiar test. Ear near the door to listen, hand on the door for heat, and finally, letting herself in. If, of course, the damn thing even worked. Leaning her weight onto the door, Carrie nearly tripped on her own feet when it swung open.

"Wonderful, just wonderful," Carrie sneered quietly to herself, taking in her surroundings. Or, perhaps, the lack of. Naked except for the familiar blue carpet and a few scarce paintings, Carrie strode forward more confidently now. Turning her head to the side, though, Carrie froze momentarily when she saw the painting. A deep gash ran along it, like the claws from one of the beasts that Cornell used to tell her about. Granted, those were only fairytales, but all the same…

Shaking her head, Carrie moved the ray of light from her hand towards the farther side of the room. There, the light quickly ran back to her and she caught the shape of something moving. A person! Now summoning strength to her other hand, Carrie shot forwards, towards the figure—and ran straight into a wooden cabinet, almost knocking over a vase of roses that rested upon it.

"Dammit… damn stupid light, stupid mirror, stupid house…" Carrie groaned, slumping onto the buffet in front of the mirror. Taking a proper look at herself, she grimaced. Her hair was tousled and actually had bits of twig in it. Mild traces of sweat and dirt tracked across her forehead and hands, and stained her wrinkled clothes. And while no significant bags had formed under her eyes, her skin was looking sallow and pasty. With a flinch, Carrie thought of Link, and her hand went straight to the spot where the Blue Crescent Moon pendant ought to have rested.

A sudden yelp pierced through the silence like a poison-tipped arrow.

Carrie whirled around, and in through the door stumbled a young man of plain clothes and rusty hair.

"He-help me! This place… this place is crawling with demons!" Fear afflicted the man's dull-grey eyes, but that was nothing compared to the complete shock Carrie had gone into. Still gripping the edge of the cabinet tightly, Carrie managed to ask, "Sir? Sir… you're all right, though, aren't you? A villager, right?"

The man nodded, and slowly began to stand to shaking feet. "Aye, y-yes I am. But you… you are no vampire in this place. You seem like that other man…" Carrie's eyebrows shot up. Other man? Link, maybe? No… anyone this frightened would immediately have stuck around with Link. Perhaps…

"Vincent?" she asked curiously, still watching the man breath incredibly heavily. Carrie frowned slightly, feeling awkward, but the man interrupted that when he said, "I'm not sure, but I left his side soon when we were attacked… surely, if you value your life, you will leave this place soon…"

A soft flutter whispered behind Carrie. Turning, she saw that a petal from one of the damaged roses had taken flight to the ground, and was now lying gently at her feet. Not entirely sure why, Carrie turned the full way around with her back to the villager. Forming only the smallest morsel of light to feed the darkness, Carrie faced the mirror and peered into the reflection of the room.

Wait.Where did you…?

The man! The reflection! Or… where was it, where was he…?

"Shit!" Landing hard on her side, Carrie had only just missed the leap from the damned villager. "What the hell?! You—you…"

"You don't smell like the other traveler," the man rasped, and with a transfixed horror, Carrie watched his face slowly melt away the flesh. Like fire spreading over a dry wood, the very veins of the man grew until the bulged from the thin, pathetic remains of skin that held together his demented face. Baring angry canines and eyes alight with malice and hunger, the demon spat, "No… I expect you to taste far better!"

Again, the vampire lunged, and Carrie spun herself away from the attack. Rapidly she grew orbs of light in her palms, backing away to the wall as she did so. But… dammit, where did he go?

In an almost telekinetic answer, a soft rasp came so close to her ear that Carrie jumped, and swung up her fist in defense. The vampire, however, moved with lightning-like speed and easily parried the blow with his own hand, using his other to grab Carrie's arm.

Oh no, oh no you don't – Carrie brought out her foot and swung at the vampires knee, temporarily disabling him. She threw herself backwards to widen their distance, but the vampire got down on all fours and literally pounced. This time, however, she was ready for it.

Raising her hand as a shield, Carrie blinded the vampire and then pulled out one of the oblong daggers at her side, slashing the vampires chest. While it could not kill the demon, he still screeched and backed away temporarily at the pain. Carrie pressed her advantage.

This time, it was Carrie's turn to leap, and she practically bounded forwards, raising the daggers to the vampires throat. Tackling the demon, she straddled him, and raised her arm. The vampire writhed below her, and she brought the daggers down—

"No! You bastard! Get back he—" But it was too late, at this point. The demon that had been below her only seconds earlier had morphed rapidly into a sleek black bat, rising up with a whirlwind of mist to blind Carrie. Coughing and spluttering, Carrie rolled to lie on her back, the darkness of the room as her blanket.


Careful not to have his feet slide out from under him, Link precariously made his way down the marble steps. Dammit – for a place so inhabited, parts like these made it seem ridiculously well-kept. But then, you didmeet Rosa here… she's a vampire, though. But capable of coherent conversation, apparently. Maybe being cursed isn't so bad… no! No! I am not going there!

Link squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, trying to make the voice go away. Not that it would, of course – Link was very aware that the irritating voice was his own, from somewhere in the depths of his mind.

"Dammit!" Link cursed when he nearly lost his footing with his eyes shut. He stopped moving altogether for a moment, regaining his composure.Goddesses, be careful,or Carrie will –

A rustle.

And if Link didn't know any better, it sounded like clothes… coming from underneath the staircase. Reaching the bottom, Link realized he was in a small room, decorated only be a suit of golden armour in the corner and another pair of oak doors on the right wall. However, Link unsheathed his sword, and began to peer around for the source of the noise. There were no windows in this place, so it couldn't have been a breeze… where… another tender? Another vampire?

"Who's there?" Link called out, standing by the stairs. There was a small crook under the staircase – just large enough for a child to fit in, perhaps. Although why a child would be here was absurd, so Link readied into a battle stance when he heard another shuffle. A part of a shadow could be seen from where Link was standing, and Link was about to simply lunge, when he was stopped: a sob.

Lowering his sword only slightly – it could very well be a trap, Link had long since learned – Link dropped to his knees nonetheless. Looking into the crook, he could only make out a pair of brown boots and the tip of a purple cocktail coat. Wait…

"Malus?" Link called out softly, hoping that it was indeed whom he thought. Another shuffle was heard; then the feet moved forwards, and –

"Link?" Malus gasped, throwing himself at the young man. Link stumbled backwards – he had only been balancing on his feet while crouched down, with only one hand free.

"Malus!" Link nonetheless repeated, after pushing himself up to sit cross-legged. Not that Link had much choice – the boy's arms were looped around Link's chest and arms; Malus had also proceeded to bury his face in the young man's forest tunic. Effectively locked in place, Link attempted to say a soothingly as he could, "Malus… what's wrong? What are you doing in a place like this?"

Malus pressed himself tighter, his eyes not meeting Link's. Wriggling an arm out from the child's grasp, Link awkwardly stroked the child's hair. Comforting never had been his forte… this was a bit like calming Epona down, when Link thought about it. In fact, Link had just gotten comfortable, when the child suddenly leapt away from him, looking horrified.

"Y-you!" he stammered, crab-crawling backwards. Link furrowed his brow, but Malus only continued, "I… we met, three days ago! You – you're… tonight, you'll – stay away from me!" Malus curled up into a ball, hugging his knees but watching Link frightfully.

Link, though severely stung, said gently, "No! Don't worry – I have more time."

"How do – "

"That's not important – why don't you tell me how you got to this hellish place?"

Malus, dropping his midnight-blue eyes, said softly, "They – they came to my village, the fiends and… they burned everything, my mother and father too…"

There was a sharp intake of breath on Link's part. Burned? His parents, they were… dead, then? Whatwas happening in this world?

Malus, biting his lip, didn't seem to notice the pitying look Link was giving him. Instead, still staring at the floor, Malus continued, even more softly, "… a man came, in a cloak… they took the children; brought them here… "

"Did you get away from them, then?" Oh, Din, don't let this be the gathering place. Don't let demons feast here of all places.

"Ye-yes, I did. But… not all of the children, some of them… they ran off too, but scattered… most were recaptured." The breath caught in Link's throat, though he attempted his best to hide it for the sake of Malus.

Malus, however, couldn't seem to care less. He had once more pressed himself firmly against Link's chest, burying his face in the green material. Albeit a bit awkwardly, Link stroked the indigo locks of the child and said softly, "Look, Malus, I think I can help you out of here, all right?"

There was no response from the boy, but Link was not deterred. "Malus, I have to go get my other friend—"

"Other?" Malus peered up at Link, who smiled slightly in turn.

"Yes, don't worry, she's just off in another room right now… I'll get her, all right? And then we'll come back here for you, so justwait and please stay still. It'll make things easier, okay?" Link had responded all in one breath, beginning to feel slightly anxious. He had told Carrie he'd be there soon, and what if something had happened?

Malus bit his lip, and in quiet voice, he asked, "There are two of you?"

"Yes, Malus, two." Feeling slightly annoyed, Link gently pushed Malus away from him and stood up. "Go back under the staircase for now, and we'll be right back. Unless—"

"What? Unless what?" Malus was sitting with his hands sprawled out behind him, supporting him. Link, frowning, replied,

"Unlessyou'd rather just come with me? If that would make you feel better, we could—"

"No," Malus said firmly. "I want to wait here, I…" The boy looked at the ground nervously, and then said more quietly, "… if anything's waiting for us up there, I really don't want… not another…"

"It's okay," Link said quickly, before the boy could break down in need of more consoling. After ensuring that Malus was back in his hiding place, Link rushed up the stairs and pounded down the hallway.


He had escaped, the damned vampire! Having recovered from the momentary delay, Carrie screamed in frustration. Rolling to her feet, Carrie moved forwards, determined to plough the beast, when the door swung open once again revealing a rush of forest green.

"Carrie! Carrie, are you all right?" Link rushed forwards and grabbed her by her shoulders. Scowling, Carrie jerked herself free.

"Dammit! There was this… this demon and he… argh!" Carrie whirled around and angrily began pacing back and forth. "Link, I almost had this one, I…." The vampire, dammit! What if that had been the one in charge of kidnapping the children? The one that got Nicholas? The one that was orchestrating attacks? She had let it get away. That was it! She hadn't saved a single child, while Link, it seemed, had already rescued two… what was she, then? A failure? Couldn't she even help them, as she promised every child that she would?

"… Carrie, I'm sorry, but we've got to get going…" Link said earnestly. Carrie turned her head sharply to look at him, and he continued somewhat hesitantly, "Did you… did you find the door? For the key?" Carrie cursed. Dammit, that stupid vampire had gotten in the way with that, too…

"No, look, I'm sorry, Link, but I haven't found any doors that are both locked and the key fits. I'm sorry, but I was looking, but then that damned vampire…" Carrie cut herself off quickly, and watched Link's face carefully. Maybe one wasn't to talk about these matters around…afflicted persons? Maybe…

But Link hadn't particularly reacted. In fact, he said quite suddenly, "Those roses are exactly the same as the others. You know, the ones from that other room."

"Um, right," Carrie replied, watching Link curiously. He hadn't even glanced her way, and instead moved towards the fallen, but otherwise well-kept roses. Link crouched down and picked up the one petal that had fallen to the floor before, and said so softly, that Carrie couldn't be sure if she heard right, "She must come here, too…"

"Link?" Carrie asked, feeling bizarrely as though she was intruding upon a private conversation. "Link? What are you…?"

"Give me the key, Carrie. Please," Link replied, looking over his shoulder. Carrie sighed – men, honestly – and moved forward with the key outstretched. Link accepted it, and then moved to the drawers of the cabinet. One by one, Link tested each, until finally,

Click. One of them welcomed the key into their home.

"Well, I mean, I would have gotten around to testing those eventually," Carrie sulked, watching Link rummage through the drawer. He then turned around, and held out a glittering object. Peering closer, Carrie realized, with a groan, it was yet another key.

A giant, brass key.

Wonderful.

"What is this, Link? Some sort of wild goose chase? A scavenger hunt?" Feeling extremely annoyed, Carrie snatched the key from Link and studied it carefully. "It probably leads to a gate or something. Maybe it's meant for the front door to this damned villa… but it was already open. This is useless, Link. That other key was useless. This whole damned place is—"

"No, it's not. Just give that here." Carrie was startled to hear a clear note of anger in Link's voice. This wasn't something she was completely familiar with – annoyance, yes; frustration, often. But that clear anger, and even resentment? Drawing back a little, Carrie handed Link the key back and followed him out the door.

Silence chased after them as the two walked back through the silent hall, like the shadows racing against the flickering through stain-glass knights.


So caught up in emotions had Link been, that he realized he had completely forgotten to tell of the boy. Looking over his shoulder, he saw Carrie following behind him, eyes to the floor and sulky scowl on her face. A flinch of guilt shook Link, and he turned away. Without turning around again, Link said, "I met someone while I was down there." Even if he wasn't looking behind him, Link knew Carrie was now watching his back. Link continued, as they slipped through the oaken doorways.

"Who…" Carrie didn't continue though, and Link sighed wearily. Turning around, Link said very softly,

"Just someone that I met, before I found you on the beach, right? His name is Malus, and we sort of lost contact after that whole…"

"Fiasco?" Her words were still buttered with tentativeness.

"Yes," Link said wearily. Hot coal would do him no good, after all. "The fiasco." Carrie grimaced, and followed Link as he made his way down a marble, spiraling staircase. As they moved down, Link said quietly over his shoulder, "Carrie – he's… a little frightened, I think. When I found him, he was crouched under the stairs… hiding, I think. I told him to go back – " Carrie jumped the last few steps after Link, and asked,

"Tell who to go back, Link?"

"Him – Malus! Malus, come out, it's me, Li – "

"There's no one here, Link… where could he possibly be hiding?" Carrie tapped her foot in mild impatience – sending a shiver of anger through Link, as though she had never followed a "false" trail. Unsheathing his sword and scowling slightly, Link responded,

"Come on."


DAY FOUR: AFTERNOON

"But…" Carrie bit her lip, realizing how terribly pathetic she would've sounded. Not that it particularly mattered; Link seemed to be completely ignoring her, focus on the tall oak doors off to the side.

"Where do you think it leads?" Link furrowed his brow, and moved to open it. Carrie blew a tuft of hair out of her eyes, and, resisting the urge to roll her eyes and proclaim, "Why don't you open it and find out?", threw open the doors.

A garden. A well-kept, finely trimmed garden like the silk hem on a lady's dress. The largest feature, however, was a tall hedge that seemed to cut off the size of the garden. There was a pair of iron gates that lead to a path through the hedges, and beside those gates sat a pair of stone-carved dogs – Carrie shuddered, and tried not to think of demon-dogs.

Turning to look at her companion, she saw Link move soundless forwards to examine the iron gates. Carrie desperately wanted to say something to break the solemn silence that both Link and this villa were casting, yet she could think of nothing. Instead, she observed Link pull out the large brass key that she had given him, and push it into the gate's padlock.

"Uh… Link?" Carrie asked, hands tightening into fists and rapidly beginning to draw on energy. "Link? You don't… you don't actually want to go through there, do you?"

Link turned around to face her after pushing the rusty, creaking gate open. Cocking an eyebrow, Link asked dryly, "Why not? Have you found a better route to take?"

Carrie scowled – this growing sarcasm and rhetoric Link seemed to have found was beginning to grind on her nerves. Stomping forwards so she too stood before the impressive gates, Carrie snapped, "No, but look – it's a maze Link: this is a damn garden maze, like the ones in stories. What happens if we get lost? Trapped? Who knows what's waiting in there for us?"

Link sighed heavily and gave a one-shouldered shrug. "Carrie…" For a moment, it sounded as though he was about to apologize, but he continued, "We won't know unless we press on, right? We'll just take a quick survey around… trust me, I'm sure we'll make it out of any maze. I – " Link paused quite suddenly, eyes intense through the gate. Carrie's eyes too, shot to the end of the path, through the gates…

"Malus!" Link called, and there was nothing to stop him from shooting through the gates. Carrie had seen it as well – the young boy had been standing there, clad in velvety night shades and just as still. At least, still until, with a jerking movement, he had shot off at the fork and turned out of their view.

Link was now racing to the end of the path, and spared only a moment to yell to Carrie, "Come on – we've got to catch up! Let's go!" Carrie, utterly confused and yet empathizing with the sudden panic that seemed to have seized Link, followed, orb growing brightly in her hand.


Gasping for breath, Link turned right as soon as he hit the end of the path. That… argh! He had been right there… why by the Goddesses he had run, was beyond Link…

Cursing, Link realized he'd turned left and hit a dead end. Beginning to back track, he heard Carrie catch up behind him. He turned around, prepared to tell her to go back again and they would try a different path, when a sudden rustling caught his attention. Whirling, Link recognized that sound, he knew that the child had to be here, he…

"Malus?!" Link exclaimed again into the silence. The clearing had a few statues and a number of tall bushes, and Link had been certain he'd heard clothes… it couldn't have simply been the branches in the wind…

"Link?" a terrified squeak came. As Link had expected, Malus nearly fell out from behind one of the bushes. But this time, instead of racing to Link's side, Malus stood up and breathed shakily, "You've got to get out of here; he… they…" Licking his lips and clearly too frightened to continue, Malus backed away from the pair of them.

Carrie, beside him, looked clearly alarmed and she asked softly, "Ma-Malus? Look, I'm sure whatever happened, I'm sure we can take care of you, all right?" She moved a bit closer, trying to soothe the boy. Link was thankful – the boys attitude had put him on high alert, and he had never been the best comforter. "So…" Carrie leaned forwards carefully, placing a hand on Malus' shoulder. "So, Malus, just stay calm and – "

"Ahh! Help me!" Malus threw her hand off of him and staggered backwards, before shooting past the pair and turning a corner, out of sight.

"Mal – "

"Link!Run!" Carrie seized Link by the back of his tunic and shot after Malus. It was only as he began to turn himself around that he heard it – the hungry, rasping growl of beasts. Between the blood pounding in his ears and the thumping of his leather boots on the ground, Link could make out the bloodlust that seemed to wade out. However, the feral sounds did not go unaccompanied.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

Eyes widening, Link saw a man – nay, a demon? Surely, a humanoid that large, with skin that wretched and a face so pathetically pieced together could not truly be human? The most alarming of all, despite the enormous stature and ridiculous speed of the demon was its arm – if it could even be called that.

A jagged piece of oblong metal jutted out from where the demon's forearm should have been. Metal teeth lined the structure – at least, that's what Link thought he saw, in the moment that the monster paused to tug on a chord, thus firing up the machine once again. Suddenly, the teeth began moving rapidly, whirring, circulating around the edge of the metal. Link may not have recognized the device, but he knew enough to know that machine was dangerous.

Nearly crashing into the hedge as he ran, he shook himself free of Carrie's grip so that they could both speed up. Only the tiniest portion of Link's mind considered staying back to fight – right now, Malus was the priority. Now where had the damn boy gone?

"RAWWRRR!" a blood-curdling howl came from the demon, and the thumping of enormous feet on grass followed after them, ringing oddly against the hedges.

Thump.

Link could hear the snarling and spitting of dogs, accompanying the chase. Another roar from the beast.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

"Carrie! Carrie! Get up!" Seizing the arm of the girl who'd tripped, Link dragged her back onto her feet and turned the corner. Right again – if there was anything Link had learned through his years of temples and puzzles, he definitely remembered right now that always turning in one direction whenever possible was the only exit in any maze.

Carrie got to her feet, stumbling – the thump thump thump was only a few paces behind, the snarling was imminent, it –

"Hey!Off!" Carrie raised a glowing fist to one of the demon dogs – Link noted briefly that they were the same 'statues' at the front gate – and struck the beast off of the hem of her skirt. She winced suddenly, horribly, for Link was too late to warn her of their true nature; Carrie's fist had hit solid rock. Solid, yet strangely living and moving, rock. Scowling, Carrie stood upright, and Link used the pommel of his sword to smash the jaw of one of the beasts before grabbing Carrie's elbow and dashing forwards again.

The dogs howled, their demon master only paces behind them – Link could smell the gagging flesh of the humanoid, the lethal whirring of the machinated arm… a vampire, Link? Another one of your own? Link nearly screamed in frustration, and he whipped around.

"Link! What are you doing?!" Carrie exclaimed, eyes still locked on where they'd last seen Malus' tailcoat whip by. Tearing her eyes away from the fork they were approaching, she yanked on Link's tunic. "Link! You can't – don't – "

But Link was already moving. Tired of being chased, tired of having these demons and their shadows festering on his mind, inflaming wounds…dammit, Link put away his sword and reached into his quiver, notching an arrow…

just try it. Just come closer…

A formidable roar ripped through the humanoid as powerfully as the arrow that pierced him. The dogs used the momentary stall to grab a hold of Link's tunic, but Link gave them a powerful backhand with his gauntlets – he let loose another arrow, this time aimed straight at the demon's face…

"Link! A little help, these – ugh!" Carrie shouted in frustration, and though Link didn't bother to turn around, he heard the clank of a metal dagger on stone. A whimpering howl ensued, followed by snarls. Link, hand releasing one more arrow, watched the blasted demon-man fall to the ground, mechanical arm still spinning viciously.

"Carrie! Let's go! Let's – " Putting away his bow, Link ripped his sword out of its scabbard and slashed through the two stone dogs, frightening them away. Stumbling to her feet, Carrie followed after Link, racing along in the maze.

What way had they been going? How far had Malus gotten ahead? Where had that boy gone? Left? Cursing, Link realized he approached a dead end. Backtracking – and nearly trodding on Carrie's feet, at that – Link winced when he heard the rapidly approaching ragged breath of the stone dogs. And closely behind… clanking? Clattering?

Not –

"What the hell! That bastard doesn't die, does he?" Carrie shot forwards, dragging a flabbergasted Link with her. The blundering hammers of the demon's feet seemed to echo after every snarl and growl. The menacing sounds shattered the tight atmosphere of the this maze, this villa – and yet, somehow still suffocate the exhausted Hylian.

Link cursed. And then he ran.

Blood rushing through his veins, wind whistling past his ears in shrieks and ominous screams, sword in one hand and the other with a tight hold on Carrie's hand. While shortcoming on his breath, Link forced himself to keep moving – this maze, with its intimidating towers, arbitrary turns and the throttling, invisible cloud was already pressing down around him.

Right – right – a left – right again…

"Huh?" Carrie almost tripped again in shock, and Link nearly skidded to a stop at the sight before him. While the imminent arrival of their chasers was closing in, there stood Malus, on the other end of a large, circular clearing. As they got closer, Link noticed that Malus stood in front of a large wooden door. The boy watched them, carefully, anxiously, maybe. But as soon as the two got close enough, Malus ducked through the door and beckoned for them to follow.

Link almost paused – something didn't feel right about this, and Malus had proven to be the strangest child thus far – but Carrie gave him a rough shove through, no doubt in response to the grinding swish of a rapidly approaching weapon-arm.

Sweat plastering his blond bangs to his face and the afternoon heat sizzling his pale skin, Link sagged against the hedge, only to find he was leaning on a rock-solid half-wall. Looking around, Link took in his surroundings. While they were still outdoors, and the path they were on was only as wide as the maze's had been. The 'wall' across from Link was still a hedge – Link could not make out what was on the other side – and behind him was another edge, lined with the small stone wall. Looking one way, Link could make out that the path continued back to the main mansion. Looking the other way –

"You sure you want to leave?" Carrie was asking Malus. The boy was ducking his head, intense eyes covered by indigo locks. Crouched down and one hand resting on his shoulder, Carrie's face was wrought with concern and even tenderness – definitely not an expression that Link was accustomed to seeing on her. Behind the two, on the other end of the path, stood another rusty iron gate.

"Ye-yes… if I can find others from my village, then… " Malus stammered, eyes still to the grass underneath his feet. Link wanted to say something – a warning, a lecture, demand answers – but dammit, Link couldn't seem to pick himself up, let alone form words. The midday sunlight was searing across the grounds, nearly blinding Link. The dry heat – which was strange, because thus far, nothing but dreary rain and overcast clouds seemed to plague the land – raked at Link's lungs and throat, and it was all Link could do to not break into a gasp, spluttering fit.

"All-all right," Carrie replied, pursing her lips. "Be careful though – the forest may be crawling with demons, and… are you sure – "

"Yes! I – need – I should…"

Carrie shook her head in annoyance, but stood up anyways to unlatch the gate for the boy. Link watched Malus briefly lock eyes with Carrie, before tearing them away again and setting off down the path through the gate. Sighing, Carrie swung it shut after him, watching the young boy leave.

Watching Malus leave with narrow, weary eyes, Link sank to the ground. Leggings sticking to him and tunic feeling uncomfortably itchy, Link covered his sea-blue eyes with his hands. The rough material of the his leather gloves that normally felt so familiar to him seemed to scratch at his eyes – dammit, if he could just get out of the sun…

A sudden weight on his leg caused Link to glance down. Carrie was crouching down, one arm resting on Link's propped knee.

"We've made a lot of progress, huh?" Carrie said encouragingly – even soothingly. Maybe she had noticed the blatant weariness of Link in this burning sunlight… an idea occurring to him, Link wrapped his hand around the Blue Crescent Moon pendant around his neck. A faint sense of soothing washed over him, and Link responded,

"I guess – we're leaving this villa though, soon, okay?"

Carrie collapsed next to him, leaning against the stone wall, sighing. "Sure," she breathed. "Sure thing."

Hand still clasping the pendant, Link gave her shoulder an encouraging, light punch. She had no doubt noticed the sudden movement to the pendant, and her mind must have gone back to hours ago…

"Hey, you're right, we've gotten far. Just keep your thoughts pushing up ahead, okay? Focus on the journey."

Biting his lip, Link tried to keep grasp on his own advice. Unfortunately for him, it wasn't the past that kept him bogged down.

Link tried not to let the seeping wounds of worry for his future impair him too much.


Author's Note: Okay, well, I think that went okay. Finding a good wrap up for this chapter was haaarrd… yeesh. Anyways, please leave a comment as always, they're much appreciated – and of course, I'll always get back to you if you want me to.

In the next chapter, we actually get some emotional development! I'm so relieved… plot gets so heavy after a while, no?