Chapter 18. Bigfoot Tracks Indicate Salsa Lessons!

"Thank you," Link said automatically as he stepped off the bus. The driver muttered something noncommittal in reply and pulled the handle to shut the door. Link stood on the side of the road until the bus was out of sight, then hitched his guitar case higher on his shoulder and set off walking.

It was pretty bare where he'd been let off. A few stands of trees, a farm house or small orchard here and there. But mostly grass and brush and space.

Bit by bit, it gave way to nature. Trees, big ones, became more frequent. The bushes grew thicker, and the grass was completely obscured by fallen leaves and things with flowers. Link was a city boy, he didn't know what any of these plants were called, but there was something peaceful about being surrounded by them. The only sounds were birds and the wind, and the occasional passing car, but those were rare.

Finally, he came to a small path. It wasn't a road, wasn't even a trail, just a place where enough people and vehicles had passed to make a pair of dirt tracks in the foliage. He wouldn't have thought it different from any of the other secluded driveways or hiking trails, except for the low stone blocks on either side of it.

There were leaves on the stones, and moss, but it looked like someone had tried to clean them off at some point. The indentations of old carvings could still be seen, but time and weather had worn away any chance of knowing their meanings.

Link headed down the path.

There were signs of people here too. Candy bar wrappers and a plastic straw. A scrap of lined paper with water-stained words. All Link could make out was a date, November third, and the letters s-h-a-d, but whether that was a name or part of a word he had no idea.

Fifteen minutes of walking brought him to a clearing filled with light and flowers. And, at the back, a huge stone building.

It was square and plain, made of pale stone, and covered in plant growth. There was even a small bush pushing through the stones of the wide steps that led to the entrance. There had once been doors there, Zelda had told him, but they had been removed and put in a museum a long time ago. Link wondered why the doors would be protected and the temple left to rot, but that was bureaucracy for you.

There was a flat round stone in the ground just in front of the temple, but Link couldn't figure out what it was for. It too, had been cleared of plants at some point, but they were growing back.

Apprehensively, Link limbed the steps to the temple. He wasn't sure what he was looking for, but he'd read every legend he could find on the internet when he was supposed to be doing his homework, and Zelda had told him what she knew about the place. Which wasn't much, unfortunately. Apparently the Master Sword moved a lot. There was never any record of who had moved it, but there were powerful magics protecting it, and even the hero who was destined to wield it had to pass a test. Since Link still wasn't convinced he was that hero, he was doubly nervous.

The inside of the temple was one big room; with a simple alter near the back, a few vestigial pillars along the walls, and carvings everywhere. Whoever decorated this place had been big on carving.

The wall behind the alter had one of those half-carving half-sculpture things that Link knew he should know the name of, but couldn't be bothered to worry about. It was of the goddesses and the triforce, and near the bottom, a number of figures that were probably meant to be sages or something that was equally important to the artist.

There was no sign of a door, or anything indicating the Master Sword. Not even any carvings that looked like one of the heroes. There were more signs of people though. No garbage, they'd been neat, but he found a pencil, and a rubber band, and in one corner that hadn't been checked properly, a bit of red yarn stuck to the wall with blue painter's tape. It wasn't until he found what looked like a thick paintbrush that Link realized who these people probably were.

Archaeologists.

Well, at least the place hadn't been completely forgotten.

Link went back outside, to see if there was anything he'd missed. He sat down on the flat stone whatever-it-was, and took out the guitar he'd borrowed from Kafei. It had been a long time since he'd played. When Mikau left, he took his guitars with him, and Link couldn't afford one of his own.

He decided to practice the song Zelda had taught him the day before. She didn't explain why, exactly, just that it was important, and might come in handy. He got the feeling she didn't know either. One of those things lost to the mists of time.

It was also her ringtone, for some bizarre reason.

His fingers stumbled over the strings at first. Unfamiliar instrument, unfamiliar notes, but finally one stanza came out absolutely perfect.

And the stone shuddered beneath him.

Link leapt to his feet, grabbing the guitar case and stumbling backward. For the first time, he noticed the faint lines on the stone were a carving of the triforce.

He turned his eyes to the temple, and sure enough, something had changed. The view through the doorway was different somehow, more light, a longer room. And it seemed to almost…flicker slightly. As though it wasn't really there.

Link put the guitar down on the stone, and pried the false back off the case. Kafei hadn't said why he owned a guitar case with a false back, and Link hadn't asked. It was just big enough to hold a short sword and a spare scabbard.

He took the sword and left the rest. There were no people for miles, and Dark had assured him that the monsters still didn't come out in daytime. The image through the doorway grew clearer as he got closer, and it was definitely not the room he'd explored so thoroughly before. He took a steadying breath, and stepped across the threshold.

The room snapped into focus. And…it wasn't a room, exactly. There were walls, Link could feel the "enclosedness" of the space, but he couldn't see them somehow. It wasn't that they were hidden by fog or anything like that, but they were blurry, indistinct. The light was coming from nowhere in particular, filtering down from the ceiling-that-wasn't-a-ceiling. At the far end of the "room" was a short pedestal, with a sword sticking up out of it.

It couldn't be this easy.

He pulled the short sword out of its scabbard. For a moment the voice of Yoda echoed in his head, but, much like Luke, he shook it away. There was danger here, he could feel it.

Somehow, as he walked, the room got darker. The light was still plenty bright around the sword, which didn't seem to be getting any closer for some reason, and Link could still see just fine, but the not-walls were now black instead of gray. And that weird danger-sense he had developed was acting up.

'Do you fear the darkness, young hero?' a voice said from nowhere.

Link jumped back and looked around frantically. He saw nothing. Nothing but darkness.

And then a piece of the darkness broke off.

It was shaped like a man, wearing some kind of old-fashioned clothes and a floppy hat, but the shadows clung to him like water, and no details could be seen.

He had a sword though. He very definitely had a sword.

'Do you fear the darkness?' the voice said again. It seemed to be coming from the swordsman, but sounded in Link's head without bothering with his ears.

The swordsman raised his sword and moved toward Link, slowly, testing him. He tripped backward, holding the sword awkwardly in front of him. What made him think a sword – any sword – would be any good to him? For Din's sake, he was holding this one like a baseball bat!

The swordsman swung at him and Link just barely managed to dodge. This guy had several inches and at least thirty pounds on him. Enough to be worrying, but not enough to give Link a maneuverability advantage. He had experience, a bigger sword, and probably magic on his side. How could Link-

'Do you fear the darkness?' Again. 'Do you fear what lurks there?'

"It's what lurks in the light that I'm afraid of," Link muttered. "The biggest threats hide behind a smile."

The shadowed swordsman laughed. It sounded natural, but had the same weird voice-from-nowhere effect as the words.

He swung at Link again, moving faster, forcing him back. But Link had to move forward. The legends said-

The legends! This was a test!

Link had always been good at tests. Pressure seemed to bring out the best in him.

The first thing he did, which he realized he should have done before, was scan the swordsman's stance and the way he held his hands and copy them. The guy seemed to be left-handed too, which made it easier.

The swordsman was close again now, and Link saw him raise the sword. It was coming down toward Link's shoulder, which meant to block his sword had to be – there!

Metal clanged on metal, and the shadows started the melt. For a split second Link thought he saw a pair of wolfish blue eyes and thick blonde hair, then the swordsman melted away too.

Link swallowed hard and started forward. Had he passed the test already?

The shadows faded quickly, leaving the room the same murky gray as before. The sword actually looked closer now, close enough that Link was fairly certain it was, in fact, the Master Sword. He was only about halfway across the room, but nothing had happened yet. The light was bright, the floor was solid, the wind was cool and –

Wind?

"Do you fear change, young hero?" This voice seemed to come from everywhere at once, bearing down heavily on Link's ears. The wind blew harder, more harsh, switching directions and pulling at his sword.

He snatched it back and held the sword tight in both hands. The wind moved in front of him, pushing him back.

"Do you fear change?"

In front of him, the wind changed, seemed to swirl for a moment, and a figure appeared within it. Another swordsman, this one kept curiously out-of-focus by the wind, like someone viewed through one of those "privacy windows." He looked thin, and short, and was wearing bright green.

His sword was still bigger than Link's though.

He attacked swiftly, and Link had to scramble to remember how to block. The wind stayed at the little guy's back, but other than keeping him blurry it didn't seem to affect him at all. It was almost like this new swordsman was controlling it.

"Do you fear change?" he asked, still attacking. "Do you fear losing your comfortable rhythm? Your pattern? Do you fear not knowing what will happen day after day after day?"

"Even if I was afraid, it wouldn't matter," Link growled. "Too much has changed already."

He thought he saw the swordsman smile, and in that moment of distraction, Link swung his sword into the heart of the swirl of wind.

The wind scattered and the swordsman vanished with it, but Link thought he'd seen a youthful face and another floppy green hat.

For just that last second, the wind had smelled like salt water.

Link had to fight the urge to run the last hundred yards to the sword, but he knew he wasn't done yet. There was a point to these tests. He had no idea what it was, but there had to be one.

Closer now. Yep, that was the Master Sword all right, no doubt about it. It looked exactly like all the stained glass and engravings on the internet.

"Do you fear the future, young hero?" The voice echoed throughout the room, off walls that only barely seemed to exist. It even thrummed in Link's ribs, like standing too close to the speakers at a school dance.

This swordsman appeared from nowhere, just popping up in front of Link while he was recovering from the question.

Link bit back an expletive, and took survey as quick as he could. No flashy tricks here, like the last two. This swordsman was indistinct, but there was nothing obscuring him. He was faded and blurry, like an old photograph. Taller then the last one, shorter then the first one, he was almost exactly Link's height and weight. The floppy hat was still there though, and so was the sword.

He attacked quickly, wildly. There was no time to think, only react. Link was getting good at reacting though.

"Do you fear the future?" the swordsman asked as they exchanged blows. "Do you fear what may come? Do you fear what may not? Young hero, DO YOU FEAR?"

"Of course I fear!" Link exclaimed. "Who wouldn't in this situation! But I'm not going to let that fear control me!"

He took control of the battle, swinging his short sword at the blurry swordsman, forcing him back, closer to the Master Sword.

"I fear the darkness, I fear change, I fear my own thoughts! I fear every day at school, that I may slip up and do something stupid and make everyone hate me. I fear hurting Zelda, even though a part of me still fears her. Princess or cross-dresser, she challenges what I think of myself, what I think the world is supposed to work like. I fear my friends, I fear what Ralph sees in me, I fear what Kafei thinks now that he knows what- who I am. I fear Dark, because of what he is, and because of how much I've come to care about him. But you know what I fear more then all of that? I fear losing them! I fear what will happen if Ganondorf wins. He'll find them and kill them all, and I can't! Let! That! Happen!"

He let his arms fall, and stared, panting, at the blurry swordsman. "So yeah, I'm scared. I'm scared out of my mind. But I'm doing this anyway, because the alternative is worse. And besides," he pushed sweaty bangs out of his eyes and straightened up, "someone has to."

"Well put," the swordsman said, his voice now completely normal, if oddly accented. "Very well put." He cocked his head. "Did you say something about…cross-dressing?"

"The princess, my girlfriend." He shook his head. "It's…sort of complicated."

"I figured it must be." He shrugged. "Well, that's genetics for you."

"Gene-"

"You have passed the trials, young hero." The imperial tone returned to the swordsman's voice, though it stayed at a normal volume. "The Master Sword is yours, as it was once all of ours."

"Yours?" Link repeated. "But-"

"There is one more visitor from the past who wishes to speak with you. He is a hero as well, just as all are who seek to better the world through their actions." The swordsman was fading, but his image sharpened as it did. He tilted his head at Link and smiled softly. "I think you'll want to talk with him too."

He vanished, leaving Link alone.

Except – was it a trick of the light? No, another see-through figure waited, standing just in front of the pedestal that held the Master Sword.

Link approached it cautiously, and as he got closer he saw –

Blonde hair.

Blue eyes.

Nervous smile.

Familiar features.

He'd seen those eyes every day in the mirror, and, more recently, on Dark.

"Hi Dad," Link said simply.

"Hello son," he said.

"You- How are you- I mean, you're dead, right?"

"Yes." He shook his head. "I can't tell you how I got here, but I've been watching over you. I… I'm so proud."

"You've been watching? Then, you know-"

"Everything about you." He smiled. "Like I said, I'm so proud."

"But I've made so many mistakes. I've done so many stupid things… And…I'm, you know, bisexual."

His father laughed. "That? That's nothing. And we've all made mistakes. You're lucky, yours have been small. Your mother and I…" His face grew grim.

"What happened?"

"We were young. We were stupid. Your mother… I've never met anyone so strong. But she wasn't from Hyrule, she was an illegal alien. We'd planned to get married, which would make her a citizen, so she never bothered to do any other paperwork. There was no record of her even existing, as far as the Hyrule government knew. And I… I was a cop. Just starting out, only a year on the force. One night, my partner and I stumbled upon a mugging. We chased him, he had friends, they had guns. He'd dropped the purse; we didn't have to chase him, but… I was young, I wanted to bring criminals to justice. I forgot I was living for more then just myself."

He was silent for a long moment.

"No one told your mother. No one knew I was living with her. She found out by going to the station and asking, a week after it happened. I don't think anyone ever found out who she was. I… I didn't even know she was pregnant. She didn't even know.

"It was my apartment, so after I died she had to leave. She was in the country illegally, she had no where to go. Stayed with friends at first, looked for a job. She was so strong, but losing me, and finding out she was going to have to raise a baby alone… It just broke her. She turned everyone away, wound up on the street, trusting no one. I think she was sick, but she couldn't tell. And after you were born she just…gave up. Let herself die. She thought you would be better off with another family, a complete family."

"I wasn't…" Link said softly.

"I know. But it worked out, even if it wasn't the best possible scenario. You're so strong now."

"I'm not! I'm weak, I'm scared. I practically had a nervous breakdown over my own sexuality!"

"I think that's the usual reaction to something like that."

"But… I just wish…"

"I know. I do too. But we can't change the past. Link, my son. Do you know how many kids there are like you, who will never get this chance? Who will never know for sure that their parents loved them?"

"I know…" Link wiped his eyes. "I know, but… I can't help wishing things were different."

"You can't change the past, but it's up to you to build your future. And you can't do that by wishing."

Link sighed. "I know. Thank you Dad."

"Believe me; I'm glad I could do it." He started to fade away, and Link stepped forward.

"Dad? I just have one last question."

"Yes?"

"What- What was your name?"

He smiled, a trifle ironically. "It was Link."

And then he was gone.

Link stared at the spot where he'd stood for a long time. Longer then he should have, probably. Every moment from his childhood, every dream where his father had appeared and taken him away, every story he'd invented about his parents being superheroes or stunt pilots or secret agents. Every time he'd stared at the ceiling in the middle of the night and let the tears run down his cheeks and prayed that no one would hear him.

He wiped his eyes again and sniffed. This wasn't the place. There was no place for self-pity.

He carefully slid the short sword back into the sheath and stepped up to the pedestal. There was only one carving on it, a small triforce around the crevice the Master Sword was stuck in. Link rubbed his hands on his jeans, took a breath, then grabbed hold of the hilt and pulled.

It slid out smoothly, the weight throwing him off-balance for a moment, but nothing he couldn't handle. The blade was bright silver, and the hilt fit perfectly in his grip.

Suddenly, hundreds of hours of playing fantasy RPGs at Ralph's house crashed down at him all at once. He felt like he needed hair cement or a facial scar, NOW.

Maybe one of those floppy green hats would do…

He turned around, and was somehow not surprised to see the weird gray not-room was gone, and he was back in the carving-happy temple.

Outside, the sun had sunk in the sky but it was still hours before dark. The guitar and spare sheath were undisturbed on the flat stone, just as he'd thought. He picked a leaf out of the guitar case and put the short sword in the false back. The Master Sword fit perfectly into the other sheath – it had come from Zelda, after all – but the two of them together wouldn't fit in the guitar case. Oh well. He buckled it across his chest, the weight somehow comforting on his back.

He picked up the guitar case and headed across the clearing. The bus would be coming by again soon, and he wanted to get there quickly so he wouldn't have to wait an hour for the next one. There were things to do, after all. Monsters to stab, worlds to save, princesses to rescue.

He started up the path, singing softly to himself.

"Estuans interius, ira vehementi. Estuans interius, ira vehementi. Sephiroth, Sephiroth."

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

AN:

I wrote this in one day. The day after I posted the last one, in fact. Told you I knew what I wanted. I like it so much I couldn't wait a full week to post it. Here's hoping it brightens your weeked.

Now about the "test." I hope you all figured out what I was going for there. Should have been fairly obvious. I actually got the idea in the shower. You ever notice you you get a lot of ideas doing stuff like that? Not THAT, just stuff that doesn't require you to think to much. Like, you'll be writing and you'll get up to get a drink and your mind will race ahead and come up with a really good idea? Like that.

The thing with Link's dad came off a little cheesier then I meant it, but I know if I was an omnipotent power it's what I would want to do. And this is my story, so I kind of AM an omnipotent power in it...

Dude.

So yeah. Chapter! Woo! Next one after this will be another break in the action, the we start the final run. Oh, there WILL be blood.

In Twilight Princess news, dude what the hell is up with Zant? I thought he was cool, then he starts hopping around and making noises like a crazy chicken. Nut job. Ganny's really lowered his standards.

Dude, I need sleep.