**All Standard Disclaimers Apply**
Book One in the Doppelganger Trilogy
The Hero of Wolves
by The Wolfess
Chapter Thirty: The Beginning in the End
The Sheikah would tell you that darkness was not necessarily evil. Shadow was the absence of light, not an entity unto itself. Light pierced an area and drove all before it. Darkness could not do the same. It merely infiltrated where light had not ventured yet, and must flee when light comes. They were entities of shadow, serving light wherever it lived to bring definition to the world. One could not exist without the other. It was a balance.
The throne room was lit with torches in the night. A gathering of officials with propositions waited outside the archway for their turn with the acting queen, whispering about the campaign and the general and the romantic scandal they hungered for but could not prove. Sitting on her throne in the high throne room, adorned in full regal attire, Zelda reflected on the Sheikah principle. Firelight danced off of her golden armor and in the sapphire depths of her crown, casting shadows over her troubled countenance. She prayed that darkness would flee. She prayed that light would return to the hearts of her people. She prayed that her army would return safe and with few casualties. And she prayed for Link. She prayed to the Goddesses for his deteriorating grip on civility, and she prayed for his safe return to her.
A hawk's cry lifted her head to the dark sky. Through the torchlight, Zelda could see it come. It dropped on the dark of her throne and held out its leg, and Zelda's heart leapt. She detached the small note, and the hawk flew away, leaving a single feather behind in her lap. As the Princess unraveled the hero's letter, Ikal blended out of the shadows behind her to stand at her right hand.
The Princess's eyes scanned the page and the lines of her face deepened. She handed the letter to her Sheikah guard. As the red-haired girl read Link's words, her face grew sad. She pocketed the letter and moved in front of the Princess. She laid a soft hand on Zelda's knee and sought out her eyes.
"I feel as if I dream when I am awake," Zelda said. Her eyes met the red tones of Ikal's, emotion swirling in their depths in contrast to the careful calmness in the Sheikah's eyes. Ikal tried to touch Zelda's hand, but the Princess pulled it away. She did not want intamacy. She wanted to be able to help Link, the man she loved. "Something is deeply wrong in the fabric of existence, and there is nothing I can do but await its result. I cannot sit idly by while a darkness hunts Link and tears down my army. I fear what is taking place now."
"What are you orders, Princess?" Ikal asked, her voice blank. She existed to protect and serve. Zelda frowned.
"Perhaps…" she murmured. "Ikal, as my most trusted and most beloved, will you track down my army and Link? Protect them, and when they are safe bring your report to me."
Ikal stood and bowed, and then stepped back. "It will be done," she said, and threw a deku nut on the ground. In a flash of light and sound, she was gone. Zelda sat alone to face the oncoming night. She signaled to the door guard to allow the next person in. Secretly, she hid a tear in her heart for Link, wherever he may be, and another for Ikal. Both the people she loved most in the world were walking into a death trap, and there was nothing Zelda could do to stop it.
"What a wonderful family reunion, brother," Dark Link hissed. "but it's my turn now." Dark Link grinned down at the chosen hero, a wolf cowering at the base of a tree. Link shuffled to one side, but Dark Link mirrored his shuffle. He moved to the other side, but the mirror image moved as well.
"It's no use," Dark Link continued. "I know your thoughts as you think them. I, dear brother, am the discarded rag that came into being when the Goddesses created you. I am the darkness they took out of your human soul. You've had your time in the light of their favor—it's my turn now. I am taking your place."
Link shoved his paw into the space between the string holding the stone and his neck, snapping it off. The green of the hero's tunic stuck out in this forest of muted colors and death. Dark Link's black tunic was more suited, blending with dead trees and the shadows of the forest. He turned the shadows of night into a cloak that covered the hero and his dark doppelganger and embraced them, holding them together like the blackness between the stars encasing the moon.
Dark Link's blade was at Link's throat before the wolf man had fully manifested. Link's eyes darted from side to side, wild in his search for a way out—a solution he had always taken for granted would be there. The wild, ancestral instincts that ran in his soul did not come to his aid. The golden glimmer in his mind did not show him where to duck. He had cowered when it offered its aid. He had cowered in the face of courage.
Link's heart swelled within him. He was courageous. He was quick. With or without the ancient spirit inside him, he was courageous. Steeling himself, Link swallowed and looked Dark Link in the pools of red that were his eyes. Suddenly, he ducked and threw his body to the side, rolling under Dark Link's blade and coming up behind the ethereal entity with sword drawn. Link was taking his shield in hand when he noticed Dark Link straightening from a crouch on the ground. The black man turned around, holding a curious black, orange-marked stone on a string collar between them.
"I assume you want this?" the entity hissed, grinning. Link's eyes widened and his breath caught. How could he have forgotten to grab it before he spun away? Dark Link flipped it in the air and with one swift flick of his wrists, he tucked it into the pouch on his own belt that mirrored Link's. He then leaned back again the tree nearest him and pretended to examine his sword, turning it in front of his eyes.
Link almost howled. He lunged for Dark Link, swinging his green Master Sword horizontally. It hit Dark Link's blade to the side, but the dark shield was there on the back swing, preventing Link's follow up blow. Link crouched and began to prowl, teeth gritted and bared as he circled. Dark Link seemed disinterested, writing in the dirt with the toe of his boot.
Link charged again, this time coming from the side with a jab. Dark Link bat the jab aside with his red blade and stepped forward. He grinned and held out his hands to the side, as if inviting the hero to pierce him. Link jumped forward, his sword leading, and their blades met with the resounding clash of fate and free will at war.
Link pressed, and Dark Link pressed back. They struggled and twisted, sprang apart and clashed again. The hero and his shadow were perfectly matched, one always anticipating the other's moves before he did them. It was an odd dance, attacking and parrying and twirling and dodging and twisting. Link spun and Dark Link jumped over it. Link slashed and Dark Link ducked. The infuriating dark hero never made his own attack—he merely dodged and spun and leapt away from all of Link's.
Link reached inside himself for a warmth, an instinct, a greatness that had always lent him the leading edge in battle, but it was not there. His swipes felt clumsy, his swings slow. His mind felt empty of everything but himself. There was no golden voice leading him. No hero's spirit to tell him what to do. He felt like half of himself. He felt like a coward.
The darkness of the forest crept in around the combatants. Step by step, Dark Link led his light counterpart deeper into the forest by holding the wolf stone out for Link to see. His laughter filled Link's mind, and all the wolf man noticed was the glowing stone dangling from Dark Link's black fingers.
Out of the corner of Link's eye, he caught a movement. He flipped backward, and spun to the side, keeping his shadow in vision while looking for what he glimpsed. Seeing nothing he turned back to the fight, to the laughing face of Dark Link, only to see movement again on his right. Link swung his shield arm out and looked again. "I swear…" he murmured.
"Seeing things are we?" Dark Link said, his voice sickly sweet. "Tired yet? I do only want to talk."
Link grit his teeth and glared at Dark Link from behind the sweaty bangs hanging over his eyes. His chest heaved and the sword and shield felt heavy. "Never," he growled, but the very air seemed to grab his shoulders and pull him toward the ground. Dark tendrils crept from the spaces between the branches, falling down like snakes and wrapping around Link's arms. They slid down his forearms and around his hands, covering the familiar light from the dim Triforce on his left hand and snaking around each of his fingers.
"Come now, relax. I only want to talk to you." The twin pools of red glinted like the red of the fake master sword in Dark Link's hand. The shadows twisting around the wolf man whispered and soothed. Link's eyelids drooped. Before he realized it, his fingers were loosening their grip on the weapons.
And then it moved again. This time it was behind Dark Link, it's fangs wide and dripping with venom. Its black head reared into the trees, red eyes beady and hungry. Link seized his weapons and shook the darkness off, charging at it. Its huge leathery wings beat at him, sending him flying backward with the force of the wind they caused. Link cringed as he landed on a root between his shoulder blades. The black beast had a long, snake-like body with large bat wings and two muscled legs with three claws on each foot. It charged at Link, who scrambled to his feet, tightened his grip on his sword, and ran in the other direction.
Link's mind was in panic as he tried to think of what it was, where it came from, and how to beat it. Once again, as in the battle before, there was no voice to answer back or prompt him. The hero's spirit had forsaken him for his cowardice.
All Link could hear was the sound of Dark Link's laughter all around him. He spun around, looking for the scaly beast, only to realize it was not there. Link's brow wrinkled in confusion, his fist tightening around the Master Sword's hilt.
There was a black lump of hair and fabric on the ground, an oddly feminine form lying a couple yards away. It was silent in the trees, save for the labored breathing of the mysterious form. Link sheathed his sword and shield and ran to it, dropping to his knees by its side.
Long reddish auburn hair covered the face of what he now realized was a woman. Link's heartbeat quickened as he wiped the hair away from the face. It was Zelda. Her lifeless eyes accused him, her bloodied, bruised face swollen and beaten. Link's eyes welled with tears, his shoulders crumpling. "No…" he said, taking her in his arms and holding her to his breast. "No, Zelda…it can't be…"
As the hero began to cry Zelda's body melted away in his arms, evanescing into smoke and vapor. His eyes shot open, face and body rigid with shock, tears drying on his cheeks. What was happening?
Dark Link's laughter filled Link's mind. Mocking his pain. Mocking his emotional attachment. Mocking.
Link rose to his feet and drew his sword again. He spun around, looking for the dark one, but saw nothing. "COME OUT!" he yelled, his body trembling with rage. "COME OUT YOU COWARD!"
There, to the right. Link spun and Dark Link beckoned him. Link ran with sword leading, crashing into the clearing where they began their dual. In the middle Dark Link waited for him, mocking grin always in place, soulless red eyes always churning and watching everything.
The embodiment of darkness raised his hands, sword and shield held to the sky. Piece by piece armor appeared on his body, from the outer limbs inward. The last piece to fall into place was the groin plate. Dark Link's red eyes glinted out of the black helmet of a colossal Dark Knut, bigger than any Link had seen before. It seemed to swell as Link watched, growing ever larger. There was clanking and stomping in the woods. Link backed away from the large Dark Knut in the middle, his eyes scanning the forests around them. What was coming now? What was he to face on this most hellish of nights?
The first wave of minor Dark Knuts stopped on the edge of the trees. Link counted them—eight in all. And then there were twelve, sixteen, twenty, twenty three. They kept coming, until the sounds of rustling armor of rancid panting inside a thousand helmets surrounded the hero.
Link was outnumbered. Link was overwhelmed. He held his sword out in front of him, holding it with both hands as he turned in a circle. As one the Dark Knuts raised their swords. As one they stepped forward. Alone and outnumbered, Link tried to charge up a spinning sword attack, but the power would not come. When he spun all he would do was clank against armor and die. Link closed his eyes as he unleashed his final attack—
And they were gone, smoke and darkness rising in the night air. Link was breathing hard, his heart racing with adrenaline, hate, and fear. Fear had crept into his mind. It infiltrated his soul. For the first time in his life, perhaps in all of his lives, the bearer of courage knew the true, horrible meaning of fear.
The laughter Link heard now was not only Dark Link's. It was Ganondorf's laughter. It was Zant's laughter. It was Midna's and Ilia's and Auru's laughter. It was Durtain's laughter. It was Zelda's laughter ringing in the air all around him at the same time.
The smoke and darkness cleared, and amid the laughter Link could hear the creaking sound of taunt rope swaying in the wind. Something wet and hot dropped on the back of Link's hand. He raised the Triforce mark and frowned at the red blotch in the middle. What trick did this twisted entity of darkness have for him now?
The blood drained from Link's face as he looked upwards. He sank to his knees, sword and shield falling from limp fingers. The Ordonian children swayed from ropes tied around high tree limbs. Their bodies were rotting and bloody, necks broken, dead for days. Ilia was there too, and Telma, and Ikal.
In the middle of all the rotting corpses hanging in the trees was one covered in a black funeral robe. Link crawled to it, shaking as he tried to avoid touching the others. He recognized the boots sticking out from under the hem of the robe. Royal shoes, tailor made for the Princess herself. He touched the toe of one boot and slowly turned the body around. The sound that issued from the hero's mouth made the very birds take flight.
Ikal heard the battle long before she saw the carnage. She ran faster, dodging limbs and roots, eyes seeing forms in the darkness that the hero himself would not have seen. Her red Sheikah eyes pierced the angry night as she leapt into the air and surveyed the carnage from above. The woods were a slaughter house. Every Hyrulian battling below her perch was outnumbered and frantic. She could see the whites of their eyes, like frightened animals facing the hunter's bow. Fang and claw, blood and vomit, sword and ax and bow and lance—this was the dance of death and war. This was the slaughterhouse of darkness, and in darkness they waged their final stand.
The remaining Hylian troops fought while trampling on the bodies of their fallen comrades. The grass had turned to mud that ran red with rivers of blood. A rotten stink rose over the battle. There was no end or victory to be seen. Ikal knew her place, and it was not to interfere. She was the guard of the Princess, not to risk her life in battles that were already lost. The Shiekah swallowed a lump in her throat, her heart seizing up within her breast, and turned her focus to scanning the bodies on the ground and the fighters on the field for her charge.
She did not see Link, but neither could she see the faces of the bodies. Ikal scanned the crowd for the General's right hand man, Captain Volc, and found him in the middle of the battle. He was fighting with sword and shield, an enemy on each side, back to back with a soldier whose arm was dangling limp at one side, a long dagger in the other.
The Sheikah took only a moment to figure out how to reach him. She took out her twin daggers and dropped down to the ground, landing behind a large lizardman. She jumped over his tail and sliced him in the ribs as she passed by, giving the soldier it was trying to kill the opportunity to shove his sword through its skull. She maneuvered through the battle this way, slicing and stabbing what she could as she snaked through the dying men.
When she got to where Volc was, Ikal leapt up like an eagle and descended on two of the beasts near the Captain. She landed with one foot on each of them. Her daggers sunk into the skulls of the beasts with the force of her body weight and decent, causing them to screech and sink where they stood. Captain Volc had enough time to gape at the sight and cast an acknowledging glance at Ikal before turning to fight the stalfols that took their places. Ikal moved in to stand on his vulnerable side, the side near the wounded soldier's broken arm.
"WHERE IS LINK?!" she shouted above the din of battle. Volc let out a roar as he cut off the head of one of the stalfos, and ducked the swipe of the other.
"HE HAS ABANDONDED US!" shouted Captain Volc. "HE IS NOT HERE!"
Ikal did not respond. She pulled out a small explosive and tossed it in the mouth of the stalfos Volc was fighting, and then the Sheikah ducked out. She heard the explosion and looked back to see that Volc was unhurt, before leaping into a nearby tree and making her way away from the battle.
As she landed on the ground a safe distance from where the Hylian troops lay dying, Ikal saw the red-rimmed violet eyes and silver hair of her exiled comrades through the trees. She frowned and followed the figure with her eyes as only another Shiekah could. What business did the dead Sheikah have here? What evil role did they play in this dark scheme? Following an instinct, Ikal leapt into the trees and followed.
The wolf hero was on his knees, shaking with a fear and helplessness unknown to one such as him. The illusions were unrelenting. Dark Link's power weaved Link's worst nightmares around him. Link could smell the bodies as they rotted. He tried to cut down the ropes, but he could not. It was as if his blade was dull, corroding before his very eyes. A part of Link's mind knew that these things were not real, that somehow Dark Link was weaving these lies into being, but the hero could not stop himself from mourning as the bodies rotted before his eyes and these foreign feelings overtook his heart.
Unbeknownst to the mourning hero, Dark Link walked out from behind a tree where he had been hiding. He was unable to dematerialize like he could before he had a real body. The wolf stone hung from its chord, glowing and pulsing with evil orange light as it twirled. Dark Link closed his eyes and began chanting silently, weaving his free hand around the stone in a purposeful manner. Black smoke began to form around the stone, stretching and solidifying with each pass of Dark Link's hand. Finally, Dark Link grabbed one side of the material forming, then grabbed the other side with the hand that had been holding the chord. He grit his teeth and pulled outward, stretching it around into a circular band. The darkness solidified, appearing like a collar made of black metal, or shining black stone.
The wolf stone pulsed in the front of the collar, a circular portion of it visible from within. Dark Link grinned, turning his focus to his light counterpart's back, bowed over and oblivious. The entity of evil crept up behind Link, as stealthy and silent as the mist creeping through the barren forest night.
Barely two feet from Link, Dark Link held the collar firmly in both hands and crouched. He sprung forward, red eyes glaring in the night. Link gasped and spun, falling on his behind as he did so, but he did not roll out of the way in time. The collar fell over his head and rested on his shoulders, and Dark Link sprang back, drawing his sword and shield.
Link grabbed the collar and tugged, but it would not budge. He felt the darkness seeping through his body. The wolf stone's power felt magnified somehow, overtaking his being at the touch of the collar to his bare skin. Despite having not touched the stone itself, Link was thrust through the painful transformation, and his howl rang through the night air.
Dark Link laughed at the wolf that spun around in confusion, the metallic collar tight around its neck. Link's sword and shield had also disappeared, locked with the human inside of the wolf's fur coat. The illusions disappeared, leaving a growling, dangerous wolf prowling circles around Dark Link.
"Come on, now, you look better this way." Dark Link laughed. Link lunged at him teeth snapping and body thrashing, but the shadow was too quick. Dark Link leapt out of the way and smashed the side of Link's head with his shield, sending the wolf crashing to the forest floor. Link shook his head, trying to clear it, but his vision blurred and he saw double. He took a couple stumbling steps forward and sank to his belly, panting and shaking his head. Dark Link walked around him, sadistic grin unwavering. "Yes, this worked nicely. It will be easy to take your place in the world."
Link squinted his eyes at Dark Link, trying to comprehend what the dark self was implying. Dark Link, again, seemed to read his thoughts. "It will be quite easy, dear brother, and it begins tonight. You see, Link, your army is being slaughtered right now by my beasts, and you are not there to save it. I have been practicing illusions since the beginning of time, since the Goddesses created you, and I—the bastard son of the golden ones—was born as a result. Since the beginning of time they have favored you, and now it is my turn to shine. See?" Grinning, a mad glint in his eyes, Dark Link spun on his toes, and a flurry of dark smoke swirled around him. When it dissipated, standing before Link was the spitting image of himself. His eyes stared back at him, his light hair and light skin, even his green sword and green tunic. "I am you now. Do you like it?"
Link growled, his vision beginning to right itself, even though his head still throbbed. Dark Link laughed, turning around to show off every inch of his disguise. "I think I like black better though, so this disgusting green will have to go." He clapped his hands together once, and the green seemed to melt off of him, leaving behind a black tunic and black-hilted sword. "Now I'll just ride in and save the day with a secret hoard of Bokoblin reinforcements I had my Shinobi gather, then return the victorious hero to claim my royal prize."
The insane grin spread, Dark Link's clear blue eyes glinting with evil intent. Link sprung at the shadow man, snapping his teeth around Dark Link's thigh. Dark Link shook him off and tried to smash Link's head with his shield again. The wolf sprung backward just in time, but he didn't see the sword that followed right after that shield. He could not move in time. The red master sword sunk into Link's side, Dark Link's grin never wavering. Link's eyes widened, feeling the blood pump hot and fast from his side as Dark Link removed his sword. The wolf sunk to the ground, his vision blurring. He felt light headed. Hot blood caked his fur, sinking into the dead earth beneath his paws.
Dark Link sheathed his weapon. He bent down and patted Link on the head, ruffling the fur around his ears, then waved over his shoulder as he disappeared into the trees, his insane laughter echoing behind him.
The feeling of evil in the woods around her was so pervasive that the hair on the back of Ikal's neck stood up. She had been following a black and silver blur, but lost sight of the Shinobi through the trees. As she continued forward and searched for her lost guide, a wolf's howl rung through the treetops. Alarmed, she followed the sounds of battle to the clearing where Link's body lay bleeding into the ground. The red eyed Sheikah leapt to Link's side and whipped out a small vial of red potion and bandages from her pouch.
"What has happened to you?" she asked, looking into Link's dull canine eyes. She poured some of the potion onto his wound, and then tilted his head up to pour some into his mouth. Her calloused warrior's fingers gripped his lupine chin and forced his mouth open, then poured the red liquid down his throat. Link swallowed and hacked, his body shaking.
The blood flow slowed and the flesh began to heal itself. Ikal set Link's head down and did her best to bind his wound with the bandages. Link managed to help her by sitting up enough for her to get the bandages around his thick furry torso.
When Link's eyes began to clear, he shook his head and looked around, eyes finally settling on Ikal. The Sheikah wasn't looking at him, however, as her eyes settled on the collar around his neck. "What manner of contraption is this?" she asked in a dark voice. "It is darkness and evil, more so than the power that turns you into this beast to begin with." She stood up, rubbing her chin and glaring at the collar. "I can't touch it to remove it, Link. As a creature of shadow, it may have adverse effects on me. We should take you to Zelda—she will know what to do. She is the Princess of Light."
Link stood up, shaky but able. Though he knew the army needed his help more, there was nothing he could do for them as a wolf. He would go to Zelda and get this cursed collar removed, then face the evil doppelganger as his true self. Next time he would be stronger. Next time he would be worthy of the title of hero once bestowed on him. Next time he would drive his sword through Dark Link's evil heart and watch him bleed out on the battleground, one bloody cough at a time. One way or another.
In the dead of night the Hyrulian Army had given up hope. Their leader abandoned them, and they lost more than they killed. They were losing the strength to continue fighting.
It was then that he rode over the hill. Atop a black horse, its black main flying, Dark link rode into the battle with his sword drawn over his head. Behind him came a swarm of Bokoblins—the dark purple, less organized cousins of the Bulblins with their white dreadlocks and flat faces. Where did General Link come from, and why were these beasts following him? As Dark Link and the Bokoblin reinforcements began tearing through the hoard, the tide of the battle seemed to immediately turn. The soldiers of Hyrule forgot their misgivings, writing the beasts off to Link's beast-like magnetism and relating it to their treaty with the Bulblins. No matter what the cause, the creatures were fighting on their side and that was all that was important.
Bloody and tired, one of the last standing amid a circle of Hylian bodies including his one-armed partner, Captain Volc fought with a sword in one hand and a long dagger in the other. He was a whirlwind of blades and desperation, fury fueling him to live. He saw Link ride into the battle. Saw the beasts following him. Saw and marveled at the ferocity with which the Duke fought. Perhaps, thought Volc, the men of Hyrule who remained would live for one more night. Thanks be to their fearless leader, who must have seen what they would face with his strange instincts and went to save them all. Goddesses be praised for their golden son…
As the valiant Captain took pause to recognize Dark Link's glorious return, a Lizalfol finished off its current meal. Hylian blood and meat dripping from its maw, it lunged with its powerful legs and landed on Volc's back. The marquis screamed, his eyes full of terror, his ginger hair matted with mud and gore. The teeth of the monster sunk into Volc's shoulder. The Marquis lost his grip on his sword and dagger. His shriek was muffled in the mud.
Dawn broke in the eastern sky. The birds sung their morning chirps. Orange, red, and yellow lights danced on the white marble towers of Hyrule Castle. Link limped along, but he got stronger with each mile as the red potion did its work. Twilight was a bitter hour passed in silence. Not that Link could talk to Ikal in the first place, as if she was the talking type to begin with. At least, she never seemed to want to talk to him. Instead they traveled in stealth, and Link thought about the dark self and what it was must be doing now. Impersonating him in front of his troops. Perhaps killing them for all Link knew. What was it babbling about before—something involving the beginning of time, the creation of his soul, the Goddesses. It kept calling him "brother". How could he be related to such an evil creature? Link was not without fault—his current form was proof of that. There was evil in all of them.
Ikal brought him out of his reverie by placing her hand in the fur of his neck. She scratched, which Link reluctantly allowed because it felt good to be touched and to feel fresh air on his skin under the thick coat. Without speaking, she pointed his attention to a small passage hidden by a bush. Link nodded his lupine head and watched her advance to the space between where they crouched and the passage. She looked around for guards and looked back to Link, who wagged his tail to signal that he didn't hear any guards nearby. Ikal darted across the grassy space, disappearing into the passageway with barely a rustle in the bush. Link followed, able to slip by equally silent due to his wolfish body's stealth.
The passage was familiar to Link once he was in it. It led to the Princess's bedroom, and was the same passage way she had taken that night so long ago when they first met in the garden under the eyes of moonlight. His heart smiled to think of those happy, if not simple, days. The duo wound in darkness through the tight stone passages, until they came to the seeming dead end. Ikal listened at the hidden door, then pushed it open and signaled for Link to follow.
"Mmm…" moaned the Princess, turning toward the sound in half sleep. "Whoz it?" Ikal slid over to Zelda's bedside. Despite the dire circumstances, the Sheikah couldn't help but smile as she brushed her hand over Zelda's tangled auburn hair. The Princess's eyes blinked open, then closed again. "Not yet…was up late last night with meetings…" she groaned.
Ikal smiled, sitting on the edge of the bed. "Come now, sleepy Princess. Wake up. You are needed by a wolf in peril."
Zelda's eyes opened again, this time more awake and frowning. "What is he doing here?" she asked, looking past Ikal. Link tucked his tail between his legs and flattened his ears to his skull, moving to where Zelda could see him.
"Link!" she shouted in alarm, awake now and sitting up in bed. "What is that around your neck? What has happened to you?" she said, getting out of bed and falling to her knees by Link's side. Ikal stood up and watched silently. Link couldn't respond, but he raised his head so Zelda could see the wolf stone in the front of the collar, pulsing its ominous light.
"It radiates a dark energy," Ikal said. "Evil energy. I thought you might know how to remove it, since I dare not touch it."
Zelda frowned at the collar, her sapphire eyes dark with concern. "Perhaps I can pry it off. Being one of the chosen, its dark power should not affect me…hopefully."
"I'm not so sure, Zel," Ikal said, stepping toward the Princess and placing a hand on her nightgown-clad shoulder.
"Please Ika," Zelda said, covering the Sheikah girl's hand with hers. "Trust me." Ikal nodded and took her hand off Zelda's shoulder. The Princess took a deep breath and stroked Link's head, meeting his feral gaze, before reaching with both hands and grabbing the back of Link's collar.
Zelda's scream came just before black smoke rolled off of the collar and crawled up her arms. Ikal screamed as well, reaching for the Princess as the smoke consumed Zelda's body in hopes of preventing its spread. Zelda's bones snapped and constricted, muscles shifting and forming. Reddish auburn fur spread from her head down her whole body and faded to a light reddish brown, her underbelly and paws a creamy white. Under her bright blue eyes were three grayblack triangles, and on her forehead was the eye of the Sheikah, its tear tracing a line between her eyes.
Ikal lunged forward before she had time to think. She grabbed Zelda's collar, screaming out her name. That scream became one of pain as the transformation took her as well.
Link backed against the wall. He gaped at the red wolf and the pure black wolf with silver head markings similar to Zelda's standing in the room where Ikal and Zelda once stood. Black metal collars without the stone wound around both of their necks, thin glowing orange lines tracing patterns along the circle.
"What…" he said in his wolfish way, stepping toward Zelda. "How…?"
Zelda shook her head, clearly in a panic as her whole body trembled and her tail stuck between her legs. "I do not know," she said. 'I did not think…how is this possible?"
Ikal began pacing, the morning light reflecting off of glints of deep red in her mane. "We have to figure something out," she said. "We can't stay here. The maids will be coming soon."
Link nodded and ran toward the passage, turning back to them. "I know where to go. Renado, the Shaman, will help anyone in need. Follow me." Ikal and Zelda did as they were told, and the trio of wolves escaped into the passage and out of the castle.
The day after the battle, tired and bloody, an army of Hyrulians and Bokoblins alike followed their leader into the Black Velley. Count Durtain rode at Dark Link's right hand. Victorious yet exhausted, they entered the valley in victory and glory, singing praises to the Goddesses for their protection and for their golden son, the great General and hero from Ordon. Dark Link laughed. He carried a Lizalfol head on the tip of his sword for a trophy, its blood dripping on the green tunic he wore.
There was a river that ran through the valley. It had black wheat, black grape vines, black cotton, black flour, black corn and watermelon and broccoli and potatoes and carrots. The men sang a victory song and sunk their teeth into the most potent black fruit they had ever tasted. Its juices ran down their chins and stained their bloody uniforms. Storm clouds gathered in the sky, thunder rumbling like waves on the shore, and a trio of wolves howled in the distance. Dark Link wiped blood off of his face and kept laughing.
January 2015: REVISED CHAPTER UPLOADED.
Author's Comment from original upload: The Hero of Wolves is over, and Shadow Kingdom has begun! I have so many things that I would like to say as this first book comes to an end, and so many people I would like to thank.
First, I want to thank Celeborn00 for the great discussions and advice we have shared while reading each other's stories. He has been judge, inspiration, and co-conspirator. I hope that he never gives up on Forgotten Demons, for I eagerly await its completion.
I would also like to thank Vopi for being an amazing editor. I'm not always consistent in getting the chapters to him, and his patience and advice has been invaluable. When I finish editing HoW I will leave an author's note at the end of a Shadow Kingdom chapter saying so.
Some other people I would like to thank include Steben, my greatest and most helpful critic; Persephone Oswald Oleesen, whose reviews I look forward to in the future; and RaskVann, whose ideas and reviews were invaluable in this story and whose conversations I sorely miss.
Last but not least I would like to thank Chris Robbins. I did not expect to make friend through writing this story, but that seems to be what happened with him. Fellow author and friend, I want to thank him for faithfully sticking with me all these years and encouraging me to not give up.
I'm sorry if I forgot anyone, but I hope you know who you are. A special thanks to all of you who read and review, especially those who have been with me since the beginning. There have been flames and burns, celebrations and joy. We have had discussions and we have had disagreements. I hope that all of you continue to read my story as we move to Shadow Kingdom, and that this new book with excite and surprise you as much as Hero of Wolves did.
Before I end, I would like to refer you my profile, where you will find links to several methods by which you can contact me. I thought that as we head into a new story, it was about time that I make myself available to anyone who would like to get to know me. There are four different methods: an email just for you, a blog where you can leave comments and get updates on the chapters, instant messaging through which we can have conversations, and my deviantart page, as always.
Please look for the special surprise waiting for you on the blog, titled "Hero of Wolves Surprise". I think you will enjoy it!
Thank you again, and please head to Shadow Kingdom for the next chapter in the Doppelganger Trilogy.