Chapter 22: Ranch girl and country girl

Author's note: Thanks to Silverwing365 and Base Guardian for the usual reviews, and thanks to Tajistt for a very critical review!This chapter's short , but I've been sick and am behind schedule.

Suddenly, Malon felt herself being pulled upwards by a slender, rough hand. It was calloused, like hers, as though the owner of the hand was used to hard work. Perhaps a farmhand, like herself.

Just then, a moblin swung at her. Malon heard a scream, possibly her own, as the moblin grabbed at her injured ankle. However, thankfully, just then, a second hand grabbed her wrist and heaved her even farther upwards. Malon realized now that whoever had rescued her was riding on a horse's back. A rather large horse, from how high she was pulled up.

"Hiya!" shouted a voice as the horse galloped off, Malon still hanging by her wrist. That changed as soon as the rider pulled her up a little bit farther up, using both hands. Soon, Malon was riding on the horse's back behind the figure who'd pulled her up. Malon realized almost immediately that the rider was female. That in itself was rather odd. Usually, girls didn't ride bareback anymore. Rather, they preferred riding in the newfangled carriages or something. Malon herself sometimes would ride horses, but she herself preferred running or walking. It didn't her legs as sore.

"Look out!" the rider suddenly shouted, making Malon realize that one of the moblins had thrown a spear. Both young women immediately ducked.

"Whoa, what's with them?" the rider asked, turning around to face the moblins.

It was then when Malon recognized her. Why hadn't she before? The short, blond hair, the pants and loose shirt, the palish skin, all giveaway signs. Yet Malon had somehow failed to recognize her until her blue eyes had met the rider's gray, almond-shaped ones.

"Ilia!" Malon cried. "So you're unfrozen too!"

"You bet I am," Ilia replied. It was really weird back in Ordon. Just five minutes ago, my dad and I were out helping Fado herd the goats. I'd turned around to look to see if Link had made it back yet, because I heard this sudden commotion. The next second, the sky is this weird, grayish color and nothing except me is moving. Earlier, Vaati had warned me about some sort of 'gathering darkness'. I think that this is that darkness."

"Are you serious?" Malon asked incredulously. "Hyrule hasn't been invaded by darkness since the days of twilight!"

"My ancestor was the Twilit hero," Ilia murmured. "I'm the last known descendant of a hero who carried the name Link. It used to be my mother as well, but she died when I was born. I know that there are others here and there, but I'm the only one who has conclusive proof."
"And what's that?" Malon asked, seriously doubting her rather imaginative friend. Ilia pulled off her necklace and showed Malon the horseshoe-shaped charm.

"This was his horse-call. That's how I summoned Epona earlier," Ilia explained.

"Wow! So where are we going?" Malon asked.

"I just met up with the three heroes. They said that I should get myself to the Tower of Spirits. They themselves are going on a quest to rescue the six servants of Farore, the Guardians. They already rescued one, Linebeck, Guardian of Oceans, so there are five left. Oh yeah, and there's another unfrozen girl travelling with them. Red's girlfriend," Ilia answered.

I'm a little lost, but okay," Malon said, relieved that the girl travelling with them was taken by Red. "I'll come to the tower with you. Wait, what about my cow?"
"Let's just hope that the moblins don't get it," Ilia replied grimly. "Now come on, Epona!"

With that, she spurred the horse forward. Thankfully, Epona was very fast, faster than any of the moblins. She left them literally eating her dust as the two girls sped off to the Tower of Spirits. The moblin didn't even bother giving chase. It knew when it had lost a battle, and now was one of those times. It did, however, shake it's stick at the girls and swear in moblin a little.

The masters wouldn't be pleased.

"Shadow, did Bellum give you a hard time again?" Zant asked.

"Leave me alone. And yes, he did," Shadow Link answered crossly. "He's a very good lieutenant to Ganondorf. Very… pitiless."

"He does have qualities that make him a good lieutenant," Zant agreed. "Pitilessness, greed, a good head for battles… and ambition."
"What does ambition have to do with anything?" Shadow Link asked quietly.

"He'll stop at nothing to impress Ganondorf," Zant replied carefully. "He'll stop at nothing to increase his chance of becoming the leader instead of lieutenant. If it came to it, he'd hold a coup to get Ganondorf out."
"How much worse could it be if Bellum took charge?" Shadow Link asked carelessly.

"Trust me, Shadow. I know I've acted a bit nuts in the past, but you'll have to trust me. It would be worse. Much worse. Particularly on you."

Author's note: This was kinda short, but it included some info that will come back to bite in, let's say, ten chapters or so. Ooh, foreshadowing rules!