Chapter Seven: Reckless Endangerment
The gun-fire suddenly ceased. Screams echoed through the narrow, tracked corridor, which were silenced by a sizzling splash. Link blinked his disbelieving eyes.
"What happened?" Link shouted. Mal seemed just as confused. They ducked down into their cart again when the sound of flying bullets resumed. "That first cart fell into the magma! Did you see what caused it?"
She shook her head. "It could have been for a number of reasons. This track is older than dirt and rickety to boot!"
"Better them than us, I suppose."
"Ain't that the tru...whoa!"
"What the hell...?" Link tightened his grip on the sides of the cart. Behind them, a giant boulder was rolling towards them along the track. Just when it seemed intent on smashing into the back of their cart, it came to an abrupt halt.
Link and Mal gazed at it in astonishment as it sprouted two thick legs, two beefy arms, and a head framed by wild, silver hair. Its hands formed into gigantic fists, and it stood resolute between them and the oncoming cart of shooters. The gunmen began pelting the figure with a barrage of bullets, but they all seemed to ricochet right off its hardened exterior. The assailants' cart hit the massive stone-like creature at full speed, coming to a crashing halt. The personage's enormous arms swung out and caught the immobile cart in a vise-like grip, lifting it and the stunned men within completely off the track. It easily flung them aside as if they weighed nothing at all, their screams coming to an end after landing in the magma below.
Before Link and Mal could see more, their own cart rounded a corner, their unknown savior lost to sight.
Their descent into the mountain tapered off, and the cart began to slow. It wobbled along the track into a room that was even more expansive than any other up to this point. The two looked around in awe. Magma flowed in small rivulets throughout the chamber, winding their ways right beneath the track in some instances. The ceiling above had to be at least fifty feet from the floor, if not higher. Enormous pillars of rock stretched from the floor to the top of the cavern, magma slowly running down the sides of them as well. The entire place glowed with the reddish-gold hue that was exuded by the molten rock and metal, and it was also extremely hot; both Link and Mal were sweating profusely from just about every pore in their bodies, their clothing completely soaked now.
"I don't know what's worse," complained Link, "the extreme cold outside or the blazing heat in here."
Mal swept a damp lock of red hair from off her face. "I'll get right to work on fixing the AC unit on this cart," she teased the other.
Link ran his hands through his sweat-soaked blond hair. "Oh, c'mon. Don't tell me you're not suffering too."
She forced a smile and changed the subject. "We only have a little more to go, don't we?"
"Yeah," Link confirmed. "Last I saw on the map, it's just beyond this chamber."
The cart finally came to a halt at the far end of the chamber. Link climbed out, watching his step to make sure he didn't slip into a small stream of magma. He watched as Mal gracefully hopped out as well. Their transport was in pretty bad shape from the impacted bullets, leaving the two amazed that neither had sustained serious harm.
Link and Mal walked toward an adjoining corridor, which, according to Link's map, would lead directly to their final destination. The magma flow was now behind them, its glow fading away to their rear, so they pulled out their flashlights and illuminated the new corridor.
"Looks like there's some kind of door up ahead," observed Link.
"So let's find out what's behind it," answered Mal. "After you, hero."
Ganondorf laughed contentedly at the surprised expressions before him. Zelda's party didn't realize that during their escape from his ice demons he had leapt into the air and grabbed hold of the struts beneath the helicopter.
His eyes widened at the sight of his Triforce's counterpart illuminating a young blond woman's hand. He took a menacing step toward her.
That's all it took for everyone to spring into action against him.
Impa was the first to lash out, her wakizashi coming dangerously close to trimming Ganondorf's beard. With power granted him by his piece of the Triforce, he moved faster than the eye could perceive and dodged the attack. At the same time, he noticed the head of a Zora spear moving in to pierce his torso. Before it could find its mark, he grabbed the shaft, taking a moment to laugh at the impudent Zora. His amusement continued despite Impa's continued attacks, Zelda's companion opting for small, swift jabs with her blade. Ganondorf dropped the Zora's spear and focused his attention on blocking the fierce onslaught from the lithe bodyguard, using his thick gauntlets to deflect the blows. He tried to counter with a swift kick that would have snapped the woman's leg in two had she not twisted away just in time.
An arrow glanced off his armor's neck guard, bringing his peripherals to bear on the shortest member of the group. He took a step back from Impa and the Zora, coming dangerously close to the open doorway behind him, and prepared a quick spell of dark energies to toss at the impudent little archer. After casting it, he didn't even look to see if it connected with its target, turning his attention once more to Impa and the Zora. He heard the short one howl in pain, just before both figures in front of him attacked as one.
Ganondorf grit his teeth. His arms became a flurry of movement, attacking faster than before. Impa was knocked off balance when she tried to block his attack, and the Zora was thrown to the floor before he could avoid a swift fist to his chest. He stepped forward and kicked the Zora in his side, satisfied with the sound of retching that ensued afterwards. However, he had provided his other opponent an opening, and Impa grappled with him. Ganondorf leered at his foe; her strength was as nothing compared to his own, even with the augmentation of her magic-infused blood. He immediately overpowered Impa, restraining her wrists and bringing his forehead smashing down on her face. A burst of red sprayed from her nose, and a few flecks caught on his cheeks and beard. He flicked his tongue out the side of his mouth to catch a taste of his opponent's blood.
A loud bang sounded throughout the aircraft, and a tremendous force impacted with his head. He reeled away from Impa, releasing his grip on her, and watched in dazed anger as his ruined diadem fell to the floor. Two more bangs rang out, but Ganondorf was prepared, holding up an armored and protected arm in front of his face. The pilot had procured a handgun from somewhere in the cockpit, and he had turned around in his seat, firing the weapon in an attempt to remove the threat from his helicopter. Ganondorf began to conjure another spell while the man continued to empty the clip at him.
Before he could end the pilot's annoying onslaught, Ganondorf felt a sudden jolt of reverberating pain that shook him bodily from head to toe, canceling his magic. He grimaced, realizing someone else on board the aircraft had been conjuring a spell of her own. The princess stood at the far end of the aircraft's interior, gaze locked upon him, her arms outstretched with leftover tendrils of electricity still coursing over her hands. He took a shaky step towards her, but an enraged Impa immediately rejoined the fight and forced him to the ground. She hovered over his prone body and put her foot down on his thick neck, preparing to step down hard.
In desperation, he mustered a quick spell that sent an invisible push her way. The force of it slammed her into the low roof of the helicopter, and, as she tumbled down, he kicked upwards with both legs into her abdomen. Impa crumpled off to the side, clutching her midsection as she hit the floor.
Ganondorf scrambled back to his feet, his eyes moving to Zelda once more, all obstacles between the two removed. A look of indignation was upon her young face as she prepared another lightning spell. He ducked just in time to avoid being singed by another blast, but it the perfect way to distract him from what came next.
The Zora, having recovered strength enough to stand, rushed headlong into Ganondorf, who had remained just in front of the open door of the helicopter throughout the assault. He and his attacker toppled head over heels out the side of the aircraft, the mountain slopes of Tibet rushing up to meet them.
Had they been any higher, the landing would have hurt a lot worse. The steeply-angled slope and the powdery snow broke Ganondorf's fall fairly well, but the problem came when he couldn't stop from sliding down the mountainside. It was a few minutes later when he finally came to a halt.
Ganondorf gradually, and a bit unsteadily, rose to his feet. He felt the cold biting into his skin where the snow from the mountain slope had entered into the openings in his armor. He quickly scanned his surroundings but couldn't see the blue-skinned member of Zelda's resistance anywhere. He knew that without immediate rescue the Zora would freeze out here, and that was only if the fall hadn't killed him first. He couldn't even revel in this small victory, for the princess's Triforce was still in her possession.
Still, he knew the location of one other in these very mountains. He made to remove his BlackBerry to review the location, but he found his fingers weren't working properly.
Dark blood dripped to the ground beside him, reddening the snow. My blood, he thought with bland ire. With some difficulty, he removed his gauntlet from the hand in question, and he snarled an ancient curse at what he saw beneath. His hand was a mangled mess, and small, broken bones protruded in places through the skin, which explained where the irksome amount of blood was coming from. His hand had gone numb from the jolting impact it had received upon striking the mountain's surface.
Ganondorf sighed long and hard, the cold air turning his breath into mist right before his eyes. While he transferred a portion of his magic to reset the bones, he used his other hand to grab his phone. He reviewed the information on the small screen then once more cast his teleportation spell. He was whisked away to his next destination.
Zelda's eyes widened in fear as she watched Ruton slam into the armored man, sending them both careening out the open door of the helicopter. "Ruton! No!" she screamed, her voice piercing the air even over the loud thrumming sound of the helicopter's rotary blades. She hurried to the side of the aircraft, supported herself by holding onto a flailing lanyard, and then leaned over to look down at the snowy slopes below. Through the misty haze of the Himalayan air she couldn't make out either of the falling figures' forms. A wave of despair for their lost ally swept through her. Tears stung her eyes as they came into contact with the cold air, and she turned away from the view of the mountains below.
Impa, nose bloodied and body bruised, stirred on the floor just outside the cockpit. To her right, Mido sat on the ground nursing an ugly-looking burn on his leg. All that remained of their Zora companion was his abandoned spear.
Impa sat up, still holding on to her midsection. Her hair, which was always tied tightly behind her head, had come undone, and its long white strands blew aimlessly about her battered face. "Ruton...that fish," she hissed. "How could he be so foolish?"
Mido winced at the pain from his leg, and countered, "Impa, he was the fool that saved our lives."
"We have to find him," stated Zelda. "There's a chance he survived the fall."
Impa shook her head. "I'm afraid if anyone survived, it was Dragmire. If we turn around now, we run the risk of being attacked again. We cannot chance another assault from Ganondorf."
Zelda shot her an angry look. "You're saying we should just abandon Ruton to the elements?"
Mido stood up, gingerly putting weight on his singed leg. "Z, Ruton's a goner. Besides, he wouldn't want us risking our lives for his sake, or his sacrifice would be for nothing."
"In the meantime, I will use my telepathic powers to contact Link," announced Impa. "Radio silence has persisted far too long, and we need to know his and Mal's progress down there."
Zelda remained impassive, trying to suppress the grief she felt at the loss of their comrade. Impa was right; they needed to refocus their efforts on the mission. Regardless, she couldn't help but wonder how different the decision would have been had she been the one the fall from the helicopter.
The princess felt sick to her stomach, and she sat down on the floor of the helicopter, watching Impa close her eyes in concentration to send her thoughts out to Link.
Ruton shook violently from the cold around him, trudging through knee-high snow. His parachute had deployed moments before he hit the slopes, saving him from certain death. He had drifted a ways down the mountainside before coming to a stop near its base, and, just before that, he had soared over Ganondorf who was too busy rolling down the slope to realize that Ruton had pulled a fast one on him.
He didn't know if anyone knew he had grabbed a parachute pack just before slamming himself into Ganondorf. Though he was sure he had saved everyone's lives, he immediately realized that he had absolutely no radio contact with Zelda and her team. For all they knew, he was dead from impacting the mountainside.
He attempted to push his worries to the back of mind, for he needed now to focus on finding a way back to the group. He was far from thrilled to brave the cold mountain air, but he knew his body was built to handle it. He had heard tales of Zoras from the far past being frozen within giant sheets of ice and then thawing out as if nothing had ever occurred. As long as he kept moving forward he wouldn't run the risk of becoming an icicle like so many of his ancestors before him, and he would make it back to tell the tale. At least, that's what he told himself.