**All Standard Disclaimers Apply**

Book Two in the Doppelganger Trilogy
Shadow Kingdom
by The Wolfess


Chapter One: Exile

A thunderstorm hung over Hyrule. It lingered in the still days, charging the air with electricity and the dark hum of rain. During this storm a kind of unnatural darkness, a suspension between night and day, prevailed. It was not the half-light of twilight nor the glow of dawn. It was not the black of night nor the bright of day. It was an ominous monotony filled with strange voices on the wind and nightmares in the minds of sleepers. It was a night when destinies were changed, when darkness could slip by the noses of nervous innocents and pull a veil over their eyes, blinding them to the trickeries of evil. It was the night when good crawled under a rock, and evil put on the cloak of benevolence that good left behind.

On the towers and walls surrounding Hyrule Castle, watchmen peered into the distance from beneath the cowls of their hooded cloaks. How many would come back? Would they come back at all? Will they have fruit, and how much, or is the valley just a rumor? Did it exist at all? One young soldier by the name of Tirin leaned on his bow shaft and tried to keep warm by bouncing on his toes. He stared between the drops of rain that fell off the edge of his hood and dripped from the ends of his brown hair with a hollowness in his eyes.

His story was like many of the young soldiers. Inspired by the charismatic young General to join the army, Tirin left his home to serve Hyrule. His wife waited for him through the night, their daughter growing thinner every day for lack of food. With the General's rise to power, Tirin thought prosperity would return to Hyrule and save his family. When it didn't, and finding food for his daughter and wife became more difficult, he gave in to the black fruit. His daughter grew strong, but rabid in a way. Thirsting for the black fruit endlessly. Tirin and his family did horrible things to get more, things he would not have been proud of had his mind not been consumed by apple-lust. Now all of his hope and livelihood hung on this mission and the army's victorious return. So he stood in the storm and he watched the skyline.

A white mist like smoke rolled out the forest in the distance. It was unnoticeable at first as it crawled over Hyrule Castle Town and nipped at his ankles. Staring into it, Tirin began to notice dark shapes in the rolling mist. He notched an arrow in his bow and pointed it at the figures, holding his breath until he knew what marched toward Hyrule Castle in search of shelter from the rain on this night of nights.

As the shapes moved closer, the General's armor gleamed golden in the night. Fire seemed to bounce in it, though there were no fires carried near him. Tirin lowered his bow, and a grin spread on his sunken features. It was here…the army returned! He slung the bow over his shoulder and threw the hood back, running to the covered signal. He grabbed an unlit torch nearby and put some oil on it, then lit it and threw it on the pyre.

The commotion within the walls of Castle Town was instantaneous. Families ran in their soiled bedclothes into the rain, children clinging about the ankles of their parents. The gates of the East Bridge were thrown open, and the bridge lowered. The Horns of Hyrule droned a low, sonorous note into the air from within the ranks of the army. Dark Link entered first, Count Durtain on his right hand and Teela's second in command, Zara, on his left. The Shinobi were within the ranks atop black horses, as well as the Bokoblins that saved the Hyrulians from sure death.

The carts of black fruit, black vegetables, and black wheat rolled along behind Dark Link's horse. This steed was not Epona, who abandoned the false hero in the forest and could not be found. It was a black steed with silver-ish white markings and a fierce way about him. Upon seeing the carts, the people in the streets cheered, the sound rising in a roar that filled the town. Some even began to dance and celebrate. The army proceeded to the square, where Dark Link halted his black horse and stood atop it. He held out his hands above his head and a hush fell on the gathered crowd.

For a few moments thunder was the only sound and it cracked in the air. Dark Link's red-tinted blue eyes scanned the crowd, looking from face to face with a subtle hunger. His face spread in a crazed grin.

"We return battered and bruised, but VICTORIOUS!" he suddenly roared. He held out his hands to a nearby soldier, who handed him a black ear of corn, and held the vegetable up for all to see. "I BRING YOU YOUR SALVATION! YOU WILL NEVER GO HUNGRY AGAIN!"

Fruits and vegetable were thrown into the crowds. Bags of seeds were given to merchants and farmers. It was disorganized and crazy. People were trampled in others' frenzy for the drug-like black food, others stood on the edges to wait their turn, while still others began to play horns and drums and sing and dance. Children were separated from their parents. Husbands forgot their wives. It was horribly wonderful, and terribly joyous. It was madness and raving. It was all that Dark Link had designed it to be, played out like a marionette show before his eyes. Durtain and Zara could hear him giggling.

Dark Link stepped down and signaled for the army captains to take over and tame the crowds. The Count slipped into the crowd in search of his home, and Zara disappeared in the way of Shinobi people. Dark Link walked around the fountain, straight to toward the great gates guarding Hyrule Castle itself, and slipped through unnoticed. Those behind him did not see General Link's eyes turn blood red.


Within the castle, Dark Link found his way to Zelda's private meeting chamber. He made a show of knocking and requesting entrance for the sake of the guards standing outside the door, all the while his crazed grin never wavering. A voice from within the room said "enter" in a distracted voice, so Dark Link thrust the door open and stepped into the room. He turned on his heal and slammed the thick doors shut.

When the entity of evil turned to face the room's sole occupant, a white-haired Princess Zelda in a black dress sat at her table writing. She was bent over forms and papers, a single white hair escaping from her silver tiara.

"Ahh," said Dark Link, taking a step toward the desk. He snapped his fingers and his skin and clothing seemed to melt like wax, leaving the black skinned, white haired, red-eyed evil that was purely Dark Link standing in the room. "Right where I sent you, Teela, and without hitch I assume?"

The false Zelda looked up from her work and smirked. She rose to her feet and bowed to Dark Link, who snapped his fingers again and watched the illusion fall off of his right hand woman. She placed a fist over her heart and dropped down on one knee. "It is good to see you return, master," she said.

Dark Link rolled his eyes. "Come now. You are to be my partner in crime, as Zelda is Link's. Drop the formal titles."

"Then what shall I call you?" Teela asked, confusion wrinkling her brow.

"How about just Dark? Or Dark Link if you must?" said the shadow, crossing to Zelda's chair and throwing himself in it, legs slung over the arms. "You do make a beautiful Princess Zelda, if I say so myself."

Teela nodded. "Thank you…Dark Link."

"Though I am confused as to why I could not change your hair color," Dark Link frowned. "Has it made them suspicious?"

Teela shook her head, not rising to her feet or looking Dark Link in the eyes. "When the boy returned to her I was here, and as you foresaw she touched collar and was transformed. It was simple for me to cover my head and claim illness. I stayed in this room studying her journals and books and clothing while playing sick, and when the doctor came to see me he was very confused. Eventually, my change in hair color was explained away as an effect of worry and the electric storms. I am to rest easy, and the people are too distracted to think more about it."

Dark Link nodded, playing with a knife-like letter opener on the desk. He traced its tip across the top of the desk, leaving a light line in the dark wood. The tip then slid down his thigh and up his other arm, lingering over the exposed flesh of his dark fingertips. Dark Link's tongue flicked over his lips. His red eyes seems to focus nowhere and everywhere at once. Teela watched as Dark Link pressed the blade of the letter opener into his flesh and drew it across his fingertips. Blood oozed from the thin cuts. Dark Link held his bleeding hand in front of his face, eyes contemplative.

"I have never bled," he murmured. The red liquid dripped hot over his leather gloves. Pain registered in Dark Link's mind, but he did not know what to make of it. He had never felt pain. He had never had nerves or a brain to tell him he was in pain. The Shadow had only lived and died, but never felt all the sensations and emotions that went alongside living or dying. Dark Link tilted his head, then shrugged and licked his forefinger. He smacked his lips together, considering the taste of his own blood. He licked the second finger, and the third, until all of them were clean and his lower lip was crusted with drops of dried blood.

"Most say that blood tastes like metal," Teela offered, seeing the contemplation on her master's face. "Like the metal of a blade." Dark Link looked at her. The familiar sadistic grin spread on his lips.

"Like a sword," he said. "Blood like a sword," and he laughed.

! #$%^&*()

In the growing town of New Kakariko a population of travelers and rouges was offset by a growing community of old freedom fighters and natural food supporters. They preached ideals such as embracing the diversity of Hyrule, uniting the races through cross-racial marriage and stronger treaties, or purification of food sources and water, which essentially boiled down to a complete rejection of the black fruit and its products. The local Inn became the center of everything the Kakariko Movement saw as the oncoming destruction of the Hylian moral system and heritage. Tension within the walls of the canyon in which the town was built rose every day. Fights broke out in the streets on a daily basis that were quickly calmed by Renado, who kept a carefully neutral position.

When Link led his small pack to the outskirts of the town, he did not know any of this. What he did know was that when a group of kidnapped children needed shelter and care, Renado had protected them. When a Zora prince was refused service by the Hylian doctor in Castle Town, Renado took him into his care. When Ilia lost her memory, the shaman stood by her every day to help her remember. Surely Renado would see the humanity in the wolves outside his door and give them aid. Surely they would find sanctuary with him.

Link stayed close to the walls, crouched and careful as he stuck to the shadows and eyed the passers. Zelda followed directly behind him, louder and more clumsy in her unfamiliar body, and Ikal was silent as ever in the rear. They walked around the edge of the spirit's spring and came to the walls surrounding the adobe house, behind which the pack hid. Link squinted his wolfish eyes and sniffed the ground, searching for the tree he knew they could climb to reach the hole in Renado's roof. Midna had always shown him where to jump, knowing his sight as a wolf was poor. In her absence, he had to trust his memory. She never made the jumps for him after all, just showed him where.

Locating the base of the trunk, Link's tail waged a few times. He turned to Zelda and Ikal. "You can both jump very far and high. The problem is that wolf sight isn't as strong as Hylian sight, and it can be difficult to make the jumps when you can't see where you are jumping to. I'm going to jump onto a limb on this tree, and then from that limb to Renado's roof. I'll come whine next to this window if we are accepted by him, and I want you both to use your sense of smell to smell where I jumped, then jump up after me. Until you hear me, wait for me here."

Ikal and Zelda backed against the wall and tried to blend into the shadows, while Link turned to the tree. He looked up, but he had a hard time making out the branch. Sighing, he closed his eyes and braced his legs. C'mon Link, he thought to himself, remember. You can do this alone. Coiling the muscles in his hind legs, he jumped up and managed to catch the branch with his front paws. For a moment his wolfish body dangled and scrambled for the branch, but eventually he hauled himself up and balanced on the thin branch. He overshot the jump to the roof and landed clear on the other side of it, then limped to the edge of the hole in Renado's roof. He shook his fur and swiped his tail, then jumped down.

The shaman was kneeling at prayer when Link landed in the middle of the room. The wolf laid his ears back on his skull and tucked his tail between his legs, lowering his stomach to the cold stone floor. Renado's body tensed. He took a single deep breath and as he turned around he said, "if you have come to kill me beast or to harm this town, you will be sorely disappointed."

Link flipped backwards and Renado turned around and threw a dagger where Link had been crouching. Link's blue eyes widened to see the barbed metal blade sticking out of the ground. He growled deep in his throat on instinct when he saw another poised in the shaman's hand.

"You will not find me an easy meal, beast!" Renado shouted, swiping it through the air at Link. The wolf backed toward the door, mind black with panic and instinct. He wanted to fight back. He wanted to sink his teeth in the attacker's jugular vein and watch him bleed out on the floor. It would be easy…the shaman did not have a good defense…

Link shook his head, dodging to the side when Renado charged at him. The shaman swung above his head and Link ducked. He stabbed and Link dodged. The wolf had to get out, but how? He couldn't leave Zelda and Ikal alone…they didn't know how to handle themselves as wolves yet. They wouldn't know where to find him if he took the basement route, and Link wasn't sure he remembered how to climb the scaffolding. The front door was closed and Link didn't have hands to turn the knob anymore. The hole in the ceiling was too high. Seeing no other option and quickly finding himself maneuvered into a corner, Link jumped onto one of the platforms around the edge of the circular room and threw his body at the glass window.

The gray wolf landed on the dirt outside with glass sticking in his fur. He could feel blood seeping from a cut in his side. "RUN!" he barked at Zelda and Ikal, as Renado surged out the front door yelling and brandishing his knife.

The small wolf pack escaped through the nearest exit to Hyrule field, and Link quickly rethought his plan B. If Kakariko was no safe haven for them, where was?


It was this line of thought that led the wolves to Faron Forest, and the home of Coro the oil-seller. Link's original Plan B had been to seek out the help of the Ordonians, but if Ordon was no friend to wolves during the war, they would be no help now. Wounded in body and spirit, Link limped to the entrance of Faron Woods off of Hyrule Field, where the shack was soon in view and Coro hummed while stirring his soup in the front yard.

"Link," Zelda said, "are you sure this is ok? Won't we scare him?"

Link wagged his tail. "Trust me. You'll see." Zelda bobbed her head and came to a stop just at the edge of Coro's sight. Link nuzzled the red fur of her neck and then padded right over to Coro.

"Oh, hey there wolf!" Coro said with a big grin, leaning forward. "Haven't seen you in a while." Link flattened his ears to his skull and lowered himself on the ground, crawling toward Coro on his belly. "Is something wrong little guy?" said the lamp man, tilting his head. Link turned so that Coro could see his wounded side. "Oh! You're hurt! You want me to help?" Link wagged his tail and stood up straight. Coro had never been frightened of him, or violent in any way.

Link looked to where Zelda and Ikal waited, signaling for them to come forward. They inched out of the shadows under the trees, trying to mimic Link's submissive movements but just ending up looking awkward. Out of the corner of his eye, Link watched Coro.

To his credit the oil merchant didn't scream or jump, but he did tense. Link wagged his tail and whimpered, lowering his head and looking from Coro to the women and back. Coro cleared his throat.

"Well, are these your buddies guy?" Link wagged his tail, and Coro swallowed. "They as friendly as you are?" Again, a tail wag. Coro seemed to pick up on the silent cues of animals better than most. He was always close to animals, though Link had observed that it was mostly skittish animals like birds and squirrels that gravitated to Coro.

The oil merchant laughed, which was more like a nervous chuckle, and shrugged. "Well, I can patch you up if you want, buddy. Just, ya know, don't eat me ok?" Link wagged his tail and sat down, resting his head on his forepaws and closing his eyes. Coro stood up and went into the house for something, and Zelda padded to Link's side. She laid down next to him, tilting her head to look at his tired face. Ikal disappeared into the forest.

Link's breathing was even, while Zelda's was shallow with anxiety. He was relaxed in his fur, while she felt uncomfortable and strange. Who was this man who adapted to change so quickly? Who was this beast with the gentle tooth? "Link?" She asked, almost wondering if he had fallen asleep. The wolf's blue eyes opened and look at Zelda, waiting. "What did you do when you first became a wolf? How did you cope?"

Link closed his eyes again and thumped his tail on the ground once. "Well, I didn't have time not to adapt. The body was easy enough to adapt to. Midna said 'your wolf body moves and reacts just like your human body does. Just because you're a beast now doesn't mean your reactions are different.' She was right. For every human movement, there is almost always a coinciding wolf movement. Just…move, and see what happens. What it took me a while to figure out on my own was what extra senses and limited senses wolves have, and how to adapt to those new strengths and weaknesses."

Zelda was silent as she contemplated his words. She had so much she wanted to ask, so much to talk about, but her mind was a jumble of worry and fear. She worried about their situation. She feared for her people. She feared for herself. She felt confused and uncomfortable and agitated. She felt angry. Her breath was quick because a tornado of emotions raged inside of her, and she could speak no more. So, as Coro came out of the house with hot water and bandages, Zelda stood up and began pacing a few yards away from where the oil-seller kneeled to tend the hero's wounds.

For his part, Link practiced his calm. He could cry and be angry and submit to all the emotions and pain inside of his heart as a result of what he had experienced, but how would it help? He had lost to Dark Link. He had run away from his courage. He had caused the Princess of Hyrule to be trapped and enslaved as he was himself trapped and enslaved. Who knew what terrors overran Hyrule? Who knew what the false Link would do? Do the people think that their princess is dead? What would they do? Yes, there were many thoughts and emotions and questions for the Hero. But Link would entertain none of them. There would be a time and a place for brooding and contemplating, but it was not now and it was not here. So the wolf conjured a calm inside of himself and he practiced holding it like one would hold a small, warm child in a blanket near his chest to protect it from a storm.

Coro hummed while he worked. He cleaned the wound and poured some red potion from a small, dirty vile onto a cloth and dabbed it. It hissed and bubbled, but closed up enough that it would heal on its own without need for stitching. Coro then had Link stand up, and wrapped his torso in bandages. It was not a pretty fix, but it would work.

Putting his stuff to the side, Coro patted Link's head and ruffled his ears. Link gave him a cross look, and the lamp man held up his hands in surrender and laughed. "Ok, I get, you're not a dog. No petting. But you guys can stay as long as you need to. Just…ya know…don't scare off the customers. Hide or something when someone passes?" Link wagged his tail in response. Coro looked toward the entrance and sighed. "Had a messenger come trough saying the army was going to get fruit. I don't know about that stuff. Seems nasty to me, wolf. But I worry for the Ordonian guy. Used to come here all the time looking worried. Hope he's all right."

Link shuffled his paws and laid his ears back, then left Coro and walked over to where Zelda was pacing. He watched her for a few moments, admiring the beautiful sheen in her red coat and the sparkle in her eyes. Here they were, alone in the woods, and they were wolves. He finally had her all to himself in a situation where they could simply be a man and a woman in love and getting to know each other, and he had no hands with which to hold hers and no lips to kiss hers with. He had fur and a tail and a tongue. He had a nose to nuzzle her neck with. Fate could sometimes be cruel.

"We always seem separated somehow," he said, voicing his thoughts. Zelda stopped pacing and looked at him, tilting her head.

"What do you mean?" she asked.

Link took a couple steps toward her, wagging his tail unconsciously. "I mean that we're finally alone. I can finally just get to know you and love you with no strings or limitations, no one looking over our shoulders, and we're wolves. I still can't really touch you."

Zelda sat down and hung her head. "We are not free from obligation, Link. We are not free at all." She lifted her head to expose the black collar pulsing with orange light. "Do you not see this? Do you not feel it around your own neck? We are slaves of a dark power. Link…how did this happen?"

Link turned around, his careful calm trembling as a darkness grew in his heart. The black collar around his neck with its pulsing evil stone weighed heavy on him. He remembered the darkness of the forest. The rank breathing of the evil as it stood around him, seeming to consume him. Its laughter echoing through the trees. The illusions that haunted him. Zelda's corpse hanging from the trees. And he remembered the darkness in his own heart…his lust for the evil thing's blood. His anger toward Ilia. Being turned out from his home. Who was he to say that he was that different from the monster of darkness that made them this way? Who was he to say there was no darkness in his heart? He had caused this…Link himself and not one else.

"I…" he stammered. "I…I have to go. I have to think. We need to see what's around here. Make sure we're safe. Stay with Coro and hide if you need to. He'll watch over you." Zelda didn't try to stop him as he ran into the woods and disappeared from her senses.

! #$%^&*()

Deep in the Black Forest, there lay a clearing just outside of the Black Valley strewn with bodies. The stench of rot rose into the air, eased only by the cold snow that fell in steady sheets. Blood soaked the ground. Bodies lay everywhere—Hylian and monster alike.

From the edge of the trees, a difference kind of beast entered. There were six of them—a small pack, but a functional one. The leader walked out in front of the rest, a large gray wolf with obvious power. At the end trailed a skinny, beaten down looking dog who walked behind the other four with obvious fear and caution. They sniffed around the bloodbath, avoiding the Hylians with all the caution they could afford. They would find no fallen deer here, merely rank meat they would not submit themselves to eat. They were more proud than the black carrion birds that already picked at the eyes of the fallen. They were merely examining the aftermath and checking for any edible food. Hylians were not the only things starving in the world.

Amid a circle of corpses, one man with ginger hair lay fallen. Captain Volc lay with his sword mere inches from his fingertips, lifeless to the eyes of the wolves. They sniffed his body and moved on, the fur of their underbellies brushing his face as they stepped over him. He was nothing to them but another body they would not eat.

The wolf pack left the battlefield and moved on. In their wake, one of the corpses lifted its hand and brushed at his face, eyes flickering open. It felt the pain from its wounded shoulder, but the blood had dried and the mud that covered it had stopped the bleeding. His whole body was covered in mud and gore. A dead Lizardfol lay over his legs with a crossbow bolt in its skull, a piece of the cloth from the man's shoulder in its teeth.

Captain Volc thrust off the corpse covering his legs and lifted himself from the mire. He found his sword and dagger and returned them to their places, then hobbled into the trees clutching his shoulder with his other hand.


Author's Note:

Writing two chapters in one go was difficult, but I feel confident that these two most important chapters are rounded and good. They have action and drama and romance and philosophy. And then more action, haha. Please put Shadow Kingdom on your favorites and alerts so you don't miss anything!

Also, I would like to hear your thoughts on the future of Shadow Kingdom. What do you think will happen? What would you like to happen? Leave me your thoughts in the reviews, and maybe you will see it sometime in the next 600 pages.

Thank you for reading, and please enjoy. I look forward to another adventure with all of you!

~The Wolfess