**All Standard Disclaimers Apply**

Book Two in the Doppelganger Trilogy
Shadow Kingdom
by The Wolfess


Chapter Twenty Six: A Walk in the Dark

Around the meeting table inside the New Kakariko Inn and Tavern, the major figures in the recently-named "Kakariko Revolution Party" were shouting at one another. The argument could be heard all the way outside the front doors and up in the balcony. At the bar, Borley kept the drinks flowing and Telma walked around quieting other patrons and taking food orders. It was all they could do to prevent more noise than necessary for the group.

"Why CAN'T we go out the southern gate?" Volc demanded, jabbing his finger on the large map that lay open on the table.

"Hey," Auru interjected, swiping Volc's hand away. "Be careful with my map. It's old, like me, and it's the only one we have."

Volc folded his arms across his chest. "Fine. I still think trying to take the north gate to the Upper Eldin section of East Hyrule Field is stupid. That field is nothing but a leever-infested expanse of open terrain. We will be sitting ducks."

Link shook his head. "He won't attack yet, Volc," he said, his voice calmer than the others as he gazed down at the map. "I know Dark Link better than most. We're…tied at the soul level somehow, but I don't understand why or how. All I know is that Dark Link has a problem: me. He desires to defeat me above all else—and he wants to do it in a way that will make him look good. He cares too much about presentation, how the battle looks, to do something smart. So all we have to do is travel in such a way that he will feel like beating us in the field would be insulting to him."

"That look on your face tells me you already have a plan," Shad commented when Link didn't elaborate.

"Well, yes, a rough one so tell me if you have anything better. I say we travel in a small group—ten soldiers, Volc, Auru, and Myself. Small enough to barely be called a raiding party. We'll only travel at night, and we'll take the long way by following the canyon edge along the east side of the field. It'll look like we're trying to be sneaky and planned poorly. If Dark does happen to get word of us, he will feel like we're being stupid. In that situation, sending out his whole army to kill me would be too easy. He wants a large, grand clash in that field, our army standing across from his much larger one so he can gloat. He doesn't want to pick us off in the night."

Ashei was nodding her head. "This sounds like a good plan, yah?" she said. "Volc?"

Volc frowned. "What's wrong with taking the southern route?" he repeated, sticking to his guns on the matter despite Link's explanation.

"It will double our travel time," Link said, "and we don't have that time to waste."

"Plus," Auru added, gesturing to west Hyrule Field on the map, "that route takes us through the Lower Lanayru portion of Hyrule Field. That's like running right through Dark Link's side yard. Not even he would pass up that opportunity."

Volc sighed. "I can see that," he said. "Fine. So once we make it across the field, IF we make it, then what?"

Link leaned over the map and pointed his finger, tracing their route as he talked. "Well, we take the Bridge of Eldin over Zora's River. Once we're across the bridge we can escape into the mountains and we'll be fine. I doubt that Dark Link has his troops spread through Hyrule yet, so I don't think he'll have people—or monsters—posted on the walls. If he does, I can take care of them with my bow. I've done it before."

"Elder Shima said that you can stop in Old Kakariko to wait out the daylight hours," Zelda finally chimed in, indicating its position on the map even though it wasn't drawn on it. "Just before night falls, you will tackle the second half of the mountain pass and come out in Northern Hyrule Field—Upper Lanayru—with the cover of darkness."

Link nodded in agreement. "That's great. Now, we're not going far into the field. We're going to follow the mountain walls in the northernmost section to a large tunnel that connects Upper Lanayru to the lower bowl of Zora's Domain."

"And the Zora's are just going to let us waltz in there?" Volc asked.

"Ralis is a friend of mine," Link said. "Plus, we'll go straight to the mouth of the cavern that leads to Snowpeak. The Zoras are fast, but not even they can go warn Ralis and come down with a whole unit prepared for us that quickly."

"Okay," Volc said, nodding his head and looking intently at the map. "You've convinced me. So when do we leave?"

Link stepped outside the door and looked up at the sky. Stepping back inside, he closed the door behind him. "The sun is just beginning to set. We already have the horses and Temla's wagon loaded up, so I think we should go now. Everyone is ready right?" The people gathered voiced their confirmation and began to leave to gather their things off of the table. They all hurried out of the inn.

"Volc, wait," Link said, catching the Marquis's arm. The ginger-haired captain stopped and looked back at the hero. "Can you pick the soldiers to come with us?" Link asked, releasing Volc's arm. "You know them the best, and I trust your judgment."

Volc nodded, casting his eyes down at the floor. "Fine," he said. "Ten men coming up, sir."

Link and Zelda were left to watch Volc walk away. The hero sighed and looked at Zelda. "I don't know what's wrong with him," he said.

"Something tells me that he is still holding a grudge," Zelda said. She was dressed in a violet tunic and tan pants with laced-up knee-high boots over the lower portion of the pants. "He lost a lot because of us, Link."

Link nodded and sighed. Wordlessly, he stepped closer to the princess and gathered her in his arms. She sighed and wrapped her arms around his waist, tucking her face into the crook of his neck. Link leaned his cheek on the top of her head and smiled. "I wish I could just stay here with you," he whispered. They had agreed that Zelda needed to protect the village and its people while the weapon gathering party was away. Also, Zelda felt like she needed to be there when Ikal and the pack returned. They were still gone and Zelda was starting to worry.

Zelda raised her head and kissed Link. He leaned into the kiss, drawing her body closer to him. Zelda let her arms snake up around his neck. She loved the feel of his lips and the taste of his kiss. Increasingly she found herself wishing that she could kiss this man as often as she wanted to, for as long as she wanted to, for the rest of her life.

They pulled apart and Zelda brushed her lips across Link's twice before giggling a little and grinning at him. Link grinned right on back at her. No words were needed between them. Zelda just laid her head on his shoulder again and Link rubbed her back slowly until someone opened the door and cleared their throat.

"That time already?" Link said, not raising his head yet.

"I'm afraid so," Auru said, and then nodded his head at the pair and ducked out.

Link let Zelda go and kissed her one more time. He raised his hand to cup her cheek and stroked her soft skin with his thumb. "I'll miss you," he said.

Zelda raised her hand to cover his and turned her face into his gauntlet-covered palm, kissing the leather there. "And I will miss you as well," she said. "I will walk out with you."

Link nodded. "I would like that," he said, holding out his left hand. She took it in her right and they walked out of the inn hand in hand.


East Hyrule Field was quiet to the untrained eye. It was a barren expanse spotted with the remains of some long-forgotten wall. Perhaps the wall was built to protect travelers from the leevers that pop out of the ground or the bulbins that have always patrolled the field as Hyrulians passed from Hyrule Castle Town to Old Kakariko Village when it was a bustling place. No one really knew. Now it was just an empty space people crossed as quickly as they could to get from one place to the next.

The small group chosen from the Kakariko Revolution Party to make this dangerous trek was gathered on the edge of the field where the rocks of Death Mountain met with grass. Standing on the rock was the one place where leevers wouldn't pop up, and therefore the one place where it was safe to wait. Telma had generously given them permission to borrow her cart and her horse to pull it. It was empty now, so eight of the KRP soldiers were hiding inside. It wouldn't be a good enough ruse to fool someone smart, but the casual eye—such as a scout or guard on the walls of Castle Town who doesn't know what he's looking for—wouldn't think too much about them.

Next to Telma's cart was Daru, the white stallion Link had purchased for Ilia all those months ago. She stood beside it and brushed its mane, while the other Ordonians stood back closer to the road back to Kakariko with other family members belonging to the soldiers chosen to go on the trip. Link and Zelda approached them now, still hand in hand.

"Hi," Link said, smiling. He hadn't really had a chance to see them since he woke up the day before. Everything was moving so fast already.

Uli stepped forward and pulled Link into a tight embrace, baby Vesuun wide eyed and quiet in a harness on her back. Link hugged Uli back, ruffling Suun's hair as he did so. When Uli pulled away, her eyes were shining. "Link, you know that you've always been a son to me and Rusl. I expect you to be careful, you hear me? We just got you back and I just can't stand the thought—" she broke off and turned around, covering her face with the back of her left hand as she started crying.

Rusl rubbed her back and looked sternly at Link. "You know what she means," he said. "I don't like the thought of staying behind, but I understand why. I'll protect the town in your absence along with the others who are staying. We'll be watching for your return."

Link barely had time to nod before Bo chimed in. "Hey, will ya bring back some heavy armor that'll fit me, Link? This old man can be a berserker when he wants to."

"Will do, Bo," Link said. "And a variety of weapons for everyone."

"Will you teach those of us who've never used one, bud?" Fado said.

Link nodded. "Of course. Look, the sun's almost set. We need to get moving." He turned to Zelda and kissed her on the cheek. She smiled back at him. "You be safe," Link said, his eyebrows creasing. "I love you."

"I love you too, Link," she responded, moving to stand with the Ordonians. The other soldiers finished their goodbyes and everyone moved to stand with the wagon.

Volc, chosen to be an official captain for the KRP, had been standing by the cart the whole time. He finished his last checks and approached Link. "I've been keeping something of yours," he said, rifling around in his pouch for it. He pulled out Epona's charm. "She saved my life," he said, his voice quiet and his eyes downcast, "and she has been there for me in my darkest hours when everything else I've loved and cared about was taken from me. I think you might need her now."

Link took the charm from Volc and stared at it for a while. Suddenly, he took a quick step forward and hugged Volc. Volc stood rigid, his arms down at his sides, but Link didn't let go. Finally Volc patted the hero twice on the back, and Link backed off a little.

"What was that for?" Volc asked, obviously uncomfortable.

"I'll explain when we're on the road," Link said. Without further delay, he put the whistle to his lips and blew Epona's familiar song. Sure enough, she galloped full speed from the direction of the field. She came to a skidding halt before Link, digging her hooves into the dirt in order to stop. Link launched himself at her large neck and man and horse hugged each other as best as they could. Both were almost deliriously happy to see each other, and some would say that this reunion was the most joyous of them all.

Link swung up on Epona's saddle in one fluid motion. She danced on her hooves, happy to have Link's familiar weight on her back. Volc mounted Daru, and Auru climbed up in the front seat of the wagon with the remaining two soldiers. Link moved to the front to lead the party, and Volc stayed at the back to keep an eye on their rear. With one last wave back at the loved ones they were leaving behind, Link moved them out just as the sky truly darkened and a crescent moon began to creep its way into the late winter sky.


Link had his sword drawn as he led them along the canyon ridge. Every now and then he leaned down to look over the edge into the bottomless abyss below, but for the most part he kept a wary eye trained on the field. No one was walking, so any leevers that popped up were just trampled by the horses' hooves or the wagon wheels, leaving no one harmed. They were more pesky than dangerous if you knew how to prepare for the swarms of leevers that sometimes surrounded you in a full circle. On horses it didn't matter, which was exactly why Link had suggested they travel this way in the field. The problem was if bulbins decided to attack. He didn't have his gale boomerang, it was locked up in the chest in the army compound, and so he wouldn't have a way to put out the fire if they attacked the party. Their only hope was to travel quietly and unnoticed.

Two yards from the large stone gate that led to the Bridge of Eldin, Link thought that they were in the clear. All they had to do was make it through that gate and everything would be alright. Just as he lifted his heels to spur Epona on faster, however, a familiar chortling cry rose behind them. Link spun Epona around to face the field as Volc pulled up beside him. A small party of Bulbin Riders was charging hard toward them atop their giant, stinking boars. They were already fitting their flaming arrows.

"Go," Link said to Volc, gripping Epona's reigns tighter. The mare nodded imperceptivity—they had done this before and she knew the drill. In fact, there were less of them this time than there had been when Colin was in danger. They obviously didn't know who they were attacking.

"But I—" Volc started to protest.

"No time! THAT'S AN ORDER!" Link shouted, kicking Epona's sides hard. She reared up on her hind quarters. Link's Gilded Sword glinted in the moonlight as he held it above his head and roared a battle cry into the empty night air. The chestnut mare landed hard and sprinted forward, her own furious whiney joining Link's voice as they charged into the oncoming bulbins. Volc gritted his teeth and turned Daru, riding back to the wagon as it rumbled across the stone bridge.

Wind whipped past Link's face, tossing the tail of his hat around furiously. He raised himself up to stand in his saddle, his sword held high above his head, and his eyes met with the yellow eyes of the driver of the lead boar. Link's mind was quick to work. There were only three boars, each with two riders: a driver, who each had clubs that were mostly useless while driving such a dangerous animal, and an archer. The archers were the more dangerous of the two enemies while on horseback. Bulbin archers fitted their black bows with flaming arrows, and their aim was surprisingly impeccable.

But the Hero of Light was not afraid. He had fought this battle before, a long time ago. Before he had even been through the Goron Mines, Link chased a hoard of bulbins through the streets of New Kakariko to rescue a small child, Colin. On that day there had been five boars and King Bulbin himself to face, and he'd been using the Ordon Sword. With the Gilded Sword in his hand, just about the same length as the Ordon Sword Link figured, three boars would be like a casual ride through Upper Eldin during the Twilight War. A cake walk.

Epona and the lead boar ran full speed at one another. Neither wavered. Neither blinked. The two other boars flanked the first one, and the archers astride them were already shooting arrows. The angle for the arrows wasn't good yet and they landed with their flaming tips harmlessly in the ground on either side of Link and Epona. Link and the driver of the lead boar stared at one another. The bulbin's brow began to crease, his hands shaking on the reigns. Epona could feel the dirt kicked up from the boar's hooves hitting her chest. The steam-like breath of the huffing mounts floated into the air between them, mixing as they rose into the cloudy sky.

At the last moment, Link and Epona feinted to the right. Link dug his sword into the driver's stomach, yanking the impaled bulbin off of his mount as Epona continued between the lead boar and the flanking one on their right. Link tipped his sword downward, allowing the corpse to fall off of it as he turned Epona around. Arrows whizzed by his ears. The bulbins were turning their boars as well. The remaining archer leapt from his driver-less boar onto one of the others and notched another arrow. Link began to guide Epona away from Castle Town, toward the northern ridge, but the bulbins were catching up. The extra archer released his arrow, and his aim was true.

Link leaned way to the left, all but falling out of Epona's saddle as the arrow—which would have pieced his heart—sailed harmlessly past. It took him a moment to heave himself back up in the saddle. By the time that he did, the remaining two boars were pulling alongside him. Link swiped his sword at the trio on the left, then across his chest at the pair on the right, then again on the left. His blade met with soft, rank green flesh each time. The archer from the lead boar fell dead to the ground, leaving only one archer on the left boar. Arrows flew back and forth across Epona.

They were riding along the north edge of the field in the direction of the Bridge of Eldin. Across the bridge, the wolf man could see that the wagon had stopped on the other side and he cursed to himself. If the boars got too close they would abandon their difficult opponent and attack the easier target: the helpless wagon. Link knew that he needed to get them away from the bridge. He glanced over the boar to his left and eyed the canyon they were tracing.

Link jerked Epona's reigns to the left. She whinnied in surprise as her body lurched, ramming hard into the boar. She quickly regained her balance, but the boar tossed its head. Mad with the surprise—as Link knew it would, having driven them before—it started weaving out of control. The driver of the boar on the right, afraid it would ram into their boar in its mad haze, weaved his in the opposite direction, away from the bridge. Link rode just alongside the mad boar, making sure it couldn't weave too far away from Link's intended destination for it.

Sure enough, the mad boar took a sharp turn to the left and hurled itself—along with its two riders—into the raging river far below. Link pulled back on Epona's reigns. She neighed and reared up on her hind legs. Link used the momentum to turn her in the exact opposite direction. She landed and launched into a run.

The driver of the final boar had stopped his mount in one of the pools of water frozen on the field to watch the outcome of the battle. He obviously hadn't thought about the ramifications of stopping there. He kicked his mount, trying to get them started toward Link, but the ragged thing couldn't get a footing. Its hooves slipped and slid on the ice. Finally it fell over, tossing both of its riders to the ground. The two bulbins slid away from it, but stayed next to each other as they tried to stand.

Link rode up just as the two bulbins got to their feet. Before they could even turn to see where he had gone, Link leaned way over in his saddle and sliced their heads clean off their shoulders. The bodies fell onto the ice just as the final boar hauled itself back to its feet. It stood still, waiting for riders who would never come. Link stopped Epona. He looked around at the four scattered corpses and the two rider-less boars, and then he raised his eyes to the bridge that led to East Castle Town.

Staring at him from the shadows of the bridge, Link could just make out a hulking green form with red eyes astride a giant blue boar. King Bulbin inclined his head toward Link. Link nodded in return. The brutish king rode back into Castle Town, and Link continued to the bridge. He wasn't exactly sure what silent exchange had just taken place. If King Bulbin's sign of respect was any indication, then the hero thought that Dark Link might be having a surprise mutiny on his hands. One could only hope. The KRP could use all the help they could get.

Link and Epona reached the wagon on the other side of Eldin Bridge. Both he and his horse were breathing hard as they halted before the waiting wagon. Auru, Volc, and the soldiers were staring at the hero, their mouths slightly open. Link glared back at them.

"Do you have any idea how much danger you put us into?" he snapped.

Volc snorted. "We could have taken some stinking Bulbins. Right boys?" The group of soldiers shouted a resounding 'Huzza!'

Link nodded his head. "Yeah, yeah," he said. "I know you can. But what about the wagon? We don't have anything to put out a fire on the wagon. It would have burned up, and our journey would be over already. We can't bring back the weapons we need with our arms alone." He was glaring at Auru in particular now. "And YOU should have thought about that, Auru. I brought you because I thought you were more strategically-minded than that."

Auru and Volc were quiet. They looked at one another and then cast their eyes down. Link nudged Epona's sides and guided her in front of the wagon, entering the narrow passage through the mountains that would lead them to Upper Lanayru. "There won't be any retaliation from behind," Link said over his shoulder. "Let's just get to Old Kakariko and rest. We'll start out with fresh heads tomorrow."

Volc was silent. He was looking between Link and the field over his shoulder repeatedly. Auru, however, gathered himself and spoke. "How do you know they won't attack?" he said. "Won't this just make them report it to their King and get more bulbins on our tail?"

Link shook his head, never once taking his eyes off of the canyon walls. Too many times he was ambushed by bulbin archers on those walls. He could hardly believe that there were none there now. "I know they won't attack," Link said, "because they just realized that I am still alive—and the man they are following isn't me."

"I don't understand," Auru said, but behind him Volc's eyes widened. He was remembering a day, long ago it seemed, when Link lost it and beat King Bulbin to a pulp. He was remembering the Bulbin Campaign and all the time they spent securing those treaties with the monstrous race. The bulbins never pledged their loyalty to Hyrule itself, not really. They pledged it to Link and to the Hyrule guarded by Link. Suddenly, Volc looked on the whole controversial campaign, and the hero who had talked the councils into it, with new eyes.

They were approaching the entrance to the village. Link pulled Epona to a stop just outside. As he dismounted, he explained himself for Auru's benefit. "The bulbins follow the strongest side. Their respect—and allegiance—has to be earned. I earned that respect in the war, and after the war. They know that I am alive now, which means that I am still the strongest man alive in their eyes."

The soldiers had all dismounted and were readying the wagon and the horses. Link gave them a few quick orders and then looked at Volc and Auru, his expression dark. "Dark Link never earned King Bulbin's allegiance," said the hero. "He can't wield what was never his to begin with. That loyalty belongs to me and me alone." Everyone gathered knew that the wolf man wasn't just talking about the Bulbins.

The ten soldiers took up places on either side of the wagon. Together they hoisted it up onto the rock ledge. The horses had to be guided up onto the ledge, but once they realized what was wanted of them they were able to jump up themselves. They guided the wagon and the horses down the rock path punched out by Darbus during the war to give Link access, and then tied them up in the village. Link let Epona roam free, as he always did. He knew she would be safe. She always was.

Once they were sure that everything was secured and that the village itself was clear, the KRP band searched out a large room for them to lay their bed rolls in. After some quiet talking, they fell asleep. Even Auru and Volc lay down their bed rolls and hit the sack. Link ducked out the broken back window and lay down on the grass. He preferred to lie on the earth over some bedroll any day. He lay on his back and folded his hands behind his head. The winter stars met his searching eyes, and the hero sighed. A pre-dawn light was beginning to turn the sky a lighter shade of blue. The sunrise would soon follow. Link turned over onto his side. He rolled to his other side. He tried lying on his stomach. Despite his best efforts to close his eyes and sleep, Link couldn't do it. His soul and his body felt restless. Finally, the wolf man just sat up and looked around him.

He was lying in a small grassy area surrounded by a fence behind one of the largest buildings in the run-down town. Once, a large cat there had invited him to play a game of hide and seek with the lonely feral cats of the town. It had been a fun relief from the strenuousness of the later part of his adventure, and they gave him a surprisingly good reward for taking the time to play with them. Link hadn't wanted to accept it, but Midna had insisted. Across from where he sat, one of the ancient hero's howling stones whistled its lonely tune. Link closed his eyes and listened to it for a moment. He could almost hear the Hero of Time playing this very song on his ocarina into the still, cold air.

Link stood up. Maybe if he walked around for a while then he would finally feel tired enough to sleep. Quietly, he ducked into the building and walked around the sleeping men and out one of the broken front windows. He walked around the village. He petted the cats, the few who were left. He looked up at the stars fading in the brightening sky.

At the first small hint of color, Link went to the watchtower. It was the highest point in the city. He climbed up and up and up. Finally, he hauled himself onto the platform at the top and sat down, turning his body to face east. The mountain rose to the north, and to the east its foothills and smaller crags were just low enough that Link could see the sun beginning to rise. Oranges and yellows caressed the horizon. The hero lifted his chin and felt the warm winds of spring coming from the south. He hadn't been so alone in a long time—nor had he felt so lonely. There was a time when being alone was peaceful for him, but no more. He ached for his friends and his family. For his fireplace and his books. Perhaps settled life hadn't been half as bad as he had thought. Link opened his eyes and watched pinks and purples spread over the sky, highlighting the undersides of the scattered clouds.

"Beautiful sunrise," came a voice from the ladder. Link jumped and turned his torso. Volc was hauling himself off of the ladder, a little more out of breath than Link had been.

"Hi Volc," Link said, nodding to the captain and turning his eyes back to the sunrise.

Volc stepped over and sat beside Link. "This okay?" he asked, gesturing to where he sat.

Link nodded. They were quiet for a while. As the sunrise began to fade to the pale blue of a morning sky, the hero turned to the marquis and furrowed his brow. "Why are you up here, Volc?" he asked. "I thought you were asleep." And I thought that you were still being a jerk to me, he added in his head.

Volc was quiet for a minute. "You never got to meet my wife," he finally said, his voice soft. He ran a hand through his ginger hair, and his eyes were shining with tears already. "We talked about it, but you never got to meet her."

"I'm sorry to hear about her passing," Link said. "She sounded wonderful."

Volc nodded. He wiped his eyes with his sleeve. "She was my life. I loved her more than Hyrule itself—and yet she died to protect Hyrule. To save a land that had failed her from its own deserved demise." The marquis turned his eyes back on Link, and his face was at once terribly angry and terribly sad. "I have hated Hyrule and the princess and you for that. For making her love this country and its leaders more than she loved me."

"Volc, I doubt—" Link started, but Volc cut him off.

"Let me speak," he snapped. His hands were shaking. "Let me speak before I lose the strength to speak at all." Link nodded, and the marquis continued. "Look, she was the first person in Hyrule to realize that the princess on the throne wasn't the real princess. And she was the first civilian to have the courage to go right into your mansion and tell you about it—only that it wasn't you in the mansion. It was Dark Link impersonating you. And when he poisoned her and I found her and brought her back, I was the one who was quick to blame you. I blamed you for everything. I hated you and Hyrule itself. But Kaylea, she—she never lost faith. As the poison and the Obsidian withdraw combined to kill her before my eyes, she used her last breaths to tell me that the princess and the general were imposters. That you two were gone. She used her last breaths to ensure that I knew it wasn't your fault. I didn't believe her, and I set out for castle town to kill you. I wanted to watch the life leave your eyes myself."

Volc shook his head, his shoulders slumping. "I was wrong. Kaylea was right. She was the last person in Hyrule to believe in you—you owe her our allegiance."

Link bowed his head. "I am eternally grateful to her," he said. "I have no words to express it."

"When I saw you fighting today," Volc said, his voice soft again, "and heard your words afterward…well, I think I finally understand. I understand why my wife used her dying breaths to defend you. Why she had faith in you—and why I, too, should have faith in you. You are powerful and courageous beyond all others. Even the monsters of the world praise you. And yet you are humble, and would lay down your life for the greater good of Hyrule and its princess. For us." Volc shook his head. "I know of no mortal besides the princess herself who even compares to you. You two are blessed by the goddesses above all others…and with the chosen of the goddess on our side, and on Hyrule's side, how can we lose? How can we be defeated? Even through darkness and turmoil, though evil may seize the land and all hope seem lost, still you both returned to us. And you will always return, won't you?"

The marquis looked at Link with imploring eyes. Link smiled. He patted Volc's back in a brotherly manner. "Of course we will," he said. "If it is within our power, if the goddesses still smile on us, we will always return to Hyrule's side."

Volc smiled. He stood up and dropped on one knee, bowing his head before Link. "Then I will follow you until my last breath is gone," he said. "I can only pray that when all of this is said and done, you will stand by Zelda's side as our King and guide Hyrule to a golden age she has not seen since an age eons and eons past."

Link opened his mouth to say something, but closed it right away. His eyes stung with tears unshed. "I'm speechless," he finally said.

Volc smiled and straightened. "You don't have to say anything," he said. "I'm going to get some sleep. You should too, ya know." Link nodded, and with that Volc got on the ladder and went down. Link was left sitting alone trying to comprehend what had just happened. With a final look at the sky and a sigh, Link went down the ladder. Perhaps he should try to sleep before trying to comprehend the changes in his life.

! #$%^&*()

Below the feet of the army, two humanoids and four wolves walked in the darkness of the abandoned Sheikah city. Unaware of the KRP soldiers sleeping above their heads, they continued walking to their long-awaited destination. They had been traveling for days, and after resting for a while in Ikal's family home they were finally going to reach their destination. The Chosen of Power slowed to a stop in front of the gates of the Shadow Temple, raising her eyes to view the large stone door carved with a bold Sheikah eye. Over the years, this ancient door had both kept the unworthy out of the temple and kept the evil inside the temple locked away. Today, it was but another obstacle for the Sheikah.

Ikal weaved through the unlit torches until she reached the center of the room. She stepped onto the pedestal there. Turning in a slow circle, she examined the torches around her. Finally she stopped, facing the door to the temple, and there she paused.

"I don't want you to come with me," Ikal said. "I never did."

"We came to protect you," Mutlu said.

Kelana wagged her tail in agreement. "You are beloved of the alphas. They would not wish harm to come to you."

Adrienne smiled up at Ikal, pulling her cloak tighter about her. Things were very cold for hylians. "It was our duty to accompany you until we knew you were safe."

"Well, you can't come with me inside this place," Ikal said, frustration leaking into her voice. "This is a place from which I may never return, and….and Zelda needs you. The alphas need you in New Kakariko to protect them."

"But—" Konuk started to protest, his head and tail held low.

"No buts," Ikal said. "Go back to Kakariko. If they ask where I am…tell them I have gone home."

The wolves looked at one another. Finally, they looked up at Ikal. "Fine," Mutlu said, speaking on their behalf. "We will return. But we will leave one of our number here to help you."

"I'll stay," Adrienne volunteered. She stepped closer to Ikal. "You return to the alphas and tell them where we are. I will stay to watch over Ikal."

Kelana and Mutlu agreed that this was good, and the pack set off for the entrance to the Sheikah city. When they were safely out of earshot, Adrienne turned back to Ikal. "Why are you doing this?" she snapped. "It's stupid!"

"You don't even understand what, exactly, I am doing," Ikal responded. "You should go with them. You'll just slow me down in here."

"I'm not leaving you. You wouldn't leave me." Ikal had no response, so Adrienne continued. "You might as well explain what we're doing here."

Ikal sighed. She turned around to face the wolf girl. "This place is a sacred place for my people. As a shadow race, we are always in danger of becoming tainted by darkness. When we feel out of balance, traditionally we come here to face the darkness within us and become purified. It hasn't been used for that purpose in ages, but once Zelda purified the temple my people started using it again. I need to regain balance in my life…this is where I will do it."

Adrienne nodded. "Okay," she said. "Then let's go."

"Stand back," Ikal commanded. Adrienne nodded and moved to a safe distance from the circle of torches. Ikal closed her eyes and held out her right hand, palm facing down. The symbol of the Triforce of Power glowed brightly in the darkness. With one quick movement, she turned her palm face up. All at once, a quiet flame rose in each unlit torch. The door shuddered. Dust fell off of it as it rumbled up into its slot. The Shadow Temple sat open, its yawning maw ready to receive the two visitors.

Ikal stepped off of the pedestal and walked over to the door. Adrienne jogged to catch up. Just before entering, Ikal stopped and looked at her companion. "You can go back," she said. "It's not too late. I'm sure you could still catch up with them."

Adrienne shook her head. She reached over and took Ikal's hand in her own. "I'm staying with you, no matter how many times you try to push me away."

"You owe me nothing, Adrienne," Ikal whispered, casting her eyes down at her feet. "I could have put you in the body of another breed of wolf. Instead I put you in a form that would serve us and you have to live with it. It was selfish of me. I'm sorry."

Adrienne's grip on the sheikah's hand tightened, causing Ikal to look at her. "Maybe it was what you needed… maybe it was selfish… but maybe I'm glad you did it." Ikal had no response. She bit her lower lip and looked away from Adrienne's intense gaze. Ikal took a deep breath. They walked together, hand in hand, into the Shadow Temple.


Author's Notes:

Hello Everyone! It has been a little longer waiting for this one, but trying to juggle writing Shadow Kingdom with editing the Hero of Wolves has slowed down the process. The Hero of Wolves IS almost 600 pages long, so editing will take a while. I would say that I am somewhere between a fourth and a third of the way done with it.

Luckily for both me and all of you, I would say, I have good news! In the past month I have obtained and, as of two days ago, started a new job. I'm literally doubling my yearly income! Now, while this has huge personal ramifications for me, what does it have to do with you, you ask? Well, my new job happens to be a regular 8-5, monday - friday kind of job and I'll be busing in and out every day. This gives me two built in hours of writing time every day (during the bus ride) and a TON more time in the evenings and, for the first time EVER-WEEKENDS, to devote to writing! I'm really excited to get all of my time back from the retail industry where I've been dumping it, and I'm excited to see how far and fast I can take this trilogy to completion.

In other news, Zelda Informer has started a brand new Fanfiction Friday feature! I wrote a whole tirade on the facebook page a while ago about how the modern Zelda community has abandoned its fans, and specifically those of its fans who love fanfiction, but ZI has proven me wrong. It's wonderful to see that there is still one major Zelda website that still focuses on the Zelda Community itself. PLEASE! Go over there and read the article, leave a comment, anything. Show them that this feature is worth keeping! And if you happen to want to recommend the Doppelganger Trilogy...well, I'd be much obliged. ;) The more people mention this story, the higher the likelihood that he'll feature it. :)

Last, but not least, my good friend Celeborn00 has finally finished his masterpiece "Forgotten Demons." I'm sad to see it end, but it's truly a magnificent and well written fanfiction. If you haven't read it yet, GO READ IT! I give you permission. ;D And congratulate Celeborn on a job well done. I'll miss seeing your updates in my inbox, my friend.

Anyway, thanks for reading and please review!

~The Wolfess

Don't forget to "like" the Doppelganger Trilogy on Facebook to get special progress updates in between chapters and other goodies.