**All Standard Disclaimers Apply**

Book Two in the Doppelganger Trilogy
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Shadow Kingdom
by The Wolfess

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Chapter Twenty Nine: Calm Before the Storm

A slushy snow was falling in Zora's Fountain on this late-winter day. It melted when it hit the water and stuck where it hit the icy crust on top of the remaining mounds of snow. The white blanket that had covered the shores of the waterfall pool all winter was finally beginning to thaw. It was a promising sign to the Zora sentries who guarded the pool day and night. It meant that spring was coming, and with spring would come new life. Hyrule was a country desperately in need of new life.

Indeed, it seemed to the Zora standing by the door to the snowy mountain that new life had already arrived within their domain. No longer were the halls of the hidden city hushed with dread. No longer did the Zora citizens cringe when thunder shook the mountain for fear it was a bomb or a horn signaling an enemy approaching. King Ralis was moving his troops. He had announced the return of the true Queen of Hyrule and their true hero, Link. He had also made it clear that the Zora Nation would honor their alliance with the true monarchy of Hyrule and pledge their strength to the resistance effort. It was the first time the Zora Nation had involved itself in one of Hyrule's wars since the war that defeated the Thief.

Excitement buzzed in the underwater city and spread throughout the waterways to all of the distant caves. The restaurants and bars were bustling with people wanting to celebrate, and the Indigo-Gos were putting on a special honorary concert they were calling "The Return of the Queen Celebratory Jam!" Already Ralis was moving their soldiers into place. Just yesterday a large battalion dressed in their warmest seal-skin suits had followed the yeti up to his home with large sleds to help carry all of the weaponry and armor down the mountain. There was a meeting of the Captains and Generals of the Zora army to plan how they would get it all through the waterways and what their approach to the battle would be once they got into New Kakariko. It was a very exciting time to be alive in Zora's Domain, even if you were just the guard at the mouth of the mountain cave.

Inside the hidden halls of Zora's Domain, the day had finally arrived for the KRP band to return to New Kakariko. It had taken a few days longer than they had originally planned because of the details than needed to be settled. For one, they had to figure out how they were going to get Telma's wagon and mule back to the town. They couldn't be taken underwater, and the Mule didn't come to any song or particular sound, unlike Epona and Daru. It had been decided that a couple Zora soldiers and Auru himself would take the wagon back on their own. Auru claimed that he was too old to be swimming like a fish anyway. They had set out just the day before, and Link prayed for their safe journey. Other than that, some official paperwork had to be drawn up to make the Zora acknowledgement of Zelda as the true Queen and their active military support for the KRP official. Link had to stay to sign the documents on Zelda's behalf as her representative.

Finally all of the preparations were done and it was time to go back. The hero was grateful for Ralis's benevolence, and the hidden Zora City was certainly a fun place to be, but he was anxious to return to Zelda. These were war times, after all, not times to be celebrating prematurely. Link, Volc, and the KRP soldiers had lined up by the edge of the deep cave pool to wait for whatever device Ralis had been keeping a secret. The unnaturally blue water reflected on their faces, causing them to squint a little as they strained to watch for the Zora King. He rose out of the middle of the lake with light dancing off of his scales. His guards flanked him, followed by the two merchant owners of the hidden city's two shops. They seemed to be carrying something heavy between them through the water.

When they reached the smooth rock shore, Link could see that the heavy thing was a crate marked with some Zora writing. He was already wearing his Zora Armor, but he was somewhat eager to see what Ralis had cooked up to help his soldiers breathe underwater for their journey through the waterways. Ralis stood in front of the crate and the merchants stood on either side of it, poised to swing open the lid.

"I promised you that I could take you through the waterways of Hyrule back to your home," the boy King began. "It took some careful inventorying and some digging around, but my faithful merchants here have dug up some items that I believe will do the job. They will make you breathe underwater and swim like a Zora, like Link already does." Ralis stepped aside and swept his arm out. "Open the crate!"

The merchants swung the lid open. King Ralis leaned inside and pulled out the item on top: a simple blue kokiri-style, adult-sized tunic. He grinned with pride, but Link could hear the soldiers shifting. One glance at their faces told him that they didn't understand. He stepped forward and took the tunic from Ralis, holding it out so that the soldiers could see as he spoke.

"I know it looks like a plain tunic," Link said, "but I know what this is. Which means," he said, casting an accusatory glance back at the King, "that I also know how rare and expensive one of these is, let alone one for each of my men. Ralis, we can't accept these."

Ralis shook his head, smiling all the while. "Of course you can," he said. "I have paid for them already. They are mine to give. What Link holds in his hands, gentlemen, is a Zora Tunic. They are engineered with a secret craft that only one Zora man and his apprentice know. When someone puts on a Zora Tunic who is not a Zora, he will be given the ability to breathe underwater." A murmur of amazement went up from the soldiers, and Ralis grinned a little more. "The tunics are not all!" The King turned around and pushed aside the garments on top to reach an item underneath. He turned around and held it out for the Hylians to see. "These are Zora Flippers," he said. "Made from the scales of a Zora and the rubber of a whale from the Great Waters of the Sea, they give you the ability to swim deeper, faster, and with more dexterity. And," he added with a pointed look at Link, "you will accept these as my gift as well, I will hear no argument."

Link grumbled a bit as he walked over to the crate. "It's a loan," he said as he passed the King. "I'm going to give them back to you." Still, as he started pulling out the tunics and looking them over, he whistled in admiration. They were finely-woven garments, much like the materials the Hero's Tunic was made out of. This sort of garment would last these men their whole lives if they took care of them.

"Here ya go, men," he said as he started to pass out the tunics. "If the size doesn't fit, try a different one. Put them on over your clothes, the layers will keep you warm. Leave anything behind that you can't bring with you, such as heavy winter cloaks. It can come later with the weapons." He stepped aside as the men dressed and then came forward to choose their flippers. When they were done, they all moved to stand thigh-deep in the lake and looked to Link for orders.

Link smiled to see them all lined up in the same tunics that the Hero of Time once wore. Chuckling a little, he turned to Ralis. "Thank you again," he said, his voice solemn. "You have saved our lives, Ralis."

The Boy-King smiled and patted Link's arm. "That is yet to be seen, brother," he said. He snapped his fingers, and suddenly a battalion of Zora soldiers surfaced in the water. They had all of the armor and weapons the KRP had been preparing to take with them tied to a lightweight wooden rig. Some of the soldiers tucked their winter cloaks and boots in the rig and the Zora made sure they were secure. "I will see you in Kakariko, Link!" Ralis said as the wolf man went down into the water to follow his men.

"I'll hold you to that, Ralis," Link said. He waved one more time and dove below the surface.

Underneath the water, light penetrated little. Still, the sediments in the water seemed to glow on their own somehow. Ahead of him, Link could see the KRP soldiers lining up behind the Zoras and the barge. Even though it was made of wood, it seemed to float well enough and Link was relieved to see how few Zora it took to control it. Perhaps they would be able to get the rest of it to New Kakariko safely as well.

Link motioned for the Zoras to take the lead. He stayed at the back to cover the rear and make sure none of the KRP soldiers lagged behind. They swam down. Around them, Link could see various caves and doorways and waterways branching out in a multitude of directions. There were decorations carved into the walls and Zora citizens watched the soldiers as they swam by with dark, wide eyes. Down and down they swam, and Link was quickly amazed by how vast this underwater city truly was.

Finally, a larger tunnel loomed before them. The Zora soldiers made directly for it. Link couldn't read the Zora writing above the doorway, but he had a feeling that this was the tunnel that would take them to Lake Hylia.

Link swam up to the Zora nearest him. "Why are we not taking the river?" he asked the soldier.

"It's too dangerous," the female guard replied. "It's already a fast-moving river wrought with rapids, but in winter, with the shores frozen, all of that water is condensed and the rapids make the river perilous. Your men could not handle the swim, good Hero."

Link nodded as they swam around a corner. The tunnel then seemed to take a sharp turn downward as they spoke. "That makes sense. But you said 'mostly'...is there another reason?"

The Zora nodded, a few bubbles escaping from under her large fish-helm. "Purple-skinned bokoblins and green-skinned bulblins patrol the shores. Our reports say that they have repaired their wooden watchtowers and siege towers throughout the river. They attack our men from above, where we cannot defend ourselves, and report all of our movements downriver to the Shadow King. This is the only way we can travel to our sacred temple in safety and anonymity."

Link frowned behind the black mask that covered his lower face and allowed him to breathe underwater. The fingers of the Shadow King had spread farther than he thought. "Besides Kakariko, yours is the only nation that could threaten him. It makes sense that he would guard you. I worry about Iza and Henna though...they live by that river junction. Do you know if they are safe?"

The guard shook her head. "I do not, Hero. We have had no reports of their movements or well-being."

Link did not respond. He sent up a small prayer and promised himself that he would send men to check on them when the war was won. For now, however, his only concern was to return the weaponry and armor, along with the men who helped retrieve it, safely back home. Winning the war in the first place was not exactly an easy undertaking.

After swimming for what felt like a long time in pure darkness, they finally saw some light at the end of the tunnel. Soon, Link and the KRP party exited into a u-shaped underwater outcropping of rock just underneath the shore where Link had fought the Twilit Bulblin rider on his Twilit Karkarok when the waters of Lake Hylia were almost gone. He could see the square bottom of Falbi's "Isle of Riches" and Fyer's "Watertop Land of Fascination" just south of their position. He had never had reason to swim in this direction, so it made sense that he would not have seen this tunnel before.

As interesting as its location was, they did not stop to look at the scenery. The Zora continued on to the Kakariko Tunnel and used the boat to make a way for them to swim through the currents at the base of the waterfall. The swim to New Kakairko would be longer and darker, but they were prepared for the undertaking. Plus, Link was more than ready to see Zelda again and get their rag-tag army of villagers on its feet.

! #$%^&*()

Meanwhile Auru and the Zora soldiers were making their way through the mountain passes near Old Kakariko. Auru wrapped his tattered old cloak around him and huddled down, trying to appear like an old farmer, and therefore as inconspicuous as possible. Inside the wagon, the Zora also wore old cloaks. They tried to stay as out of sight as possible. Auru did have a sword near him, just in case, though he hoped he wouldn't need it.

They had set out earlier than Link had, knowing it might take them longer by land. Auru drove the wagon tirelessly, driving the poor mule all through the morning and into the night. Dawn was beginning to rise again and Auru was tired. Still, he would not stop without a whole party of soldiers behind them. They had been twelve going through this land before, and now they were three. Auru, though very skilled in his own way, was no Link, and if they were attacked...the old man shook his head. Dwelling on such fears would get him nowhere.

As the wagon exited the mountains and neared the Bridge of Eldin, the hairs on the back of the old man's neck stood up. He loosened his sword in its scabbard. "I have a bad feeling," he said to the Zora with him. "Make sure your weapons are ready."

The Zora readied their spears, and Auru snapped the reins. "Hyah!" he shouted, snapping the reins again. The mule picked up his hooves and started running. They were halfway across the bridge when Auru saw them: a small party of Hylian soldiers on horseback. They were armed to the teeth and dressed all in black armor with Dark Link's strange insignia inscribed everywhere, including on the banner that flew from the lead one's horse. Auru grit his teeth and cast his cloak aside. He drew his sword, wielding it with one hand and steering the mule with the other. This was no scouting party. This was a party sent to take care of a threat, by whatever means necessary.

The Zora untied the covering of the wagon and cast it aside. They crouched down, their coral spears aimed outward. The wagon raced across the bridge. The soldiers raced across the field. Auru could see the red of their eyes and the gray of their skin. His stomach turned. Suddenly it seemed like a bad idea to take the wagon back to Kakariko. They should have just left it in the Zora lands and returned for it after the war, no matter how crippling its lack might be as winter ended. Still it, was too late for regrets now.

Auru raised his sword over his head. "Prepare yourselves," he said. He thought back to Ashei and Shad wiaiting for him in New Kakriko and his heart ached. "These are no ordinary foes...and we are like as not to die together today. Let us die bravely!"

KRP and Obsidian soldiers met with a crash of swords on the other end of the bridge.

! #$%^&*()

Link's party was almost at New Kakariko. The swim had been long and tiring, but there was a nice current and it seemed to go fast. As they grew closer, Link couldn't help but notice the differences in the architecture of the tunnel as they approached. The Lake Hylia side of the ancient tunnel had been natural-looking and raggedy, but the closer the KRP soldiers got to the burial chamber, the fancier it seemed to get. The floor of the tunnel was paved with bluish-green stones and there was ancient Zoran writing and depictions all over the walls.

Soon the walls themselves seemed to be made of a gray stone and smooth out. They had come to the end of the tunnel. The boat full of armor and weapons was the first thing to exit into the sacred waters of the burial chamber of the old King Zora, Ralis's father. Link soon followed, with all of the soldiers-both Zoran and Hylian-behind him. The entrance to the tunnel on the Kakariko side was a simple but fine archway of gray stones. The bluish path soon faded to a dirt floor, and green moss hung into the water off of the walls and the edges of two small outcroppings of land.

The whole party surfaced. Link and Volc swam over to the Zoras and together they treaded water as they looked at the exit to the cavern. It was nothing but a small crawl hole in the wall.

"Well, this is a problem," said Captain Volc. "I suppose we didn't quite think of this."

"We could pass the weaponry through one at a time," said one of the Zoras.

Link frowned and shook his head. "That would take too long," he said, "and we could never fit the armor or the cannon through. We need it all." He tapped his chin for a moment, and then he grinned. "I got it! Wait for me here, I'll be back...with our solution." The hero swam toward the exit and pulled himself up onto the outcropping of land. Water dripping from his tunic, he paused and half turned. "Oh, and I think you should all stand as far back from this wall as possible."

He left them looking at each other in bewilderment as he crawled through the hole. A swarm of guays flew between the dead trees. Link ran past them, weaving through the dilapidated grave stones and running down the dirt path to the town. Shouts of "Hey! Link!" and "Look, Link s back!" followed him as he ran past Renado's house and the inn and all of the people—more than he ever remembered—who walking through the town.

The wolf-man burst into Barnes' Bomb Shop at a run. "Barnes!" he shouted as he fished around in his pouches for his wallet. "I need two powder kegs, and I need them now."

"Two?!" Barnes flipped his visor up, gaping at Link. "Whaddya need TWO for?"

Link slapped the rupees on the counter. "Just give them to me," he said.

Barnes swept up the rupees, counted them real quick, and nodded. "All right then, but don't go destroyin ' the town now. It's the only one we got."

It wasn't long before Barnes rolled out two large barrels with a skull and cross bones painted on the front and a long fuse sticking out one side. A couple Gorons stood nearby, ready to propel people to the top so they did not have to go through Barnes's shop to get to the watchtower and new rock houses up above. "Hey," Link said to them. "Can you help me carry these? We're taking them to the cemetery."

"The cemetery?!" Barnes croaked. "You can't defile the dead! HEY!" Barnes's protests fell on deaf ears. Link and Gorons were already walking away, large powder kegs in tow.

"Don't worry!" Link shouted back at him, "None of the graves will be harmed! It's okay!"

By the time that the Gorons were setting the kegs down on either side of the crawl hole, a crowd had gathered. Link could hear them murmuring, but he ignored their confusion. It would all make sense as soon as the wall was open and the soldiers could get through. He didn't have the patience to explain it.

"Thank you, brothers," Link said to the Gorons. "I got it from here. Go stand with the people down there."

"Okay brother!" they said. "Be safe!"

"Link!" said a feminine voice behind him.

Link's heart skipped a beat. He turned around, and there she was: Princess Zelda. She was weaving her way through the crowd. He let her approach, holding his flint firestarter stones in hand to spark the bombs to life. "Hey there, beautiful," he said as she got to the top of the short stairway.

"Link, what are you doing?" Zelda said, her face concerned. "This place is sacred."

Link nodded. "I know it is," he said, "but trust me. Please?"

Zelda bit her bottom lip. Finally she sighed. "Fine." She stepped back to a safe distance and motioned for him to continue.

Link nodded and set a spark on the fuses.

He ran and jumped off of the edge of the raised stone area just in front of the crawl hole. He landed a few steps from the Princess just as the kegs exploded.

BOOOOOOOOM!

KBLAAAMMM!

When the dust settled, the wall lay in a pile of rubble. Link and the Gorons cleared it away just as the Zora and KRP soldiers stepped through the new, much-wider entrance onto dry land. Captain Volc stood at the front of the party, a big grin on his face.

"Good thinking, Sir," he said to Link, clapping the other man on the shoulder. "I should have thought of that myself."

Link laughed. "Yes, you should have!" he said. "You over saw the demolition when we blew open the path to the desert with these."

Behind Link and Volc, the other soldiers were pulling the wooden boat out of the water. Link gave them a few instructions as to what to do with it, asked the Gorons to finish clearing the rubble for the other barges that were to come, and finally glanced down at the people waiting. The leaders of the KRP were standing in the front of the crowd with their mouths hanging open. Once glance at the faces of his friends and Link laughed out loud.

"Don't look so shocked!" he said, still chuckling. "If you could all meet me in the inn, I'll be there to explain everything as soon as I change into something dry and green."

!

As the gorons and soldiers got to work on the armor and rubble, overseen by Volc, Link changed into his green tunic quietly. He strapped his gilded sword and green mirror shield back on and headed to the inn. By the time he got there, everyone had seated themselves at the round table and had mugs of Chateau Ordona. There was an empty space beside Zelda with a cold glass of Chateau Ordona waiting for him, condensation running down the sides of the glass. Across from him, there were two other empty spaces: one for Volc, who had volunteered to continue to oversee the work outside, and one for Auru.

"Has the wagon not arrived yet?" he asked, furrowing his brow.

Renado shook his head. "I am afraid it has not."

"That worries me. Auru and two Zora soldiers were taking the land-route to get it back here. Auru said he wasn't going to stop, so I expected him back before us." He shrugged. "Maybe we went faster than I thought. It can be difficult to tell the passage of time in a lightless underwater tunnel."

"Speaking of," Zelda said. "Underwater tunnels? Zora soldiers? You have a lot to fill us in on, I think." She smiled and laid a hand on Link's thigh under the table. He laid his hand over hers, intertwining their fingers as he launched into the tale of their journey.

"So," Link said, coming to the end of his tale. He paused and took a deep swig of his milk to wet his throat. "We have a small amount of weapons and armor down there, and one cannon. Volc is distributing them to the people he and I discussed as we speak. However, Ralis and the Zora are gathering the rest. They will be bringing it on barges through the same tunnel system we took—hence why I had to blow it open." He took another drink, then grinned around the table when he set it down. "Not only is Ralis bringing us cannons and spears and axes and swords and shields and whole suits of armor...he's also bringing his entire army. The agreements have all been signed and the preparations have been made. The Zora Army is joining the Kakariko Resistance Party to fight for the rightful Princess of Hyrule and free our land—their land too—from the grip of the Shadow King and his poisoned black food."

"Well done old chap," Shad said, draining the rest of his Chateau Ordona.

"Indeed," said the Sheikah Matriarch, sitting to the side with Letaln. "In the span of less than a week, you have increased our forces by a third at least, perhaps more depending on how large the Zora army is. They are quite skilled, if memory serves, and some have fins as sharp as swords."

"Not only that," said Gor Coron, "but you have equipped all of our army with a variety of weapons, tough armor that will even fit a Goron if properly modified, and shields in a variety of styles. Not to mention the powerful long-range artillery, which will save us against the artillery belonging to the Crown."

"And all for free, might I add," said Forrad, his voice still weak. He looked grayer now than he had when Link left. "Never underestimate the cost of war, ladies and gentlemen."

Link was blushing a little. "Well, the Yetis didn't mind getting rid of it. It was frozen in rooms they never used and just taking up space. That, and I promised Ralis that we will pay him back for the blue tunics and Zora Flippers. Those things are expensive."

Zelda smiled. "Indeed, we will. Or at least, we will try. He may not hear of it, good fellow that he is." She stood and spread her hands to the side. "My friends, Link just returned from a long journey and he must be tired. Let us adjourn for now and reconvene when Auru joins us."

The others murmured their consent, and Zelda took Link by the elbow. She practically pulled him out of his chair and out the door.

"Hey, what's the rush?" he laughed as he stumbled after her. When he noticed they weren't going in the direction of Renado's house, he frowned. "And where are we going?"

"I have been given a house of my own, next to Barnes Bombs. It has been fixed up and furnished, and I am taking you there right now." True to her word, the house looked a lot better from the outside than it used to. He had blown up the old remains for Renado when he took Barnes's Powder Keg test and they must have built this nice looking house over the old ruins. Inside it was comfortably furnished. There was a sleeping loft upstairs, and downstairs Zelda had a comfortable seating area and kitchen. The Princess closed the door behind Link. "Go sit on the couch," she ordered in a tone that broached no argument. Smiling, the wolf man sat and leaned back in the cushions as he watched the Princess of Hyrule bustling about in the kitchen.

"Zel," he said, cracking a half smile. "What are you doing?"

Zelda didn't look back at him as she answered. "I am making you lunch," she answered. "Why else would I be in the kitchen?"

Link sighed and stood up. He crossed the room to where she stood and wrapped his arms around her waist from behind. "Why is the Princess of Hyrule doing anything in the kitchen?" he murmured, tucking his face in her neck. She shuddered a little as his lips brushed the skin of her neck. Despite herself, she closed her eyes and tilted her head to the side, leaning back into his chest. Her auburn hair fell over her shoulder as Link kissed her neck. "I thought about you every moment I was gone," he whispered.

Zelda licked her lips and turned around, feeling a little unsteady on her feet. Link wrapped his arms around her, holding her firmly to his chest. "I was afraid for you," Zelda said, tilting her head up to look into his eyes. "Dark Link is...unpredictable, and our scouts saw the Bulblin raiding parties scouting the field."

Link kissed the tip of Zelda's nose and smiled at her. "Don't worry," he said. "I kicked their butts. We were safe." He leaned forward and brushed his lips against hers. She answered by leaning into him and pressing her lips against his. They shared a fervent kiss, full of all the longing of separation.

"I love you, Zelda," Link whispered. He kissed her lips one more time.

Zelda sighed, her heart fluttering in her chest. "I love you too, Link."

Link's hands drifted from her waist and clasped her own. He pulled her backward toward the couch. "Come on, forget about lunch. Sit with me."

Zelda shook her head. "No, I want to cook for you," she said, jutting her chin out in defiance.

"Okay, if you insist," he said. She turned back to the sandwiches she was making. Link stepped forward and kissed the back of her neck one last time, waiting for the little shiver he knew would run down her spine before going back to the couch.

When she was finished, Zelda brought over two plates with sandwiches, some carrots, and some apple slices. As they ate, Link told Zelda about the hidden Zora city. He told her how the light reflected off the cave walls, and all about the restaurants, shops, and bars. "I'd love to take you there someday," he said.

"It sounds wonderful," Zelda responded, finishing off the last of her sandwich. "Perhaps someday, for our honeymoon maybe..."

Link laughed, the sound more than a little nervous. "Honeymoon? Are you asking me to marry you or something?"

"Well," Zelda said, a blush covering her cheeks. "We are already married by the paperwork drawn up in castle town. If we cannot get them abolished, then...well, it would be nice to celebrate our own wedding, even if we were not there for it."

Link set his plate down on the coffee table, then reached over and set Zelda's plate down too. He then pulled her into his arms and leaned back. Zelda snuggled into him, scooting into just the right position. She smiled and closed her eyes, enjoying the warmth of his body as it seeped into her, warding off the late-winter chill. Zelda was glad that Link was back. She had missed him while he was gone. "Of course I would go on a honeymoon with you," said the hero after a while. He waited until her eyes looked up and met his own before he continued. "And I would marry you too. I've known you since the beginning of time...and I want nothing more than to finally stand by your side, at least for one life time."

Zelda smiled and kissed him. "Well, I guess I'll have to think about asking you then. Do you think you're king material?"

Link laughed. "Well, I just convinced the Zoras that you are the real Princess and I'm the real Link, got them to join our cause, and even solidified the alliance by having papers drawn up and signing them on your behalf. That says something for my kingliness, doesn't it?"

Zelda grinned. "Hmm. I suppose I shall count diplomacy in your favor. And paperwork. And my love."

"Three points. If you add being handsome enough to make the office of 'king' look good again, that would give me four points."

"But not humility, no, I think that you should work on your kingly humility. You need five points to be king."

"Aww..."

Suddenly, they heard a crash and screaming from outside. Link and Zelda were up in a flash. Zelda grabbed a bow and quiver she had leaning on the door jam on her way outside the house. Link's sword was in his hand the moment they were out, the gold diamonds along its length glinting in the sunlight. Zelda notched an arrow.

At the northern end of the city, the gate to East Hyrule Field was open wide and the KRP guard who had been on duty was unconscious. He had one hand still holding the key ring, the key still lodged in the key hole. He had been trying to open it when Telma's mule burst through and slammed it the rest of the way open, pinning the guard in the process. The mule was still tethered to the wagon, and driving that wagon with his sword slashing fiercely at the black-skinned monsters flanking them was old Auru.

The mule was bleeding and the wagon was quite hacked up. Inside the wagon, Auru and the two Zoras didn't look much better. They were bleeding from a series of wounds. Most of the wounds were small, but one of the Zora's had a really bad gash in his shoulder. He was holding his spear with one hand, his left shoulder completely limp. On either side of the wagon were four horses, each bearing two riders: one with a sword and one with a bow, in the Bulblin fashion. They were gray skinned, red eyed, Obsidian-poisoned monsters, shadows of the Hylian Soldiers they used to be. They had minor injuries, but although it seemed like they had the advantage the wide swipes of Auru's sword the two spears seemed to be keeping them at a distance.

Zelda pulled back an arrow and shot at one Obsidian Soldier approaching on Auru's unguarded left side. She notched another one in a flash and shot again. The two men fell off their horses, arrows sticking out of their throats. Some KRP soldiers, having just received a bow from Volc, were shooting as well. The mule and wagon ran past them, bearing Auru and the Zoras to safety as the Obsidian Soldiers hung back. Suddenly, they were more focused on deflecting the KRP's arrows and defending themselves than they were on taking down the wagon.

Finally, they were down to one last man atop one last horse. He deflected every arrow shot at him with a large metal shield that he seemed to be able to wield with surprising dexterity. Link recognized the man as one of his own trainees, a very strong and promising fellow with a bright future ahead of him...at least, it had been bright at that time. Seeing that the arrows were useless, Link rushed forward. He rolled underneath the sword swipe of the Obsidian Soldier and came up to his feet underneath the war horse's legs.

Link slashed the tendons of the horse and sprang out from under it. The horse screamed, its eyes rolling back in its head as it fell to the ground. KRP soldiers rushed forward and pulled the Obsidian Soldier off of the poor beast. Link gave the horse mercy by slicing its throat before it could suffer more.

They took the Obsidian Soldier's weapons and his shield and bound him hand and foot. His mouth was watering, a black foam coming out of the corners of it as he looked around for a bit of Obsidian to eat. They were always looking for more Obsidian. Link looked from his foaming, crazy expression to the carnage on the streets of their hidden oasis of a town: three live horses, wounded but they would survive, three wounded KRP soldiers, one dead horse, and nine dead and dying Obsidian Soldiers with arrows sticking out of the exposed bits between the plates of their dark armor.

Link frowned and walked over to the bound man. The hero grabbed the man by his chin and forced him to look him in the eyes. "Hey, Tirin," He said. He searched the red eyes for any sign of recognition. "Tirin, do you remember me? I need to ask you some questions. Who sent you, Tirin? Are there more coming? What is the state of the army and its provisions?" Tirin's eyes swung back and forth, his body beginning to convulse. "Tirin! Hey, I need you to focus. There is no Obsidian here, and you're not going to get any, but we can help you. We can get the poison out of your veins. You just need to tell me how many recruits he has and what kind of artillery he has. Tirin, does he know I'm here? Has he made any announcements?"

"Link," Zelda said, standing beside him. "It is useless. We need to send him to be purged. Once he is recovered he may be able to tell us more."

Link sighed and let go of Tirin's face. "This man had a wife and children. He was a young recruit on the guard tower, but he was really good with a sword and had a good heart. He had a promising future. I knew this man, Zelda..."

On the ground, Tirin's eyes were rolling into the back of his head. He was shaking and his hands clawed in the air behind his back. "The darkness..." he croaked.

"What? What is it?" Link said, trying to lock eyes with the Obsidian Soldier. "Tirin, what are you trying to say?"

Tirin laughed, his brown hair plastered to his face by sweat. "The darkness...with blot out the light...hehehe...my Shadow King...heh he...Darkness will rise upon the morrow and the Morning Sun will rue his vain glory and the Royal Moon will cry tears of blood and the hoard will descend upon you all...all you who defy the Demon King, our Lord and God...hahahaha! You will all die for your sins! We will kill you all!"

"Take him to be purged," Zelda said. As they dragged the shrieking Tirin off to Renado's house to undergo the ritual purge, Zelda pulled aside the nearest soldier. "Go find the leaders of the KRP. We have to convene at once."

"Yes Your Highness," the man saluted and ran off.

!

They gathered about the round table once more, but this time there was no drink and no smiled. Everyone was accounted for, every seat filled, and they all waited for Zelda to speak.

"The Obsidian Soldier—Tirin," she added, looking at Link's sad expression. "Tirin was not able to answer our questions, but I was able to deduce one important fact from his crazed raving: Dark Link and his army are coming in the morning. We must go out to meet them. It is a lot sooner than we planned." She looked around the table, her expression serious. "We do not have the armor and the weapons. We do not have the artillery. We do not have the Zora. Who knows when Ralis might come? We must proceed with our original battle plan. We have prepared for this day."

They did have a plan. It was the plan they have drawn up when Link was gone, when all they thought they would have was one wagon full of weapons and armor and the people they currently had. "Volc, Ashei will instruct you on your part. You two will round up our soldiers and get them out to the field. Shad, you will get them into their battle formations. The Gorons and Barnes will be poised to cut off the path to the town once we are all outside. We have to protect the innocent people here, no matter what."

"What about the Zoras? When they come, how will they reach us?" Link asked.

Zelda frowned. "I do not know. They will have to figure that out themselves. We cannot afford to worry about the safety of the town while we are trying to win a war."

They were all quiet for a moment, thinking about all the preparations they had to do, when the door suddenly opened. "Sir," said the soldier who popped his head inside the door. "Pardon me, your Grace, but some Zora have come through with some supplies. What would you like me to do with them?"

Link stood up. "They're here? Have all of them come?" He barely dared to hope that Ralis had come so quickly.

The soldier shook his head, however. "They said that the main force of the Zora Army is a day behind, but King Ralis has sent the supplies ahead as they get them loaded. They'll be tricking in one at a time until the main host comes."

Link bit his lip. He turned and looked at the KRP council. "We can't close the path now," he said. "Ralis is sending the supplies ahead of himself. They'll be coming all through the night. We need whatever we can get. Look, I can signal for them to close the path when the fighting gets too close. Let's give Ralis a chance."

Zelda sighed, but nodded. "Okay. But when the time comes, we must close the pass."

Link nodded. "Of course. Hey, there's no use in us sitting here any long. Let's get this show going. I'll go oversee getting the barged unloaded and passed out." Before anyone could agree, Link was out the door. Zelda dismissed them and they ran to make preparations.

!

Men and women, young and old filtered out into the streets, roused by the calls of Ashei and Volc. Auru was helping as well, although he was covered in bandages. The old General would not sit down when every hand was needed on deck. Zelda and Renado helped get the people staying behind ready with supplies in case the battle went south.

Soldiers were holding their kids and kissing their wives goodbye. They were marching out to line up in the field, a rag-tag collection of farmers and travelers and merchants taking up arms in the defense of their rightful Princess and the country they lived in. Their armor was mismatched and misfitting, their weapons crude where they had not received new ones from Link, and their eyes were full of fear.

Link rode in front of them as they stood in formation in East Hyrule Field. The sun was beginning to set in the west, and it cast its red light over them like a red omen. The stillness of the moment before inevitable battle hung about them, casting its solemnity over the KRP like a morning dew. Their breath rose in the chill air, hot vapors in the oncoming of night.

Link spun Epona around to face Castle Town. At any moment, Dark Link's host would come and face off against them across that familiar field. It would be his second chance to face off against this Master of Illusion, and the first time he had failed. But Link was ready this time. He felt more whole and more ready than he ever had. The Darkness would indeed come...but this time the Light was ready to shine through the oncoming of night, and when the battle was done and the dust settled about their feet Hyrule would belong to Zelda again, and the day would be won. Link would make Volc the new General of the army, and together with Zelda and their KRP Council members they would purge the people of Hyrule and rid the world of Obsidian forever.A new golden age would dawn upon the Chosen land of Goddesses and the Triforce could be returned to its place of honor in the Sacred Realm. History will call it the Age of Light, and it will be wonderful...but first, they had to squelch the fire of the Age of Darkness. First, they had to win the war and return balance to the world.

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Author's Notes:

SHADOW KINGDOM is over! But that doesn't mean that the story is done. Far from it! We still have one book left, and the first chapter of Book 3 of the Doppelganger Trilogy, STASIS is online right now and ready to read.

But before you click on my author profile and find STASIS listed under stories, there are a few things you should be aware of. As I mentioned in previous chapter, I held a contest for the people who have "liked" the Doppelganger Trilogy facebook page. The contest is over and the winners received a digital copy of Book One: The Hero of Wolves.

The thing about this digital copy, besides a facelift and some corrected grammar/spelling, is that there were whole sections of the story that were rewritten! Most of these were minor, to make the story flow better into later events and make the quality of the writing more consistent. The minor changes won't impact those of you who have read the original version. Others, however, though written for the same purpose, were more major. These major changes may cause disorientation when reading the new chapters.

I will be reuploading the rewritten chapters online, but that will take a while, so let me brief you on a couple of the major items that may disorient you when reading the first chapter of STASIS:

Primarily, the sections with Zelda and Ikal in the Shadow Temple had a major makeover. There were things in Zelda and Ikal's relationship happening below the surface that I wasn't ready to write at the time. They needed to come out to lead properly into Shadow Kingdom and STASIS. Additionally, Ikal's physical description has been updated due to inspiration from Hyrule Warriors. The tattoos on her face are now red instead of silver and look slightly different.

So, if you see things described differently or don't remember certain scenes alluded to in STASIS don't wonder if you're crazy! You haven't been reading it wrong this whole time, it actually is new.

So, that said, please let me know if you have any comments on this last chapter of Shadow Kingdom by reviewing, and then head over to my author profile and click on STASIS to read the first chapter of the FINAL VOLUME OF THE DOPPELGANGER TRILOGY.

~The Wolfess

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