Lights in the Darkness

A Three Wanderers adventure

Part One

Link Fenris, Hero of Lightning, huddled miserably against the trunk of a tree, soaked to the bone despite his cloak and the overhanging foliage above him. Water poured down in sheets from the heavy black clouds hanging ominously above the jungle canopy, flowing around and down the thick, vine-covered trees to drench the ground below.

Next to him, the wizard Majacen sat shrouded in his own gray cloak, face hidden beneath his hood, but the wizard's long, gray-streaked black beard twitched against his chest as he frowned out at the storm. He shifted, and the scabbard of his sword poked Link in the side for a moment before Majacen adjusted it.

In contrast to the two miserable men, the enormous Goron Dar stood out in the open, watching the rain fall in wonderment. Rain was infrequent in the Gorons' volcanic lands, and besides, his tough, rocky skin was unaffected by the storm. Dar watched the water flowing down his enormous hand, an amused smile playing across his features.

Link leaned over until his hood was brushing Majacen's and shouted to the wizard over the rain, "Are you sure you can't do anything about this?"

Majacen chuckled amusedly. "My dear boy, while I am perfectly capable of bending the weather to my will, it would hardly be an appropriate use of my power to simply spare us from getting wet. Be patient, Link; the storm will let up for a short time in a few minutes. There is a cave some distance from here in which we can seek shelter for the rest of the night."

Link frowned under his hood and shifted against the tree, pulling his cloak tighter around himself. He, Majacen, and Dar had been wandering around the Far South for two years now, exploring ancient temples and gathering items of power for safekeeping until a future Hero had need of them. During those two years journeying through the rain forest that covered most of the southern half of Hyrule's continent, Link had become resigned to getting rained on without warning.

But that didn't mean he had to like it.

As Link looked around at the jungle, bored, a momentary whiff of something unpleasant drifted across their shelter, and he wrinkled his nose in distaste. Coughing once, he raised a gloved hand to his face and placed it under his nose until the stench faded.

He scratched at the bristly stubble on his chin as he looked for the source of the smell. Link thought he saw a momentary flash of blue light off in the distance, but dismissed it as lightning when he heard the rumble of thunder a moment later.

Off in the distance, the young warrior heard an animal shriek in panic, surprisingly loud considering the distance and the rain, but it was abruptly cut off by the deep-throated roar of a predator. Then, silence fell across the jungle again, fading into scattered sprinkles of rain.

As the rain trickled off, Majacen got to his feet. "Come, young Link," he said, flashing the Hero an amused smile beneath his hood. "If we move quickly, we can reach the cave before the rain resumes."

Link shook his cloak, snapping off a sizable quantity of water. "I'm all for that," he said. "Let's go."

The Three Wanderers hurried through the jungle, dodging around trees and other foliage. Once, in shoving aside a large fern, Dar inadvertently allowed it to snap back and hit the Hero of Lightning in the face, sending more water trickling down his neck to further soak his shirt and sleeveless green tunic.

Link swiped a gloved hand across his face, glaring at the Goron's broad back. "Thanks for that," he said sarcastically.

Dar's deep voice boomed out in a chuckle. "Sorry, Little Brother. I see the cave, though. Come on; only a few steps more."

Link's annoyance vanished into his own amused chuckle; there were times when he wondered if the amiable Goron was just naturally clumsy, or if he was merely the victim of Dar's odd sense of humor. It was difficult to tell.

He picked up his pace, ignoring the thick mud sucking at his boots, and hurried for the cave, one hand on the sword at his side and the other clutching his cloak closed as thunder boomed above them. The downpour started up again moments before he was able to duck into the cave opening, and a few drops spattered off his hood before Link moved inside and leaned against the dry stone wall.

Link lowered his hood and pulled off one of his gloves, then ran his fingers through his wet shoulder-length blond hair. He squeezed out as much water as he could, then left it loose around his face to dry. He pulled off his other glove, then unbuttoned his cloak and turned to shake the water out of the cave mouth. He located a handy protuberance of stone on the cave wall and hung up his cloak, spreading out the material. Water trickled from its hem to the dirt-covered stone floor in slow imitation of the rain.

"Would it be too much of an abuse of power to pull some wood in here and dry it out so we can have a fire?" he asked Majacen teasingly.

"I think the circumstances allow it," the wizard replied, a twinkle in his dark green eyes. As Majacen extended a hand towards the cave mouth and moved his fingers in an arcane gesture, Link noted with renewed amusement that the wizard was somehow completely dry already, as if he had never even gotten wet.

With a slithering hiss, several sizable fallen branches slid over the wet foliage outside and into the cave, seemingly of their own accord. After a moment of hissing and popping, the branches stacked themselves along one wall of the cave, perfectly dry.

Link moved to pull his small axe from his belt, but Dar stomped over to the pile of branches and casually began snapping them into firewood-sized pieces with his bare hands. Link smirked to himself; there were times having a Goron around definitely came in handy.

As Dar began arranging several pieces in preparation for building the fire, Link reached into the magic 'pocket' in which he kept his equipment and brought out the Staff of Lightning. After a moment of concentration, small arcs of electricity flared into a twisting, interlacing halo around the gold-colored ball at the head of the staff, illuminating their cave with a strong white light.

The cave was roughly circular in shape, perhaps thirty feet around, and littered with assorted jungle detritus. A thick layer of dirt covered the floor of the cave; when he glanced down, Link noticed several large, oddly shaped footprints accompanied by scattered dark stains in the dirt.

The young warrior knelt and gathered up a bit of the stained dirt, raised it to his face, and frowned as he recognized the scent of blood. Clearly, a predator had made its home here, so they would have to be careful in case it braved the fire and attempted to confront the intruders.

Link frowned again; the footprints and the blood were relatively fresh, but where were the bones and carcasses of the prey? He saw nothing like that here. His gaze followed the predator's tracks across the dirt floor, where they appeared to vanish into the wall.

Curious, Link walked over to the wall, one hand on his sword. He extended the glowing head of the Staff of Lightning over to where the tracks disappeared, and discovered that what he had thought to be merely a cleft in the wall was in fact the opening of a passage, set at an angle to the main chamber. Due to the configuration of the moss-covered rock wall, it was nearly invisible except when standing right next to it.

The young warrior moved closer to the passage, but immediately stepped back again, stifling a gag; from the mouth of the dark tunnel in the rock he caught the same rotten, putrid smell he had detected outside.

He turned at footsteps behind him to see Majacen approaching. "What is it, Link?" the wizard asked concernedly.

"It smells like... death," Link replied. "I think something's in here."

Majacen glanced down at the oddly shaped footprints, and he did something Link had never seen him do before; the wizard noticeably paled beneath his long black hair and beard. Actual fear glimmered in his eyes.

He grabbed Link's sleeve and began pulling him back toward the mouth of the cave. "We must go," the wizard said. "Now."

"What is it?" Link asked, peering over his shoulder at the tracks again.

"A monster of ancient times, not of this world," Majacen said, still pulling him along. "I thought they had all been destroyed during the Ancient War, or sent back to the world from which the Dark God summoned them. It is too much for even we three; we must leave here immediately."

"Whoa, slow down," Link said, tugging his sleeve free from the wizard's grip. "What kind of monster could possibly stand against the three of us? We've never yet met anything we couldn't handle."

Majacen fixed him with an impatient, angry look. "This creature is called a Moorwen, and it is the supreme predator of its world. It is large, it is fast, and it is deadly. Ordinary swords break on its skin, and its tail is capable of cutting you in half in an instant. Nothing short of divine weapons can hurt this creature, and we have none of those aside from your staff. Even that may not be able to defeat it. Believe me when I say this foe is beyond us."

Link needed no more convincing. "Dar, we're going," he called to the huge Goron. When Dar did not respond, he moved closer. "Hey, are you listening? We have to get out of here."

Dar stood at the mouth of the cave, head cocked to the side as he listened to something only he could hear. "Something is coming, Little Brother," he said. He turned to look at Link. "Something big."

Link peered out into the rain-soaked darkness, but he could see nothing. He turned to his other senses, and while he heard nothing but the rain, his nose picked up the rancid smell, and his skin began to crawl.

The young warrior stepped back and grabbed a flaming log from the fire, then hurled it out into the storm. The log tumbled end over end, tracing a glowing path through the rain until it came to a sudden stop on the ground.

Link took a reflexive step back as the flames illuminated an enormous reptilian shape. Eyes glowed in the orange light above a mouth full of teeth before the creature reached out and stomped on the log with one huge foot, plunging it back into darkness.

A flash of eerie red light flared out of the storm, and quickly spread into a network of glowing lines spread across the dragon-like creature's entire sleek, muscular body. Only when the streaks of crimson light began to move did Link realize the Moorwen was charging, and he drew his sword and hurled himself to the side when he realized the creature's speed.

With a snarl, the Moorwen leaped at Dar, and the huge Goron delivered an earth-shattering punch to its snout, knocking it back a step. Surprising Link, the Moorwen recovered quickly, and dodged the Goron's next punch, its streaks of bioluminescence flaring into blinding brightness for a moment. It lowered its head and tackled Dar, actually managing to knock the gigantic rock-man off his feet and into the wall with enough force that he left cracks in the stone before he slumped to the cave floor.

Moving faster than Link could react, the multiple tendrils of the creature's whip-like tail surged forward and wrapped around Majacen. In a blur of scarlet light, the Moorwen vanished into the passage, taking the wizard with it.

"Majacen!" Link shouted in alarm. He turned to his companion. "Dar, are you all right?"

"Give me... a moment, Little Brother," the Goron wheezed, slowly sitting up. "That creature is stronger than I expected."

"Can you move? We have to go after him!" Link said urgently, gesturing off into the passage with his sword.

Obviously still winded, Dar hauled himself to his feet, one massive hand on the wall to brace himself. "I am ready, Little Brother," he said. "Let us go!"

Sword in one hand and the Staff of Lightning in the other, Link charged into the passage, holding the Staff like a torch to light their way. He raced through the cramped stone tunnel, hearing the scrape of Dar's massive shoulders against the walls as the Goron followed.

Link heard a sudden, surprised grunt, and Dar's heavy footsteps stopped. He turned to look back, and saw the Goron paused in the middle of the tunnel, a puzzled frown on his broad face. "Something just moved past me, Little Brother," he said. "It came running between us, faster than I could see."

The young warrior held the Staff between them, sapphire eyes roving over the tunnel walls in the stark white light. "I didn't hear anything," he said. His eyes narrowed as he caught a faint whiff of the Moorwen's now-familiar stench, and he took a step back down the tunnel. "Look for a hidden side passage."

"I found one," Dar announced a moment later, thrusting his huge arm seemingly straight into the wall. He frowned. "This is far too small for that creature; unless it can somehow compress itself, there must be another of those beasts in here, a smaller one."

"As if one of them wasn't bad enough..." Link said grimly. "Be careful; if there's more of them in here, they may be setting up an ambush."

"Do you think they are that smart, Little Brother?" Dar said in surprise.

"It didn't seem like your average stupid animal," Link replied. "Not only did it sneak up on us, did you notice how it went right for you, the strongest member of our group, and then took Majacen, the one who knows the most about it? I don't think this is an ordinary monster."

"Perhaps Majacen was right," said Dar. "This beast might be too much for us."

"We're not leaving him behind," Link snapped vehemently.

Dar reached out to place a huge hand on his shoulder. "I didn't say that, Little Brother. But we do need to be cautious. Brute force alone will not defeat this beast; we must be cunning as well."

Link took a deep breath and slowly let it out, injecting a measure of rational calm into his frantic mood. "You're right," he said. "Now come on; quickly but quietly. You watch the rear."

Dar turned around and walked backward as they continued down the tunnel, in his element among the stone walls. "These are old lava tubes, Little Brother," he whispered. I think we are beneath a dormant volcano."

"I agree," Link said ahead of him.

Dar turned in surprise. "How do you know? Have you learned more about stone, Little Brother?"

"No," Link said. He pointed down the tunnel at a faint orange glow reflected in the curve of the glossy stone wall. "But I know lava when I see it. Don't you feel it getting hotter in here?"

Dar peered at the orange smudge of light. "I am not as sensitive to heat as you, Little Brother. But now I smell it; there is definitely molten rock nearby."

The two of them cautiously advanced to the bend in the tunnel, and discovered it opened out into a vast fiery cavern, lit by streams of magma that flowed through deep crevices in the floor. Link opened the collar of his shirt and loosened it, then drew a leather thong out of his pocket and tied back his hair. He felt his palms sweating, not entirely from the heat, and he shifted his grip on the leather-wrapped hilt of his sword, eyes flicking around the sulfurous, orange-lit cavern.

Dar placed a hand on the rock wall next to them. "I feel many passages leading from this cavern," he said. "Many of them are filled with lava and lead deep into the ground, but some contain only empty air. The monster's lair could be in any of them."

Link stared into the hellish cavern, searching the shadows for hints of the monster's light. Its body glowed with red streaks, he knew, but atop the whip-like tendrils of its tail, he remembered, glowed points of blue. Those would stand out even here amidst the lava, and he would keep an eye out for them. But, he reminded himself, the Moorwen did not always glow, as its sudden appearance from the jungle proved.

With a sudden, high-pitched shriek, something leaped out of the shadows above them, flaring into bright lines of red and blue as it spread its claws, long tail surging forward even as it jumped.

Link rolled aside, coming dangerously close to a crevice containing a lava flow, and dropped to one knee, slashing out with his sword in the same movement. He caught the leaping creature across the face with his strike, and it stumbled as it landed, snarling.

As the creature turned, Link realized it was not the Moorwen which had attacked them earlier, but a smaller version of the monster, perhaps a juvenile. A glowing, bright green stream dripped down its snout, which Link realized was its blood. He noticed a large notch in the blade of his sword, though, and further noticed that the juvenile Moorwen's wound appeared to be a small one, incongruous with how hard he had hit it.

Moving faster than Link had ever seen him, Dar reached out with one giant hand and grabbed the small Moorwen's tail with one hand, then violently yanked it off its feet and bashed it into the wall. The juvenile Moorwen twisted out of his grip, then stumbled a few steps away, shaking its head.

With an oddly pitched snarl, it leaped at Dar, its tail thrashing out at his head. Dar caught the whip-like tail in one huge hand and squeezed so hard the Moorwen shrieked in pain, then yanked it off its feet, turned in a quick semicircle to build momentum, and slammed it headfirst into the wall again.

As Dar fought the creature, Link quickly pulled his shield out of his 'pocket' and pushed his forearm through its straps. When the Hylian shield, Triforce emblem and green phoenix emblazoned on the front, was secured on his arm, Link picked up the Staff of Lightning from where he had set it aside and gripped it tightly, his sword at the ready in his other hand.

When the juvenile Moorwen squirmed out of Dar's grip again, Link surged forward and brought his sword down hard at the place where its neck met its shoulder. He felt the tough skin give beneath the blade, but the small Moorwen twisted its head, seized the sword between its teeth, and roughly yanked it from Link's hand, leaping away.

The juvenile Moorwen tossed its head sharply and hurled Link's sword away, where it clattered along the stone floor of the cavern to come to rest balanced over a deep magma crevice. With a high-pitched snarl that echoed from the cavern's walls, the small Moorwen leaped down from its perch at Link.

The Hero raised his shield to meet its charge, but Dar met it with a tremendous fist on the way, and knocked the juvenile Moorwen into the wall. It bounced off and slipped into a lava stream, from which it immediately sprang, shrieking in pain from the burns on its legs and tail. Whimpering, it fled into one of the tunnels leading from the fiery cavern, its shrieks continuing to echo from the stone walls.

Dar moved to retrieve Link's sword, and cast an appraising eye over it as he returned to the Hero's side. "I wouldn't fight the mother with this," the huge Goron said to him. "Look at these cracks; it nearly broke when you hit the young one." He extended the damaged weapon to his friend. "I can repair it later, but for now, why don't you use the sword I made for you? I forged it from a vein of extremely rare metal I found deep in the earth when I was a young Goron; perhaps it can pierce the monster's hide."

Link nodded as he accepted the nearly broken weapon. He sheathed it, then shifted the scabbard into his 'pocket' and brought out the Goron greatsword Dar had forged for him after his battle with the Sorcerer atop Death Mountain.

The young warrior was tall enough that he could wear the five-foot-long weapon on his hip, but he shifted it to his back instead, wanting to keep the long scabbard from getting tangled in his legs if he had to do a lot of quick maneuvering.

With a strong metallic ring, Link slid the greatsword from its scabbard and held the superbly balanced weapon in one hand, keeping his shield and the Staff of Lightning in the other. He looked over at his companion and met his eyes determinedly. "Ready?"

Dar pounded one huge fist into his other hand, creating a thunderous echo in the cavern. "Ready, Little Brother."

Link started for the tunnel into which the juvenile Moorwen had fled, noting the line of scattered bright green blood. "We'll follow this straight to it," he said.

The Hero and the Goron warily set off down the sharply sloping tunnel in search of their friend.

A pair of angry eyes watched them from a recess higher up in the cavern, and red streaks of luminance briefly flared in the dim orange light before fading into the shadows.

Author's Note: Much as I would like it to be, the Moorwen is unfortunately not the product of my imagination; it was dreamed up(or is that 'nightmared'?) by the makers of the woefully under-appreciated film 'Outlander', directed by Howard McCain. It's the best 'Vikings vs. Kickass Monsters' movie you've never heard of. ;)

I recently decided to pit the heroes of my current running fic, 'The Secret War', against the Moorwen, so while I'm working on the outline, finding a good place to introduce the Moorwen(and maybe a few other movie monsters such as the Alien), I decided to give it a 'trial run' with the protagonists of my other story 'The Hero of Lightning', which takes place 300 years earlier. I'm finishing up the second half of this right now, so it'll be up soon.

And yes, I actually am working on new chapters of 'The Secret War'; after the Great Water Heater Disaster a few weeks ago, most of my free time has gone to remodeling my room and working on my video production class. Things have reached a point where I finally have writing time again, so I'll be resuming regular updates shortly. If you're getting impatient, I'm on Twitter now(link in my profile), and I also update my DeviantArt blog pretty regularly. Drop by and say hi! (Hey, that rhymed!)