Flame and Fortitude
By Queenie Z

Ghirahim always thought he was one to never make the same mistake twice. Back at the Skyview Temple when he first fought the soft youth in the odd green clothes, he failed to take into account the strength of the blade he wielded when forming his battle plan, and as a result, he had taken more of a beating than he had ever expected to take and had let the boy run free. He would later regret not simply murdering him on the spot, however, as the little maggot became ultimately responsible for the Spirit Maiden's disappearance. His irritation and embarrassment only further fueled his mad bloodthirst, and he swore to not only kill the boy the next time they met, but also to make it as excruciating and torturous as possible.

Now, here at the Fire Sanctuary, the Demon lord finally had that chance. He would take advantage of a bit more of his power - if only to counteract the holy energy of that damned Goddess Sword - and he would not allow the persistent bug to meddle in his affairs any longer. He would make up for his earlier humiliation, satiate his hunger for the boy's blood, and then be off on his merry way to find the second Gate of Time. It was supposed to be a simple affair, really. After all... he was but a human. Without that fancy blade of his, he surely would have cowered in fear like the humans he had helped his master slay thousands of years ago.

Yet the fight was not going according to plan. He had expected the naive little knight to unaccustomed to a dual-wielding opponent; and for a short while, he was. But he learned quickly, noting the openings in his guard and almost immediately gaining the upper hand. Ghirahim gritted his teeth, crying out at that foul weapon sliced into his side. Had both the boy and his blade gotten stronger? Angered, he bounded away from his opponent and pointed one of his black rapiers at him.

"Tenacious," he spat out, "aren't we, Link?"

Link said nothing, instead bracing himself, expecting the demon to come charging at him once again.

"You're a cockroach," Ghirahim cried out, flicking his wrist at Link for emphasis, "that's what you are! You're made out of the same weak flesh as the rest of your kind. I should easily be able to squash you under my foot." He swiped his swords dramatically in the air. "Yet you're still alive, scurrying around my domain, crawling through my armies, and refusing to die!"

The young hero scowled, but kept his guard up. "I'm not a bug."

"But that's exactly what you are!" Ghirahim teleported; first to the entrance of the chamber, then the exit, then onto the ceiling, where he stamped his feet petulantly. "A bug, and insect I should be able to swat away!" He teleported a final time back to his original position. "But you just won't let me. And that irritates me!"

"Why would I let you? I have a job to do."

"You have a job to do!" The demon shouted back mockingly. "Oh, how noble! Tell me, when you defeated my minions, did Her Grace give you a bone and a pat on the head!" He grinned, his dark eyes shimmering with both malice and amusement. Humans valued their independence, he had learned eons ago - they hated servitude. Perhaps he could somehow tap into that and throw the pest off guard. "You're no less a pawn of the Goddess than that swine Impa. You wait on her hand and foot, you go through all these dreadful tasks and trials... tell me, Link, why do you bother? Do you fear her wrath, or are you just a masochist who - " he licked his lips and continued, " - enjoys being walked all over? Hmm?"

Ghirahim had expected a growl and a burst of anger from the knight; a perfect opportunity to topple his guard and reclaim his advantage. But the reaction he waited for never came. Instead, Link smiled with pride.

"You say that like I'm doing this just for the Goddess."

Shocked, Ghirahim grimaced again. Had he not been sent by Hylia? Was the sword he carried not proof of that? If the Goddess was not his primary reason for coming all this way, then what could possibly -

- That was when he remembered something. An old tale, passed around by the armies his master had commanded ages beforehand and still told among the monsters that lingered in the present. A tale of a force completely foreign to demon kind - a force that was the antithesis of their own dark power - a force that the children of Hylia and the Old Ones cherished over all others. Humans worshipped it as they did their own goddess, writing stories and songs and poems and plays about it, all of which claimed it to be the reason they lived, the reason they died, and the reason heroes and heroines could do the unthinkable. The demonic tongue had no word for it, but the people of the surface and the sky called it "love".

He remembered the dark looks the tenacious boy had given him whenever he mentioned the Spirit Maiden. He remembered the way he had leaped in front of his blade to allow her and her guardian to escape at the Temple of Time. He even remembered the longing look he had given her as she sent - something to him over the chasm. Yes, it all made perfect sense now - the little hero had fallen wholly and madly in love with the girl! Armed with this brilliant realization, Ghirahim cackled gleefully.

"So... you're doing this for the girl, then. Is that correct?"

Link narrowed his eyes. "Zelda," he corrected, "and so what if I am? She's my friend. I'm going to bring her back home where she belongs."

"Your friend," he cackled - almost giggled - maniacally. "Yes! Yes! Your friend, that's all she is to you!" He teleported once again out of view, waiting for Link to begin looking frantically around for his foe. Then, he reappeared behind him, aiming a sharp kick to his right arm, causing Link to cry out and drop the holy blade that had given him such a hard time. He then quickly crossed his blades over the hero's head and in front of his neck, their sharp edges just millimeters away from his skin. "Somehow I doubt that, Link."

The boy held his breath, eyeing the sword on the ground but not daring to make a move.

"Now I'm going to make a bit of conjecture, and you're going to tell me whether or not I'm right." Ghirahim chuckled. "You're hopelessly in love with the girl, the one you call Zelda. You think she's gorgeous, perfect in every way, and you would do anything for her. So, like the brave and noble knight you are, you decided to come looking for her. And once you've found her, you'll scoop her up into your arms, kiss her tenderly, then take her home, where the two of you will live happily ever after while the sound of bells fills the air and bunnies prance about and everything is just sunshine and rainbows!" He laughed some more, then made a small, dismissive hmph. "...I've read enough of your kind's trashy literature to know this kind of thing when I see it."

Link could feel a slight flush coming to his cheeks, but he knew what Ghirahim was trying to do. He wanted to embarrass him, and by doing so leave him unfocused and vulnerable. So instead of falling into his trap, he stared straight ahead and answered sternly.

"You're right. I love her."

Ghirahim brought his blades slightly closer to his neck. "So I was right! Now, tell me this: how does it feel to know that you'll die here, alone, all while allowing your one true love to suffer! Tell me, boy!"

Instead of another answer, however, he received the sharp edge of Link's shield. As the demon gloated, his opponent had gouged the shield into his unguarded side, causing him to fumble backwards and leave Link with only a small scratch on the side of his neck. The hero wasted no time in reclaiming his weapon, giving it a small twirl.

"Just because you figured that out," he said, catching his breath, "doesn't mean you'll ever understand. You want to know how I feel; what I think about all this?" He approached the recovering Ghirahim, ready to lock swords with him once again. "I think, if it's to save Zelda, if it's to see her again, that I can go through anything!"

He knew the boy was right. He couldn't understand - it wasn't in his nature to understand this thing called "love". But he had no need to understand it - all he needed was for this stubborn, tenacious cockroach to die already!

"We'll see about that!" Ghirahim let out a war cry and charged, continuing the fight from where they had left off. But Link was more than prepared. Rekindling the fire that burned in his heart, he charged back.