Beyond Grey

By Jacen Shaw

>    Legal Disclaimer: Since all the fanfics that I've read have all started out by saying that Link, Zelda, Gannondorf, Hyrule, and anything that Nintendo has created, are all Nintendo's sole property, I guess I'd better do that as well.  I don't know about legalities or copyright infringement or any of that technical stuff.  With all that cleared up, I thank you and hope you enjoy the story.

 

    Link was awakened by the sounds of screaming cries of battle, cries of terror...cries of agony.  He quickly woke his wife, Zelda, and proceeded to grab his sword and shield before making his way to the window.  The scene was horrific.  The bodies of the dead and wounded lay scattered about the castle courtyard.  Armored soldiers, some still grasping their swords and moaning, others lying still, were thrown about like rag dolls; their once shinning armor now blackened from energy burns.  Small fires filled the area, choking the courtyard with billowing black smoke.  Link rushed down the stairs and through a door in the hall outside.
    The sky was dark black and filled with clouds, not the kind seen before an impending storm, but an overcast of evil; an atmosphere of turbulent, agitated motion.  Jagged bolts of lightning carved out the stratosphere, illuminating the dark outlines of clouds for instants at a time.  Never had Link seen such a display of power, not by Gannondorf1, not by anyone.  No, this was something different, something dark, black.
    A particularly deafening stroke of thunder shook the ground, this time accompanied by a fierce wind that began churning through the courtyard, making the smoke dance and twirl as if it were a living entity.  The whirling smoke clouded Link's already limited line of vision.
    The blow came from behind, silently and without any warning.  Link was thrown across the courtyard to the opposite wall.  Bones snapped as he impacted with crushing force and fell to the ground.  Breathing was agony. Still, Link gathered enough strength to turn himself to look up at the unseen attacker.  The being walked from the shadows and approached him.  Link squinted through his pain but the attacker's face was shrouded in darkness.
    "Who are you?" Link gasped, choking over the words through the smoke.  I have to stall, he thought. Zelda will be here soon with the Triforce2 -the completed and whole Triforce.  The man just laughed.
    "Zelda should be here soon," the dark man announced, "with your precious Triforce no less." It was a statement.  The man knew.  No matter, thought Link. No one can withstand the wrath of the Triforce when its power is brought to bear.  Knowledge of what will soon happen will not save you from your fate.  At that moment, Zelda opened fire with the Triforce's immense power, discharging salvos of pure energy from the sacred relic across the courtyard into the man.
    Though in great pain, Link still had the strength to smile at the man's demise.  Soon the energy blasts ceased.  Link turned his head and looked up...to see the dark man still standing, somehow having withstood the Triforce's attack.  With a gesture of his hand, the Triforce exploded.  The dark man ripped the remaining Triforce pieces from Zelda's grasp, simultaneously sending a counterattack energy bolt at her.  The bolt tore through her defenses and tossed her to the other side of the courtyard.  That can't be, Link thought.  It was impossible.  Nothing could survive a direct attack by the Triforce.
    "Your efforts are useless," the man said and with that, he disappeared in a vortex of swirling black light.  The last thing Link was aware of, as he drifted from consciousness, was the sound of maniacal laughter echoing through the courtyard...
    Link awoke with a start, cold sweat clinging to his body, heart pounding.  Quickly, he looked out the window.  The moon was a waning crescent floating in a sea of stars.  Sounds of the night sung a soothing, hypnotic rhythm.  The sky was crystal clear and a cool breeze caressed trees outside the window, making them sway gently.
    Link exhaled his breath in a huge whoosh.  The dream was coming more frequently and more vividly each time.  Maybe it was trying to tell him something.  A prophecy of what was soon to come perhaps; a vision of the future.  Link couldn't tell what it was trying to say but he did know that acquiring the full Triforce was beyond their capabilities at the moment.  He thought of asking Zelda, but quickly dismissed the idea. He looked over at her, her pale skin illuminated in the moonlight, giving her a heavenly look.  No, he thought, I don't want to worry her anymore than necessary.  And with that, he rolled over and tried to go back to sleep.
 

    Hyrule Castle Dining Area
    The warm morning sunlight brightly lit Link and Zelda's private dining chamber.  Like all the rooms and halls in the castle, the chamber was lit by an ingenious system of windows and mirrors.  The system, devised by the castle architects, filled the rooms and halls with light by reflecting the sun's rays.  At night, a single candle lit by a set of mirrors could fool people into thinking it was mid-afternoon.
    Just lower than the windows, delicate handmade tapestries hung from the protective stone walls.  Each one personally crafted by Zelda, they were rich in color and vibrant in design, conveying a feeling of peace and contentment.  Yet, not the happiness of the tapestries, neither the aroma of the freshly cut flowers on the table, nor the sound of birds through the window could lift the mood that permeated the room.  It was left to Link to take the initiative to cheer the tainted atmosphere, something he doubted he could do.
    "Come on Zelda," Link pressed. "Gannondorf is not going to attack for a while.  After our raid at his headquarters, he'll be spending his time recovering and recouping his losses.  You know as well as I that it takes a tremendous amount of effort to recover after an attack, even with the Triforce of power."
    "I know, but he's getting stronger.  He had a lot better defensive system than I thought," came her answer, quiet and depressed, as it had been of late.
    "Hey, Zelda, it was better than any of us thought." Then he added, "It's not your fault that Sean died there."
    "Technically, it is," she said, poking her fried morrak around on her plate with her fork.  Link noticed that she had hardly eaten anything. "I ordered the attack based on my judgment. That makes it my fault." She looked up from her food and gazed at him. "I felt so confident that we would win, like something was telling me that we would." She sighed and looked back down at her food. "My instincts failed me.  I guess I didn't leave room in my mind that it was possible that we could fail...would fail." She lifted her head back to Link. "How am I going to run a whole nation someday if I can't even trust my own judgment?"
    "Come on Zelda." Link said, attempting to comfort her, "This isn't the only time Gannondorf has lead us into a trap, you know that."
    "But I knew we would succeed," she contested. "It was like the gods were whispering to me." She sank back into her chair again. "They were wrong...I was wrong.  Deathly wrong..." Link sensed what she was getting at.
    "Zelda, Sean's not your fault.  When you go into battle, you can't pick who will die and who won't. It's all chance. War isn't like that. If it was..."
    "But I don't want to chance things anymore!" Zelda interrupted him. "When is it going to end?  Is it ever?  You know, it seems like..." She didn't finish the thought.  Link was about to say something when she started again. "For all we know our children might have to defend Hyrule from Gannondorf or who knows what!" Zelda continued, "On how many occasions have we thought that we've defeated Gannondorf for good?  He might as well be an invincible god he's escaped death so many times...at least, death that is true."
    "Well...," Link started.
    "It's been too long since Hyrule has experienced true peace," she interrupted, once again not allowing him to speak. "I've heard rumors that the citizens of Hyrule are beginning to doubt us.  Frankly, I think I'm starting to believe they're right.  Our failure to get rid of Gannondorf is only justifying their argument."
    "Now Zelda, don't talk like that." Link said, putting down his fork. "I promise that I will make this place safe when we have a child."
    "What do you mean by safe?" Zelda asked. "What will we do, lock her up in a magically protected tower with a ring of guards around her at all times?"
    "Whoa, Zelda!  Back up!  Are you suggesting that I would let any harm to come to my own son?" Link asked in a mock hurt voice trying to lighten the mood.  Zelda looked down and smiled.
    "You mean daughter," she corrected, deadpan.  Link smiled back at her, but on the inside, sighed.  Lately, Zelda was acting more and more depressed.  He first dismissed it as being mood swings but it droned on and on.  This was one of the few topics that still brought a smile to Zelda's face.
    Link and Zelda had just opened the discussion about starting a family of their own.  Since the beginning, Zelda had planned on having a baby girl.
    "But how am I going to teach a girl to fight and use a sword?" Link complained. Suddenly, Zelda perked up.
    "What's that supposed to mean?" she asked.
    "Ah, nothing," Link meekly answered, looking back to his food.  Long ago, Link had learned that women could be just as competent in a battle as men could.  Living with Zelda had proved that.  This was ground that would best have been avoided.
    "No, I want an answer," said Zelda, her voice taking on a challenging tone. "Are you saying that women are useless when danger strikes?  That we're all helpless maidens who need to be saved all the time?  Is that what you were implying?  Huh?  Is it?"
    Before Link could speak in his defense, a brilliant flash of light ripped through the room.  Link instinctively threw himself across the table toward Zelda and landed on the ground, tipping the table's long wooden frame as he went to use it as a shield.  Glasses and forks and china crashed to the ground.  Ignoring the broken glass all over the floor, Link peeked over the sideways table in fascination as he saw the silhouettes of two figures battling in a vortex of light.
    The vortex acted like a window, a window to another location that they could look into.  Link wondered if the two figures could also see Zelda and him. Squinting, Link tried to make out who they were, but the glare from a bright light behind them only allowed him to see their outlines.
    The combatants were definitely talented though.  Link watched and studied their movements, cringing when one of them made a critical error.  With a skillful backpedal parry combination, the first figure gained an advantage.  Using it, the figure quickly sidestepped an overextended attack by the second figure, simultaneously pivoting bringing its left foot to bear.  The second figure attempted to box step out of range but it was too late.  The first figure's foot caught the second under the chin, lifting the flailing silhouette to the air.  Link realized what was going to happen a split second after Zelda.  Both of them jumped from their place behind the table and dove out of the way. The second figure flew through the portal and landed back first onto the table, reducing it to splinters.  Link recognized the bloodied face instantly.  It was Gannondorf.
    Gannondorf heaved himself from the floor with what looked like enormous effort.  Gasping for breath, he dragged a blue portal disc3 from his cloak.  Link knew what Gannondorf was attempting to do.  If he could close the portal, it would interrupt the other being's approach.  The fringes of the vortex began to break down, the edges collapsing and dissipating.  The still unknown figure, realizing that any effort to reach the opening before it closed would be futile, yelled, "You will die, Gannondorf!  Your efforts are useless!  You may have escaped me, but now your enemies surround you!  Your fate is sealed!" With that, he disappeared as the vortex of swirling light collapsed and dissipated.
    Link and Zelda starred in horror and wonder as Gannondorf, the most powerful dark sorcerer in the all of Hyrule, the world, toppled and fell to floor.
 

    Hyrule Castle Medical Wing
    After about an hour of aimless wandering about the castle, Link found himself to be standing outside the door to Gannondorf's medical room.  It had been three days since Gannondorf's battle.  Three days since the mysterious figure had appeared along with Gannondorf in the vortex of light.  Link picked up the medical chart that hung on the door.  After a minute of studying it, he sighed and set it back, realizing that he didn't understand a word of it.  Stupid charts, he mumbled in his mind. How do they expect you to read that?  The doctors had said that his status was gradually improving.  If Link had had his own way, Gannondorf would be dead.  Actually, if the whole kingdom had its way, Gannondorf would be dead several times over.  The only thing that kept the King from sentencing Gannondorf to death was Zelda.  Link remembered the conversation.
    Zelda had stood by Gannondorf's side since he had gone into his coma, arguing that they couldn't execute him since he hadn't yet had a trial.  The debate had been hot and furious and had spanned well over three hours.  The King had correctly stated that any trial would inevitably spell certain death for Gannondorf's crimes.  It had only ended when Link finally intervened and supported Zelda's cause.
    Zelda had a point when she had stated that only Gannondorf knew who the mysterious figure was.  Anyone foolish enough to challenge Gannondorf would either have to be extremely powerful or extremely insane.  On the same track, anyone with the ability to actually defeat Gannondorf was a force to be reckoned with, and Link wanted to know who it was.  With that settled, the only thing that was left to do was wait.
    Several days back, the fringe scouts had reported that Gannondorf's base was deserted.  All signs of his ever being there had vanished.  The magic devices and spell scrolls, all gone.  Even the reddish wooden shelves that they had once rested on had mysteriously disappeared.  It was all too weird.  Link was not convinced that the whole thing wasn't a sham to get into the castle.  Moving his belongings and then acting the whole battle scene could be an effective way to penetrate the castle's defenses, or, at the present, was.  Link knew that Gannondorf was a master of facades but the medical reports had revealed that the injuries on Gannondorf's body were genuine.
    Then, there was the chance that once Gannondorf had collapsed on the floor of the dinning room, he immediately transferred himself into a healing trance, only to revive himself from his coma and attack when they were most vulnerable.  Link had used healing trances several times before, but they weren't always effective for him because he wasn't especially adept in magic.  Zelda was working on helping him become more skilled at using the magic powers given to him by the Triforce of courage.  Their first lesson; energy blasts.
    Link had always talented enough at channeling Triforce energy through his sword, but he always had a much harder time projecting them directly from his hands.  The only time he could seem to do it right was when Zelda was with him coaching.
    Though Link knew his own magical limitations, with a man like Gannondorf...it was impossible to say.  Everything that Link could think of had something that could overrule it.  At the moment, he could only speculate and wait for Gannondorf to heal.
    Link still wondered why he had come to Zelda's, and Gannondorf's, defense.  He had hoped that in doing so, Zelda would have told him why she was so desperate to keep Gannondorf in one piece, but no.  She spent all her available time at Gannondorf's side, using magic to help accelerate the healing process, only migrating to the kitchen once in a while for a quick snack.
    To make matters even more stressful, Link's dream was recurring every night, each time becoming even more vivid.  Link, now more than ever, wanted to alert Zelda of his troubles but now, with the whole Gannondorf issue, had even more reason to hold back from doing so.  Zelda didn't need any more pressure on her.  It seemed the whole kingdom was breathing down her neck.  I'll wait till later, when this whole thing blows over, Link silently reasoned to himself as he walked from the medical wing.  If only he knew that later would be too late.
 

    Main Meeting Hall, The Next Morning
    Such rooms were the visuals of the wealth of a prosperous nation.  The tall ceiling of the celebration hall was constructed of red sagatious oak.  A long table made of the same type rested opposite the ceiling, its polished surface reflecting the room in all its grandeur.  The table could easily seat over one hundred people and the hall itself could comfortably accommodate more than five hundred but, at the moment, only two inhabitants resided in the superfluously massive room; Link and King Harkinian.  Windows high up on the sturdy walls allowed the morning sunlight to radiate into the room and warm Link's skin from his place at the head of the table.

Hyrule Tribune        23:55:0294
Is the King Still Fit to Lead our Country?

    "This is preposterous!" exclaimed Harkinian.  Link could barely make out what the headline on the newspaper read with the king shaking it about in his fist as he paced back and forth. "To even suggest that my leadership would be questioned is unthinkable!" Furious, the king threw the paper across the meeting hall.
    In all his time at the castle, Link had never seen the king so angry.  It wasn't like him to act so crudely.  "Sir," Link said, in all calmness, "the people would never lose faith in you.  This whole thing will cool off soon."
    "Yes, I know, but the front page?" The king stopped his pacing and turned to face Link.  "There must be some serious doubt in this kingdom to have something like this to be printed." He began his pacing once again. "What have I done to deserve this?" he asked, looking up as if the gods were going to give him an answer.
    "Well," Link suggested, "after you announced that Gannondorf would live..."
    Harkinian stopped dead in his tracks and whipped about, pointing at Link. "I didn't agree with that and I still don't!"
    "...and," Link continued, "after that last battle at Gannondorf's HQ, people are thirsty for blood...Gannondorf's.  And now that they have his neck within their grasp...well, you know how the people hate him." Link sat back in his chair.
    "Yes, I do know how much they hate him.  I share their hate.  But, it was just a battle. Alone this could not spur such a strong response."
    Link took on a serious tone, trying not to sound scolding. "I know you went over those reports.  You know how many loyal soldiers were killed.  You know how many families were affected.  I need not remind you that this was one of the worst battles we've ever had.  If you blame the people, then..."
    "I know, I know," the king interrupted. "The statistics are brutal.  Damn!  I knew I should have listened to my war advisors to not allow Zelda to conduct the battle."
    "What!" Link exclaimed, almost jumping from his seat, "You mean you had doubts about Zelda's ability to lead the army?" The king thought a moment.
    "No," he finally answered. "Not so much as in her ability to lead, but in her judgment.  All my advisors kept telling me that Gannondorf's defenses were too strong to attack but Zelda seemed dead-set on getting rid of him for good.  I don't know why." Link swallowed hard.  Had his talking with Zelda about having a family contributed to her wanting to get Gannondorf out of the picture so quickly?  The king continued. "It was like she was blind to the truth.  I just don't know.  I thought it could have been just another god sent insight from the Triforce of Wisdom." The King sighed. "And now she's supporting Gannondorf's side.  I can't believe she's actually defending that killer, especially after what he did."
    "Hey, now wait a minute," Link interjected, "you know as well as I that Gannondorf had purposely planted information that would make him appear vulnerable.  That was his plan.  You can't blame it all on Zelda.  And another thing, I'm also backing Gannondorf's side."
    "Ha!" the king scoffed. "You're just supporting Zelda!  I know you -- you would never do anything that would  aid Gannondorf." Link opened his mouth to deny but quickly shut it.  Of course the king was right.  Even though Link had vowed to vanquish the threat of Gannondorf, he felt an even stronger sort of obligation to stand by his wife's side.  Yet it had been almost a week and no matter how much he coaxed, Zelda would not tell him anything.  Suddenly, a flash of anger ran through Link's body as he looked back.  He was the only thing standing in the way of the Gannondorf's death, a death that he agreed with, and he didn't even know why he was doing it.
    The king's voice interrupted his thoughts. "I really must have a discussion with Zelda about her judgment."
    Oh, no! Link thought. Zelda's judgment?  A wave of dread washed over Link's body.  Zelda was on the verge of snapping from the pressure.  Link knew that.  If her father suddenly approached her wanting to talk about a subject that she already had severe doubts about, it could crush her.  The king was already making his way to the door.
    "Wait!" Link shouted, jumping from his chair, "How about I go and talk to Zelda first?  I could give it to her gently."
    "Good idea," the king agreed, turning around. "I still need to speak to her though.  Come and get me when you think it's a good time."
    "Of course I will," Link said in total relief as the king walked from the hall.  Then, quietly to himself, he added. "But, how am I going to do this?"
    The question echoed throughout the empty room.  Link waited, as if he expected some sort of answer from the gods to come.  None came.
 

    Medical Wing
    Link made his way to Gannondorf's medical room.  Three guarded doors and five magical barriers later, he slowly pushed open the door that housed Gannondorf's almost dead body. "Zelda?" he whispered quietly. "Zelda?" Link looked around.
    The room was standard medical quarters for patients recovering from severe wounds or sickness.  Like all rooms of its type, it was entirely white and sparsely furnished.  A medical bed, a small table, and two chairs were all that were kept in the room, giving it a cold, inhospitable aurora; a feeling not totally unlike the relationship Link shared with Gannondorf.
    Link remembered the last time he had been in a room like this.  It was in a room like this where Sean had died.  Link could still recall everything that had happened that night.  The medical staff had tried everything it could.  Even Zelda's healing spells seemed to have no effect on reversing the damage that the battle wounds had inflicted.  Link remembered Sean's last words he ever spoke. "I want you to kill Gannondorf, Link.  Make the world safe for my children...and yours." And that was all.  The friend Link had had for almost all of his time at the castle then passed away.  Link knew that he would fulfill his friend's wishes no matter what.  But still, he needed Gannondorf alive, just for a while longer so he could find out who the person on the other side of the portal was.
    "Zelda?" Link once again called, a little worried. "Zelda, where are you?" Alarm washed over Link.  Where was she?  She was supposed to be here!  Link raced around the medical table to find Zelda lying on the floor, breathing heavily, her eyes open. "Zelda!  Are you okay?" Link asked.  Nodding, Zelda slowly pushed herself to a sitting position. "What happened?" Link asked.  "What did Gannondorf do?"  Link began to draw his sword.  Zelda held up her hand and shook her head, as if to say "no."  Link stopped, and then slowly re-sheathed the weapon into its scabbard on his back, though his hand remained fixed to the hilt.  Smiling mysteriously, Zelda removed a somewhat large, shiny, triangular object from her robe.  It glinted with a magical light.  The Triforce of power.  "But how?" Link inquired, dropping his hand. "You extracted it from his body?" Zelda nodded again with what looked like extreme effort. "Let's get you to the room," Link said.  With that, Link picked her up in a giant swoop of his arms and carried her up to their quarters.  The whole way, Zelda cradled the Triforce of power gently in her hands.
    The realization hit Link when he was halfway to their room.  They now had the power to bring a golden age of peace and prosperity to Hyrule and all the other nations of the world.  Maybe Zelda wouldn't have to worry about Gannondorf hunting their children after all.  Maybe, just maybe, the killing and the battles and the atrocities would finally stop.  The thoughts lightened Link's step as he tucked an already sleeping Zelda into bed.
 

    Hyrule Castle War Room
    Based in the center of the castle, the war room sported a simple solitary round table of malagate carntwood.  Having meter thick stone walls and a giant metal door, no natural light penetrated the isolated room.  Since it was lit completely by candles, the slightest breath or movement made the room appear to waver and dance.  If sound waves could have affected the flames, they would have probably flickered out a while ago due to the hurricane of shouted arguing.
    "We should destroy Gannondorf and his minions now, before they catch wind of the fact that we have acquired the complete Triforce!" argued Lazerath, the general of the Hylian army. "Destroy them all while we have the chance!"
    "I agree," said Magnus, the head of the Hylian Special Forces. "You never know what Gannondorf has up his sleeve.  Best we destroy the rest of his army before they find out we have the full Triforce and try something or hide.  Personally, I don't want to get the job of ferreting them all out."
    "Then it is agreed that we should exploit the Triforce's power as soon as possible," stated Lazerath, not even waiting for the king to voice his opinion.
    "Wait just one moment," Link cut in. "Remember, this is the Triforce you're talking about.  Never have we had such power to use as we wanted.  You don't know what will happen once we go to use it.  And on that subject, Zelda is the only one who is going to use it, much less touch it.  You'll have to clear everything with her before you can do anything."
    "To hell with what you say we can and can't do!" Lazerath hollered, with very little respect. "It is in the best interest of Hyrule that we use the Triforce as quickly as possible.  Haven't you seen what Gannondorf's army has done?  Hyrule is crippled!"
    "Now wait a minute," the senator from Newsbrook piped in, "I don't believe that 'crippled' is the correct term...."  Lazerath whipped around to face the opinionated senator, pointing at him with a glare.  Link thought he saw Lazerath's eyes almost glow red with fire.  Being the military general and chief administrator of Hyrule's army, Link decided that his overzealous argument and disrespect was acceptable under the light that he had lost so many men.  He had the job that, without a doubt, everyone in the room was glad not to have.
    "Let me remind you that the public is not aware of how badly our army was hurt in that last offensive since your ignorance indicates to me that you are just as equally uninformed. Are you not aware of the severity of the punishment we took?" Lazerath turned and faced the other members at the table. "I say we use the Triforce it and we use it now!"
    "That's enough!" Harkinian shouted. "Link is right.  No one but Zelda is going to touch the Triforce.  We still need to take time to study it and determine what we can do."
    "With all do respect, your majesty," Lazerath angrily said, barely keeping his tone neutral, "I strongly urge you to reconsider.  Hesitation now can cost us dearly later."
    "No," came the Harkinian's instant reply. "I will not allow some careless mistake to destroy all that we have worked to achieve.  We will take no immediate action at the moment.  All resources will be directed at determining what we can safely do with the Triforce.  That is final.  Are there any questions?" Only shaking heads replied. "Okay, good.  As you all know gentlemen, what you have just heard is confidential and is on a need to know basis.  If there is nothing else, you are all dismissed." Everyone stood up, shuffling papers and sorting files preparing to leave.  Suddenly, the door of the war room slammed open.  Standing there was a young soldier in full Hylian armor with terror burned on his face.
    "What is the meaning of this!" Harkinian demanded.
    The knight stammered, "Gannondorf's army is attacking.  They have stormed the palace gates and are making their way here."
    A huge, booming voice echoed through the castle. "We have come for our leader, the almighty Gannondorf!"
 
 

    Link, not waiting for orders, rushed past the guard and down the hall, towards the noise of battle.  After rounding a corner, he found a source of great commotion.
    Hylian soldiers all down the hall were crouched in defensive positions, behind tables, chairs, anything that could provide cover from the assault of arrows that were zipping down the hall.  Link quickly dove and rolled behind an antique chest of drawers just narrowly dodging a moblin arrow.  He cringed at the sound of multiple impacts striking the wooden sides of Zelda's favorite bureau.  Peeking around the corner, Link found an opening in the mobile's arrow screen and raced toward an overturned table halfway down the hall.  Behind it were three soldiers and one of the castle servants.
    "Sir!" exclaimed one of the soldiers. "I'm Lieutenant Shaw." A young man, the officer showed no signs of fear in his voice or movements.  He wore full formal military blue attire with the rank insignia of a junior lieutenant pinned on the left breast pocket.  Intelligent green eyes offset his sandy blond hair, which, at the moment, was wet with perspiration.
    "Thank you, lieutenant," Link said. "How many are we facing?"
    "I'm not sure, sir," Shaw answered. "At least six moblins and maybe a couple of stalfos." Link swung out from the cover of the table, scanned the rest of the hall, and swung back just in time to hear the sound of speeding arrows zoom by the place where he had just vacated.  Link could feel the arrows strike the table, turning it into an oversized pincushion.
    "There are eight moblin archers and two stalfos providing cover for them; six on the right, four on the left."
    "What can we do?" asked Shaw. "We have no chance of retreating and no backup.  Does anyone have any suggestions?" Before anyone had time to talk, a huge explosion ripped through the hall.  When the smoke and dust cleared, the left wall of the hall had a gaping hole in it.
    "There's our escape, lieutenant," Link said. "If we can push this table forward, we can escape though that hole while keeping in cover."
    "Good idea," one of the soldiers spoke.
    "Okay then," said Link. "On three we push the table.  One...two..."
    Before he could get to three, a stalfos leapt over their makeshift barricade and attacked with lightning speed.  Link rolled out of the way and jumped backwards just in time to avoid a deadly laceration.  A second stalfos charged into the table with its shield.  The battering ram attack broke the barrier and killed their cover. "Run!" Link yelled.  Two of the soldiers and the servant broke and ran.
    Shaw had drawn his sword and was in combat with the first stalfos.  Furiously, Shaw drove the stalfos back, keeping it on the defense. The stalfos blocked a high downward slash with its shield, leaving itself open for attack.  With a swift kick that took the stalfos' feet out and a downward thrust of his sword, it was over.  That left only the stalfos that was attacking Link.
    Dodging like mad, both the stalfos' attacks and the relentless onslaught of arrows, Link found himself to be boxed in; wall on two sides and the stalfos on one.  Quickly, he ducked another close slash and attempted to roll out of range.  The stalfos' sword cut that option short.  The powerful stroke, again barely missing Link, instead struck the floor, sending sparks and chips of stone flying through the air.  Link pedaled back and faded left, jumping over the stalfos' rebound attack.  After each swing, the deadly metal came closer to its mark, as Link's sliced tunic readily displayed.  Fortunately, Link was not without help.  Apparently Shaw had been watching, because a round shield flew through the air and struck the stalfos squarely on the back of the head, dropping it before it could make another attack.
    "Thanks," Link breathlessly panted.
    "He didn't need it anymore," Shaw commented, gesturing to the fallen stalfos that he had taken the shield from. "Now let's get outta here!" Link and Shaw sprinted to the hole.
    Left, right, left, right, Link dodged.  Twice Link felt arrows tear through his clothing.
    Left, right, left, right, roll, right, dive, duck.  They were coming too fast.  An arrow dug itself deep into Link's right shoulder, spinning him about and dropping him to the ground.
    "Nooooooo!" he heard someone scream.  Link recognized the tiny voice instantly.  Sprite !  Sprite, flying down the hall at top speed, zoomed to Link's side, having no apparent trouble avoiding the arrows whatsoever. "Come on!" she shouted.  Sprite flew in front of Link and started zapping the incoming arrows to dust. "Hurry!  I can't hold them off forever!" Gritting his teeth, Link grabbed the arrow in his shoulder and broke off the shaft with a grunt.
    "Let's get going!" Sprite4 urged, already making her way to the hole in the wall.  Link hurried as best he could to keep up.
    "You really owe me now!" she managed to say as she flew, zapping three more arrows on the way.  Link smiled.  Only Sprite would take the opportunity to point out the fact that she had saved his life while she was saving it.  Link dove headfirst through the hole into...the armory!  What luck!  Lunging toward the first sword and shield he saw, Link scooped them up and headed toward the door.
    Shaw was in a corner, tending to one of the soldiers who had been hit by an arrow in the hallway.  The other soldier stood by the hole in the wall, back pressed to the weakened stone, a sword drawn, ready to get the drop on anything that tried to follow through the cavity. "Where are you going?!" came Shaw's voice.
    "To Gannondorf!" Link yelled over his shoulder.  Throwing open the door and taking a sharp left, Link ran towards the medical wing.  They want Gannondorf? he thought. Then they'll have to get through me first!  Rounding another corner, Link threw himself down the first flight of stairs to the right. Almost there, he thought.
    "Wait!" yelled Sprite.
    No time, Link thought. I can't let them get to Gannondorf.  Link slid around the last corner to the medical wing...right into an ambush!  Immediately, thirty menacing stalfos eyes were trained on him...along with the fifteen deadly swords.
 
 

    "You and your friends will die."
    "What?" came Zelda's voice, tiny and confused.
    "You and your friends will die."
    "What?  Who is this?" she asked.  Zelda looked around.  Am I dreaming? she thought.  All around her was gray.  Endless and infinite, stretching out in a perfect geometric plane to the end of time.  The voice came again, closer.
    "You and your friends will die."
    "Who are you!" Zelda demanded.  "Show yourself!"  Zelda waited.  No answer.  A breeze began to blow through the once stagnant air.  Zelda's long blond hair waved and flitted in its wake.  The breeze picked up into a wind, the wind into a furious storm.  Zelda turned around to face the gale.  From one side of the endless plane to the other, a dark storm brewed; a sandstorm of pure blackness.  The wind, amazingly, grew even stronger.  Zelda's robe flapped in the storm, whipping around her body as if it was trying to pull her away from the evil that was advancing.
    "You and your friends will die."  Suddenly, Zelda became very frightened.  An evil of epic proportions was emanating from the storm.  An evil of so much power, Zelda found herself to be frozen in place.  Get away! Zelda yelled to herself.  Don't just stand here and wait for it to get you!  However, whatever she thought, she couldn't find the will to move.
    "Run!" a voice shouted to her with piercing clarity.  Not the same voice that was tormenting her with the same murderous phrase, but something else, something she felt she could trust.  Suddenly, she could move.  Whipping about, Zelda ran with all her might away from the dark clouds, away from that other voice.
    "Ha, ha, ha, ha," the voice from the cloud laughed.  "You cannot escape."  Zelda ran even harder.  The wind grew as the storm plowed onward.  Zelda turned to look behind her as she ran.  The blackness was gaining.  Maniacal laughter surrounded her, louder than ever.  Still, she kept running.  Running further and further into the boundless gray.  There was no life on the endless plane, no distinguishing feature in the perfect gray.  Nothing that she could run to in hopes of hiding or escaping the mist of death that pursued her.  Then it happened.  Tripping over the long robe she wore, Zelda fell hard to the polished gray floor.  The dark cloud surrounded and choked her.  It clouded her eyes and burned her skin with a dark energy.  The laughter was all around.
    "You and your friends will die."
    "Nooooooo!!!" Zelda screamed.  With her dying sight, Zelda saw a flash of light, emanating from the opposite horizon and racing to her with lighting speed.  The wave of white met the cloud of black and, in an eruption of light and sound, dispersed the cloud, forcing it back to the realm of infinity to the other side of the endless plane in an explosion of raw power.  "Thank you," Zelda whispered to the light.  The floor was now a luminescent white, the air warm and comforting; like a blanket of good intentions.  Zelda began to relax.  The storm was gone.  Her eyes began to close.  Before she could return to the state of unconsciousness that is brought on by sleep, the words cut through the air like a piercing flare.  "Wake up!"
 
 

    Right away, Link knew that he didn't have a chance against so many foes in such a confined space.
    The first of the stalfos leapt at him.  Link instinctively blocked his downward slash with his shield, gasping as the shock was absorbed through his arm and channeled into his injured shoulder.  With the skeletal warrior's sword held at bay by his shield, Link thrust his sword deep into the stalfos' spine.  Two more stalfos drove toward him from different angles and attacked before their comrade even hit the floor.  Link blocked the attack from the right with his shield and parried the other attack from the left with his sword.  Again, waves of pain shot up his shoulder.  With a quick spin kick, he dropped the second stalfos to the ground.  Already, a forth attacker had emerged in its place, determined to succeed were its fellow warrior had failed.
    Swords clashed with fiery rage.  The third stalfos' fierce blows kept Link on the defense.  With a massive two-handed sword slash, the stalfos swung wide to Link's right.  With the blow blocked by his shield, Link's pain level spiked to a new level.  Overwhelmed and knowing he couldn't take much more, Link called upon a spell of defense.  After chanting a few words, his shield began to shimmer with the glow of blue light.  Undaunted, the fourth stalfos slammed his sword full force into Link's guarding block.  The sword dealt a great blow to the shield and there was a flare of blue light.  Upon impact, the stalfos' weapon shattered to a million tiny glinting fragments.  Only the grip and the hand guard remained in the stalfos' grasp.
    Link's magic reserves, now down to nil after using such a powerful spell, sapped him of his strength.  Before he could react, a fifth stalfos came from the rear slamming full speed into Link's back with his shield.  Link flew through the air onto the floor, losing his grip on his newly acquired sword and shield.  Landing on his right shoulder and rolling to a halt, the remaining stalfos surrounded him.  In a manner that was totally synchronized, they all attacked.
    "Triforce, destroy the evil creatures within this castle!" Zelda's voice resonated throughout the all the palace.  Out of nowhere, black vortexes appeared all around the stalfos.  A fierce wind churned through the hall, pulling the stalfos into the portals.
    Link, already on the ground, flattened himself on the floor, clawing his fingers into the cracks between the tiles, hanging on to avoid being sucked into the vortexes along with the stalfos.  Link lifted his head.  There were black vortexes all over the hall.  They looked like they were three-dimensional portals from the front, but when he looked at one from the side, it showed that it was as flat as a sheet of paper.
    Screaming, the stalfos were sucked into the dark portals and disappeared without a trace as they sealed, each with a brilliant flash of black light.  Not wasting any time, Link climbed to his feet.  He sprinted toward Gannondorf's room but stopped short.  The final magical barrier was still intact.  Quickly he dispelled it and threw open the door.  There, on the medical bed he still rested.  Link breathed a sigh of relief.  Gannondorf's minions had not been able to rescue him.
    Wait a moment, Link thought. Zelda had told the Triforce to destroy all the evil creatures in the castle yet Gannondorf remained.  Why?  As far as Link was concerned, Gannondorf was the most evil thing in the world.  The why hadn't he been sucked into the portals of darkness like his army?  Something was definitely wrong.
    "Link!  Link!  Where are you?"
    "Over here, Zelda," Link called back, "I'm in Gannondorf's room." Zelda rushed into the doorway.
    "Are you hurt?  Are you okay?" she asked, running to his side.
    "Yeah, I'm fine.  I was just checking on Gannondorf to make sure..."
    "Look at your shoulder!" she cut him off.  Link turned his head.
    "Oh, that?  It's just a little scratch."
    "A little scratch?  Link!" Zelda turned and yelled down the hall. "Medic! Medic!  We need a medic over here."
    "Coming!" a voice hollered back.
    "It's okay, Zelda.  There are others that need attention right now.  I'll be okay for the moment." Sprite whizzed into the room.
    "There you are, Link!  Why didn't you listen to me and not wait up!  You could have been killed!"
    "See, Zelda," Link said, paying no attention to Sprite's fretting. "Sprite can heal it for me.  What are you doing up anyway?  You should be in bed." After Zelda had extracted the Triforce of power from Gannondorf, she had hardly had the strength to leave the room.
    "Oh, you think that I would have stayed in bed while a war's happening right under my nose?  Just to let you know, if I hadn't used the Triforce, Gannondorf would probably been rescued."
    And I would probably be dead, Link thought silently to himself.  A medic jogged up to Link and Zelda.
    "What do you need?" he asked. "Oh! Your majesty!" he exclaimed after realizing who had called him. "How can I serve you?"
    "Never mind," Zelda said, glaring at Link. "It seems that we have the situation under control." She threw Link an icy look and turned and left.
    "What did I do?" Link asked the medic.  The medic just shook his head.
    "I still can't figure them out, sir." And with that, he jogged down the hall to check on the other wounded who were beginning to flood the medical wing.
    "Come on Sprite.  I have a feeling that we are going to have another emergency meeting in the war room."
 

    War Room
    "You see!  If we would have used the Triforce earlier, none of this would have happened!" Lazerath was really laying it on thick. "This whole catastrophe could have been avoided if we had taken action sooner!" he spoke, emphasizing each word by slamming his fist on the conference table.
    Link had been sitting on the hard wooden chair for several hours reviewing all the reports and listening to everybody yell at everybody else saying what should have been done.  Lazerath had done most of the speaking throughout the meeting but in all terms, he had actually done the least.  Lieutenant Jacen Shaw turned to Link. "Is it always like this Link?" After Link had left the medical wing, he had little to do during the hours of chaos that followed the battle so he went to seek out Junior Lieutenant Shaw.  He later invited him to accompany him to the meeting.
    "I'm afraid, as of late, yes, lieutenant," came Link's hushed answer.
    "I told you to call me Jacen."
    "Um, yes, ah, right, Jacen." The war room doors opened and an officer walked in.
    "Final report's in," he stated handing a folder to Lazerath. "I'm afraid it's not very good." He turned to leave.
    "Wait, soldier," said Harkinian. "Just dictate the report.  I think we've all had enough of deciphering figures on papers" The soldier turned.
    "Yes, sir," he said.  Lazerath handed the folder back to him and he opened it up. "For you who don't know me, I am Commander Chalerton.  I'm sure foremost in all your minds is how many casualties we took.  Standard patrols were caught off guard.  That's why we didn't see them coming." He hesitated then began again, "We took about 70% casualties." Chalerton looked at the king.  Harkinian solemnly nodded.  The officer continued. "About 500 are wounded or missing and over 300 are dead." Link turned in time to see Shaw's face go white.
    Of course! Link thought to himself. Jacen didn't know how badly the offensive at Gannondorf's had gone.
    Jacen turned to Link. "Eight hundred is 70%!?" he asked.  Link just nodded. "Only 1100 men were here at the battle!?  Where was the rest of the army?"
    "That was the rest of the army," Link whispered back.  Disbelief crept over Jacen's face.  He sank back into his chair and shut his mouth.  Link could imagine how Jacen was feeling.  Before the battle at Gannondorf's HQ, the total men in all the regiments in the Hylian army massed well over 4000 men.  After the battle, all the soldiers were sent home with a neglected debriefing.  Only high-ranking officers had been allowed to review the battle data.  It was a sure thing that all the other soldiers discussed the battle with each other and had all made rough estimates on how they did.  The number lost must have been way over the amount that Jacen had previously thought.  Nearly 75% in losses in a single battle was not something to be proudly advertised.  That, compounded by the fact that the ratio of damage sustained to damage inflicted to Gannondorf's forces was along the lines of seven to one...Link didn't even want to think about it.
    Chalerton droned on. "The castle itself took some minor damage.  Quadrants three and four took some structural hits and the armory's south wall was blown out.  Defensive garrisons in sectors 12, 13, and 16 were completely destroyed.  That is where Gannondorf's army entered.  As for specific causalities, standard patrols were all but wiped out.  Infantry divisions had a little more warning, but not much.  They took 50% casualties.  Archer divisions weren't hit as badly, only 20% losses.  All other divisions got pounded, taking either 80% to 90% damages.  That doesn't leave us much to work with."
    "We don't need anymore to work with because Gannondorf's army was destroyed," Lazerath pointed out, "But then, if we had used the Triforce before, we would have taken no loses because there wouldn't have been this battle to begin with!"
    "That is enough!"  Shaw yelled, jumping up from his slumped position and surprising everyone. "Good soldiers were lost today!  Friends!  And all you people do is sit around yelling about what should have been done when there is plenty that needs to be done right now!  You are accomplishing nothing through all the yelling and talk.  I, as a loyal officer in the Hylian army, expect much more than all this squabbling and pointing of fingers from the most powerful men in the most powerful nation in the world!" Jacen reflected on what he just said and added, "Well, formerly the most powerful."
    "Leave Lieutenant!" Lazerath commanded, also standing. "Now!"
    "With pleasure!" Jacen whipped an about face and threw open the inner war room doors, slamming them against the walls.  Link looked around the table.
    "If I may," Link said, standing and following Jacen's lead, "I must get going." There was no discussion as Link left the war room and shut the doors.  Link looked at the guard who was on sentry duty outside the war room.  He just pointed down the hall.  Link nodded to him and took off on a brisk jog to catch up.  Only after rounding two corners did Link find Jacen, sitting on a chair in the hall, his face in his hands.  Link stopped and stood next to him.
    "I'm sorry!" Jacen sobbed. "I...I..."
    "It's okay, Jacen," Link soothed. "I feel your loss."
    "They were all friends.  Not just now but in all the other battles.  Myron, Calvin, Tierce, Sean, Kerter..."
    "Wait," Link interrupted. "Sean?  Commander Sean Patrick Dreydock?" nbsp; "Yeah, he was killed in the battle at Gannondorf's." Jacen's voice was starting to calm though he choked over the words. "He was my commanding officer.  He...he was leading us into Gannondorf's audience hall when...when the sorcerers opened fire.  He didn't have a chance.  The whole unit got pounded.  We called for back up but...no one could make it.  I don't know how we got back, but by the time we got out of the fortress, the whole army was in complete retreat." Jacen broke down again, sobbing. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," he cried, his whole body trembling.  Link patted him on the shoulder, trying to comfort.
    "I know, Jacen.  I know."
 

    Triforce Chambers, North Tower of Hyrule Castle
    The Triforce hung in mid air, gently rotating in a mystical aurora of light.  As it spun, it threw off golden reflections of light onto the walls of the chamber.  Link looked deeply into the golden triangles, mesmerized by their beauty and sheer simplicity.  How can such power be contained in such small, insignificant objects? Link thought.  It was a rare occasion indeed when Link had the time to just sit and do nothing.  Now, he found, he had too much time to use as he pleased.
    After Jacen had left, Link had spent his time working on a defensive system to guard the Triforce.  With Gannondorf so close, he didn't want to take the chance of anyone laying hands on it.  Even he dared not touch the sacred relic.  It wasn't fear that kept him from doing so.  Being the holder of the Triforce of courage smashed that option to pieces.  It was more of a feeling of caution.  The Triforce of wisdom checked the corruptive tendencies of the Triforce of power, and the Triforce of wisdom was Zelda's area of expertise.  Link sighed.  At least the ATPS was working.  Link had just finished the ATPS (Automated Triforce Protection System).
    Powered by twin magic secants and four dundfire magic enhancing gems, the ATPS created an impenetrable force field around the Triforce when it detected an unauthorized person trying to use it.  Still, all the hours of working on it barely kept Link's mind off the misery that encompassed the kingdom.
    With Gannondorf lying in his coma and his army gone and it was finally peaceful.  There was no need for a hero to save Hyrule.  Hyrule was finally at rest, but no one was happy.
    The kingdom was distraught when the final battle results had been released to the public.  There had been no merry celebrating as Link and Zelda often imagined there would be when Gannondorf was finally defeated.  No celebrating in the streets, no joyous laughter or parades -- nothing.  Days dragged on that seemed like months as the whole kingdom mourned the death of their loved ones.
    Link hadn't seen or heard from Jacen since he had departed the castle the night of the meeting.  Link had left the castle several times to track him down but always stopped short.  He wanted to know more about Sean, but couldn't bring himself to confront Jacen while he was so upset.
    Link stood up to leave the chambers.  He couldn't think here.  He needed to go somewhere peaceful.  As he turned to leave the room, a silver glint caught his eye.  Link quickly snapped around.  There was no one else in the room.
    Link once again looked at the Triforce.  There was something odd about it.  Link concentrated on the Triforce of power.  It seemed to have a tint of silver in its radiance.  The Triforce was, in fact, even throwing silver reflections across the room.  Weird, he thought.  He stood to ponder the bizarre triangle but again stopped short.  He couldn't think here.  His mind became clouded, preventing him from even attempting to wonder why the Triforce of power was acting in such a strange way.  He needed to get out of the castle.  Away from the mourning and misery.  Somewhere quiet and calm to think.  Link turned and left the room, his mind flooding with thoughts other than the abnormality of the Triforce of power.  As he left the room, the whole incident left his mind.
 

    The dark warrior grunted a note of relief as Link left the Triforce chambers.  Influencing the mind of the Holder of the Triforce of Courage was proving to be more challenging than was previously expected.  His thoughts were far more focused than the Holders of the Triforce of Power or Wisdom had been.  Soon it would not matter though.  Now that Courage and Wisdom believed they had the whole Triforce, there was no doubt that they would eliminate the Holder of Power, Gannondorf.  I guess I'd better break the news to his troops, he thought. Now they will obey me if only because they have no other to take orders from!  The mysterious figure laughed to himself as he began the review of the plans for the final siege.
 

    Hyrule Forest
    The wind blew through Jacen's hair as he rested high up in a tall sagatious oak.  Whenever the world seemed like it was falling apart, he came to this tree.  When he was just a little boy, his father would take him to the tree and tell him stories of days gone by.  Now he was the only one who came here.  Jacen's father was long dead, killed in the line of duty.
    The Shaw family had been a long line of fine warriors.  It was in their blood.  Every generation had in some way served in the military.  Jacen's father had been a major in the army, his granddad, a captain in the Hylian Special Forces, and his father before that had been a full commander.  And what had he accomplished?  A lowly ranking of Lieutenant...and a Junior Lieutenant at that.  A cry from a white winged nighthawk interrupted his line of thought.
    Jacen looked to the horizon, through a gap in the stirring green leaves.  The sun, surprisingly to him, had long since set.  The final traces of light turquoise fell from the skyline, fading toward dark blue, and finally into the blackness of the outer heavens.  Staring out into the endless space, Jacen sighed.  His wife would always ask where he had been for the last hours, whenever he left to think.  He would just simply reply, "To the thinking tree," and that was what it would be left at.  Even his wife would never fully understand the meaning of the tree though she often claimed she did.  It was all in empathy Jacen knew.  It really didn't matter though.  It was his thinking tree.  Here, it was peaceful and quiet and he could contemplate his life, the world...anything. This day, he had been pondering what his service in the Hylian army really meant - in the grand scheme of things.  All his successes and failures.  For all the years, he thought what he had been doing had been honorable and just.  Now it wasn't as clear.  After seeing the fools who he had thought to be so venerable, he finally knew what had to be done.  Upon his departure from the castle, Jacen had stated his resignation from the Hylian army.
    Several of his friends had already withdrawn their statements of duty.  Even more had flowed to the resignation offices after the battle reports had been released.  Now that the fiery threat from Gannondorf's minions had finally been extinguished, there was little reason on stay in the force.
    Jacen had thought long and hard for hours about his morals and what he stood for.  Now he was having second thoughts.  Had his emotions at the meeting blinded him into doing something that he would regret, quite possibly for the rest of his life?  His family's and father's beliefs had always been in serving the country, making it safer for the next Shaw generation. Was he abandoning the Shaw heritage?  The cheerful singing of birds had long faded into the sounds of night.  Jacen thought about staying where he was and spend the night in his tree.  He had done so many times before but his wife tended to discourage him from doing so.
    No, he thought. I'd better get home.  It was a good three and a half or more hours to get back and it was already past midnight.  He remembered when his dad would take him to the tree.  They would race to see who would get to the tree the fastest.  They had once made it in two hours and sixteen minutes.  Nostalgia hung heavy in the air as Jacen moved to begin the long decent from the tree.
    A good two hundred feet up, the tree was the tallest in the forest, it's top surpassing the other trees by far.  Jacen climbed, swung, and slid down the tree.  He knew every branch, every foothold, and every knot in the old tree.
    Halfway down, Jacen began a tricky maneuver that his dad had taught him when he was a young boy.  Going into a series of swinging and jumping movements, he descended forty feet in about three seconds.  He was almost done with the maneuver when it happened.  In a tremendous flash of light accompanied by a terrific boom, twin vortexes of swirling black light appeared in the small clearing immediately under the tree, sending Jacen off balance falling a good twenty feet to land on his stomach with a grunt on a branch about thirty feet from the ground.  Jacen watched in fascination as a figure emerged from each of the two vortexes.  Jacen squinted through the suspended foliage to make out who the figures were.  One was undoubtedly a moblin.  The other was...
    ...Sean!!??  Jacen gasped as Sean walked to meet the moblin.  Something was different about him though, Jacen noticed.  Sean's hair was jet black, totally changed from the light brown it usually was.  Also, his eyes were glowing a luminescent red.  Something was definitely wrong.  Straining, he could just make out the dialogue they were exchanging.
    "The army is ready for the attack, Your Magnificence," the moblin said.
    "Well done," came Sean's reply. "Gannondorf would be proud of your efforts."
    "Thank you your magnificence," said the moblin, "I want to avenge the death of our leader, the almighty Gannondorf."
    Gannondorf!? thought Jacen. But he's at the castle - alive.  Jacen listened on.
    "You will soon have that chance," Sean coolly said. "I will rendezvous with the rest of the army in precisely two hours to initiate the attack."
    "Why so long?" the moblin asked earnestly. "Why can't we attack now?  The army is ready.  We will crush the slayers of the almighty Gannondorf now that they are weak!" The moblin thrust a triumphant fist into the air. "Thanks to you, that is."
    "Patience, patience, my friend," soothed Sean. "You will have all the chance to take revenge once I have completed my mission."
    "What is your mission, if I may ask, Your Magnificence?"
    "What I am going to do will guarantee our success.  That is all you need to know.  You are dismissed." With a crisp salute and snap about face, the moblin turned and disappeared into the vortex of dark light from which he had first emerged.  Sean waited until he was gone to scoff at the moblin's stupidity. "Soon I will rule the dimensions.  That fool of a moblin actually believed me!  Soon he and all of Gannondorf's followers will be dead and the universe will soon tremble in my grasp." He laughed to himself as he entered the vortex of light.
    Jacen let out his breath in one tremendous whoosh.  He hadn't realized he'd been holding it.  Swinging down twenty more feet and dropping the rest, Jacen broke into a dead sprint.  Time to set a new record, he silently told himself as he ran into the dark night.
 

    Hyrule Castle
    Link was awakened by the sounds of screaming-cries of battle, cries of terror...cries of agony.  He quickly woke his wife, Zelda, and proceeded to grab his sword and shield before making his way to the window.  The scene was horrific.  The bodies of the dead and wounded lay scattered about the castle courtyard.  Armored soldiers, some still grasping their swords and moaning, others lying still, were thrown about like rag dolls; their once shinning armor now blackened from energy burns.  Small fires filled the area, choking the courtyard with billowing black smoke.  Link rushed down the stairs and through a door in the hall outside.
    The sky was dark black and filled with clouds, not the kind seen before an impending storm, but an overcast of evil; an atmosphere of turbulent, agitated motion.  Jagged bolts of lightning carved out the stratosphere, illuminating the dark outlines of clouds for instants at a time.  Never had Link seen such a display of power, not by Gannondorf , not by anyone.  No, this was something different, something dark, black.
    A particularly deafening stroke of thunder shook the ground, this time accompanied by a fierce wind that began churning through the courtyard, making the smoke dance and twirl as if it were a living entity.  The whirling smoke clouded Link's already limited line of vision.
    The blow came from behind, silently and without any warning.  Link was thrown across the courtyard to the opposite wall.  Bones snapped as he impacted with crushing force and fell to the ground.  Breathing was agony. Still, Link gathered enough strength to turn himself to look up at the unseen attacker.  The being walked from the shadows and approached him.
    "Sean?" Link asked, astounded.  The realization struck Link like a slap in the face.  This isn't a dream!  "Sean, what are you doing?" Link managed to ask.  An extreme feeling of dread and betrayal surged through Link's body.  But Sean was different than Link had ever seen him.  His hair was black and his eyes glowed red.  Sean just laughed at the question.
    "Zelda should be here soon," he announced, "with your precious Triforce no less." At that moment, Zelda rushed into the courtyard.
    "Zelda!" Link tried to scream, "It's a trap!" Ignoring him, Zelda opened up fire with the Triforce's immense power, sending salvos of energy from the sacred relic across the courtyard into the man, only, Link knew, the power wasn't pure.  After a few seconds, Zelda ceased her firing. "Sean?" she asked. "Is that you?" Sean didn't say anything.  With a gesture of his hand, the Triforce of power exploded.
    "Noooooo," Link groaned.  It was happening all over again, but this time it was all real.  A glowing ball of green light zoomed toward Link.  Oh no, Link thought, this is it.  Link closed his eyes.
    "Hey!" yelled Sprite. "This is no time to take a nap!" Link's eyes snapped open.
    "Sprite!" he exclaimed, never so glad to see her, "you're not supposed to be here!"
    "Hey!" came her annoyed voice, "What kind of way is that to greet the person who is saving your life!?" At that time, Sean had just finished sending a counterattack energy bolt at Zelda.  It caught her in her midsection throwing her across to the far wall.  Link watched in horror as the Triforce of courage and the Triforce of wisdom floated across the courtyard into Sean's grasp.  Sprite's healing spell wasn't working fast enough to enable Link to get up and try to fight but it gave him enough strength to turn on his side and face Sean. "Why?" Link asked.
    "Your efforts are useless," he said, as if he didn't even hear the question.  Then he added, with an evil grin, "And I'll be back for the Triforce of Power."  He turned and walked away, opening a black hole portal with a small black marble.  This time Link got a good look at the vortex.  It appeared to be some sort of rip in dimensions.  It looked just like the ones that had sucked Gannondorf's army in.  Identical in fact.
    "Wait!" Link moaned, "what are...."
    A massive explosion ripped through the courtyard.  Link was lifted to the air and thrown back to the ground as the entire east wall behind him blew away.  Gannondorf emerged from the smoking crater, looking tired and weary.  Sean turned around just in time to see the fiery ball of energy race toward him from Gannondorf's hands.  There was no avoiding the blow.  The blast shook the ground as it impacted with shattering force into Sean's body.  The concussion threw Sean backward into the black portal he had just erected.  At the same time, he lost his grasp on the Triforce of courage and the Triforce of wisdom.  Also, the small black marble fell from his hands and rolled to Gannondorf's feet.  A look of amazement crossed Sean's face.
    "Still alive are you?" he questioned, looking at Gannondorf. "I never would have thought..." The two Triforces clattered to the ground as the dark vortex sealed itself.
    Right when the Triforces hit the ground, the ATPS decided to kick in.  White spherical force fields surrounded the two remaining pieces, engulfing them in protective, impenetrable shells.  Gannondorf hungrily looked at them.  Link could see what he was thinking.  Almost fully healed, he scrambled to his feet.
    "Go help Zelda," he shouted to Sprite.  Sprite zoomed off to fulfill Link's order.  Taking up a defensive position behind his shield, Link picked up his sword. "Not even you can get the Triforces now," he said, pointing his sword at Gannondorf's throat, circling to a flanking position on the right.
    Gannondorf just shook his head, not even paying attention to Link's movements. "Not this time, little man," he said, holding the black marble between his thumb and index finger, studying it. "No...this time we talk."
 

    War Room
    There was a haze of hatred that permeated the war room.  Uneasy glances were cast at Link and Zelda across the table, as if to question their sanity.  Link wasn't totally sure what he was doing himself.  Had he knowingly and willingly invited the lion into his own home?  Was Gannondorf up to something?  Link looked to his right.
    Gannondorf sat at one "end" and the councilors and advisors and generals sat at the other, even though the table was round.  No one wanted to be near Gannondorf and he seemed to prefer it that way.  The people closest to the Gerudo king were Harkinian on the right and Link and Zelda on the left.  It would have been somewhat a humorous scene if the circumstances hadn't been what they were.  All the members of the Hylian High council huddled up uncomfortably next to each other, jamming into one spot opposite Gannondorf.
    Link could sense the fear that radiated from the table.  The stuffed shirt bureaucrats and the advisors were terrified.  Of course that was a given.  Being stuck behind a desk all day tended to shield them from the outside world.  What surprised Link was that the generals also seemed frightened.  Of course, when you added the fact that Gannondorf could take their lives with the mere flick of his wrist, Link supposed it justified their skittish behavior.  However, there was one exception, as there always is.  Vigorously discussing something with his advisors, and every once in a while throwing looks of extreme hatred to Gannondorf, was Lazerath.  Once the councilors had settled down, Link stood and spoke.
    "I'm not going to tell you more than once that I will not tolerate any outbursts of any kind," Link formally stated. "We all know that tensions aren't going to go away just for the sake of this meeting, but you're going to control yourselves or leave.  Is that clear?" A wave of nodding heads answered Link's question.  Only Lazerath didn't acknowledge Link's order.  Smugly he sat back in his chair with his arms crossed, his eyes never leaving Gannondorf. "I'll begin by saying that the horrors that we just witnessed, they're just the tip of the iceberg.  I'm going to call Gannondorf to stand and fill you in on the details.  I'm not asking you to believe him but I am asking you to take into consideration what he is going to say." As Gannondorf stood to speak, commotion sounded from outside the doors of the war room.
    "The High Council is in session, civilian," Link could hear the guard outside the war room say.  Already, with the military resignations still coming in, dissention between the former and current soldiers of the army was becoming evident.  The bite in the word civilian echoed in Link's ears.
    "But, it's an emergency!  He's going to attack!  Let me in!" a voice shouted. "You don't understand!" A loud scuffle could be heard and soon after a large thud, the doors of the war room slammed open.  Jacen, his face red and sweaty, rushed to Link. "Link!  He's going to attack!  You must get ready!"
    "Jacen, it's okay!" Link said.
    "No!  You don't understand!" Jacen insisted. "Sean's alive and..." Link looked down and coughed, pointing at Gannondorf.  Jacen turned his head to look. "WHAT THE HELL IS HE DOING HERE?!!"
    "Have you been through the courtyard yet, Jacen?" Link inquired.
    "Have I what!?!  A war is going erupt, the king of darkness is sitting in this room and you're asking me if I've been through the courtyard!?!"  Link just nodded his head.
    Frustrated, Jacen gave in. "Well no!  I went through the side hall.  What does that have to do with anything!"
    "Sit down," Link instructed. "You're too late.  The battle is over.  I'll fill you in later."
    "But you don't understand!  What time is it?"
    "It's two in the morning," Answered Harkinian, his voice sounding annoyed and restless.
    "No, exactly what time is it?" shouted Jacen.
    "2:11"
    "You have about five minutes to prepare for an attack!"
    "I told you already!" Link stood, his tone sounding angry, tired, and commanding all at the same time. "Sean already attacked.  We beat him.  End of story."
    "It doesn't matter.  Gannondorf's army survives.  Sean ordered for an attack in two hours.  That was 115 minutes ago."
 

    By the time the members in the war room reached the castle gates, the flames had just begun to lick high into the dark black sky.  Much of the town was ablaze in a flaming inferno.  The sound of crackling fire was all that could be heard.  This is it... Link thought with complete despair.  What can we do?
    "Take defensive positions there, there, and there, behind that second boulder." Link could hear Commander Chalerton order.  The remaining troops scattered behind trees and boulders and sat ready to strike.  The most abundant soldiers were the red clad archers.  They stood, their bows drawn and ready, nervously keeping watch over the hill where they awaited the oncoming army.  Far less were the foot soldiers and the ironclad knights.  The chain mail armor reflected the red flames that danced from afar.  Clustered close around Link, Zelda, and the councilmen were about 20 soldiers dressed in bright Hylian Royal Blue; across the back of their uniform, the Hylian royal crest.  The Hylian Royal Guard; the finest soldiers in the land.  Jacen Shaw, the only one who was in civilian clothing, ran in front with the foot soldiers.  Link knew also that somewhere amidst the dark foliage of the forest were Magnus' special commandos. They were masters in combat, espionage, and in disappearing without a trace, but even while surrounded by the finest Hyrule had to offer, Link knew that they didn't have a chance.  Perimeter scouts began pouring into the area.
    "Gannondorf's army is advancing from the south and the east!" they yelled.
    "Men, ready yourselves!" Chalerton hollered.
    There was nothing at first.  Then a thunderous sound drew near.  Flames from torches climbed over the hill's peak.  The fists that grasped them also appeared.  The troops seemed to grow out of the top of the hill as they marched over its crest.  They all paused at its top, starring down on the helpless congregation of the rest resistance Hyrule had to offer.  The lead moblin stepped forward and announced their intentions.
    "For the murder of the Gerudo King Gannondorf and all attempts, successful or otherwise, to hinder or destroy his goals, I sentence you and all your followers to death!" The ground shook as the massive army charged toward the castle gates.
    "Halt!" a commanding voice dictated.  The stampeding army didn't even acknowledge Gannondorf's order, probably because they didn't even see their "late" commander at the bottom of the hill.  Undaunted, Gannondorf drew a red staff from his robes.  Link recognized it from the battle he saw in the dining room.  Once Gannondorf had collapsed, soldiers had burst into the room demanding to know what was going on.  They had later removed all the items that they found Gannondorf to be carrying and locked them away.  Every single one of them could have been used as a weapon.  Link didn't know how Gannondorf had recovered the staff but didn't doubt that the rest of the weapons and magical devices would be discovered to be missing also.
    Link laughed to himself, even in light of the impeding doom that raced down the hill.  Gannondorf's abrupt appearance had ended his and Zelda's discussion on the competence of women.
    Gannondorf cast Link a quizzical look, then refocused his attention back to the charging forces.  He spun his staff, snapped it around in a counterclockwise motion and thrust it deep into the ground.  It sunk deeply into the soil and sent a burst of energy thorough the earth toward the rapidly oncoming forces.  Shock waves emitted from the tip of the staff rumbled through the ground at lightning speed.  The waves of energy tore through the ranks sending them toppling to the ground once they found that the earth beneath their feet was no longer "stable." Every single member in the massive stampede toppled and fell to the still shaking ground.  A very unlucky moblin, who had been charging with all his speed, had tripped over a root at the same time Gannondorf used his earthquake spell.  He tumbled to land about a meter from Gannondorf's feet.  Dizzily, he picked himself up.  A stroke of confusion flitted across his face as he looked up at Gannondorf.
    "You...you're Gannondorf!  But Keritan said..." The moblin didn't have the chance to finish the sentence.  A previously unnoticed black marble worn on a silver chain around the moblin's neck suddenly sprang to life as if it had been remotely activated.  Link noticed that every single other warrior in the colossal army was also wearing a black marble, each one glowing with a dark light.  Black swirling vortexes abruptly appeared.  Hundreds of them.  The realization hit Link with the brunt of a stalfos spear.  The black marbles, the one just like Sean had dropped, were magical devices that were somehow able to create vortexes that could move whoever had them, just like a portal disc.  A wind began to blast through the whole forest.
    Struggling, the moblin was trying to resist the pull of the vortex.  Its properties resembled those of a scaled down black hole.  Battling the winds, the moblin managed to rip the marble from its chain around his neck.  He let it fly into the portal which, once it had entered, abruptly vanished, as if satisfied that it had gotten the marble.  Five seconds later, the whole army had disappeared.  The moblin, on his knees and breathing heavily, managed to choke over the words.
    "I am sorry, My Lord," he said earnestly. "That liar Keritan told me *Pant*, he told all of us, that you had been killed.  If we had known *Pant* you were still alive, we would never have moved against you.  Please forgive us."
    "You are forgiven.  You have been a loyal warrior.  These deeds will be wiped away under one condition.  You must tell me all of Keritan that you know."
    "Yes!  Yes master!  Gladly!" the moblin exclaimed. "Anything!  I know much of his plans!"
    Five black vortexes appeared at those words.  From each appeared a figure in black.
    "Where is the marble!" the first of the mysterious newcomers demanded. "There is a disturbance in the x-plane.  It originates here." Each of the figures was dressed in a black cloak with a hood that hung well over their eyes.  Given this fact, they seemed to have no trouble seeing.  One of the other figures pointed at Gannondorf. "He has one." The leader, Link assumed, turned to Gannondorf.
    "Give it to me."
    "What if I don't?" came Gannondorf's answer, not arrogant, not snide, simply questioning as if he were truly interested.  He fingered the black marble he got from Sean in his left hand.
    "Then you will die!" The leader grabbed a black marble from his cloak and whipped it at Gannondorf.  Gannondorf dove out of the way just as the marble impacted the ground where he had once been standing.  The spot was instantly engulfed in an inferno of black flames.  Link could feel the dark energy radiate from ten meters clear.  These were not foes to be taken lightly.  Link crouched to make his move but someone acted quicker.
    "You will not attack my lord!" yelled the moblin.  With lightning swiftness, Gannondorf's minion drew a knife from his boot.  Throwing it with deadly accuracy, it flew toward the face of the leader.  With a small gesture, the leader opened a black portal that intercepted the flying dagger's flight path.  The dagger flew into the black hole and disappeared.  Another vortex appeared directly behind the moblin.  Out of it flew the blade, still traveling at a deadly velocity.  The machete that was meant to kill the black intruder instead dug itself deep into the moblin's back.  The moblin fell helplessly to his knees.
    "For that," spoke Gannondorf, "you will die!" Gannondorf projected a blood red, Triforce powered, energy discharge of intense magic from his hands.  The leader once again erected a black vortex but this time, what happened was different.  Instead of absorbing the energy and channeling it somewhere else, the bolt tore through the portal and shattered it to pieces as if it had turned into an eddy of black glass.  The leader could not avoid the blow.  It struck him in the upper chest throwing him back a good fifty feet.  The four other intruders stared in amazement.
    "He must be the holder of the Triforce of Power!" one said.
    "That's impossible!" another claimed. "He's supposed to be dead!" By this time, Link and Zelda had caught on.  Drawing upon their Triforce powers, they attacked the remaining intruders.  Since Zelda was with him, Link didn't need to use his sword.  However, this time, he felt his blasts were stronger.  It was a good thing too.
    One of the cloaked warriors tried to use the black portal technique but also failed.  He was thrown backwards into the woods until a rather large boulder interrupted his uncanny flight.  The leader, once again on his feet, yelled to his troops. "This is not a battle we can win!  All three Triforce holders right here." The leader looked at Link.  Link could imagine the glare that probably existed under the heavy hood. "This is not the end," he spoke. "This is only the beginning." Five black gateways opened and the five black clad warriors stepped back into their "door in dimensions" and disappeared.
    "I think our situation has drastically changed for the worse," Gannondorf coldly commented.
 

    War Room...Again
    "We need information right now.  Who these black sorcerers are, what they want, and how to get rid of them," Link said.
    "What we need is a 10,000 man army," Lazerath muttered.
    "I don't think that any number of men would stand against those beings," Gannondorf spoke. "I do, however, have information."
    "Would you care to share?" asked Harkinian.  Link detected no hate in the king's voice.  The tone wasn't even tainted with a hint of rudeness.  The king meant business.  Link hoped that the members of the council would also cooperate.
    The senators and councilors were now evenly seated around the table.  Link and Harkinian were still the ones nearest to Gannondorf, but it was progress nonetheless. know.  Keritan came to me about seven months ago.  He offered his knowledge of you, your forces and some new magical devices of origin I have never seen.  You've seen an example, those black magical marbles.  I was naturally suspicious but he established his sincerity when he led your army into the ambush the month before last.  After that, I knew that he wasn't a spy on your side.  I never thought he was an "independent" though.  A miscalculation on my part that almost cost me my life."
    "That's great that you almost got yourself killed and all, but what I want to know is this: how much do you know about him and this link between him and Commander Dreydock," Lazerath spoke with a pointed tongue.
    "Commander Dreydock is dead," Jacen quietly stated in a drawnback manner. "I saw it with my own eyes."
    "Yes, but I also saw with my eyes Commander Dreydock very alive and well and powerful." Lazerath contested. "He seems to be doing fairly well for himself given he's dead man!  He destroyed half the castle!...well, Gannondorf helped with the east courtyard wall, but you're saying that it isn't possible that he survived."
    "Yes." Jacen simply answered.
    "Then can you explain his reappearance?" Lazerath asked.
    "Yes, I believe I can.  Sean was definitely killed, I saw it with my own eyes, but he has somehow been brought back to life.  It's obviously a decoy tactic that Keritan, or whatever, is employing in an attempt to confuse and possibly divide us.  Brilliant in theory but with one flaw, you." Jacen pointed to Gannondorf. "You survived.  Keritan was going to kill you.  When you escaped to us, he probably assumed that we would finish the job and execute you.  We didn't.  Now, somehow, he gained control of your army.  Since he thought you were dead, he concluded that he could attack with the army without fear of interference - when the moblin met Sean in the woods, he said he wanted to avenge your death.  Now Sean, he..."
    "Sean is dead," Link interrupted. "Whatever Keritan did to him, he's no longer the Sean I knew." Obviously distraught, Link sank into his chair, deep in thought.
    "Well, anyway, now that Keritan knows that your alive," Jacen continued pointing at Gannondorf, "were back on even ground."
    "Thank you," Lazerath said in a dark manner. "That is all I wanted to know."
    Gannondorf started again. "I know how powerful Keritan is.  When he betrayed me, he said he had a challenge that he wanted to see if I could pass.  If I could defeat him, he would leave, if he defeated me, he would recover the Triforce of Power from my body.  I told him that I would not tolerate subordination.  He just kept talking.  If I was worthy, I could defeat him in unarmed combat.  Suddenly, he drew a black marble and cast it at me.  It was unavoidable.  It impacted the floor and surrounded me in black flames.  When the flames died, I found that I couldn't use any of my magic.  The marble seemed to screen or dampen my powers.  Anyway, he attacked and I could only defend myself.  During the battle, I managed to recover a portal disc from my robe and in a desperate attempt, used it.  Since he didn't give me a chance to program the destination, it, by chance, opened a portal to your dining chambers.  The last thing I remember is being kicked through the portal and seeing you two," he pointed to Link and Zelda.
    "We must be dealing with someone of great strength if he has the ability to strip you of your powers," Zelda said. "The question is now, how can we destroy him?"
    "That's just what I wanted to hear," a voice said.  Senators and councilors jumped in their seats.  Link and Jacen sprung from their chairs, swords drawn.  Even Gannondorf had been caught off guard, given the fact that he had jumped from his seat and was scanning the room.  In the corner away from the door, a form shimmered into view, as if someone who was once invisible, had decided to become visible again.
    "Man!" the councilor from internal affairs shouted out loud, "Your castle security sucks!  I've been here for three meetings and we're either being attacked or invaded and now weird people are just appearing..."
    "Who are you?" Link asked, ignoring the outburst.
    "I am a friend, assured," the stranger spoke.
    "How did you get in here?" Harkinian demanded.
    "That is unimportant.  All that matters is that you want to destroy Keritan.  You may be of use to us." Two other beings "uncloaked" into view.  The councilor from internal affairs threw his hands up in disgust.
    "Who are you?" Link said again. "What do you want?"
    "Your help in destroying Keritan."
    "Why should we help you?  Trust you?" Jacen demanded, his sword still pointing at the being that appeared first.  The figure, like the other two, wore all white.  A white robe with a white sash tied around the waist.  They, like the black cloaked beings, also had a hood, but, unlike their darker "counterparts," they wore theirs down.  All three of them had pure white hair, worn at a medium length, and piercingly blue eyes.
    "So, what do you "whities" have against the "blackies" besides the apparent disagreement in wardrobes," Link coldly asked.
    "You joke now, mortal, but the severity of this intrusion of the dark knights is beyond your comprehension."
    "Try me," Link said.
    "Very well, but you won't like what we have to say." The man was right; Link didn't like what he told.
 

     "I am Norriok, and these are my companions, Karolo and Michilo," Norriok gestured to his right and left, "For eternity, we of the white crest brotherhood have battled those of the dark knights for supremacy of the realms."
     "I guess that explains your choice of clothing," Link commented, clearly not impressed.
     Norriok continued. "We reside in the pure realm and they occupy the dark underworld."
     "Then why don't you go back where you came from and take them with you," a senator interjected, again cutting off Norriok.
     "If only it were that easy." Norriok began. "To tell you how we all co-exist would be too complicated.  I will instead describe it in simpler terms, an analogy if you wish.  Given a child.  A child knows what is good and what is evil.  They live with a distinguished sense of what is right and what is wrong.  However, when they grow up and become adults, the line between right and wrong widens and blurs and becomes grey.  My people and I are like the good side and the dark knights are, obviously, the evil.  Though we exist in different realms, it is possible to travel between them.  They gained the ability to travel first, through what we call the x-plane, that is.  Their initial attack was devastating.  Though we are as equally powerful as they are, we were caught off guard.  Ever since then, our two worlds have been at war, always plotting and planning on how to destroy the other.  However, very recently, we discovered your realm.  Like the grey part, your realm is a place where both good and evil coexist."
     "So what you're saying is that we've been infiltrated by the masters of darkness and you're here to kick them out?" Jacen asked hopefully.
     "I wish we had the power to do that but we don't.  No one purely good can destroy anyone purely evil and no one purely evil can destroy anyone purely good."
     "I see now," Link said. "You want our help in getting rid of them.  No deal."
     "You don't understand your importance in the grand scheme of things." Norriok said. "In ancient scriptures, it is said that there is one way to destroy either good or evil.  It is quoted as this:
    "Three different realms and three triangles at each gate.  These three triangles decide the fate.  Good or evil prevails in domination, with the three triangles provide annihilation.
    "Until we discovered your realm, we never understood what the scripture meant.  After in-depth studying, we have concluded that the object that you call the "Triforce" is the key to defeating either good or evil.  We will acquire it with or without your assistance but it would be in your best interests to cooperate with us."
     "You can't though," Zelda said.
     "What does that mean?" Norriok questioned, his voice maintaining a steady volume. "You will not help us?"
     "No, I mean it's not that simple.  We are the Triforce." Zelda pointed to Link and Gannondorf and then motioned to herself. "I mean, we hold the powers of the Triforce.  It is in us, part of our very essence."
     "Then you will help us," Norriok stated, almost an order.
     "Just a minute now," Magnus said. "Again, why should we help you."
     "You don't have a choice in that matter.  You will cooperate with us or we will make you cooperate with us.  Do not underestimate our powers."
     "Oh, yeah?" Gannondorf said, "Our Triforce powers tore through your black buddies pretty well.  If you're saying that we will cooperate against our will, then I think it's time that we show you just how extreme the power of the Triforce is."
    "You may want to re-think that before you do anything rash." Norriok said, holding up his hands. "We have powers that reach to the ends of space and time and it would be in your best interests to keep your distance.  At this very moment, the dark knights' influence stretches to this very room.  They are able to kill and destroy with a mere thought but can also give life.  They can fend off even the clutches of death.  They can influence the minds of leaders and followers alike.  Fortunately, so can we.  I will demonstrate.  A person in this room is dead."
    "What?" came the confused voices of the many senators and councilors along with Zelda's and Gannondorf's.
    "Oh yeah!" Link sarcastically exclaimed. "We're making sense now!"
    "What do you mean, dead?" asked Jacen, serious.
    "You of all should know, Jacen.  You were there when he died.  Let me lift the mind block that the dark knights erected in your memory." Norriok waved his hand and chanted a choice phrase.  Jacen cocked his head to the left, staring in to space as if he was deep in thought.  Seconds later, he fell to the floor, screaming with his hands grasping at his head.  His body shook with pain as he rolled on the floor.
    "What have you done to him!?" Link demanded, closing in on Norriok with his sword.
    "He is simply remembering.  Nothing more.  Just wait and observe." Link halted his advance and looked.  Jacen's spasms began to decrease, and then stopped totally.  Sweating and on his back, Jacen pointed at Lazerath. "You, you're dead.  I saw it.  When we were retreating, you fell to a stalfos sword.  I remember." A dark smile crept across Lazerath's face.  His eyes glowed red and his hair began to turn black, the color change beginning at the roots and growing out to end at the tips.
    "Yes, you're right," Lazerath said, his voice sounding weird and distorted. "I thought you would figure it out without their help," he remarked as he looked at Norriok. "I guess I overestimated you."
    "Keritan!" Norriok exclaimed.
    "Yes," he replied to Norriok. "I'm sorry that I must confer with you through this mortal.  I very much wished to meet you in person, Prince Norriok.  I must admit though, I found it quite entertaining toying with this mortal scum.  You know, disrupting plans, being privy to all sorts of classified information and documents...  Well, it seems that I've been discovered and playtime is over.  I'm sorry I must chat and run, Norriok, but I'm a busy man with many pressing demands.  You and you guardian crests lose this one." With that, Lazerath screamed and collapsed to the ground.  Zelda rushed to his side, immediately using her healing powers on him.  After a few seconds, she reported.
    "Strange, it seems that he is dead but I still sense life.  Like he's in some sort of coma."
    "What was that about!?" Link demanded, still somewhat in shock."
    "That was merely a glimpse at their power," Norriok answered. "It's called body revival.  As I said before, we have the power to take and give life."
    "I think I get it now," Jacen said. "When somebody dies, you can revive them.  That's what they did to Sean and Lazerath."
    "You are right in a way." Norriok agreed." Once the individual is brought back to life, the person who revived them can choose either to control them or leave them to their free will.  However, if the reviver chooses to control the individual, the original mind still resides in the body, idle and unable to control what he or she does.
    "So, Lazerath was killed and then was brought back to life but under the control of Keritan.  He's been spying on us the whole time," Harkinian resolved.
    "Correct.  When Jacen "remembered" that Lazerath had died, Keritan decided to show himself and talked to us through him because he knew he was caught.  Lazerath's hair and eyes changing is the physical sign that a dark knight was taking total control and was directly interfaced with his body."
    "Well that explains why Lazerath was pushing us to use the Triforce right away.  Keritan was using him.  He was setting the trap." Link figured. "But if he was alive, why does he seem dead?"
    "With Keritan abandoning him, there was nothing left to sustain his life force." Norriok explained. "But that does not matter."
    "What?" Zelda asked.
    "Yes," now Harkinian started to become angry. "My chief military advisor has just been uncovered to be a spy, has been murdered and it doesn't matter?  Now just why the hell is that!?!"
    "Because," Norriok answered as Lazerath rolled over and groaned. "I took the liberty of restoring his life."
    "Awww, do I have a headache!" Lazerath complained as he sat up on the floor, rubbing his head.  He opened his eyes and jumped. "Woah!  How did I get here?  Last thing I remember is the battle and I got..."Lazerath's face turned white. "I...I died."
    "It's ok, Lazerath," Link said, "We'll explain later.  Glad to have you back!" Link looked back at Norriok. "If these "dark knights" can take control of anyone they kill, then how can we be sure that there aren't more people under their control, here in the castle, or the army, or in general, Hyrule?"
    "My companions and I have dealt with those people quietly and discreetly." Link nodded as Norriok continued. "However, Lazerath was too close to people in power to take care of without revealing ourselves.  As you can guess, keeping a minimal profile was top priority."
    "When you say "taken care of," what exactly do you mean?" Harkinian asked.
    "I think that can go without explaining." Harkinian just nodded.  Norriok began again. "Anyway, Keritan has been trying to get the Triforce from you.  He probably has been using suggestive telepathy to affect your thinking..."
    "Hold it, did I miss something here?" Lazerath asked. "Who are these guys in the white?"
    "We'll explain later, Lazerath," Link said. "Go on..."
    "Yes, anyway," Norriok proceeded, "you may have had thoughts that you would not normally have so he could use you to his advantage." It was Zelda's turn to turn white.
    "The battle!" she exclaimed. "I planned it and I knew that we would win.  He...he..."
    "Yes, he probably used his mind influencing techniques to get you to think what he wanted you to think," Norriok informed.
    "I thought the gods were telling me what to do, or the Triforce of Wisdom..." Zelda looked down at the table. "It was just Keritan the whole time?"
    "Yes," Norriok confirmed, "Keritan is the most skilled in mind control that we know of."
    "And Sean, I remember when he died; I was there," Link said.
    "Again, he probably implanted false thoughts or memories into your mind, using Sean to disrupt you emotionally."
    "But it was so real...and wait!" Link shut his eyes, thinking with all his power. "The Triforce of Power!  Zelda extracted it from Gannondorf's body!  When he was in his coma!  Then it blew up when Sean appeared."
    "Don't talk like I'm not here," said Gannondorf.
    "Sorry," Link apologized. "Anyway, it seems that you," Link gestured to Gannondorf, "still have the Triforce of power.  How did we get a fake one?"
    "Keritan is extremely powerful.  He probably just fabricated a lookalike so he could get close to the real Triforces, a booby trap.  You see, he still needs Gannondorf's body to get the Triforce of power."
    "Hey, what did I say about talking like I'm not here?"
    "Sorry."
    "Anyway, let me see if I've got this straight." Gannondorf said, "This guy Keritan can tell our heads the things that happened, didn't, and things that didn't happen, did?" He paused. "If you are, then you're saying that we can't even trust our own memories."
    "Yes, but that's irrelevant now." Norriok said, taking a serious tone. "Now that you know he exists, I doubt he'll still attempt to deceive you.  He'll go totally offensive.  We must get prepared for a great battle.  I must warn you though, since you two seem to have had a slight skirmish last month, don't be surprised if you find that you're fighting some of your own troops that were killed there.  Who ever they were, they are now just pawns in a war.  He will use them to his liking.  Link, even I can sense that Sean was a very close friend.  If it comes to it, could you kill him?"
    Zelda asked a question before Link could answer, "It doesn't matter though, you can just revive him, right?"
    "From what we gather, there are five other dark knights besides Keritan here.  I doubt that my fellow crests or myself will be able to spare any power in the battle."
    "But I thought that you said that you can't die," Link said.
    Norriok turned to Link, looking him dead in the eyes. "Though we can't be killed by anyone purely evil, we can be hurt badly, very badly."
    "What I want to know is why you've just now come to us for help," Harkinian inquired. "It seems you have a good general knowledge about us."
    "We had to be absolutely sure what side you were on," Norriok answered.
 

    <Prince Norriok,> Karolo interrupted speaking through a private telepathic link, <General Jinsuk reports that the dark knights have pushed us back seven more sectors into our own territory.  He requests that we return and assist them.>
    <Tell him we are unable to aid them.  If Keritan possesses the Triforce, none of what happens will matter.>
 

    "Oh," came Link's reply, completely oblivious to Norriok's private chat with Karolo. "And I take it that there's no chance of you getting any reinforcements?"
    "No," Norriok answered, slightly smiling, "but you might find that we still have a couple tricks up our sleeves."

      The first of the recon scouts returned about two hours later.  Individuals and groups of twos and threes reported that Keritan's base was not within their search perimeters.  Not until another hour after the first reports, did the keystone report arrive.  The search flight headed by Norriok, Magnus, and another Hylian Intelligence officer had discovered Keritan's base of operations.  Several hundred feet below the surface of the East Ruins rested scores of largely unexplored, partially submerged caverns.  The hidden underground lakes were not only home to many rare fish but also housed stories and legends that kept even the bravest of explorers away.
     From what Magnus had reported, the dark, damp, subterranean caves had been excavated into a huge multi-leveled military installation.  Norriok had determined that there were at least five distinct levels, the top two serving as troop barracks.
     "The base is nearly impenetrable," Norriok lectured the remaining Hylian troops.  The briefing room, normally reserved for ranking officers, was barely filled with all the full regiments present, a very bad sign.  Many of the newly decommissioned soldiers, who had survived the raid on the town, sat scattered among the ranks, some still in their nightclothes, filling in their proper former spots.
    The room had a vaulted ceiling and a small stage with a podium on it.  From there, the commanding officer could be seen from the floor.  Magnus stepped up from his seat.
    "The only access we have is through the East Lake.  Entering this way is impractical and, given the time restraints, virtually impossible.  Lucky for us, Norriok has offered us an alternative method of getting into the base."
     "Yes," Norriok continued, "the only other way into the complex is through a dark portal.  The portal marble that Gannondorf has acquired is already being doctored to create a door to the third level.  The two lower levels are carma-shielded-you can't transport in or out unless you are using a specially modulated portal, something only the dark knights would normally have access to.
    Only a dark portal can be created in the fortress anyway so neither I nor Karolo or Michilo will be accompanying you.  We cannot enter by using our portals nor can we cross through a dark portal.  However, your troops should have no trouble getting inside the complex.
    Magnus cut back in. "All forces will then fortify themselves on the third floor and try to hold back the troops stationed on the upper levels.  You'll be covering Link, Zelda, and Gannondorf while they work their way down to where, we hope, Keritan is hiding.  Though there is more speculation involved in this plan than I like, we need to act before Keritan decides he's ready and goes offensive.  Good thing for us though, Norriok and his buddies were kind enough to give us some of their technology to use against Gannondorf's troops."
    Michilo stepped forward. "I am Michilo, chief military consulate to prince Norriok.  I take it most of you haven't been briefed on the nature of the black marbles so I'll explain it for you who do not know.  The black marbles are created by the dark knights to use as a "short cut" to using magic.  To perform a spell, it takes time to conjure the necessary power and to cast it.  The more powerful the spell, the longer it takes.  In battles, I'm sure you know, being warriors yourselves, time counts as much as your combat skills; if you can't cast a spell with enough power to disable your opponent quicker than he can, you're done.  That's why the marbles were created.  The marbles are actually "pre-made" spells.  Any one marble can be any one spell.  To the untrained eye, they all look exactly the same.  Their purpose is to eliminate the power and casting time consumptions.
    With your current means of defense and weaponry, you will have no chance of defending yourselves from all the troops Keritan has amassed.  It's a good thing that you'll be armed with these." Michilo held up a white marble. "Early in the days of our war against the dark knights, we manufactured mass quantities of these.  They have become obsolete through time and are now too under-powered to be considered useful in modern war against the dark knights.  However, I believe they will prove to be sufficient enough to be used against Keritan's "acquired" troops.  This given, you must still remain vigilant.  The size of the room you will be defending will limit the number of troops you'll have to face at one time, but the odds will still be stacked at about thirteen to one, against.
    You will be granted use of three grades of marbles.  I will demonstrate." Michilo drew a white marble from a pouch at his side.  A granite stone block was rolled into the room. "This is a low powered stun marble.  Its primary purpose is to knock the target unconscious.  It is classified by its power ranking; grade base alpha." With deadly accuracy, Michilo threw the marble at the block.  Upon impact, there was a small flash of light and a muffled crack. "Notice there is no damage incurred to the stone." Michilo lectured. "The second grade of marble is designed to as a low-yield bomb.  Its grade ranking is base beta." Again, Michilo threw a marble at the stone block.  The impact resulted in a larger, brighter flash of light accompanied by a somewhat loud boom.  After the light faded, all that remained of the once solid granite block was a small pile of smoldering rubble.
    Astounded murmuring filled the conference room.  Hushed comments like "Wow," and "That's under-powered?" could be heard among the ranks.  After the room quieted, Michilo continued.
    "That grade of marble has enough force to punch through one of your shields and still have enough power to seriously injure the target.  The third grade, ranking at base gamma, is too powerful to safely demonstrate in such a confined area.  Given this, only commanding officers possessing the ranks of major or higher will be allowed access to use them.
    This should even the odds and possibly tip the scales in your favor.  On to your mission." Magnus stepped forward to the podium.
    "Thank you Michilo," Magnus voiced as he stepped up. "Troops, this is your goal.  All you need to do is keep the enemy forces on the upper two levels from descending to the lower two levels.  Basically, keep them away from Link, Zelda, and Gannondorf..."
    Norriok tapped Link's arm, taking Link's attention from Magnus' briefing. "I want this to be clear to you, Link," he said in a hushed manner. "You will be facing five dark knights and Keritan.  You must not underestimate their powers.  Keritan is the second in power and command only to the supreme Dark King.  He and his companions are of Elite Flight; they are the best the Dark Knights have to offer.
    Their powers are vast.  They move at lightning speed, attack with the force of a chiloac versatel, and can use powerful magic at a whim.  Your only hope is to work together and destroy them.  The Triforce is the key."
    "Do you think we have a chance?  Six to three aren't the worst odds I've ever faced but by your explanation of their powers..."
    Norriok interrupted, "Here, I will demonstrate and then you can tell me." Magnus was just about done with his lecture and asking for questions. "Magnus," Norriok called, "I have a demonstration for you and your troops.  They look like they need some entertainment anyway, something to get their minds off the mission."
    "Okay," Magnus agreed, "if there are no questions, then the floor is yours."
    "Good. Michilo, Karolo, come here." Norriok turned to the assembly. "This will be a demonstration of our battle techniques.  Keep in mind, the dark knights have our same powers.  If you see one, don't attack.  Just sit back and hope he doesn't take notice to you.  Michilo, Karolo, you may attack me at your convenience." Michilo and Karolo looked at each other.
    "Are you sure?" Karolo asked.
    Norriok smiled. "You do want them to see what they will be going up against don't you?"
    "Yes, we do," Michilo answered. "But if you were to come to any harm..."
    "Are you insinuating that I will allow myself to come to harm?" Norriok questioned.
    "No my lord," Michilo stuttered. "I just think it wise..."
    "Then attack."
    "Yes my lord." Michilo answered. "Karolo, attack pattern contraseptor!  Go!"
    In an instant, Michilo had launched two marbles at Norriok and Karolo had disappeared into a portal of light, transporting to a position behind Norriok.  Holding two marbles in each hand, Norriok projected a white screen in front of him.  It looked like a glowing, shimmering half-sphere of translucent glass, forming at his feet and curving around his sides and over his head.  Michilo's marbles impacted the white screen and exploded.  Norriok, apparently unhurt, jumped straight up into the air about twenty feet to avoid marbles thrown by Karolo from behind him.  Performing a mid-air 180º turn, he grabbed a different white marble from his cloak and threw it at Karolo.  Karolo dove out of the way into another white portal.  He emerged from a corresponding portal ten feet in the air above Norriok.
    Traveling at lightning speed, Karolo drove toward Norriok with a flying drop kick, launching salvos of white energy form his hands.  Unfazed, Norriok again created a white screen.  It absorbed the magic attack while sending millions of white sparks of energy flying through the air.  With a twist of his wrists, the screen of light expanded toward Karolo, smashing into him with tremendous force.  Knocked from his flight, Karolo fell to the ground.  Halfway to the floor, he opened another "enter" white portal and fell into it.  The exit portal appeared about seven feet above the ground, out of which Karolo dropped, landing on his feet.  Norriok had no time to take notice to his recovery.  Michilo drove from underneath, flying up with a white screen of his own in front of him.  Acting like a battering ram, his screen crashed into Norriok's screen, sending Norriok flying up in a curved arc through the air.  Norriok conjured up a portal and disappeared into it as Michilo's secondary attack of white magic filled the space he had just vacated. Appearing on the floor, Norriok launched a trio of marbles from each hand.  Three raced toward Karolo and the other three tracked Michilo through the air.  Both the targets drove away but couldn't evade the marbles.  Both decided to defend themselves with white screens.  Six deafening bangs sounded as three marbles impacted each screen.   Michilo's shield held the blasts from all three marbles.  Karolo didn't fare as well.  His screen deflected the first two marbles but the extreme power caused his shield to shatter.  The final marble found home and impacted him in his midsection.  It blasted him backward into the stone wall.  His body connected with the wall, sending cracks through the reinforced carrogate stone.  Either unhurt or pretending not to be hurt, Karolo instantly drove to his left, throwing a quartet of marbles.  They flew through the air in the formation of a square, each marble acting like a corner.  Strings of white light grew from each marble, connecting to the other three marbles, making a net of glowing fibers.  Still flying, the net began to spin.  Norriok, either not noticing or ignoring the flying net, was too busy to act anyway.
    Michilo, now flying in the air, had a trio of marbles circling him in the air.  Each time he fired the white blasts from his hands, in sync, the marbles also fired.  Salvos of groups of five blasts impacted the floor, each one missing a dodging Norriok.
    The energy net, advancing at tremendous speed charged at Norriok from the rear.  Either Norriok knew it was coming or he had eyes in the back of his head because he spun around and threw a marble at the net.  It exploded and surrounded the net in a bubble of light.  Motioning with his hand, he threw the bubble encased net at a floating Michilo.  Now aware of this new threat, Michilo directed his artillery at the incoming net.  The commandeered energy net absorbed scores of barrages of light.  Unfazed, it flew at him.  Dodging at the last moment, Michilo evaded it...almost.  The net caught Michilo's trailing left foot.   Swinging him about, the net threw him at the ground.  Upon Michilo's impact with the ground, the net detonated in a gigantic explosion.
    Norriok didn't have time to celebrate the fall of one of his two combatants; dual marbles impacted his defense screen nanoseconds after he erected it.  The impacts flared up into a massive eruption of blinding light.  Temporarily unable to see, Norriok didn't notice Karolo exiting a portal behind him.  A swift kick to Norriok's back sent him flying through the air.  Impacting with stunning force, Norriok had no chance of avoiding the single maximus destroyer-grade5  marble that flew through the air, homing in on his location.  Stopping on a dime, the marble halted a centimeter from Norriok's nose.
    "I believe victory is ours, Prince Norriok," Karolo spoke.
    "Yes," said a recovering Michilo. "A very fine battle none the less." Applause filled the chamber.
    "Thank you all," Norriok said to the cheering congregation as he got up, "Get a good night's rest.  You'll need it."
    "That's what we'll be facing?" Link quietly asked as Norriok stepped down from the stage.
    "Yes, that times two and raised to the dark power."
    "Great..."
 

    "I still don't think this is a wise move to make," Michilo said in defeat. "You've seen their capabilities, or lack thereof, already.  They are unable at even launching a successful campaign against the Gerudo alone, and you are trusting that they will win against Keritan?"
    Norriok said nothing; he only nodded.
    "You are gravely mistaken," Michilo concluded.  Ever since Norriok's older brother had been taken by Keritan, Michilo noticed, Norriok had retreated to a state of constant planning...planning Keritan's defeat.  Michilo knew that it was Norriok's sworn duty to avenge his brother, but through haste and wishful thinking?  It would not happen.  "Your brother would not have formed this alliance, Norriok." Michilo continued, "You are a fool to believe that these humans will stand a chance of defeating anything.  They don't even have the chance of surviving this suicide attack of yours.  If your brother were here..."
 

    Norriok shot up from his chair.  For the last hour, he had been brooding over the final plans; every single, minute detail.  And every second of that time, he had listened to Michilo's ranting on how ill-advised and unintelligent he was acting.  Bringing his brother into the conversation was, in Norriok's opinion, ill-advised and unintelligent.  "You do not know what my brother would do if he were here!" Norriok shouted in retaliation.  "And if you weren't so buried in your predictions of failure, you might have seen what I have seen!"
    "And exactly what is that?" Michilo said smugly, not letting on that he was slightly taken aback by Norriok's outburst.
    "That they have the power, the power of the Triforce.  They will defeat Keritan and we will win this war.  Your complaining and whining is doing nothing but slowing the process down.  Arrrrrgggghhhhh!!!"  Why can't they see it? Norriok thought in despair.  The Triforce is in them.  They will do it.
    "I wish I shared your optimistic disposition," Michilo gave, regaining his composure.  "But, since you have made your decision, as simply your advisor, I must obey your command.  Even if I am 27 years your senior and advised both your father and brother; if you make the order, I must obey."
    "Thank you," Norriok snapped, not meaning it at all.  "Your objections have been noted.  For now, you are dismissed."  Michilo left the room and the atmosphere became noticeably lighter.
    This kind of dissention was dangerous.  Not only to him but to the resolve of the Hylian troops under his command, if word of this ever got out.  However, he was convinced the key rested in the Three's hands.  "Power, Courage, and Wisdom," he said quietly to himself. "That must be what the quote is referring to."  Norriok was left to himself for the rest of the night.  He fell asleep at the desk, the pen still in his hand.
 

    Zero Hour...
    The portal to the dark knight's underground lair was different than all the other portals Link had seen.  It flickered and wavered, white static jumping across its surface. "Unstable" was how Michilo described it when Link had asked during a test run.  According to Karolo, only the creator of a marble was supposed to be able to use it.  Supposedly, there was a way to put a seal on a marble that prevented anyone else from using it to protect very powerful spells from falling into the wrong hands.  Apparently, there were ways around that rule.
    Karolo had spent about an hour discussing the magic marbles with some of the more curious Hylian soldiers after the briefing.  Link had listened to their conservation for a while.
    "White and black marbles are made by compressing magic energy into a physical shape," Karolo had explained. "The energy used to make the marble comes directly from the creator's "magic" reserve.  The higher you magic level, the more powerful magic you can use.  Training and practicing can raise your power reserve, but it takes much discipline and determination.  When you make a magic marble, it uses some of your magic power, power that you cannot use during a battle.  Did you get that?  I'll give you an example.  My magic reserve is about 25,000, give or take.  If I make a marble that takes 1,000 magic, I will only be able to use 24,000 for anything else.  It's like a magic bank.  I put the magic in to save time later, and then take it back out to use on a rainy day."  Karolo's joke got a few laughs.  "When I actually use the magic marble, since the power has been expended, my reserve will gradually go back up to its full level of 25,000.  We have spells and recovery magic that can expedite this process.  The actual rate depends on how fast you can recover from using magic."
    Link remembered Jacen asking a question.  "What are Norriok's and Michilo's magic reserves?"
    Karolo thought a moment.  "Well, Michilo's is about 27,000 and Norriok's is somewhere around 45,000.  So actually, when Michilo and I fought him, we had about a 7,000 advantage over him.  He was fighting pretty well to hold us off for so long.  Magic can be used for energy blasts or transporting by making portals or using what you see as super speed.  All of these things use magic power.  Since it takes energy to make shields and things, if you're fast enough, it's better to avoid a blast rather than block it and waste energy."
    "Why does Norriok have such a higher level than you?" a knight asked.  "You seem like you've had much more experience than him."
    "Well, he was born of the royal family, giving him an automatic high level at birth, but I'm afraid it's because Michilo and I are getting old.  When you get old, you power level starts to decline." Karolo sighed.  "Are there anymore questions?"
    "Yes," Link said. "If it takes power to make a marble, then there must be a lot of power in all the marbles that you are going to be letting us use in the battle tomorrow.  Couldn't that power be put to better use by someone elsewhere?"
    Karolo sighed again.  "The marbles you are going to be using have been made by crests who are now inert.  Becoming inert means that you've used all your magic.  Once you reach the magic level of one, your essence is transformed into a marble.  No one knows how to revive someone who has become inert."
    "So it's like dying then," Link said.
    "No, not really," Karolo said.  "We cannot be "killed" by light or dark magic.  When you are injured in battle, it drops your magic level.  So far, neither the black knights nor us crests have found a way to push someone past the level of one.  Honestly, we don't know if it can even be done.  In essence, light cannot kill dark and dark cannot kill light.  There will always be a spark of fighting will left.  In ancient scriptures, it was once said there was a way to revert someone who had gone to level one, but no one has ever figured out how to do it.  Thankfully, it takes immense power to push someone to level one.  I don't believe that Michilo and I both with our combined powers can take someone to level one.  However, it is not impossible to do so.  The magic marbles you will be using tomorrow have been made by crests who have become inert in the battle against the dark knights." Karolo looked down and paused. "It will be like they have been given the chance to fight again." He looked up again, his eyes sweeping over the small congregation of soldiers. "They will be honored by your actions."
    The room had gone silent as a sense of solemnity swept through everyone's minds.  Karolo had broken the uneasy silence.
    "Does anyone else have a question?  It's getting late."
    Link spoke up.  "Yes, one more question.  What's Keritan's level?"
    Karolo's countenance took on a dark expression.  "We don't really know.  From what we can gather, it's higher than 100,000."  Karolo's lesson on marbles had ended on that note.
    "I guess it's time," Gannondorf said, bringing Link's thoughts back to the present.  Gannondorf turned to Norriok. "This had better work."  Three white marbles were attached to the black portal marble by beams of light, attempting to stabilize the dying portal long enough to let the last three travelers through.
    "It will," Norriok assured. "But you have little time."
    Gannondorf turned to Link. "I guess I'll see you on the other side then." With those parting words, Gannondorf threw himself into the gaping maw of the black portal.
    "I guess it's our turn," Zelda said to Link.  She moved to follow Gannondorf's lead and jump into the portal.  Link grabbed her hand before she could.
    "No.  We do this together." Link and Zelda walked to the portal hand in hand. "I know we haven't had a lot of time for each other lately but I promise you that once this is over, I'll make it all up to you."
    Zelda smiled. "Of all the times to decide to say that."
    Link smiled back. "Would you expect anything less from a hero?"
    "I guess not," Zelda laughed.  Then she sighed. "You know, I'm going to take you up on that promise if it's the last thing I do."
    "Don't worry about that.  But for now, we have a job to do." Link threw a glance to Norriok.
    "You know what must be done," Norriok said.  Link solemnly nodded. "Then let the gods of light be with you to guide your actions and enlighten your mind."
    Looking at each other and taking deep breaths, Link and Zelda both jumped into the black portal.
 

    "Thank you my friends," Norriok said quietly to himself as Michilo struggled to keep the portal stable.  The light from one of the white marbles faltered and failed.  In a violent rip, the portal imploded.  The black marble fell to the floor and shattered into dust.
    "Well, they all got through," Michilo said.  It was Norriok's turn to solemnly nod.
    "If they only knew the importance of what they are doing." Norriok shook his head. "Okay, our next plan of business-the entrance Magnus spoke of, through the East Lake.  I want to know how to get there..."

    The Underground Base...
    "There!" Link exclaimed.  Gannondorf was standing in a doorway waving his arms. "Let's go!" The room appeared to be the mess hall.  It was efficiently plain, with stone walls, floor, and ceiling, lit by burning torches held by metal stands.  Wooden tables were lined up in military rows...or would have been.  Tipped on their sides, the tables were the only cover that the Hylian soldiers had against the stampeding forces that were flowing down the stairs from the upper levels of the massive complex.  At a quick glance, it seemed that the severely outnumbered Hylian troops were holding their own.  This, obviously, due to the fact that they had the white marble "technology" and Keritan's forces didn't have black marble technology of their own and no defense against the white marbles.
    Link pulled Zelda toward Gannondorf's position about thirty meters away.  Behind them, the black portal imploded in a massive eruption of energy.  Zelda and Link gave each other knowing looks as they ran to the arched stairway.
    Hylian solders did their best to clear the way.  From behind tables, they rained marbles upon the massed enemy troops.  Armed only with regular swords and shields, enemy troops stood no fighting chance.  But still, the superior number of enemies had forced some of the Hylian forces into conventional sword combat by relentlessly charging the table-barriers.  The enemies were coming faster than the Hylian solders could throw their artillery.  After some fancy maneuvering and a few quick marble attacks of their own, Link and Zelda finally made up with Gannondorf.
    "This seems to be the only way down," Gannondorf yelled. "I just hope your troops can hold their ground."
    "They will," Link assured. "Lets get going!" Gannondorf led the way down the spiral stone-cut stairs, deeper and deeper into the heart of the base. "I just can't believe this is happening," Gannondorf muttered. "None the less, I will not allow this intrusion to interfere with my plans for this world.  These dark knights must be stopped."
    "And spoken with so much passion," Link teased, overhearing. "I always wondered what good you could do with those powers of yours."
    "Shut up," Gannondorf snapped. "My aspirations are none of your concern."
    "Wow," Link looked at Zelda. "I think were getting a glimpse of Gannondorf's inner being.  And I thought that you never felt anything, Gannondorf.  It was always just destroy, destroy, destroy." Gannondorf stopped and looked at Link with a deadly glare. "Hey, don't blame me." Link defensively said. "Just because you have the personality of a stump doesn't mean you have to get all angry about it."
    "And just because you have the personality of a two-year-old doesn't mean that I must let myself be destroyed by your incompetence!" Gannondorf shot back.
    "I was just joking with you Gannondorf," Link said, genuinely enjoying himself. "Jeez, You need to learn to lighten up a bit." With out saying anything else, Gannondorf turned and continued down the stairs.  Link followed.  Zelda chuckled to herself as she began her decent.  This time, there was no conversation.
    What seemed like hundreds of stairs later, they finally ended, straightening into a short corridor lit by torches.  Ten meters down, in a circular stone room with a vaulted ceiling, the path forked into four different dark, endless hallways.
    "What now?" Zelda asked. "Which one?" Before Link or Gannondorf could voice their opinions, the answer came from the shadows.
    "If you can't choose, then we will choose for you." Out of all the passageways, including the one that Link's party had just entered from, stepped five dark knights. "Greetings, I am Major Briank," the one to Link's left introduced himself. "I will be your executor for this evening."
 

     "Still so cocky after we blasted you senseless back at the castle?" Gannondorf snidely commented.
      "Hmmmmm...a lesson that has been learned in quite an efficient manner." Briank answered. "But a question for you: How do you plan to destroy something that you can't see?" The five dark knights shimmered out of view as they cast a spell of invisibility.  As if they thought that simply depriving their prey of their location by becoming invisible was not enough, the torches in the room quietly snuffed themselves out, plunging the circular room into complete and utter darkness.
     Without warning the attacks came.  Link was immediately slammed into the stone wall, not getting enough time to even draw his sword.  The dark knight's brutality showed no partiality as Zelda doubled over from a ruthless drop kick.
     "Ha!" Gannondorf yelled. "You think that I need my sight to defeat you?  Think again!" Gannondorf blocked an invisible punch and caught an attacking wrist in his palm.  Swinging the caught combatant around in a circle and slamming him into the wall, Gannondorf released a red Triforce energy blast into the dark knight's chest.  The chamber was momentarily filled with a blood red light.  A scream of pain echoed through the corridors of darkness. "Come on!" Gannondorf yelled. "I need you two to help me finish him off!"
    At that time, Zelda just completed a spell of light.  A glowing orb of luminescent energy floated to the center of the room.  It seemed to have no effect on the dark knight's invisibility but it did provide some much-needed illumination.  Link and Zelda both looked to Gannondorf, his captive now visible again.
    "DO IT, NOW!!!" Gannondorf screamed.  The temporarily weakened dark knight staggered to his feet.  A powerful blow from an invisible force caught Gannondorf's midsection sent him across the diameter of the room.  As he flew, he once again blasted the dark knight with a powerful Triforce energy surge.  This time, along with the piercing red dart of light, two other blasts flew, one blue and one green.  They converged in on the knight and blasted him into the wall.  Screaming, the knight fell to the ground.  He lay on his side, seizing violently.  Finally, with a bloodcurdling scream, the knight exploded in a shock wave of dark energy.  Link could feel the dark knight's power dissipate as the blast was funneled throughout the complex by the tunnels.  When the dust cleared, there was nothing left of the dark knight.  The battle fell to a standstill.
    "That's it!" Zelda exclaimed. "When we combine our forces, we can defeat them!"
    Four remaining dark knights shimmered into view.  They all removed their hoods.  The expression on each of their faces was furious.  Their black hair was wet with sweat.  The most disconcerting thing however, were their glowing red eyes. "You have destroyed one of our own," Briank stated.
    "As we will do to you as well!" Gannondorf yelled.
    Before Link, Zelda, or Gannondorf could react, they were suddenly surrounded by twenty dark knights.
    "Projections!" Link shouted. "Only four of them are true!" nbsp;  "Pathetic!" Gannondorf scoffed. "That will only buy you mere minutes before we destroy you!  Useless efforts!"
    "Possibly," Briank's voice echoed. "But these projections are more than mere astro-reflective mirages, they are physical in every way."
    Gannondorf blasted one of the knights.  It was thrown into the wall where it exploded into hundreds of black marbles that bounced to the floor. "Ha!" Gannondorf laughed. "You mean weak in every way!"
 

    <Major!> a dark knight said to Briank via a telepathic link. <We cannot defeat them when they are together!  We must separate them and deal with them one-on-one.>
     <Agreed.> he answered back. <And I know just how to do that.>
     Keritan would not be pleased.  Now that the pathetic humans had finally figured out how to use the Triforce to destroy them, things were getting much more complicated...
 

     The dark knights began to circle around Link, Zelda, and Gannondorf.  The tight circle around the perimeter of the room forced the trio to the center of the room.  All in crouched fighting positions, Link, Zelda, and Gannondorf stood back to back to back.  Without warning, the room started to glow with a golden light.  Bewildered, Link looked up.  Was Zelda's spell of light somehow being affected by the dark knights?
     Link jumped at the sight that met his eyes.  The Triforce.  Hanging in the air above their heads and spinning was the Triforce.  Each of the three triangles started glowing.  Red, green, and blue.  The glowing became brighter and brighter.  Suddenly, the Triforce disbanded in a flash of light.  The three pieces began flying around the room.  Each of the three pieces then split into millions of glinting fragments, still glowing their respective colors.  The tiny particles spun into glittering whirlwinds.  Link gasped as the green whirlwind surrounded him.  As it did, power surged through his body.  He could feel the energy of the sacred relic pulsing through his veins.
     "I feel it!" Zelda yelled. "The Triforce is lending us its power!"
     "What!? Why!?" Link shouted back.  The whirlwinds were creating a howling noise.  He barely heard Zelda's answer.
     "We are working together!  The Triforce is giving us power because it senses that we are working towards a common goal!  We have always been divided, always working against each other, but now we stand united!  Our Triforce powers are being enhanced!  Feel it!"
     "Never have I felt such power!" Gannondorf yelled.
     "Arrrrrrgggggg!!!!" Briank screamed. "You will not stop us!!!  Not now that we are so close!!!" The dark knights, the real ones and the projected ones, threw marbles and black energy bolts from their hands in sync with each other.  Before any of the attacks could reach their intended targets, they were all intercepted by a glowing blue screen.  Projected by Zelda, the screen held barrage after barrage of black energy as the dark knights fired from every angle.
     Zelda wasn't even breaking a sweat.
     "Your power is nothing compared to that of the Triforce!" Gannondorf yelled from inside the impervious blue shield. "You cannot win!"
     The dark blasts stopped hitting Zelda's shield.  Were the dark knights giving up? Link thought to himself.  The answer came as the knights focused on their new target; the ceiling of the room.  The stone buckled and cracked under the severe punishment.  When a precise blast hit a fault in the keystone, the ceiling collapsed.
     Either out of reflex or on purpose, Gannondorf dove out of the way of the collapsing ceiling.  He passed through the blue shield without a hindrance as he raced to the relative safety of one of the hallways.  However, once Gannondorf passed through the screen, it collapsed.
     "No!" Zelda screamed. "I can't do it without all of us in the same spot!" Now with nothing to block the boulders from crushing them flat, Link and Zelda were both force to jump out of the way.  Unfortunately, they both dove in different directions from each other and from Gannondorf.  Boulders cascaded down from the ceiling as Link rolled into the hallway.  When the dust cleared, Link could see that the entrance to the circular room was completely cut off.
    Falling to his knees, Link suddenly felt totally physically drained.  The Triforce had withdrawn its powers from him when Gannondorf leapt out of the way of the falling ceiling.  Link bet that the Triforce had also abandoned Zelda and Gannondorf too...
 

     The pain surged through her leg.  Caught under a boulder just inside the protective archway of the hall.  Zelda had almost gotten out home-free but when she had tripped and fallen the final meters into the safety of the hall, her right leg had not gotten in quite far enough to escape the cascade of stones.  Besides the pain from her trapped calf, she also felt very tired, weak; like she had no energy left to do anything.
     A menacing, dark laughter filled the dark hallway.
     "How lucky for me!" the elite knight Silvereth cooed. "I guess I chose the right hallway to escape to.  Briank and Keritan will reward me well for this unexpected capture!" Grunting with determination, Zelda attempted to blast the dark knight back.  But even with all her strength, she could not conjure enough energy to even create a shield as the Silvereth cast a spell of darkness out upon her.
     The world went black...
 

     "Come out!" Gannondorf demanded. "I know you're there." No response. "You cannot hide forever!" Gannondorf leaned on the stone corridor's wall for support, breathing hard.  What was wrong?  Why did he find that simply moving was taking so much effort?  It took him a second to finally figure it out.
    He felt weak.
    Weakness, a sensation he rarely experienced and hated with a passion.  He almost hadn't recognized the sensation.  Gannondorf couldn't remember the last time he felt so rundown.  Regardless, the weakness made him feel vulnerable and exposed, two more things he experienced on only a very few occasions and despised just as much.  Maybe jumping out of the way wasn't such a good idea, he reflected. Then again, should I really be trusting my life to the two people who have sworn to drive me to my death?  Again he yelled into the dark hall.  "It's no use hiding from me!  Come out and fight!"
    "Very well you insolent Gerudo." Elite knight Reiker walked from the darkness, seemingly melting from the shadows of the corridor. "But I can see that you are weak.  Whatever happened, I don't care.  You're mine!" Reiker threw a flaming ball of black energy at Gannondorf.  Just barely dodging, Gannondorf managed a weak Triforce blast.  Reiker materialized a black screen in front of himself that caught the pitiful blast and easily deflected it.
    "Ha!" Reiker laughed as he lowered his screen.  You are so weak that I can stop your attacks with ease!  Let's make this a little more fun, shall we?" Reiker launched himself into a furry of lightning fast punches and kicks.  Blocking only a small amount of hits, Gannondorf was soon brought to his knees by a powerful blow to his gut.
    "Is that all?" Reiker asked, almost sounding disappointed. "Remember when you were asking how we felt about being knocked senseless by your pitiful Triforce power?  Here's pay back!" Walking up to Gannondorf's heaving body, Reiker planted a kick right under his chin.  Gannondorf was lifted into the air, flipping backwards several times to land on his head.  His sight went red, and then blackness covered all...
 

     Struggling the whole way, Link dragged himself down the dark corridor.  His feet felt like lead weights and he had to stop several times to catch his breath.  Staggering hundreds of meters further, he finally saw an end to the long hall.  Light was being thrown off of a large pool of water and illuminating the vast cavern that the hall opened into.  The light originated from a glowing marble suspended in the air under a menacing looking stalactite.
    "You have made it I see." Link snapped his head to the right.  Sitting on a throne made of black material was Sean.  His hair was black and his eyes were red. "I am very surprised that you made it this far.  I'm so sorry that I can't be here in person, but you know how things go.  A friend destroying a friend, even if it is only his body...I just couldn't miss what would happen.  I am afraid to ask though, how did my special entourage of elite knights fare?"
     "One down, four to go, not counting you that is." Link managed. "But since it seems that you are so afraid that you will not face me yourself, but must use my friend against me, I don't think you should be counted.  You are simply showing your own fear and incompetence."
    "Heh, heh," Sean chuckled, genuinely amused.  "Defiant to the last, I see.  However, I do believe you are being quite rude, talking to your best friend in such a manner." Sean sighed. "It's disappointing that my knights didn't finish you off."
    Link laughed, "First off, you are most definitely not my friend, Keritan.  Secondly, I don't thing they'll get the chance to finish me."
    "Ohhhhh?  I think you are mistaken." Two dark knights stepped from the hallway. "You were saying?" Sean inquired.
    "Bring em' on." Link challenged. "Evil slime like you never triumph over good."
    Sean chuckled. "Fine.  If you find two to one odds acceptable, then let it be.  Murnok, Calvinay, attack!" Both dark knights launched themselves at Link at lightning speed.  Not even fast enough to block their kicks or move to slash with his sword, Link took the brunt of their attacks head on.  Murnok's attack landed on Link's left shoulder while Calvinay's hit him on the right side.  Link's breath was forced out of him in a huge whoosh as he tumbled to the ground.
    "Ha!" Murnok laughed. "I'll finish you off myself!" He raised his hand to deliver the fatal blow, but an unexpected attack from the right stalled his move.  A beta grade marble knocked him back a meter.  Unfazed, he looked to the origin of the attack.  Jacen Shaw stood between two stalagmites, twenty meters to Link's left.  Link could see as Jacen grew worried. "And that powered a block of stone..." Jacen stammered, astounded.
    "Get out of here Jacen!" Link yelled, adrenaline fueling his words.
    "And what is this we have here?" Calvinay mock asked. "Another person looking to die?" Moving in the blink of an eye, Calvinay flew through the air to plant a speeding kick on Jacen's chest.  The blow threw him back to the far wall.  Link cringed as he heard a loud crack as Jacen's head hit the stone.  His crumpled form slumped to the floor, motionless.  Link struggled to his feet. "You're going to pay for that," he growled.
    Murnok punched Link back to the ground. "Stay down, weakling.  You'll get your turn."
    Sean-Keritan stood from his seat. "This is no fun," he complained. "I though you would at least put up a decent show.  Murnok, Calvinay, eliminate this weakling."
    "As you wish, master," came their reply.  Both drew black marbles from their cloaks. "I believe a couple of base sigma destroyer novas7  will be sufficient power to make sure he never moves again," Murnok laughed.  The marbles flew from their hands so fast, they couldn't be seen.
 

    White shields intercepted the duo of speeding black marbles.  A split second later, two maximus destroyer-grade marbles sent two surprised-looking dark knights into the air to land on the other side of the huge cavern.  As they flew, they both struck numerous stalagmites only to land with shattering force onto the far wall.  They both fell to the ground with a thud.  Withering in pain and agony, they were effectively nullified as threats.
    Soaking wet, Norriok, Michilo, and Karolo emerged from the small pond set in the center of the room.
    "Damn you!" Sean yelled. "You insolent scum!" Three blasts flew from Sean's hands, each one impacting a megath-integrity-intercepter grade shield.  The ultra-powered shields were barely enough to deflect the massive attack.  Fortunately, Sean had divided his blast into three separate beams.  If a single blast of the combined magnitude of the three blasts had hit any one shield, it would have been bad news.
    Keritan's strength had drastically increased since Norriok had last seen him.  However, Norriok had no chance to ask Keritan about his training techniques.  The white screens the crests had erected, barely sustaining the blasts they blocked, deflected the attacks towards the ceiling instead of absorbing them.  Three very powerful blasts shook the cavern as they blew the ceiling apart.
    "You imbeciles!" Sean bellowed. "You have doomed yourselves!" Sean's hair turned back to its normal brown and his eyes ceased to glow.  Sean's form slumped to the ground.  Keritan had left his body.
    Still moaning from the crest's attacks, both Murnok and Calvinay managed to escape by crawling into dark portals.
    "What now!?" Link yelled over the deafening rumbling of yet another falling ceiling.
    "We have only one chance of escape." Norriok yelled back. "Quick!  Into the pool of water.  If we can swim deep enough, we can get out of the carma-shielded area and use a portal to get out!"
    "But Sean!  And Jacen!" Link started.
    "We don't have time!"
    "But..."
    Karolo grabbed Link and threw him in the pool of water.  Then he, Norriok, and Michilo followed him in, huge boulders of rock slamming through the water's surface, chasing them down into the unknown depths.  The three crests quickly swam past Link, showing him the way.  Link, swimming with all of his strength, followed them deeper and deeper into the cold, dark water.  Deeper and deeper still they went.  Link's lungs burned fiercely, screaming for air.  And yet they pushed further still.  The crest's images grew fuzzy, not due to the absence of light but to the fact that Link's vision was beginning to go black around the edges.
    Link's lungs felt like they were going to explode.  They burned with the might of a thousand suns.  Finally, Link could take no more.  He inhaled, his lungs finding only cold, suffocating water.  His chest burst into flames.  Choking, Link coughed, only to inhale more water.  This time, it was less painful.  A third time, and it almost didn't hurt at all.  So this is what it feels like to drown, he thought. I hope...  His head grew fuzzy as a bright white light engulfed his failing sight.  The light at the end of the tunnel... he pondered as he drifted into a cold, suffocating, watery grave.
 

    Pure Realm...
    The light from a healing marble shone down upon Link's stirring body.  Slowly, Link's eyes flitted open.
    "He's awake!" a voice shouted "Contact Norriok at once!"
    "Yes sir!" another voice answered.  The light from the marble grew dimmer and then went out.  Dizzy, Link managed to sit up on the bed he was on.  Norriok walked in through a door to the right.
    "Are you all right?" Norriok asked.
    "I'm fine," Link said.  Then he added, "Actually, I don't think I've ever felt better!  What did you do?"
    "Oh, just a little healing spell.  You passed out right when we transferred out of the carma-shielded area.  Michilo managed to pull you through the portal."
    "Well," Link said. "I guess that was the light that I saw...  Send Michilo my regards."
    "Will do." Norriok walked across the room. "Tell me Link, did you find out anything useful when you were in Keritan's base?  Anything about his plans?"
    "Err, not really..."
    "Then how did you do against the dark knights?  Did you find out how to stop them?"
    "Uh, yeah.  We managed to kill a dark knight." Norriok stopped dead in his tracks.
    "Say again?" he asked.
    "Yeah, I said we killed a dark knight."
    "Killed him, as in dead?  He didn't turn into a marble or anything?"
    "Err, no.  To the extent of my knowledge, he was eliminated.  The other dark knights said so."
    "And how did you do this?" Norriok asked.
    "Well," Link started, "When Zelda, Gannondorf, and I all channeled our Triforce powers into this one dark knight, he kinda just blew up." Link made an explosion gesture with his hands.  "I felt all his energy disband, like the very thing that held him together had been destroyed.  I'm pretty confident when I say that I think we broke the level one barrier."
    "You must be right!  That must be the link between the Triforce and the way to destroy the dark knights!" Norriok exclaimed.
    Before Link could express his agreement, a terrible blast shook the building.  A member of the white crest brotherhood fell through the door of the room, propelled by an explosion of dark energy.  Three dark knights walked into the room.  Upon seeing Norriok, they jumped into action.  All three launched marbles and black bursts from their hands.  Norriok raised a white screen that contained the attacks.  Link also jumped into action.
    Leaping from the medical bed and grabbing his sword from a table to his right, he let loose a trio of green Triforce blasts.  They tore through the dark screens made by the dark knights and threw them to the wall.  They impacted the ground and lay moaning and withering.
    "Let's go!" Norriok screamed.  He tore off through the door and down the hall with Link struggling to keep up.  After a sharp right turn, Norriok and Link burst through a set of double doors.  Now outside, the whole scene came into view.  Standing high on a hill, Link had a sight that he would remember for a lifetime.
    A city of white stood before his eyes.  Gigantic towering white buildings reached to the sky.  Link thought of how beautiful they would have looked if not for the flames bursting from their ivory walls.  Norriok's face drained of color.
    A white crest ran to Norriok. "Sir!" he exclaimed. "The dark knights have launched an attack!  I think this is the real thing!  Your orders?" Before Norriok could answer, a mob of the dark knight foot soldiers ran out of the woods.
    "Cover us!" Norriok screamed to the crest.  Both holding five marbles in each hand, they projected a massive white screen. "Link!" Norriok yelled, "you know what to do!"
    At that time, Link discharged all his Triforce power with a horizontal slash of his sword.  The energy wave emitted from the tip of his sword ripped into the charging ranks of dark knights.  Norriok's gigantic screen caught numerous black bolts as Link's light wave pounded the oncoming knights.  Link had never felt so powerful in his life.  It felt like the earth itself was enhancing his power.  Like just being in this new place made him more deeply attuned to the power of the Triforce.  Whatever it was, Norriok and the other crest stood astounded as the last of over one hundred dark knights fell to the ground, incapacitated by a single blast.
    "Good job," Norriok managed to say. "Let's get going to the headquarters!"
 

    Link and his party encountered little resistance as they made their way through the city to the HQ building.  All the way, Norriok kept muttering about how astounded he was that the dark knights would get the nerve to attack the capital city of the white crests, Istanople.  As they entered the white building that looked as if it was constructed of ivory, they were greeted by five white robed allies.
    "This way Prince Norriok!" one of them yelled motioning down a hallway.  Just as Link and Norriok ran through the entrance of the corridor, the doors of the building were blasted open.  Twenty dark knights stormed through the newly made inlet. "Go!  Go!" one of the white crests yelled as he returned fire to the dark knights in the entryway of the building.
    Norriok and Link ran to the end of the hall, black bolts flying over their heads and blasting deep holes into the walls.  Finally they reached a door at the end of the hall.  Throwing it open, Norriok and Link were met by Michilo, Karolo, and a slew of other high-ranking white crests, when adding Norriok, made it an even dozen crests.
    The room was, of course, white as a cloud.  A conference table occupied the center of the room while maps and charts of military importance littered the walls and other desks in the room.
    "Seal the door!" Michilo ordered.  Immediately, the door began glowing white. "That should hold for a while.  Prince Norriok, it seems that the dark knights are very serious about this attack.  They've sent almost all of their entire army." Blasts began shaking the door.  Powered by a chain of seven high-yield marbles, the door held.
    "We must evacuate!" Karolo shouted. "We have no time!"
    "Where will we go?" an unnamed white crest asked. "This was supposed to be the safest place in the pure realm."
    Norriok thought a moment. "We will go the grey realm." The door shook.  Three of the marbles that powered the door's energy screen faltered and failed.
    "Ok!" Michilo agreed. "But we must go now!" The blasting of the door increased.  The fourth marble failed, then another, then the sixth.  The final marble began to falter.
    The blasts ceased.  The twelve crests crouched in defensive positions behind tables and chairs, waited in anticipation.  Finally, one of the crests, one that Link didn't know, walked to the door.  Slowly, he opened it.  Outside of the door, there was nothing.
    "No one there sir!" he reported.
    "What do they gain by attacking and then disappearing when they know that they have us outnumbered and outmatched?" Karolo asked out loud.  Silence answered his question.
    A sweep of realization flitted across Norriok's face. "The Triforce!  This whole attack is a diversion.  Damn!  Ok people, the plan remains the same!  We're going to the grey realm everyone!  Let's go now!" Michilo, chanting some words, opened a white portal.
 

    "Let's go people!" Norriok hollered. "We don't have anytime to lose!" The crests in the room got up from their places and began running through the portal. "Move!  Move!" Michilo, starting to feel drained by creating the portal, drew a rejuvenation marble from his cloak.  He remembered when he was young.  Back in those days, he could easily project a portal without the aid of a marble, even one that needed the power to span across dimensions.  But now...
    Karolo, Norriok, and Link, the last in the room, rushed by him through the portal.  Since he had created the portal, it was required of him to go last.  Standing at its entrance, Michilo prepared to cross and close the portal himself.  He never got the chance.  An explosion of gargantuan force tore through the room, ripping through tables and desks and map displays with a dark lightning...
 

    On the other side...
    Link stood in amazement.  They were back.  Meeting Link's eyes were the towering spires of the crumbling East Ruins. "We're back." Link said. "What a ride!" The darkness of night hung in the sky.
    "Oh, yeah," Norriok said, "you were unconscious the first time around.  Exhilarating, isn't it?" Link followed Norriok as he moved toward Karolo and another unnamed crest warrior. "Link, this is Chalice.  Chalice, Link." Chalice extended his hand in greeting. "Chalice is our Triforce specialist."
    Many crests had gathered around the open portal by this time, waiting for Michilo to exit.  Before Link could move to shake Chalice's hand, Michilo flew out of the portal, accompanied by snaking tendrils of black lightning.
    Paralyzed, Michilo landed without mercy into the hard rock ground.  Still open, the portal served as a doorway for the black energy to travel through.  The crests, once gathered around the portal in anticipation for the arrival of their comrade so they help him seal it to minimize the energy signal, were now surrounded by black offshoots of lightning.  Screaming, they fell to the ground, also paralyzed by the dark light's energy.
    "Close it!" Norriok screamed.  Karolo, diving and dodging the lightning as it erratically jumped and skipped across the ground, managed to throw a white seal marble into the portal as he was in the middle of an airborne cartwheel.  Sporadic blasts of black tendrils reached out in an attempt to capture his tumbling body, but Karolo was always a jump ahead of them.
    By the time the portal was sealed, five of the remaining twelve crests, one being Michilo, were paralyzed on the ground.
    Link ran over to Michilo's body.  Lifelessly, he lay on the ground where he had first landed.
    "Norriok...is he...?"
    "He will be fine.  It was just a stunner bomb.  They weakened the door and then planted it.  That's what the attack was about.  Don't worry Link.  Black magic cannot defeat any crest, especially not one as powerful as Michilo.  He will, however, have to sit this battle out, as will the others." Norriok gestured to the four other fallen. "Hertevair, set up healing stations for them.  It looks like is us eight against whatever Keritan or the supreme dark emperor has ready for us."
    "The odds just keep getting better and better..." Link mumbled under his breath. "Let's get going then. "
    "Yeah," Norriok agreed, "just hope that the dark energy that traveled through the portal hasn't alerted them of our presence..."
 

    What a room, Keritan thought. In the dark realm, we would never go through the trouble of building something of this waste.  The main meeting hall of Hyrule Castle had been transformed into a base of operations for Keritan's forces.  Not efficient, hardly practical...no wonder the weak humans have fallen so easily.
    "Sir!" a dark knight called, as he entered the huge room. "There are reports of an energy disturbance where our old base was located, near the ruins.  Analysis suggests that it was a stunner bomb or a white portal."
    "It was both," Keritan instantly concluded. "Send a light reconnaissance flight out to investigate.  If we're lucky, our bomb has eliminated the Twelve.  If this is so, it will be welcome news indeed.  Be wary though.  If the Triforce of Courage has survived and is with them, you may be unpleasantly surprised..."
    "Yes sir!" The knight, with a crisp, sharp salute, turned and left to fulfill his master's wishes.
    Soon...soon it will come, Keritan thought.  Once the Triforce of Courage was brought to him, it would begin. Revenge, ahhhhhh, so sweet.
    Revenge, that was what it was about; that and more.  It had never enough for Keritan to simply beat his enemy down to submission.  The part of vengeance that he found to be the most satisfying, the most invigorating, was the striking realization that crossed all his victim's faces, the expression of a knowing doom.  To give them hope, and then attack with such brute force that they would fall into the deepest of despair just before he crushed them; that what Keritan fed from.
    Now, more than ever, he had the hunger for revenge.  Gannondorf's reappearance and the counterattack on the base had destroyed his initial plans.  Keritan salivated at the thought of his ruined plan; to march Gannondorf's own troops to the castle and have them face off with their master.  He had seen it a hundred times before.  The emotions of betrayal would flow like a river.  Once the soldiers saw their master alive, the realization would be inevitable.  At that point, Keritan would wipe the entire lot of them out with one swift move of his hand, all but Gannondorf.  He would live a short time longer, just enough to witness the destruction.  Then he would follow them.
    But instead of this, he had been forced to recall Gannondorf's troops and send in his elite knights, who ended up being defeated anyway.  Still, that plan was just an appetizer to the main course.  Keritan couldn't help but smile as he imagined the expression of the Supreme Dark Commander when he finally figured out that his most loyal subordinate had turned traitor and was going to destroy him.  This all would happen, all the power and revenge, through the Triforce.  It was the one thing he needed to make his envisioned conquest into a reality.  If only he could hold the façade long enough to get it.  Keritan remembered the phrase of the Dark Knight Elite; "Hidden Intelligence Perceived as Ignorance is a Powerful Ally."  How true it is, Keritan reflected. However, the ignorance alone is a dangerous entity.  Soon, the Supreme Commander would find that out first hand.
    On the far end of the meeting hall, there was a small flight of stairs whose purpose was to elevate a speaker so a gathered crowd could easily listen, as well as watch, while the person spoke.  Huge stained glass windows provided a luxurious backdrop to the half-stage.  Reaching from the floor to the arched ceiling, they displayed descriptive scenes in Hylian history.
    Soon, the last chapter of the Hylian history will be closed and the first chapter of the Dark Age will be written...by me, Keritan thought, Their reign in the grey realm will soon end and my reign will commence!  Once I am empowered by the Triforce, not even the supreme dark commander will be able to stop me!  As long as he doesn't come here personally to over see my operation, all will be well.  Then I will be the supreme power of the universe!  Keritan laughed at the two frozen figures that rested in dark spheres upon the raised speaking platform. "Once, your third comes," Keritan whispered to Zelda and Gannondorf, their motionless bodies held fast by the dark energy, "it will be the beginning of the end..."
 

    Moving with silent efficiency, Conifer and his two top lieutenants raced through the forest.  Using portals always carried with them a small risk of producing enough energy residues to be traced and identified, even from a long distance away.
    <Commander Conifer, the targets twenty-eight hundred meters to the west.  Six strong energy signals moving at velocity point seven.  Proceed to investigate?>
    <Yes, but do so with caution.  Do not draw attention to yourself.>  Hmmmm... Conifer thought to himself. Only six energy signals?  That means the stunner bomb has disabled half of the Twelve.  I wonder about the Holder of Courage...is he one of the six being detected?  Can he even be detected?  <Demontry, watch yourself.  Something doesn't feel right here.>
    <Yes sir.>
    <Malisce, hold position here with me.> Conifer ordered.
    <Sir.>
    Conifer and Malisce observed as Demontry raced through the forest.  The six energy signals still were moving toward the castle...
 

     <Do you see them?> Hertevair asked Link.  Not being able to telepathically communicate back, Link nodded.  <Ok, now stop.>  Link halted his approach, ducking low in some of the brush.  <When you see me attack, then blast them good.>  Link hugged the ground and maneuvered himself into a position where he could get a clear shot.  Seconds later, Hertevair jumped out of the dense trees, attacking the two dark knights with white energy blasts.
    Both of them, moving with lightning speed and reflexes, managed to jump out of the way.  Hertevair's twin blasts shook the ground as they made two huge smoldering craters in the earth.
    "I knew we couldn't be lucky enough to have taken out six of you in that bomb blast.  Higraaa!" Conifer growled as he launched himself at Hertevair.  It was a valiant effort, but was thwarted by Link's intercepting Triforce blast.  Conifer flew to the ground with a smashing crunch.  But the dark knights weren't done.
    Malisce, appearing directly in front of Hertevair from a black portal, launched a point-blank attack.  Hertevair managed to deflect one black blast with his hand but another one found its mark.  Hertevair flew through the air as a massive black energy surge smashed into his chest.  It sent him flying into the far distance, a smoking black tail of energy residue following him through his curved arc.
    "Nooooo!" Link screamed.  Jumping out of the low brush, Link rolled into an opening in the trees.
    "How fun," Malisce commented.
    Link, not answering him, let loose another green Triforce sword blast.  Moving so quickly that he couldn't be seen, Malisce faded to the left.
    "Behind you," his voice came, about three steps behind Link.  Before Link could turn around, Malisce had squarely planted a kick between his shoulder blades, sending him deep into the forest.
    "Ha!" Malisce laughed. "How weak!" Link slowly picked himself from the ground and pointed his sword at him.  This only made Malice laugh harder.
    "Are you challenging me?" he asked.  Link's answer was another Triforce blast.  Moving so fast that he appeared to just disappear, Malice knocked Link back to the ground with a flying battering-ram attack with his shoulder.  He stood over Link's body, laughing.
    "That's impossible," Link groaned, crawling away from Malice's feet. "No one can move that fast."
    "Ah, insolent human," Malice scolded. "You fail to realize the extent of our power.  The properties of physics do not apply to us.  What you see as tremendous speed is not so.  We are so powerful, we can bend the very fabric of time!  It's too bad that you will never live to understand, not that your puny mind would be able to comprehend it anyway.  Oh well, it's time to die now." Before Malice could make his move, Norriok's voice interrupted him.
    "You're right Malice, it is time to die."
    "What?" Malice shouted as he turned around, his eyes tracking the voice to the sky. "You dare attack..." A massive aireal blast from the sky silenced his words.  Flying above the tree line, six crests drifted down to the ground.
    "We must get going," Norriok urged. "It was a scouting party.  They know that we are here now.  Stealth is no longer an option.  We will fly to the castle and meet them head-on."
    Link was about to comment that they had best make a plan first, but was scooped up by Karolo before he could mouth his opinion. "What about Hertevair?"
    "He'll be all right," Karolo conciliated. "He is the master of healing.  He should be able to fend for himself." Unsure, Link kept his mouth shut.
    "Let's go now!" Norriok ordered.  The ground became a blur as the six remaining crests rocketed toward the castle.
 

    "The search flight has been taken out." Calvinay informed Keritan.
    "I know." Keritan nonchalantly answered. "And they are coming here as we speak."
    "How many?" Murnok asked.
    "There are six crests and the Holder of the Triforce of Courage." Keritan answered, still showing no signs of fear.
    "Then we are outnumbered," Calvinay concluded. "With the others gone reporting to the supreme commander, it's us three versus their seven.  I think it's time to call to the dark realm for reinforcements."
    "No, we must keep them out of this," Keritan ordered. "If the supreme commander sends any of his troops, it will make our plans much more complicated."
    "But they can still help us, My Lord," Calvinay pointed out.
    Keritan became angry. "Are you suggesting that I cannot handle all of them by myself?" he demanded.
    "No, My Lord, I would never..." Calvinay began.
    "Then remain silent!" Keritan shouted. "We will do this alone!  The supreme commander may become curious if I request more troops after I went through so much trouble assuring him that I would not need them.  If you don't recall, it took months of planning to make sure all his troops would be tied up so they could not interfere here.  Remember, the attack on Istanople is just a small part of my plan.  Disturbing a process of such complexity can have disastrous results, something we cannot afford right now, now that we are so close." Then he smiled. "It doesn't matter anyway.  The speed of the crest's flight has moved them swiftly."
    "When will they get here?  How shall I prepare for their arrival?" Murnok asked.
    "That will not be possible nor necessary."
    "What?  Why?"
    "Because, the enemy is already here." The huge stained glass windows on the far end of the hall burst into pieces.  Gigantic shards of colored glass splintered as they crashed to the rock floor of the half-stage.  For ten full seconds, nothing could be heard over the shattering of glass.  Sharp, pointed daggers of color rained upon the two black spheres that housed Zelda and Gannondorf.  The glass, instead of piercing the bubbles, evaporated upon contact with the intense energy shells.
    Lost was the never-ending story of work.  Generations in the past had taken their turns writing their victorious accomplishments and fateful failures in frozen picture.  Now it was gone.  Keritan took it as a sign of his impending triumph.
    Calvinay and Murnok shielded themselves from the flying knives of history.   Keritan smiled and took the storm of glass head-on.  The pieces simply bounced off his black cloak.  In the opening of the window hovered Norriok, the holder of the Triforce of Courage, and five other white crests.
    Immediately, all the crests opened fire.  Both Murnok and Calvinay raised black screens but stood no chance against the amassed power.  They both fell to the onslaught of white power as their shields shattered, but Keritan seemed to be unfazed.
    "Ah, Norriok, have you come to help me complete my conquest of your royal family?  You are the only one left you know." Keritan asked, totally unconcerned.
    "Ha!  You may be powerful enough to take us, but you don't stand a chance against the Triforce.  And once you are destroyed, I will reclaim my family." Norriok shouted triumphantly.
 

    "What is he talking about?" Link asked Karolo.
    "The king and queen, Norriok's parents, the most powerful crests, were captured a year ago." Karolo said in a hushed tone. "Then, his older brother was defeated by Keritan, just months before we found out what his plans were here, in this realm.  Since then, Norriok has taken his place as the ruler of the pure realm.  He has taken over the quest of the elimination of the dark knights."
    "Wow," Link said, stunned. "I thought Norriok was your ruler."
    "He is.  But I know what you mean.  Actually, he hasn't even completed his crest training."
    "I will show the supreme dark ruler that he was mistaken in sending his second instead of coming here personally." Norriok proudly proclaimed.
    "You weakling!  You dare insult me?" Keritan laughed. "I guess it must run in the family.  That was about the same thing that you older brother said just before I defeated him.  I hope you will prove to be more of a challenge than he was.  I doubt it though."
    "Karolo," Link whispered, "you said that Norriok hasn't completed his training.  Does he stand a chance against Keritan?"
    Karolo shook his head. "No, but Norriok is our last hope."
    "Why?"
    "Because, if he, the last of the royal family, falls, then the pure realm falls with him.  Then it is the end."
 

    "What can we do then?  Is anyone here powerful enough to take out Keritan?"
    "The only one who was evenly matched with Keritan was Norriok's older brother, Suntra.  Not Norriok, nor I, nor any other crest besides the king can battle with Keritan in hopes of victory.  No one, but you.  That is why this must be done."
    "What must be done?  What are you talking about?"
    Ignoring Link's question, Karolo shouted to Norriok. "It is time, My Lord!"
    Moving away from his shouting match with Keritan, Norriok flew to Link.
    "It will be done then," he said to Link. "Brace yourself, my friend."
    "What?  What's going on?" Link asked, frightfully confused with the whole situation.  Karolo was the one to answer.
    "I said that you were the only one who could battle Keritan in hopes of defeating him.  We will bestow our power upon you, to aid your plight against Keritan.  This along with your Triforce powers should give you at least a fighting chance."
    The six crests began to chant in a language that Link was not familiar with.
    "Solea Miyamoto Kilroam Oni!"
    "Pathetic!" Keritan laughed. "You would be better off facing me by yourselves.  Now that you drain yourselves of power to give to this human weakling, you have sealed your fate.  Once I have destroyed him, you will have no defense!  Your Oni spell will never raise him to my level of power.  You have doomed yourself and your people."
    "I don't think so," came Link's voice, more powerful than ever.
 

    White light surrounded Link as the six crests emptied their power into him.  More and more white energy filled his body, flowing through it with a white electricity.  When Link felt he could take no more, the transfer grew even more, as a final push, and then fell off.  Soon, the light faded. Karolo and the others fell to the ground, completely drained.
    "Link, you are now Oni Link.  This is an ancient spell that can only be cast in the presence of a member of the royal family.  The power of Oni, the white crest of power, has lent you his energy.  Use it wisely.  Our fate rests in you." Norriok fainted to the floor at those words.
    "Fools, all fools.  They have placed their fate in the hands of an ignorant human.  They have destroyed themselves." Keritan launched his most powerful blast at Link.  Link crouched and raised his shield.  Glowing bright white, the shield blocked the energy blast, absorbing and dissipating it.  Link, becoming used to his new Oni powers, formed a ball of white light in his hand.  Link could feel the power that radiated from the sphere.  He knew that with this new power, he could destroy Gannondorf with a sneeze.  With all his strength, he launched it at Keritan.
    The mighty dark warrior deflected the white orb with a swing of his fist.  The renegade energy ball tore through the east wall of the room, causing the entire structure to shake and groan in protest from the unwarranted attack.
    "Weak," Keritan muttered.  Link drew his sword, knowing how it had to be done. "Ahhhhh..." Keritan said with pleasure, "It has been a long time since I have encountered such a foe." Knowing that it would take more than mere energy blasts to destroy Oni Link, Keritan drew a dark saber from a sheath at his side and charged Link with unthinkable speed and force.
    With a wide swing, Keritan moved to behead Link.  Just barely blocking the attack, Link raised his sword just in time.  The swords clashed with tremendous force.  Link was driven back several meters from blocking the massive blow.  His feet skidded him to a halt.
    "Weak..." Keritan muttered again.  It was Link's turn to go on the offensive.  Driving foreword, he backed Keritan into the wall.  Keritan, his back pressed to the stone, slipped into a black portal and disappeared.  Appearing from behind and above, Keritan flew through the air with a two-handed sword attack.  Black flames grew from his saber.  Link, turning around just in time, raised his shield.
    Keritan's glowing sword collided with Link's glowing shield.  With a grunt, Keritan shunted all his power into his saber.  Keritan's sword sunk into Link's shield, cutting it in two.  The saber, still glowing, cut through Link's clothes and contacted his skin.  In a blinding flare of light, Keritan was thrown back across the room.  He smashed into the wall with so much force the room shifted again.
    "You...you weak fool!" he screamed as he threw himself through the air toward Link.  In flight, he drew another black saber.  With one in each hand, he swung from the left and the right.  Link knew he could only block one.
    A white blast smashed into Keritan's body, sending him off balance.  Both of his attacks missed wide. "What!?!" he exclaimed, still flying through the air.  Link looked to the source of the blast.  Hertevair hovered through the broken glass window.  Already revived by his healing powers were Norriok and one of the others. "No!" Keritan screamed as he sent salvos of dark energy into Hertevair. "No!  No!  NO!  NO!!!" Hertevair faded left and back, dodging all but one blast.  The energy caught him on his right shoulder, sending him tumbling through the air.  He smashed into the wall and fell to the steps of the half-stage, lying on the broken glass, motionless.
    However, sacrifice was successful in that it had given Link just enough time to charge Keritan with a flying two-handed jump attack.  The whole room seemed to blur and shift as Link used his powers to bend the flow of time, increasing his normal speed ten fold.  Still, Keritan was faster.
    Moving with unfathomable speed, Keritan caught the flying attack with his two sabers in an X-position. "Weakling!" he screamed as he threw off Link's attack and blasted him in the stomach with the force of ten sigma destroyer novas.  Link flew to the floor.  Not done, Keritan unrelentlessly blasted Link into stone tiles.  Chunks of rock flew as the severity of the blasts increased.  In a final attack, Keritan threw a black holding marble.  It hit Link's body and projected a black holding sphere around it.
    "Yes!!!" Keritan victoriously shouted. "The conquest is complete!  I hold all the Triforces under my power!"
    Norriok and Karolo, still recovering, could do nothing to stop Keritan's rage.
 

    "Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!" Keritan maniacally laughed. "Now I have all of them under my control!"
    With his powers, Keritan lifted three black spheres that were in the room.  Maneuvering them into a triangle position, they started glowing.  Black lightning skipped from one sphere to another as they neared each other.  When the spheres finally touched, there was a huge explosion of colored light.  Now colored lightning skipped to and from Link, Zelda, and Gannondorf.  Along with the colored light...was the Triforce.
    It floated through the air, right into Keritan's grasp.  Now that he had gotten his prize, Keritan let go his grasp on Link and the others.  Gannondorf landed on the table while Link and Zelda fell to the floor. "Now the universe will tremble at my feet!" Keritan exclaimed.  Looking deep into the triangles of gold, he made his wish. "Triforce, this is my wish; eternal life and power...Triforce, grant me immortality!"
    The crests, Link, Zelda, and Gannondorf, all gasped at his words.  They waited for the Triforce's actions.
    "Well," Norriok mumbled, "at least Michilo isn't here to give me a lecture..."
 

    "What!?!" Keritan finally exclaimed. "What do you mean I can't?  It is my wish!  I demand it!"
    "What's going on?" Norriok asked. "What is happening?" No one answered his question.
    "What do you mean the "Three" don't will it?  Their part in this is over!  What they want is irrelevant!  I demand you obey me!  Arrrrrggggghhhhh!!!" Screaming, Keritan threw a violent fit accompanied by a shock wave of blast energy that sent the ceiling and walls of the room to pieces, blowing them outward in a magnificent display of light and dust.  Now the starry sky was the ceiling and the dark trees of the forest were the walls. "What if I destroy the "Three?" Then you will have to obey me!" With all his energy, Keritan let loose a blast of epic proportions.  Norriok and Michilo pulled the other crests to safety as Link, Zelda, and Gannondorf simply stood their ground.  The blast tore deep into the ground, cutting straight through the stone floor, through the foundation, and into the earth below.  So intense was the blast, the dirt was superheated and instantly transformed into glass.  When the smoke and dust cleared, three figures remained standing on the ruined surface.
    Speaking all at the same time, as if the Triforce was talking through their bodies, Link, Zelda, and Gannondorf said, "Your powers cannot destroy us.  The power of the Triforce can only be conquered by one thing, itself.  Release the material Triforce and let it return to its rightful place in the sacred realm.  Your war cannot be ended in this way."
    "No!  Never!  Never will I concede to you weak fools!" Again, Keritan let loose another blast.  A small but immensely powerful beam, it penetrated deep into the planet's core.  A deep and tremendous rumbling began. "Ha, ha, ha!" Keritan laughed insanely. "Soon, this planet's core will detonate!  Very shortly, your world will cease to exist, as will you three as well!  And once you are destroyed, there will be nothing to stop me!"
    "You were warned," the "Three" said over the loud rumbling of the shaking earth.  With a gesture, Link activated the ATPS.  A small white orb grew from the Triforces, forcing Keritan's hands away from the triangles of gold.  Growing larger and larger, the orb expanded, pushing Keritan's grasp further and further apart.
    "No!  This can not be happening!" With all his remaining strength, Keritan attempted to crush the orb.  Lightning and sparks grew from his powerful grasp.
    The earth shook violently.  Eruptions of stone and magma began pouring out of cracks in its surface, forming rivers and lakes of burning, molten lava.  The night sky glowed an eerie red.  Mountains crumbled and forests toppled.  Whirlwinds of massive proportions tore through the land as the winds picked up.  Streaming columns of lava burst through the earth's surface, reaching high into the atmosphere, showering the land below in a fiery pyre.
    Despite the massive eruptions, Keritan began to force the orb's growth into a decline.
    "Yes!  Yes!  You can't stop me!  Nobody can stop me!  Ha, ha, ha!!!"
    "Oh, no you don't!" Norriok flew to Keritan with all his might.  With both his hands occupied, Keritan could not defend himself.  Even though Keritan was far superior in strength, any attack that is not blocked can deal tremendous damage.  As Keritan was struck by Norriok, he was thrown high into the air where blasts from the remaining white crests showered obliteration upon his body.  Suddenly the blasts were being blocked.  Breathing heavily, and noticeably fatigued, Keritan stayed hovering in the air. "I will not be defeated!!!"
    "Think again!" Link, Zelda, and Gannondorf, positioned in the form of a triangle with standing Zelda in front, unleashed their Triforce powers into Keritan.  The blasts impacted him and threw him high into the atmosphere.  His scream could be heard even after the mystic powers of the Triforce blew his body apart.  The gargantuan explosion lit up the sky for the entire world to see.  Link shielded his face as Keritan's dark power disbanded, scattering throughout the universe in a massive shock wave.  Terrible it was that the world would also soon share Keritan's explosive fate.
    "What now?" Link shouted.  Norriok, now holding the unshielded Triforce, nodded as the Triforce spoke to him.
    <You say the war cannot be ended in this way?> Norriok conferred with the Triforce.  <This realm's fate cannot be controlled by one from another realm?  You cannot grant a wish that will lead to the destruction of this realm?  No wonder Keritan decided to destroy this planet on his own.  What?  Then what can I do to stop this, this holocaust?  I see.  Withdraw all our influence from the beginning?  How will I do this?  I must stop the dark knights before they come here?  I must wait until the final battle of the Three until I can return to cast my influence?  Then how will I disrupt the plans of the dark knights?  What?  You will tell me the time and place of Keritan's battle with my older brother.  I see...if Keritan is destroyed, then this conquest will never have begun...  Yes, I understand.  Thank you, Triforce.  I know now what must be done.>
    "Link!  The Triforce has told me what to do." Norriok finally said, over the noise of the destruction of the earth. "I must face Keritan with my older brother to stop this from ever happening.  We must all go back in time so I can do this, before this ever happened."
    "What?  Wait!  How will we know that you will succeed?  Can we come with you to help?"
    "I am sorry friend, but no.  However, you will know weather or not I am successful if Keritan once again comes."
    "Then we'll be prepared," Gannondorf said. "We know now who he is and how to can destroy him."
    "I am sorry, but no." Norriok solemnly said. "For this to effect anything in your realm, you must not know of your future.  I am sorry, it is the will of the Triforce.  The time will come when you three must again combined your powers to save the universe from a black destruction.  Until then, I will keep watch over you, but for now, it is best if these terrible memories are wiped clean from your mind."
    "But wait!" Link yelled desperately. "You mean you are just going to disappear and we are just going to forget about you?"
    "You will never be apart from us Link.  The spell of Oni will always be apart of you.  It may show itself again.  Here, now, or in the future or even in the past.  But for now, just look towards the future.  When we finally meet again, it will be as if you have met me for the first time.  Thank you, Link, for showing me the way.  The path has been unveiled and now we must go."
    "Wait!  Why must..." Zelda's voice was lost in the rumbling of the earth as the forces of destruction took their toll.  Stunning gold light grew from Norriok as he made his wish.  The light became blinding.  Link could hear Norriok's whisper, over the muted sounds of destruction that were around all.  Thank you, my friend.  Even as Link shut his eyes, all was white...
 

    The battle was about to begin.
    "Keritan!  You will never win!" Norriok's older brother Suntra growled, power growing behind his words.
    "You weak fool!  You cannot destroy me!" Keritan was about to continue, but a huge flash of gold interrupted him.  When the blast cleared, Norriok had appeared.
    "Norriok!  What are you doing here?" Suntra asked, astounded. "How did you ever find me?"
    I made it! Norriok thought. The Triforce came through!
    "Ha!" Keritan laughed. "You think you and your brother can defeat me?  You weak fools!"
    "Can't you come up with any other insult besides 'weak fool' Keritan?" Norriok smartly asked.
    "What?  How dare you!  You...you..."
    Norriok looked at his older brother and laughed. "I guess not."
    "How did you find me?" Suntra repeated, not taking to his brother's skewed sense of humor.
    "Ohhh...I had some help..." Norriok slyly answered. "Now let's take this guy down.  He's not so tough.  I've seen it done before, you know."
    "You what?" Keritan exclaimed.  Keritan now sensed something new about the younger brother.  His power was incredible.  His very aurora pulsated confidence and determination.  Keritan broke into a sweat. "I'll take both of you!  Once I push both of you to level one, your realm will fall!  You two are nothing compared to me!  Nothing!" he arrogantly exclaimed, but he was no longer as sure as his words.
    "Yes, it is time," Norriok stated, ignoring Keritan's mindless ranting. "It is time to separate the weak from the strong..."
  nbsp; Link was awakened by the sounds of screaming; cries of battle, cries of terror...cries of agony.  He quickly woke his wife, Zelda, and proceeded to grab his sword and shield before making his way to the window.  The scene was horrific.  The bodies of the dead and wounded lay scattered about the castle courtyard.  Armored soldiers, some still grasping their swords and moaning, others lying still, were thrown about like rag dolls, their once shinning armor now blackened from energy burns.  Small fires filled the area, choking the courtyard with billowing black smoke. Link rushed down the stairs outside.
    The sky was dark black and filled with clouds, not the kind seen before an impending storm, but clouds of evil.  No manifestation of power of this magnitude had he ever seen, by Gannondorf or any other.  No, this was something different, something dark, black.
    The sky flashed with lightning and a fierce wind began churning through the courtyard, making the smoke dance and twirl as if it were a living entity. The whirling smoke clouded Link's already limited line of vision.
    No, Link thought, What can this be?  Right upon that thought, a piercing white light shot through the black clouds.  Its brightness traced along the ground.  Soon the fires stopped, the smoke cleared.  The bodies of the soldiers faded away.  Rejuvenated green grass grew along with sprouting and budding flowers.  Birds chirped and butterflies flew as the white light evaporated the dark clouds.  Soon the sky was crystal clear and the courtyard was restored to its original beauty.  Link dropped his sword and shield and laid on the green grass, inhaling the fresh air that nature provided.
    I wonder if this is some sort of sign of the future? Link quietly thought. Whatever happened, someone did something right.  With that final thought, Link just shut his eyes and lay on the grass, enjoying the warming rays of the sun...
 

Author's Notes

    Well, congratulations!  You've just read through a pretty long story (my first fanfic I've ever written and actually finished).  Good for you!  I hope you liked it; it was a work in progress for about two years.  Long periods of not writing followed by brief spurts of insight.  (Grrrrrr...it annoyed the crap out of me and I loved every minute of it.)
    Anyway, much of the plot was changed over the time I worked on it so if any of it was unclear or jumbled to you, please e-mail me jacenshaw@hotmail.com.  I don't know what I can do but I really want some feedback, positive or otherwise... (I readily accept constructive criticism but I dislike e-mails that say "YOU SUCK!!!" and don't tell me why...I'm just askin' for trouble now...)
    Anyway, you may or may not have noticed, but about halfway through the story, the plot radically changed.  It was at about that time I got hooked on Dragonball Z.  (Link, Zelda, Gannondorf, the whities and blackies; all scrambling to get a wish granted by the Triforce / Goku, Gohan, Vegeta, Freiza; all scrambling to get a wish granted by the dragon balls...power levels and magic levels...well, I prefer to refer to it as "borrowing initiative precedents" over "cheesy rip-off" but call it what you must).  Anyway, the cartoon inspired of the physics of the marbles and much of the battle scenes.  Sorry if any of that threw any of you.
    Anyway, my goal was to paint a real picture of what was occurring in the story.  Also, I hope it kept you riveted to your screens.  I know it could have used a lot more depth and insight to the individual characters and their feelings, but hey, I just don't have that kind of time.  (I threw a lot of it together last-minute and didn't go over it.)  Most of my editing time was spent on changing things like "the sun faded from the horizon" to "the final traces of light turquoise fell from the skyline, fading toward dark blue, and finally into the blackness of the outer heavens."  However, I've been assured by some of my friends that it never really got 'boring' per-say.  By the way, those friends who helped me deserve a lot of credit, for reading this story over and over and giving me tips and suggestions (including informing me of a huge plot hole) that made the story much better.  I would officially like to thank Juliet S. (for the inspiration to even write a fan fiction: http://northcastle.zeldagames.com - her very cool "Vintage" Zelda site), Alex B. (for his ratings on the Al-O-Meter of Literary Excellence), Tom G. (da man), Niki J. (with one k), Trevor M. (the one who constantly nagged me to finish "the stupid story."), Karen C ("who is that Zelda chick anyway?"), Danman (da other man), and Tracy K. (for other help as well...).  Thanks guys!
    Also, for all you avid readers, you may agree with this point.  Personally, I've always hated two things in books or movies or anything else of the like: One - when the beginning is action packed and mysterious...and it turns out to only be a dream!  And Two - when at the end, the good guys win but their memories have to be wiped for whatever reason and they forget the whole thing.  As you can see, I've become the very thing that I hate!  Well, I can explain the ending part.  I've been bad and haven't kept up on my reading; I have no idea what has happened in anyone else's story.  One way to minimize conflicting with other story lines is having all the characters forget everything.  I know that's kinda cheap, but hey...
    And the dream beginning...well I had to have some theme to go along with so it would end with a semblance of conclusion, if that's making any sense to you whatsoever...
    Ok, now on to some other things.  As you have read through my story, you've come across some words that I hope you're not familiar with.  You know, the italicized ones?  Like sagatious or carrogate or contraseptor or chiloac versatel?  If you were wondering, unless I was adding emphasis to the word or a character was thinking, it probably means that I've made it up, so no, you didn't miss anything (did the foot notes help?).  I just don't want any of you going out with your parents to a big, fancy restaurant somewhere demanding some fried morrak.  I'm sure you'd get some weird looks.  However, if any of my "made up" words actually are real words, please tell me.  I know that the rupee is an actual currency...somewhere...
    Along with made-up words, I made up some of my own characters.  Hopefully, this story may have inspired some of you to write.  Writing is fun and I encourage it to anyone.  Feel free to use any of my characters in your own fanfics.  That's why I tried to lay down some of the physics of the crests and the knights.  If you do write a story of your own, please e-mail me a copy or tell me where I can read it.  And to those of you who already are writers, I hope I didn't mess up your story with mine (there's where the 'forget everything at the end of the story' comes in to play).
    I tried to keep the story close to the Zelda "storyline" while still being halfway original.  Of course, you may have noticed that I threw some modern language into the story.  This was mostly for comedic purposes (interpretation: I was trying my hardest to be funny and failed miserably...)
    Anyway, I hope you enjoyed reading and please, e-mail me with your comments on my story ( jacenshaw@hotmail.com ).  I want to know if someone actually finished this and has read this stupid closing I have written and they aren't asleep drooling on their keyboards or whatever...
    Again, I hope you enjoyed the story.  There is so much more that I wanted to include in this short story but there is a big difference between thinking on what to write and actually putting it down in text (fellow authors, I expect you know what I mean; so many ideas, so little Advil for my back and neck aches from starring at this stupid computer all night when it freezes and 2 ½ hours of work are lost and I should be doing my Calculus homework and...sorry, kinda got off track...).  Also, people (Trevor M.) were bugging me to finish it and after two years (of writing and then a couple months break) it gets kinda old.
    Well, I guess I've rambled long enough.  Just my two cents (charge it to my account).  Oh, and if you want to put this story on your Zelda site, please e-mail me so I can keep track of where it is and so I can check out your site.  Well, since you've read this far, I think you should get up, stretch, and have a chocolate chip cookie.  You've earned it!
    "Live, learn, and write."


Jacen Shaw's Fanfiction