"Let me get this straight. That device says that one of those arches that is standing in the middle of the playground to show that this is McDonald's is actually a magic arch that goes to Hyrule?" Josh chewed on the French fry he had used as a pointer.
"You understand perfectly, let's go." Lissa started to rise but Josh grabbed her arm. "You're not trying to stall with your argument What if Hyrule isn't real? again, now are you?" Josh shook his head and they walked out into the playground. "It's the one on the left," Lissa announced after consulting her compass.
"I feel really stupid," but Josh followed her under the arch.
And emerged deep in a luscious woodland. Kilare flew over their heads from behind Josh and screeched. "I know, Kilare, we're home." Kilare screeched again and Lissa scrutinized the surrounding forest apprehensively.
"How can we be sure that this is Hyrule?" Josh asked stubbornly, despite that deep down he knew the answer. "You can find a forest like this anywhere on Earth."
"Get up in the tree, quick!" Lissa jumped up and grabbed a branch, swinging herself up into the tree. Josh grabbed for and missed the branch as the moblins--carrying a slain deer--walked onto the scene. "Moblins! Now are you convinced?" Josh nodded as the moblins rushed toward him. Lissa closed her eyes and mentally reached out, levitating him out of reach. The moblins forgot Josh and marched on their way. Lissa gently placed Josh back on the ground and quickly joined him there.
Josh whirled to face her. "How did you do that?"
"Did I forget to mention that I'm half Gensiarian?" She was trying to unsuccessfully kill her smile.
"What is a Gensiarian?"
"A Gensiarian is a magical entity that possesses all of magic's powers. We've existed since the beginning of time and are immortal. My mortal side limits my powers. When I die, I'll have full use of them."
Josh sat on a stump. "So you're Hyrule's answer to a Q."
"What's a Q?"
"It's a character on a T.V. show, but never mind. What matters now is this is Hyrule." He stood up and kissed her lightly on the lips.
Lissa pulled away, "Why did you do that?"
"I said that if you could prove that Hyrule existed, I'd probably kiss you. Another thing, I have no idea what's going on!"
"I'll start at the beginning." Lissa started walking through the forest with Josh following. "The Gensiarians created the Triforce--the Power of Gold--to give boundaries to magic, so life could coexist with it. When this world was created, the Triforce was place in the Gold Land, an alternate version and an afterlife."
"What is the Triforce?" Josh weaved around a tree.
"The Triforce is the most powerful element imaginable. Three separate Triforces: the Triforce of Wisdom, Triforce of Power, and the Triforce of Courage are the separate pieces of the Triforce--the Power of Gold. Zelda can harness its power and use it. Now, the Triforce stayed in the Gold Land for centuries, eons, no one knows how long, until a leader of a band of thieves, Ganondorfdragmire...."
"You can say all that in one breath!"
"Used the Triforce to further his greed. His body over time, reflected his evil soul and he became Ganon. The Gold Land--also reflecting his soul and wishes--became the Dark Realm."
"But it's not like that now, is it?"
"A Hero--we call him the Unnamed Hero, because everywhere his name was written down was later obliterated and it was forgotten. All we know is what he did. He defeated Ganon when Ganon tried to conquer the Light Realm, and he was the one who brought the Power of Gold to Hyrule. After that, the Royal Family began to use it powers to help the people of Hyrule."
"Something tells me Ganon just didn't give up." Josh stumbled against a root but didn't fall.
Lissa took hold of his hand. "The Triforce of Courage was hidden away, and waited for a mighty hero to find and hold it in his heart. Ganon then stole the Triforce of Power. Princess Zelda saved the Triforce of Wisdom and set out to find the hero who could hold the Triforce of Courage. Link was that hero. He carried the Triforce in his heart and helped keep Ganon away from the Triforce of Wisdom. Then he and Zelda brought the Triforce of Power back to Hyrule."
"Exactly where do you figure into all this?"
"I'm Link's half-sister. My mother is a Gensiarian. She met Link's father after his wife died, and well...."
"You were the result?"
"You can put it that way. Ganon knew about the Triforce of Destruction. A fourth Triforce that would destroy the Power of Gold if placed with the others. Without the Power of Gold, the boundaries of magic would fall and our world would be destroyed. Only the last Gensiarian could destroy the Triforce of Destruction. I did, with the help of Link and Zelda. And then they got married."
"But why is Ganon after your nephew, Len?"
Lissa stopped walking and gazed deeply into Josh's hazel eyes. "I'm going to tell you this, Josh, but you must promise never to tell another living soul."
"I promise," Josh held up his right hand and crossed his heart.
"Link the Second, or Lin for short, is destined to defeat Ganon. Since Ganon is immortal, he knows that Lin will destroy him one day. To save himself, he has to kill Lin now, while he's vulnerable."
"But Link wouldn't let anything happen to his own son!"
Lissa stared at the ground sadly. "Ganon kidnapped Zelda before, to keep her from having the baby. But she was already pregnant, so Ganon used her as bait to destroy Link. With Link dead, he could have molded Lin any way he chose."
"Then it wouldn't matter if Lin destroyed Ganon or not. He would win in the long run."
"You catch on fast." Lissa resumed walking. "Link rescued Zelda, but he left her--foolishly thinking that would keep her safe from Ganon." Lissa's face clouded over. "That's why I'm in such a hurry to reach the North Palace. I'm Lin's protector. With Link and me gone, I'm positive that Ganon has made his move."
They reached a broad, winding river. "This is taking too slow," Josh complained. "Can that compass point the quickest way to the North Palace?"
"I'm not thinking straight," Lissa brought out the magic compass. "I should have thought of this sooner. Quickest way to the North Palace. It's pointing down river."
"And we don't have a boat."
Lissa laughed, light and musical, forgetting for a moment her troubles. A slab of water floated up from the river and solidified. "My hindered powers can help us here." The shimmering, silver mass scalloped and contracted to form the boat that gently settled near the bank. "All aboard."
Josh shook his head as they climbed in, "And you impressed me before." The boat flew over the water with surprising speed, yet it didn't affect the passengers any. "What do you think Ganon might try to do?"
"That's what so bad about Ganon. You have no idea what his diabolical mind thinks up. The only thing you can be sure of is that whatever his plan is, it will be evil and will cause much suffering."
Josh placed a compassionate arm around her shoulders. "You care a lot about Lin."
Lissa laid her head against him, trying to draw strength. "I'm his protector, and I love him so much! He so adorable and mischievous; everyone in the Palace dotes on him. And Zelda, after losing Link, she'd die if anything happened to Lin. But that's what Ganon wants."
Josh chanced a look up, "Is that the North Palace?" The Palace looked more like the fairy tale castles than any real ones in Europe. Towering spires, flying buttresses, large windows, and balconies, the Palace glittered like a jewel on the hill's crown.
Lissa jumped out of the boat and ran up the hill, Josh following quickly. She burst into the scullery and onto a crying servant. "Mariette, what happened?"
"Oh, Lady Lissa, I'm so glad you're home," Mariette sobbed. "I beginning to think this Palace is cursed."
"First Prince Link leaves, then the King falls sick."
"The King is old and has had a good life, what happened!"
"And now Prince Lin!" Mariette wailed.
"What happened to Lin?" Lissa shook the woman's shoulders.
"Ganon has poisoned him," answered the athletic, blonde man in armor who entered the room.
Lissa raced from the scullery, up flights of stairs, and into a nursery. The man and Josh followed at a less reckless pace. Lissa already cradled the flushed and whimpering baby in her arms. "Where's Zelda?"
"She went to find the antidote."
"Which is where?"
"In the Dark Realm. Can you heal the Prince?"
"I can help him fight the poison." She kissed Lin's forehead. His face was a little less flushed and his whimpering eased. "We need the antidote to completely stop the poison. I can't Believe Zelda went after it alone."
"Try to understand, your Ladyship, I couldn't stop her. No one could--not even the King."
Lissa laid the baby back in his crib. "I don't blame you, Captain Krin. Zelda can be quite persuasive. My only hope is that it isn't too late." She strode out majestically; Josh followed.
She marched up the stairs that led up a spire. At the top, was a room filled with books, charts, papers, and artifacts. Josh took a deep breath. "I only have a vague idea of what's going on, but I'm sure that the Princess is walking into something too big for her to handle."
"That's what I think, too. Help me clear this table."
Josh buried his arms up to his elbows in a pile of books. "What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to find Link."
"I thought you didn't know where he is?"
"I don't, but a long time ago I put a magic stone in Link's sword to help me locate him in case of an emergency."
"And this qualifies," Josh gawked at the beautiful scaled model of Hyrule on the uncovered table. Mountains, trees, rivers, towns, and the Palace, it was a perfect 3-D map. But the book stacks would have toppled if they rested on that surface. Josh passed his hand over the table. It neatly sliced the undisturbed mountain range. "A hologram?" he murmured, barely audible.
"Josh," Lissa spoke softly and solemnly, "this is my lab, my world. The Triforce and these rooms are the greatest treasures this Palace holds. But I'll need help to succeed in the work destiny chose me to do. I trusted you with my life in your world and you did not desert or take advantage of me. I trust you now. Will you help me?"
Josh gazed into her blue and silver eyes set into her hopeful, haunting, captivating face. "I'll help you, Lissa," he stepped closer and cupped her face in his hands, "like I already promised."
"Thank you," Lissa stepped toward the map and Josh followed. Passing her hands, the blue glow spread over it. "The glow will shrink down to pinpoint where Link is." The glow flickered, then faded away.
"What does that mean?"
Lissa, gracefully, collapsed on a pile of books. She gaped, stricken, into Josh's confused face. "He's in the Dark Realm. I can't find him there."
Zelda tried to shrink back from the stone basin/alter filled with blood, but the darknut prime held her fast. "How many innocents did you kill, Ganon, to have this much blood?"
"Innocents like your son?" Ganon goaded. "Have no fear, Princess, only one deer perished. Its blood shall pave the way to my greatest glory." He nodded at the darknut. "The destruction of your son and your crowning as my queen."
In a quick, ritualistic move, the darknut held her over the basin. Ganon replaced the rugged, worse-for-wear clothes with a black gown. It hooked around her neck, and the straps came down in the front barely covering her nipples--reveling the fair skin of her breasts and stomach. The straps joined the skirt tightly on her hips. The skirt had two V-shaped slits showing off each of her long, bare legs up to her hips.
"Ganon, what do you think....!" The darknut plunged her into the basin. Cold clamps fastened themselves around her wrist and ankles. She pulled her head above the surface--screaming as the talons started tearing her mind apart--but the clamps pulled her under again and again as she tried to break free.
Link strained against the chains that held him to the wall as Zelda's screams grew more anguished and prolonged. He turned to Ganon, who gloated nearby. "Stop it, Ganon! You're killing her!"
"I know," he hissed. "Isn't it great?"
Zelda drew a quick breath before going under the blood again. The pain inflicted now was greater than any tortures Zelda knew of. She could feel certain parts of her soul tear away. "Triforce!" she cried with what mind she had left. "Help me!"
Ganon loomed above the basin as Zelda rose from the depths and screamed. He held over her a jeweled bottle of purple and blue glass. "I wanted you to see the antidote while you still remember why you wanted it."
Zelda tried to hold herself above the blood. "Why are you doing this?" she rasped.
Ganon sneered, "I've wanted you for a long time, Princess. Now I will have you." The clamps pulled Zelda under the blood and into the pain.
Link felt himself sinking into an abyss of despair. He had--no matter how pointless it seemed--dreamed of someday returning to the woman he loved. But now, Zelda was a puppet of his worst enemy. If only he had listened to his heart when he had the chance.
Ganon brought her closer. "Quite an improvement." Link held his anger in check. Bide your time, he told himself resolutely. Ganon placed Link's sword into her hands. "Kill him, then join my realm."
Zelda stepped closer. Link gazed into her blank emerald eyes--once so filled with emotion. Sword raised high; a sharp sword--Link saw to that. Whatever the consequences, he had to tell what was left of her one last time. "Zelda, I love you. I'll always love you." The tears--so long hidden--sprang unabashed to his brown eyes. "I always have."
A shudder convulsed her body. The arms swung the sword out in an instinctive arc.
And Link found its hilt pushed into his freed hands. They covered the hilt and zapped the first target sighted--the basin/alter. He grabbed Zelda's arm, grateful that his cloak still covered his face. "How did you?"
"There's no time to explain, look out!" Link released his hold to face the darknut that rushed toward him, sword raised high. That was the diversion Zelda needed. She rushed at Ganon and grabbed the bottle out of his surprised claw. "Thanks, Ganon!" she cried as she plunged into a hallway with Link following.
"There!" Link pointed ahead, "A gateway! Get out of here!"
"What about you?" Zelda yelled over their pursuers' din as she mounted the stairs.
"I'll cover you, hurry, you have to save your son!" Whoever he is.
Zelda took no further prodding and flew up the stairs. Link held his stance at the bottom. "Come on, Pig-face. I owe you big time."
At that point, Ganon reconsidered personally leading his forces against Link. He stopped and pointed down the hall. "Kill him!"
Link shrugged, "Why waste my time? I have a Princess waiting for me." He ran up the gateway. The moblins and darknuts roared and chased faster.
Link turned around when he reached the Light Realm and threw a spherical object down the opening. Then he grabbed the recovering Zelda and forced her to run.
The object fell at the moblins and darknuts' feet. A moblin scratched his head. "It looks like a...." No one will ever know what he thought it looked like, because the bomb denoted at that second.
Link and Zelda turned to see the charred and smoking hole. "Not bad for a good night's work." Link turned to Zelda, but she gazed further down the road.
"The North Palace! Lin! I just hope it's not too late." She broke off in a run toward it.
Link watched her go. Ganon's appearance-change stayed in the Dark Realm, and she looked the same as when she entered it. He should let her go, but Link shook his head. "I can't leave her, not again," he whispered. Running after her, "How did you keep from falling under Ganon's spell?"
"I invoked the Triforce. I'm glad it kicked in when it did. I would feel terrible about killing you after all you've done for me. How can ever repay you?"
"Think of it as my good deed for the month," Link announced gaily. She didn't hear what I told her. My identity is safe, when I don't want it to be. Why can't things ever be simple in Hyrule?
They burst into the North Palace. The Royal Physician and Captain Krin stepped quickly to the exhausted Princess supported by Link. "Princess, thank the heavens, you have returned!"
Zelda turned off the eloquent speech by placing the bottle in the Physician's hands. "The antidote," she gasped.
He rushed away with it as more servants appeared. They led Link and Zelda away, all murmuring about baths.
Link made sure his cloak concealed his face as he stepped up to the nursery door. The Royal Physician was stepping out. "Is the kid going to be okay?"
The Physician stiffened. "Prince Lin will be fine."
"Can I see him?"
The Physician's bushy eyebrows knitted together, then he nodded, opening the door to let him pass and shut the door behind him. Link tiptoed to the crib and gazed in on the young baby sleeping peacefully for the first time in days. "So you're Lin. Your mom must love you an awful lot to do what she did."
"There's only one man I love more." Zelda stood behind Link positioned where she could see Lin's face.
Link ducked his head back to the crib. "I thought you would say his father."
Link whirled around, letting the cloak fall away from his face. "You did hear me," he accused.
"Yes, but," she bit her trembling lip. "I don't buy it. Why did you leave?"
Link bowed his head again. "Ganon wanted revenge so bad, he would go to any lengths to get it. I didn't want you to be one of those lengths. I thought, maybe the further I got away from you, the more Ganon would leave you alone." He stepped closer to the disappointed figure. "Zelda, I love you so much it hurts. I meant it when I said that everyday since I left has been hell."
"Words are cheap, Link." She pulled away, "It's real easy to tell someone you love them when you plan to leave and never return."
"Zelda," she eluded his grasp, "I don't want to hurt you!"
"Then, why did you leave! Why do you cut the bond that connects us? Why do you shut me out now? Haven't we made life miserable for each other long enough? How do you expect me to believe what you say?" Lin stirred in his crib, and Zelda lowered her voice. "How can you say you love me, when try to sever that bond?"
"Then I'll just have to show you." Zelda tried to pull away, but his kiss swept away her anger, bitterness, and unhappiness. "Do you believe me now?"
Zelda leaned her head against his chest. "I forgot how well you can do that," she gasped.
"But you don't believe me."
"Why are you closing me off? I can't call you, at all. Before, you didn't want to admit that you loved me when I might not love you back. What's you reason now? You don't want to be a father, don't want the responsibility?"
Link dropped his arms and walked to the window. "Is Lin my son?"
Zelda threw up her chin. "You're the only man I ever had that kind of relationship with, and the last one I thought I would have to explain that to."
"Then don't use Lin as a weapon, Zelda. I just don't want to hurt you. The pain, I've bottled up it up for three long years. It's almost too much for me to handle."
"Pain has to be shared to rid yourself of it. Besides, nothing could hurt me more than Ganon already has, both tonight and before."
Link bowed his head and lowered his will.
Zelda almost physically fell under the blow of emotion that assaulted her soul. Whimpering, she pulled Link's arms around her.
Link kissed the salty tears that brimmed from her green eyes. "I'm sorry... for everything, Zelda. I didn't plan it this way."
"I know, Link."
"I don't want to go."
She gazed up into his brown eyes. "Then don't. Ganon doesn't care about you and me anymore. It's Lin. For some reason, Lin is dangerous to him. I suspect Lissa knows why, but she isn't telling. I can't raise him and run a kingdom alone. Link, I love you, I need you. Stay. We belong together; we're not happy apart."
"I suppose you want an answer tonight?"
Zelda dropped her head to his chest. "The truth, Link. No more games."
"Well," Link grabbed her up in his arms to carry her off. "Do you want to do it in here or another bedroom?"
Lissa curled up on her couch in sleep as the courier shook her shoulder. "Lady Lissa. Lady Lissa."
She pounced up. "Lin's dead?" she wailed.
"No, the Crown Prince is fine. The King is failing, and we can't find the Princess."
Lissa rubbed the sleep from her eyes. "Zelda's back?"
"She returned last night with the antidote." The courier coughed discreetly, "And with a stranger, who is also missing."
"Find the stranger, and you'll probably find the Princess," Josh spoke up, stepping into the lab. He chuckled and turned to Lissa, "Maybe your brother was in the right place at the right time."
"I'll see the King."
The King was very pale, wasted away by the sickness. His sunken eyes watched every move made by his grandson. "Everyone leave," he ordered wheezy. "I want to talk to Lissa and my grandson."
The nurse placed Lin into Lissa's arms who brought him closer to the King's side. "Be honest to a dying king, Lissa. This boy isn't ever going to sit on the throne?"
"No, if his future remains unchanged. It'll be better for Hyrule in the long run."
Zelda kissed Link again. The last time she was this ecstatic, they had been doing the same thing. An urgent knock preceded the courier's voice. "Princess Zelda, are you in there?"
Zelda groaned, "They always find me," she muttered softly as Link nuzzled her ear. "What is it?"
"Your father, the King, is worse."
Zelda bounded out of the bed. "Oh no! I have to see him!"
"Zelda, wait!" Link cried as she laid her hand on the knob. "Your clothes!" Zelda snatched up her thick robe and threw it around her. Link shook his head as he dressed just as quickly.
"My daughter," the King weakly raised his hand which Zelda gently grabbed. "You be a good ruler."
"Daddy, I'm not ready to be queen."
He snorted, "You're more than ready, Zelda." He gazed past her. "Who's that?"
"I found Link."
"Welcome back, Hero," the King greeted Link as he stepped closer. "Don't you leave my daughter high and dry again."
"I won't, Sire."
"Good-bye, Zelda. Remember, I always loved you."
Zelda let the tears fall, "I love you, Daddy." His hand turned cold, deathly cold. "Daddy!" Link gently turned her away. Lin--not knowing why his mother was sobbing--wailed for good measure.
Josh knocked on the door. Such a bewildering sequence of events! Barely here for twenty-four hours, and everything straightens out by itself. He still wasn't sure he understood it all. Link opened the door. There was little family resemblance between him and Lissa, except the same brown hair. "Lissa wants to know if Zelda's okay."
Link shut the door behind himself. "I want to talk to her. Where is she?"
"In the nursery."
By the critical eye Link gave him, Josh realized--in chagrin--that he was still wearing blue jeans and a T-shirt. "Who are you?"
"I'm Josh... er... it's better if Lissa explains." He fled to find something less conspicuous to wear.
Lissa held Lin in her arms, trying to loosen his black collar. The plump baby tried to squirm free, "Sit still."
Link strode to the chair where they sat. Lissa looked up. "A dark grey jerkin, is that disrespectful?"
"I don't care, I have my reasons for not wearing all black. Zelda's sleeping now. She's taking it hard." He sat on the windowsill nearby. "I should have been here."
"The past is over. It's the future we must protect."
"Lissa, does Ganon really want to kill Lin?"
Lissa buried her face in the boy's curly brown locks. "Yes," came the muffled answer.
"I can't tell you that, Link."
"Is he really my son? I heard rumors," he explained to her incredulous expression. "That Zelda just had a baby to be an heir. That no one knew who the father was."
"And you believed them?" Lissa shook her head as she tickled Lin. "She was pregnant while she was trapped in that crystal. People have forgotten about that time when they try to figure out the months. Did you miss seeing this?" She held up Lin's right hand briefly and both marks of the Triforce were visible to Link--the one on the toddler's hand and the one on hers.
Link rubbed his fingertips over his birthmark. "Actually, I had."
"So Link the first is Link the second's daddy." She grinned smugly at Link's amazed face. "That's what Zelda named him. You weren't expecting that."
"No, not quite. What am I supposed to do? I don't know the first thing about babies!"
"There's never a better time to learn." Lissa placed Lin into Link's arms unexpectedly. "First thing, they like to be held a lot." She giggled as she left the nursery.
"Lissa, get back here!" Link looked helplessly down at Lin. "Looks like it's just you and me." Lin giggled and grabbed a fistful of Link's long brown hair.
Josh expected the activities of surrounding Zelda's coronation to be lavish, but they exceeded his expectations. Scores of noble people graced the throne room of the North Palace. The more influential persons of Hyrule found a place in the Palace and the common people waited for the new queen to start the festivities.
People concocted and wore their finest outfits for the occasion, but Zelda's simple lavender gown covered with a sheer black silk jacket out-shown all. Or perhaps it was the somber majestic countenance that demanded notice.
Josh found Lissa in the middle of the dancing crowd. "This gives new meaning to dancing in the streets." Lissa grabbed his hands and they whirled around. There were no class distinctions. Queen Zelda even danced with a blacksmith; who passed the story on to his great-grandchildren.
Laughing heartily, Lissa and Josh finally collapsed against a building. "It's unreal. After so munch sadness, how can you have so much fun now?"
Lissa leaned against him and put his arm around her shoulders. "The sadness before helps us enjoy the happiness later, Josh."
"With people like this, how can Ganon expect to win? Everything he does, they turn around."
"It's a combination of greed, evil, and pig-headedness." Lissa gazed into the star-studded sky. "But we can withstand his poisons."