Story: The Lost Years (chapter 14)
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Title: Year 3: Dance of the Keaton
[Author's notes: *cackles*
This is what happens when you write too many stores at once- one of them gets left behind. Not to worry, I'm back.]
Link didn’t sleep very well that night, and from what she could gather the following morning, neither had Ralph. Despite the gracious breakfast that Impa had cooked up, (omelets, bacon, and a heaping helping of pancakes) neither Lina nor Ralph managed to eat very much of it.
“I’m gonna take Farore to see the sights,” Rosa told the group. “Don’t worry, I’ll keep her safe.” She put a green cloak on the Oracle and commented, “Just keep the hood up and no one’ll recognize you.”
“What if tries to take off your hood, Rosa?” The Subrosian had to admit that Impa had a point. She blinked, her glowing eyes blinking amongst their dark background before giving an answer.
“Subrosian hoods are magical; they can’t be removed by anyone but the wearer, unless... well, that’s not going to happen anyway.” She took Farore by the hand and out the door. “See you guys later.”
Maple stared at the doorway as Ralph closed the door. “You know, it’s kinda odd. The Oracles are supposed to be kinda... older. And Farore’s more like our age than Din and Nayru.”
Ralph tried to make sense of it. “I heard from Nayru one time that Farore was the last Oracle to be revealed. The way it works, the Oracle of Seasons is declared first, then the Oracle of Ages, then Mysteries. I guess that it’s based on age and whatnot- I know Din’s older than Nayru. Must’ve taken them a little bit longer to find the Oracle of Mysteries.”
Lina shrugged her shoulders; it wasn’t like she knew anything about mythology besides the Triforce, and she knew all about that. Absent-mindedly, her eyes went to her left hand. ‘...The Triforce of Courage is still there?’
That couldn’t be good. Perhaps it was a twist of time, perhaps she’d never returned her share of the Triforce back to the Temple of Time, or perhaps the Goddesses thought he still needed it, but the fact still remained that she had the Triforce of Courage. She knew she had it when she ‘woke up’ a few years from now, or two years ago, whatever.
“Lina!” Link snapped out of her thoughts as Impa put another pancake on her plate. “I got more food if you want it.” She declined, opting instead to try to find Malon.
Impa was a bit surprised at that. As far as she knew, Lina had only had a strip of bacon and two pancakes. She stealthily snuck her fork into some bacon on Lina’s plate, but found another fork in the meat she was stealing. She stared hungrily at Ralph. “Sleep or no sleep, I want that bacon,” he murmured.
The festival was more happening than anything that Link had ever seen. It was almost as overwhelming as the first time she had visited Hyrule Castle Town. There were vendors of every conceivable good out there, but Link just couldn’t find anything interesting. But the sheer buzz of activity around her alone was enough to blow her mind so badly that she did look where she was going.
“Oh Goddesses,” Lina apologized after she ran into a ground of people. “I’m sorry, are you all okay?”
“No, we’re fine, really-” The woman speaking to her stopped talking as she realized who she was talking to. “Lina?”
“M-Mikalu?” The tattooed Zora guitarist hugged the teenager. The rest of the Indigo-Gos were there as well, finally greeting the hero of their land for the ‘first time’. “What’re you guys doing at the festival?”
Mikalu rubbed the back of her head. “Bit of a long story. See, this asshole of a magician came into town a while back, called Ganondork or something-”
“Ganondorf.” Lina corrected. “I know this part of the story. What are you guys doing here?”
“Well,” Lulu commented, “We managed to find refuge in this lovely place upriver. Their king was very understanding of our situation, let us stay there and everything. Even let our kids play with theirs and everything.”
Mikalu blushed at that. “Speaking of kings, his daughter is somewhere around here hanging out with this other girl. They were arguing about some guy named Link.” She leaned over to whisper to Link, “They’ve got a crush on you.”
Mikalu then quietly mentioned the same thing to Lulu. Lina was definitely shocked, yes, but she was thankful that Mikalu and Lulu weren’t saying it to the world. Lina numbly thanked them and left them with a warning. “You guys should probably leave the Domain in about-”
“-We know, Lina.” Mikalu leaned to whisper into her ear once more. “I got to know the same stuff you did when you were wearing the mask. We’ll get out of there, promise.” With that, she began on her way. “We’re just staying for a few more hours, then a gig, and then me and Lulu are going back to the kids.”
Link finally let out the breath she’d been unconsciously holding in the entire conversation. She wasn’t going to be able to get much rest this week. Malon was still out there in the crowd, and goddesses knew just how long she had before the Redead returned.
‘Oh, hell.’ She turned around to find the most annoying creature created in the history of history.
“Madame Fairy,” Tingle joyfully exclaimed, “it is so good to see you! You would not believe what kind of magicks I encountered to come here!”
“Yea. Yea I do.” Lina prepared to walk away and ignore his upcoming story of the magic of Rupees and his friends when he began talking about what he’d been up to.
“...I was drinking a bunch of milk, and these people kept asking me which one was best. And the one next to this charming redhead was by far the best-”
Link’s ears perked up as she heard the man-child speak of a redhead. “Where was the milk from?”
“Lon Lon Ranch, I believe. The whole thing was some sort of contest, and her friends won!” She quickly asked which way her friends were, but the man-child didn’t answer. “Oh, this all occurred a few hours ago! They’ve packed up the cows and are probably only staying for one more event, Madame Fairy!”
Link cursed her luck. “What?”
Tingle began dancing in place, much to the Heroine of Time’s embarrassment. “Why, the dancers of course! Tingle is going to be dancing for the pleasure of many!” Link had to fight the urge to throw up on the spot as Tingle danced himself out of her sight.
“There you are!” Lina turned around to find Ralph and Impa running towards her. “Try and keep up with us, because I’ve only got enough time to tell you this once.”
“I don’t understand. So we’re going to take down Veran,” Lina commented as the trio stood with their backs against the walls of a temporary building, “but you didn’t say how.”
Ralph smirked as he looked around the corner and whipped out some sort of shooting device. “It’s simple, surprisingly enough. We have to hit her with a special type of seed that isn’t found in Hyrule.” He loaded the device with a green seed. “This thing is extremely unpredictable when it hits something. It could turn a Cucco into a giant, a Moblin into a sheep, or nothing at all. But it seems to force Veran out of her body.” He took aim around the corner.
Impa quickly double-checked their surroundings. “Coast is clear; no one around. Lina, get as close as you can and just say when.”
Link just began sneaking around the tents and such. She knew how far she could push her luck in terms of when to move- the Gerudo had been attentive guardswomen. The tricky part was actually the process of moving stealthily. Namely, her balance felt off- Lina silently cursed the fact that she now had to compensate for her growing knockers. Nonetheless, she was only a few feet away...
‘Oh, shi-’ The possessed Oracle turned on Lina as if she’d known the Hero/ine had been there the entire time.
“A bit hard to sneak up on a magician, girl. Here to have some fun?” She grinned as she looked Lina over with no attempt to hide her desire. “Another year or two and you’ll probably be the sexiest girl in all the land. If only that drab little dress didn’t hide your blossoming figure...”
Before the magician could touch her though, Lina dove to the grass and yelled Ralph’s name. As if on cue, the Guardian of the Oracle of Ages stepped out his hiding spot and launched a Mystery Seed at Nayru’s body.
Upon impact the seed cracked in half, its contents showering all over the Oracle. Without so much as a groan of pain, Nayru fell to the ground. Ralph immediately put the Seed Shooter away and then pulled out a device that looked like someone had put a claw on the end of Link’s Longshot. “Lina, quick! Over here!”
No sooner than Lina had arrived at Ralph’s side than Nayru’s skin returned to a more normal tone, and a dark mist-like ghost began escaping from her body. Two dark yellow eyes opened once the mist consolidated, and Ralph quickly whispered, “Keep her down.”
“Wha-” Link couldn’t finish her question as Ralph fired the strange device into the void. Surprisingly, the device actually managed to latch onto it, pulling the mist towards Lina. But the device worked quite differently than the Longshot- this ‘Claw Shot’ had some sort of rubber band effect, as Ralph was pulled by the device as well. The two enemies actually passed right by each other and effectively switched places.
Once the mist settled, it actually began to take a familiar shape- Veran assumed her normal form as she recovered from the disorienting assault. Almost on cue, Link tackled the magician to the ground and held her there.
“Ah,” Veran chuckled, “Now we’re getting somewhere.” Her grin disappeared as she saw Ralph approach. “Well, that could’ve gone better.”
Impa ran towards Nayru’s comatose body and put her in a fireman’s lift. “I’ll take her back to the cabin.”
As the royal guardian walked off, Lina and Ralph turned their attention back to the sorceress. “Back to business, Veran. I can understand why Ganondorf would want the power to control time and nature. What’s that man got that we don’t?”
“Off the top of my head, power over magic, armies of monsters-”
“Besides the obvious.” Ralph had apparently had to deal with Veran several times before and knew that response was coming.
“You’re aware that people have been disappearing in our land for some time now, correct Prince?” Ralph nodded- he didn’t have time to argue semantics. “Ganondorf sent minions throughout the world in an attempt to find some stupid golden triangles that are supposed to be able to grant any wish. His ‘men’, if you can call them men, apparently thought that one of Queen Ambi’s descendants possessed one of the things and started offing them one by one.” She stared at Ralph, noting, “I believe that you may be the last living heir to the throne.”
Ralph loosened his grip, but did not let go. “That explains that. But where do you come into the equation?”
Veran looked calmly into his face. “I don’t, for the most part. I went back to see what the world was like back then.”
Lina stared at her for a second. “Wait, wait, wait. You went back in time just to sightsee? Not to conquer the world or anything?”
The Queen of Shadows laughed bitterly. “My reputation may not be the best, but even I am allowed to enjoy myself once in a while. Though I do admit my method was a bit... crude.” Ralph bit his tongue, trying not to say anything.
“Wait, if you just went back in time, then why did Ralph follow?” Lina was a bit confused.
Ralph looked at the Heroine stone-faced. “I told you already, I’m Nayru’s guardian. I’m supposed to keep her safe.”
Veran continued her story. “During my stay in the past, I was allowed to stay in the Queen’s palace. While I was there, I made a most unusual discovery, one that could’ve had dire consequences for our time.” Both heroes stayed quiet, waiting for Veran to continue. “What, no interesting remarks? No ‘Gee Veran, whatever could that be?’?”
“I thought you were just going to tell us,” Lina said.
“I’m doing my damndest not to yell at you,” Ralph grunted, “so I wasn’t going to say anything.”
Veran sighed. “I swear... Anyway, I discovered that there was no record of whom Ambi continued the line with. And that the time I had arrived at was about the same point where she would become pregnant with her only child. If she didn’t conceive within the next week,” Veran stated, “then no kid. And without that kid, Ralph would never have existed.”
Ralph stared at her in disbelief. “I thought once Ralph showed up, that he might’ve become his own descendant or something, but no. He got tangled up in a war against a gang of rebellious subjects. So I had to do the deed.”
Ralph nearly fainted, while Lina tried to make sense of the revelation. “You slept with the Queen?”
“Well, not in Nayru’s body. I had to be very careful how I played my cards, but I couldn’t deny that I was very... excited at the prospect at spending time with a historical figure that I admired.”
“Oh, goddesses,” Ralph gasped. “You had SEX with my ancestor?!?”
Veran smiled wickedly. “Yes. And it had to have been the best two hours of my life.” Ralph nearly threw up on the spot. “Anyway, that was at the end of the time that I knew she had to have that kid, so I had to resort to Plan B- I impregnated her using some of my magic.”
Ralph winced. “So wouldn’t that make you my... I’d be your...” He released his grip on the woman, and fainted from the shock.
Veran turned to Lina. “He’s right. I’m actually his ancestor.” Lina released her grip, but kept on her guard. “He’s free to kill me now of course, but when he confronted me in the Palace, I had to make sure that I stayed alive, less the Prince end up ensuring that he was never born.”
Link had seen cause and effect come into play several times during his adventures, but nothing to this scale. “What are you going to do now?”
Veran looked to the sky. “Not sure. I was working for Ganondorf mostly to save my own skin, but now...” She looked at Ralph’s unconscious body. “I’ll stay undercover for a little while, but I’m going to be leaving his service very soon.” She paused before noting, “You were planning on rescuing the Oracles.”
Link confirmed it, not even bothering to deny the statement.
“I can help with that.”
A half-hour later, everyone had reassembled in the cabin. Rosa, Maple, and Farore all stared at Veran with mistrust while she told her story, while Impa nodded silently. Ralph just continued to stare, silent trying to absorb the fact that Veran was one of his ancestors.
“So there you have it. Any questions?”
Impa spoke first. “Can you get us the Oracles?”
Veran shrugged her shoulders. “I can distract Onox, but getting them out of there I can’t do.”
Nayru nodded. “Ganondorf’s likely not going to let Din go without a fight.”
Lina agreed, adding, “Don’t try to kill him, he’s way too strong.” She thought of the Triforce of Power, which was likely in his possession. If she got too close... the King of the Gerudo might be able to sense her share of the Triforce of Courage, and then he would already have two of the three pieces by the time her past... future... male self... thing woke up. ‘Never really considered how weird time travel can get,’ she thought to herself.
“Alright,” Impa stated, “we know he’s going to the exhibition today for appearance’s sake. Onox will likely be there, and we know Din will be dancing. It’ll probably work best if Rosa and Lina enter the competition. Tomorrow, at some point during the dance, we’re gonna have to strike quick and hard. The quicker we get out, the less likely we’re going to have people getting hurt.” Impa looked at Rosa and Lina, remarking, “It’s almost time for the dancers to go. You two have your masks?”
Rosa nodded as she took out her mask. “I know it’s a fairly cheap one,” she said as she referred to her Keaton Mask, “but it’s all I could get on such short notice. My people are blacksmiths, not artists.”
Link silently dug out the Couple’s Mask, the one that Cremia had given her. Why had she chosen this particular mask to begin with? And why was her gut telling her that she had to do well at the exhibition?
The time between then and the exhibition was almost a blur to Lina. She could remember that Ralph had snuck backstage to give Din a message, and now Rosa was on the edge of a circle of logs, leaping gracefully from log to log and spinning in place. It was an interesting sight, one that could easily bedazzle the watcher.
When Rosa stepped off the posts, she walked straight for Lina, who was just offstage. “You’re next, you know.” Rosa looked back at the stage. “Once they clear the stage, that is.”
Lina nodded calmly as she looked at the mask in her hands and the kimono covering her body. She was going to be performing for a group of people that she didn’t know, probably for a group of people she’d never seen before and would never see again.
Was she scared? No, she’d done far bigger things for complete strangers. You know, like rescuing a bunch of carpenters and saving the world, that kind of thing. But she was a bit nervous- since when did anything important that didn’t rely on solving some ancient puzzle or killing some forgotten evil with a confidently placed weapon she got in a treasure chest in a dungeon filled with monsters?
She walked out onto the stage after putting on her mask on. The audience was indeed filled with people that she’d never seen before, but closer inspection revealed a smattering of familiar faces- the sight of Ganondorf and Onox chilled her to the bone, but on the opposite side of the crowd was Ingo, Talon, and-
Lina stopped in her tracks at the center of the stage.
Malon was still here.
For a brief moment, all thought of the dance left her mind. Malon was here. So were Ingo and Talon. She silently cursed her luck, thinking of a way to get them back home before shit hit the fan...
A snake charmer at the side of the stage nodded at her, snapping her out of her ruminations. There was no longer time to plan, only to find her center, to walk the walk and dance the dance.
It was all a blur, just like Mr. Roboto had told her that performing it would be. The dance felt fluid, like water running through her fingers, and she felt... graceful.
The walk back offstage and back to the cabin was just as much unmemorable- she could remember Rosa congratulating her, saying that she’d done wonderfully. Din was smiling at her, telling her she was something else. But one thing that she could remember before she fell on her bed asleep was Malon.
She appeared very surprised, almost as if someone had blown her mind.
Lina had no idea where she was. She was surrounded by a thick fog, making her unable to see the forest from the trees. She DID appear to be besides a river, and there didn’t seem to be anyone else there.
“Hello there, girl.”
Well, there hadn’t APPEARED to be anyone there. A look in the direction of the voice revealed a yellow fox, its eyes nearly slits and both its ears and the tails having black tips as if someone had played a prank on it with permanent marker. One peculiar detail that Lina noticed about the animal was that it had three tales. “Um... hi?”
“Ah,” the fox seemed to chuckle, “you aren’t phased by my being able to speak?”
Lina looked at the beast strangely before commenting, “I’ve seen a lot stranger than a talking animal.”
The fox laughed even more. “I see, I see.” It walked up to the Hero/ine on its four legs before sitting down. “Do you know what I am?”
She had the wrack her brains for a moment. She hadn’t seen a fox with more than one tail before, but that face... that face... “The Keaton Mask!”
The fox nodded. “At least you knew me somehow. I am a Keaton, and usually my kind only appears to those who wear the Keaton masks. But we also appear to cause mischief once in a while.” He laughed once more, commenting, “It is so much fun making hunters answer riddles and taking their quarry. Such great stuff. Anyway, we are also more ‘in tune’, as you might say, to the wills of the Goddesses Three.”
Lina blinked. “You talk to-”
“Well, not exactly talk as you and I might talk,” the mystical kitsune admitted, “but we converse with many entities of the word. The goddesses, ghosts, the Oracles... you get the idea. We were the ones who told the King to unite Hyrule, and it was my people who assisted the Light Sprits in their task of sealing away the interlopers into a realm of shadow. But enough about my people,” he continued, “It is time for me to discuss why I am here.”
Lina interrupted the Keaton, latching onto the word ‘seal’. She knew what being able to seal something implied... “Wait, you have magical powers?” The Keaton nodded. “Can you turn me into a boy?”
The fox’s eyes opened slightly in surprise. “Why on earth would I want to, I mean,” sniffed the air for a second and reeled back in surprise. “It’s not like I could, at any rate, you’ve been cursed or something.” When Lina asked him for something a little more in-depth, he replied, “This is just conjecture... but you’ve been cursed by some very powerful Dark magic or taken some potion that you shouldn’t have. Either way, that magic is WAY too powerful for me to overcome. Now don’t interrupt me again.
“Now, as I was saying, the reason why I’m here. The Goddesses have empowered me to give you a gift. Ordinarily I’d give you a bunch of riddles first... Oh, what the hell. I love riddles too damned much. One riddle. I’ll give you one riddle, and if you get it right, then I give you your prize. Get it wrong, and you’re dinner. Questions? No? Good.”
“Actually,” Lina said, “I did have a quest-”
The Keaton made a ‘sh’ noise before beginning its brain teaser. “Two babies are born to the same mother and the same father. They are born on the same day, within the same hour. But they are not twins. How can this be possible?”
Link scratched her head. She hated brain teasers. ‘Same parents, same time... Man, I don’t know anything about babies!’ “Um... different da- no, um, different mont- no, um... er...”
The Keaton smiled. “The clock is ticking...”
“Uh, er... they’re not twins... are they triplets?”
The kitsune frowned. “Well, that bites. You win.” Three small wooden cubes appeared in front of him. “On top of your bed in the Lon Lon Ranch, you will find this green cube, this red one, and this gold one. DO NOT OPEN THEM WHEN YOU FIND THEM.”
Lina looked confused. “Then why give them to me?”
The Keaton shrugged, or at least gave the equivalent. “Trust me. When the time is right, you’ll know when to open them.” The fog began to thicken once more, causing the unusual fox to begin to disappear from eyesight.
“But what’s in the box? What’s inside the boxes?”
He was almost completely gone, but his voice rang out loud and clear. “The answer to your prayers.”
And with that, Lina woke up. The sun was starting to rise, meaning that she’d been out for quite a while. Regardless, she knew that today was the day for the second part of their plan.
They could not afford to fail.
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