Lina checked and double-checked her equipment making sure the she had what she needed. Her Fairy Bow, the Longshot, the Mirror Shield; everything except the Golden Gauntlets was accounted for – she couldn’t risk losing the strength-enhancing gauntlets.
Putting on the kimono, she looked at one of the masks that she had brought with her. The Couple’s Mask. And today was the Young Couple’s Dance. Was this a sign from the Goddesses or was she seeing things? So many strange things had happened to her... or him... over the course of his or her life, but that was because she was supposed to save the world! She was the Hero of Time!
Which brought up another thing. Today was the day the Redead would return, the day that Hyrule Castle Town would burn. How many people would die? How many could she save? Her mind turned to her friends, most of whom she already knew would survive the uprising. After all, she’d seen them alive and well when she’d been a grown man. But how much of their survival was their own doing and how much was due to her intervention?
Lina put the mask on and armed herself, deciding to get it over with. This was arguably the closest she’d gotten to possibly messing up the timeline. But if that was true, then where did General Onox and Veran figure into the equation?
A quick look around the cabin told Lina that no one else was there. Impa had left some pancakes on the table, as well as a note.
We couldn’t wake you up – you were out like a rock. Something about foxes and whatnot. We’re taking care of the plan, just show up for the Dance. Just follow the volunteer’s instructions after that. Ralph says to come ‘armed to the teeth’.
PS: Don’t eat all the pancakes. I’m probably going to want some for later.
Deciding to just try to get as many of her friends out of harm’s way as she could, she walked out of the cabin and quickly made her way through the crowd, trying desperately to find someone she knew. Mikalu and Lulu had left already, if she remembered correctly. Darmuni and the Deku Royal Family both weren’t anywhere near the castle, Impa and the Oracles would likely escape, Ralph could defend himself–
-And she could really care less about Tingle. “Good morning.”
“Ahahaha, it is quite a morning, Madame Fairy!” Lina was slightly beginning to regret asking for his help to fly into Ikana Canyon. “The sun is shining, the people are buying Tingle’s maps, this is truly a day where nothing could go wrong!”
‘If he only knew,’ Lina thought. Nonetheless, she did owe Tingle a favor... “Tingle, I think you need to leave.”
Tingle appeared confused. “I’m not sure I follow! I’m making so so many Rupees!” He took off his hat, revealing a large sack of money resting on top of his head. “Why not make more money?”
Lina grit her teeth. So help her... “Listen to me. I kind of owe you one for helping me out back in Termina. So listen to me: GET OUT NOW.”
The middle-aged manchild stared at Lina, before shrugging. “I suppose so. Better a moderately rich man than a very rich corpse.” Tingle then retrieved some powder out of a small leather bag and shouted his catchphrase. “Tingle, Tingle, Kooloo-Limpah!” He threw the powder in his hand to the ground, seemingly disappearing into the air as colored sparks flew from where he had been.
Despite that man’s usefulness, there was just something off-putting about him to Lina. Maybe his attire reminded her too much of the Kokiri, or maybe he was just crazy with his Rupee obsession.
Lina continued to make her way through the crowds, trying to find Saria and Ruto next. If anyone absolutely had to survive this, it had to be those two. She searched and searched, not finding hide or hair or scale of the two.
She could hear some people in the crowd gossiping about the ladies at the Dance. Some of the men were practically drooling over a red-haired woman from Holodrum. Lina figured that this dancer must be the Oracle of Seasons that needed to be rescued. Other men talked about a woman blanketed in a green hood – Lina could tell that they spoke of Rosa. But she was surprised to see some of the women in the crowd wish her luck at the dance. Apparently there was something intangible about her that made people root for her.
As she thanked another blushing young lady for her support, an all too familiar voice came from behind her. “You look so incredibly sexy right now that I’d love to take you back to Labrynna and ravish you over and over again.”
It was Lina’s turn to blush, though it was not so obvious due to her mask. She turned around to find Veran. “Um... Thanks but no thanks?”
Veran laughed. “As much as I’d love to, people’ve more or less been hinting that there’s other ladies trying to steal your heart.” The sorceress shrugged. “Either way, I’m here to pass on some updates from Ralph.” Lina gestured for her to continue. “Alright, so you have to go participate in the Dance. Ralph and Impa tell me you’ve got weapons?” Lina nodded. “Alright. Hopefully, this should go through without too much bloodshed. Ganondork – sorry, Ganondorf – still thinks I’ve got Nayru locked away. So I’ll sit with Ganondorf during the Dance, and at the end... grab Din and run for Death Mountain.”
Lina could see the flaw in the plan almost immediately, though. “Ganondorf has magic and the Triforce of Power. He could tear you all limb from limb for all I know!”
“Which is why I’ll distract the man. General Onox may be more of a problem, though. You may have to stop him and the Darknuts from going after us.” Lina thought about it for a moment. Onox was the armored man who had marched through the Kokiri Forest last year. She owed him one.
“Sounds doable.” Lina was not looking forward to the Dance, though. It wasn’t like she was afraid, oh no. She wasn’t afraid of the crowds. It was the principle of the matter, the concept that she was going to dance in front as a girl for the entertainment of men.
Lina quietly chastised herself for thinking of herself as a girl. She just did it again! Again! He had a very tenuous grip on his manhood, and this plan was not going to do anything to help it... unless he actually got to fight.
Link fought to protect people, for the greater good. Perhaps now she... he could return to the olden days. But he could not rise against Ganondorf. Not because he didn’t want to smack the man for doing this to him, but because he couldn’t risk changing the timeline.
“Alright,” Veran told Lina. “You better get going. Everyone else is in position.” Lina was about to object, but the sorceress was already walking away.
As much as he didn’t want to admit it, Veran was right. He’d run out of time, and there was no turning back the clock this time. He’d have to find Malon, Ruto, and Saria during the chaos after-
“Excuse me, are you Lina?” He turned around to find an usual sight. A postman stood before her, jogging in place. It took Lina a moment before he finally recognized the man by the bunny hears atop his head. This was the guy that Lina had sold the Bunny Mask to a few years ago when she was strapped for cash. “I have a letter for you. It’s urgent.”
Lina paid him a few Rupees as the man jogged away, towards Kakariko Town. The letter was hastily written and sloppy, as if the writer had no hard surface to record his or her thoughts.
Those friends of yours are safe. I took the Princess and her friend with me back to the Domain.
PS: Still can’t thank you enough for what you pulled back in Termina. Lulu’s named one of the kids after you.
Lina put the letter inside her kimono, a small smile making its way across her face. That made two people who’d named kids after her.
Getting backstage to the Dance was surprisingly easy. The man who sat at the table next to the entrance was very understanding, though he was a little stern about Lina’s tardiness. There were several women back there, dressed to the nines in formal dresses that Lina had never seen before. He could definitely see Rosa, who nodded at him as she seemed to be counting the number of logs in a nearby woodpile. The logs were odd, fitted with weights on one of the ends. He also saw the red-haired woman that Onox had held at the forest, though she was wearing a simple white mask. This woman must have been Din, or as Ralph had once called her, the Oracle of Seasons.
The Oracle was stretching, but more as if she was trying to pass the time than prepare for anything strenuous. Rosa had stopped counting wood and was instead retying the bow on her hood. Several of the other girls seemed to be gossiping, talking about the boys they’d met during the festival. Lina had no time for such talk, wishing Rosa good luck as she walked out onto the stage, several men carrying the logs she’d been counting following her out.
The men assembled the logs in a circle, and then placed sandbags around the wood to ensure they would stay upright. A few moments later, Rosa walked out onto the stage to delight of the audience. Quite a few people were perplexed as to why Rosa’s attire covered ever entire body. In fact, very few people in the audience had even seen a Subrosian before, left alone leave Hyrule.
After a few minutes, a drumbeat started. Rosa jumped one top of one of the poles and twirled around, before jumping to another pole and shuffling her feet. It was an unusual sight for the crowd, who had grown so accustomed to the usual line dances and can-cans. Rosa flipped from one log to the next, somersaulting in the air. It was such a display of acrobatics that the young men in the crowd burst into applause at the end of her daring stunt, though some of the old people seemed to frown upon what they saw as a ‘frivolous’ display.
As Rosa returned to the backstage area, she told Lina, “They liked Din’s performance just as much. The guys liked it, old people didn’t.” The men who had helped bring the logs onstage were now taking them off, clearing the stage for the next performer.
After setting down the last of the logs, a man with an afro and a beard came in. Lina recognized him as one of the carpenters that rebuilt the bridge to the Gerudo’s Hideout. “Alright,” the carpenter said. “Has anyone here not performed?” Almost all of the women shook their heads, though Rosa raised Lina’s hand into the air.
“My friend here hasn’t gone yet.” Rosa whispered to Lina, saying, “Good luck. You’re the last one.”
Within the next few moments, Lina found herself being ushered onstage. After double-checking that her mask was on tightly, her weapons were concealed, and her kimono was not allowing any more of her skin to show than it had too, she walked out on stage, staring out into the audience.
The snake charmer was getting settled as he practiced the fingerings for the melody he would play, giving Lina enough time for him to search the crowd. Thankfully, Mikalu’s letter seemed to be accurate; Lina couldn’t see Ruto or Saria anywhere. Impa and the people from the cabin were all scattered throughout the crowd, ready to strike when the moment was right. What gave Lina pause though, was that in the midst of the crowd, halfway between Ralph and the center of the mob, was Ingo, was carrying a long box he’d purchased earlier in the day.
Lina had to save Ingo, or she would be royally screwed in more ways than one.
She had to put the man into the back of her head for now, making triply sure that her mask was concealing her face. Indeed, in the furthest corner, Lina could see Ganondorf, Onox, and Veran, all watching with a hint of boredom. Again, Lina had to take her mind off of the problems at hand. If the plan was to succeed, she had to play her part.
The snake charmer began to play his instrument as Lina mentally stoked herself. Calmness was the key, each step had to be deliberate, each movement had to be precise and with purpose. She took the first step, and entered into that calm haze that she remembered from her Termina experience.
The young men in the crowd were a little offput at first; after all, they had just seen two performances of lively women bounding around the stage. But there was something graceful about Lina’s movements that the men quietly appreciated. The older men and women were more captivated, however. They were more able to appreciate the subtleties behind the dance.
Lina was not able to see that Malon was captivated by the performance. Some unconscious part of her was moved by the dance, and she could not tear her eyes away. Something about it seemed tantalizingly familiar to her, the mask the dancer wore seemed to beckon Malon to watch, to enjoy, to take it in.
Before either of the girls knew it, the dance was over. Lina took a moment to take a breath before the crowd began to applaud her performance. She made her way offstage quickly, knowing that Ganondorf was likely staring at her. Lina was by no means afraid of the man, but she knew what would happen if he figured out that she still had...
“Lina? Lina!” She was broken out of her reverie by Rosa, who had been shaking her for a few moments now. “You did great! I’ve never seen that kind of dance before!”
Lina shrugged, responding, “I’m sure most people here’ve never seen a dance like yours, either.” Rosa had to admit that the statement was likely true; few of her people had ever entered the ‘world above’. Ralph’s journey into Subrosia had been the first time any other sentient species had been seen in decades.
“Excuse me, may I have your attention please, may I have your attention please?” The audience’s attention was diverted to a stout man with a loud, booming voice. “Based on the amount of clapping that you the audience, we have chosen our top three dancers!”
Backstage, several of the dancers were anxiously awaiting the results. A gaggle of them were already talking about choosing a purple-haired boy in the back. Lina tensed up at their description; Vaati might end up ruining the plan.
“And here’s the first of the top dancers!”
Lina watched Din being ushered onto the stage. The girls backstage seemed fairly unsurprised at her pick, knowing that the men in the audience couldn’t have resisted her.
“And now, the second pick!”
Rosa was being thrown onstage now, and the girls backstage were furious. Quite a few of them thought that what Rosa had been doing wasn’t dancing at all, but rather just jumping on a bunch of wood. Still, the girls seemed fairly confident that they’d be picked as the third...
“Last but not least, the third dancer!”
Out of nowhere, Lina found herself being pushed towards the stage. The girls behind her seemed shocked at the pick, but were mum on their reaction as they were told to go join everyone else. Lina eventually ended up standing next to Rosa as the stout man congratulated the three of them on their dancing prowess.
“It’s finally that time,” he announced to the crowd, “for the dancers to choose their partners for the dance.” The crowd cheered and waved as Din had to go first.
Lina turned to Rosa and asked, “What do we do now?”
“We dance,” Rosa said. “I already told Din to look for Ralph, she’ll be in on the act once the dance starts.”
Din eventually found the person she’d been seeking, as she got down from the stage and grabbed someone else’s hand, however. “Whoa there,” Impa said, “I think you’ve got the wrong person!” The Oracle did not seem to care, however; she stood by her decision. Lina and Rosa looked at Veran, who seemed to be holding back a laugh and winked at the two.
“That witch!” Rosa calmed herself down by reminding herself, “Though the plan can still work, Impa’s in on the plan...” Rosa got off the stage and looked at the audience long and hard. She seemed very hesitant to pick anyone. Finally, she closed her eyes and pointed wildly into the crowd. When she opened her eyes again, she found herself pointing at Farore.
The crowd seemed very bewildered by the dancer’s picks thus far. The girls usually ended up dancing with boys. However, a few of the older people supposed that the girls did not want to invoke the old tale about the dancers and their partners. Regardless, quite a few of the boys did shout for Lina to choose them.
Truly, Lina had no interest in choosing a dance partner, and would’ve chosen not to dance at all if she’d had a choice. She looked and looked, but there was nothing appealing in the slightest about dancing with a boy.
She did see something else that caught her eye. A group of rejected dancers was badgering Vaati, who seemed to have grown a couple of inches and some muscle since the last time Link had seen him.
“Come on, dance with me,” Vaati told a redhead. “I’m not that bad a guy.”
The redhead slapped Vaati in the face, and it was then that Lina saw who Vaati had been courting. “You harass me when I’m a kid,” Malon said, “and then you ask for my hand? Not even if the Goddesses told me to!”
“And what if I was just trying to show my affection for you?” he asked.
“Then you’ve got a twisted way of showing it,” Malon told him. “Not a chance.” Lina reached out and touched Malon on the shoulder. “What is – what?” Malon seemed agitated, but any words she had for Lina died in her throat as she realized that it was one of the dancers who’d called for her attention.
Lina found herself caught off guard by Malon’s appearance. She was wearing a fairly nice dress that was not overly frilly like many of the girls she had seen backstage. But what truly kept Lina’s attention was Malon’s hair, which had been straightened and had a feather resting behind her right ear. The Roc’s Feather that she’d given her last year.
“Hey, if you’re asking,” Vaati grinned, “I’m saying yes.”
“And who says I’m asking you?” Vaati’s ego noticeably shriveled as Lina asked Malon, “May I have this dance?”
Malon seemed to pounce at the opportunity, if only to get as far away from Vaati as humanely possible. As they entered the area where the dancing was to occur, a twelve-man orchestra began to play. The older people clapped and told them to dance while some of the younger men whistled.
“Sorry you wasted your dance on me,” Malon apologized as they began to dance slowly. “You could’ve had your pick of the litter.”
“No regrets here,” Lina replied. “I suppose I kind of wanted to pick you. Everyone else seemed kind of... um... I don’t know how to describe it.”
Lina shrugged her shoulders. “Fake. That works. All of those guys just seemed to want something from me.”
“If it makes you feel any better, Dad says that there’s only one thing that guys want.”
“There is?” Lina seemed genuinely lost on what that could be.
Malon blinked before laughing at her masked partner. “It’s funny. You remind me of someone. A friend of mine, actually.”
“Yeah.” She saw Vaati visibly angered, and drew herself a little closer to Lina to anger him. “She’s my best friend. She helps out on the ranch, and she’s probably the greatest person I’ve ever known. I mean, I love Dad, but he’s a little lazy.”
Malon couldn’t see it, but Lina was blushing. “...Thank you.”
She nearly hit herself in the head when Malon looked at her. “What?”
“Nothing,” Lina covered. “Nothing.” Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Impa and Rosa escorting all three of the Oracles out of the building. She looked the other way and saw Ralph nodding at her before quickly gesturing to Veran, who in turn quietly nodded back at the two.
Lina knew that time was almost up. “Malon, can I tell you something?”
The girl looked confused. “How did you know my name is Malon?” Lina quickly took off her mask for a moment. “Link?! How –”
“Long story. No time to explain.” Lina put the mask away and took out the Gilded Sword and Hylian Shield. “Get your dad and Ingo and get them out of here.”
“What?” But as the music ended, a million things began to happen. Ganondork – sorry, Ganondorf – finally realized that he had been duped, and threw an energy bolt in anger at the stage, setting the curtains on fire. Veran blindsided Onox by focusing an immense amount of magical energy into a ball and flinging it at his head. Ralph took out his Seed Shooter and fired two seeds at the Gerudo King, but missed and set the wood behind him on fire. And while all of this was happening, Lina found a sudden sharp pain in her jaw and her back against the floor. When she looked up, she saw Vaati with his fist extended, his other hand reaching for his rapier.
“Back off my woman, whore.” His voice had deepened considerably since the last time they’d met, and his red eyes looked bloodthirsty.
Naturally, Malon objected. “I belong to no one,” she yelled over the crowd’s panicked shouting and the burning debris.
Ralph ran over to Lina’s side and shouted, “Lina! We need to get out of here now! That Ganondorf guy just summoned these really, really disgusting zombie things! I hate to say it, but we’ve done what we needed to do.”
The Redead had finally arrived, and Lina could hear their unearthly screams as they began sucking the life out of their victims. Lina desperately wanted to save them, her heart was screaming at her to do it. But her head told her that people were going to die no matter what she did. And things were going to go very, very wrong before her ‘past’ self as a man woke up in the Temple of Time.
“Fine.” She punched Vaati as hard as she could in the face before turning around. “Find the Oracles and Impa and get out of here. I’ll take care of Malon.”
“I’ll save who I can on the way,” Ralph reassured them as he ran out of the building.
Not a moment later, Veran appeared behind Lina. “I’ve distracted Ganondorf as long as I can. Let’s move.” She threw Lina and Malon over her shoulders and started running as fast as she could, leaving Vaati in the burning building. “Where are we going?” the Sorceress of Shadows asked Lina.
“There should be a ranch to the south of here,” Lina answered. “Just take us there.” As Veran tried desperately to find a horse or something to make their escape, Lina saw Darknuts attack innocent people without mercy, Fire Keese setting fire to several of the cabins, and screaming Redead wrapped around Hylian citizens.
“This is hopeless,” Veran said after several minutes of searching. “All the horses are gone.” She let Malon and Lina down from her shoulders, commenting, “We’re going to need a miracle to get out of here. I can’t stop those Redead.”
Lina finally got an idea after thinking it out. She put her hand into her kimono and took out her Fairy Ocarina. “Lina,” Malon winced, “this is no time to break out into song!”
‘Never would’ve stopped Tingle,’ Lina joked to herself as she began to play a certain tune that Malon recognized. Just a few moments after finishing the short ditty, a whinny could be heard. The three women turned to find Epona galloping towards them.
“Well, that’s a pretty nicely timed miracle if I ever saw one,” Veran remarked. The three of them piled atop the horse with Lina in the lead as the three rode away from the burning festival as fast as they could.
It was some time later that Ganondorf finally calmed down as he stood on top of Hyrule Castle Town’s solitary gate. He stared out at the scene of destruction below him reflecting on the burning town behind him. The man decided to make the best of the situation and begin asserting his rule over the land. “You’re late,” he told the approaching person.
General Onox groaned as he stared at Hyrule Castle, which was seemingly having additions added to it. “Just reviewing what’s been happening. Can’t believe that Veran stabbed us in the back like that.”
“She told us from the beginning that she was an opportunist,” Ganondorf said. “We should’ve taken her word for it.”
Onox nodded at that. He then changed the subject. “I think that purple kid that hangs around you knows who screwed us over.” Ganondorf seemed intrigued as he added, “Though he’s remarkably mum on the subject.”
Ganondorf tapped his chin. “I suppose a little bit of torture never hurt anyone.”
“Only if I get to help,” Onox added. “I enjoy breaking people so much.”