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    Rise Of The Serpent
    • The unbroken silence lingers. Is it real? Is it true? Has Count Caedis truly perished? Has his tyranny evaporated into the mystical multicoloured void?

      The question hangs on Laurel’s furrowed brow before he rushes to tend to his fallen comrade.

      “Ningan, wake up!” he shakes the ninja in his arms. “It’s over! We did it! We finished Count Caedis at last!”

      Despite his best efforts, Ningan does not stir. Laurel places his ear to the ninja’s chest and listens for breath.

      He’s alive. a mysterious voice hisses.

      Laurel jumps with fright and scans the darkened room. A pair of beady yellow eyes stare back at him.

      You didn’t forget about me, did you? The serpent emerges from the shadows flicking its forked tongue. I’ve been here the whole time, watching the performance unfold.

      The knight rises to his feet. “Just when I thought he’d finally scrapped you for a new pet…”

      Temero growls. Is that what you thought I was? A slave to His Countship? I am far much more than that, dear soldier. I am far older and wiser than you and your impish companions. I was the one who planted the seed of revolution in Caedis’s mind many years ago. I was the one who orchestrated this entire design.

      “I’m sorry it didn’t quite go to plan.” Laurel retorts, reaching for the hilt of his sword.

      Oh, but it did… The serpent’s scaly smirk startles him. The gateway to the Sacred Realm was opened successfully, just as I intended. I gathered that I needed to revive myself. I got exactly what I wanted.

      Laurel lunges towards his beady-eyed opponent. The serpent whips its tail with a hiss, driving its assailant back.

      Do not test me, boy. Temero’s eyes flash red with fury.

      The snake hurls itself towards Laurel open-mouthed; its fangs injecting into his exposed neck. Laurel cries out in agony and shuts his eyes from the pain. When he looks up, he discovers that his venomous nemesis has mutated into a towering man: fiery red hair, tanned skin, and a wicked grin. His resemblance to the illustrations of the history books is uncanny, all the way down to the jewel in his crown. The Gerudo King chuckles with malice.

      “Your foolish courage reminds me a little of the legendary Hero. Just like him, you are nothing. Nothing but vermin that plagues this wretched kingdom. Although, unlike him, you will not live to see your name written on the pages on any book. You will perish just like your friends.”

      Ganondorf whips his cloak behind him and disappears into the retreating darkness. The light of dawn breaks over the horizon, shedding its light over the planetarium. The gold knight winces in agony: every muscle twinges as the poison scorches through his veins. He crawls towards his unconscious companion, flinching with every movement. He cradles the ninja in his arms and buries his hand deep in his pocket. A single brown feather is their last hope of escape; their ticket home.

      Laurel uses his last breath to blow a feeble gust of wind through his dried lips. The feather dissipates over the both of them. He shuts his eyes as Zelda’s hurricane arrives to whisk them far away from the cursed ruins of the mansion; the scent of doom that plagues the air; and the fatal memories of loved ones lost. The knight and the ninja succumb to the wind that carries them home.

      The post was edited 1 time, last by The Gossip Stone ().

    • The fresh scent of morning dew creeps through the open windows of Hyrule Castle. The pleasant melody of birdsong rouses its residents from their slumber.

      Ningan’s eyes shoot open with panic. Where am I?

      He sits up in bed and scans his surroundings: a ward with bleak grey drapes that hang either side of a glistening glass window. He climbs out of bed and ventures towards it. Outside, he sees the frosted trees of the Castle Grounds; sparrows huddled in their nests and squirrels digging their claws into the frozen ground.

      He peers downward to inspect his wrists: the scars from his shackles have almost faded completely. The Medallions, the mansion, the Count, the Sacred Realm…was it all a dream? The last thing he remembers was coming face-to-face with the ghost of his mother. Surely that was a hallucination…

      The door of the ward bursts open. Ningan cries out with joy at the sight of a familiar face.

      “Marson! What are you doing here?”

      “I was summoned by the Princess!” he rushes to greet his brother. “She told me you arrived in the Castle Courtyard in the early hours of yesterday morning! I had to come and see you for myself!”

      They share a loving embrace.

      “You did it, Ningan!” Marson grins. “You defeated the Count! You’re a hero!”

      “It’s strange…” the ninja returns to the edge of the bed. “I don’t remember a thing…”

      “That doesn’t matter.” Marson assures him. “What matters is that Caedis is vanquished, never to return again. At last, Hyrule can rest in peace.”

      His pointed ears stir at the sound of voices conversing outside. Ignoring his brother’s ramblings, Ningan strides to the door to eavesdrop:

      “He’s awake. I heard his voice.”

      “We cannot break the news until he has fully recovered.”

      Ningan twists the doorknob and marches out into the corridor. There, he meets his beloved companions.

      “Ningan!” Dakota beams as she wraps her arms around his shoulders. “You’re finally awake! We were so worried about you!”

      “You were out-cold for the best part of twenty-four hours.” Ezra explains. “A little worse for wear, but nothing that a Hearty Elixir and a good night’s sleep couldn’t fix.”

      “It’s so good to see you guys.” Ningan smiles warmly as he pulls his friends in for an embrace. “Where is Laurel?”

      Their elated warmth fades to frigid silence. Ningan looks to Dakota. Dakota turns to Ezra. Ezra draws his breath.

      “Laurel…suffered a snakebite wound to the neck. Venom was injected into his bloodstream, paralysing his entire body. The wound proved to be fatal.”

      Ningan’s heart stops. The cold air seeps through his skin, chilling him to his soul. Dakota’s eyes water and she attempts to console him.

      “I’m sorry, Ningan. He didn’t make it.”

      His eyes glaze over as he absorbs the gravity of the news. He barges between his friends and walks the corridor with deathly silence.

      He emerges out into the open air of Castle Courtyard: the familiar fountain has frozen over; the hedgerows are tipped with a delicate layer of frost. The stone memorial of the Hero of Time stands alone in the centre of the courtyard, surrounded by snow. The statue’s eyes gaze down upon him with empathy. Ningan unleashes a cacophonous scream that shakes the birds from the trees. Right there, in the sanctity of the sacred garden, his heart shatters.

      The post was edited 2 times, last by The Gossip Stone ().

    • Just beyond the southern border of the Hyrule kingdom lies a lush valley, filled with silky soft meadows and sunlit springs. This hidden haven, unclaimed by any government or empire, was christened as Ordon by its residents: the villagers who prospered from the fertile farmland.

      Melodic birdsong rings around the meadow as sparrows soar in circles, weaving in and out of the clouds overhead. Fresh spring water trickles over moss-covered rocks, cascading into a pool below.

      Ningan breathes the sweet scent of the spring air and embraces the warmth of the sun on his skin. He stands on the banks of the spring, where yellow daffodils flourish either side of a rock which takes the shape of a horseshoe. Ningan opens his satchel and retrieves his Lens of Truth. He lifts the Lens to his eye and looks out over the spring.

      Four hooves wade through the water towards him: a magnificent white colt, with a glorious mane and a golden tail which swishes in the wind. Atop the divine creature is a golden armoured knight; tall, muscular, with a shield and sheathe on his back. His features are sharp and defined, but his face is soft. His steely blue eyes gaze down upon his visitor; the corners of his mouth lift into a smile.

      “Good to see you again, Ningan.” Laurel beams.

      “You too, handsome.” Ningan smiles.

      “How are things?”

      Ningan sighs. “Where to begin…”

      “It sounds like you might want to take a seat.” Laurel chuckles.

      Ningan seats himself on the sandy shore of the spring. “I just had a meeting with Zelda and the others. She’s still having nightmares; mostly involving snakes. There’s still been no sighting of Caedis or any other assailant for that matter. Ezra writes her worry off as nothing more than post-traumatic stress…but I trust there is something more to them.”

      “That certainly is troubling…” Laurel remarks. “And what of Ordon?”

      “I won’t lie to you; your mother is still in a bad way.” the ninja admits. “I visit her every day to check she’s still feeding herself. I’m probably the last person she wants to see, understandably. Malon spends more time with her than I do. She brings her groceries and other supplies she needs.”

      “How is she holding up?”

      “Again, not well.” Ningan confesses. “I never knew her to begin with, yet she still seems unusually quiet for the bubbly outgoing ranch girl I heard so much about. We talk, though. We get along well. She always wants to hear about the adventures we had. I tell her, leaving out the gruesome bits of course. I think we could be friends.”

      “That would make me very happy.” Laurel closes his eyes wishfully.

      “I’m sorry that you never followed through with your engagement.” Ningan adds. “I’m sure she would have made a wonderful wife.”

      “I’m sure she would…” the Commander hangs his head sadly.

      The two men listen to the birds in the trees as they harmonise with the bubbling spring water.

      “And what about you?” Laurel inquires. “How are you coping?”

      Ningan laughs feebly and casts his eyes to the ground. “I’ll get there eventually.”

      The Commander’s ghost dismounts into the spring. He advances towards his beloved companion so they stand face to face. Ningan gazes up into his phantasmal blue eyes.

      “I could stand here and tell you all the things I wish had happened. I wish I had retired from the Royal Hylian Forces. I wish you had moved here to Ordon where we could live out the rest of our days in peace. I wish we’d grown old together and we didn’t have to worry about the fate of Hyrule every waking moment. I wish that blasted serpent had never struck me. But that dream is gone now. So here what I’m going to tell you instead: go on. Go on all those adventures you crave so much, to Hyrule and beyond. Spend time with those you care about, whether it be Zelda, Ezra, Dakota, or your tribe. I appreciate that you care about my family’s welfare, but you have a family of your own…they need you more than I do. Go on and find someone else to spend your life with. I promise I’ll be watching over you from beyond, wishing you the best.”

      A tear slides slowly down Ningan’s cheek. “I’m not going to do that, Laurel…because what you’re asking is impossible. I’m never going to find someone who is willing to put their life on the line to protect me. I’m never going to find someone who saved my life not once but twice. I’m never going to find someone who sacrificed everything they had just to accompany on a dangerous mission which should have been my duty and mine alone. I’m never going to find anyone with the same ambition, valour and courage as you. I’m never going to find anyone who adores animals the way you do. I’m never going to find anyone who loves people like you do. I’m never going to find anyone like you…in Hyrule or beyond. So instead, I’ll make a promise to you. I promise to keep your memory alive on the lips of legend: the Gold Knight who laid down his life for Hyrule. I promise to visit you at this very spot whenever I can until my death. And then I promise to lie right beside you.”

      His palm reaches out to touch Laurel’s shoulder, but it passes through the apparition like water. Laurel’s hand reaches out and wipes the tear from his cheek. “You know where to find me.”

      He turns and mounts his steed. Aurarius neighs merrily as the spirited pair gallop off into the mist of the waterfall.

      Ningan lowers the Lens from his eye and drops it back into his satchel. He climbs to his feet and brushes the damp sand from his clothes. His crimson eyes reflect the warm afternoon sun; a sun which wishes peace upon him and the whole of Hyrule. Unfortunately, Ningan’s life does not know peace. The ache in his heart will still beat no matter how many times he visits this place. Nevertheless, he will keep his promise.

      The post was edited 1 time, last by The Gossip Stone ().