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By Cere

Chapter 3: First Blood

              It was dark, very dark. Link had to wait for his eyes to adjust. Around him, the wooden walls towered upwards. The only sound was a faint rustling noise. Link thought he could see something moving high up.
              Link took a few steps further into the Great Deku Tree's interior. A web covered a hole in the middle of the floor. "Be careful," Navi advised. "That web is very sticky."
              Link took Navi's advice and stayed away from it. He let his gaze wander. Even in his wildest imaginings, he'd never thought of being inside a tree. The atmosphere was perfect, though. If he let his mind wander, he could see all sorts of evil things lurking in the dark.
              He brought his mind back to the present. This was serious. He had to think. He guessed that he needed to climb upwards, but how? His eyes came to rest on a ladder.
              He started to walk towards it, but a Deku Baba sprung up in front of it. It snapped its jaws and watched him. Link was going to walk past it, but Navi flew into his face. "Watch out, Link!" she exclaimed. "That's no ordinary Baba."
              "What do you mean?" he asked. He was answered when the Baba lunged at him, its jaws clamping inches away from his face.
              "Those aren't nice Babas," Navi explained. "They're evil."
              "Wonderful," Link said. He drew his sword and came closer. It sprang at him, but he put up his shield just in time. It ran into the shield and was stunned, allowing Link a chance to attack. The head came cleanly off its stem.
              Link was about to climb up the ladder when Navi called after him. "Wait!" she shouted. "Look what it left behind."
              Link noticed the stem lying on the ground. He didn't see anything else near it. He walked over to it and picked it up.
              "It's a Deku Stick," said Navi. "It could come in very handy."
              Link stuffed it in his pocket and climbed up the ladder. At the top, he noticed a walkway running around the inside of the Tree. He started walking around when Navi alerted him again.
              "Look in this grass," Navi instructed. "I think I can see something in it."
              Link chopped the grass with a few quick sword strokes and some large nuts fell out. Link picked a couple up. "They're Deku Nuts," Navi said. "What luck!"
              "What do they do?" Link asked, turning them over in his hand.
              "Break them open and they give a blinding flash," Navi explained. "They can be used to stun enemies. Be sure to cut some grass wherever possible. Mischievous fairies often hide useful things in them."
              Link put a couple Deku Nuts into his pocket along with the Stick and continued walking. His pockets were going to be awfully full if this kept up.
              His ears picked up a rustling sound coming from above. He looked up a wall covered with thick vines and noticed some spiders crawling above.
              "Those are Skulltulas," Navi said. "They're big trouble if you want to climb this wall."
              Link studied the Skulltulas for a moment. "Do you think I can hit them with some Nuts?" he asked.
              "I wouldn't waste them by doing that," Navi said. "There's probably a better way."
              Link agreed and kept walking, looking for another way to climb up. He came to a door in the wall. He had never seen one before, because all the Kokiri houses had open doorways.
              "It's a door," Navi explained. "Touch it and it opens."
              Link hesitantly stretched out a hand and tapped the door. It slid up and revealed the room beyond it. Link walked past and it slammed shut. "Interesting," he commented.
              Suddenly, iron bars came down, blocking the doorway. Link turned and saw one other door, also blocked by bars. "This isn't a good thing, is it," he said.
              "There's got to be some way to get out," Navi said hopefully.
              Link walked toward a leafy patch in the middle of the room, letting his gaze wander around the plain wooden room. He heard a noise and turned to see something pop out of the leaves. It eyed him for a moment, then shot a Nut at him. The Nut knocked him to the ground. He shook his head and looked up to see the creature retreat back into the hole covered by vegetation. "What was that?" Link asked.
              "A Deku Scrub," Navi replied. Link walked up next to its burrow. "It won't come out if you're that close," Navi said.
              "Then how do I attack it?" Link asked.
              "Bounce the Nuts it shoots back at it," Navi answered.
              Link reluctantly followed Navi's advice and backed away, his shield held ready. The Scrub poked its head out of its burrow and shot another Nut, but Link blocked it and sent it back at the Scrub. It gave a yelp, jumped out of its burrow, and started running around the room, trying to find a place to hide.
              "Catch it!" Navi exclaimed. Link raced after the Scrub and managed to tackle it to the ground.
              It immediately started begging for mercy. "Please," it shrieked in a high-pitched voice, "I didn't mean any harm! Here, I'll open the door for you."
              The bars lifted from the doors. Link reluctantly got off the Scrub and watched it scurry away. Then he turned to the door and entered the next room. It was very small, compared to the last room, and held a large treasure chest in the middle.
              "I wonder what's inside," Navi said. Link wasted no time wondering and opened the chest. He reached inside and brought out a Slingshot and a Deku Seed Bag to carry ammo.
              "Perfect!" Link said. "Now we can take care of those Skulltulas."
              Link exited the room and walked back into the central chamber. He ran down the walkway until he reached the vine-covered wall. The Skulltulas were still crawling overhead. Link went down on one knee and brought up the Slingshot. He aimed carefully and let a Seed fly. It hit true and the Skulltula, mortally wounded, fell off the wall and landed heavily on the walkway.
              Link was about to take aim for another one when he noticed something strange about the dead Skulltula. It was burning up in green flames, and a Deku Nut took its place. "What happened?" Link asked.
              "It was a creature made of evil magic," Navi said. "When they die, they just burn away and leave something good for you."
              Link picked up the Nut and quickly destroyed the other Skulltulas. After collecting their remains, he climbed up the wall and onto the next floor. There was another circular walkway, plus three planks jutting out into the middle. Link walked toward one, but a gigantic Skulltula dropped down and glared at him.
              Link brought out his Slingshot again, but Navi stopped him. "It won't do any good," she said. "Their front sides are armored."
              Link reluctantly put away his Slingshot. He angrily eyed the Skulltula and started exploring the third floor. He found another doorway and went through it. Bars dropped and blocked the doorway behind him. "Here we go again," Link said.
              He looked around the room. He was on an elevated platform, and there was another one across the room. However, Link could see no way of climbing up onto it.
              "Link!" Navi shouted. He turned to see Navi hovering over a golden switch. "It's a Floor Switch. Step on it and see what it does."
              Link walked onto the Switch and it sunk into the floor. Three pillars rose out of the floor and gave him a way over. He quickly leapt across and landed on the opposite side. As soon as he landed, a Baba sprung up and chomped at Link. It took a bite out of his clothes and almost knocked him off the platform. The Baba complacently chewed on part of Link's shirt while Link got back up.
              "That was too close," Link said, feeling the hole of his shirt. He drew his sword and advanced on the Baba. A few quick slashes and it was finished.
              Link looked around, wondering what to do next. He noticed an alcove covered with a web and was about to ignore it when he noticed something moving inside. Link walked closer and two scarlet eyes turned to look at him. Navi, to Link's astonishment, started growling.
              "Who's there?" the thing inside asked.
              "I am Link," he said. "Who are you?"
              "I am Vindari," it said. It stood up and Link saw an incredibly black, incredibly thin man with no facial features except the eyes, which were staring at the growling fairy. "What's your problem?"
              "That's an evil creature," she said to Link. "I can feel the aura around it. Let's leave it there."
              "No, wait!" Vindari shouted. Link was surprised by the sadness in his voice. "I was not always like this. I was cursed by Ganondorf."
              "Who?" Link asked, confused by Navi's hostile behavior.
              "Ganondorf," Vindari repeated. "He's an evil man from the desert."
              That news intrigued Navi. "From the desert, you say?" she asked, still with half a growl in her voice.
              "Yes," Vindari replied. "You know him?"
              "A man in black armor," Navi said, her voice distant, as though remembering something.
              "With green skin and red hair," Vindari added.
              Link stood back and listened attentively. They were describing the man from his dreams. And then, Link realized that Vindari seemed like the creature from his latest dream.
              "How do you know of this Ganondorf?" Link asked Navi.
              "The Great Deku Tree has been having nightmares," Navi said. "The evil man from the desert occupied many of them."
              "I'm not surprised," Vindari commented. "His power is growing and causing an evil climate to cover the land. Those sensitive to it have horrendous nightmares." He sighed and sat heavily onto the ground. "He made my life a living nightmare."
              "What happened to you?" Link asked.
              "I was sneaking around his hideout," he explained, "having some fun. Unfortunately, I was caught. For my punishment, I was turned into this." He indicated his black stick-like body. "His curse also made an evil aura around me, to discourage people from helping me." He glared at the fairy.
              Link turned to look at Navi. "I don't know," she said. "How do we know we can trust it?"
              "I know about the curse on this tree," Vindari said excitedly. "I found out while sneaking around Ganondorf's lair. You'll find it at the base of the tree. You need to jump down and break through the web in the floor to get down to it."
              "But how do we get out of this room?" Navi asked.
              "Rekindle the torch by the door," Vindari said. "Use a Deku Stick to carry the flame over from the burning one. And while you are doing that, use a burning Deku Stick to release me."
              Link eyed Vindari warily. If he was right, then he could be a big help. But still, there was his dream. Link wasn't sure what to think.
              Vindari could tell that he was losing them. He pointed to an Eye Switch on the ceiling. "If you want to be sure," he said, "hit that switch."
              Link gave a glance to Navi. "It may be a trap," she said.
              "Let's give him a chance," Link said. "Besides, we won't be releasing him."
              Link took careful aim with his Slingshot and fired a Seed directly into the Eye Switch. The eye closed and a treasure chest appeared on the floor. Link jumped down and opened it to discover a map inside. "Look," he called to Navi, "it shows the whole inside of the Great Deku Tree." He examined it. "And Vindari is right. We need to go down further."
              Navi grudgingly agreed and watched as Link burned the web and freed Vindari. He walked out and stretched his arms high over his head. "Thanks a lot," he said. "I feel much better now."
              "Now what are you going to do?" Link asked.
              Vindari froze in mid-stretch. "I'm not sure," he said, lowering his arms. "I should probably go visit my family first and tell them I'm alright."
              "Well," said Link, "good luck." He lit the torch near the door and watched the bars retract. They left the room. Vindari jumped down and left the Great Deku Tree, while Link turned his attention to the Skulltulas hanging above.
              "I can't believe you just did that," Navi commented.
              "He seemed like a nice guy," said Link. "Besides, he didn't cause us any harm when we released him."
              "When you released him," Navi corrected.
              Link sighed. "Let's put this behind us," he said. "We have more important things to worry about now. How are we going to take care of those Skulltulas?"
              Link walked close to one and watched it descend to block the way onto the plank. It eyed him warily and only climbed back up when he backed away. Link crouched for a moment, then sprinted as fast as he could, trying to run underneath the Skulltula. It fell faster than he expected and twirled, lashing its legs around. Link was thrown back with several cuts from the spider's attack.
              He carefully examined his wounds as the Skulltula resumed its previous position. He quickly wiped off the blood and made some makeshift bandages. Then he turned to face his problem anew.
              "Their weakness," Navi said, "is in their soft backsides."
              "That's nice," Link said. "How am I supposed to…"
              He stopped. Across the room he could see another Skulltula hanging near the ceiling. It was positioned with its back facing him. Link quietly drew his Slingshot, as though any noise he made would alert it, and fired a shot. It hit true and the Skulltula fell to the ground and burned away.
              Link let out a victory cry and made his way over to the plank the Skulltula had previously guarded. He cautiously walked out onto it and looked down at the web far below. He took a deep breath, swallowed hard, and jumped.
              Exhilaration ran through him as he plummeted downward. He landed on top of the web and it snapped under the force of his dive. He continued falling and landed in a pool of water. He pulled himself out and looked around to see what needed to be done next.

              "He believed you?"
              "Yes, master. He thinks I am on his side."
              "Good, Vindari. This inside position may be very helpful."
              "Thank you, master." A pause. "I have a request."
              "What is that?"
              "I know we cannot kill the boy, for he will give us all the Spiritual Stones. But, can I have some fun with him otherwise?"
              "What do you have in mind, Vindari?"

              Saria sat in her house, trying to read a book, but she kept thinking about Link. She looked up again and gazed out her window. She could see the passage to the Great Deku Tree. Link had been gone for quite some time. She was beginning to get worried.
              A knock sounded and she turned to see a black creature standing at her doorway. She backed away, frightened by the strange thing.
              "Do not be afraid," it said. "I am a friend of Link."
              Saria's fears were forgotten. "Link?" she asked. "Where is he?"
              "Inside the Deku Tree," it responded breathing heavily. "I came here as fast as I could. He's in grave danger!"
              "Oh no!" Saria gasped. "What's happened?"
              "He's under attack by a monster," it said. "He asked me to come and summon you to help him."
              "I'll go right away," she said, worry for her friend making her forget her senses. Vindari smiled wickedly as she ran off.

              Link entered the dark room. He had made progress through several rooms, fighting Deku Babas and Scrubs along the way. The map showed that this room was the last before he re-entered the room that he had dropped down into. He was sure he would find something important here.
              He walked forward into the circular room, looking cautiously around him. He could see nothing strange about the room, and said so to Navi.
              "Don't be fooled," said Navi. "There has to be something here."
              Link complied and kept looking, when he heard a sound above him. He gazed upward and saw what was the problem in this room.
              "What are you doing?" Navi asked.
              Link was interrupted as three things fell from the ceiling. He drew his sword and backed away as the creatures started walking around. "Gohma larvae," Navi whispered. "Attack when their eye is red."
              Link slowly advanced on one. It turned its one eye to him and it flared red in anger. Link used the opportunity to swing with his sword and chop down the monster. He turned and saw another one charging at him. He raised his shield and felt the satisfactory "whack" as it rammed into the wood. Link swung his sword and killed it, then turned to look for the last one.
              The room was eerily silent. Link strained his eyes to see where the creature was hiding. He heard a bloodcurdling screech and looked up to see the Gohma larva falling at him. Link had little time to react as it landed on his head and started clawing. Link flailed his sword wildly and caught it right in the eye. It fell off onto the ground and burned away.
              "That was scary," Navi said. Link said nothing but instead walked to the room's exit.
              He found himself on a different platform than before, one that was higher up. In the middle was a web covering another hole in the ground. However, this time he couldn't jump through it. There had to be another way.
              He looked around the room and spotted a burning torch. That gave him an idea. He walked over and lit a Deku Stick, then rushed back and swung his burning Stick to destroy the web. He quickly blew out the Deku Stick and looked down into the darkness. He thought he could hear water. He hoped for the best and jumped off the edge.
              He landed with a loud splash. Treading water, he turned to see a big stone door. He swam up onto the land and walked over to the door. He took out his map and looked at it. It didn't show what was behind this door. There was only one way he could find out.
              Navi made nervous noises as he touched the door and it slid upward. The interior was clouded in mist. Not having any other options, he walked inside.
              The heavy door slammed shut behind him. He took a few moments to look around. Four wooden columns held the ceiling up. The ceiling itself was a web of branches, with red and green sections showing between them. "We must be in the Great Deku Tree's central chamber," Navi said in awe. "This is like his heart."
              "The source of the curse must be in here," Link said with conviction. He started walking into the chamber when he heard a rustling. Something was moving.
              "Link!" A terrified voice called his name. He looked up to see Saria tied to the ceiling in webbing!
              "Saria!" Link called. "What are you doing here?"
              "Run, Link!" Saria ordered. "Get out while you can!"
              Link noticed a dark shadow crawling across the ceiling towards Saria. "Leave her alone!" he shouted, and shot a Deku Seed at it. He heard a clank as the Seed bounced off heavy armor, and the shadow dropped down to the floor.
              Link watched in horror as the monster approached him and came into view. It was a hideous thing, with one large eye that glared at him. It walked along on two legs, and had two large stabbing arms above its eye. "It's Queen Gohma!" Navi exclaimed. "It was the mother of those Gohma larvae!"
              "Do I defeat it the same way?" Link asked nervously. The Queen Gohma was advancing quickly and making harsh cries.
              "Its body is armored," Navi explained. "You have to attack its eye."
              Queen Gohma had reached Link and was trying to stab him with its arms. Link frantically tried to dodge, Saria's screams running through his head. I've got to keep my cool, he told himself. I can't lose my composure. Remember, this is just like those games you played with Saria.
              Except this time, it's real.

              Queen Gohma raised a foot and tried to squash him. Link risked a sword strike but felt it deflected by the creature's armor. I've got to hit the eye, he reminded himself. The monster turned to attack again. Link lunged for the eye, but Queen Gohma blinked and the armored eyelid stopped his blow. Link backed off, feeling at a loss.
              The creature attacked viciously, infuriated that this child had entered its lair. Link continuously danced out of danger, but he knew he wouldn't last too long. Some of those blows came awfully close. "I could use some help here," he told Navi.
              "Well, maybe you have to stun it," she suggested.
              Stun it? How could he do that? Then he remembered the Deku Nuts in his pocket. He quickly ran away and pulled one out of his pocket. "How do these work?" he asked.
              "Throw them on the ground to break them open," Navi replied.
              Link watched Queen Gohma come closer. When he felt it was close enough, he hurled the Nut as hard as he could against the ground. There was a blinding flash of light, and Queen Gohma fell to the ground. Its eye was turning all colors and spinning madly in its socket.
              Link immediately ran in with his sword and struck hard. The creature shrieked in pain and started retreating. Link started to celebrate, but Navi stopped him short. "We're not done yet," she said. "It's still alive."
              Link, now sobered, watched Queen Gohma as it climbed up a wall and across the ceiling. What is it doing? he wondered. Is it trying to pounce on me?
              Queen Gohma stopped directly above Link. He waited warily, watching for what would happen next. A small tube extended from Queen Gohma's rear, and three eggs fell to the floor. Link ran away as the eggs hatched. Now he knew what Queen Gohma was doing. It was sending its children after him. No matter. He would take care of them.
              The Gohma larvae ran after Link. He turned and faced the larvae, their eyes crimson. He easily dispatched them and turned to see Queen Gohma churning out more eggs. It was trying to outnumber him.
              The floor was becoming populated with Gohma larvae. Every time Link chopped down one, more rose to take its place. "I can't keep on doing this forever," Link said.
              "Wait!" Navi cried. "Look at Queen Gohma!"
              Link looked at the creature and saw his window of opportunity. While it was laying all these eggs, its eye was wide open in exertion. Link took out his Slingshot and, after taking out of a couple larvae, fired at Queen Gohma.
              The Seed hit its eye right-on and the monster fell off the ceiling and hit the floor hard. Link ran over, swatting aside larvae as he went, and found Queen Gohma lying stunned on the ground. Link wasted no time and started slashing viciously. After the fifth blow, Queen Gohma gave out a horrendous screech and shot up stiffly into the air. Then it collapsed, and Link watched as the body disintegrated into dust.
              Link turned and killed the few remained Gohma larvae. Then he focused his attention on Saria, still strapped to the ceiling. There was no way he could climb up to cut her free, so he decided to try firing a Deku Seed at the webbing. A few shots broke her free, and Link caught her before she hit the ground.
              "Oh, Link, thank you," she said.
              "What were you doing in here?" Link asked.
              She looked ashamed. "Someone told me that you were in danger. I came to help and those things grabbed me and took me here." She hugged Link tightly. "I'm so glad you're okay."
              A blue light shone around the two of them. Everything disappeared and was replaced by the clearing around the Great Deku Tree. "Congratulations," the Great Deku Tree said. "Many thanks for your courageous efforts."
              "Did we cure you?" Navi asked.
              "Alas," it said, "I was doomed before you even began."
              Link and Saria were shocked at this news. "You mean," Link said, "that I just did that for nothing."
              "No," the Great Deku Tree said. "Thou didst not slay it in vain. Had you not destroyed Queen Gohma, it would have escaped and terrorized Kokiri Forest. And, thou did something more important. Thou stopped the Queen Gohma from achieving its primary goal."
              "What was that?" asked Link.
              "First," the Great Deku Tree said, "I must tell you a story.
              "Long ago, before Hyrule was formed, the whole of creation was in chaos. Three goddesses, Din, Nayru, and Farore, came unto the chaos and instilled order onto it. Din created the land, while Nayru created the law of the land, and Farore created the creatures to uphold the law. When they were finished, they left to return to whatever heavenly realm they came from. At the point where they departed, they left the Triforce.
              "The Triforce is an artifact that contains the essence of the goddesses. It is said that whoever obtains the Triforce can have whatever wish they so desire. The Triforce lies in the Sacred Realm, the entrance to which in hidden in this land of Hyrule. Three Spiritual Stones are needed to open the doorway to the Sacred Realm, and they are scattered somewhere in Hyrule.
              "The curse was put upon me by an evil man of the desert. He values no life, and would thus destroy me to obtain the Spiritual Stone that I hold."
              "We heard of him," Link said. "His name is Ganondorf."
              "His name is evil," the Great Deku Tree shouted. "Thou must promise me that thou wilt not allow that man to enter the Sacred Realm. Promise to never let that evil man succeed!"
              "I promise," Link said.
              "Then I can trust thee with this." A green glow filled the whole clearing, and Link watched in amazement as a green jewel materialized in front of the Great Deku Tree. The stone hovered there for a while, then flew across the clearing and into Link's hands. He gazed at it, and his fingers traced the gold that cradled the jewel.
              "That is the Kokiri's Emerald," the Great Deku Tree said. "The stone that the evil man wanted so much. Link, I have one final gift to give thee." Another object materialized in Link's lap. "It is a Magic Pouch, and has unlimited storage space. Use it to store the many items you'll need on your quest."
              The Great Deku Tree's voice became labored. "There is…one final instruction I must tell ye…Go forth…to Hyrule Castle…There you will…meet the…Princess of Destiny"
              Link, Navi, and Saria watched in sadness as the Great Deku Tree struggled to speak. "Take…care……Good……bye…"
              A silence came over the clearing as the Great Deku Tree drew its last breath. Then the Tree turned black, and the Guardian of the Forest was gone.
              Tears were in Saria's eyes as they left the clearing. Mido stopped them on the way out. "What's the matter?" he asked. "Did Mr. Stupid-Fairy-Boy insult you?"
              To Mido's surprise, Saria reacted vehemently. "Shut up!" she shouted in Mido's face. "Link did nothing wrong! The Great Deku Tree is dead, that's all!"
              Mido backed away in shock. "The Great Deku Tree is dead?" he asked in a feeble voice. Then his face turned furious. He rushed over to Link. "What did you do? How could you kill the Great Deku Tree?"
              Link had had enough of Mido. When Mido came up in his face, he roughly shoved Mido to the ground. He looked up in surprise at Link. "I didn't do anything," Link yelled. "Get that through your thick skull!" He put his arm around Saria's shoulder and directed her toward her house, leaving Mido lying in shock on the ground.
              They entered her house and Saria sat down in a chair, staring off into space. Link watched her, then after some time without speaking, he looked out the window at the exit from the Forest. "I suppose I have to go now," he said quietly.
              Saria smiled. "Just like an adventure, eh?"
              Link laughed, but it wasn't a very strong one. "You can come along if you want."
              Saria shook her head. "I can't. My place is here in the forest."
              "And me?"
              Saria stood and walked over to Link. "You were always different from the rest of us. You were destined to leave."
              Link nodded his head sadly. "I guess."
              Saria looked at his face. It was hard and determined. "I wish you luck," she said. She swallowed hard. "Take good care of yourself."
              There was a pause, and the two just stood there, looking at each other.
              "Whatever happens," Link said, "I promise I'll come back one day."
              Saria smiled. "I would like that."
              Link sighed deeply and turned to leave. "Link," Saria called after him. He turned to look at her. "I have something for you," she said, and walked over to a chest by the wall. She reached inside and took out an ocarina. Then she walked over and placed it in Link's hands.
              "I want you to have this," she said. "I made it myself. Whenever you play it, I hope that you remember me and all the good times we had."
              Link took the ocarina and placed it in his Magic Pouch. "I promise I'll come back," he repeated, then gave Saria a long embrace.
              Finally, he turned and walked away. Saria stood and the doorway and watched him leave. "Goodbye, Link," she whispered.

              Ganondorf examined the room the King had given him to stay in during his visit to the Castle. Not too shabby, he thought, and placed his bag of possessions on the table. There was a bed in one corner, a desk underneath the window, plus a couple of pictures on the walls. He sat down at the desk and brought out his map.
              Vindari appeared behind him. "The Deku Tree is dead," he said, glancing at the map Ganondorf was concentrating on.
              "Good," Ganondorf said, rubbing his chin. "And the Spiritual Stone?"
              "Link has it."
              "Very good," he said. He reached for a pen and drew a large "X" over where the Deku Tree was on the map. "One down," he said, then leaned back in his chair and looked out the window. "It's only a matter of time now, Vindari. Only a matter of time."


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