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     Link screamed, as fangs shredded his shoulder. Screamed, and fell backwards - but rolled onto his feet again, and lashed out with his sword, cutting the rat-dog-thing's head off it's shoulders in one fell swoop.

        Was it the last of them? It was the last of them, and Link fell to the ground, right there and then, in the middle of a good half-dozen hacked apart bodies.

        Times like this, it was hard to remember why he was doing this, the only human fool enough to come to a ghost-town like this, never mind the fact that he was eight years old and nearly completely untrained at swordcraft. (Not that anyone used to use swords any more, before the mutants showed up. Not that anyone did much fighting at all.) But then he remembered,Aryll, and he just. He couldn't just abandon her. She was counting on him. Grandma was counting on him. And he was pretty sure it was different, but the King of Red Lions was counting on him too. So he couldn't give up, not yet. Couldn't run away to a haven, where life was mostly safe and easy.

        What he needed to do is get up. Bandage his shoulder, with grass and stuff, that seemed to work pretty well, and he was almost out of medicine. And then go looking around, and hope, just hope, that this town, at least, has some sort of clue as to where the Pearls were taken, when the world fell to darkness and all the animals mutated. (At least, that's how the story went. Link doesn't remember, the before.)

        Link! Link blinked, then quickly sat up, pulling Tetra's video phone out of his pocket, and peering at it, pressing the right button this time. Link, are you okay?asked the King of Red Lions.

        Link nodded.

        You shouldn't lie around like that, bad things might happen. For all the old campervan was, well, made of metal, he could do disapproving looks almost scarily well. If you need to rest, come back here. If not, there's a lab somewhere below you, the entrance should be nearby. Do you think you can find it?

        Link nodded again. He had had a lot of practice in finding secret entrances to secret places, in the few weeks he had been doing this.

        Good boy. Be careful, you hear?

        Link nodded again, and the connection went off. He shoved the phone back in his pocket, and got to his feet. His sword had mutant blood all over it, black and viscous and sticky - not as bad as some of the goo-like mutants, but still hard to clean - so he cleaned it off as best he could with his handkerchief, but there really wasn't much he owned that wasn't already filthy, so it didn't do much, and in the end he ended up just tying the handkerchief over his shoulder, where it was bleeding the worst.

        Link sighed. Looks like it was time to go cut some grass.