Written by VariableMammal
Edited by Cimar
The fields of Hyrule seemed to stretch out forever, but Judy had a pleasant look on her face as she took in the surroundings.
"This reminds me of the train ride to Zootopia, actually," she said cheerfully, "the sprawling fields, the distant mountains.."
"The giant flying artichokes...?" Nick winced, seeing an anomalously large plant with blade-like appendages menacing an area to the southeast as it rotated through the air.
"Okay, that's new," Judy conceded with a tittering, nervous chuckle.
Their journey northward finally appeared to be bearing fruit, as they saw the structure of a castle in the background, with a city surrounding it.
"Ah, finally," Nick huffed, "now we can see about- wait, what's that in the distance...?"
The two mammals saw another unfamiliar being walking toward them. The appearance was similar to a Kokiri, but at least a foot taller than Nick. Also, unlike the large green eyes of Saria, this being featured intense red eyes and a white head of hair with a prominent braid. Purposed steps complimented an intense look of the face.
"I don't suppose that would be Zelda," Nick considered aloud.
"Is that another female Kokiri...?" Judy asked. "Look at her clothes, Nick... lithe, made for ease of movement, like my police suit."
"She's also got a spear of some kind...!" The fox's voice carried anxiety, which spiked when the being pulled it from behind her back. "And she's headed right for us!" Nick scrambled to ready his bow.
Judy's brow furrowed, but she held a paw up in caution. "Calm down, Nick, she's still shouting distance away-"
"Creatures of Ganon!" The being shouted. "I shall make this quick!"
"Creatures of who now?" Nick babbled frantically as he readied an arrow. The aggressor hurried her pace. "Uh, don't come any closer!" Instead, she accelerated even faster. Nick released the arrow, which flew true, but got knocked out of the air by a swift swipe from the spear, which she held at the ready. "Oh jeez... oh jeez..." Nick tried to notch another arrow.
"Move, Nick!" Judy screeched as the spear was brought down right where he was standing. Judy launched at their attacker and landed a double kick on her side, making her stagger slightly.
"Rgh, while you may be unskilled, you are strong for your size," the attacker flourished her spear before thrusting at Judy, who bent out of the way. "Fitting for beasts enchanted by Ganon!"
"Okay, who is this Ganon you keep going on about?" Nick said, his second arrow barely missing an arm. "Never heard of them."
"Gh...! You cannot fool a Sheikah, fox!" She thrust her spear backwards, knocking Nick back with the handle. "And with such an unclever tongue!"
"Rghn, my tongue is quite clever, I'll have you know," Nick growled.
The Sheikah's spear swung through the air in an overhead slice, and Judy just managed to dash forward enough to catch the spear at its handle. She immediately struggled under her aggressor's superior strength, grunting to try to keep her stance. Her limbs wobbled.
"Judy!" Nick shrieked, fumbling for another arrow. "Ease up right now, lady, or I'll shoot...!" He tried to hold his arms steady as he drew back for a shot.
The fierce red eyes of the Sheikah flickered over to Nick, as if disbelieving. "You hesitate...?"
"Nick, do it, I can't hold her much longer!"
The Sheikah looked to the bunny as if in horror as she struggled under the assault. Judy thought she saw a bright flash come from one of her hands, though she had no idea how. With a gasp, the Sheikah instantly relented, holding her spear defensively for the incoming arrow. There was a period of uncomfortable silence as the three stood there.
"I cannot believe it..." the Sheikah said, "and yet I see it. A rabbit with the Triforce of Courage...?"
"The Triforce? You're gonna have to start making some sense, lady," Nick said, hesitating to shoot her.
"You do not even know of the Triforce? You must not be from around here, though that would make sense..." She drove her spear into the ground.
"What's going on?" Judy looked between the two, then at the back of her hand, which had a symbol of three triangles joined together, with the lower right triangle glowing brighter than the others. "What's THIS? The Triforce...?"
"I am Impa," the Sheikah said. "The Triforce of Courage can only belong to a hero..." She looked over Judy intensely. "I seem to remember scrolls saying the hero once had the heart of a hare, but I wouldn't have thought that to be literal."
"Judy, am I shooting her or not...?" Nick hissed through clenched teeth.
"Impa, I'm Judy and he's Nick," Judy introduced. "Maybe we can have an exchange of words before weapons?"
"Very well," Impa nodded, and with a sigh of relief, Nick released the tension on his bow.
"Okay, let's say Judy and I don't know anything about Hyrule," Nick gestured with his paw out. "What's going on here?"
"Hyrule was created by the power of the Three Goddesses," Impa began, "Din of Power, Nayru of Wisdom, and Farore of Courage. After they were finished creating the world, they left to their own realm. In the spot where they departed, they left the symbols of their primary facets as the Triforce. Over time it has been broken apart, and now each of its sacred triangles belongs to a different person in the world."
Impa looked to the stormy-skied castle in the distance with a vacant expression, then back to the two smaller mammals. "The Triforce of Power, by some twist of fate, has always fallen to an incarnation of hatred that keeps plaguing Hyrule, who goes by the name of Ganon. Whenever he appears, a hero rises to stop him from bringing terror to the land. The story has been told and retold for thousands of years, and so it keeps repeating. This time appeared to be like any other. The hero struck the final blow to Ganon with the Master Sword, but Ganon used the last of his power to tear open a hole in reality, and in his place came a Ganon from another world."
Nick and Judy looked at each other with measured skepticism, but the calmness in Impa's voice was certain.
"Weary from his fight with Ganon, our hero was slain by him," Impa grit her teeth and balled her fists. "And he didn't stop there... he also took the life of the wielder of the Triforce of Wisdom, my charge, Princess Zelda. He took over her castle and fortified it so it's all but unassailable." She gestured to the swirl of unnatural-looking purple clouds gathered over the structure, which itself towered over high walls.
"What can be done about all that?" Judy wondered. "All hope can't be lost, can it?"
"If a hero was to somehow get into the castle and retrieve the Master Sword from the Temple of Time... maybe," Impa folded her arms. "The Master Sword is known as the Blade of Evil's Bane, and it's perhaps the one weapon powerful enough to slay Ganon. But I have no great hope of it being retrieved. As it is, to access the inner sanctum of the Temple of Time requires three very special jewels."
"I don't suppose this would be one of them...?" Judy asked, holding up the Kokiri Emerald. Impa flinched, her eyes widening.
"...Perhaps this is a sign that there is still a glimmer in the darkness," Impa said quietly. "Follow me, you two. If you wish to actually gain access to the castle, you will need some help."
"Wait, no one said anything about that..." Nick held his paws up in caution, but Judy was already following Impa. "Judy..."
Impa led the two to an ornate looking entrance carved into the ground. She gestured toward it.
"This is the Astral Oubliette," she said. "Inside is a magical item called the Strings of Space, a sister to the Ocarina of Time, which has also been lost to us. The power to manipulate space might be the only thing that could give one the uppper hand on Ganon and his Triforce of Power."
"Okay, let's go," Judy nodded, getting ready to jump into the hole.
"What, no, no let's NOT go!" Nick panicked, placing his paws on Judy's shoulders to stop her. "Judy, this is crazy!"
"Oh, of course, you're right," Judy stepped away from the hole, walking up to Impa and holding her hands behind her back. "Er, I don't suppose you would have a weapon I could borrow...?"
Nick's eyes bulged. "I can't believe you. You seriously want us to just jump into some hole at the behest of a stranger?"
"I can go by myself, if you're too scared," Judy rolled her eyes over at Nick.
"It would be too dangerous to go alone, but I can give you something," Impa looked Judy over, considering her stature, then handed her a knife housed in a red and blue sheath. "This is a short blade of the Sheikah. The metal is folded seven times over and it is very sharp; with one cutting edge."
"Thanks," Judy grinned, unsheathing it and giving it a swish. "Basically a sword to me. Okay! Here I go!" Judy sheathed the blade and leaped swiftly into the opening to the dungeon.
Impa had to smile as her arms folded again. "She certainly is courageous."
Nick released an extended groan, his ears flat against his head. "Yeah, that's one word for it." The fox cautiously crouched at the entrance. "Judy, you alright?"
"Yeah!" Judy's echoed voice returned. "It's really dark down here, though!"
At this, the fox sighed and glared at Impa, then cautiously leaped into the dungeon himself. "Hang on... what are we looking for here?"
"I dunno, a treasure chest or something?" Judy squinted to try to see past the shaft of light coming from the opening. "We're looking for strings of some kind." Feeling her way around blindly, Judy made her way forward.
"Judy, you look ridiculous," Nick grumbled, "you can't see a thing. Why are you even doing this?"
"I have the Triforce of Courage, apparently!" Judy grinned. "That's the mark of a hero!"
"Yeah, according to one angry lanky Sheikah," Nick retorted sternly. "Who knows if she's telling the truth? Even so, the last wielder DIED, so you can't exactly say it helped him out."
"We'll just have to be more careful then," Judy insisted, crawling around, feeling the walls.
"Right, like jumping into a dungeon underprepared and having no idea where you're going."
"You'll tell me!"
Nick rolled his eyes, which still mostly functioned in the tiny light making it into the dungeon, but the bunny wasn't WRONG. He kept her from falling into anything as they made their way forward. The fox's eyes narrowed as he happened upon a small, strange-looking ornate case. Curiosity got the better of him as he picked it up and opened it. Inside was an ornate purple stringed instrument with a matching bow.
"The Strings of-" Nick started, "hey, I think I found it, it looks like a violin!"
"Neat!" Judy chirped. "Now... how the heck do we get out-" The bunny cut herself off when she felt horizontal lines on the wall. Feeling around she also noticed circular grooves. "Hey... I think there's a musical notation here."
Groaning sounds popped out as Nick tried out the instrument and was soon making recognizable violin sounds with it.
"The heck...?" Judy blinked, though it didn't make much difference in the miniscule light. "You can play the violin?"
"Barely," Nick grinned, "but yes, I am a fox of many talents."
"Try this...!" Judy said. "Try playing these notes. Ummm... D...?"
"Jeez, okay, hang on..." Nick replied, trying to find the notes on the Strings of Space in the dark. Once he did and played the tune, a portal opened up on the face of a block bearing a symbol of the Triforce. The portal led outside to a slightly-impressed looking Impa.
"A way out!" The bunny narrated. The two wasted no time in leaping through the portal, which lingered for another good minute or two before closing.
"Interesting, you made your way out of there quickly..." Impa smiled. "And from the sounds of it, you played the Song of Time."
"Song of TIME?" Nick blinked.
"Well, space and time are bedfellows," Impa puffed out a burst of air and nodded. "That is just one of many magical songs that exist in Hyrule. You just need to learn one that will get you to the Temple of Time. Once you have the three gems, of course."
"Right, because we're definitely doing this," Nick grumbled.
"Nick, c'mon, these people need help," Judy argued, placing her paws on her hips. "Who knows what sort of chaos is being caused by Ganon? Heck, his power could have torn a hole into OUR reality that we fell into. That would explain how we ended up here."
"And some bunny with a knife and a fox with two kinds of bows are gonna be the ones to stop this Ganon guy," Nick shrugged broadly. "Sounds reasonable."
"Hey, Hero of Courage here," Judy held up her hand, still marked by the triangle. "I gotta try. What if Ganon brings in more and more beings to this world that aren't able to deal with it? We can stop him from doing that, and maybe get home ourselves!"
"That's... very optimistic," Nick grunted, "but I suppose we don't have any better leads." He looked to Impa. "Do you know where we can find the other two jewels?"
Impa nodded, pointing southeast. "Following the river you find in the southeast, you will come across the Zora's Domain. They have the Zora Sapphire." She then pointed northeast. "And on the summit of Death Mountain reside the Gorons, with the Goron Ruby."
"Death Moun- DEATH Mountain," Nick repeated increduously. "Hahahaha, okay... well, perhaps we should go after the SAPPHIRE first. Just... so we're more used to adventuring and all by then." Regaining a normal tone of voice, he looked to Impa. "So... are you coming with us?"
Impa shook her head. "I swore an oath to protect Princess Zelda, and I failed. All I can do now to retain my honor is continually slay Ganon's minions until they overwhelm me."
"Right, okay, that's nice and fatalistic," Nick muttered dryly. "I guess we should head southeast, then."
"Take care when travelling at night," Impa warned with a hand held up in caution. "The Stalchildren roam about. If you see them, you can destroy them by attacking their heads."
"Ah, of course," Nick grumbled sarcastically, starting to walk with Judy. "Thanks."
"I mean, don't you think she might have been just a little bit insane?" Nick argued. "All these legends and creation myths and all of that. Not to mention that she gave us advice on how to slay CHILDREN, apparently."
"I dunno, Nick," Judy shrugged, "I mean, how do you explain the magical violin you have?"
"Look at this, look," Nick took out the Strings of Space and played the Song of Time. Nothing happened. "See? Nothin'. I bet all this was some sort of weird fantasy parlor trick to sucker us into this fruitless quest. For that matter, why doesn't the Song of Time create a portal to the TEMPLE of Time, huh? How about that?"
"I don't make the rules, Nick," Judy shrugged. "Let's keep going."
"Okay well..." Nick looked up nervously, seeing the sun's last rays begin to vanish beneath the horizon. "Uh, shouldn't we see if we can find a pub or an inn or something? Gather some other hearty adventurers to help us on our noble quest? It's nearly night, and we don't want to be attacked by any demon children or whatever they are."
"I can see the river Impa was talking about," Judy pointed, "we can't be that far from the Zora Domain, can we? Let's make the last push and ask for their help."
No sooner had she said that than a rustling began abruptly all around the two and a ring of skeletal creatures popped up from the disturbed dirt. They shambled toward them with eerie lights in their eyes and their arms outstreched. Nick and Judy both yelped, but the latter quickly drew her blade, which sang and shimmered in the dim light.
"Skeleton monsters!" Judy hissed. "And there's a lot of them!"
"Uhh...!" Nick backed toward Judy, putting away the Strings and getting out his bow. "Yeah okay, this is just fine. They look goofy enough."
An impish giggling seemed to spring from one of the skeletons as it lazily swiped at Judy. She leaped to the side to avoid it, then slashed at it with her blade. In a satisfying clatter, its bones went flying in all directions.
"That little butter knife did THAT?" Nick marveled. His own shot landed on another skeleton. While he was expecting the arrow to bounce off the bone, the force instead carried the skeleton across the ground, where it rolled and broke into its component bones.
"Two down!" Judy exulted, feeling the surge of adrenaline overtake her. "These guys are pushovers!"
Another group of giggles leaped from the midst of the skeleton creatures as the "slain" monsters reassembled themselves as if by dark magic.
"Or... not!" Judy winced as she tried to take out another one.
"Wait, are these the Stalchildren...!?" Nick panicked as the ring of the creatures closed in. "Attack their heads!"
Nick's next arrow landed right in the glowing eye of a Stalchild, and its head sailed off into the distance, where it became as shadow and exploded, along with the rest of its body. Judy landed a stab into the head of another monster and achieved a similar effect.
Despite their frantic attacks, they couldn't stem the tide of the sheer number of the monsters until they closed in. Another clumsy strike of blunt bones finally landed on Judy, and she yelled in pain.
"Judy!" Nick shouted, taking two arrows out of his quiver and jabbing them into the heads of two more Stalchildren, which gave up the ghost.
Judy clutched at her midsection with one hand while removing the head of another Stalchild with a broad swipe. The head tried jauntily springing back to its body, but Judy grunted and kicked it into a nearby tree, which was enough to break it and its host body.
The last of the monsters slain, Nick rushed over to Judy.
"Is it bad...?" Nick winced, and Judy withdrew her arm.
"It doesn't look that bad..." Judy grinned weakly, but Nick's panicked yip told a different story as he looked upon her wound.
"Okay Judy, don't fight with me on this," Nick's voice trembled with anxiety as he put away his bow. "I'm going to carry you the rest of the way to the Zora Domain."
"Ss-sounds like a plan," Judy said, staggering into Nick's grasp. He gingerly picked up the bunny.
"Keep putting pressure on it," Nick's unsteady voice advised as he held her tightly. Finding renewed strength from his adrenaline and fear, the fox was fleet of foot as he sped off into the night, to where he assumed was Zora's domain.
He hoped he would get there in time.