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Love Thine Enemy

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He could hear his teeth chattering, even over the howls of the wind. Link forced his body to move ahead, against the current of air. He took a deep breath, catching some snowflakes in his mouth. With a quick glance over his shoulder, Link saw that he wasn't being followed.

Good.

He focused his attention on the clouded road ahead. He had to keep going. He was bound to reach Nevassa soon. He would be safe and warm there. He was sure that his friend would be waiting for his arrival. Link would leave after a day so, just to be certain that it was safe to return.

Less than half an hour ago, Link had heard the neighs of horses from his room on the second floor. He looked out the window and saw four soldiers riding horses, heading for the temple. Not too far behind, there were six foot soldiers following the path of the hoof prints. He turned from the window, about to leave and greet the soldiers when an ear splitting tweet stopped him. A bird flew through his window dropping a small, rolled up paper on his bed side table. Link unrolled it, read the message, and once again walked to the door. He walked in the opposite direction that had planned to take earlier. In his hand, he still held the note. Three short words were written in beautiful script handwriting.

You must leave.

And leave he did. The skies were clear then. It was about fifteen minutes later when the storm started. The snow already on the ground was covered by a fresh, new, powdery layer. Link fell onto the new layer, face first. He shivered at the coldness as it spread throughout his body. Carefully placing his weight on his hands, Link freed his foot and continued on. He hugged the coat tighter around his body. Through his fingers, ice cold water seeped out.

I forgot my gloves, he realized. He knew exactly where he had left them too. Right on top of the night stand, folded neatly into each other. "Damn…" he cursed. His foot sunk into the snow, making a crunch when it reached the compressed surface below. His leg felt numb, like pins and needles were pricking his leg as the wet fabric brushed against his flesh. Again he freed his foot and moved forward. How long have I been out here? He had traveled to Nevassa on foot many times before, reaching it in about half an hour or less.

Ahead, he saw something move in the thick curtain of snow. He stopped and peered at the silhouette of the form from beneath his hood. The figure stayed in place, completely still. He took a step toward it and the figure became more solid, though no details could be seen. With another step he could see a clearer definition of the form. Then it moved. The figure tore through the cover of the falling snow and Link could see the claws and saber tooth fangs of a huge tiger. Link screamed and tripped backward through the snow. The tiger landed a few feet away, and it was lighting fast in its recoil, writhing as a snow-covered shadow.

There was no defeating this beast, blizzard or no. Its claws would rake Link's skin and its teeth would puncture his belly. Even the snow would not help him, because the tiger's senses were keen beyond sight. If its eyes failed its smell and hearing would pick up the warmth of Link's flesh. Twisting through the snow, he flailed away from the tiger on the last reserves of his adrenaline. Frigid powder was driven around his face, but it was a vast relief over tiger claws. As he flung himself forward, Link lost track of the ground. As if a rift had opened, he was plunged through bitter air, inhaling clots of snow through his mouth and nose.

His arms wheeled until his elbows found icy rock. Agony sliced through his forearms and then bounded into his spine as the momentum carried him feet first down- down even further; tumbling along an unseen ledge. All Link could see were grey whorls and blinding spots when he jammed his eyes shut.

Snow cushioned his fall for a split second. He slid through it, praying, grappling for something to hold to slow his descent. But there was nothing but bare snow for his hands to grab. Link toppled forward, falling limp in despair until suddenly he slammed into a flat plane more solid to his body than steel. His ribs tensed for a breath of air, but rather than gasping in, he coughed it all out. Jarred to the bone, Link froze with the air and submitted to the blizzard's grip. Over the howl of the wind, Link heard a low, booming voice.

"Do not move!"

Link knew it was the tiger. There was thick growling accent in its voice. He urged his fist to clench, unsure if it had followed his mind's command. There was no time. He had to get away from the feral one. He didn't want to live his last moments being chewed up by a crazed laguz. Link pulled himself up, using his right forearm for support. The ground beneath his arm sank a little. He stopped his movements upon seeing the break in the surface.

"You are on ice!"

Link held his breath, afraid that the action might do something to cause the ice to give way. Just move slowly. He was careful as he shifted his weight back to his knees. It was too much for the fragile plane. Link was submerged in the freezing water. He gasped, inhaling nothing but the sub-zero liquid. He thrashed about trying to find the surface. Which way was it? His limbs only moved against the resistance of the water. Something trapped his wrist. Link struggling against it, fearing that he would drown. It pulled him down until his head hit the ground and broke through.

He gasped, this time inhaling chilly air. His body was pressed against a source of warmth. Link curled into the heat and felt more surround his body. He faintly heard a familiar voice, but he couldn't make out the words. It sounded muffled as if the voice carried from several away. As it spoke, the voice sounded farther and farther, until Link couldn't hear it anymore.