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I guess my comfort zone is "eccentric side character."

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Word Count: 1112


Level 5 - (73/50) + 2


Level 9 - (55/90) + 2






Link


Location: The Bottomless Sea ~ The Maw




Don't be cruel. That was a laugh, Link thought. Here was this big lug trying to eat them, out right telling him that it was his job to terrify people weaker than him, and he had the gall to beg him not to be cruel. Beg. That's what he was doing as he dragged itself across the floor toward Link. For just a moment Link found the monster pitiful, but then it reared up far faster than he had expected. All at once Link's vision was filled with slimy grey flesh, and he sprinted to the side to try and avoid it. Like a tidal wave the monsters crashed down on the platform that had just been supporting him, ripping it from its mooring and sending it clattering to the floor under his bulk. It took a last second leap for the next platform in the line to avoid being crushed. He landed in a roll and then took off running.

The monster came after him, as though following the sound of his feet pounding across the metal. Link felt the platform under him start to pull away the moment he made it to the next, the monster wrapping its teeth around it and yanking it down. Link scanned the route in front of him as he ran, trying to find one that both lead the monster away from Junior and eventually circled back around to a way back up to safety. With the way the monster was able to move even out of water he didn't think there was any way to outrun it on the ground, but he slowed down every time he reared up to try and get at Link. He heard it again, the monster rearing up and slamming down to take out the platform he had just left. So long as he kept moving and regulated his bursts of speed to maintain his stamina, though, Link was confidence he could keep in front of-

There was a another slamming sound behind him, but not the one he had grown used to. It made him glance back for the fist time to see one of the rusted piles of junk machinery flying toward him, driven forward by a strike from the monsters tail. He skidded to a stop as he noted the arc of its flight, slipping on the still wet metal as the junk slammed into the platform in front of him and tore it to pieces leaving only a quartet of hanging chains.

Not even taking the time to think he scrambled to his feet again and ran full tilt toward to the edge, making his leap as that platform to was ripped away. He managed to wrap his little fingers around one of the chain, swinging forward even as he began to slide down thanks to its dampness. He slipped from the end at the apex of the swing, landing clumsily on the next platform. Getting his feet under him and shot forward, climbing up a short set of stairs on all fours like a monkey that led to the next platform where he could keep running.

All the while he felt the rumbling in his gut, and had a sudden appreciation for how hard this must have been on everyone that had crossed the scaffolding earlier. This was a nightmare.





Linkle


Merge Rate: 31%


Location: Frozen Highlands - Alpine Skyline





This was going to be so fun!

After hearing about the magic of the flaglines Linkle had taken the chain she had ridden in on and weaved it through the mandibles of her beetle, clamping the jaws shut to keep it in place. It was a major relief that they would be able to just ride back up after they found Freya. Maybe when they did they could bring the girl to see her mother.

The other important piece of information they got was that, despite their otherworldly appearance, the masked figure was apparently on the up and up. Just a merchant, if a rather twitchy one. Some of those badges on offer were pretty tempting, but it looked like they only accepted these green stones that were apparently scattered around. "All right. When we get back, we'll have a sack full." She said, patting the bag tied to her belt. Then she stretched out before dropping to a runners start. "On your mark." She said, grinning up at Albedo. "Get set. GO!"

With that she sprinted forward across the dry brown stone. She didn't pick a route, choosing mostly the method that looked the fastest. For her, that meant a nearby springboard. She jumped toward it, kicking downward to land hard. An instant later she was sent flipping high into the air toward the roof of a nearby house. She landed in a roll, dashing forward. There was a rope connecting this house to another, and she could see another springboard sitting enticingly on the opposite roof, but she didn't have the balancing skills to make use of that. Instead she kept forward, jumping off the roof and catching ahold of a latter going up a nearby cliff. She scrambled up the latter like a monkey.

Reaching the top pulled herself up and took off again. She almost ran into one of the wandering goats, but spun around the big guy and spotted a pile of hay bales stacked up against the side of a cliff. She broke for it, jumping up the hay bales as though they were a giant set of stairs before jumping up and grabbing the lip of the cliff above. She pulled herself up and, spotting a rope connecting this cliff to a small one with a cute windmill, undid the chain around the beetle and wrapped it around the rope. She slid down to the windmill and grabbed onto one one of the passing blades, letting it carry her up to the roof in an effort to reach the village peak. She spotted another thin cliff edge from the roof and jumped for it, grabbing on and sidling her way along the lip until she could find a place to pull herself up. Along this rout she was, of course, keeping a look out for pons and bagging them at every opportunity. This slight delay might have cost her the race, but it definitely wouldn't. She was going to lose for another reason entirely.

Linkle had lost the plot somewhere around where she had avoided the goat, and every exhilarating acrobatic maneuver she had employed since then had been taking her farther and farther away from the goal.


Word Count: 1832


Level 5 - (70/50) + 3


Level 9 - (52/90) + 3






Link


Location: The Bottomless Sea ~ The Maw

@DracoLunaris@Dark Cloud



Link backed up as the gel he had poured started taking on a life of its own. Small flashes of blue shone in the mass of it as it pooled together and hardened, on its own forming tendrils and odd glowing blue growths. The way it moved shaped itself instantly put him on edge, because it had the same semi-alive quality as the congealed clumps of Ganon's Malice. He held the racket up above his head. If an eye formed out of that, he decided, he wouldn't let it stay an eye for long.

Fortunately, perhaps due to there being so little goo to work with, the clump didn't expand further than the mold he had poured it in. Nor did it take any hostiles action. It just sat there, wriggling, blinking. "You can say that again." Link said, lowering his weapon and glancing worrying at the other container of the stuff and reminded himself to be mindful not to break it. It wasn't long after that that he had been draw to the doorway.




As Link watched the room suddenly roared to life. At first Link had a single terrifying vision of a monster far bigger than the one they were dealing with leaping out from the depths, the first monster clutch between its jaws, and slamming its friends into the ceiling with its sheer girth. It wasn't so. Instead, despite how this place was trying its hardest to make him feel, that noise was something going their. As he watched the water started receding, draining out foot by foot. The monster tried one last impotent leap for his comrades in the scaffolding above, but there wasn't a chance of it reaching them any more. As Ms. Fortune mocked it all Link could do was laugh with her.

While the water drained away he took in the surrounding it reveled. Ruined machinery and junk Ace and Ms. Fortune had dropped littered the floor far below. To his left, two stories down and lit up like the GO light in a race, was the elevator that would take them out of here and into some fresh horror. Of course, with the top of this staircase in front of him mangled it might be a little tough getting over there but if they could manage to drop down a floor with the whole thing collapsing them could use the scaffolding hanging down there to reach the elevator.

That would entirely bypass the monster that now lurked below, wailing about the loss of its water. He would have been able to guess what the thing had been so angry about just from context, but "luckily" for him it was able to tell them the cause of its distress with words they could understand. Which meant that it, he, had intelligence. At least, more intelligence than Link had been willing to to ascribe him so far. That was the difference between a Molduga, who would fall for the same trick every time without fail, and the canny Lynel who seemed to have a strategy to counter any trick you cared to try. He wondered what the fish monster would come up with now that it had been put in this position.

Behind him Kamek had joined in on his monster observation. "I think we'll be okay so long as we don't drop to his level." He replied to the koopa's comment. "If he had any attacks that reached far up, he would have used them on Ace and Ms. Fortune when he couldn't snap them up. I doubt he can even jump as high anymore without the water to give him a run up." So long as nothing gave them a reason to go down there they should be safe.

Suddenly a shout drew their attention across the way. Even diminished as he was the Koopa King's voice carried remarkably effectively. The two had a short, loud, conversation where Kamek blatantly took credit for what Link himself had found. His interest was piqued when Bowser confirmed they had found a place to use the molds in the command center. He guessed they really should have checked that first room before moving on. He made a note of that for future reference.

Bowser's next request made his heart sink into the pit of his stomach. Junior was still down there with the monster. Luckily it was Kamek that found him first. Unluckily, he pointed him out. Link prayed to the gods that he somehow hadn't been spotted by one of the monsters unpopped eyeballs, and hoped against hope that it hadn't heard the family conversation taking place up here. "Save the prince. All on a days work." He said, completely unenthused." Tentatively he reached out his leg and put a foot down on the warped platform, steadily putting more and more weight on the metal. It groaned ominously, but otherwise didn't move. He pushed down harder, and as soon as he thought it wouldn't collapse on him he stepped on and made his way across until he reached the descending stairs. Or, at least, what had been the descending stair. It wasn't...that...big of a drop to the next platform. He sighed, and then took it.

He took the impact with the third floor platform at a roll. After waiting a few moments for the feeling to come back and set off, little boots clamping down the stairs to the second platform. This would be close enough, he though. There was another catwalk nearby, fresh if a little soggy, and he jumped over the railing onto it. Careful not to slip he made his way over the network of catwalks toward the fish monster.

What would he do if he was the fish monster, he thought. If this was Link's area to guard, and he was a big fish, he would make sure to know where the drainage room was and head there immediately as soon as this happened both to kill whoever it was that had drained it and find a way to fill it again. That was the smart tactic. There was no way to stop a rational opponent from trying that.

Link, though, wasn't subject to Galeem's rules. The fish monster was. Junior, so far as Link knew, hadn't picked a fight with the fish monster. Hadn't hurt him. They had. He just hoped that was enough to override his reason.

When he got to a place that was out of Juniors path, Link whistled loudly at the fish monster to get his attention. "Hey, fish. Did you like that present we got you earlier?" he called out, rapping himself on the head with his knuckle. CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG, it went. He grinned like the cockiest littler twerp there ever lived and jerked a thumb toward his own chest. "That was all my idea. I just can resist dropping heavy things on monsters, it my go to solution. Anyway, we're going to take off now and let you stew in humiliating defeat. I was just wondering, before we go, if you had any excuses prepared for why you completely botched this? I swear I'll give them to your boss for you when we see her again. If it makes you feel any better you're not dead, so you're at least doing a better job than the last guy so far."





Linkle


Merge Rate: 31%


Location: Frozen Highlands - Alpine Skyline





Linkle didn't bother holding in her screams on the way down. In fact the only time she wasn't screaming as she sped down the length of rope, only a lessened grip away from plummeting into the sky, was when she let out bursts of near mad laugher. Linkle had not even discovered the concept of a roller coaster, but if she had she would have put this in the same category as far as thrills went.

Unfortunately all rides eventually had to come to an end, and Linkle could see the end of this one fast approaching. Linkle lifted up her legs and let go as she approached, sending her sliding across the ground like a baseball player a good ways before she settled in a giggling mess splayed out on the earth. Still laughing she pushed herself up in a sitting position and got a look at the cozy little town they had landed in. "What a kick!" she exclaimed, hopping up and dusting the dirt and grass from her suit before suddenly holding up her hand to her face and sniffing the grass that clung to her glove. It felt like forever since she had smelled grass. Somewhere in the distance she cold hear bells ringing, and little people whose posture just screamed "villager" went about their day. The whole place felt homey.

Turning around she found Albedo who, having landed far more conventionally, was a few feet away. "Albedo, you're nose is all red." She said jokingly as she approached. Realization then hit her like a brick in the face. "Right, the cold." She said, slightly guiltily. "Sorry, I keep forgetting." It must have been freezing up there, especially with the wind ripping past him. She looked up, following the flag line back to where they had started. It hadn't seemed nearly that long when they were going down it. All at once, she remembered something else. "My sled..."

That thought was interrupted by one of the helpful, brightly clad villagers welcoming them to what she would know as Goat village. "Konnichiwa!" She called back, testing out her new word of the day. "We already are, it's lovely." Another helpful villager warned them away from the goats, which weren't like any goat Linkle had ever seen. They had the horns, the beards, and the inscrutable looks in their eyes, but they also went around on two legs. Knowing goats they were also probably pretty good wrestlers. She made a note to follow the villagers advice.

Albedo took the initiative to find them a way further down. Unfortunately there wasn't one, but they were helpfully pointed toward the top f the village, instructing them to blow a horn to "call flags." Linkle didn't know what that meant, but it sounded really cool. Something was nagging at her though. "Hey, if you guy travel down how do you get back up?" She asked the helpful villager. It seemed to her that down was a one way trip, unless they made the trek back up all the way to the monastery.

After that, Albedo made an offer to race her to the top. It was surprising, coming from him, but it wasn't like she didn't like the idea. "Oh, you're on!" She said, happily accepting. "But first..." She started, pointing across the way at a certain individual. "Check out that guy." She was pointing to the weird, vibrating masked figure hanging out in town. "You wanna go see what his deal is? Just to make sure he doesn't, you know, eat souls or something?"


Word Count: 803


Level 5 - (68/50) + 2


Level 9 - (50/90) + 2






Link


Location: The Bottomless Sea ~ The Maw

@DracoLunaris@Dark Cloud



As a matter of fact Link did want that suspicious hat, pressing it down over his scalp and giving it a few hearty raps with his knuckle. It let out a satisfying sturdy clanking sound. "Who knows, it could save my life." He already owed his continual existence to one goofy looking helmet today, he didn't see any harm in trusting another.

Unfortunately it seemed to be the only semi-immediately useful thing their search had turned up. As Kamek busied himself checking a random page from the big pile of documents they had uncovered, admittedly something he was interested in himself, Link gave his attention to the molds and the containers of black goo. Curiously, he twisted the top off one of the containers and began to tip it over the key mold. Then, before he began to pour, he suddenly thought better of it. He didn't know what this stuff was going to do, if anything, but if it turned out to be some metal eating jelly he didn't want to destroy the obviously most important mold. Instead he dragged the saw blade mold over and carefully tipped the container until the black goo poured out in a steady stream until it filled out the shape. Then Link closed the container back and took a few steps back to watch what happened.

It wasn't long before he was pulled away from his experiment by a loud, shuttering CRASH from outside. Startled, he ran to the doorway and looked out to see the monster duking back under the surface across the way. Piece of the catwalk slammed down into the water all around, dislodged from the force of the impact, and he frantically scanned the walkways above for any sign of the Cadet and Ms. Fortune. By the grace of the gods they were still up there and Link felt his heart slow down a pace as he registered that.





Linkle


Merge Rate: 31%


Location: The Cold Monastery





The seconds seemed to tic by like centuries as Linkle waited for the goddesses response. Linkle could only wait and hope that what she had said had gotten through the haze. Then, she heard the rustling and looked up to find one of Albeto's flowers poking its way up out between the drawings. Then, unflinching, he gave her the final push she needed.

Freya. The daughters name was Freya. It was a pretty name, and even the feeling of the Skull Heart bristling with anger over the goddesses unflinching eye contact couldn't quell the feeling of victory at having heard it. This was the name the stranger had wanted, the location he had tried to beat out of this woman. So far the score was Linkle: 2, Stranger: 0, and she was eager to keep that winning streak going. Linkle stood, smiling, as the woman turned her head and buried it in her dog. She softly laid her hand on the Goddess's shoulder. "I swear I will." She said, then she gave the Doge a quick scratch behind the ear and walked to join Albedo and the Father. As she approached she clapped the boy on the back. "Thanks Albedo. I was worried she was going to slip back into...well...wherever she goes."

Father Guerra also seemed suitably impressed with the two of them. He asked about whether that Life and Death stuff was true, and while Albedo deflected the question Linkle just nodded. After all, it wasn't a lie. "Albedo can grow things like that. As for me," She uncomfortably scratched under one of her eyes. "I really don't want to use those powers, though. They're super evil, not something a hero should be using."

At the alchemists prompting, Linkle considered where the misty autumn glenn Skadi had mentioned might be. "I passed some pretty autumny place when I was wandering around, but they weren't misty at all. It could be anywhere, I guess." While Father Guerra pointed out the system of ropes that connected the villages Linkle took her compass off from around her neck and held it out in front of her toward the window. The needle, like most times, spun wildly back and forth but as she watched she could swear it stalled for a moment one...two...like four times while pointing straight down. She nodded to herself. That was good enough for her.

In truth it could have been pure bias clouding her interpretation. Even if she had been trying too it was impossible to hide the naked eagerness on her face at the prospect of riding on the ropes. "Let's give it a shot!" she said. "It sounds like a ton of fun." She presented the compass proudly. "Besides, I think there's a good chance we'll find it down there." The needle was now pointing directly up.


Word Count: 953


Level 5 - (66/50) + 2


Level 9 - (48/90) + 2






Link


Location: The Bottomless Sea ~ The Maw

@DracoLunaris@Yankee@Dark Cloud



Link was right about the noise. The monster had no sense of stealth at all, rising out of the water and swimming right for the platform where Link had sounded the dinner bell. He didn't stay to marvel at the grotesqueness of the thing plowing toward him, beating feet back toward the steps as soon as it made its presence known. He hadn't had a moment to spare, either, as he felt the wave thrown up by its movement hit him in the back and send him sprawling, soaking wet, through the doorway.

He was face down on the ground when the plan came to fruition, but just because he didn't see it doesn't mean he didn't grin in satisfaction when he heard the wet smack of metal on flesh, accompanied by a noise that was disturbingly similar to what you heard when dropping a boulder of a pack of Chuchus. He was kind of glad he hadn't seen that. The thunderous shrike of agony that echoed through the depths was the last thing he heard before he turned to see the thing retreat back into the safety of the water.

He pulled himself up, proud. After the last monster it felt so good to be able to combat the horrors this place threw at them. A viscous slick of fluids floated on the surface of the water where it had dived, proof as anything that they could be fought. That they could be defeated. All it took was subterfuge and a willingness to use anything to your advantage.

Of course, looking at the sorry state of the platform, it didn't seem like they were going to be able to pull off a trap like that again. Signing, he shook himself off and, with a quick thumbs up to Ms. Fortune and Ace, he turned and disappeared back into adjacent chamber. "It worked." He said to anyone the cared to listen. The gnome, which had busied itself while they were gone constructing a small hovel out of the furniture they had cleared from the doorway, just menaced him again. He thought for a moment about just taking that bomb from it now, but decided against that in a space this enclosed. Instead he turned his attention the the boxes in the room, tearing them open to try and find anything that might be of use. "It's not dead, though. We have to find...something. Anything that could keep it busy. Help me."





Linkle


Merge Rate: 31%


Location: The Cold Monastery





Linkle hadn't been cursed, because she the goddess wasn't angry. It was worse, she was afraid. Linkle watched as her word warped the woman's face from happy obviousness to agonizing denial, and the guilt that twisted up in her for it was just shy of physically painful. It was just like with Minako, it wasn't the sort of emotion a hero should inspire in someone, and the sight of it left her completely unsure of how to proceed.

Lucky for her Albedo was there with a way to proceed she wouldn't have considered. The prospect of wreaking bloody vengeance against the Stanger drew the Goddess back in, and aside from a helpful prod Linkle could only sit back and contemplate what she reveled to them. They were Norse, whatever that meant. A people, she guessed. But when it came to The Stranger, Skadi had been in the dark. She didn't know him, and he hadn't known her in return. Even still, though, he had wanted to kill her daughter for what "she had done to him."

The daughter of a goddess had to be a goddess herself, or at least divine. Linkle thought back to what The Stranger wanted, and the divine origin of his affliction Albedo had proposed. That could be it, couldn't it? The dumb brute could think that the best way to end his "curse" was to stop it at the source, and from the evidence in front of her he certainly had the strength to at least inflict great pain on god. Skadi's daughter could be the key to everything!

Unfortunately, between the pain of reliving he memory and Albedo asking the very question floating around in her head Skadi bottled herself up again. The dreamy look came back into her eyes, but as she turned her attention back to her dog something she said made white hot anger flash through Linkle's. It not for that the Skullgirl might have been content with letting the woman sink back into her daydreams, but as it stood Linkle made her way forward and knelt beside her and her doge.

"Don't lie about that." She said, in the tone of a disappointed older sibling. "Not to yourself. Not after what you went through to protect her. I know you must still be trying to protect her even now, but you're not. He's invincible. He can search forever if he wants. If you just leave things like they are, he'll find her eventually. We have to stop him first, and I think she knows a way how. If I'm there, with her, I know that I can beat him. I've done it once already, and with her help I can make sure he never hurts her, or you, or anyone else ever again!"

With that she bowed her head to the woman, her tone switching to something resembling reverence. "In the world I'm from when a Goddess, for whatever reason, can't handle the task at hand she calls upon a hero to take up his sword and face the challenge. I know I...might not look it much right now, but I am that hero. I'll be yours too, if you'll only have faith in me."

Like the wriggling of a pit of snakes, she could feel the voice of the skull heart sliding across her mind.

Do not swear yourself to others

Do not make promises you cannot keep

You are my chosen hero

You are my sword

You already belong to me

Spill blood in my name if you are so eager to do so for the broken wretch before you


She shut them out. "Please, Skadi. This is what I'm for."


Word Count: 537


Level 5 - (65/50) + 1


Level 9 - (47/90) + 1






Link


Location: The Bottomless Sea ~ The Maw

@DracoLunaris@Yankee@Dark Cloud@Archmage MC



When Ms. Fortune and the Cadet got into position and gave him the go ahead he gave them a thumbs up and looked down. He could see into the depths below him through the grating in the floor. He figured it would be the worst for him if the leviathan came at him right from below, so he kept his eyes trained there. From its previous efforts he knew there was no way it could surface with making noise, so all he had to do was listen and he'd know it was attacking from the side. At least he hoped so. "If I miss it, someone shout." He called up before starting.

Link began to jump, his little boots splashing in the water before impacting the metal below. He beat the railing to his side with the racket, pounding it over and over again before sliding the racket inside the railing and whirling it. The sound was, appropriately enough, similar to a ringing of a dinner bell and was cut with the splashes of the racket smacking the water at the bottom. To add a cherry on top to his cacophonic sunday he started whistling, much like you would while trying to call a dog. He had to look absolutely ridiculous, but even still he kept his eyes whirling around searching for any sign of the beasts approach. Given any indication that it was coming he was going to bolt back toward the relative safety of the stairs and through the door beyond.





Linkle


Merge Rate: 31%


Location: The Cold Monastery





"Yeah, this place is...much cold." Linkle said, staring at the woman. She was surprised? She didn't know what ice was? Was she actually that out of it? As she watched she could see a flash of something around her eyes, like a tattoo or something.

It took Albedo to bring her attention to what that meant. Looking down she saw the ice dog had grown larger with her simple touch. "Hehehe, you're much better than me at this." She said, but in her mind she had already drawn a connection. Tattoos, and ice. This may not have been the person the Stranger had been looking for, but Linkle was getting more and more sure that she was the one Linkle was looking for.

"Miss Skadi?" She asked softly, leaning forward over to doge sculpture. "We really need you help. Do you remember a man that came here? He had red hair and a lot of tattoos. Not kawaii at all, much whoreson. Do you remember what the two of you talked about? I could make you more dogs if you tell me. I'm sure Albeato can too, right?" She turned briefly around to give a hopeful look to Albedo before giving her attention back to the goddess in front of her and trying to gauge her reaction. She desperately didn't want Skadi upset. Even as diminished and physical as she was, the woman was still a god. She didn't want a god to get upset with her and wind up with another curse. She had seen it in the woman's eyes, the power that was still there.


Word Count: 1173


Level 5 - (63/50) + 2


Level 9 - (45/90) + 2






Link


Location: The Bottomless Sea ~ The Maw

@DracoLunaris@Yankee@Dark Cloud



When the moogle offered the back scratcher to them he might not have expected anyone to take him up on that offer, but Link was a career hoarder. He accepted it without hesitation and slotted it into his belt as a fallback weapon. Anything was a weapon if you put your mind to it, after all.

It was interesting that the moogle didn't seem at all hungry, but maybe it was just that he hadn't been here long enough for whatever foul magic permeated this place to take effect. "Well, that's good at least. You should probably get out of here before that sets in, this place is..."

Link trailed off as he saw Ms. Fortune and the Cadet reappear up in the catwalks. Were they coming back? Had something gone terribly wrong? His confusing only became more pronounced when when they set to work on the catwalk itself, cutting into the chains holding the platform up and making the journey across them more perilous. For who? Were they being chased by something?

Link's questions were answered as the final chain snapped and the platform went plummeting into the water. Seconds later, it erupted from the depth. As it's mouth unfurled to try and snatch the kids above it Link had never before so badly wished for a bomb. A Molduga. Some kind of horrifically warped sea Molduga, all puss and tentacles and wearing a crown of malicious eyes. For a moment Link feared that it was going to make it, fly up there and devoured his comrades, but it was already falling by the time its mouth snapped shut. It slammed back into the water, disappearing but not gone. Lurking. Still lurking. Its prey was still here.

The moment the thing had broken the surface, without even really being conscious of it, Link had swept the moogle behind him and begun backing up away from the edge of the water. His arms were extended, his weapon drawn, so as to shuffle all behind him back toward the relative safety of the stairway toward the doorway they had entered from. Toward more solid ground, were the monster would have a hard time getting them. As he did his mind went back to Ms. Fortune and why they had just antagonized the thing. The answer came quickly, because there was only one; someone was in the water. They had made it through and someone was trying to lower the water, so the creature had to be distracted.

He looked up again, and wondered if they could do better than distract it.

"I have an idea. Stay here." He said, stepping back out into the depths and whistling up to Ms. Fortune and the Cadet. "OI!" He pointed up to the swinging scaffold above his head, then down at the partially submerged red platform in front of him. "If I lure it over to me, do you think you can drop one of those on him?"

They would have to cut most of the chains first, saving the last for when the monsters appeared, but that monster was at least twenty percent eyeballs. There was no way some of those getting a heavy sheet of metal dropped on them wouldn't stun the beast. Anything was a weapon if you put your mind to it, after all.





Linkle


Merge Rate: 31%


Location: The Cold Monastery





To say Linkle was taken aback by the woman in the towers basement would be an understatement. That statement would be buried somewhere deep in the earths molten core. Gods were supposed to be august, beautiful, almost incomprehensible things that kept watch on the world from far above. When they had first entered the room Linkle had on instinct bowered her head and set here eye on the floor just in case a real god was to great for her fragile mind.

The sight of this woman did momentarily break Linkle, but not from awe. This wasn't a temple, or some kind of sanctuary. This was a playpen, a place you held children. Messy children, judging by the pictures scattered around. This wasn't a child though, this was a grown woman. A beautiful woman, to be sure, but one that was doing everything in her power to convince you otherwise. She also fit the incomprehensible aspect, but again not at all in the way Linkle had expected. She talked weird when the Father drew her attention, less like she was far above them and more like she wasn't all there.

More than any of that, though, was that she felt way too real. As she proffered her newest picture to Linkle for appraisal the action itself seemed to have too much weight to it. She breathed. She gave off body heat. She was just so..so...there! There was nothing ethereal about this, not like the statues from earlier. It was like she was just an ordinary woman, no different from Linkle or Din or the lady that worked behind the desk back at the guild. Linkle thought for a moment that this must be some kind of prank or mistake.

Then there was the dog which, while charming, was a completely different can of worms.

And yet...

This was the woman that the Stanger had taken an interest in. No matter what, out of everything here, she had said something that caused him to go off. She hadn't always been like this, she had to remember that. It was unsettling to think that the Stranger could beat even a god as physical as this to the point of insanity, but it also implied some kind of connection.

Gently coming out of here shock she reached over and took the picture from the goddess Skadi. She had no idea what a kawaii was, and so had no idea what the woman was asking her. She didn't want to offend her or anything. Then she had an idea of how to find out. She smiled, held up a finger to Skadi, then knelt down. She took a deep breath and placed her palms on the floor between the scattered drawings, then looked at the dog sitting in the middle of the room.

Her hair flashed blue as she poured cold onto the floor. Ice started to grow, first as a thin sheet between her hands before it began to build upwards. Linkle bit down on her bottom lip as she concentrated, growing the ice into the shape before her. Steadily it began to take form, paws sticking out and tail curling up out of a loaf of a body. A chuffy neck rising up, and from it three points the molded themselves into ears and a snout. In a few seconds the ice had arranged itself into a replica of the dog about the size of a bowling ball. Linkle looked up at at Skadi from her kneeling position, he hair shifting back to its prober color. She had only one question. "Kawaii?"
Real life always comes first, no worries.


Word Count: 609


Level 5 - (62/50) + 1


Level 9 - (44/90) + 1






Link


Location: The Bottomless Sea ~ The Maw





Link looked surprised when the moogle appeared, leaning in to get a good look at it as it flitted around checking out the maw. It was so completely out of place it was laughable, with it's fat little doughy limbs, its red fruit like pom-pom, its sweet roll shaped nose...

Link had to pull back when he felt the drool start to leak out the side of his mouth, swallowing it in one go as he got a grip on himself. He couldn't help it. He had never noticed before, but objectively speaking moogles looked like they had been baked into existence.

He closed his eyes and focused, biting down on the hunger gnawing at his stomach like an apex predator out to show a rival who was boss. As he did his companions stepped forward. Kamek briefly explained the situation before turning his mind to practical concerns of supplies and possible reinforcements. Maybe even rescue, in the unlikly event it came to that.

Glenn, meanwhile, immediately put forth the request Link himself had been considering.

"To be more clear," he started, having beaten down the craving enough that he could look at the moogle again. "The Maw is a massive ship in the middle of the Bottomless Sea in the Edge of Blue. As far as we've been led to believe it's carrying us closer to the Edge of Blue's guardian, but we got ambushed by a monster in the foyer that did this to us. Then we all got dumped into the garbage. We're all all right, and right now we're trying to climb our way back up the ship."

He thought for a moment, then added. "Do you feel hungry at all?"





Linkle


Merge Rate: 31%


Location: The Cold Monastery





Linkle got up and followed the old father to the window. It turned out he knew exactly who she had been talking about. He hade been here before, searching like they were now. Searching for someone. Had he come here to find the same thing they had? He hadn't found them, though. Was that because they weren't here, or because he had been driven away before he could? From the way the father talked he was definitely another fighting priest.

The second thing the father reveled to them was the existence of something called the "internet." All you needed was some machine and you had access to all human knowledge? That was like magic, and if they found one of these computer things it wouldn't just be a help to them. She could take it back to Alchamoth and show everybody. That would be something to keep in mind.

The third, most mind blowing thing, was that there a god working in their kitchen. Not just one of them, but apparently three. Three actually walking talking physical deities were making their home at this monetary? How was this not a huge deal to this man. Sure his god might be big and powerful like the golden trinity, but there were always smaller ones around. Just because they had jobs didn't make them less important.

She took all this information in, mixed it around in her brain until it spit out a path going forward. "Well, first, what happened when the Stanger showed up? How did he act, what did he do while he was here exactly? Did he give you any clues about who he was looking for?"

"After that, heck yes I want to meet a god! I want to meet all these gods! I guess we should start with the closest one. Skadi, right? Is there anything I should do to be respectful? Does she have an offering that she likes?"


Word Count: 1273


Level 5 - (59/50) + 3


Level 9 - (41/90) + 3






Link


Location: The Bottomless Sea ~ The Maw


@Yankee@Dark Cloud@DracoLunaris




Link graciously took the Cadet's shield, waving to the boy as he started his own crossing. He put his arm through the hand holds and instantly felt far less naked than he had before. It wasn't the real deal, and if he was being completely honest he wasn't keen on how much the front face resembled a target, but he was grateful for it all the same. The kite didn't look like much, after all, but it worked excellently as a glider and he returned the thumbs up the Cadet shot him before the boy disappeared after the others. That just left him, Kamek, Glenn, the pets, and the occasional drip drip of water somewhere off in the distance.

Fortunately the silence was soon broken by Glenn and Kamek, going over the nature of Glenn's curse and probably fixes for it. It might not have been the most opportune time for the conversations, true, but it wasn't like they would be going swimming anytime soon. If they just did nothing all they would have on their mind is how hungry they were.

To that end he pulled out his racket and started practicing again as the two of them talked. He stood facing the water, stabbing and slashing and shield bashing in a mock swordplay drill he made up on the spot. The racket made short sharp swhishs as it cut through the air, much to Link's pleasure. He had been stuck with far worse equipment in his life.

As he did he couldn't help but comment of Kamek's proposed cures. "We've got a couple of princesses to work with, if they don't get squeamish." He said, thinking of Peach and other Zelda. Then he grinned as one of his few memories crept into his head. Zelda, kneeling in front of him, shoving a frog into his face. Her eyes sparkled, her excitement at the prospect of some new discovery all but leaking out of her ears as she tried to make him eat the thing. Had he eaten that frog? He didn't remember. Knowing him, probably. "When we find mine, she would do it just to see what would happen. If we don't find that Magus and take him out before then."

It was when Kamek mentioned the Alchamoth Mercenaries that he stopped his drills. With everything that had been going on he had forgotten about them. "I wonder if they can even get in here?" He said, looking around. "Moogle?" He called, just to check if the little guys could even make it inside the Maw.





Linkle


Merge Rate: 31%


Location: The Cold Monastery





"Lead the way." Linkle said as she started following Albedo out of the statue filled tower. Despite the constant feeling of being watched inside here as they picked their way past dragons, collections of gods unknown, and coiling depictions of winged snakes that seemed to radiate a heat all their own, Linkle didn't feel at all uncomfortable in this room anymore. So what if gods were watching? Gods were always watching. She was only slightly startled when the giant clock moved to follow them as though it were a giant eye. While Albedo got ready for a fight Linkle just bowered her had in its direction until it lost interest in them. She lingered for a moment, observing the clock. Three golden goddesses, encircling a clock. The only thing they were lacking was that all important symbol. If the triforce had been emblazoned anywhere on the statues surface you could have easily mistaken them as Din, Nayru, and Farore. Maybe it was. The Golden Goddess's had come from somewhere else to make Hyrule after all. There was no pull towards this one, though. If these were the same ones she would have felt it, like with the Hylia statue. Right?

She put a hand on Albeado's shoulder, feeling the tension in his body. "I don't think they mean any harm." She said, turning to follow the boy as he headed for the door. Before leaving she turned and gave one last deep bow to the room before stepping out into the snow.

Once they were outside and the door safely shut behind them she let out a short giggle. "That was awesome. Grandma always said Hylians have these big old ears so we can hear the gods better, but I've never heard anything like that. Once I'm back home I've got to visit the Temple of Time and see if I can pick anything up. Wow!" She was jittery, like a girl that had just gotten off a roller coaster. As such when they came to the rope bridge leading out toward the third tower she shared none or Albedo's brief trepidation. She felt like she could walk on air.

She followed Albedo to stare over the edge, and the sight was no less breathtaking to her. It was astounding that people made their life among those lonely peaks below. How did they get around? Did they have wings, or did they climb on the ropes? Her mood was only slightly dampened when she thought about how Galeem might have sloppily dropped some of those places down on top of those mountains, leaving people trapped and isolated. She didn't worry about it too much, though. After all, at the rate they were going they would have this whole World of Light business finished in the next couple of days. She bet her friends had already taken out three more Champions in the time Linkle had been getting her bearings out here.

Finding the bridge far more stable than the one that led to the witches' face was no surprise, it hardly moved as the two of them passed monks and priests of their way to the third tower. When they got inside she found out why the bridge was so heavily trafficked compared to the other parts of the monetary. The first tower was for praying, the second was for (respectfully) storing, and the third appeared to be for living. She guessed even holy men needed a break every now and then.

One of them, enjoying a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the cloistered life, pinged them immediately as newcomers and was friendly enough to wave them over. Another Father, as it turned out. Linkle wondered if he was a fighting priest too as she took the old timer up on his offer and plopped down next to him and the warm lamp. "It's great to meet you, Father. I'm Linkle, Hero of Hyrule at your service! This is my friend Albedo. We came all the way from Snowden to try and figure something out." She said eagerly. "There's this weird cabinet in the second tower, one that you open up and there's a story about a snake. A lady feeds it, it gets really really big, and then it kills everybody. Albedo, show him, show him."

"There's a guy that tried to kill me, a real maniac. We don't know his name, but he's completely invincible. Albedo took some sketch's of his tattoo's and some of the symbols carved in that cabinet match the ones on his body." Linkle continued, relying on the boy to provide visual aides. "Do you know anybody here that knows anything more about that cabinet? Is there anybody here from the same world it is, or who knows what story it's trying to tell? We think that if we can find out more about this guys world that might tell us how we can defend ourselves next time."
Linkle


Merge Rate: 31%


Word Count: 3905


Level 9 - (37/90) + 4


Location: The Cold Monastery


Featuring @Lugubrious





“You’re right, some of these are pretty creepy.” Linkle whispered, her eyes lingering on the three skulls arranged along the top of the latest altar. Skulls or no, though, this was the first one to even come close to what they were looking for in that it prominently featured symbols. Unfortunately the symbols weren't the ones they were after. Nevertheless, something in the spooky thing had piqued Albedo’s interest. He paid far more attention to it than any of the others they had passed, so when he turned around and gave her the lead to keep looking around she held for a moment. “What’s on your mind?” She asked quietly, looking over his shoulder at the shrine. “Something about that one caught your eye. What was it?”

The alchemist looked contemplative. “There were inscriptions on the skulls, but I could not identify the language. The strange assortment of objects and figures, and intricacy of their design and layout...I suppose you could say I was interested. Even though it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with our objective. That’s all, really.” He glanced at another time, perhaps wondering what worship at the little shrine looked like, or what deity might hear the prayers made there.

They made their way to the other side of the tower, the careful eyes of the two guards following after them as they crossed the room.

The first thing they came across was a series of shrines set into the wall, each receptacle intricately carved from wood and stone. Each one contained an item, maybe an offering or some kind of icon representing the god it honored. They followed the receptacles, passing a short chain, a mirror, a still green and blooming rose, a hammer, a gear, a pinwheel, a model of a tower, the fearsome head of a bull, a branch from a tree, and a bust of a horse. As they passed, like most of the shrines they had already passed, Linkle nodded her head and offered a short prayer to each of them. It was just a simple thing, an acknowledgement and a show of respect. She didn’t even know their names so it was the most she could do, but it couldn't hurt.

At the end of the trail of shrines was another set into the corner of the room. A wooden table sat there, a red book sat on its center flanked by a pair of candles. Above the table was a depiction of a graceful winged woman. Despite its surroundings and how obviously cared for this table was Linkle couldn't actually be sure it was a shrine. Someone had brought a chair from somewhere and had placed it in front of the table, and on one of the wings they had placed a collection of bottles, rolls of bandage, and a collection of herbs beside one of the candles. Was this just somebody's desk?

Linkle stepped forward, then gasped and beconded Albedo roward. “Look, look! That’s a weird language.” She urgenty whispered.

He came up and, seeing the odd symbols written on the cover, pulled out his own notebook to compare the two. After a few moments he shook his head at her. “I don’t think this is the language we’re looking for.”

“Let’s make sure,” She said, gently opening up the book to a random page as the two of them leaned over it. They spent a few minutes comparing the language of the tattoos to the one in the book, and while they found a few symbols that looked kind of similar if you squinted and tilted your head a bit Linkle eventually had to admit she had led them to a dead end.

“Nice hardware,” came a quiet voice from down at her side. Linkle tore herself away from the book and looked down to find a man crouched at thigh height, hand cupping his chin as he examined the crossbow holstered there. As she watched him his eyes ficked up to meet hers, and Linkle let out a short yelp and tried to step away. She accidentally knocked into Albedo as she did, shoving the boy so roughly he had to catch himself on the table.

“Ah, Albedo. I’m sorry. Are you okay?” She said, helping him back up as the man rose to his full height. He was actually pretty handsome, with a shock of heroic green hair and a white coat over a burgundy undersuit not that dissimilar from hers. An alabaster white crossbow was strapped to his leg under the fold of his skirt.

“Whoa. No need to jump out of your skin.” He said. “Hey, what’s that look for?” He asked. Linkle regarded the guy testily. It wasn’t that he had gotten that close that made her uncomfortable, it was that even with the Cold Monastery being as quiet as a church mouse, she hadn’t heard him approach or sensed his presence at all. “Come on. What, are you the only one that can check out somebody's stuff without their permission?”

Linkle looked between the book and the man, putting to and to together, and stepped away from the table. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know if it was a shrine or a bench or what. The book was just sitting there, so I thought...”

“Don’t worry about it.” The man said, waving her off. “If curiosity was a sin in the eyes of Aidios, I’d know.” He extended a hand to the two of them, shaking each in turn as he introduced himself. “Father Kevin Graham, at your service.”

“You’re a priest?” Linkle asked in surprise, turning to look towards the pair that had greeted them. Those two matched her idea of holy people much more than the man standing casually before her, wearing an expression that all but screamed “Yeah, I get that a lot.” She found them looking at her too, or at least in her direction. Whether those stinkeyes were for the yelp she’d let out or at Father Graham for instigating it she couldn't tell. Father Graham didn’t seem too worried about it, waving at the pair before leaning forward to Linkle and Albedo.

“Not all of us have a stick up our ass.” he said, extra quiet. “Some of us try to shepherd the flock with smiles on our faces.” He leaned back up, throwing a thumbs up at the guards as he did. Seemingly mollified, the pair went back to what they were doing. Kevin wiped his brow in relief. “On that note, what can we humble priests help you with?” He leaned over and looked over the notebook, still open on the table. He raised an eyebrow. “You don’t seem like pilgrims.”

“We’re not.” Linkle said. The priest was odd but he didn’t feel dangerous. “I’m Linkle. This is Albedo. We came looking for information on a man we’re trying to defeat.”

“Huh.” Kevin said, flipping his book closed. “And here I was betting on naturalist and his charming bodyguard.” His gaze flicked to the gun on Linkle’s shoulder. “Hitmen was my next guess though.”

“Hitmen?” Linkle said, taken aback. “No, no, it’s not like that at all. Let us explain.” So Linkle and Albedo, at least as much as they knew the priest might believe. About the Stranger, how he had tried to kill her, his seeming invincibility, the markings on his body, and they’re theory on how he had gotten his powers. As they did, Father Graham’s expression became more and more serious and he went back to the notebook to examine the sketches in more detail. As they finished he frowned and handed the alchemist his book back.

“Sorry. It’s not anything from my neck of the woods.” he said, shaking his head sympathetically. “Where is this guy now? He’s not going to kick in the door looking for you, right?”

“I left him buried under an iceberg when nothing else worked.” Linkle replied, looking proud.

“Whew.” he said. “Good thing too. I can’t think of too many ways to protect you from a man who can’t die.” He thought for a moment, then started walking away while waving the other two to follow him.

“You wouldn't have to fight him.” Linkle said as she hurried along behind him. “I sure if he showed up I could kick him off one of these cliffs this time.”

“On the contrary. Anyone who disturbs the tranquility of the monastery answers to us. There’s a reason monks learn how to fight.” He replied confidently, looking down at her and smiling. “Besides, you remind me too much of a friend of mine for me to not get involved. It’s why I believe your crazy story. Girls like you couldn’t lie to save their lives.”

“You’ve known me for, like, a minute.” Linkle said.

“I’m an excellent judge of character.” He said as they reached the door. He laid a hand on it. “Did they give you the whole ‘you can only go in the first three towers’ spiel?”

Linkle nodded.

“You’re in luck, then. I think I’ve seen something like those symbols in tower two, where some of our gods live..”

“There are gods there?” Linkle asked, unable to contain her surprise.

“Technically.” Father Graham said. “You’ll understand once you see them.” With that he pushed the door open, causing a blast of cold wind to race into the room. It made him shiver, but he pointed across the open space to another tower. Linkle thanked him as she set out through the door and the buildup of snow.




On their way to the second tower there wasn’t much in the way of scenery, except for strings of multicolored prayer flags flying between the buildings. Along the way they got a look at the entrance to Tower Three, and Linkle spotted an odd orange lump laying on the steps beside the door. She stopped as the lump poked its head up, revealing itself to be a scarred fox with a cute pink bib wrapped around its neck. As she looked on, the fox lifted its nose to the air and took a few interested sniffs before lowering its head and staring right at her.

Linkle’s attention was torn away from the animal as Albedo called to her from up ahead, and she realized that she had stopped in the middle of the frigid yard. She hurried on to catch up with him at the door, and together they opened up and stepped inside the second tower.

The difference in atmosphere was apparent the moment they stepped inside. While it had the same decoration as the first tower, Linkle had become acutely aware by this point of the sensation of warmth on her skin. This tower was warmer than the first one, and the scent of incense wafted through.

The other main difference is that no one was there to greet them at the door. No one human, anyway. Instead what stood before them were statues. The room was positively packed with statues. Small statues, big statues, broken statues and brilliant ones. Every one meticulously cared for, no matter its state, with a collection of offerings laid out in front of each. It didn’t take a genius to figure out what they were supposed to be, and as Linkle stared in awe at the giant fin-headed statue that loomed over the entrance she whispered, “There are gods here.” She cupped her hands around her mouth and tried to whistler yell “Hello” to the fish man but his stony visage offered no response. Unperturbed, Linkle started walking down the line and trying to coax some life out of the statues with short prayers.

She got an impression from two of the initial batch that she encountered. When she approached the broken one a sudden question flashed into her mind, like a ray of sunlight breaking through an overcast sky, asking her to join...something. It wasn’t clear, but it didn’t feel like it was bad. It felt warm and helpful, and she was desperately tempted, but after a few moments she backed away. The statue, or whatever manner of being inhabited it, took this as a no and the warm impression vanished from her mind. She didn’t think it was a good idea to go pledging herself to more otherworldly beings.

The other statue was the one living the hourglass above its head. This one more wanted something from her. It felt less like a religious experience and more like a business transaction. Linkle flashed back to the Malo Mart. “Buy something already.” Yeah, that was what this felt like. A shopkeeper eyeing somebody who was obviously just there to browse. She broke away from that one too.

“There’s something in these two.” She informed Albedo, looking between the statues. As she did she noticed something else. While the normal statues just had incense and simple food offerings, the offerings for those two were more specific and at the same time more eclectic. The broken one had no food, but a collection of coins of all sorts of denominations. All gold, from the familiar mushroom kingdom one to a strange one with a bug printed on it. The other’s theme seemed to be simply “red.” A red stole, a wilted red flower, a red marble, a fresh apple, but mostly muddy dark red crystals, small and with organic shapes like amber., or scar tissue.

For his part, Albedo had been intrigued by the sensations that interacting with certain statues prompted. It didn’t seem that far-fetched to imagine that these icons held their own little sparks of power, not necessarily facilitators of direct communion with deities, but interfaces through which one might invoke their power nonetheless. “Fascinating,” he breathed. “This place is nothing short of a wonderland. One could very well spend a lifetime of experimentation and research here. It’s certainly a tempting prospect, but…” Albedo considered the attentive priests, prepared to defend this holy place if need be, and even the capable-looking monks he saw attended their rituals. “I don’t suppose they would take kindly to prying.”

The mysteries of this place could wait until the visitors solved the mystery of the Stranger. Though fewer worshippers and guards could be found throughout the second tower, Linkle and Albedo couldn’t say they felt isolated while surrounded by various statues with unknown powers. Unflinching and unfamiliar gazes plus strange interactions with them hurried the pair as they searched. Albedo progressed through the okace warily lest he awaken some kind of latent curse, but wherever symbols appeared he put them under careful scrutiny.

Eventually the pair found an object that stood out from everything else along one wall. It appeared to be a wooden cabinet, but the intricately carved logs on either side featured miniature warriors at the top, and between them lay an expanse of gold handiwork that looped and spiralled with elegance. When they swung open the cabinet doors, Albedo and Linkle were faced with a large triptych, each of its three panels painted, adorned, and carved to tell a story through image.



Though the identity and meaning of the characters, creatures, and places the triptych depicted could not be easily discerned, the work of art made one detail manifest: each section bore a caption of runes scratched into the wood by knife-point. “Aha.” By now Albedo had checked the sketched tattoos often enough to get a very good feeling just by looking at these new inscriptions, and sure enough, when he flipped open his sketchbook for comparison some of the runes on both the triptych and the skin of the Stranger were a match. “Well, there we go,” he breathed, something akin to excitement stirring in his heart. “The first step on the road to understanding.”

It took Linkle a little bit observing the scenes laid out before her before you started to get an idea of what was going on. It wasn't until she took a step back and noticed that the entire circle in the middle picture was the snake from the first and third that the picture slid into focus. “So we’ve got the lady feeding the snake, gross, and then the snake becomes the world? And then, here…” She grimaced as she noticed the two big puncture wounds in the warrior, and the simple dead bodies floating under the snake. “It killed everybody.”

“Sooooo, if she created the world by feeding the snake then maybe she’s the god we’re looking for?” Linkle said excitedly. “Albedo, do you think you could sketch her?” They may not have had a name yet, but if this was right they had a legend. A whole creation and destruction story to work with.

Her friend nodded and got to work. He seated himself before the shrine and began replicating the triptych’s depictions in miniature. “I will also copy down the runes, on the chance that we meet someone who can read them,” he said as he worked. “I doubt that translating the characters in the man’s tattoos would spell out a weakness of some kind, but recognizing the language would be a quick way to tell if anyone we meet might know.”

While he wholly busied himself with the contents of the triptych, Linkle wasn’t left with much to do, and the myriad contents of the monastery tower made it easy for her eyes to wander. There was a lot for her curiosity to discover and wonder about, but as she roved around she began to become aware of an ever-so-slight pull to a specific section of tower. It was as if something was guiding her, gently enough to be mistaken for her own instinct or intuition, without any kind of real force behind it. Should she decide to follow the soft impulse, she would soon pass a magnificent floating clock to come upon a basin with a cluster of stone pedestals in the middle, of various heights, on which a few figures rested. She spotted a twin-crickets carving, an armor or golem, and a gleaming artifact, but Linkle’s focus lay on one in particular: the modest, undecorated stone statuette of a praying goddess. Though it didn’t move, it somehow reached out to her in other ways, as if desiring a connection.

Linkle stepped closer to the pedestal holding the goddess. “Is this you?” She asked, tapping at her chest. None of the other Gods in this place had reached out like this, unprompted. For a single paranoid instant she wondered if this was a cruel Skull Heart trick, some new subtle joke whose punchline was primed to spring out of the darkness at the last moment. But, no. The figure was very simple, stylized to the point where it could be universal and yet it felt undeniably familiar.

Slowly the girl stooped down in front of the statue, falling to her knees. She bowed her head, clasped her hands in front of her, closed her eyes, and started to pray. Not a short one, not just the show of respect she had shown the other gods. She said her prayers as she had when she was a child, fervently sending her thoughts and wishes to the goddesses above.

A moment passed in serenity. Like smoke from a campfire, or a child’s precious balloon, her sincere words spiraled upward, through the heights of the tower and to the heavens. Surely this hallowed place had channeled countless such benedictions, but hers was no lesser for it. And just as with her predecessors, she held still, listening despite the odds for any trace of reply. Seconds passed, but Linkle heard nothing--neither from without, nor within. In that quiet she could feel at peace, and even a sort of lightness inside her. In that moment the nebulous weight that sat in the lowest point of her soul didn’t seem quite so heavy. It was a nice feeling.

But with that relief came a worrisome realization: that even though she’d been a Skullgirl for less than a day, she’d already started getting used to the hollowness, and begun to forget what it felt like to be well. To be normal. The whispers had been nibbling at the back of her mind so steadily that she’d stopped realizing they were there until they were gone.

She raised her head as felt the weight settle back onto her, a gasp escaping from her lips. Had things really gotten that bad so quickly? Placed next to each other the difference between how she’d felt just a few days ago and how she felt now was as stark as night and day. She gazed up at the statue, and despite everything managed a grateful smile. She had a pretty good idea of who this might be now. “Thank you.” She whispered. Whether it was an attempt to banish the heart, a warning, or just a hand of comfort she thanked her all the same.

She stood up, patting her pouches until she found the spikey round berries she had gotten from the wolf spirits. She took one out and placed it on the pedestal in front of the goddess. Not a profound offering, but it was what she had. She clasped her hands again and gave a short bow. “I won’t let you down.” With that, she walked away from the circle of pedestals.

A few seconds later she came back and clasped her hands again. “And I’m sorry we named a cucco after you. That’s just Grandma’s sense of humor, she didn’t mean anything bad by it and it was a really good girl. Yosh, off to save Hyrule now!” Nodding one last time to the goddess she turned on her heel and made her way back through the sculpture filled room.
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