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1508, Roma...

Ezio Auditore da Firenze

My name is Ezio Auditore da Firenze. This whole mess with the Apple of Eden I once held began after the death of Cesare Borgia. I had returned from Viana, Spain to check up on the Brotherhood I had established when Niccolò Machiavelli sent a letter to me. Apparently, the Apple had been stolen by an unknown Templar. Machiavelli told me to meet him in my hideout on Isola Tiberina to give me the details.

"Apparently, the Templar has traveled through some sort of 'portal' that leads to a different world," Machiavelli said.

"How do you know this?" Ezio asked, approaching him.

"One of our Assassins tracked him down. He looked like a man in a green tunic and a cap of matching color," he said. "However, when she saw the portal, she retreated. She told me that it might be best if our Mentor investigated the situation."

Ezio's thoughts turned to the being called Minerva and the magic she had possessed. Was there a connection?

Machiavelli frowned. "Ezio, I told you that hiding the Apple in the secret compartment in Isola Tiberina was a foolish mistake."

"I thought it was best at the time," Ezio responded calmly. "When I retrieve it, I will find another place to hide the Apple."

Machiavelli raised a curious brow. "And where would that be?"

"I don't think it would be wise to tell anyone right now."

"Fair enough."

Scratching his chin, Ezio asked, "where can I find this 'portal' to another world?"

"I heard it was somewhere in the Castello," he said. Ezio's advisor began to pace back and forth in front of me. "You would be wise to not take any risks. Pope Julius II has placed guards all around the fortress," he added, pointing a finger at Ezio.

"Va bene, that shouldn't be a problem," the Assassin said, looking at him sideways. "Be sure to tell my recruits that they should keep this place running."

"Of course, Ezio," Machiavelli said with a smile.

Ezio turned around and exited through the back door of the hideout. He had no idea what trouble he was in for.


Crossing the Ponte Sant'Angelo, Ezio could see the immense fortress of the Castello that he had visited many times. The towering battlements that protected the circular building within never daunted him. Climbing the walls was not too difficult as long as he could get inside. Fortunately, for him today, the door to the stables was open.

Guards patrolled the bridge as they did when Rodrigo and Cesare Borgia ruled over Rome. It had been nearly half a decade since their reign was destroyed, and not much had changed. Ezio moved carefully through the crowds to avoid their attention.

"Assassino!" a member of the crowd cried. Apparently, Ezio hadn't blended well enough. The crowd dispersed immediately.

"Get him!" The guards, with spears in their hands, charged him. Drawing his sword--the blade of Altaïr--Ezio readied himself to meet them.

They surrounded him, and one tried to run his spear through him. Ezio side-stepped the attack, only to feel a sharp pain stab him in the shoulder from the other side. He grunted; nothing he couldn't handle. Ezio rushed forward, and slashed with his blade, using such force that he knocked the spear out of the guard's hands. Then, a loud bang went off and the guard crumbled to the ground.

Smoke flowed out of his hidden pistol--he was down one bullet; he would need to reserve the rest for the Templar. Screams of terror entered his ears as the citizens ran for their lives. Ezio turned around, just in time to see the other guards charge him all at once with their spears. Pulling a smoke bomb from his pouch, he slammed it into the ground.

A loud crack resonated through the air as smoke escaped the bomb. The guards dropped their weapons and began coughing and sputtering. Too bad for them; Ezio was used to the smoke by now. He quickly sheathed his sword, and stabbed the guards, one by one, with the hidden blades. He stabbed one in the back, another in the abdomen, and sliced the other across his neck.

As the smoke cleared, Ezio found the bridge clear of any opposition, and only fearful innocents staring at him in horror.

Ezio could not afford to leave his world to another with only two smoke bombs. So, he crept down and searched the bodies of the dead guards. Some innocent bystanders threw insults at him for "robbing the dead," but he just ignored them.

After searching two of them, he found a smoke bomb on the third. Cleaning the blood off of it, Ezio stuck it in his pouch, and then turned around to face the Castello.

Then, he sprinted forward, knocking over any who stood in his way, and entered the door to the stables. He could still hear the cries of the crowd.

"Murderer! Murderer!"

"Run for your lives! Assassino!"

"I'm not involved! I don't know what's going on!"

"There's a killer loose!"

If that didn't alert all the guards in the Castello, Ezio didn't know what would.

Once inside, he climbed the scaffolding with a quick leap onto the wooden bars. Pulling himself up, he jumped from bar to bar until he found a spot where he could climb up the battlements into the courtyard of the Castello.

When he reached the ledge of the battlement, Ezio saw a guard keeping watch. he quickly leaned over the battlement and stabbed him in the stomach with his right hand's hidden blade. The guard let out a small yelp as he threw him down into the stables.

With the battlement cleared, he pulled himself over the ledge and onto the ground. Now, where is that portal? he wondered.

Ezio tapped into his talent and gazed around for a light or a trail of somesort. Within moments, he found the source of a bright, white light above on the upper battlements on top of the Castello. This should be interesting. Untapping his ability, he dropped to one of the rooftops below. There, he saw a double-tied rope that led to a worn part of the structure where he could start climbing.

Apparently, the new Pope hasn't decided on fixing this place. He began to walk across the rope, keeping his balance perfectly. As soon as he reached the walls, he began to climb to the top.

It had been so long since Ezio had climbed the Castello that he had almost forgotten where to step and to place his hands. As he was climbing, he heard the voice of a guard yell, "hey, you! With the hood! Get down from there!" he glanced over his shoulder and saw a crossbowman.

Ezio didn't have time for banter, so he allowed a throwing knife to do the talking for him. The knife struck true, and the guard fell off the battlement onto the ground below. Even from above, he could hear guards muttering to each other--most likely examining the body. So much for my stealth.

After many minutes of climbing, he pulled himself onto the upper battlements. There, Ezio saw the most odd device he had ever seen--even more so than what he had beheld in the Vault.

It was a large mirror with strange symbols that he didn't recognize on the glass. The mirror was circular, and had large cracks upon its surface.

Ezio was so entranced by the mirror that he didn't notice a guard captain and his recruit staring at it also.

"What should we do?" the recruit asked. Ezio could see the side of his face; it was filled with fear. "Should we... touch it?"

"I don't know what this damned thing is doing here," the captain said. He was shaking slightly. "But I'm not touching it. We should tell the Pope about this."

Ezio licked his lips. "Perhaps I should touch it, then," he said.

The guards spun around, and the recruit looked even more afraid. "You... you... you're the Assassin!"

The captain didn't appear to be afraid of him, however. "Ha! Kill him," he commanded, drawing his sword. "There's two of us, and one of him."

"Are you joking, Capitano?" the recruit said, not even touching his weapon. "I've heard that he killed hundreds of soldiers without getting a scratch! How are we supposed to kill him?"

"Those are only rumors," the captain said. Though, his face grew an uncertain expression. "We can kill him." The recruit looked like he was ready to run at a moment's notice.

Ezio smiled. "There's no need to shed any blood," he said to them. "I only want to touch the mirror behind you."

"What if you're lying?" the captain said, waving his sword around. "I don't deal with criminali like you."

"If you wish to die, then so be it, fesso," he said.

"Now, wait!" the recruit spoke up, quite loudly, too. "W-we don't need to fight each other. We'll just pretend this never happen and let him touch the mirror! Please... I have a little daughter I want to see again."

The captain growled and turned on his recruit. "I think you need to learn a lesson in bravery!" He raised his sword to kill the recruit, but Ezio dashed forward and slammed both of his hidden blades in the guard's back. The captain let out a grunt of pain before falling onto the ground.

The recruit began to cower on the ground before the Assassin. "Please, signore! I'll do anything to live! Please, for my little Elena's sake!"

"I will spare your life," he said. His voice was calm. "As long as you promise me that you will not tell the Pope about this."

"I promise I'll never tell the Pope or any of my superiors!"

Ezio nodded. "Bene. Leave, and go see your daughter." The guard got up. And Ezio raised a hand in warning. "But... your captain was right to a degree. Learn to have some courage... because some day, you might have to defend your family. And if you are a coward, you will not save her."

He nodded fervently. "Yes, messere! Grazie for your mercy!" He ran to the door, and closed it behind him.

Ezio turned to face the mirror. It had been a long time since he had seen such a strange object like he had in the Vault. Regardless, he walked over and placed his right hand on its surface.

Nothing happened.

What am I supposed to do? Is there a password of some kind?

Ezio removed his hand, and then it happened. The mirror lit up like the sun, nearly blinding him, and he felt a powerful force pull him toward the mirror. He tried to resist by pulling himself back, but soon his strength was taken from him and the Assassin was pulled in by some power beyond his own to the mirror.

He didn't crash into the mirror as he expected, but he was pulled into it instead, and consumed by the darkness beyond.

Chapter 1[]

Hyrule Field...

Link was enjoying the cloudless late afternoon as he rode on Epona's saddle. He could feel the pleasant touch of the wind on his face, and he liked its flow through his hair. His horse's hooves clattered against a wooden bridge she crossed as they headed toward Eldin Province.


He could smell the fresh scent of the spring-time grass as he passed by. In the distance, he could see the fiery Death Mountain and the iron gate to Kakariko Village.

Suddenly, there was a blinding flash of light nearby, and he heard the thud of a person landing on the ground. He stopped Epona, and looked toward the direction of the light. As soon as he had looked, it was gone, and on the ground, he saw a man sprawled out--most likely unconscious.

Getting off his horse, Link approached the man, inclining his head to the side. Who's this? Is he all right? he thought.

The man was wearing the oddest clothing he had ever seen. He was garbed in white, and hooded robes with some scarlet flag-like cloths connected to his skirts. There was a cape on his right shoulder that matched the robes perfectly. There was also a scarlet sash around his waist.

On his shoulders, Link could see some well-forged pauldrons made of metal plate covering his shoulders. His feet were covered in greaves of the same make, and Link could also see a chest guard that wrapped around the man's chest and back of that same metal plate. He had two bracers, one bracer on his right arm was made of the same material. The bracer on his left arm looked similar, but he didn't think is was of the same metal.

That's some armor, he thought. It looks like it could match my Magic Armor in a fight. He looked down at the man's waist and blinked. He's armed to the teeth!

There was a medium sword with a blade like silver that had a leather-wrapped handle, and the pommel was shaped like the head of a majestic bird. It was sheathed in a threaded belt. Next to it was a dagger with a thick blade. Strapped on the man's back was a finely-made crossbow of wood and metal. And around his waist over the scarlet sash was a leather belt with various different pouches.

Then, he heard a groan from the man, and he rolled over, revealing a strange crest on his belt that Link had never seen before. He had slightly tanned skin, and a small, black beard. He looked a little old.

Regardless of what Link thought of the man's odd appearance, the hylian knelt down and asked, "hey, are you all right?"

Slowly, the man opened his eyes--the hylian could see that they were almond colored--and he let out another groan.

Sitting up, he rubbed the back of his head tenderly. "Agh, my head." He gazed around Hyrule Field, the expression on his face asking, "where am I?"

He must not have heard Link, for he stood up and stretched with his back facing the hylian. Taking a metal vial of somesort from one of his larger pouches, the man put the vial to his nose and inhaled it through his nose.

It was a strong smell, because even Link could smell the vial's scent. It was so strong that he had to cover his nose for a second to keep himself from being knocked down.

Putting the vial back into his pouch, the man muttered something that the hylian couldn't understand. He stood up and smiled. "Hey, there. Are you all right?"

The man turned around and smiled back. "Sí, grazie for your concern."

What did those first two words mean? "Ah... you're welcome? I hope you don't mind, but who are you?"

He bowed slightly. "My name is Ezio Auditore da Firenze. And you?"

"Link," the hylian said. "That's quite a name you have." He chuckled. Then, he noticed that Ezio was eying him, probably looking over his equipment. "Ah... I'm an adventurer, that's why I'm so heavily armed."

"I... see," Ezio said, his voice cautious. "Where are you headed, Link?"

I wonder what's wrong? "I'm headed to the village north of here. I was going to check up on some old friends."

A friendly smile spread over Ezio's face. "May I walk with you?"

"Sure, I don't see why not," he said. Link turned around to grab Epona's reins when he heard a shinck noise behind him. He spun around and then the old man slammed him into the ground, pinning him to it. Ezio raised his left hand; Link saw the blade that was extended from the man's left wrist as he brought it down to puncture the hylian's neck. Link grabbed Ezio's arm when the blade was about to strike.

"Hm! You're fast, Templar," he said.

Templar? What was that? "What the hell are you talking about? And why are you trying to kill me!?" Link exclaimed. He mustered all the strength he could from his arms, but Ezio was quite strong for his age. "Urgh... get off of me!"

"Because you are the Templar I'm seeking. Give me the Piece of Eden or I will end your life," the man said. Link could feel Ezio pushing down with his left arm, and the hylian's arms were giving in under the pressure.

I've got to push him off! "What's a 'Piece of Eden?'" he asked through gritted teeth, trying to buy himself some time.

"Don't play games with me, Templar." Ezio's voice was growing hostile. "You know what I'm talking about."

Link shifted his legs under the old man's stomach. "No, I don't! Are you senile or something? Stop trying to kill me!" With his legs, he pushed his feet against Ezio's stomach and shoved him off.

Gasping, Link got to his feet. He reached for the Ordon Sword on his back with his left hand, and then drew it. Along with his sword, he pulled off the Hylian Shield from his back with his right arm.

"You ask for life, yet you draw your weapon," Ezio said, getting up. He placing his hands in front of himself. "Again, don't play dumb with me, and just give me the Apple or tell me where it is, and I might spare your life."

Link wrinkled his nose. "Oh, gods! I have no idea what you're talking about, but if you're going to fight me, then I'll defend myself!"

"So be it, Templar." And at that moment, a blade came out of his right wrist.

What the...! He has two of them? Link took a few steps back and watched his opponent. Ezio didn't move, except to keep himself facing the hylian at all times. Link didn't know whether to strike first or not; the man had multiple weapons on him, but then again, so did he.

Finally, he decided. Link jumped into the air and attempted to cleave his opponent in half. Ezio leaped out of the way, and came at him, slashing his wrist blades in wild, yet timed strikes. The hylian could do little except block with his shield with the hope that the blades would be blunted by it.

Loud scraping noises resonated as Ezio's wrist blades clashed against Link's shield. The hylian back-flipped out of his opponent's range, and sheathed his sword. Keeping his shield out, he reached into his adventurer's pouch and pulled out the Gale Boomerang. Wind began to swirl around the weapon as Link aimed it for Ezio's body.

He threw it. And the Gale Boomerang flew toward its target with great speed. Link saw his opponent step around the oncoming boomerang, making his attack seemingly worthless.

That is, until the boomerang returned to Link. The hylian sidetepped around toward Ezio so that the boomerang would slam into him from behind. It worked, and the man was sent spinning in his place.

While his opponent was disoriented, the hylian let the boomerang drop to the ground, and drew his sword. With a loud "hya!" he slashed at Ezio's right arm.

There was a loud clang as the man brought up the bracer in time to meet Link's attack. Lucky! He swung again, this time at Ezio's left arm, and the slash connected. He heard the old man grunt in pain; Link could see a wound where his sword had struck.

Not letting the old man get his balance back, Link swung at Ezio's feet. There was another loud clang as his sword met the man's own. What? How did he draw it so fast?

"Nice try, amico," he said. "But I'm built for keeping my balance."

Link jumped back and raised his shield in front of himself. Perhaps a shield bash will... aw, damn it! Ezio had made one step back and was now slowly circling the hylian with his sword raised.

"Don't be shy, I am only a little dangerous. At the very least to your ego," he taunted, despite his serious expression.

Link felt anger rise in his chest, and he dropped his sword and shield. Immediately, he pulled out, from his adventurer's pouch, a large spiked ball with a chain attached to it and began to swing it over his head. Ezio's expression didn't change, but he lowered his sword, perhaps thinking this was his chance to strike.

At that moment, however, Link threw the spiked ball via the chain at Ezio, attempting to crush him under its weight. Unfortunately, the man was fast enough that he rolled out of the way of the ball as it smashed into the ground, creating a large dent in the dirt.

Link dropped the chain, and quickly picked up his sword and shield. He brought his shield up in time for Ezio's sword to clash against it. As soon as he attempted to slash the hylian again, Ezio's sword was knocked out of his hand as Link's shield bash connected.

The hylian rolled around Ezio quickly, and leaped into the air, performing his spinning back slice technique. The attack connected and he drew blood from his opponent's back. However, Ezio's chest guard had protected him from most of the damage.

"Not bad for a pointy-eared freak!" he said, spinning around with his dagger in his hand.

"And not bad for an old man, either!" Link retorted. He raised his sword and swung it downwards against Ezio's dagger. Then, the man did something the hylian didn't expect; Ezio kicked his leg before his sword could even connect and then something sharp stabbed into Link's right shoulder.

It was Ezio's dagger. The old man pulled it out of Link's shoulder, and then proceeded to grapple the hylian. Ezio tried to stab Link repeatedly with the dagger, but he pryed the old man off with his good arm and shoved him away.

Ezio stumbled back a few feet, and then regained his balance.

With his right shoulder wounded, Link wouldn't be able to use his shield well. So, he dropped it, and placed both hands on the Ordon Sword's handle. He felt the painful sting from his shoulder and dared a glance. The tunic had been ripped, and the wound was bleeding.

Damn him!

Link charged Ezio again. The old man sheathed his weapon, and then pulled out something white and round. The hylian swung at the old man, but as soon as he did, his opponent threw the white sphere onto the ground. A soft crack resonated through the air and then smoke engulfed Link's throat.

Coughing profusely, Link managed to see Ezio bring out his wrist blades again. The old man dashed forward to stab the hylian in the stomach, but then he swung his sword at Ezio, and knocked away his attack. Then, the hylian backed out of the smoke.

I can breathe... He let out a groan. My sword's useless against him... I gotta try something else.

He dropped his sword, and pulled out the Hero's Bow. A surprised expression crossed Ezio's face, and he drew his crossbow. Both of them nocked a ranged projectile into their weapons at the same time, but Link was faster to fire. His arrow struck true, hitting Ezio in the waist.

Link felt weary, he hadn't realized how much damage that dagger had done to him. Quickly, he pulled out a Blue Potion from his adventurer's pouch and quaffed it. The wound closed immediately, and the hylian felt his strength return to him.

Picking up his shield, Link dashed at Ezio and spun around with his sword out, performing his spin attack technique. However, the old man dodged it with ease. This irritated the hylian. I'm not going to win this way, he's too fast! If only Midna were here...

Sheathing his sword, Link pulled out one of his clawshots. He aimed it for Ezio, and released the trigger. Although Ezio attempted to dodge, the clawshot grappled one of his bracers, and pulled him toward the hylian.

Once Ezio was in his grasp, Link repeatedly punched the old man in the face, over and over until he felt a sharp kick to his groin, making him lose his balance. "Gah!" He dropped the clawshot, and the old man was free again.

"You seem to be dropping your equipment all over the place," he remarked, beckoning the hylian to come at him.

But Link didn't move, and Ezio put his crossbow away. Instead, Link threw his sword at him. As he predicted, the old man moved out of the way swiftly--right into the hylian's trap. As Ezio came around the other side, Link slammed his shield into his already bloody face.

He didn't look amused. "I feel like it is time to end this, amico," he said, raising his left bracer at Link.

What? Is he going to fire his wrist blade at me?

But instead, there was a loud bang that echoed throughout the valley, and Link barely saw Ezio's hand recoil as something fast and painful tore into his left shoulder. "Argh!" He dropped his sword, and grasped the wound. "What was that!?"

"A bullet," Ezio said calmly. "Now, tell me where the Piece of Eden is."

"I told you! I don't know what you're talking about!" Link's mind scrambled through his options, and then he remembered his bombs. "I don't like to kill, but I have to in order to defend myself, I will!"

"Then try to kill me, Templar," he said, spreading his arms.

Link pulled out a bomb from his pouch, and said softly, "as you wish," he lit the bomb and waited as the fuse decreased. "I hope the gods have mercy on you!" And with that, he rolled the bomb at Ezio, hoping that he had timed it right.

He had; Ezio couldn't dodge the explosion, and it sent the old man flying onto the ground. Link heard a loud crack, but didn't know if that the man's bone or his armor. The hylian could smell charred smoke in the air, and he could see that his opponent's face was blackened.

Ezio got up, and aimed his bracer again. Link raised his shield to block the next bullet, but this time, he heard nothing as a fast, sharp projectile bounced off his shield.

"Merda..." Ezio said, probably some curse word in his own language. He picked up his sword, and came at Link, slashing. The hylian could only defend against the onslaught of sword attacks. Then, Ezio aimed his bracer at his head, and he knew what was coming.

I'm dead.

That's when at that moment, Link heard a familiar noise. It the sound of a contorted flute. Immediately, he looked at his shadow. The shade of an imp with a large headdress appeared out of it and raised her hands right when Ezio fired.

For the first time, Link was able to see a bullet as the imp slowed down the motion of it until it stopped and then dropped to the ground.

"Che diavolo!" Ezio exclaimed. "What is this? I didn't know you had a follower, Templar!"

"Would you call him by his name for once, you old fool?" the imp said angrily. "And he's not a Templar! Whatever that is, anyway! He's the Legendary Hero of Hyrule!"

"... Midna?" Link asked slowly. The imp glanced back at him, and he could see her uncovered red eye wink at him. He smiled, now there was no chance for Ezio to win.

"Do you have proof of Link's... 'heroism?'" the old man asked cautiously with skepticism in his voice.

"Why, yes, we do," Midna said, sounding smug. "Link, show him the marking on your left hand."

"But... I've never seen him before. What if he's from a far away land? He won't understand the--"

"Just do it, you idiot," she said.

"All right." Link raised the top of his left hand at Ezio, and then, he could feel the power of the Triforce of Courage radiating from his hand. The old man blinked, and walked over slowly.

"What does this symbol mean?"

Link sighed. He knew that Ezio wouldn't understand the Triforce somehow. "It's the Triforce of Courage," he explained. "Only the Hero can have this marking. I'm telling you, I'm no Templar. I don't even know what a Templar is!"

Ezio didn't respond, instead he looked at the symbol and narrowed his eyes. After a few moments, he blinked, as if re-opening his eyes, and said, "I'm sorry, I should not have attacked you. I must have been tricked. I should have used my... gift earlier."

"Gift? What gift?"

Ezio brushed the question aside. "Come, you have another one of those... potions, correct? Heal your wounds, amico, and we can explain to each other our worlds."

Worlds? Is he from a different world? "Can I trust you?" Link asked, glaring at him.

"Only if you choose to," Ezio said, a smile spreading over his face.

Chapter 2[]

That evening, Ezio met with Link and Midna to find out more about their world called 'Hyrule,' though he ended up telling them more about himself and his own instead.

The Assassin was wondering why Machiavelli had lied to him about the young hero. Though, he decided not to bring it up with him yet.

Despite the Assassin's attempt to kill him, Link was, to Ezio's surprise, very friendly. And through his talent, he had seen the young hero with a blue aura. What interested Ezio even more, though was the triangular symbol on his left hand. It emitted a golden aura, even though it was not a person.

Around the campfire, both Link and Ezio had many questions for each other, and they exchanged answers. The young hero's horse, Epona stayed near the fire, despite her apprehension toward the Assassin. Midna, the strange imp, had shown her complete self. Apparently, she was not a shadow, but a physical being. She referred to the large headdress on her head as a "Fused Shadow."

While Ezio and Link conversed, she mended the ripped cloth in the young hero's tunic, and even offered to repair the Assassin's robes, and he accepted her offer.

"So, what are those wrist blades?" the hylian--the title of Link's race--asked. "I've never seen anything like them. They came out on their own."

"They define us as Assassins," Ezio said. He released his right hand hidden blade, and showed it to the young hero. "Called a 'hidden blade,' we Assassins use them to... well... assassinate our targets. While I have many ways of killing, this is the weapon I use most often." With a flick of his wrist, his hidden blade returned into his bracer.

"You seem to have two of them," Link noted. "How did you get two?"

"A friend of mine, named Leonardo, made the second blade for me," Ezio explained. "Which is the one on my right arm. The one on my left arm in this bracer was given to me by a friend to replace my old hidden blade that Leonardo also constructed for me."

"Wow." Link rubbed his chin. "This Leonardo sounds like a genius."

"That he is," the Assassin replied with a smile. "However, he had some help from something called 'Codex Pages,' written by an Assassin like me. His name was Altaïr, and he lived centuries before myself." Ezio patted his sword. "This blade here was wielded by Altaïr himself."

"I'm surprised it's in such good condition!" Link responded. "May I see it?"

Ezio nodded. He drew the sword and handed it over to the hylian. He examined it by running his finger on the flat side of the blade. The Assassin watched him feel the leather-wrapped handle and then touched the pommel stone. "What bird is that?"

"An eagle," Ezio said. "Have you never seen one?"

"No, nor have I heard of one." Link handed the sword back to the Assassin. "That is a well-made sword. It's amazing that it has no rust on it, even after centuries of use."

"My uncle Mario kept it in good condition for me until later in my young life," Ezio said, using his hands to complement his words. "When I was seasoned enough, he had the blacksmith in my home in Monteriggioni give it to me. I lost the sword when my home was attacked, but later recovered it on a return visit."

"Absolutely amazing..." Link said. "You mention something about Codex pages earlier? How did they help your friend construct the hidden blades?"

"Altaïr imagined and designed the two hidden blades, a poison blade, and a small pistol as well. With the drawings on those Codex pages, my friend was able to construct them for my left hand hidden blade." He looked over at Link. "The projectiles that pierced your flesh that came out were the bullets from that pistol."

He nodded. "Yes, you told me." The young hero stared at the campfire for a moment, and then asked, "tell me about the Codex. What was it for?"

"The Codex is about the inner workings of the Assassin Order," Ezio explained, looking into the fire. "Our Creed, and its secrets."

"Are you willing to share some of those secrets?"

"No, amico," the Assassin said. "However, I can tell you the tenets of our Creed since you mentioned earlier that you were disturbed by my... 'profession.'"

The young hero blinked. "What are those tenets?"

Ezio raised a finger. "There are three of them. First, we are not to bring any harm to innocents." He raised a second finger. "Second, we are to be discreet, and hide in plain sight. Finally," he added, raising a third finger. "Never compromise the Brotherhood."

"So, you are a secret organization?"


Link seemed intrigued. He was rubbing his chin, and staring into the fire with an expression of wonder on his face. "Are the Templars also a secret organization?"

"Sí, they are. Though, as I told you, they do not seek the welfare of humanity."

"Right." Link prodded the fire with a stick. He looked at Ezio. "Tell me more about the Codex. What else is it about?"

"It is also a journal of sorts; Altaïr's journal he kept while he had a Piece of Eden--an Apple--just like the one I'm searching for."

"Is the Apple magical?"

"You could say that." Ezio nodded. "It has the power to create illusions, bind down a man's body, and the power, even, to kill. But the more a person uses the Apple, the more energy it will drain from them. I know all of this, because I have used the Apple before."

"Amazing," Link said. Then, a look of realization passed over his face. "If this Templar you seek has the Apple, Hyrule's in danger! From what you told me of the Templars."

Ezio nodded. "Yes, we Assassins are sworn to stand against them, and stop their mad plans to overthrow the free will of men."

"Awful, just awful." Link shook his head.

"I think it is my turn to ask some questions," Ezio said with a smile on his face. "Why is it that your ears are pointed?"

"Out of all the things you want to know, you want me to answer that?" He laughed. "All right, all right. I'll feed your curiosity."

"Molto bene," Ezio said.

Link shot a confused glance at him, but didn't ask. "Well, according to legend, the three goddesses, when they made Hyrule long ago, gave us hylians long ears so that we could hear them whispering to us. They also made the Triforce, a powerful object that could grant any wish to whomever touched it."

"And yet it has been split into three pieces?" Ezio asked, stroking his beard.

"Yes. Apparently, there was a vicious battle over a century ago for Hyrule between an evil man and someone known as the Hero of Time," Link explained, looking at Ezio. "The dark man, calling himself the King of Evil had taken hold of the Triforce. His evil wishes split the Triforce into the three pieces. He received power, the Hero of Time received Courage, and the Princess received Wisdom."

He brushed off one of his leggings. "Currently, Princess Zelda has the Triforce of Wisdom, and Ganondorf, a man of great evil of whom I faced, has Power. Or at least he had it until I killed him."

"That's why he's the Hero," Midna interjected, finishing with Ezio's robes with a hand that had extended from her hair--one of the most disturbing things the Assassin had seen. He had yet to ask her about it. "You know, Ezio, your armor around your back is damaged. I don't think I can fix that."

He chuckled. "I see, I believe your explosive caused the damage, Link." He put his hand on the hylian's shoulder. "You don't happen to have any blacksmiths around here, do you?"

Ezio removed his hand as the young hero pointed to the large volcano behind them. "That's Death Mountain," he said. "The home of the Gorons. They tend to work with metal, and ore, so they might be able to repair your armor." Link looked back at Ezio. "Though, there are some Gorons in the village below Death Mountain. It might be safer to visit them than to travel up the fiery mountain."

"... Gorons?" Ezio asked, blinking.

"Ah... well, they are..." Link hesitated. "Ah... they are hard to explain. It might be best if you saw them for yourself instead. By the way, you mentioned you had a 'gift' earlier... is it all right if I ask what that is?"

Ezio shook his head. "I prefer not to tell people about that. I shouldn't have let it slip... but I will say this, without it, I wouldn't have known that you weren't a Templar. If I learn to trust you a little more--no offense to you--I will tell you about it."

"Fair enough," Link responded. "Let's go then, and see if we can't get your armor repaired."

"Grazie, amico," Ezio said, standing up. "I suppose we can talk more on the way."

"Yes." The hylian put out the fire by smothering it, and pulled himself onto Epona's saddle. The Assassin heard Midna groan.

"Oh, so you're not going to ask me any questions, Mr. Assassin?"


Ezio looked at the floating imp. She had a smug expression on her face. "I didn't think you were interested," he said. "Mi dispiace, Midna. I will ask along the way." He noticed Link throw a warning glance at Midna, who seemed to ignore it.

Their relationship must be interesting... Ezio thought.

Link walked Epona forward, and the Assassin walked alongside the horse. The imp floated beside Ezio, as if expecting him to suddenly talk to her.

"Forgive me for being blunt, but what are you, Midna?" he asked casually.

"I'm called a Twili. I come from a place called the Twilight Realm." She had her arms folded.

"And where is this Realm located?"

"The only portal to it was the Mirror of Twilight, but I shattered it after Link slew Ganondorf," she said.

A mirror? "Did you... perhaps had to touch it to activate it?"

"Uh... no, where did you get that idea?" she asked.

"No reason. Continue."

"Wait a moment," Link interjected. "Midna... I need to ask you this, how did you get back into Hyrule?" He had a point.

She snorted. A malicious smile spread over her face. "Oh, so now, you decide to ask me that! What? Were you too enthralled with Mr. Assassin to even notice me?"

"If I have to call your friend by his name, can you not call me by mine?" Ezio asked with a frown.

"Oh, fine, Ezio." She huffed.

"Midna..." Link said, almost in warning.

"All right, all right! I'm sorry." She let out a sigh and her smile turned into a frown. "You know this isn't my real form, Link. Someone opened a rift in the Twilight Realm and then cursed me. Almost like Zant did, but... whoever it was, he used a strange object on me. I tried to follow him through the rift, but I couldn't find him. Then, I sensed you were in danger." She looked over at him. "So, I came to help you instead."

Before Link could answer, Ezio said, "wait, you said a man cursed you? What did he look like?"

"I don't know," Midna said, scowling. "He was wearing a black, hooded robe like a wizard's robe."

"Did you see the object he used on you?"

"No, I only saw a flash of light, and then I was in this form again," she said. "Why do you ask?"

Ezio narrowed his eyes. "Because that could very well be the Templar I'm looking for." Yet, if he used the Apple to curse her... how did he do it? The Apple does not have powers like that. At least, as far as I am aware.

"Just... how powerful is this Piece of Eden?" Link asked.

"I don't think I know anymore," Ezio said after a long pause. He shook his head. "It's best we hurry before this Templar causes more problems."

"Can you run fast?" the young hero asked.

Ezio smiled. "How about a race? Let's see how quick you are with your horse."

"You're on!"

Ezio heard a strange noise like a contorted flute, and he noticed Midna had vanished. Eh? Where did she go?


Brought back to reality, he responded, "I always am, amico."

And with that, Ezio sprinted forward toward the gate. He heard Link cry out, and the rumble of hooves next to him. There was no way he would win, but at least it would feel good to race again.

Chapter 3[]

Kakariko Village...

Link, after a tiring race against Ezio, walked Epona down the streets of the village. The Assassin was walking beside him.

He's really fast! The hylian recalled how his new friend had nearly kept up with him on Epona until they had passed the gate. Link had been caught off-guard at how quick Ezio was, even for his age.

They continued to walk down the streets, and the hylian saw the Assassin gazing around at all the various buildings. Link assumed he wasn't impressed--Kakariko was one of the most run-down villages in Hyrule; it was still being repaired from all the damage Zant's minions had done to it.

"Out of curiosity, how old are you, Ezio?" Link asked.

"I'm fourty-seven. Why do you ask?"

"Good gods!" he exclaimed, slapping his hand to his forehead. "I didn't realize how old you were! You're very healthy for your age."

"Grazie," the Assassin said with a smile. "That's very kind of you, my friend. Better than what a doctor said to me a few years ago."

I think that means "thank you," or something, Link thought. "You're welcome."

"This place looks like it needs some renovations," Ezio remarked. "To me, it looks like it has the potential to be a beautiful village, much like my uncle's Villa back in Italia, but it seems like that could take a lot of work." He pointed to the various store signs, and to some boarded down homes.

Link sighed. "Kakariko suffered a lot of loss a few months ago. Many people were killed by monsters unleashed by the man named Zant that Midna referred to earlier. Houses had to boarded up, the inn was destroyed, and many shops were abandoned or run down."

Ezio nodded gravely. "There are terrible things war and battle can do any society. But fortunately, villages, towns, and cities can be rebuilt." He turned his head to Link. "Is there anyway I could help?"

The hylian smiled. "I'm sure the villagers would appreciate that, Ezio. Right now--"

"Hey, Link!" a boy's voice called.

"Look, he's back!" a girl's voice chimed in.

The hylian looked over at the inn to see Talo, Beth, and Colin waving at him from the upper floor of the inn. He smiled at them and waved back.

"Friends of yours?" Ezio asked.

"Yes, they're children from the village I grew up in," Link said. "It's called Ordon, and it has a large ranch there that I used to work at until... well... until my adventure started you might say."

The Assassin opened his mouth, probably to ask him about it when the three children burst through the inn door. As always, Talo was first to greet Link with Beth following behind. But Link had always a fond connection with Colin, who had tripped--as usual--on his way over.

"It's great to see you again!"

Link chuckled. "I'm glad to see you guys, too. What are you doing here?"

"We wanted to help," Beth said. "Sometimes, it's nice to get out of the village back home and come here. Did you see the inn? It was just rebuilt!"

"Yes, I noticed it. Who repaired it?"

Colin peered around Epona and pointed at Ezio. "Who's your friend, Link?"

The hylian looked over at Ezio, who walked around Epona to greet the children. "Hello, bambini," he said softly to the children. He knelt down to the childrens' level. "It is a pleasure to meet you all. My name is Ezio Auditore."

"Why do you wear a hood?" Talo asked, putting his hands on his hips. "It looks weird."

The Assassin chuckled. "They are rather fashionable where I come from. Much like what your friend, Link, wears."

Talo snorted. "He only wears that because he's the Hero. You know that they're called the 'Hero's Clothes,' right?" Link shot him a warning look, and he seemed to notice. "I mean... I'm not trying to rude--"

"It's all right." Ezio smiled. "No, he never told me about them."

"You must live far away from us," Beth said. She was a little more polite than Talo.

"Indeed," the Assassin responded. "I live in a place far away called 'Italia,' it is a beautiful country."

Beth's eyes widened. "Wow. I've never heard of that place. You should take us there one day!"

Ezio's smile broadened. "Perhaps."

"Could you... show us... um... your face?" Colin asked slowly.

The Assassin nodded, and pulled back his hood. Link had never seen his face completely either, but he wasn't surprised. Ezio was very handsome, his black hair was tied back in a short ponytail with a red ribbon holding together.

"Wow," Colin said, gazing. Link noticed that Beth's face was slightly pink.

"Wait! Your ears! I thought you'd have pointed ears like Link." Talo said.

Another smile. "That's because in Italia, we do not have the privilege of having ears like yours," Ezio said, patting Talo on the shoulder.

"That's sad. You don't have any hylians to help you hear the goddesses then," he said.

"Indeed, we cannot, but we manage our lives just as well without the ears." Ezio stood up. "Do not worry, young one," he added, looking at Colin. "We will be all right. I noticed none of you have pointed ears either."

"That's because they... they're two races in Hyrule," Colin said. "Hylians and humans. Humans don't have pointed ears."

"Ah, I see," Ezio nodded.

Link smiled. It seemed like he was good with children; they all seemed to be in awe of his presence.

Then the hylian heard something in the distance--the rumbling of hooves, and not of horses either. No way! It can't be! They were destroyed with Ganondorf! "Ezio! We have a problem!"

The Assassin put his hood over his head. "What's wrong?"

"Oh no, they're back again!" Colin said. He looked at Link. "We've been trying to fight them off--monsters! They came back to Kakarikoa few days ago and started scaring the townspeople away!"

"What? Do you mean bulblins?" The hylian asked. Colin nodded.

"There's a large one with them as well. Not that fat, green guy, but some pig-nosed creature I've never seen. They're riding their bulbos!"

"Link! I'll take to the rooftops!" Ezio said. His voice was urgent. "You fight them on your horse." Without letting the hylian respond, the Assassin began to climb up the inn. He watched in amazement as Ezio climbed up rather quickly.

Link sighed. It's too narrow here to fight them on my horse! But I'll do what I have to do. "Right! Colin, Talo, Beth, get inside, this is going to get a little rough."

"But...! We can fight from the watch tower!'

The hylian sighed. "Yes, I know, but it'll take you too long to... oh no, they're here! Quickly, inside the inn!"

The bulblins raced in, riding their bulbos--ugly boar-like creatures that ran on all fours. Each bulbin had green skin and was covered head to toe in leather armor. Some carried clubs, others carried bows and fiery arrows. There were at least three per bulbo.

Link could feel the heavy rumble of something large coming, but for now, it was just him, Ezio, and the bulblins. He drew his sword, and had Epona gallop forward.

The bulblins raised their bows, ready to fire, when Link saw a projectile pierce one of the monster's armor and into its chest. It fell off its bulbo, dead. The bulblins lowered their bows, looking confused.

During their confusion, Link took the opportunity to cut down as many as possible. He rode past a bulbo and slashed down the remaining monsters, killing them with a single stroke. The riderless bulbo ran away out of the village to the northern exit.

Link glanced at the inn's rooftop, and sure enough, Ezio was there with his crossbow in his hands. Firing another bolt, the Assassin took out one of the bulblin riders, causing the bulbo to lose control, knocking off the remaining bulblins.

The hylian was on them before they stand up, and he killed them by riding Epona over them.

The sound of the heavy stomping hooves was close. Link looked down the northern exit, and that's when he saw a large creature riding on a huge bulbo that reminded him of--but was not--King Bulblin. The monster was a giant pig-like creature that carried a large spear.

The other bulblins stopped attacking, and pulled their bulbos back as if to give space for the larger monster and its steed.

Then, it charged Link with its spear outright. Link brought his sword out, and charged the creature. This is just like the battle on Eldin Bridge. Except there's no way to knock him off!

As he dashed before the large creature, he was suddenly knocked off his horse as the monster used his spear to sweep Epona off the ground.

Slamming into the ground, Link was almost crushed by his horse, but he managed to roll out of the way. Getting up, the hylian raised his shield, preparing to face off with the monster. Again, it charged him with its spear, this time, however, with it pointed directly at him.

As soon as the spear was about to collide with Link, it was knocked out of the monster's hands as he shield bashed the spear's head.

The large monster turned his steed around and faced Link, its fists threatening to punch the hylian's head off.

Then, there was a wave of white and red color from the rooftop, and Ezio landed behind the monster. It turned around to face the Asssassin, but it was stabbed in the back of the neck by one of his hidden blades. When his foe did not fall, Ezio merely stabbed his second hidden blade in the creature's front part of its neck. Link saw the blade go deep in its flesh, and its eyes rolled over, and it fell to the ground, knocking his bulbo to ground.

Ezio jumped off the bulbo just in time to avoid getting crushed, and he forward rolled across the ground. The bulbo crashed into the rocks of the valley, and appeared to go unconscious.

The other bulblins, seeing their dead master, immediately scattered and headed for the north exit, taking as many pot shots as they could at Ezio and Link. The hylian jumped out of the way of the arrows and pulled out his own bow. Nocking three arrows, he fired them all at once to hit three of them. The arrows struck true, and the bulblins fell dead on the ground. Their bulbo tried to ram Link, but he dodged, and the bulbo smashed into the sign of Barnes's bomb shop.

Epona had gotten up, and Link took the advantage to pull himself back into the saddle to face his foes on equal grounds. However, he wondered how the Assassin was faring.

He looked over to his right to see Ezio with the Sword of Altaïr in both hands. With a single stroke, he broke the charge of one of the bulbos, knocking it over and its riders onto the ground. As the bulblins struggled to get up, their enemy showed them no mercy as he stabbed each one on the ground, ending their lives.

He really is an Assassin. Link thought as he watched in awe, almost forgetting the other foes were still around him.

Regaining consciousness of his surroundings, the hylian drew his sword, and cut down several bulbins that were trying to escape. The rest of the monsters had rushed out of the village through the northern exit, leaving their dead partners--and master--behind.

Link got down from Epona. He was about to head to the spring to clean off his sword when he heard a loud snarl. He turned around, and the bulbo belonging to the bulblins' master charged him. The hylian pulled out his spiked ball and chain from his adventurer's pouch, and swung the ball at the bulbo.

The ball slammed into the creature's face, knocking it aside. The bulbo got up again--its face bleeding--and charged Link again. Too close to use his ball and chain, he dropped it and drew his sword again. Before he could do anything however, he saw a small dart hit the bulbo's side. The creature stopped moving, and began to swing its tusks in a wild dance.

Link scrambled out of the way, and then watched in horror as the creature fell to the ground, twitching rapidly until it became still.

Ezio approached Link, his sword was covered in blood, too. "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine, thanks. Were you the one who...?"

"Yes. Poison darts," Ezio said, he offered the hylian a hand. Link accepted and allowed the Assassin to pull him to his feet. "A rather painful way to die, but I needed to slow it down before it gored you."

"Thank you," Link turned back to the spring, and washed the blood off his sword. Ezio joined him, washing off the blade of his sword and even the hidden blades. "How did you manage to get on the bulbo like that from the rooftops?"

"I'm experienced at assassinating from above," Ezio responded with a smile. "Though, it took both of my blades to kill that huge monster."

"I noticed."

"What were those things, Link?" the Assassin asked, drying his sword with a cloth. "I've never seen creatures like that in my life. I've only killed Templars before, and they were all men, save one, who was a woman."

Link sighed and wiped his brow. "Creatures that serve the darkness. They served Ganondorf when he was alive, yet they were supposed to be dead--all of them that were serving him at the end--when he died. You know what they are called?"

Ezio nodded. "I did overhear you talking about them. Such odd creatures with strange names," he remarked, sheathing his sword.

"I've fought worse," Link said with a voice of caution. "Dark Nuts, Skulltulas, and others. Those little monsters are only the tip of the iceberg. What confuses me... is why have they returned?"

Ezio dried off his hidden blades. "Though, it is beyond the power of the Apple--perhaps the Templar played a hand in this."

"I don't think so," Link said, shaking his head. He sheathed his own blade. "Unless he was able to resurrect Ganondorf somehow."

"Then check where you left Ganondorf's corpse, you dope," said a voice from Link's shadow. Then, Midna appeared from it--in her shade form--and looked directly at him. "Don't you remember? His corpse was left alone in the fields near Hyrule Castle."

"Midna, you're right!" Link said, putting his hand to his head. He turned to Ezio. "We could find some clues as to what happened if I went to where his corpse is."

"That is, if it is still there," Ezio pointed out. "Come, we can talk more about it after we clear the ground here of the dead bodies and their blood." He looked over at Link. "Where do you think the townspeople are? They would be best to assist us."

He shrugged. "You'd have to ask Colin or one of the other kids. They might know." The hylian scratched his head. "Though, the Gorons might be willing to help us. There should be a few in town, unless they fled with the villagers."

"Link...?" Midna said. He and Ezio turned around to face her. "You know... if Ganondorf is alive, that means your sword is worthless against him."

He fingered the handle of the Ordon Sword, and sighed.

"What do you mean?" Ezio asked with his hands out. "Is this Ganondorf somehow invincible to weapons?"

"To anything that isn't the Master Sword," Midna explained. "Link had to use that sword against Ganondorf in order to kill him."

"The blade of evil's bane..." the hylian said slowly. "That means I'll have to return to the Sacred Grove to get it." He shook his head. "I didn't think I'd have to use it again."

"You sound very hesitant, my friend," Ezio said, putting his hand on Link's shoulder. "And I understand. Sacred relics are not to be handled lightly. That's why the Pieces of Eden are so dangerous in the wrong hands. I have used the Apple before... and only for situations that called for its power."

"Yes, the Master Sword is sacred," Link said. "But, it cannot be touched by evil hands, hence its title. It has the power to banish away any darkness. But, you are right," he added with a sigh. "I do not want to use such a sacred weapon again if I don't have to."

Midna snorted. "Link, you're being ridiculous. Sure, it's sacred, but only the Hero--you--can wield it. If this... Templar guy has brought back Ganondorf somehow, you'll need that sword."

He nodded. "I agree. But first, we'll check the spot where I killed Ganondorf, and see if we can find any clues there."

"Capito," Ezio said with a nod. He removed his hand from Link's shoulder. "After we clean up this mess and get my armor repaired, we'll head to that location." He turned around and walked toward the dead bodies. "Let's get started."

Link nodded, and then followed Ezio.

Chapter 4[]

That night...

Ezio met his first Goron while they were cleaning up the dead bodies. They were large, round, dirt-brown creatures with rocky backs. They had the ability to roll up into a ball, which made them as hard a boulder, to smash their foes or defend themselves against their enemies. They had large, round black eyes, and wide mouths.

Ezio was, surprisingly, not disturbed at their appearance, and he was very grateful for their assistance; they were quite strong.

Not to mention friendly. When Ezio bumped, literally, into his first one, he was knocked down by a rolling mass of rock.

"Ché diavolo?" He exclaimed, looking at the boulder. It had then jumped out into its humanoid form of a Goron.

"I'm so sorry, goro!" he said--at least, Ezio thought it was male. "I wasn't looking where I was going. Here," he lowered his arm to the Assassin and he accepted it, being pulled off the ground.

"Grazie. It's no problem, I've been knocked down more than once today." Ezio patted him on what he thought was the creature's shoulder. "Let me guess, you're what they call a 'Goron,' aren't you?"

"Oh yes, goro!" he said with a hearty chuckle. "My name is Gortin; I'm the master metalworker among my people."

"Really?" Ezio raised a brow and smiled.

Gortin nodded. "And you must be the Assassin I'ved heard about! Ezeo Audoiture? Thank you for helping Link protect the village!"

The Assassin chuckled. "You're welcome. And my name is actually Ezio Auditore."

"Oh, I'm sorry. I'm not used to foreign names."

"It's quite all right, my friend," Ezio said with a nod.

Gortin and some of his friends helped the Assassin and Link clear the streets of the dead bodies. The large bulbo was not suitable for food due to Ezio's poison, so they dumped the carcass out into the river near the southern Eldin bridge.

After desposing of the bodies and cleaning up the blood, the whole village--those who remained--celebrated at the inn. Only the children went to sleep, after much protesting. Oddly enough, the Gorons did not join in, but decided to keep watch for the night.

"They made a wise choice," Ezio remarked. "Who knows what else stirs at this time?"

Barnes, man with a pot-belly, wearing pants and an ill-fitting white shirt chugged down a bottle of ale. "They could have joined us!" he said. Ezio could tell he was slightly tipsy. "I doubt any more are coming."

"That could be," the Assassin said, swirling the ale gently in his cup. "But if they have been terrorizing this place in the past few days, they could easily return. In larger numbers even."

"Ezio's got a point," Link said. He had opted for some milk instead of alcohol. "I think it's a good thing that the Gorons decided to watch for us." He looked around the table. "We should be grateful."

The town's shaman, Renado nodded. He was a tall man with tanned skin and wore a brown robe with a strange golden symbol on the chest. His hair was as black as Ezio's. "We should value wisdom," he said. "Don't discredit it, Barnes."

"I'm just sayin'..." Barnes took another sip. "It's great to have those monsters gone. The villagers should return, soon. Then it just won't be the few of us."

Ezio looked around, there were a couple of men around the table he did not recognize. "Where are all the women?" he asked.

"Most of them were killed, but the remainder of them are resting in their homes right now," Renado said.

"Killed? By those creatures?"

"Not exactly, Ezio," Link said. He pushed his cup back and forth. "I told you a little about this, but a few months ago, before Zant and Ganondorf were defeated, this area was covered in a blanket of Twilight. My... uh... friend mentioned the Twilight Realm to you, correct?

"When Zant took over, he put most of Hyrule under darkness by sending his Shadow Beasts to steal the soul from the Light Spirits that reside in each province. Every province in Hyrule is named after its respective Light Spirit."

"I see," Ezio said. "So, what happened when their soul was takened from them? I assume the area was covered in Twilight?"

Link nodded. "When Eldin was covered in Twilight, the Shadow Beasts killed many people in this village. It wasn't until they were slain and the light restored that life could come back to the village. But it's taken awhile."

The Assassin rubbed his chin. "How did the light return to its owner?"

Link's face went pale. "Uhh... I'll tell you later. Promise."

He's hiding something, Ezio thought. "Va bene. I'll listen to your story later."

"What story is this, Link?" Barnes said loudly. He sounded a little more drunk now.

"N-nothing. Don't worry about it," he said, waving his hands in front of himself. "How's your bomb shop? Did it suffer any damage from the attacks?"

"It'sh fine," Barnes said. "Tough as the iron it's made of."

Many things floated through Ezio's mind while Barnes and Link conversed. Twilight, Light Spirits, Shadow Beasts. All these things were alien to him, and his mind could not even contemplate an image of what they looked like. Staring into his untouched cup of ale, Ezio was beginning to feel weary. He stood up.

"I think I will retire for the night," he said. "I appreciate your hospitality. Which rooms are not occupied?"

One of the other men--the innkeeper--said, "there's a room on the main level--this floor--that's open." He pointed to a door to Ezio's right.

"Grazie," Ezio said, and he walked toward the door of the room.

He heard Barnes exclaim, "hey, he didn't touch his drink!"

"Hush!" Renado warned.

The Assassin then opened the door, and entered the room. It was a shabby space with an old-straw bed, a broken desk, and an a half-open dresser. He frowned. I thought they spent a few months fixing this inn? Oh well. He removed his armor, and then his Assassin Robes before putting them aside. The bed was more comfortable than Ezio expected, and shortly after, he fell asleep.

§ The following day, Ezio met with Gortin to examine his armor. The Seusenhofer chest guard was still damaged from his fight with Link, and he hoped that this world had light, yet strong metal similar to the armor set's.

"What can I do for you, Ezio?" Gortin asked.

"You said you were an expert metalworker, correct?" the Assassin said. Gortin nodded. "I would request your services then. My chest guard here was damaged during combat with... an opponent when I arrived here. Can you repair it?"

"Sure! Though, I need to see what type of metal it is, goro." The goron pointed to a shop that looked like a blacksmith at the very northern section of town. "Let's head to my workshop so I can look it over."

"Grazie, amico," Ezio said with a smile.

"Say, what does that mean?"

"'Thank you, friend.'"

"Wow, such a fancy way of saying a simple thanks," Gortin said, scratching his chin. "Well, here we are."

Ezio laid his eyes on the blacksmith shop. It was different from what he was used to. The forge and the anvil were outside the shop, however, the forge was hot with molten metal. He examined the blacksmithing tools.

"You treat your equipment well," Ezio commented. "I see no weakness in them."

Gortin chuckled, sounding like a rumbling boulder. "You sound like you know something about metal yourself."

"I've been to many blacksmiths in my life," Ezio responded. "I watched them work on my armor like an eagle when it required repairs."

Gortin smiled. "Wonderful. I love working with metal. It satisfies my desire to do something constructive, goro. I've been doing metalworking and blacksmithing since I was very young. Although my fellow gorons and I don't need armor or weapons, the hylian guard always does." He ran his hand over the anvil. "So, what can I help you with?"

Ezio removed his chest guard. "The back of this piece of armor was damaged during combat with an opponent when I arrived here. Since my home is quite far away, I need it repaired."

"May I see it?"

"Of course." The Assassin handed over the chest guard to Gortin, who immediately gasped.

"It's extremely light! Amazing! Let me look at it further." The goron punched the metal so hard that Ezio thought it might break the entire piece. It did not, but however, the damaged areas of the armor appeared more broken than before.

However, Gortin seemed excited. "Great Goron!" he exclaimed. "This metal is as tough as Death Mountain itself! How did you get such light, yet durable material?"

Ezio licked his upper lip. "A blacksmith in a city called 'Roma' gave it to me by trading some rare objects I had found."

"Absolutely amazing," Gortin said in awe. "Well, metal like this is rare to come by in our home. However, I have some in my shop. You're going to be shelling out the rupees for this one."

Ezio blinked. "Rupees?"

"Yeah, you have some, right?"

"No, I do not," the Assassin said. "I don't even know what they are."

"Well, what's the currency from your country?" Gortin asked, folding his arms.

"Florins," he said. When Gortin threw him a confused look, Ezio added, pinching his index finger and thumb together, "they are gold and silver coins."

The goron's jaw dropped. "Gold and silver!? Those are extremely rare in any of the provinces of Hyrule! Gold rupees used to exist long ago, but they have disappeared, and there are some, rare, rupees made of silver!"

"Va bene, does mean you'll accept florins?" Ezio asked.

Gortin rubbed chin with a thoughtful expression on his face. "Hmm... how big are the coins?"

Ezio opened his money pouch, and took a single florin. The goron's eyes examined it. "It's very small," he said after a moment. "But it is... gold! Great gorons... I never thought I'd see gold in my life! I don't know how much they are worth, though. Can you give me an estimate of what some of this armor might cost you in florins?"

"Twelve-thousand for these," Ezio said, pointing to the greaves. "At least, around that amount. I imagine the chest guard might be around twenty-thousand."

Gortin's eyes went wide. "Twenty!? You must have a lot of gold and silver where you come from! I was going to ask for a mere thousand."

"To repair the chest guard? That would cost me more than in my country."

Gortin grinned. "Think of this as an investment in future repairs."

Ezio scratched his beard. "I thought you said material like this was rare?"

"Damn..." Gortin muttered under his breath. "Well, I suppose you're right. How about three-hundred, then?"

Ezio waved his hand, and shook his head. "One-hundred and fifty, amico. Don't look so surprised--that's about how much it costs to repair at home."

"Only a hundred and fifty..." Gortin looked disappointed. He hung his shoulders. "All right, I'll be fair. A hundred and fifty florins to fix your armor."

Ezio smiled. "Grazie, amico mio." He pulled out the required amount and gave it to Gortin. The Assassin was pleased when the goron's expression changed from depression to delight.

"This... is a lot more than I thought it would be...!" He looked at Ezio. "Let me put these in the shop, and I'll get to work on your chest guard right away!" The goron hurried inside, and a minute later came running out with some silver-like ore.

"That is it, I'm assuming?" Ezio asked.

"Yes, it is," Gortin said. I'll have to refine it and then forge it into metal before I can repair your chest guard. It might be awhile."

"Don't worry, my friend," he said. "I can wait. Buona fortuna."

"Uh... thanks," the goron said, and he began to smelt the ore.

Ezio turned around and walked away from the shop. Where is Link? he wondered. His question was answered when he saw a red horse trotting along the dirt road. He waved at him.

"Oh, hey, Ezio!" Link said. "You're missing your chest guard... is Gortin repairing it?"

"Indeed. Link, I need to speak to you in private."

"What about?" the hylian asked, blinking.

Ezio smiled. "If I told you that here, then I wouldn't need to talk to you in private, now would I?"

Link chuckled. "You're right," he said, pointing at the Assassin. "I'll take you just outside of town, and we can talk there."

"I better be invited," said Midna's voice from the hylian's shadow.

"Of course, madonna," Ezio responded, rolling his eyes.


Outside of Kakariko Village, Ezio and Link sat on the ground next to each other. The wind was blowing, and getting dust over the Assassin's robes, but he didn't care.

"What did you want to talk about?" Link asked.

"About when I tried to kill you yesterday," Ezio said with a dark voice. "A fellow Assassin of mine--and my adviser--told me that the Templar was dressed like you."

"What?" The hylian's eyes widened. "Do you trust this man?"

"Yes," Ezio responded. "I trust him with my life. His name is Niccolò Machiavelli, and he has never lied to me... before. Now, I wonder why he lied to me."

Link turned his head and looked out to the field. It was a large, grassy place, yet devoid of any life that Ezio could see.

"So, he told you I was the Templar..." the hylian repeated. "I'm sorry, Ezio," Link added after a pause. "I don't know what to tell you." He blinked. "But... then again, you did stop trying to kill me. What is it that stopped you, again?"

Ezio half smiled. "Ah, I suppose it's appropriate to tell you now." Link looked at him attentively. "I have a gift for seeing things that others cannot. A sixth sense, you might call it. When I use it, I can see the auras of other people or even objects. The whole world goes black, but the auras are what are important. The color of each aura means something.

"There's four colors--blue, white, red, and yellow that I see with my gift. A blue aura means that person is friendly to me, or an ally. Red means that they are my enemy, and even objects might have this aura color. Yellow is usually my target, or someone of importance to me. And white... they are merely objects of interest."

Link scratched his chin. "Let me guess, I had a blue aura around me when you used your gift," he said.

"Sí." Ezio nodded. "That's when I realized I was trying to kill the wrong person. If you were the Templar I was looking for, you would have had a yellow aura."

"I see..."

"Now, what I do not understand is why my adviser would lie to me like that?" Ezio looked over at Link as if he had some sort of deep answer for him. But he knew that the hylian understood the situation as much as he did.

"I... don't know."

Then, the sound of Midna coming out of Link's shadow tuned, and she slid out of her spot. "Did you think to use your gift on Machiavelli?"

Ezio blinked. "No, I did not," he said. Then his eyes widened and his opened in shock. "It can't be! I should have used it on him."

"Why?" Link asked.

"Because... the Apple has the power to create illusions," Ezio said, looking at Link, and putting his hand on his shoulder. "It's quite possible that the person I talked to you about the Templar was not Machiavelli, but one of my enemies using the Apple instead."

"But that brings us to other questions," Link said. "Why does the Templar want me dead? And how does he know about this world? And what happened to Machiavelli?"

Ezio shook his head. "I don't know, amico mio. But I say, we ought to find out. Where do you think a Templar would hide?"

The hylian paused for a long time, he looked at Midna, and she looked back at him. Yet, neither said nothing. Then, Link looked up, and Ezio followed his gaze to the large stone bridge north of them. "I'm not sure, there's a number of locations, but... Hyrule Castle Town would be a good place to go. They have a tavern there with some people I worked with against Ganondorf. They might have seen or heard about something!"

"Bene," Ezio said, nodding. "Let's go there now." He stood up and flexed his fingers.

"Wait," Link said, also standing up. "Weren't we going to see what happened to Ganondorf's corpse first?"

Ezio looked at him. "It might be better if we checked the tavern first."

"All right, though, what about your chest guard?"

"We can return here later to pick it up," Ezio said. He looked at his friend's concerned expression and added, "you're quite worried about someone who tried to kill you, Link. Do not worry, I'll be fine without it. But stay alert. We have no idea what traps could await us."

There was a silent pause, and then Link nodded. "All right. Let's get you a horse from the village and we'll ride for Hyrule Castle Town."

"Va bene. Lead the way, amico."

Chapter 5[]

Hyrule Castle Town...

Link and Ezio rode pass the east gate into Hyrule Castle Town. The Assassin was given a black steed at the village, which was in stark contrast to his white robes. The hylian wondered if he had ever seen larger cities than the one they had just entered. He might have... but I don't know, Link thought. I suppose I'll ask him--

"Halt!" a voice said, jarring him from his thoughts. He looked behind to see a Hyrulean Guard at the gate stop Ezio. Usually, the guards never stopped Link because they knew him.

"I don't think I've seen you around before," the guard said. His voice was filled with suspicion. "You're heavily armed, too. What's your business in Hyrule?"

Ezio smiled. "Just taking the opportunity to explore this wonderful town of yours," he said, gesturing with his hand.

"And why do you have so many weapons?"

"Self-defense. What other reason would I have to carry them?"

"I don't think so," the guard said. "That trick won't work on me. You're--"

"Wait!" Link called out. He turned Epona around. The guard's head made a sharp turn toward the hylian, and he blinked.

"Ah, sir Link. What brings you back to Hyrule Castle Town?"

The hylian pointed at Ezio. "I'm escorting my friend through the town. He wants to see all the sights." The guard opened his mouth, but Link added quickly, "he's armed for the same reasons I am."

The guard on the other side of the gate cocked a brow. "But... we allow you to carry equipment because you're the Hero of Hyrule. This man is... a nobody!"

Oh, boy, Ezio might not take kindly to that. "Well, he's from a different country... umm..."

"Indeed!" the Assassin interjected. "Where I come from, many people walk around armed because it is a dangerous place."

"And what country is that?"

Link licked his lips, wondering how to get out of this mess. "He comes from a very far away place. You might not recognize the name of his land," he said.

"Now, my friend," Ezio said with a very calm and friendly voice. "If your hero is vouching for me, do you then think that I'd be truly dangerous to your city?"

The guard rubbed his chin. "You have a point. All right, we'll let you in. Welcome to Hyrule Castle Town," he added, though his voice didn't sound very welcoming.

"Thank you, my friend," Ezio said, saluting the guard. This seemed to irritate him further, but the Assassin didn't seem to pay any attention to it. Instead, he rode his horse forward. "Shall we continue?"

"Uh... yes!" Link said. He turned Epona around again, and the two walked their horses through town. Once out of earshot of the guards, he asked Ezio, "how did you manage to remain so calm and collected?"

"Years of practice, Link," he said. "Years. I've learned that panicking near guards just draws their attention rather than avoiding it. Come, show me the town."

The hylian smiled and nodded. "We're about to arrive in the Town Square. Telma's bar should be in the southeastern part of town."

As Link entered the square with Ezio, he was reminded at how beautiful the city was--at least, after some renovations. It used to be impossible to ride horses through the city, but the alleys and roads had been expanded in the past few months to meet the needs of horse-riders all around Hyrule.

Before them was the circular fountain at the center of the square. It was an immense structure that provided fresh water from Lake Hylia to the town.

The town square's roads were made of white stone with the occasional insignia of the Royal Family engraved upon it.

There were shops, restaurants, inns, and more in this section of the town. "I would take to the Malo Mart," Link said. "But... you might find it a little... uh... strange."

"Sounds interesting, but remember why we're here, my friend," Ezio said. "Perhaps I can explore this town later. I'm not sure if I'll be able to return to my world anytime soon."

Link felt as if a hammer just whacked him across the head. I forgot! He just came out of nowhere. No portal or anything in this world to lead him back. How is Ezio going to get back to Italia?

"Magnifico..." he heard Ezio say. He turned his head to see the Assassin gazing at Hyrule Castle. "I've seen grand buildings before, but nothing like that castello. I wonder what it is like inside?"

Link smiled. "Heh. You wouldn't be able to get into Hyrule Castle, Ezio. Even if I was vouching for you." The hylian also looked up at the grand building. It had been repaired since Ganondorf's short reign over it.

There were numerous spires just on the main building, and on the very top of the castle. Battlements were lined on both sides, and there were bridges leading from a set of towers to another on either side of the castle. It was quite a sight to behold.

"Those towers look like a challenge to climb," Ezio remarked. "That would be quite divertimento."

Link bit his lip. "Uh... Ezio, that would be even less allowed." He climbs towers? For fun?

"Even less allowed?" Ezio repeated. He chuckled quietly and shook his head. "I wasn't allowed into the castle in the first place, I would expect tower climbing to not be allowed either."

"That's... what I meant." The hylian furrowed his brow. "So why would you think of climbing them?"

"What if it was allowed?"

Link bobbed his head back and forth for a second and then sighed. "Yeah, I suppose I get your point. C'mon, let's go." He turned Epona to the street south of the town square and headed along the route. He could hear Ezio's horse trotting behind him.

They entered the market place shortly. Many people greeted Link with joy. He waved to each person, though, sadly, among them was the STAR fanclub that followed him everywhere in Castle Town. They were a group of three girls who watched him perform amazing feats using his clawshots within the STAR tent. He cringed at the sight of them.

Fortunately, the way to Telma's bar was just short ways away, and Link, ignoring his fanclub turned at the junction and headed down the street that led to the pub.

Ezio rode up next to him, a knowing smile on his face. "I had no idea you were so popular with the ladies."

"What? Are you referring to those girls?" He said, recoiling from the Assassin. "To be honest, they annoy me."

"A shame," Ezio said. His voice playful.

"Why? Are you popular with the ladies where you come from?"

"I was..." the Assassin said slowly. "... when I was younger. I still have the charisma needed to charm any lady. However, I... don't feel like it's necessary anymore."

Link wanted to ask him why, but from the tone of his voice, he got the impression that it was something far too personal to talk to him about. He turned his head and before them in an empty alley-way was a tavern. "Here we are," the hylian said.

"I'm surprised there are few people here," Ezio said, dismounting.

"This corner of town is unknown to most of the people in Hyrule," Link said, also dismounting. He led Epona to a nearby wall. "Despite the fact that I come here often. Telma likes to keep her tavern quiet and out of the way. You might call it a little 'hole in the wall.'" He tied the reins to a hook on the wall, and he beckoned Ezio to do the same.

After securing their mounts, Link led the Assassin into the tavern, there was the smell of thick ale and other drinks as he entered. Inside, there were only a few people--mostly hyrulean soldiers getting smashed--however he recognized some of his friends from the resistance, including Rusl, his former master, and Colin's father.

There was also Ashei, and Auru sitting at the far table, however, Shad was, oddly enough, missing from the group. Each of them greeted Link as he entered. "Hi all, how are you doing?"

Auru, an elderly man smiled at him. "We're doing quite well. It's been nice and quiet since Ganondorf was defeated."

Ashei, a beautiful young lady with black hair and armed to the teeth noticed Ezio. "Who's your friend, Link?"

The Assassin stepped forward. "A pleasure to make your acquaintance. My name is Ezio Auditore."

"That's quite a mouthful," Rusl commented. He stood up and offered a hand to the Assassin. "My name is Rusl. I was Link's former trainer in Ordon."

Ezio smiled and shook his hand. "An honor," he said. "Link is quite the warrior, he must have learned much from you." Rusl nodded.

"Well, it's nice to see you here, honey!" a female voice said from behind the hylian. He turned around to see Telma, a somewhat large, and well-endowed woman. "Good that you're coming back, this place is dull without you." She glanced at Ezio. "It seems like you've brought in a handsome friend as well."

Again, Ezio smiled and bowed before Telma. "It is also a pleasure to meet you, madonna," he said. "I assume you are Telma?"

"I am, Ezio," she said, winking at him. "Why don't you two come over to the bar? I have the feeling you've got something to tell me."

Link and his companion exchanged glances and then walked over to the bar and sat down. Link noticed a woman in a black robe and hood over her face. As he sat down next to her, he whispered, "Zelda?"

The woman looked at him and nodded. "Call me Melina while I'm here," she whispered back. "I don't want to attract any unwanted attention."

Link glanced over to his side and noticed Ezio scrutinizing Zelda. The hylian shook his head as if to say, "this isn't the person you're looking for." The Assassin seemed to understand the message and nodded.

"So, what can I get you two?" Telma asked.

"Just milk," Link responded.

"Again? Come on, you're old enough, Link, you ought to try some spirits," she said with a wink.

The hylian shook his head. "No, milk is good enough for me."

Telma shrugged. "Suit yourself. And what about you, Ezio?"

The Assassin removed his hood and said, "I would like some spirits, if you would."

"Mmm! Sure thing, honey," Telma responded. She gathered their drinks and handed them over to Link and Ezio. "By the way," she added to the Assassin. "Since you're with Link, it's on the house."

"Grazie mille," Ezio said with a smile.

"So, what can I help you two with?" Telma asked.

"Perceptive as ever, Telma," Link said with a chuckle. He took a sip of his milk. "We're looking for someone that Ezio is... hunting down. It's possible he could be a new threat to Hyrule."

Her eyes widened. "Really? And what does this... man look like?"

Ezio was the one who spoke up. "I'm looking for a man associated with a group called the Templars. A group you're probably not familiar with since they come from my country. However, they seek to overthrow the free will of men--and women--world round. According to someone I met, there was a mysterious man in a black hood and... 'wizard's' robes." He looked at Telma. "Have you heard of or seen this man?"

"I'm afraid I haven't seen a guy like that, honey," she said with a frown. "But if he's around, he's definitely a threat to Hyrule." She looked to the side. "However, I have heard of a mysterious man walking around Hyrule, looking for something. I have no idea what, but last I heard of him was that he was traveling over the western bridge which is above Lake Hylia."

Ezio nodded, and took a sip of his drink. "Grazie for the information, madonna. I appreciate it."

"No problem, honey," Telma said with a smile.

"Melina?" Link turned to Zelda. "What are you doing here?"

"Just catching up on the latest gossip," she said.

"I see," he said. Link could tell that Zelda had changed the way she talked; she sounded very common. "So, what have you heard?"

"There's a tournament going to be held at Hyrule Castle in two days," Zelda said. "I heard of your skills, Link, and I thought you might be interested."

"Really?" Ezio interjected. "What is the prize?"

"A thousand rupees," Zelda said, taking a sip of her own drink. "What? Are you also interested?"

"Of course, I am a skilled fighter," he said with a smirk on his face.

"It sounds like you have something more important to do, mister Ezio," Zelda responded. "Like chasing that... who did you call him?"

Ezio took another sip of his drink. "A Templar," he said. He raised a finger at her. "However, Templars are dangerous. A tournament might be a good way of honing my skills before facing him."

Link stared at Ezio. "You're crazy. This Templar threatens the safety of Hyrule! We can't just play around with other warriors while gods know what he'll do to this land!"

"Calm yourself, amico," the Assassin responded softly, placing his hand on the hylian's shoulder. Then, he whispered in his ear, "if the Templar is seeking to kill you, he might make an appearance at the tournament. If I can locate him then, I will be able to kill him."

The hylian blinked and then nodded. Wow, I wouldn't have thought of that. He drank down his milk, and looked back at Ezio. "Well, shall we get going? We have to get your armor back from Gortin... and go to that place you wanted to see."

"Ma certo, amico," Ezio said, drinking his spirits. Link was surprised to see that the Assassin didn't look a bit tipsy. "I look forward to it."


After finishing their drinks, Link and Ezio left Telma's bar. They gathered their horses, mounted them and exited Hyrule Castle through the east gate. Auru, Ashei, and Rusl were, apparently, all attending the tournament as well, and hoped their two friends would join in. Link wasn't certain if he wanted to.

As he was leaving town, however, his fanclub continued to follow him, nearly swooning over him.

"Please kiss me!"

"I want to ride on your horse with you!"

"Can you show us your skills in the STAR tent again!?"

He wanted to puke, and he swore he could hear Midna growling in his shadow. Midna, restrain yourself...

"Now, now, amicie," Ezio said to the girls. "Your friend has had a long day. He needs some rest. Perhaps you could--"

"Are you joking with us?"

"You haven't seen him in the STAR game, have you?"

"And who are you to talk for him, you loser!"

Ezio pulled down his hood again, and smiled charismatically at the ladies. Already, Link could see them falling for his charming face. Good gods, Ezio, you have no idea what kind of trap you're putting yourself into. He placed his hands on his own face.

"Oh... you are..."

"We're so sorry..."

"You're really quite nice looking..."

"Grazie," Ezio said. "Now, we must depart. We're on a tight schedule. Addio." He waved at Them. He pulled up his hood, and looked at Link. "Let's go."

The hylian nodded, and walked Epona past the gate. He heard the Assassin following behind him. He glanced back at his fanclub.

Too stunned to move, except to wave back, the girls didn't chase him down this time, unlike the many times Link tried to escape them when leaving Castle Town. One of the reasons I rarely come here.

As they exited the gate, Ezio spoke to him. "Say, Link, who was that cloaked woman in the tavern? I heard you whisper to her."

He swallowed. Dare he tell the Assassin about Zelda? He decided to risk it. "That... was Princess Zelda."

"Princess, eh?" Ezio said. A smile spread over his face. "Are you usually that close with royalty? Especially with the lovely daughters of the King?"

"Give me a break," Link said. He rolled his eyes. "First, the King has been dead for years, and second, she was trying not to attract any attention."

"The cloak made that clear enough, my friend," Ezio responded. "What was she doing there?"

"Obviously, to give us information about the tournament," Link said. He rubbed his chin. "Though, I'm not sure why. Does she know something about the Templar?"

Ezio shrugged. "It's possible she knew something about the Templar before I told her," he said, looking at the hylian. "Especially if he has been stirring up trouble in Hyrule."

"To tell you the truth, trouble has been chasing her ever since Ganondorf died," Link said. "A lot of people blame her for him taking over Hyrule Castle, and terrorizing the people. Not to mention the deaths of many brave soldiers that faced off against Zant's Shadow Beasts when he invaded."

"I see. What was the connection between Zant and Ganondorf?"

"Zant was his servant. He was a Twili like Midna, but he had no powers," Link explained. "And then Ganondorf appeared to him, and gave him power over Light and Shadow." The hylian glanced at Ezio and gestured with his hand. "Through Zant, Ganondorf was able to take control of Hyrule Castle. Then, his servant died, and he had full reign of Hyrule."

"Capito," Ezio said after a pause. "I would consider both of them to be like the Templars of my own world. Come! Show me this Ganondorf's resting place."

"All right, but shoudn't we pick up your armor first?"

"That can be saved for later," Ezio said, holding up a hand to Link. "It is best that we see what happened--if anything--to give us some clues about the Templar."

Link nodded, and then forced Epona into a gallop. "This way!" he called out, and Ezio also pushed his horse into gallop, following Link.

The hylian rode to the spot where he had killed Ganondorf. It was completely possible that he was moved by the guards, but he remembered Zelda telling them specifically not to touch his corpse, as a symbol--a sign against evil.

When they reached the location, Link stopped Epona and he gasped.

Ganondorf's corpse was gone.

Chapter 6[]

Ezio got off his horse and watched as Link dropped to his knees and stared at the empty spot where the King of Darkness's corpse once laid. He frowned, feeling concerned. The Templar must have been involved, he thought.

"This is bad," Link said. "Unless the hylian guards disobeyed Zelda... we're in trouble."

"What do you mean by 'disobeyed?'" Ezio asked.

"After the death of Ganondorf, Zelda made a strict law not to touch his corpse or to bury it," the hylian responded. "It's possible that someone may buried him here, but I don't have anything to dig into the ground." He hung his head.

"Hmmm..." Ezio tapped into his gift, and saw a red trail from where the corpse had been far to the north. "I see something. There's a trail of dried blood leading from this location to the north... across that large stone bridge." He untapped his talent, and glanced at Link.

The hylian stood up, his eyes wide with surprise. "Across Eldin bridge?" he asked. "How... did you see the trail?"

"I used my gift," Ezio said.

Link scratched his head. "Your gift is almost like my wolf senses... errr! I mean, I didn't say anything!"

The Assassin furrowed his brow. "'Wolf senses?'" A smile spread over his face. "So, that's what you were hiding back in Kakariko Village. You're not completely human, are you?"

"Well, sort of," Link said, frowning. He licked his lips. "In reality, I'm fully human, but I can transform into a wolf. I know, surprising, isn't it?"

"Davvero?" Ezio's hand was on his chin, his head cocked to one side. "Show me. I'm curious."

Link looked around, sighed and said, "all right. Midna, can you bring out the Shadow Crystal?"

Midna popped out of his shadow--she didn't look pleased. "Are you joking, you two?" She asked, looking from Link to Ezio. "We've got a world to save, and you want to play with the dog," she said to Ezio.

"... dog?" The hylian glared at her. And to Ezio's surprise, she smiled back flirtatiously. "Listen, we'll get to it. I just want to satisfy his curiosity. It'll only for a minute--tops."

Midna groaned, and held out her hand. The Assassin watched with interest as black material appeared out of the air and formed into black, jagged diamond with glowing trims here and there of orange color.

"All right," Midna said, still sounding irritated. "But I'm not going to be nice about this."

"Wait, wha--"

With sudden force, she slammed the Crystal into Link's forehead. Ezio jumped to grab her hand, but it was too late; the Crystal sank deep into Link's head, and then similar black material consumed him, changing his form. In less than a second, Ezio was looking at a handsome gray wolf with bright, blue eyes.

"Fantastico..." Ezio muttered, looking at Link. "I see, as a wolf, you would have animal senses."

Link barked as if to say, "yes."

"Your minute is up," Midna said. She snapped her fingers, and the Shadow Crystal slid out of Link's forehead--more gently this time--and he reverted into his hylian form.

"Ugh..." He grasped his head and shot a narrowed glance at Midna. "You jerk! Why did you push into my head so hard? Argh! Now, I have a massive headache."

"Why?" she repeated. "Because you're being stupid. That's why." She flipped the Shadow Crystal in her hand a few times, and then snapped her fingers; the Crystal vanished. "Geez, you never learn do you, Link?"

Ezio smiled as they bickered. There was more to their 'friendship,' than it seemed. "Mi dispiace, but I have to break you two lovers apart," he said, stepping between them. Midna's and Link's faces both turned pink, and she looked like she was about to protest. "Midna is right, amico. We need to hurry. Templars never wait for the Assassins... or heroes for that matter."

"R-right," Link said. "Let's follow that trail using your talent, we--"

"Oh no, you don't!" Midna said, holding a hand out. "You need to go to the Sacred Grove and get the Master Sword. If Ganondorf is alive, you know that is the only weapon that can harm him."

Link worked his jaw for a moment. "All right, but it's far away from here," he said. "I can get there with Epona, but..."

"Oh, you idiot. Did you forget that I can warp you over there?" Midna said, folding her arms.

"Oh, that's right," Link said, looking to the side. "I knew that."

The imp rolled her eyes. "Listen, I'll go with Ezio, and you get that sword."

"Why are you going with Ezio?"

"Because he's unfamiliar with Hyrule. And I've traveled all around it with you," she said. "And, you know the Sacred Grove well enough because you've been there three times."

Link nodded. "Makes sense."

"Bene," Ezio said. "I'll follow the trail with your friend on my horse. ... Can Epona take care of herself?" he asked, looking over at the orange steed.

"Yes, she can," Link said, running his hand through her mane. "Quite well, actually." He smiled at the horse.

"Molto bene." Ezio nodded. "I will return to the village to see if Gortin has repaired my armor and then quickly follow the trail."

Midna groaned again. "I thought you wanted this Templar dead as soon as possible, Ezio," she said sternly. "Why you boys continue to delay is beyond me."

"Remember what I said to Zelda?" the Assassin asked, getting on his horse. "Templars are dangerous, it's best to be fully prepared to meet them in battle."

Midna shrugged. "That makes sense." She turned to Link. "Are you ready?"

"Yes," Link said with a confident nod.

"Hold," Ezio said. He put his hand out. "One thing you ought to know about the Apple, my friend. In case you run into it, remember: see past the illusions, as they are just illusions." Link, after a pause, nodded.

"All right, see you later," Midna said. She snapped her fingers and the young hero was suddenly broken up into little black pieces which were sent into the air. She looked at Ezio. "You look so surprised. Don't worry, he's fine, he'll re-assemble at the Sacred Grove."

The Assassin relaxed. "Very well. Let's get going. I imagine the trail of blood will take us to the bridge over Lake Hylia if the Templar is still there."

Midna slapped her face. "Ugh. I'd forgotten about that," she said. "You're in for a long ride if that's the case, but keep following that trail."

Ezio frowned. She's used to ordering Link around. I'm not going to take that bait. "Don't worry about me, Midna, just stick to my shadow and tell me anything I'll need to know."

She appeared insulted. "Hmph! Fine." And she slid into his shadow.

Ezio turned his steed around, and headed for Kakariko Village. Hopefully, the trail would still be there when he returned.


As he re-materialized onto the ground, Link opened his eyes to find himself inside the Sacred Grove. He looked up toward the sky and saw the black portal with blue lines above him. Thanks, Midna.

He turned his head down and looked forward. Before him were two large statues holding spears. Link recalled the time long ago when he had called upon the aid of these statues to help open the path to the Master Sword. I was stuck in my wolf form back then.

Gazing down, he saw that he stood upon a large symbol of the Triforce engraved on the ground. All around him were the ruins of the Temple of Time, and grassy floors. There were broken pillars of marble, and before him an old corridor that led to the Master Sword's resting place.

Wasting no more time, Link dashed toward the path that led to the Master Sword when he heard a loud voice, "stop!"

He turned around and saw a man, dressed in black wizard's robes with a red cross on it--a black hood obscured his face. He was standing ontop of the door that led into the Temple of Time, far above the hylain's vantage point.

"You!" Link drew his sword and glared at the man. "You're the Templar!"

The man laughed. "I see the Mentor of the Assassins has already told you about me. Heh. heh." His voice had a similar accent to Ezio's. "Yes, I am a member of the Knights Templar. We're sworn to grant our world, and perhaps any world, peace and order."

Link grit his teeth. "Only at the cost of the free will of humans!"

The Templar cocked his head to one side, and ignored his remark. "What a pathetic piece of rubbish you are," he said. "Look at you! Dressed in old, dusty green clothing, holding a poorly forged sword and a battered shield. And yet, they call you the Hero of Hyrule?" He shook his head. "The people of this realm are shameful."

Link calmed his nerves. The Templar was only trying to get a reaction out of him. "Who are you, anyway?"

"I would tell you, but I have a habit of keeping my name a secret," he said. "Unfortunately for you, this is a dead end--that end being yours. I cannot believe a mere boy like you is the reason the King of Darkness failed. Oh well." He pulled out a golden orb-like object from his robes. It shined brightly.

Is that the Apple? Link wondered. "I suppose you're going to try to kill me now?" he asked.

"Of course not!" the Templar said. The hylian blinked. "I have other men to do that for me, don't I? Guards!"

Then, from behind the stone ruins appeared several human guards that Link had never recognized. Two of them were covered in heavy armor from head to toe. One was carrying a giant sword and the other, a huge axe. There were three guards with caps and light armor. Some were wielding swords, and others were wielding maces. Finally, there were two guards with long spears. All them were adorned in red.

That's seven of them.

The Templar smiled. "I know you're good at slaying monsters, Link. But can you kill humans?" He motioned to the guards. "Put him down."

The guards advanced on Link. He readied himself, keeping in mind all the techniques he had learned from the Hero's Shade. The first ones to reach him were the ones in caps.

"Are you ready to die, you pointy-eared freak?" one of them asked, waving his sword around.

"I never am. How about you actually try to kill me instead of standing there?"

The guard's face twisted with anger and he swung his sword at Link. The hylian shield bashed the attack, knocking the guard onto ground. While his foe was prone, Link leaped into the air toward his foe and pointed his sword downward. A split second later, and the guard was impaled into the ground, and he died without a grunt.

Link flipped back and the other two capped guards charged him. The hylian pulled back his sword, and then spun around. Nearly screaming, he unleashed energy from his sword and the spin attack's range increased, slashing both guards in half.

"Hmph! I see you don't even hesitate to kill humans," the Templar remarked. "I did not count on that."

"I kill whoever tries to kill me!" Link retorted, blocking the thrust of one of the attacks from the spearmen.

The Templar cackled. "You're very amusing, boy. You're starting to sound like the Assassin himself. Perhaps some of his blood-thristy attitude has rubbed off on you?"

Ezio's hardly blood-thristy! Link thought as he blocked another attack--this time, from the other spearman. As his foes began to corner him, the hylian readied himself to use another technique. The spearman on his right advanced on him, and raised his spear to cut Link down. However, the hylian shield bashed the attack, knocking his foe off balance.

Without hesitation, Link jumped up into the air, and spun around, performing his helm-splitter technique in a spinning slash that severed the spearman's helm in two, and not to mention his head. Link landed on the other side, free to face off with any of the guards.

Only three left, I can handle this!

Then, the heavily armed guards advanced on him. One pulled back his axe all the way back and then hit Link's left hand so hard that it knocked the Ordon Sword out of his hand.

He was about to run over to it when suddenly, Link's body lit up with golden light and he felt paralyzed by some strange power. He was lifted up above the ground. He managed to see the Templar holding up the Apple, which was glowing brightly. Ezio's words echoed through his mind "It has the power to create illusions, bind down a man's body..."

Damn it! What do I do now?

"You've fought valiantly, young Link," the Templar said. "But it's time to put to rest. He motioned to the armored guards. "Kill him."

The hylian tried to struggle against the Apple's power, but he could not move. Is this really the end? I've got to delay this somehow. "Why are you trying to kill me?" he asked. "I thought you were after Ezio?"

"Ah, but isn't the answer simple?" the Templar said. "Your death will prevent the King of Darkness from failing again. And then, I, and my Templar brothers, will unite Hyrule under our power! Now, for your death..."

What can I do to stop this? he wondered as the heavily armored guard raised his axe to sever Link's head from his body. Then, he remembered what Ezio told him. "... see past the illusions, as they are just illusions."

That's right. It's just an illusion! An illusion that I'm paralyzed like this! He focused on that thought, and then, the golden light broke form his body, and he could move again. He fell to the ground and rolled out of the way of the guard's axe.

"What!?" the Templar exclaimed. "You resisted the Apple!?"

"That's right, because all it makes are illusions," Link responded. "And now, you're the one who will die."

Back-flipping, Link avoided another attack from the heavily armored guard, and then turned around and dashed through the broken corridor. There, he could see the Master Sword, laying in its pedestal. He heard the guards chasing him and the Templar shouting something with rage.

As he reached the Master Sword, Link grabbed the handle and pulled--the sword didn't budge. Damn! It's stuck! He looked up to see the guards approaching him, and he pulled harder. Come on! It's me, your master! The sword still would not budge and the hylian wondered if he should have grabbed the Ordon Sword instead.

It didn't matter; for he was too far away from his old sword to get it. The guards began to flank him, and Link pulled on the Master Sword's handle on last time. Finally, the sword slid free of the pedestal, and the hylian brandished it at the guards.

"Run now, and I'll spare your lives!"

The spearman laughed. "Even with that sword, you'll still die, boy!" The three guards advanced on him, all raising their weapons. With a quick roll around the spearman, Link got behind him and spun into the air, slashing across his back as he had done with Ezio. The spearman cried out in pain, and then the hylian stabbed him right through the back. The spearman collapsed on the ground, dead.

"Had enough yet?" The armored guards looked at each other, and then advanced on the hylian, pinning him again. Link readied the Master Sword, and then performed another spin attack. The Master Sword cut through their armor like butter, but despite the attack, they were still standing.

Again, the hylian slammed his shield into the guard, and then performed a helm-splitter attack to finish him off. The attack worked, and the heavily armored guard fell. The last one, with the giant sword, now backed away.

"All right! You win!" he cried, his voice echoed against his thick helmet. "Let me live and I'll live you alone!" He ran away, back through the corridor and Link chased him down. He had no intention of killing the guard, but he needed to face the Templar.

As soon as the guard reached his master, the Templar held up the Apple and stunned the guard. With a flash of light, the guard screamed and then fell to the ground, no longer moving.

Link was shocked. "You kill your own men? How could you!"

"Only when they fail me," the Templar said with a cold, unforgiving voice. "It seems you've won this battle, boy, but you cannot win this war."

Before Link could climb up to the Templar's location, he watched as he suddenly de-materialized into twilight and vanished. What? How is that possible? Does he have control over the Twilight? He raised the Master Sword in the air in victory of his battle.

The hylian then wiped the blood off the Master Sword, and then went over to the Ordon Sword--also wiping off the blood on it. I've got little time. I've got to get to the Great Bridge of Hylia! He ran through the corridor again, and picked up the Master Sword's scabbard. Replacing the Ordon Sword's scabbard with the Master Sword's, Link stuffed the Ordon Sword into his adventurer's pouch, and then sheathed the Master Sword.

I need a quick way out of here.

As he ran back to the symbol of the Triforce, wooden pillars dropped around him, creating a barrier of Twilight. Out of the sky dropped three Shadow Beasts, and upon landing, they all got up and faced him.

However, Link knew that these beasts were merely Twili transformed into monsters. He raised the Master Sword, and light escaped from it. So, it still has the light imbued from the Sols. As the light hit each Shadow Beast, they recoiled and their shield-like faces vanished, revealing their true Twili selves.

They all stood up, looking shocked. The barrier around Link and the Twili lifted. The Twili looked horrified. "We're so sorry, young hero!" one of them said. "We didn't--"

"... have control over yourselves?" Link finished for him. "It's all right. I know how to stop you. I need to contact Midna or be warped to the Great Bridge of Hylia. Can you do that?"

Another Twili--behind him--spoke. "You know our princess?"

"Yes. Midna was my companion throughout all my adventures," Link said.

"What an honor," the third Twili said. "To be with our princess."

It wasn't really an honor the first few weeks. She was quite mean to me. Link licked his lips. "So, can you either contact her or warp me?"

"We cannot contact her in this world, but we can warp you as close to the bridge as possible," the first Twili said. "But, because we are in the Realm of Light, our powers are weak. We can only take you as far as the eastern section of this world."

Link nodded. "All right, I'll be able to meet Midna and Ezio there. Don't worry, see that portal above? Your princess made it. Just warp through there, and you might be able to return to the Twilight Realm." Though, he was almost certain that wouldn't work. The portals only warped a person from one part of Hyrule to the next. Link hoped that somehow, it would be a one-way entrance back to the Twilight Realm.

Though, if Midna needed the Mirror of Twilight to get back to the Twilight Realm, how are these guys going to make it back to it? The mirror is shattered now!

"No, that will not work. We may die here, but we'll die helping your realm." Before Link could protest, he watched as the Twili raised their hands and warped him out of the Sacred Grove.

The last thing Link heard from them was, "good luck, hero chosen by the gods!"

Chapter 7[]

The Great Bridge of Hylia

Ezio had retrieved his repaired chest guard from Gortin and returned to East Hyrule Field to track down the trail using his gift. He had crossed the Great Eldin Bridge, and across North Hyrule Field, continuing to follow the red glow.

Although he had been warned by Midna, Ezio was, oddly enough, not waylaid by any monsters. The fields seemed far too quiet for his liking.

By the time Ezio had reached the southern part of North Hyrule Field, it was already night. The Assassin had stopped for five minutes to eat, and then got back on his horse in haste to the bridge.

Shortly after, the bridge was in sight. Ezio looked ahead for any signs of the Templar. Then, he heard the sound of that contorted flute again, and Midna slid out of his shadow, floating at his side.

"Do you see anything?" she asked.

"Not yet," Ezio said. Using his gift, he continued look for a golden trail. Then, he found it. It was running across the bridge and over the blood-stained trail. "Ah, there," he said, pointing toward the Great Bridge. "I see my target's path ahead. He went across the bridge no doubt."

Midna looked at the bridge. "I don't see a trail, but if you're using your gift, then I trust you. You better find your target."

"Don't worry, Midna," Ezio responded with a smirk. "I always do." He slowed his horse to walk to avoid attention, and he continued to follow the trail.

Ahead, the Assassin could see the red auras of three strange-looking beasts, and a man in gold. He stopped, and got off his horse. Untapping his talent, he looked for a way to sneak up on the group. However, the moon was full this night, and it gave off too much light to hide in the shadows. Regardless, Ezio pinned himself against the left wall of the bridge and slid quietly toward his target.

Midna flew back into his shadow as quickly as possible, it wasn't a quiet move, but Ezio assumed that his targets could not hear him yet.

Wait a moment... he thought. He tapped his gift again, and looked ahead. He did not see another man in gold or red. Where is Ganondorf's body? Ezio looked across the bridge. Sure enough, the trail of blood was still there, yet ahead, there was no body... unless they had not resurrected him yet.

Untapping his talent, the Assassin crept along the bridge silently. This bridge is immense, he thought as he continued forward, increasing his pace.

Finally, he got close enough to see the beasts and their master. The beasts were clad in darkness, they had odd heads--which appeared to be shaped like round shields. They had very long arms and legs with thick bodys. Red lines interwined with their black bodies.

The man was also cloaked in black, but had similar symbols on his clothes, dyed in red. He had long sleeves, and a hood over his head, so his face was difficult to see.

"Shadow Beasts..." he heard Midna mutter in his shadow. "That's not going to be easy for you, Ezio."

"Hopefully, I can sneak up on them and assassinate them one by one," the Assassin whispered.

"That won't work against them!" Midna whispered back. "They--"

"Hush," Ezio said. "I don't want to be detected." He thought he heard Midna groan, but was not entirely sure. He was too focused on getting the drop on his targets.

Perhaps I should have climbed that arch back at the entrance of the bridge and used a parachute to dive in. He shook his head. No. No good, I would have been detected.

As he closed in on his target, one of the Shadow Beasts turned toward him and let out a roar. Now, he was reconsidering his approach--at least with the parachute, he could have managed a couple of kills. The Shadow Beasts, now all alerted to his presence, charged him. Ezio withdrew from the shadows and drew his sword.

The man behind the Shadow Beasts raised a hand. "Hold, my pets," he said. The beasts stopped their advance. "Well, if it isn't Ezio Auditore..." Even in the darkness, the Assassin could see a smug expression on the man's face. "It's nice to see you here in Hyrule."

Ezio frowned. "Where is the body?"

"What body?"

"The body of the King of Darkness, otherwise known as 'Ganondorf,'" Ezio responded.

"I do not know what you're talking about, Assassin."

"Don't play games with me, Templar," Ezio said. "Where is the body? And what are you planning to do with it?"

The man laughed. "If I had the body, I wouldn't tell you. All I and my friend are interested in is domination over this world. Your efforts to stop us all over Italia have proven to be quite... irritating to say the least."

"There's two of you here?" Ezio's eyes widened slightly. "I was told only one Templar took the Apple."

"Your informant was mistaken, Assassin. Or should I say, 'Mentor?' Yes, that's right." The Templar grinned. "Your death would be most welcome to our Order."

"Tell me something I haven't heard before," Ezio retorted.

The Templar raised his head slightly. "Why should I tell you anything when you will die?" He motioned with his hands, and the Shadow Beasts charged Ezio.

Before the Assassin could even move, large wooden pillars dropped from the sky, and created a red energy barrier around him; he was cut off from the Templar.

Damn it! That coward.

The Shadow Beasts circled him slowly, watching his every move. Ezio waited, and then the first beast struck. Ezio side-stepped out of the way of its swinging arm and then counter-attacked. He slashed the body of the creature, and then its head. Both hits connected, slaying the beast.

Another one charged him, and he jumped back. Why are they only attacking one at at time? Then, he leaped forward, and slashed the beast repeatedly with his sword. With two strikes, the beast fell. Now for last--

Suddenly, the last beast let out a loud, piercing shriek that caused Ezio to quake. It was so loud that he couldn't move and he had to strain his ears to keep them from bleeding. When the howling ended, Ezio opened his eyes to see the two beasts that he thought he had killed rise onto their feet.

"Ché diavolo!?" he exclaimed. "What is this?"

He heard the Templar laughed. "They're immortal, foolish Assassin. They will feast on your dead body once they have beaten and clawed you to death!"

"No, they're not!" Midna popped out of his shadow.

"Well, well, well! If it isn't the Twilight Princess herself!" the Templar said. "Are you enjoying your new form? I hope so, because my ally was the one that gave it to you."

Twilight Princess? Ezio thought, rolling out of the way of a Shadow Beast's attack. She's a princess!?

He saw Midna glare at the Templar, but she said nothing and turned to Ezio. "I tried to tell you earlier how to kill them, but you wouldn't listen to me, Ezio. I don't know who's dumber, you or Link."

"Instead of insulting me," Ezio growled, ducking under one of the Shadow Beast's claws. "How about enlightening me on the subject?"

"You have make sure there isn't one left standing," Midna said, flying over one of their attacks. "Otherwise, it'll shriek like it just did, bringing the others back. I don't know how you're going to do it with a single weapon, unless you know how to use a spin attack like Link."

"Watch and learn, Princess," Ezio said.

A Shadow Beast lunged at him, and the Assassin knocked the arm out of the way with his sword, and then slashed the creature's leg--knocking it prone. Immediately, Ezio stabbed the creature through the stomach and twisted his sword before pulling it out.

"I'm watching, but I'm not learning," Midna remarked, dodging the swipe from one of the Shadow Beasts. "Gah! Hurry!"

Ezio didn't respond, instead he waited for the two Shadow Beasts to flank him on either side. As they did so, they rushed him, he raised his left hand at one, and readied his sword in his right. As they came together, Ezio fired his hidden gun at the one and sliced the neck of the other.

It worked. The beasts broke into black little squares and the barrier vanished; the dark material vanishing with it.

The two beasts fell to the ground, and none were left standing. He glanced at Midna, who seemed impressed.

"Okay, I learned something--you're really good with that gun of yours."

"Grazie," Ezio said. He seathed his sword, and started approaching the Templar. "Tell me where the Apple of Eden is, and where the body is."

The Templar laughed. "You're not going to try to kill me, Ezio? What a waste of your hidden blades," he said with a snort. "I will admit, you destroyed my Shadow Beasts rather expertly. Though, that little imp's interference saved your life. You should be grateful to her."

Ezio kept walking toward the Templar. "I'll ask you again, where is the Apple and Ganondorf's body?"

"I'll tell you this much, Assassin. I don't have the Apple of Eden," he said, smiling wickedly.

"Then where--?"

"Link!" Midna cried out.

"Ah, yes. He was heading for the Sacred Grove, wasn't he?" the Templar mused out-loud. "Yes, that's where my ally went as well. The young hero is probably dead."

"Why... you...!" Midna gripped her hands together. "You...! Bastard! I'll kill you!"

"Hold!" Ezio grabbed the imp before she could lunge for the Templar.

He laughed. "Worried about your boy-toy, princess?" the Templar asked with a smug voice.

Her face went red. "B-boy-toy...!? What the hell are you talking about!?"

The Templar laughed again. "I'll thank you for sparing my life later, Ezio Auditore." He smirked at the two. "I'll see you later. Perhaps you can give the hero's body a proper burial... that is... if there's anything left of him."

Midna broke free of Ezio's grasp and flew toward the Templar. But she wasn't fast enough; for the Templar suddenly de-materialized into black squares that vanished into the sky.

"What!?" Midna exclaimed. "How did he...?" She looked back at Ezio, and glared at him. "If you hadn't held me back--!"

"Calm yourself, princess," Ezio said, gesturing for her to decrease her rage. "I doubt Link is dead, and also, I need the Templar alive for now. I need as much information about the Apple as possible so I can locate it."

"I don't care!" she sputtered. "And don't call me 'princess,' either! Link's in trouble! And I have to help him!" She beared her teeth. "I can't believe you. You care more about that dumb artifact than your own friends!"

Ezio wasn't going to fight this. "He's alive, I'm sure of it, Midna. I am concerned for his safety, but you know Link better than me. He will be fine."

"Except I don't know the capabilities of our enemies," she said, breathing rapidly.

"You're right. We'll go look for him together, then," Ezio said with the most relaxed voice he could muster. "Bene?"

Then, Ezio heard a familiar voice cry out from behind them. "Wait!"

The Assassin turned around and saw Link riding Epona toward them. A smile spread over Ezio's face. He made it.

"Link!" Midna cried out. She seemed genuinely happy to see him. She floated over to him, and grabbed his arm. The young hero stopped Epona and licked his lips.


"You're okay, right?" Midna asked.

"I-I'm fine," he said. "I had some trouble in the Sacred Grove, but... I found the Templar!" He looked at Ezio.

"And so did we," Ezio responded.

"Eh? You mean there's two of them?" Link looked surprised.

"Indeed," Ezio walked over to Epona. "Did the other one have the Apple?"

"Yes, he did," Link said. "He sent some human guards to kill me. After I had dispatched a few, he paralyzed me with its power. One of the guards was about to kill me--Midna calm down!--when I remembered your words... that it's just illusions. I broke through the illusion, freed myself, got the Master Sword and finished them. But the Templar escaped. In fact, he escaped using the power of the Twilight!"

"This one did, too," Midna said, breaking off from Link's arm. Her face was slightly pink, and Ezio thought he saw her wipe her eye.

"Did the Templar say anything in particular?"

Link rubbed his chin and then nodded. "He said he wanted me dead because my death would stop Ganondorf from failing again. Also, he mentioned that he wanted to unite Hyrule under the Templars' power." He frowned. "I don't want them uniting any bit of Hyrule if they're going to dominate the minds of the people."

Ezio nodded. "So, they do intend to revive Ganondorf. I do not know how, though." He began to pace. "They have the Apple, the ability to use the power of the Twilight, and who knows what else."

"They both can use the Twilight magic..." Link echoed. "I can't believe this. How?"

"They've got to have something on them that's like a Fused Shadow," Midna said. "Otherwise, they couldn't use it. Just like I couldn't do anything in this form if I didn't have mine," she added, pointing to her headress. "Though, how that's going to revive Ganondorf is beyond me."'

Link tapped his arm, looking from Ezio to Midna as if he wasn't sure what to do next.

"We should participate in the tournament that begins in a day or so," Ezio said to them. "If they are still trying to kill Link and I--which most likely they will be--then we can draw them out during the tournament, and perhaps have some more answers to our questions."

Link nodded. "That's sounds like a good idea. Let's head back to Castle Town."

Midna paused for a moment. "All right," she said. "I don't suppose you can track the trail of blood now, can you, Ezio?"

"Let me see..." Ezio tapped into his gift and looked at the ground. Oddly enough, the blood trail ended where the Templar had been standing. "It stops here."

"What?" Link followed his eyes. "What did they do with the body? Bury it?"

"That's not likely," Ezio said as he untapped his talent. "If what the other Templar said is true, they need Ganondorf's body."

Midna leaned back, and sighed. "Well, it looks like this tournament is the only option we have."

Ezio nodded. "Exactly. Link, where is a good place to rest?"

"Either the village or Castle Town. Both have inns," the hylian said.

"Castle Town would be our best choice since the tournament starts soon," Ezio said. "I imagine they will be accepting those who register early."

"All right, Castle Town it is, then." Link glanced over at Midna, who looked away.

"Let me get my horse, and then we'll ride, amico."

"Go ahead," Link said. Ezio turned toward the entrance of the bridge and began to walk. He heard Midna slip into Link's shadow.

"Is she always with you?"

"Uh... not always, but in this case, whenever she's in my shadow, yes," Link said. He scratched his head. "Why?"

"I want to talk to you in private again," Ezio said after a short pause.

"About what?"

"I cannot tell you that now," Ezio said with a smile.

"As always," Link sighed.

Midna groaned from underneath Link's shadow, but said nothing.

When they reached the end of the bridge, they found Ezio's horse, still waiting for him.

"He's quite loyal," Ezio remarked, patting the horse's mane. He pulled himself onto the horse's saddle and took hold of the reins. "Ready, amico mio?"

"Of course!"

"Lead on." The two pushed their horses forward into a fast walk across the stone path.

Then, he heard Midna pop out of Link's Shadow again. "Ezio? Can I ask you a question?"

"Certainly," he said, looking back at her. She was in her shade form this time, so Ezio could almost see through her, save her red and yellow eye.

"The Templar back there... he called you a 'Mentor,'" she said. "What does that mean? Is it an Assassin title or something?" Even in her shade form, the Assassin could see a curious glimmer in her eye.

Ezio smiled. "Ah... I see you wish to know about the Mentor." He nodded at her, and noticed Link shared the same curious expression. "The Templar was correct, I am the Mentor tof the Assassins. The Mentor is the head of the Assassin Brotherhood." He paused. "The Templars have something similar, they are called the 'Grand Master.'"

"Wow... you're the head of the Assassins? All of them?" Link asked, sounding astounded.

"Sí," Ezio said with a nod. He looked forward. "I was made the Mentor of the Assassins about five years ago."

"And you just left them behind?" Midna said.

"I did. Because I re-built the Brotherhood in a large city called 'Roma,' which is much larger than your Castle Town," he remarked. "Those Assassins there are strong enough to survive without me. However, when I return, I will check on them and see if they have extended our Order any further."

"Amazing," Link said. "I had no idea you were a leader. And... I also was going to ask you about your travels to see if you had been to anywhere like Hyrule Castle Town. How big is Roma?"

"Immense," Ezio said. He glanced back at the two, and they looked enthralled as if they wanted to know more. "I'd say it's over a thousand meters in size."

The young hero blinkd, and looked at Midna. She shared his confused expression. "I don't know what a 'meter' is," Link said. "But it does sound very large."

Ezio looked ahead again to watch where he was going. "Mind you, amico, I am including the country-side. The Centro District of Roma--which is the city--must be at least three times the size of your Castle Town."

"Oh my gods," Link said slowly. "That's... huge, despite all the recent renovations and expansions in Castle Town."

Ezio heard Midna sigh in amazement. "That is very large," she remarked. "The Twilight Realm is probably around that size--that is, what we've discovered of it. It's a small place compared to Hyrule, but... then again, my people haven't explored the entire realm."

"Really... that's amazing, Ezio," Link said. "If I ever somehow come to your world, I'd love to see Roma."

The Assassin smiled and nodded. "Of course, if you ever manage to find a way." Ezio frowned. "I still do not see a way that even I will be able to return to it."

"I'm sure we'll find a way," Link said, his voice was confident. "Don't worry. We'll find a way."

"Grazie mille, my friend," Ezio said. "So, where do you think in Hyrule Castle Town we could find more information about this tournament?"

"Telma's Bar would be the best place," Link said. "We'll go there and ask Telma about it. The others should know as well."

"Bene," Ezio said. "Let's get going then. You lead the way, my friend. I'm still not familiar with Hyrule."

"You got it!" And with that, Link whipped Epona's reins, and with a "hya!" proceeded into a gallop. Ezio heard Midna slip into the hylian's shadow, and then he, too, led his horse into a gallop. He followed Link north to what he assumed to be Hyrule Castle Town.

Chapter 8[]

Hyrule Castle Town

Link and Ezio had stayed in the "Heroes' Inn" in the central square the previous night. Before they rested, the Assassin taught him how to blend with the city's crowds since the hylian's fanclub had stalked him again as he made his way into town.

According to Ezio, Link had some natural talent with blending. Although he wasn't perfect at blending, the hylian achieved his goal of avoiding his fanclub. Link had found it particularly amusing--and disturbing--when he had been about five feet away from him, and they were looking anxiously for him.

The hylian was in a rather good mood when they entered Telma's bar. "That was fun! Did you see the looks on their faces?"

Ezio nodded. "I did, indeed. They were quite disappointed," he said with a chuckle. The hylian noticed the Assassin's eyes peering at his back. "So, is that the sword you needed to recover?"

"Yes, do you want to see?" When he saw the Assassin nod, Link drew the Master Sword from its scabbard and laid it on his hands. He showed it to Ezio. "There it is--the Master Sword. Also known as the 'blade of evil's bane.'"

Ezio examined the sword. "Magnifico. What a fine blade, and an elegant design," he remarked. He reached out for the hilt and before Link could stop him, Ezio quickly withdrew his hand as soon as he touched the handle. Wincing as if he had been burned, he furrowed his brow.

Ugh... Link thought. I should have told him... "The sword only accepts one person as its master. And when I drew it from the Sacred Grove the first time I touched it, I became its owner."

"Which means only you can wield it," Ezio said.

"That's right," Link heard Midna's voice from within his shadow. The voice was quiet. "Also, anyone who has a heart of evil cannot touch it. I hope you're not hiding anything from us, Ezio," she said playfully.

Ezio chuckled. "Of course not," he whispered. "I am not evil. Though, I wouldn't consider myself good either," he added.

"Showing off your sword, are you, Link?" said a flirty voice from the bar. Link looked up to see Telma smirking at them.

"Oh, come on, Telma!" He said, frowning.

"Please, honey," she said. "You know I was only teasing." She smiled. "I agree with Ezio, that sword is a fine one, and you're the only one worthy enough to be its master."

Link scratched his head. "Thanks." He sheathed the Master Sword and sat down at the bar. Ezio followed suit.

"So, the usual?" Telma asked.

"Yes, please," Link said, and Ezio nodded. A minute later, she handed the hylian a cup of milk and the Assassin a cup of spirits.

"I'm guessing you two want some information as well?"

"Correct," Ezio responded after taking a sip of his drink. "We want to know about the tournament, and how to register."

Telma smirked. "Well, honey," she said. "There's a lot to learn about the tournament." She put her hands on her hips. "There are a lot of rules."


"From what I've heard, you're not allowed to kill, use poisons of any kind, heal yourself during your round--though, you can heal between rounds--and, of course, you have to be fair fighter."

Link shrugged. He had nothing up his sleeve, but he knew Ezio had something. I wonder if his hidden blades would be allowed?

"What does being a 'fair fighter' entail?" Ezio asked very casually.

Telma frowned. "I'm not entirely sure what you're asking me, Ezio," she said. "I can guess, though. No tricks, basically."

"Like smoke bombs, for example?" Ezio asked, looking at her.

"Probably not. Though, it might depend on what your 'smoke bombs' do," Telma replied. "I think you'd have to ask the people at the registration areas what can and cannot be used."

Ezio shook his head. "I think that might arouse suspicion," he said, looking down.

"What, are you planning to pull any tricks?" Link asked, raising a brow.

"Of course not, amcio mio," Ezio said. "However, you must remember that I'm an Assassin. I've been taught how to fight dirty."

"Well, honey," Telma said. "If you're not going to pull the wool over anyone's head--so to speak--then I don't see why you shouldn't ask."

"So, where do we register, Telma?" Link asked, taking a drink of his milk.

"And do you know where it is to be held?" Ezio chimed in.

Telma smiled at the two of them. "Well, first, there a quite a few places to register, though, the best one is just right outside Hyrule Castle's gates. And to answer your question, Ezio, it's going to be held in the courtyard of the Castle itself."

Link felt impressed. "Wow, the courtyard? It's been awhile since I saw that place. All of I can see when I think that place is a rainy courtyard filled with monsters."

Telma nodded. "Mmm hmm."

"And that was what it was like a few months ago?" Ezio asked him.

"Yes, it was," Link responded. Then, Louise--Telma's white cat--jumped up onto the bar. She meowed, wanting attention. "Hey, there." he smiled, petting the cat.

"That's a beautiful cat you have there," Ezio remarked.

"She sure is, honey," Telma said with a smile. "Louise is also a very kind cat, she loves to help others out. Like Link here. Poor thing was stuck as a wolf and a Goron wouldn't let him in. So, my cat helped him get in."

"Aspetta," Ezio said. Link saw him wave his hand. "You know about Link's wolf form?"

"Yes, I told her about it later," the hylian said, taking another sip of his milk. "That is... after I defeated Ganondorf. I didn't see any harm in it."

"And you didn't tell your friends at the village because...?"

"Because they had too many nightmares dealing with monsters over at Kakariko and Ordon," Link explained, looking at Ezio. "I didn't think it would be appropriate. However, Telma hadn't really any problems with monsters, so I felt like I could trust her."

Telma smiled. "I wish I could have seen you in your wolf form. I bet you make a handsome animal," she said, winking. "By the way, what happened to that sick girl you were carrying at the time my pet helped you?"

Link smiled and shrugged. "Midna? She's all right now."

"I bet you miss her since she left for that... Twilight Realm, right?"

Ezio leaned back. "You know about that, too?" he asked.

"Of course! He told me about Midna," Telma said. A knowing smile crossed her face. "It was pretty obvious how he felt about her, too."

Link felt his cheeks go warm. "Well... I... she was just a really good friend," he said, scratching his head. He thought he heard a growl from his shadow and he licked his lips. "That's all!" he added quickly.

"Sure, honey, sure," Telma said with a giggle. Link's cheeks felt even warmer now.

He saw Ezio smirk at him. "I see you're popular with the ladies," he said.

"Shut up!" he exclaimed, feeling exasperated. "Those girls in the town don't count!"

"Relax, amico," Ezio said, patting Link on the shoulder. "We're merely teasing you. I was also a lady's man when I was younger."

That explains all the reactions of the women he's met around here, the hylian thought. "So, the tournament is being held in Hyrule Castle's courtyard?" He took the last sip of his milk.

"That's what I said," Telma replied, wiping the counter. "If you two want to register, you'd better hurry. Today's the last day."

"Well, we'd better get to it, then," Link said, standing up. "Thanks, again, Telma."

She smiled. "Anytime, honey. By the way," she added. "Rusl and Ashei also signed up for the tournament. You might run into them."

Link chuckled. "It'll be fun to see what skills they have," he said. He turned to walk away, and glanced back at Ezio. He had stood up, finished with his drink.

"Here," he said, passing a few florins to Telma. "A tip for your kindness. I heard silver and gold are rare here, so I thought this would be enough," he said with a friendly smile.

"There's really no need, honey," Telma said, looking flattered. She pushed them away from her.

"Please, take them. I want to give something back for your hospitality," he said, nudging them back to her.

"Mercy! Well, if you insist, Ezio, I'll take them," she said. The Assassin smiled with appreciation, put his hood back on, and turned toward Link. "Good luck, you two," Telma said. "I hope you get in the tournament because I've got a ticket for myself, and I want to see the both of you out there."

Ezio turned his head around. "Don't worry, Telma. I promise that we will get a spot in the tournament. You'll see us there."


He turned back toward Link and walked up to him. "Shall we?"

"Yes," he said.


As Link and Ezio exited the bar, the hylian kept praying that the Assassin wouldn't push the issue of his relationship with Midna.

"So, Link," he said. "What I was going to ask you about in private was about your relationship with Midna."

Damn it.

"... but I think that question has already been answered for me," he added with a smile.

Then, Midna popped out of Link's shadow, looking very irritated. "Don't you tell a soul about this, Ezio," she said with a dark voice. "If you do, I will kill you."

"Such hostility." Ezio chuckled. "Va bene. I promise not to tell anyone. But I am curious as to how the two of you became attracted to each other."

Midna's expression softened and Link felt his cheeks go warm again. He looked at Midna, and she glanced back at him. The hylian sighed and said, "it just happened over time, Ezio. I... actually used to hate her, but... she really grew on me."

"You used to hate her?" Ezio asked.

Midna looked down and put her hands behind her back. "Well, when I first met him, I didn't really care about him. I used him instead just to find the Fused Shadows so I could beat back Zant. But... like Link said, over time, we got attached to each other. I... shed a tear when I had to leave him."

"Capito. That's very touching to hear," Ezio said. He was smiling. "There are a lot of relationships that work out that way. Sometimes--and this isn't good--it works out the opposite way." He turned to face Link and Midna. "Don't be ashamed of your love. It doesn't matter what others say, what matters is how you feel about each other."

There was silence for a few moments, and then Midna said, "thanks."

"Yes, thank you," Link said. After another moment, Midna flew back into his shadow. "Well, let's get going." Despite what Ezio said, the hylian still felt slightly embarrassed as he wiped a tear from his eye.

The Assassin nodded. "Lead on, my friend."

Okay, let's see if I can remember how to blend... Link thought as he began to walk down the streets of Hyrule Castle Town. Apparently, Ezio was thinking along the same lines as he entered a crowd of people.

Then, Link saw his fanclub. He swallowed and quickly looked around for a group to blend into. He found one heading north, fortunately, and he entered the group. Taking off his cap, he continued to walk with the crowd as if he were a part of it.

He shot a single glance in his fanclub's direction to see that they looked a little confused. They must have seen me for a second. He kept walking with the crowd, not certain where Ezio was, and his group continued up into the central square, far away from the girls.

Putting on his cap, he moved out of the crowd and saw Ezio sitting on the edge of the fountain.

"There you are," Link said. "You're so easy to lose once you get into a group of people."

Ezio smiled at him, stood up, and placed his hand on the hylian's shoulder. "Again, I've practicing blending for years--since I was seventeen, in fact."

Link shot him a surprised look. Seventeen? Geez. I'm only eighteen.

The two made their way north to the castle gates. There, Link saw a long line of people wanting to register. He began to worry that he and Ezio might be too late.

"Damn," he said. "I don't know if we'll make it."

"Have some confidence, amico mio," Ezio said, glancing at him. "After all, there will be those who are rejected by the judges."

"Well, I hope we aren't any of those rejects," Link said, frowning.

"I am certain that we'll make it in," the Assassin replied.

After about an hour of waiting in line, it was finally Link and Ezio's turn to register. They approached the table, and were examined by an older lady with a very pointed nose. "Ah, are you both here to register for the tournament?" Her raspy voice grated against Link's ears.

"Of course," Ezio said.



Her eyes widened. "What? Sir Link? Our Hero? You're participating?" She looked stunned.

"I certainly am," Link said, smiling.

"Who's your friend here?" she asked.

Ezio bowed. "My name is Ezio Auditore da Firenze," he said. He rose his head. "I also wish to participate in this tournament."

"That's quite a name. I've never heard of you," she said, adjusting her spectacles. "Are you a foreigner?"

"Sí," the Assassin responded. "I come from the far away land of Italia. Firenze was the city I was born in."

"I've never heard of either of those places," she said, shaking her head. Link saw Ezio frown slightly. "Anyway, I already know about Sir Link's skills, but what are yours, Ezio?"

The Assassin nodded. "I am proficient with the sword, dagger, and crossbow. And... these," he added, releasing his hidden blades. The woman jumped.

"What are those?"

"Hidden blades," Ezio replied. "I can use them for making very swift attacks." The woman examined them for a second and then shrugged. The Assassin retracted his blades back into his wrists.

"Just a few rules, you cannot use poison, bombs, assistants, or anything lethal," the woman said. "Obviously, you cannot kill your opponent and you must play fair."

Ezio cocked his head to one side. "What about disarming your opponent?" he asked.

"That's perfectly legal," she said. "Now, you need to go into the courtyard to see if can pass the test. If you cannot, then you can't be a participant in the tournament. You'll have to watch instead."

"Grazie, madonna," Ezio said, nodding.

"... what?"

"He said, 'thank you,'" Link interjected. "I don't know what the other word means, but I doubt it's offensive." He thought he heard Midna snicker from his shadow. He shot a warning glare to his feet, but he had his doubts that she saw it.

"Don't worry, it's not." Ezio smiled. "Let's go, Link."

"Wait a moment," the woman said. She handed Link and Ezio two small pieces of parchment--one for each.

On the hylian's piece were written the words, in Hylian, "allow Link into the castle courtyard for the test." He assumed Ezio's was the same, just with his name on it.

"You'll need those passes to enter the gates," the woman explained. "Otherwise, the guards would just block your path, and send you back. ... good luck," she added.

Ezio bowed, and turned to Link. "What are these characters?" he whispered, pointing at the Hylian letters. "I do not understand them."

"Don't worry," Link said. "They just allow us entry into the castle. Come on."

The hylian led the Assassin up the stairs to the castle gates. Once there, one of the guards stopped them. "Hold! Are you registrants for the tournament?"

"Indeed, we are," Ezio handed over his pass. Link handed over his pass to the other guard, who stared at it for several moments.

"Ezeo Audiy...?" the guard said, squinting at the pass. "Err... how do you pronounce that?"

"Ezio Auditore da Firenze," the Assassin replied.

"That's quite a mouthful," the guard said. "All right, you're cleared to pass." He handed over the piece of parchment back to Ezio. He glanced over at his friend, and said, "James, what's wrong?"

The other guard--James--handed Link's pass to his friend. "Look at the name!"

The guard's eyes widened when he looked at the pass. "No way!" He looked at the hylian. "Sir Link! It's an honor to meet you in person." He saluted Link, and James quickly added his own.

The hylian nodded politely to both of them. However, inside, he was groaning. Sometimes, I wish I wasn't the legendary hero of Hyrule.

"Uh... sir Link, you're also cleared to pass. But... I'm surprised you have to take the test," the guard said.

"It's okay," Link said, waving his hand. "Everyone should have a fair chance at getting in. Just because I'm a hero doesn't mean I should instant access to the tournament."

"Oh... well, that makes sense, I suppose," James said.

At that very moment, the gates opened and a red-headed young man with two swords sheathed on his back walked out, looking triumphant. "Ha ha! I'm in!" he said. "All those other pathetic fighters are gonna see them ending up in the loser's bracket because of me! I can't wait to see them crying."

His arrogance made Link sick.

"Pathetic fighters?" Ezio remarked, turning toward the young man. He looked at him with bemusement. "You really believe that you are that skilled?"

The red-head stopped, and spun around to face Ezio. "Hm... nice robes. Are you a monk or something? Whatcha gonna do in the tournament? Use your fists?" He laughed loudly.

Link was worried that this would start a fight, but as usual, he could see that the Assassin remained calm and controlled. In fact, he was smiling.

"Your eyes need some adjustment, amico," he said. "However, I am very adept with my fists as well as my weapons."

"Hmph!" The red-head snorted. "So what if you have a sword? Can you even use it? They don't teach violence in church."

"My church is not of your gods," Ezio said plainly.

"Oh really? Who do you worship then? The dirt?" the young man asked.

James stepped between Ezio and the young man. "That's enough, you two! Rajin, you really need to show more respect to your fellow warriors. You got in, and that's commendable of you, but it is awful to see you berating someone you don't even know."

"Whatever," Rajin said. "That is, if they get in." He spun around again, and walked away.

"I'm sorry for that," James said to Ezio. "I'm surprised you didn't even try to punch him, sir."

"There's no need for that," the Assassin said. "Those who allow themselves to be taken in by angry words only become like the person who insults them."

James blinked. "What wise counsel."

Link nodded in agreement. I wonder where he learned that?

"Well, your free to pass," James repeated. "Princess Zelda is watching over the registration tests. It's an honor to meet her, sir."

"She's watching over the tests?" Ezio raised a brow. "Interesting."

"Come on," Link said. "Let's go." The Assassin nodded, and the two passed through the gate. As they walked, Link let out an aggravated sigh.

"What's wrong?" Ezio asked. "Did that young man anger you?"

"No," Link said. He looked at the Assassin. "It's more the fact that I'm so famous in Hyrule. It can be quite annoying sometimes. Really, I was born a farm boy in Ordon. I never really expected to become something so grand in the eyes of others." He licked his lips. "I imagine you're just as famous in Italia."

"Not exactly," Ezio said with a smirk. "I am a notorious figure. Though, being notorious or being famous can, sometimes, be the same thing, amico," he added. Link could see an expression of irritation pass over his face.

Link was wondering what memory had caused Ezio some annoyance when they entered the courtyard. Before them was a cleared area of grass, obviously to be used for the arena. And there, standing at the head was Princess Zelda.

She was dressed in her royal white robes, this time. Her top was covered with a purple blouse, and down her waist and long skirt was a flag-like skirt--similar to Ezio's--of purple with the royal family crest on it. Over her forehead and her brown hair, she wore her golden tiara. Sheathed at her side was her thin long sword with a golden hilt.

She smiled at them. "I welcome you both," she said. "This test is to prove whether you are worthy or not to enter the tournament. Since there are two of you, I propose that you spar to test your skills. Do not concern yourself whether you win or lose. That will not determine whether you are worthy or not. What will determine such will be how you handle yourself in battle, and the display of your skills. Unlike in the tournament, you cannot harm each other. Is this all clear?"

Link nodded. "Yes," he said.

"Capito," Ezio said next to him.

"Very well then," Zelda said. "Face each other, and bow."

Link and Ezio faced and then bowed to each other. Then, he drew the Master Sword while the Assassin drew the Sword of Altaïr.

"Ready, amico?"

"As always."

Zelda raised her sword into the air. "Begin!"

Chapter 9[]

Ezio started by slowly circling Link, and the young hero began watching his movements. I know he can shield bash, he thought. So, a direct attack would be unwise. I wonder if there's a way to lower his guard... The gears kept working in the Assassin's mind until he thought of something. He sheathed his sword, and put up his fists.

"Huh? What are you doing?" Link asked.

"Come over here, and find out," Ezio said.

"That would be the dumbest move I could make," the hylian responded.

"Well, one of us has to make a move soon. Otherwise, neither of us will get into the tournament." Ezio pointed out.

Link shrugged, and then stepped forward. He raised his sword to swing, and he looked very surprised when Ezio kicked him in the leg, and then grabbed his shield.

"Ow! What the--?"

Then, Ezio removed the shield from Link's right arm and threw it across the arena. "Now, we're even, amico," he said, drawing his sword. He swung at the young hero, and their swords clashed. Ezio spun around and tried to sweep Link off his feet, but the young hero deflected the attack with the Master Sword.

"Bene!" Ezio smiled.

"Thanks," Link said. He did a double back-flip and then pulled out his bow. "But now it's my turn."

Ezio immediately drew his crossbow and aimed. The two fired their projectiles at once, and the bolt and the arrow bounced off each other. The young hero put away his bow, and the Assassin followed suit with his crossbow.

Hmm... how are we supposed to do this without hurting each other? he wondered.

Then, Link pulled out his giant ball and chain and began to swing it above his head. Ezio prepared to dodge, but the young hero threw it too quickly at him. The weapon, however, did not slam into the Assassin, but rather, hit his bracer and knocked his sword out of his hand.

Ezio rolled to the side and drew the Dagger of Brutus. "Not bad!" he commented. He advanced on Link and began swinging. Link parried each attack with the Master Sword. Ezio was not trying to harm Link however, and he could tell that the young hero was not performing at his peak like he had when the Assassin had been trying to kill him days ago. Both of them were trying to fight without wounding each other.

Then, Link rolled to the side and around Ezio's back. He jumped up and spun around in the air, almost slicing Ezio's back. The Assassin rolled forward as if to dodge the attack, and then he pulled out a throwing knife. He hurled it at the young hero, and it struck him in the chest.

"Gah! Ezio!"

"Mi dispiace, amcio," he said. "I thought you'd dodge that one."

Link pulled the throwing knife out of his chest, and surely enough, blood had been drawn.

"Hold!" Zelda called out. "Ezio, you've wounded him. That was not part of the test."

"Forgive me, principessa," the Assassin said, holding up his hands. "As I stated, I expected him to dodge. I had no intention of injuring him."

"Zelda," Link said. "Let it side. A fairy or a potion can heal this. Besides, it's only a minor cut, I'll be fine."

The princess sighed. "Very well. Continue."

Ezio saw Link take the opportunity to roll over to his shield and pick it up. He then dashed forward and bashed his shield in the Assassin's face.

Dazed for a second, Ezio barely saw Link jump over his head and perform a vertical, spinning slash that would have cleaved the Assassin's head. He shook his head, regaining his balance, and then rolled forward.

Ezio grabbed his sword, and then put his dagger away. Picking up his sword, the Assassin faced off with Link again.

This is difficult, I'll have to try faking a kill like he does. I'm too used to making killing blows.

Then, he charged Link. He could tell from the hylian's expression that he wasn't expecting this. Immediately, Ezio swung in, and instead of getting shield bashed, his sword was parried by the young hero's own.

Link retaliated with his sword, but Ezio ducked and then kicked him in the leg again, while clashing his sword against the young hero's. Side-stepping around to get to Link's back while he was stunned, Ezio swung in, and faked a fatal slash that would have finished him off.

"Stop!" Zelda cried out. She lowered her sword and approached the two. "Good job. I believe you are both have the skills worthy to participate in the tournament. Ezio, I will allow you to enter despite the wound you gave Link because of how minor it was." She nodded, smiling. "Good luck to the both of you."

Ezio sheathed his sword and bowed. "Grazie mille, principessa buona," he said. He rose his head and smiled at her.

Link nodded, sheathing his blade. "Yes, thanks, Zelda."

"I will be watching the fights. As I have been assigned as the judge for this tournament."

"Aren't there supposed to be two judges?" Link asked.

"Yes, the other will be Auru," Zelda said with a nod. "Because of his knowledge of combat, he will will assist me in judging the warriors. I'm sure you're familiar with him, Link."

Ezio saw Link grin. "Yes, he's an old friend of mine."

"Bene," the Assassin said. "He should know your fighting skills well enough to make a proper judgment then."

Link nodded at him. He then turned to Zelda. "Where are the brackets going to be listed?"

"They will be located in the central square of Castle Town in a few hours," she said. "It will be then that you will be able to see who you are facing. Again, I wish you the best in this tournament. May the goddesses favor you."

Ezio nodded. "Grazie," he said. He bowed before Zelda again before leaving the courtyard. "I'll meet you at Telma's bar, Link."

"All right, see you there."


After waiting a few hours, Ezio and Link went over to the central square. On the northeast wall, there was a large crowd of people, all carrying weapons. The Assassin could only assume that they were all warriors, participating in the event.

The Hyrulean Hero Tournament Bracket

Ezio didn't feel like waiting this time, so he moved forward, pushing gently on the group's shoulders. This gave him a path to the bracket listing. There, he saw himself against the red-headed young man named Rajin in the first round.

This should be interesting... Wait... that name. He noticed who Link was fighting and the name was of an Italian person. Could that be the Templar? No, It can't be. He wouldn't expose himself like this. But how did another Italian make it to Hyrule?

Then, he heard Link's voice behind him. "Yeto? Yeta? What are you doing here?"

The Assassin turned around and saw the young hero conversing--with a friendly voice--with two large people. They were covered from head to toe in white fur. There was a male and a female; and the male was much larger than his wife. At least, Ezio assumed that was his wife. He walked over to the group cautiously.

Yeto smiled. "We here for fights! Uh! Lots fun!" he said.

"Want to try something new. Uh!" Yeta said. "Sledding lots fun, but uh, fighting might be fun!"

Link laughed, and glanced in Ezio's direction. "Ah, there you are, my friend." The two huge creatures turned toward the Assassin. "This is Ezio," the young hero said to them. "He's a friend I met recently from a foreign country."

He nodded. "An honor to meet you two," he said. "I assume you are a couple of Link's friends?"

Yeto looked at Link, appearing confused. "What? Uh! He use big words. Not understand," he said, scratching his head.

The young hero chuckled. "He's glad to meet you two is what he met. He also asked you if I'm your friend."

An expression of clarity passed over Yeto's face, and he grinned. "Yes! We friends of Link. Uh! He good man. Sled well." He pat Ezio on the back, which was more like a heavy punch than a pat, nearly knocking the Assassin onto his feet. "Uh! Good to meet you, Etzeo."

The Assassin gasped for air as he shook himself. "Ah, thank you. Excuse me, but I need to talk to Link for a second." The two creatures nodded and then returned to talking with each other. He turned to the young hero. "Have you seen who you're fighting?"

"Not yet," Link said. He smiled. "Is it Rusl?" Ezio shook his head. "Who is it, then?"

Ezio walked up to him and whispered into his ear. "It's an Italian--a man from my land. At least, I believe so. Look at the bracket." The Assassin led Link to the bracket and pointed out Saverio's name to him.

"Do you think it's one of the Templars?" Link asked, frowning.

"I don't believe so," Ezio said, shaking his head. "A Templar wouldn't expose himself so easily. At least, most of the Templars I've fought would not dare. But... it could be a follower, possibly similar to the ones you fought in the Sacred Grove."

"You think he's going to try to kill me?"

"It's possible," Ezio said, rubbing his beard. "Keep your eyes open and be on your guard."

Link nodded, and then patted the Assassin's shoulder. "Thank you. I will."


An hour later...

Link stepped up to his spot on the east side of the arena. Stadium seating had been set up all around the courtyard. Strangely enough, the seats were made of stone and cushioned for the viewers--it made Link wonder where Zelda had acquired such a setup in a short amount of time.

Maybe they were planning it for weeks... Link thought. That must have been difficult to do with all the damage Ganondorf did to Hyrule Castle.

Zelda was seated on the north side of the arena with a fence in front of her. Next to her was Auru; the elderly man looked completely out of place next to Zelda. His dusty brown pants and shirt clashed with her white dress. Regardless, Link smiled at the old man, and Auru caught it. He smiled back and waved.

At that moment, Zelda stood up and said, "welcome, my people, to the Hyrulean Hero Tournament! This event is being held in honor of our victory over the King of Darkness, Ganodorf, who tried to cover this land in Twilight and dominate it with his power. Today, we honor our hero, who rescued our beautiful land of Hyrule from the grasp of darkness.

"This year, sixteen warriors chosen of great strength, wisdom, and courage will compete in this tournament to see who can obtain the prize of one-thousand ruppees. For the winner, they will also receive a private audience with myself."

When she finished speaking, the crowd clapped their hands and cheered loudly. When they had quieted down, Zelda spoke again. "Our first combatants for the first round will be a battle between Link--none other than our grand hero--and a foreigner named Saverio Illario."

Link stepped forward onto the arena as his name was called, and then when Saverio's name was called, he stepped out onto the ring. He looked very similar to the guards he had fought in the Sacred Grove--only he looked like a captain of somesort, weilding a curved sword. Blinking, Link noticed something odd about his arms: the veins in his arms were black and protruded quite dominately.

As Link's name was called, there was screaming and cheering from the crowds. He glanced over and saw his fanclub, unfortunately, in the first row. They were waving and yelling at him with their hands cupped over their mouths. The hylian's stomach lurched at the sight of them.

"I will proceed to remind the combatants of the rules of this event," Zelda continued. "First, killing is strictly prohibted. Second, no foul play is allowed. Third, weapons such as poison, bombs, or any lethal objects or techniques are not welcome. Fourth, combatants are not allowed to heal themselves during a round, but they may heal themselves bewtween rounds. Healing potions will be provided for those who have none. Finally, the participants may not use assistants, open or hidden, to help them defeat their opponents. These matches are strictly one on one." She looked to Link and then to Saverio. "Is this clear?"

Link nodded, and Saverio also nodded, though more slowly. There was grin on his face that gave the hylian a bad feeling. I know it, he's going to break the rules.

"Auru and I shall be judging the combatants," Zelda said. "And now, great warriors," she raised her sword into the air. "Begin!"

Link drew his sword, and Saverio drew his own. The hylian saw the grin on his face widen in a disturbing manner.

The hylian readied his shield for anything Saverio would throw at him, and to his surprise, the italian swung his sword at Link. The hylian bashed his shield against the attack, but it did not knock Saverio's sword away, instead it stunned him, giving Link the chance to roll around and use his back slice technique on Saverio.

However, Saverio was fast, and turned around immediately to parry his attack with such strength that it knocked Link onto the ground. He heard the crowd gasp as Link stood up.

What the? That's some strength! How did he avoid being dazed so quickly?

Link rolled forward and swung the Master Sword down upon Saverio. His opponent parried the attack, pushed against the hylian. Link pushed back, and their swords clashed together with such force that sparks flew from the blades.

Although the hylian pushed with all his might, Saverio knocked him back again. Link could hear Yeto loudly cheering for him from the warriors' stand. I can't let them down!

The hylian sheathed his sword and drew out his ball and chain. He begun swinging it over his head. Saverio looked like he was ready to dodge at any moment, so Link tried to predict which direction he would move. Throwing the ball to Saverio's left, Link was correct in his guess as Saverio foolishly rolled right into the ball. The weapon slammed into his chest and knocked him into the ground.

Link pulled back the spiked ball and noticed it had drawn blood. Finally, he had made the first blow. Saverio let out a growl of annoyance and charged the hylian. Link threw the ball back toward the italian, but this time, he rolled out of the way, and then grabbed Link.

"Hey! What the--?"

Then, he threw the hylian onto the ground and slashed his left arm. The hit connected and Link's arm felt weak.

Letting go of the ball and chain, Link rolled out of the way of another attack from Saverio and stood up. He pulled out the Gale Boomerang with his good arm and threw it at his opponent.

The boomerang struck Saverio in the face, and sent him spinning. After it returned to Link, he drew his sword and jumped into the air using both hands. Link could feel the pain searing through his left arm in protest to the attack, but he wasn't going to let the italian beat him.

He hit, and broke off Saverio's helm while cutting into his right shoulder. An ugly face with a beard was revealed, and he let out an angry growl. "You won't defeat me, you freak!" he roared, swinging at Link viciously.

The hylian kept jumping to the side. Saverio's leaving himself open, but, damn, my arm hurts. Link glanced at his left arm and saw that it was bleeding more than he expected. No healing. Crap. Regardless, he rolled again out of Saverio's attack, and used the back slice again. Spinning into the air, Link cut off some of his opponent's armor again and struck a wound in his back.

Saverio spun around, and grinned. "Having a hard time with your sword? That barely hurt."

Then, Link could hear the crowd chanting his name. The chanting filled Link with hope, and he brought his sword back to prepare a spin attack. Saverio, again, charged him, his fists out in an attempt to grab him. However, the hylian didn't give him a chance to grab him as he spun around with his sword point out and struck his opponent, knocking him to the ground.

The crowd broke into cheers. If this was a real battle, I would finish him off with an ending blow, but I have to wait. The pain in his arm seemed to be lessening as he felt invigorated by the cheers and chanting of the watchers.

Now, Saverio looked angry, his good arm was wounded, his back was hurt, and he had a cut across his chest. His ugly face broke into a scowl. "I will win, boy." He picked up his curved sword and this time did not slash wildly, but waited.

The two circled each other, and the hylian wasn't sure whether to attack or to advance. Every moment that passed, Saverio stepped closer. Then, he charged Link again. And while he prepared a shield bash, Link suddenly was swept off his feet and knocked to the ground.

Saverio knocked his shield away and then brought up his sword to stab Link in the stomach. What!? The crowd gasped, and he heard Zelda cry out, but the words didn't enter his ears as Saverio brought the sword down.

Then, he heard the sound of a light, high speed projectile stab his opponent in the back. The italian stopped his killing blow. He looked over his shoulder and cried, "Assassino!"

Link looked over and saw that Ezio had hurled a throwing knife into Saverio's back to prevent the kill. Immediately, Link got up and dropped his sword. He grabbed his shield quickly, and while his opponent's back was to him, Link brought down the shield on his head with all the strength he muster.

The shield slammed into his head, and there was a quiet crack as the hit connected. Black and red blood spurted out of his head. Saverio stumbled and then fell to the ground.

Breathing heavily, and covered in the italian's blood, Link saw Ezio walk up to him. "Are you all right, amico?"

"Y-yes... well, sort of," Link said, gasping. He put his shield on his back and

Zelda and Auru approached him and the Assassin. Auru kneeled down to Saverio and felt his head.

"Ezio..." she said. "Thank you for saving Link." Auru had arrived at her side. "Auru, what is your call on this matter?"

"Your Highness," he said. "Saverio is merely unconscious. There is a crack in his skull, but it oddly does not appear to be lethal. Link's all right, he did not kill. However," he stood up. "Saverio is obviously disqualified for attempting to murder our friend."

Zelda nodded. "I agree." She raised her sword in the air. "Saverio has attempted to slay our hero, and thus is disqualified from the rest of the tournament. Because of his viciousness, he will be thrown in prison for his deeds." The crowd clapped in approval. "Thus, Link is the winner of the first round and will move onto the second!" The crowd let out a loud cheer.

"Th-thanks, Zelda," Link muttered.

Ezio walked over to Link and said, "come, I'll get you back to the warriors' stand," he said. Then, he lowered his voice. "We need to speak about this man."

Link smiled, and followed Ezio back to the warriors' stand. He picked up his items on the way and put them back into his adventurer's pouch. He was able to walk perfectly, but the Master Sword--despite how light it was--seemed to pull on his left arm, therefore, he had to drag it across the ground.

Then, Link realized the audience was silent. He looked at them and saw their expressions of horror, even coming from his friends. Why do they look so scared? I defeated him honorably.

Finally, Link arrived and sat down next to Ezio. The Assassin pulled out a cloth, wet it, and washed off the Master Sword for him, only touching the blade. "That man... did you see his veins?"

"Yes," Link responded, taking a gulp of a blue potion. He felt his strength return to him in full instantaneously, and the feeling returned to his left arm. "I wonder what those veins were about?" He looked back at Ezio. "His blood... was also black... what's going on?"

Then, he heard Midna slide out of his shadow. She was in her shade form, probably as to not draw attention. "He had Twilight infused in him. I could tell."

"What? The Twilight?" Link said, his eyes widening.

"That means he was a Templar follower," Ezio said.

"No wonder he was so strong," Link said. "Deflecting my back slice like that with such strength to knock me down. And then sweeping me off my feet." He groaned. "If he hadn't been infused with Twilight..."

"You would have bested him easily," Midna said to him. She turned to the Assassin. "Ezio, you were right, they are definitely trying to use the tournament to kill Link. That's also how he survived the shield bash. The Twilight kept him from dying."

"Whoa..." Link said.

"Their attempt to kill Link gives me a chance to find them. I'll use my gift to see if they are hiding in the crowds. If they are, I will give a subtle message to Princess Zelda."

"Ugh... I need to clean his blood off of my clothes. This looks disgusting." Link let out a sigh. "I don't understand the crowd, though. Why were they so scared?"

Ezio smiled and patted Link's shoulder. "Because you were nearly murdered. The shock will pass, and I'm sure in your next fight, you'll be welcomed again by those who care about you."

"Thanks, Ezio."

"Nessun problema," he said.

Link smiled, and stood up, sheathing the Master Sword. "Thanks for cleaning my blade. I'm going to go wash my clothes now. I'll see you in a bit." Midna slid back into his shadow, and Ezio nodded at him.

As Link left, he glanced back at the Assassin. His eyes were completely focused on the audience, looking for the Templars. I hope he finds them. Then, Link turned back and headed for the springs in the Castle gardens.

Chapter 10[]

Ezio continued to watch the crowds for any signs of Templar movement. Unfortunately, he saw no auras, save Link's friends, who were all blue. He could see no golden auras among the audience at all. Perhaps someone is blocking my view, he thought. But it would not be very discreet of me to start wandering through the audience, seeking them.

He had been searching the crowds for about a half hour when Link returned. The hylian sat down next to him, and poked Ezio. "Hey, you there?"

"Sí," he said. He untapped his talent, and sighed. "I cannot find any Templar activity among the audience." The Assassin glanced at Link. "You were gone for quite some time, what was the delay?"

The hylian smiled. "I was checking up on my friends," he said. "Apparently, Colin, Beth, Malo, and Talo were there as well. You met them in Kakariko Village, well except Malo, as was Shad--he's a member of the resistance," he added, probably seeing Ezio's curious expression. "I talked to all of them, including Yeto and Yeta, and they were, as you said, concerned for my health. They were all glad to see me alive." He sighed. "It also seemed like all of Ordon was there."

"Bene," Ezio responded. "At least that's a good thing for you." He patted Link on the shoulder.

"So, no Templars around?" Link asked. "Can you... see through people with your talent?"

Ezio shook his head. "No, if someone or something is blocking my eyes, I cannot see my target, allies, or enemies," he explained, rubbing his chin. "At least until they move into sight. However, there have been times where I knew there were guards waiting for me around the corner, possibly even without my gift."

"I see," Link said. He frowned. "This is very frustrating! We need to catch those damn Templars before they cause more problems in Hyrule."

Ezio, again, patted Link on the shoulder. "Be patient, Link," he said. The Assassin's voice was calm and collected. "Templars are never easily found. Sometimes, even if they are, it is better to tail them than to kill. Gathering as much information as possible about their plans is better than killing them all at once."

The hylian nodded. "I'm guessing you learned this after years of practice as well?"

"Actually," Ezio said with a smile. "It took me only about two years to learn how about overhearing conversations and keeping myself hidden until I had enough information to strike."

"You seemed so focused for this amount of time. I'm guessing you missed most of the fights?"

"I did, I'm not sure which battle we're watching," he said. Ezio looked out to the arena to see two people he didn't even recognize. Both of them were women. One reminded him of an Assassin, for she was wearing a green cloak and carried a dagger. However, she seemed to be fighting primarily with a bow. The other woman was wearing chain armor, and was carrying an axe.

The battle appeared to be a standstill. The archer had some wounds on her left leg, and on her right shoulder, along with some chest wounds. Meanwhile, the fighter was limping, she had been shot in an exposed part of one of her legs. And there was an arrow sticking out of her back. Ezio was wondering how she was still alive.

"That's Resuia," Link said, pointing to the fighter. "And that's Resolite. It's ironic they have such similar names. I think Resolite is going to take this one."

"Who's next?" Ezio asked.

"You forget, eh?" Link said with a smirk. "It's your turn after this fight. You'll be facing off with that cocky kid we met earlier today."

"Ah, that red-head," Ezio said, leaning back. "That would be Rajin, correct?" Link nodded. "Va bene. I'll use his arrogance to my advantage."

"Yes, you're probably going to make me look like a fool," Link said with a laugh. Though, Ezio could see that he looked a little depressed about that. "I bet Rajin will be easy pickings for you."

"Hmph, never underestimate your opponent," Ezio said, looking at Link. "I will put all my strength into fighting him, but I will not let my guard down. One never knows. He might be as skilled as he claims."

There was a pause, and then Link said, "you've got a point. I'm assuming you didn't see Rusl's match."

"I did not."

"It was quite a fight," Link said. His voice was filled with pride. "Daniel gave him a run for his rupees, but Rusl came out on top in the end."

"Heh, I see," Ezio said with a grin. "Happy your instructor won, then?"

"Yes," Link said, nodding. "I hope I'll get to face him in this tournament. We've never really fought each other before so it should be interesting if it happens."

They continued to watch the fight until Resuia conceded. Link had been right, and Zelda called Resolite the winner of the match. Some of the crowd cheered while others booed, making quite a ruckus.

While the two fighters left the arena--Resolite looking rather pleased--Ezio checked his equipment. He had his sword, dagger, twenty-four throwing knives, nineteen crossbow bolts (some of which had been recovered from the attack on Kakariko Village), and the rest of his equipment he wouldn't be able to use in combat. The pistol was too lethal, as were the poison darts, and he wouldn't be allowed to use medicine or smoke bombs.

Perhaps I should have asked Gortin if he could have made some crossbow bolts for me. I might need them after the tournament.

"What's wrong?" Link asked. He obviously noticed Ezio's concern over his crossbow.

"I am concerned I may run out of bolts after the tournament," Ezio said. "I have plenty for the fights ahead, but..."

"Don't worry," Link said. "They provide supplies here in case you run out. Just go to the west side of the warriors' stand, and there should a supplies area. Some people use crossbows around here, so they should have some."

"Grazie, amico," Ezio said, smiling.

At that moment, Zelda had returned to her seat, while remaining to stand, at the north end of the arena. Ezio stood up. "Your turn," Link said to him.

Then, Zelda spoke with a loud voice. "I would call your attention, please!" she shouted over the crowds. It took a few seconds, but the chattering died down. "Thank you. We are now going to have the fifth fight of the first round. I would like you to welcome Rajin, a local swordsman to the arena!"

Cheers echoed throughout the arena, and Ezio heard a loud set of screams coming from a group of young girls. Just like Link's fanclub.

The red-headed swordsman stepped out onto the field, and grinned. He waved at his fans, and raised his hand in the air. "I will win!" he cried. The cheers grew louder until Zelda called for silence again.

"And... next," Zelda announced. "Please welcome another foreigner, Ezio Auditore da Firenze!"

Ezio was pleased to hear the princess pronounce his name correctly, and he walked onto the field. The crowd went silent as his approach, and many looks of horror spread across their faces. The Assassin frowned, he did not appreciate being judged by the actions of a Templar.

Swapping his frown into a smile, he said, "Grazie mille to all of you for allowing me to participate! It is an honor to be here." The crowd remained silent. Then, the girls that cheered for Rajin yelled at Ezio.

"Go away!"

"I bet you're going to try to murder him, too!"

Zelda silenced them. "Enough!" she shouted, raising her hand. "There will be no more attempted murders in this tournament. I give my oath that it will not happen. Please give our friend a warm welcome."

Hesitantly, the audience clapped their hands, though, Ezio felt like it was hardly warm at all, or even a welcome.

Regardless, Ezio turned to his opponent and bowed. "An honor," he said. "Are you ready?"

"To humiliate you?" Rajin grinned. His voice was hostile. "Of course I'm ready! And I'm not going to fall for any sneaky tricks you might have up your sleeve." And Ezio thought he heard Rajin addd, "murderer..."

"You condemn a man because you do not understand him?" Ezio asked, holding out his arms. He turned to the audience. "I have nothing to hide. Nor do I have anything to prove through words. My actions will prove my worth."


"Enough banter!" Zelda commanded, interrupting him. "Are you two ready?"

Ezio nodded, and so did Rajin. The princess raised her sword in the air, and called for them to start the fight.

The Assassin crouched over and put his hands in front of himself, readying his hidden blades. Rajin drew his two swords, and twirled them. "You're going to be knocked out faster than a horse outruns a bulbo," he said.

"Let's see you back those words up," Ezio said. And then his hidden blades came out his wrists. The crowd let out a gasp. "Come and get me, amico."

"With pleasure!" Rajin twirled his blades in front of himself and advanced on the Assassin. When he reached him, he brought down his swords on Ezio. Immediately, the Assassin side-stepped, avoiding the first sword, and slashed his left blade across Rajin's right arm. The second hidden blade clashed with the second sword, deflecting its attack.

"What the hell?" Rajin exclaimed, jumping back. "What are those things?"

"My little toys," Ezio said.

"Pull out your sword, you whimp!"

"As you wish," Ezio retracted his hidden blades, and drew his sword. He held it up in the air, preparing to counter-attack.

"What? Are you scared?" Rajin taunted. "Maybe that's why you wear a hood. Don't wanna see me hurt you?"

"You insult me and claim that I am afraid," Ezio said. "Yet are you the one that's really scared? After all, what goes on under my hood is a secret. And that which is unknown is frightening."

"Bah! You're toying with me! I'm going to knock you out cold!" Rajin charged Ezio, and swung with both swords, one to the Assassin's side and the other at his head.

Ezio parried the first attack (to his side, and then ducked under the second strike. Then, he pushed his leg against Rajin's, nearly knocking the red-head on his back, and then hit him across the face with the flat side of his sword.

The red-head was dazed by the attack and stumbled backward, and then fell on his backside. The audience gasped again and some started to boo at Ezio. However, among the crowd, the Assassin thought he heard Link's voice cheering him on.

Ezio waited for Rajin to get back up, and then he started his series of attacks. The Assassin swung viciously with the Sword of Altaïr, swiping at Rajin's side. The swordsman deflected the attack and tried to return it with one of his own, but Ezio spun out the way, driving his blade into his left shoulder.

Rajin let out a cry of pain. "Damn you!"

"Many of priests have--" Ezio clashed his blade with both of Rajin's swords. "--tried to condemn me to Hell." He jumped over of Rajin's swords. "So far, it hasn't worked," he added with a smirk.

The red-head looked furious and he swung at Ezio again. The Assassin easily dodged the attack and then returned with one of his own. He sweeped the swordsman off his feet with a single swing and then he jumped back.

Rajin got up, and Ezio could tell that he didn't like the humiliation he was receiving. "Fine! I'm not going to toy with you anymore!"

Again, he did the same thing, and charged Ezio, but this time, instead of striking directly at him, he skidded around the Assassin and began slashing at him from all directions. Ezio felt the pain of each strike, unable to dodge or defend himself against the blows. When Rajin had jumped back, the Assassin could see blood on his opponent's swords.

The red-head smirked. "That's called my blade dance technique. Now, let me show you something else!" He charged Ezio again, and this time aimed for his sword. Both blades clashed into the Assassin's sword, and the force knocked it out of his hand.

Ezio jumped back. He was in a lot of pain from Rajin's blade dance, and now he had no sword. He is better than I thought. He was merely baiting me earlier. He drew out the Dagger of Brutus, and spun it in his hand before raising it over his head.

"Ha! That's not going to help you!" Rajin charged Ezio again. The Assassin was able to parry one of the swords, but the second hit his leg above the greaves, cutting into his flesh. Ezio winced in pain and pushed Rajin back. "Damn. You're strong for an old man."

I wish I could use my medicine...

The red-head attempted to attack again, but this time, Ezio used his good leg to kick him in the groin. Rajin cried out, but didn't drop his swords. However, it left an opening for the Assassin, and he stabbed Rajin in the right shoulder. The dagger dug deep, wounding him.

Drawing the blade out, he saw the red-head glaring at him. "Fine, so I underestimated you, I won't do that again!" Using both swords, Rajin swung at Ezio as if to disarm him. Expecting his attack, the Assassin jumped to the side, but apparently, the red-head was expecting that as well, and his blades slammed into the dagger, knocking it out of Ezio's hands.

"You're screwed now. Those puny wrist blades can't save you," Rajin mocked.

But Ezio didn't release his hidden blades, instead he put up his fists. "Come at me, bambino!"

"What did you call me!?" Rajin yelled. He swung angrily--just what Ezio wanted--and Ezio grabbed one of his swords and then kicked Rajin away, taking one of his opponent's blades with him.

"Hey! Give me back my sword!" Rajin growled.

"Why?" Ezio asked, raising the sword above his head. "You already have one!"

Rajin growled loudly, and began to advance on Ezio.

"Do you want it in the gut or the head?" the Assassin shouted.

"You moron! We're not allowed to kill!"

"You're right," Ezio said with a nod. "I guess I'll just have to knock you out. Of course, that may be difficult due to your thick skull!"

"You bastard!" Rajin came swinging at him in a furious rage. Each clash against Ezio's stolen sword was stronger than the last, and the Assassin wasn't sure if he could keep a hold of the blade under this pressure. Rajin raised his remaining sword into the air with both hands, and then Ezio took the opportunity to kick Rajin in the side and then slam the flat side of the blade across his stomach.

Rajin gasped for air, and then stoo up straight again, grinding his teeth. Ezio could see that he was calming down a little, as if trying to think.

"You're taking too long, amico," Ezio taunted. "Others are waiting for their chance to win the money."

"Will you shut up!?" Rajin glared. "I'm the one who's going to get that money, not you!"

"I'm not here for the money," Ezio said.

"Wh-what? Then why the hell are you here?"

"To hone my skills. Now, let's get on with it, bambino."

"Fine!" Rajin charged him again. "First--" he slammed his sword into the stolen one. "--I'll take back--" He slashed again, clashing against the blade of the other, knocking out of Ezio's hand. "--my sword!" He rolled over and picked up the blade. "Now, you're screwed!"

He charged Ezio again, and the Assassin had no choice but to release his hidden blades. Rajin began to skid around him again. He's not going to get me this time.

Ezio rolled forward, avoiding Rajin's blade dance technique, spun around and tossed a throwing knife at his left shoulder. The knife struck true, and the red-head let out a roar of pain. He pulled out the knife, and swung in from both sides, grazing Ezio's chest. Fortunately, only sparks went off as the swords glanced across his chest guard.

The Assassin rolled forward and sliced both hidden blades across Rajin's waist. Unfortunately, the red-head was only wearing leather, so Ezio drew blood with his attack. Then, he rolled toward the Sword of Altaïr, and picked it up. Twirling it in his hand, Ezio faced off with Rajin again.

He's too weak to disarm me now.

Ezio had been so focused on the combat, that he had not noticed that some of the crowd was chanting his name, mostly butchered, but nevertheless, they were cheering for him.

Rajin looked enraged. "I can't believe I'm being out done by a hooded-freak!" He charged Ezio again and swung at his side and his feet. Ezio jumped into the air, dodging the sweeping attack, and then parried Rajin's other attack. The two then exchanged boths.

Front, back, dodge, left, right. The swords clashed and clanged against each other. Rajin's arms were just too strong, though, and he was beginning to slowly whittle down Ezio with every hit that the Assassin could not dodge or parry.

Ugh... he is good. Wait... my crossbow...

Ezio sheathed his sword and then jumped back twice. He pulled out his crossbow, and saw that it was already loaded. He heard Rajin dashing toward him, and then Ezio aimed and fired a bolt into Rajin's left shoulder. The bolt hit, and Rajin let out a scream of pain as blood spurted out of it.

While his opponent was stunned, Ezio reloaded and aimed for Rajin's right shoulder. He fired, and the bolt connected, drawing blood.

Rajin was breathing heavily now, and looked like he was using all the strength he had just to carry his swords. The blades dragged against the ground as he advanced on Ezio.

"I will commend you, Rajin," he said. "For your determination. And not to mention, you are as skilled as you claim." He lowered his crossbow. "However, I believe this fight is over now."

"No--! I can't..." Rajin said, gasping. Soon, he was standing right in front of calm and collected Ezio. The Assassin only watched as he tried to pull up his right sword to strike him, but instead, the red-head dropped the sword. "Damn... damn... my arms." He dropped his other sword and backed away. "Y-you... foreign monster."

The crowd was half cheering for Ezio and the other half was cheering for Rajin. But it was over, Rajin couldn't fight anymore unless he was skilled with his legs. The Assassin put his crossbow back on his back and then walked over to the red-head as he struggled to pick up his swords again.

"Come, let go of your pride for once," he said, holding out a hand. "It will only injure you more if you continue to pick your weapons."

Rajin stared at him for a moment, and then then took Ezio's hand. "Fine!" he said, allowing Ezio to pull him up and sounding like he was trying to maintain his dignity. "I'll accept your help for now, but next time we fight. I'll win."

Ezio smiled. "I look forward to it." Then, a hyrulean guard walked over and picked up Rajin's swords. The audience went berserk, some of them screaming at Ezio angrily while others clapped their hands and cheered for the Assassin.

Zelda rose to her feet, and raised her sword to silence the crowd. With a smile on her face, she announced, "unable to carry his weapons anymore, Rajin has been defeated by our foreigner friend. Ezio Auditore da Firenze will move onto the next round!"

There were cheers all around the audience. Ezio saw Rajin's fanclub in tears and the others who had cheered for him looking sour. However, it seemed like the Assassin had gained most of the audience's trust. Auru walked over and raised Ezio's right hand in the air to dictate his victory.

After his hand was released, Ezio bowed to Zelda. "Grazie mille, again, principessa buona," he rose his head and nodded at Auru. "And grazie to you, too." He turned around, picked up the Dagger of Brutus and sheathed it, and then walked back to the warriors' stand. Despite his strength in his stride, Ezio felt weak from the battle. Rajin had truly been a strong opponent.

He sat down next to Link and grinned. "I guess I should eat my own words--I underestimated him at first," he said.

Link chuckled. "Don't worry about it, hey, don't use your medicine," he added. "I've got a potion for you. You may want to save your stuff for the Templars."

"Grzie, amico mio," Ezio said. "But it'll only take one. By the time it is my turn to fight again, my wounds should heal." The Assassin took the vial and took in the strong scent of the smelling salt. He shook his head from the powerful aroma, and the pain dulled away. I'm never going to get used to that.

Link nodded. "Well, did you hear them cheering for you? It looks like Saverio's impression wasn't strong enough to make you look bad!"

"Indeed," Ezio responded. "That, and I didn't try to murder Rajin." He placed his hand on Link's shoulder. "I hope we end up together in the finals," he added with a smile. "It would be good to fight you again. And this time, without the intention of killing each other."

The hylian nodded. "That would be great."

"Who's next?"

"Yeto verus a woman named Samantha," Link responded. "Samantha's a swordmaidan, and Yeto is... well, you've seen him. It should be an interesting fight."

Ezio nodded his head. "Sounds good. I'll keep my eyes open for the Templars, however. I'm surprised there was no attempt on my life. But... they may have backed off after you defeated Saverio."

"You're probably right, Ezio," Link said. "Well, the next fight is about to begin!"

Chapter 11[]

Some time later in the afternoon

Link had gone up the ranks through the tournament. To his joy, he got the privilege to face off with his old instructor, Rusl, in the Semi-finals.

Rusl had been quite a challenge for Link. Before the match started, both warriors had sworn to each other to only use their swords. The hylian had happily accepted this oath because he felt like it would be dishonorable to fight his instructor using his various tools.

The two had fought brilliantly--at least, Link thought so. During the fight, they had nearly come to a stand-still until finally, Link heavily wounded Rusl's right arm so that he couldn't use his sword again. The hylian had apologized to his former instructor, but he had brushed it off, telling Link how proud he was of him, and his progress.

Now, he was watching Ezio face off with Yeta. Ezio had already defeated her husband, Yeto in the second round. The Assassin had been too quick for the large snowman, and defeated him after dodging many smashing blows that had left many dents in the arena. After a few strikes from Ezio's crossbow and some slashes from his sword, Yeto conceded.

Yeta was much smaller than her husband, probably half his size, but she still stood tall at about eight or nine feet. How she had plowed through Ashei was still beyond Link; he hadn't seen the fight because he had been restocking his potions (though, he had used one after fighting Rusl).

During Ezio's fight with Yeta, he was still quick enough to dodge her attacks--which mostly consisted of sliding on her belly and attempting to ram the Assassin. Ironically, Yeta seemed to be having more fun sliding around than actually hitting her target.

The fight was amusing to say the least. Link found himself laughing more than once as Ezio just decided to play her game for awhile by jumping, rolling, and even dancing out of her way. It was a nice change in the mood, especially ever since Saverio attempted to murder Link.

Finally, the Assassin decided to finish the battle by spinning over Yeta's body and slashing it with his sword. The cut was so deep that it put Yeta into tears. She conceded the fight, yet forgave Ezio because he was Link's friend.

The hylian licked his lips as Zelda announced that Ezio would move onto the Finals. That means it'll be me against him again. Why do I have a bad feeling about this? Link wondered.

Ezio returned to his spot next to Link. "I feel slightly guilty about harming Yeta, for one thing, she seems innocent enough. I'm worried about her injury and that perhaps I've broken one of the tenets of the Creed."

"I would worry more about the Templars," Link said with a frown. "Yeta will be fine. You didn't kill her, so I think you're fine in terms of your Creed."

"Well, it looks like we'll be up against each other yet again," Ezio said. "Excited?" He smirked at Link.

"I suppose so," Link responded, shrugging his shoulders. "You're quite a challenge, but that's the way it should be for the final prize for the tournament, eh?"

"Ma certo," Ezio said with a nod. He looked up. "The principessa is ready for us, amico mio." The two stood up, following Zelda's lead.

"My friends, and my people," she announced. "We are now coming to a brilliant end of this tournament! We have two excellent warriors in our finals. You have seen the both of them fight with honor, courage, and skill. Whoever of these two men that rise victoriously shall obtain the prize!" She raised her hands in their direction. "I present to you, Link, and Ezio Auditore da Firenze!"

As Link and Ezio stepped onto the field, the audience went wild with cheers, cat-calls, and clapping. Link and Ezio walked onto the arena. They stopped in the middle before Zelda and faced each other. Ezio extended his hand.

"May the best warrior win, my friend," he said.

Link took his hand and shook it. "Indeed."

They took a few steps back from each other, and Link readied himself for whatever Ezio was going to throw at him.

Zelda stood up and raised her sword. "Ready? Commence!"

Link drew the Master Sword, and Ezio drew the Sword of Altaïr. To the hylian's surprise, Ezio charged him, and starting attacking. Link put up his shield, but wasn't fast enough as the Assassin sidestepped to his left and managed to slice into Link's chest.

"Whoa!" Link backflipped. That was unexpected! He brought back his sword in preparation for a spin attack. Ezio backed away and raised his sword in a parry stance.

Link edged toward Ezio, but the Assassin kept moving in circles around him. He sidestepped again and swung in at Link's waist.

The hylian immediately spun around, and his sword clashed with Ezio's. Instead of dodging or sidestepping, Link pushed against the Assassin's blade, trying to knock him to his feet. It worked; Ezio was knocked to the ground and Link took the opportunity to slice his right arm.

Ezio let out a grunt of pain and then rolled out of the way of a second attack. At the same time, he kicked, and Link felt his foot get caught and he was knocked to the ground. He saw Ezio get up, sheath his sword, and hurl a throwing knife at Link's unprotected body.

The knife hit the hylian's left arm, and he winced. Pulling out the throwing knife, and getting up, Link rolled around Ezio, and struck his back with a back slice. Unfortunately for him, the chest guard protected most of the Assassin's back, but he managed to cut his lower back.

Ezio stumbled forward, and then spun around. He drew his dagger, and then quickly stepped around Link again. Not allowing himself to be taken off-guard again, the hylian shield bashed his opponent in the face when he approached.

However, it didn't seem to daze Ezio. Instead, it merely broke his nose. The Assassin rolled around to Link's back and stabbed him in the back of his left shoulder. Link grimaced and let out a grunt; his left arm was feeling weaker and weaker with every strike.

Rolling forward, Link dropped the Master Sword and pulled out his bow. Ezio got out his crossbow, but the hylian was too fast for him this time. An arrow from his bow struck his opponent in the right shoulder. The Assassin countered with a crossbow bolt that landed in the hylian's left chest muscle.

Both fighters pulled out their respective projectiles from their body and continued to circle each other. Link hadn't realized it earlier, but now he could hear half of the crowd cheering for him, and the other half cheering for Ezio. He was glad that the Assassin was finally getting the respect he deserved.

Link picked up the Master Sword and then rolled forward, attempting to stab Ezio. The Assassin jumped back and then slashed the hylian in the right arm. He followed up by swinging at the hylian's head. Link ducked, and sweeped Ezio off his feet with a well-timed strike.

The Assassin rolled to the side, but Link struck him across the back again, making another cut into Ezio's lower back.

He jumped back up and drew his sword. He slashed at Link rapidly. The hylian ducked and sidestepped, and then rammed his shield into an oncoming sword strike, and knocked Ezio's sword out of his hand. The shield bash was also so powerful that Link saw it caused Ezio's dagger to fly out of its sheath and roll across the ground.

Ezio chuckled. "Very good, amico." He released his hidden blades. "I'm not harmless yet, however."

"I know! Those aren't 'puny wrist blades.' Link laughed. "I know you're hardly harmless."

"True, but we're both of full of surprises." Ezio said.

"Though, it's like you almost allow that shield bash to knock your weapons away..." Link said, shooting a curious look at him.

"You can disaram my sword and my dagger, but you cannot disarm my hidden blades."

Fair enough, Link thought as he dodged a swing from one of the blades. Ezio can at him relentlessly with rapid swings and swipes that scrapped across Link's shield. The hylian decided to counter with his sword using a vertical slash, but it missed as Ezio sidestipped out of the way.

Then Link saw one of the hidden blades slam into his left chest muscle. The crowd gasped, but Link knew it wasn't a lethal attack. Zelda didn't call anything so he assumed that she knew it wasn't lethal either.

Suddenly, a sharp, stabbing pain entered the back of Link's left shoulder, and he was pushed onto the ground. Ezio pulled his second hidden blade out of the hylian's shoulder, and after a moment he stood up, bleeding heavily.

"I'm not done yet!" he cried, gripping the Master Sword. Damn it, it huts a lot to hold this sword.

"Bene! I do love a good fight!"

Link wasn't going to charge Ezio, though, not if the Assassin was going to counter-attack like that again. Instead, Link bided his time. Though, he couldn't for long because there was no rules about fainting from blood-loss.

Fortunately, as if he knew and wanted to be fair, Ezio charged Link. The hylian brought his sword back in a final attempt to wound the Assassin as heavily as he was. He began to swing wildly with the hidden blades at the hylian. He swiped a cut across Link's face, and then he put some of his energy into his sword and performed a great spin attack, and Link let out a war cry.

As he spun around, that energy increased the range of Link's spin attack, and it struck Ezio in the waist, knocking him into the ground. The Assassin stood up, grasping his bleeding waist. And Link dropped the Master Sword, grasping his left arm.

Neither of them, it appeared to Link, could fight now.

"Shall we continue this by kicking each other?" Ezio said with a chuckle, through heavy gasps.

"I don't know if that'll work," Link responded. "How do you feel?"

"To be honest, I don't feel like I can go on," Ezio said.

"Neither can I, want to call it a draw?"

"Isn't that for the judges to decide?"

"It is," Zelda said from Link's left. He looked over at her, and she stood up. From the noises the audience made, he could tell that they were eagerly waiting Zelda's announcement. "My friends, I believe this tournament has come to a bloody, yet glorious--"

"--end, princess?" a dark voice said.

Link knew that voice, and he spun around. There, he saw the two Templars, the one that he had fought in the Sacred Grove, and the one that Ezio most likely fought. Link recognized the Twilight symbols on the other's black robe, while the one he had faced off with was wearing the plain robe with the red cross on it.

"Yes, yes," the Templar with the Apple said. "A very glorious end for these two: the hero, and the Assassin." The audience gasped with fear.

Link looked around at the audience, he didn't know why the Templars had exposed themselves like this--they were out-numbered a half-thousand to one, at least. "Everyone!" he cried. "These men are called 'Templars,' they are Ezio's sworn enemies. They seek to revive Ganondorf, the King of Darkness, and repeat the tragedy that occurred only months ago! So, they are also our enemies!" Most of the audience let out a gasp of terror, while Rusl drew his sword.

"What!?" he said. "Never! We'll never let you revive the King of Darkness!"

"It's too late for that, he's almost alive again, foolish human."

"Guards! Arrest them!" Zelda cried.

And at that very moment, Link saw the familar, golden barrier that Ganondorf used on him, light up around the guards, Zelda, Auru, and the audience. Link and Ezio were trapped with the Templars. He saw Yeto banging on the barrier with his fists in vain.

"It's so amusing," said the second Templar with the Twilight robes. "That the two of you would wound each other so badly in a tournament for the greed of money, just to fall into our hands to die." He cackled. "I suppose you should know our names before we kill you. I am Macro Brolio."

The other Templar, with the cross on his robe said. "And I am Juilo Brolio. Yes, we are brothers in spirit and in body." He sneered. "The man named 'Saverio,' was our attempt to kill Link, but he failed. No matter, we will not fail here. Brutus! Kill them!"

Marco snapped his fingers, and summoned from the Twilight was a large, orange, boar-like creature that stood on all fours. Its tusks were huge, enough to kill any person with a single gore.

"And just to make sure you die..." Juilo said. He snapped his fingers, and out of the Twilight materialized seven Shadow Beasts around them. "I'm sure your new 'friends' will enjoy fighting over your dead bodies. Good-bye, hero, and Assassin." Then, the two brothers snapped their fingers, and then vanished into the Twilight.

Link and Ezio retreated to each to other, standing back to back. "They got us this time," Link said through heavy breaths. "We're both heavily wounded, and--"

"Relax, amico," the Assassin said. "This time, we are allowed to kill. You have those potions, right?"

"They'd take too long to drink!"

"Then use my medicine! Quickly!" he added. Link, too, saw the creatures suddenly advance on them. He felt Ezio's hand push a small vial into Link's own, and without hesitation, he took in a deep breath from the smelling salt. Although, the smell was overwhleming, the hylian felt the pain in his arms and shoulders dull.

Ezio turned around and offered his hand. "Insieme per la vittoria."


"Just say the first word with me," Ezio said.

Link took his hand. "Insieme." Then, they let go and turned to face their enemies.

He heard the trampling of hooves and saw the creature--Brutus--attempting to gore him. With his strength back, Link rolled out of the way, and grabbed the Master Sword. Then, he realized he had rolled into a Shadow Beast.

Getting onto his feet and ducking a swipe from the beast, Link performed a back-flip away from it. He pointed the Master Sword at the beast, and attempted to release the light of the Sols from it.

Nothing happened.

"Midna...!" he cried, jumping over another attack. "What the hell is wrong? I tried using the light from the Sols, but it didn't free the Shadow Beast!"

"I know what's wrong..." Midna said from his shadow. "They've cursed them with something from that Apple! I can't even communicate with them telephatically."

"So, now what?"

"I don't know, I don't think you can kill seven at once!"

Then an idea came to Link. "Yes, we can! Midna, turn me--" he rolled under a couple of attacks from some Shadow Beasts. "--into a wolf!"

"What!? No! There are thousands of people here, they'll--"

"Midna, just do it!" Link yelled, fending off more Shadow Beasts with his sword and shield. "That dark circle of yours is the only way we can kill them all at once!"

After he rolled back, he saw Midna fly out of his shadow. She snapped her fingers, and the Shadow Crystal appeared in her hand. "... all right," she said.

"Ezio!" Link turned around and saw that the Assassin had re-armed himself with the Sword of Altaïr, and his dagger. "Distract Brutus for me! Midna and I will take care of the Shadow Beasts!"

"Capito, amcio mio!" Ezio aimed his left bracer at Brutus, and shouted, "come get me, you fat ugly monster!" There was loud bang that echoed over the arena as he shot a bullet into Brutus. The boar howled, turned on Ezio and charged him. The Assassin rolled out of the way and the boar ended up ramming into the barrier, away from the Shadow Beasts.

"Go, Midna!" Link exclaimed.

She nodded, and pushed the Shadow Crystal into Link's forehead. Suddenly, he transformed into his wolf form, and he felt Midna land on his back. He heard the crowd gasp in surprise--probably at the fact that he could change into a wolf--but did not scream.

Now, come here, you monsters! Link thought as he started barking at each and every one of the Shadow Beasts to grab their attention.

It worked. The Shadow Beasts began to gather around Link and Midna, and they circled the two. Link began to growl, focusing all his energy into Midna. He heard Midna make a noise that indicated that her hair was fully transformed into a hand, and aligned straight in the air.

A magical circle of dark energy surrounded Link and envloped the Shadow Beasts. Red Twilight webs encased the Shadow Beasts and they all raised thier arms to swipe the wolf.

If one hits...

Link didn't give them the chance; releasing his energy, he let out loud barks as he jumped from Shadow Beast to Shadow Beast, ramming them with immense speed and biting them along the way. The dark circle allowed Link to hit all his enemies at once, and each Shadow Beast fell to the ground with none left standing. They broke into bits, and vanished into the sky.

"All right!" Midna said. "Let's help Ezio, he'll need it!"

Link looked over, and he thought the Assassin was doing fine. Ezio didn't seem to have any new wounds, and he was quickly dodging every attempt Brutus made to gore him or trample him. All the while, Ezio was getting hits in with his sword.

However, Midna raised her hand over Link's forehead and the Shadow Crystal came out, forcing Link back into his hylian form. The imp disappeared into his shadow, and Link turned to face Brutus. There was another loud bang as Ezio shot the beast in the neck.

Brutus didn't look pleased, and it brought its tusks down, sweeped Ezio off his feet, and threw him into the air. The beast kept his tusks up in order to skewer the Assassin.

Okay, now he's screwed, Link thought, drawing the Master Sword and charging the boar.

Then, there was the sound of some coth unfolding loudly, and he looked up. He saw Ezio gliding back down to the ground away from Brutus's tusks using some sort of large canopy with rope attached to it. Brutus looked confused, glancing around for its target.

Ezio then let go of the strings and landed next to Link, rolling forward with a grunt.

"What was that?"

"A parachute," Ezio said. "Very handy devices."

"You are full of surprises...!"

"That's what the ladies always told me."

"That was more than I wanted to know. WHOA!"

Brutus had figured out where Ezio went, and charged both the Assassin and the hylian. Link rolled one way, while Ezio rolled the other.

Link slashed vertically, making a deep cut in Brutus's hide. The boar roared in pain and turned to face Link. Then, the sound of a crossbow bolt being fired was heard, and Brutus let out another roar of pain. The boar backed up, looking from Link to Ezio, probably wondering which one to kill first.

The hylian pulled out his bow and strapped a bomb onto it, lighting the fuse. "Got a bullet left?" he shouted at Ezio.

"Yes! But only one!"

"Use it in three... two... one... now!"

Link released his bowstring and fired the bomb arrow at the boar while a loud bang could be heard from the other side. As the bomb arrow exploded on the monster, and the bullet penetrated the boar's side, Brutus let out a roar of agony and rolled over, kicking its hooves.

The hylian heard the shinck sound of Ezio's hidden blades coming out. Link drew the Master Sword. "We'll finish him together." Link raised his sword and brought the point down int Brutus's neck as Ezio stabbed it from the other side with his hidden blades.

Then, Brutus let out a death roar as its hooves kicked violently, and then slowly, they stopped moving, and the creature closed its eyes.

Link, gasping, and feeling his old wounds kick in, sheathed the Master Sword. The barrier around them vanished, and there was total silence in the air.

Then, the crowds broke out into loud cheers, both for Link and Ezio.

"You did it!"

"You saved us all!"

"You two work great together!"

"I didn't know you were a wolf, too!"

Link saw Ezio walk up next to him and he smiled. "'We stand together' is what I said."

"Together, then."

"Well done, the both of you," Zelda said approaching them. "Thank you for fighting off those monsters. But, the fight isn't over yet. If those Templars are planning to revive Ganondorf, you must find them."

"But how?" Link asked.

"Yes," Ezio said. "Even with my abilities, there's no way for me to track teleportation." Then the Assassin stopped and rubbed his beard. "Wait... Saverio. He's still alive, isn't he?"

"He should be," Zelda said.

"We ought to interrogate him and find out more about his Templar masters," Ezio suggested.

"I agree," Link said.

"Very well then, let us go to the dungeons... after you are welcomed by your fans, that is," Zelda added with a smile.

Link and Ezio turned around and they were swarmed by the audience, chanting their names. Rusl came over and patted Link on the shoulders. Talo, Malo, Colin, and Beth had gathered around him, too and Yeto and Yeta were back in the crowd, waving at him.

"Well done! I should always expect the best from my student!" Rusl said.

"You're amazing, Link!" Colin said.

"I couldn't have done it without Ezio, Colin," Link said, smiling. "Thank him, too."

And they did. Again, Link was filled with joy as the Assassin finally received the warm welcome he deserved from all of Hyrule--or at least, most of it.

Chapter 12[]

Ezio and Link had some trouble with the audience after the battle had been won. The crowd insisted on celebrating their victories and took the two to the central square.

Ezio had, apparently, gained his own fanclub of female women (most of whom were not very pretty). During the celebration, they had restrained him (while Link was being pinned down by his own), and had tried to do all sorts of romantic things to him. Or maybe fanatical.

Finally, Zelda had arrived and caused the celebration to stop. She managed to get their respective fanclubs off of Ezio and Link. She said how pleased she was with the kindness and support the crowd had shown and given toward the two, but she needed to speak with them in the castle immediately.

"The attack on the tournament was not part of the event," she explained. "It was an unexpected attack, and an attempt on the lives of our two esteemed warriors." The crowd let a gasp of surprise and horror.

As if that was not so blatantly obvious already, Ezio thought.

"Therefore, we need to take immediate action," Zelda said. "And I want Link and Ezio to assist me. Carry on with your celebrations, but please allow me to take them with me to the castle."

Many of the crowd moaned in disappointment, but others--to Ezio's curiosity--just glared at Zelda.

Those are not glares of disappointment. They look angry about something else... In fact, they had been glaring at her ever since she had arrived.

Zelda beckoned Ezio and Link (whom had been released by their saddened fanclubs) to follow her. Ezio obliged, and he followed her to the castle. He heard Link's steps behind him.

To Ezio's interest, the angry part of the crowd did not stop them.

When they arrived at the now-empty, and blood-stained courtyard arena, the Assassin noticed that large beast--Brutus--had been taken away. Then, he heard the familiar sound of a cortorted flute, signaling that Midna had come out of Link's shadow.

"I was about to tear those girls apart," she growled.

"You say that like it's my fault, Midna!" Link protested. "I'm wounded, same with Ezio. Just because we had that medicine that--"

"Then drink a damn potion!" she exclaimed.

"Midna," Zelda said, stopping and turning around. Ezio also stopped and turned around. Midna looked up at the princess.


"Please, you know the rules about being in my castle, correct?" Zelda asked. The twilight princess nodded. "Good. Please don't aggravate Link."

"Aggravate?" Midna folded her arms, and Ezio was wondering if a fight was going to break out between the two. "I'm... nevermind. Here, give Ezio one, too," she said to Link.

"Yes, mother," he replied. Midna shot him a warning glance. The young hero handed the Assassin a bottle filled with blue potion. Link took out for himself and smiled at him.

"Bottoms-up," he said.

"Grazie," Ezio responded. The two downed their potions. Ezio immediately felt his wounds close and he felt his strength return to him. He handed back the empty bottle to Link. "Magnifico. That is some powerful healing potion." He chuckled. "The doctors in Italia would be amazed."

"Magic does wonderful things, doesn't it?" Midna said with a smirk.

"Yes, well, if you ever came to Roma or even other parts of Italia like Firenze, for example, your magic would frighten and confuse people." He licked his lips. "It's not common where I come from. Perhaps, not even existent."

"Except for the Apple?" Zelda asked.

Ezio turned to her and frowned. "Actually, as far as the Assassins and the Templars know, there is more than just the Apple. I fought a man who had another Piece of Eden. It was in the form of a staff. I had the Apple at the time."

He Link gasp. "A Staff, too? I wonder if there's a Sword or a...?"

"I would not be surprised if such pieces also existed," Ezio said to him. "There are the only magic we have in our world."

Link nodded. "I see."

Zelda also nodded, and then beckoned them to continue onward to the castle. Ezio and Link followed, walking side-by-side while Midna floated ahead of them.

"So, do these Pieces of Eden do anything that doesn't hurt anyone?" Midna asked skeptically.

"Yes," Ezio said. Midna spun around, looking surprised. "Have any of you heard of 'Adam and Eve?'" he asked as they passed through the castle's main doors. Link and Midna shook their heads, looking utterly dumbfounded.

"Who are they?" the young hero asked.

Ezio chuckled. "I guess you don't have that myth in your world. Well, according to a book called the 'bible,' they were our first parents. They gave birth to the entire human family after being cast out of a place known as the Garden of Eden. There, Eve supposedly, partook of an apple that gave them knowledge to become like gods. However, the price to pay was that they would die. Not immediately, apparently."

"That's some knowledge," Midna commented. "So, you think this Apple came from...?"

"... the Garden of Eden?" Ezio answered. "Yes," he nodded. "In fact, the Apple does have the power give others knowledge. My friend, Leonardo was given many ideas from the Apple, and was able to understand it. However, the Apple releases this knowledge in such a way that, to quote my friend, 'it would drive weaker minds insane.'"

"Hear that, Link? You better not touch it," Midna teased.

Ezio saw him frown. "Midna...!"

"I'm just kidding! What else can the Apple do that's beneficial?"

"Nothing, really. Unless you can use its power to see the future appropriately," Ezio said.

"See the future?" Link asked.

"Yes," Ezio said with a nod. "Five years ago, I was tracking an evil Templar named Cesare Borgia. I did not know where he was. At the time, he was the Grand Master of the Templar Order. So, his death was necessary. However, he had been imprisoned and I was uncertain of his location.

"I gave in, and used the Apple to find out where he would be in the future."

Midna looked at him. "And it told you?"

Ezio nodded. "It did. I saw him in the country of Spain," he said, as they ascended a set of lovely stairs. Ezio hadn't been paying attention, but they had just past through a vast room with a marble floor and chandeliers of gold hanging from the magnificent ceiling. The room was rather empty, save a few servants here and there. He asked Zelda why.

"It was because of Ganondorf. Most of the servants died," Zelda said, looking sober. "The remainder went into hiding. Right now, there are only a few servants for the entire castle." They passed through a corridor with a beautiful scarlet carpet across the stone floor. "It is rather lonely here. It is why I leave the castle often and go among my people in Castle Town, cloaked in a dark robe as you saw earlier this week."

"Capito," Ezio said. "I noticed the chandeliers were made of gold. A goron told me that gold did not exist anymore. How is it that they are made of such material if it does not exist?"

"He was correct. It does not exist anymore," Zelda explained. "The chandeliers you saw were made of gold-stained silver."

"Ah, I see."

"It is assumed that gold was lost after the Hero of Time defeated Ganondorf," she said. They passed through a door that led outside above the courtyard. "No one knows why, either." A smile passed over her face. "This castle is still a little rough around the edges, but it has been repaired for the most part." She looked at Ezio. "I doubt you would know what this place looked like when Ganondorf had control over it."

"No, I would not," Ezio responded. He gazed over the white stone towers with tops of blue, connected by large, thick beams of stone to the main body of the castle. He looked up behind him, and saw the towering spires connected to the keep. "I suppose we are headed there," he said, pointing to the keep.

"Uh... yes we are," Zelda said. "Why?"

"With your permission, I would like to climb up there," Ezio said, bowing his head. When he raised it, he chuckled at her expression. "Don't worry about me. I've been climbing since I was child. I doubt that I will fall."

Link looked baffled. "Ezio, are you sure that's a good idea? Why would you want to climb a huge tower like that?"

"I like the view," he said with a smile.

Midna shrugged. "Whatever, if you want to break your neck, go for it."

Link groaned. "This isn't your castle," he said to her. "Let Zelda decide."

"Are you certain you'll be safe?" Zelda asked.

Ezio nodded. "If there are plenty of places to grip I should be able to easily climb up there. I jumped off many tall towers in my life before. Ha! The looks on your faces. Relax, amici." He waved his hands downward. "There was always a nice soft spot to land in. All Assassins must learn how to do this jump--called a Leap of Faith--before they are fully inducted into the Order. I have performed many Leaps of Faith in my life."

"That's... oddly convenient that there would be soft spots for you to land in," Zelda said with a raised brow. Her face didn't look any less concerned. "I do not know... you seem confident enough in your abilities. But I do not see the purpose in climbing up the towers next to the keep since we have urgent business."

"You are correct," Ezio said. He looked up at the towers. "But after we have finished with these Templars, I would like to climb one of the towers just once."

"Very well," Zelda said. "I will allow it. But only after these Templars have been dealt with."

"Speaking of which," Midna said, putting her fingers together. "Shouldn't we be going to the prison below? That's where Saverio is, right? So, why are we heading to the keep?"

Zelda smiled. "I will have the guards bring him up. Don't concern yourself, Midna. Saverio is wounded enough that he will be unable to fight back."

"I wouldn't count on it," the twilight princess said. "He's been infused with Twilight, remember? He survived Link's shield bash, which would have been fatal had he not--"

"Yes, I understand," Zelda said, nodding. "That's why I'm going to send my strongest guards to get him. Besides, I need to keep my promise that I would have an audience with Link and Ezio. These days... I need to honor my oaths." They continued walking down a path that led to a large door. Zelda opened it and the four of them entered.

"Why is that?" Ezio asked. "I noticed that some of the people back down in the central square were glaring at you. I had the feeling that they were not angry for your interference with their celebrations."

"It's because Zelda is hated by half of the people of Hyrule," Link said.

"Yes, your assumption is correct, Ezio," Zelda said, leading the party up a spiral staircase. "Many of the people of Hyrule hate me because they feel that because I surrendered to Zant that I am not a worthy leader."

"And you surrendered because...?"

She stopped, and Zelda looked a little offended; it showed in her voice. "Because if I had fought him, all of my people would have died. It is my duty to protect Hyrule and rule justly."

"I meant no offense, principessa," he said calmly. "I merely needed to know of your motivations. You surrendered to save your people, and that is an honorable sacrifice." He smiled. "Besides, did not Link restore peace to your land?"

"I did," the young hero responded. "But that can't change the minds of all the people. Some still blame her for Hyrule falling into Twilight and Zant ruling over our land."

Ezio frowned. "I suppose that is the way with politics. One cannot please everyone."

Finally, the staircase ended and led to the outside. There, Ezio found himself high above the grounds of the courtyard, and could see all of Hyrule Castle Town. Not to mention wonderful view of the distant mountains.

"Grandioso..." he muttered, leaning on the rail. "This is quite a sight to see from up here."

He turned around and saw Link half-frown. "Last time I was here, the clouds were dark and obscured the view. The sun was setting, and it felt like the darkness was going to consume all that existed."

"Very dramatic," Ezio said. He chuckled. "I was teasing you. I am hoping we can find those Templars before they resurrect Ganondorf."

"Come," Zelda beckoned toward the entrance of the keep.

Ezio stood up straight and followed Zelda, Link, and Midna into the keep.

Once inside, the Assassin was given the privilege of seeing one of the most beautiful rooms he had seen in the entire castle--the throne room. The ceiling raised high above him, supported by pillars of fine marble. The floor was made of the same material and there was a large scarlet carpet with a gold trim that led up the dias which held the throne itself.

However, what drew Ezio's attention most was the large carving of the Triforce above the throne. He saw three statues of women with pointed ears, circling the Triforce. There were only three of them, one for each triangle.

"An interesting statue," he commented, looking straight at the carving. "Who are the three women?"

"Those statues represent the three goddesses who created our land of Hyrule. Din, the goddess of Power." She pointed to the top triangle. "Nayru, the goddess of Wisdom." She pointed to the right triangle. "And Farore, the goddess of Courage." she pointed to the last triangle on the left.

"From what I learned of the Triforce, it sounds like it seems to be used more for evil than for good," Ezio said. "I don't understand why it exists."

"It's a symbol of the goddess's power," Link said with a frown. "What are you trying to say, Ezio?"

Ezio stroked his chin. "Not to offend, amico, but there would be no need for a Hero if there was no Triforce. What I mean is, if there were no evil wishes, and then no need for a Hero."

Link looked surprised. He opened and closed his mouth but said nothing.

"Oh, don't say that!" Midna exclaimed. "The Triforce is important! Don't deny Link's existence."

Ezio glanced over at Link. Maybe it was best I said nothing. Because he was staring at the back of his left hand, dubious. "Come, amico," the Assassin placed his hand on Link's shoulder. "Don't worry about that now. We'll talk more of it later. We've got a Templar to deal with."

Zelda sat down on her throne. "Indeed," she said. Though, she also looked disturbed, possibly due to what Ezio had said. "I... will have the prisoner brought here. Guards!"

Then, Midna flew into Link's shadow. After that, two, and large burly guards entered the throne room. "Yes, your Highness?" one said with deep, booming voice.

"Bring me the prisoner, Saverio, from the dungeons," she commanded.

"Of course, your Highness, but..." the other guard said. His voice was nearly identical to his friend's. "We should have told you earlier--we're sorry. But the man broke out of prison and is no where to be found." When Zelda gasped, the guard added, "forgive us."

"Did you try to restrain him?"

"We were too late," the first guard said. "James came and got us to return to the prison, telling us that Saverio was trying to escape, but by the time we got there, Marcus was dead and Saverio had vanished."

"May I have a look?" Ezio asked.

"Uhh..." the other guard paused. "Ask our Highness. That is not for us to decide."

Ezio turned to Zelda and nodded.

"Why, Ezio?" she asked.

"I have... certain ways of tracking my targets," Ezio said, glancing at the guards behind him. "If Saverio escaped after killing one of your guards, then I will be able to track his trail."

Zelda looked confused. "How could you track that?"

"Because I am an Assassin," Ezio said. I cannot reveal my secret in front of these guards. He threw a warning glance at Link as the young hero opened his mouth to say something. Then, Link shut his mouth. Midna also seemed to get the message as she said nothing from the young hero's shadow.

"Very well," Zelda said. "Go to the prison, and see if you cannot find his trail, Ezio."

"Grazie, principessa," he said, bowing. This time, Ezio dropped to his knees in respect. When he rose, Link nodded at him.

"I'll come with you," he said. "You'll need the help."

"Thank you, my friend."

Chapter 13[]

The Dungeons of Hyrule Castle

When the three of them arrived in the dungeons, they found Marcus's body near the prison cell where Saverio had been kept. Ezio could see that the bars were twisted and broked like a vicious beast had torn them to pieces. There was still fresh blood on the ground, but the Assassin could tell that the Templar follower had covered his trail with expertise; for the only blood found was on Marcus's body.

"Ezio, what do you see?" Link asked.

"Let me use my talent," Ezio said. He tapped into his gift and stared at the ground, and sure enough, he saw a trail of hidden blood that led from Marcus's body to the the stairs out of the dungeon. He showed the young hero the trail with his hand.

"I see," Link said, rising from Marcus's dead body. Midna was floating beside him, looking at the body.

"I'd have Link turn into a wolf and track the sent," she said. Ezio untapped his talent. "But there's too many people around Castle Town. Even though everyone knows now that he can transform into a wolf," she added, rolling her eyes. "Real smart."

"What?" The hylian glared at her. "Did you see the number of Shadow Beasts? I didn't have the energy for another great spin attack, and you said it yourself. 'You can't beat back that many,' or something like that."

"It was still your idea," Midna said, snorting.

"Easy, easy," Ezio said, stepping between the two. "Let's not fight over this. We have a Templar follower to chase. With any luck, he'll lead us straight to his masters."

"All right," Link said, nodding. He looked at Midna, and the Twili looked back at him. She shrugged and flew back into his shadow. Sighing, the young hero mouthed to Ezio, "she can be a real pain."

The Assassin smirked. "True, but you love her anyway," he said. Link's face went pink.

"What was that?" Midna asked from his shadow, she sounded irritated.

"Nothing to worry about," Ezio said. He turned to the hylian. "Do you still have those two bullets I shot at you? The one that hit you came out when you drank your potion as I recall."

Link nodded, and pulled from a brown pouch a couple of the Assassin's bullets. He handed them over to Ezio.

"Grazie mille," he said. He loaded the two bullets into his hidden pistol. "Let's go. I'll lead." He tapped into his gift and followed the trail of blood out of the dungeons. "Didn't Zelda say she would meet us in the central square?"

"Yes," Link said behind him as they walked. "She said she wanted to know what we found out here."

"I do not know if that is wise," Ezio responded, continuing to follow the trail. It led back onto the main floor of Hyrule Castle. "I know she has a sword, but can she use it?"

"She can," Link said. "I don't know how well-trained she is. The only time I saw that sword being used was when she was possessed by Ganondorf. But that was his skills not hers."

"So, what is her protection?"

"Remember the two burly guards we met in the keep?" Link said. "I bet you rupees, or perhaps even florins," he added with a chuckle. "that those two are with her."

The trail led out of Hyrule Castle and through the gates into Castle Town.

"Even with those two with her, the Twilight might give Saverio more than enough strength to overpower them," Midna said with a warning voice.

"He's wounded," Link said. "He shouldn't be too much of a threat this time."

"Unless he has something up his sleeve," Ezio said, raising a finger. "Or the Twilight makes one stronger than they appear. ... the trail is going straight through Castle Town. How did he not get caught by the guards?" The Assassin pointed out, noting the unharmed guards as they exited the gate.

"Maybe he can move through shadows, like Midna can?" Link suggested.

"That's possible," she said from his shadow. "Since he's infused with the Twilight."

Ezio nodded, and kept leading Link further into Castle Town. "I believe that is the most likely solution. I doubt he knows how to blend, and even if he did, there are not any crowds moving through the gates to Hyrule Castle to blend with. I think Link is right because the trail of blood goes through the shadows from the walls here."

"That's true!" Link said. Ezio felt him put his hand on his shoulder. "Where does the trail lead now?"

"... to the central square in Castle Town," Ezio said. He untapped his gift, and looked at Link. "Quickly, we should find Zelda!"

The young hero nodded anxiously, and the two ran down into central square. There, they found the usual crowd of people running about doing their errands or just talking to one another. Ezio looked toward the eastern path of central square and saw Zelda with--as Link had predicted--the two burly guards.

"There you are!" Link said when they arrived.

"Did you find anything about Saverio?" Zelda asked. "... why do the two of you look so pale? What is wrong?"

Ezio was about to explain, but one of his senses kicked in, and he ducked behind a corner. And at that very moment, there was the sound of a contorted flute, but the Assassin knew it wasn't Midna. From around the corner, he saw Saverio pop out of Zelda's shadow and grapple her, holding a knife to her neck.

"No one move!" he exclaimed, his eyes filled with wild fury. The guards backed away, but their spears were out. The crowd screamed and scattered in all directions--all, but Saverio's. "Put your weapons down, and don't move or the princess dies." The guards dropped their weapons and took another few steps back. "That's good."

Link glanced at Ezio, and then back to Saverio. "What do you want?"

Perfect, he's distracting the Templar follower for me, Ezio thought as he started to climb up the wall.

He heard Saverio laugh as he continued to climb. "I want your and the Assassin's heads! If you let me kill you two, then I'll spare her life." Ezio reached the top. Zelda's face was pale, yet she struggled against Saverio's grasp. His arms were stained with red and black blood.

"You really think I'm going to give in to hostage negotiation?" Link said, reaching for the Master Sword.

"I said put your weapons down!" Saverio yelled. "I think you will give in, 'hero.' Even if you have some way of attacking me without harming the princess, I can kill you. I almost did in the tournament."

"Only because I wasn't expecting it," Link retorted.

Enough banter, Ezio thought, fingering his left hidden blade. It's time to end this. The Assassin leaped off the rooftop and aimed for Saverio's neck.

"Ha! I doubt you'd... huh?" The Templar follower looked up, barely in time to watch his own death. Ezio landed on him, knocking him to the ground and freeing Zelda, and then he pierced his neck.

"Ugh... damn Assassin," Saverio groaned as Ezio pulled his hidden blade from his target's neck. Red and black blood stained the blade. "I won't... tell you... anything... about my masters. They... will..." His eyes rolled over, and his head fell to the side.

"Requiescant in pace," Ezio said as he closed Saverio's eyes. He looked up at Zelda. "Are you all right?"

"Yes." She coughed, holding her throat. There was a red mark across her neck. "Thank you, Ezio. I did not know you were capable of such feats."

Ezio bowed his head, smiling. "As I told you earlier, I am a good climber." He walked over to Zelda when Link approached.

"Great job, Ezio! But... how are we going to find out about the Templars now that Saverio's dead?"

"Allow me to search him," the Assassin replied. He stooped down over his body, and began to ruffage through his possessions. He smiled. "There, I found something." He took out a blood-stained letter from Savrio's body. Link, and Zelda walked over to him, and peered around the letter.

"I do not know if you'll understand it or not," Ezio said, looking from Link to Zelda. "It is probably written in my native language." He opened the letter, and sure enough it was in Italian.

He saw Link bite his lip. "Can you translate for us?"

"Certainly," he said, taking a moment to read the letter.


It is our duty as Templars not to expose ourselves immediately with the Assassin around. I recommend that you wait until the tournament to kill the boy, whom the natives here call "Hero," or "Link." Do not act in haste. When the deed has been completed, make sure to use your new powers to get yourself to Gerudo Desert. This is where the ritual will be held.

Once the King of Darkness is revived, this world will be ours for the taking. And with the power of the Twilight Princess's ring, along with the Apple, we will take back Italia as well.

Be swift, and do not fail us.

May the Father of Understanding Guide You,

Marco, Juilo, and Carlo, your masters.

Then Ezio read it out-loud for them. He heard Midna fly out of Link's shadow, there was a glimmer of fear in her uncovered eye. She did not seem to care that a crowd was gathering around them.

"A ritual?" Link repeated.

"There's only one place they could perform a ritual at," Midna said in almost a whisper.

Then the two looked at each other and said at exactly the same time, "The Aribter's Grounds!"

"Ezio... there are three signed at the bottom," Zelda said, pointing out the signatures. "I thought you told me there were only two Templars."

"I also originally thought that, madonna." Ezio worked his jaw. He was growing uneasy with increasing size of the crowd. He mouthed to Link, "move elsewhere," and moved his head in the direction of the crowd.

"Right." He nodded. "Zelda, could you...?"

"Of course, I'll have my guards handle the body," she said. Ezio smiled because apparently she had gotten the message.

Beautiful, and wise... I should see what I can do later, he thought, gazing at Zelda for a moment. "A third Templar..." he muttered quietly. He barely heard Zelda dismiss the crowd while musing.

"Ezio?" He heard Link say, waking him from his thoughts. "What's up?"

"Nothing, amico," Ezio said. He walked toward the east entrance to Hyrule Castle Town with Midna and link following. "Where is this desert and can you take me there?"

"We can, but you're not going alone. It's dangerous!" the young hero said.

Midna nodded. "The Templars may be your enemies, but they're ours, too." She glanced at Ezio. "Especially since they are trying to revive Ganondorf."

"Va bene," Ezio said with a nod. "We'll all go together." He stopped and turned around. "How do we reach this... Gerudo Desert?"

"Warping is the fastest way," Midna said as they exited the town. "We can use a cannon, but..."

Ezio raised his brow. "A cannon? How? Those are only large enough for cannon balls." Then he stopped, and sighed dubiously. "Unless you are trying to tell me there's a cannon large enough to fire a person."

Link nodded. "There is, but it's in Lake Hylia; below the bridge where you fought the Shadow Beasts two days ago," he said.

"Warping is the fastest way," Midna repeated, rolling her eyes. "And not to mention, the better way," she added, looking at Link. Ezio noted his unenthusiastic expression. "Come on, now, why would we need to go visit Fryer with his huge cannon?"

The Assassin raised a finger. "The three of them may yet not be in the Gerudo Desert," he said. "I think we should visit the Lake, and find out if anyone there has seen any of the Templars."

Link and Midna looked at each other.

"I think it's a waste of time," Midna said, her arms folded. "Few people live in Lake Hylia, and the majority of them are Zoras guarding the Lakebed Temple. And," she added. "You wouldn't be able to reach it, Ezio. That thing is deep under the Lake's surface."

"And I suppose Link can?"

"Yes," Link said. "I have a set of armor called the 'Zora Armor,' it allows me to swim like a fish, and to breathe under water."

"And even if Link lent it to you, I'd doubt you'd find out anything from the Zoras," Midna said. "Because I really doubt those Templars can go that deep. The power of the Twilight can do a lot of things, but it cannot make someone breathe underwater for one thing."

"Va bene," Ezio said, shrugging. "I still think we should take a look there, however. You never know who might know something."

Midna let her arms limp down at her sides and she groaned. "Really? Really, Ezio?"

"Come on, Midna, let's just head to Lake Hylia..." His eyes widened in realization. "The Light Spirit! Lanaryu! Maybe he knows something or saw someone!"

Ezio nodded. "Bene, we'll go see him then."

"Uhh... Hyrule to Link, did you forget what that blasted Light Spirit did to me the last time I met him?" Midna said. Ezio could see fear in her eyes.

"No I didn't, just hide in my shadow, and you should be fine. Come on, let's ride!"

"Your turn to lead, my friend," Ezio said, gesturing toward the exit to Hyrule Castle Town.


Lake Hylia


"What is it, Link?"

The young hero looked at him as they walked across some small bridges with fences toward a large cavern.

"Remember when you said the Triforce seemed purposeless? That without it, there would be no need for a hero?"

"I do," Ezio said. He bit his lip, wondering if he had said too much. "You look like you have a heavy burden on you, amico."

"Yes, I... feel like I have no purpose..." Link said sadly. They stopped by the entrance to the cavern. Ezio noted that the sign said 'spring of the spirit Lanayru.'

"Of course you have a purpose, my friend," Ezio said, patting him on his sagging shoulders. "Do not despair, you were meant to live."

"Yes, but... without the Triforce... I would just be a farm boy," he said. He shrugged. "Maybe that's better than having darkness threaten your daily life."

"Link..." Midna's voice came from his shadow. She flew out, this time in her shade form. "Link... you have a purpose as the Hero. You're supposed to be the hero. Don't you remember what Ordona said to you? You're the chosen hero of the gods."

"The same gods who made the Triforce..."

She sighed. "Except... Ezio's wrong about the Triforce. It was needed."

Link stood up straight and looked at her. Ezio raised a brow, and asked, "how can something that possibly breeds destruction and misery be needed?"

"Freedom," Midna said simply. "The Triforce, according to Twili tradiation, was not just made as a symbol of the goddess's existence, but also so that their creations could choose between good and evil. Without it, they wouldn't understand the difference. And therefore, there really wouldn't be any free will." She looked at Ezio. "Isn't that what you and your Assassins fight for?"

Ezio nodded. "Sí. So, the Triforce was to help bring free will to the people?"


"I... never knew that," Link said slowly, sounding amazed. He worked his jaw. "So... I do have a purpose, then."

Ezio put his hand on the young hero's shoulder. "Whether you were chosen by the gods or not, Link, you always had some sort of purpose. Everyone does. Otherwise, why would we be given the freedom to choose?"

"Thanks, Ezio." He smiled.

The Assassin nodded. "Now, we should see this spirit," he said, removing his hand. "I am assuming this cavern is the place due to the sign."

"It is." Link said as Midna flew back into his shadow. "Let's go inside, I hope he'll appear to us."

They walked inside and Ezio found himself in a spacious cavern with an immense spring at the bottom. Here, he and Link stood on a ledge high above the spring.

Ezio looked down, expecting something to happen, but nothing did. He looked at his friend. "Where is this spirt?"

"Hold on," Link said. "Lanayru. It's me, Link. My friend and I request an audience from you." He raised his left hand. "Here is the crest of Courage to prove that it is me."

Then, at that moment, the waters began to move. Ezio thought he saw a large, white serpent in the water moving around. Suddenly, a orb of brilliant light appeared above the spring, and a giant serpent jumped out of the water and caught it in its fanged mouth.

Ezio held his hand in the air as the bright light nearly blinded him, but then his eyes adjusted to it. He saw Link smiling.

"Lanaryu... it is good to see you again."

"As it is with you, O chosen hero of the gods," the giant serpent--Lanayru said. "Who is your ally?" His eyes seemed empty, but the Assassin could tell that he was looking at him.

He bowed. "My name is Ezio Auditore da Firenze," he said, rising. "I have come seeking answers. I am certain as a Light Spirit, you must know something about the darkness that plagues this land. It also threatens my own."

"Ezio..." Lanayru said. "You are the Assassin, correct? Me and my fellow Light Spirits have seen your deeds since you entered this world. You may not know it, but you, too are destined here in the land of Hyrule for a grand purpose.

"Indeed, I know of the threat of the men you call the Knights Templar, or Templars. They have sought dominion not just over Hyrule, but the Twilight Realm and the Sacred Realm as well. Their dark deeds and intentions have sorrowed me and my fellow Light Spirits."

"They are after the Twilight and Sacred Realms as well?" Link asked, looking stunned. "How do they know about all of this?"

"The artifact they have in their possession called 'The Apple of Eden' has given them knowledge about this world," Lanayru said.

"The Apple..." Link muttered.

"Not to be disrespectful," Ezio said. "But why did you not act?"

"Because... that destiny is for you to fulfill, Assassin," Lanayru responded. "And as yours, as well, Link, since the King of Darkness, Ganondorf is involved. Fear not, for he has not yet awakened from his slumber of death. But he will rise soon if you do not act swiftly. I know that the Twilight Princess is with you, yet I know why she does not show hereself."

Link nodded. "She is afraid that she will be harmed again," he said.

"A wise precaution," Lanayru remarked. "For in her current cursed state, she would not withstand the light unless I teleported her away as I did once before when you were locked in your shadow form, Link. I will confess that I am sorry for nearly slaying her."

"It isn't your fault," Link said, shaking his head. "Zant took advantage of the situation and used you to almost kill Midna. I am grateful you warped us to Hyrule Castle Town before she would have died."

"Indeed." The Light Spirit turned to Ezio. "I know what you are about to ask, Auditore. I have sensed a Templar in Lake Hylia nearby. He has the Apple and with it, he seeks to dominate the Zoras below the water. However, his plan is flawed, as the Zoras are deep under the water, protecting the Lakebed Temple. Therefore, he will be easily slain by your hand."

Ezio nodded. "Where can I find him?"

"I know not, but you must search the Lake using your gift."

"You know about that?"

"Indeed, your gift is a blessing from your world; a sixth sense to allow to see what others cannot. Use it, and you will find the first Templar." Lanayru paused for a moment, and then added, "I warn you, however, of what I forsee."

"What is it?" Ezio asked.

"You will not retreive the Apple yet, therefore, do not seek to obtain it. Seek only to destroy him. Link, assist your ally in completing this task, but leave the final kill to the Assassin."

Link nodded. "I will."

"Molto bene," Ezio said with a nod. "Grazie for your information and your assistance, Lanayru, I will not forget it."

"You are blessed person, Ezio. You may not believe it, but there is more good in you than you think. Farewell, Assassin, and O chosen hero of the gods," he said as he then broke into particles of light and vanished.

Ezio turned to Link, and he turned to Ezio. "Then let us go and find the Templar. Perhaps he will give us more information about exactly where in these... grounds in the desert that the ritual will be performed. If we are swift enough, perhaps we can prevent the rise of Ganondorf again."

The young hero smiled and nodded. "I guess it's your turn to lead since you need to use your talent."


Chapter 14[]

After exiting the cavern, Link watched Ezio closely as he--at least, the hylian assumed--tapped into his sixth sense. Lanayru said Ezio was destined here and that he had a destiny to fulfill. What did he mean? he wondered. The Templars are after not only Hyrule and Italia, but the Twilight Realm and the Sacred Realm as well! But why the Sacred Realm? The Triforce isn't there... it's been separated.

"I found a trail," the Assassin said, jarring Link from his thoughts.

"Where?" Link asked. Ezio pointed to across the wooden bridge with the fence--the same one they had crossed to reach the spring. "All right, let's go that way. When we find him, I'll distract him while you go in for the kill like we did with Saverio."

"Bene," he said. "Sounds like a perfect plan. Head up the bridge and to that ledge--don't worry, just go ahead."

Link began to walk across the bridge, looking for an sign of the Templar. Most likely, it would be Julio that would greet him. He heard a splash of water behind him, and he assumed Ezio had jumped into the lake. So, that's his plan, huh?

He continued to move across the bridge until he reached the ledge. There, he found Julio staring the setting sun atop a hill just across from the ledge.

"There you are!" Link shouted, drawing his sword. "You won't escape this time."

Julio turned around very slowly until he faced the hylian. "I believe that is my line, boy."

"Why don't you come over here and prove that to me?"

Julio laughed. "Amusing, you're becoming as bold as the Assassin. It's a shame that someone like you would give into the foolish ideas of the Assassin Brotherhood. How much do you know about the Knights Templar, Link?"

"Enough to know that your kind isn't welcome in Hyrule!"

"Then you know very little," Julio said. "Did you know we seek peace and order for all societies? A chance to make a new, better world for every person? And yet, the Assassins are sworn against us, to kill us and take away the peace and tranquility that you and your people could enjoy."

"You offer peace and order at the cost of our free will," Link said with a dark voice. He heard a soft splash near Julio and shot a very brief glance in that direction to see Ezio climbing up the rocks. "That is not what we want in Hyrule."

"'A place where the power of the gods slumbers.' Is that not a correct description of your land?" Julio asked. "If you were to have free will, that power is easily abused. The Triforce should only be used to grant peace to all the people. It grants the wish of any touch it, correct? Why keep your mind intact when all it causes is war and destruction? Isn't that what happened in your Sacred Realm when the Triforce was first made?"

"There was a war in the Sacred Realm, yes," Link said, brandishing his weapon. "And it was due to the will of the people. But if anyone with a heart filled with evil touches the Triforce, it sends people into an age of darkness and pain. You haven't proven to have a pure heart, Julio. Neither have your brothers. You tried to murder Ezio and I multiple times, and even Princess Zelda was threatened. You have attacked people with pure hearts, but you're trying to convince me that your heart is pure? Ha! That's a joke."

"I see your skull is thicker than iron, boy. In that case--" He stopped and glanced over in time to see Ezio about to stab him. "No!"

Julio dashed across the hill away from Ezio as the Assassin missed his target. "Merda!" Link heard him swear. Ezio chased the Templar across the hills, jumping across chasms over the water.

What can I do? That Templar's almost as fast as Ezio. Wait, I know! Link sheathed his sword and pulled out the Gale Boomerang, and threw it at Julio. Just as he was about to jump across a chasm, the boomerang struck him, spinning the Templar around, and knocking him into the water below.

Ezio dived into the water, and Link followed suit (as soon as the Gale Boomerang returned to him). Julio was the Assassin's kill, but the hylian was ready to do anything to help him. When he reached the water, he saw that the Apple had rolled out of Julio's robes.

However, it looked like he didn't need it as when Julio apparently regained his balance that Ezio swam up to him and stabbed him in the neck with his hidden blade.

"D-damn... you, Assassin. You'll... never succeed." He reached out for the Apple, but it floated away from his fingers, mocking him. Then Julio's eyes rolled over, and he fell dead.

Ezio closed the Templar's eyes. "Meglio essere felici in questa vita che aspirare a esserlo nella prossima. Requiescat in pace."

What did he just say? "Ezio! The Apple!"

"You get it," the Assassin said as he laid the Templar to rest in the water.

Link swam over to the Apple and took it in his hands. Oddly enough, the artifact seemed very tantalizing to his eyes. He wanted to touch it further, see what made it so powerful, and possibly, what he himself, could do with it. Then, he felt a hand slam into his shoulder. He looked over and saw Ezio, his face serious.

"Do not look into it like that. Altaïr said that the Apple is 'temptation incarnate' in the Codex," he explained. "Do not give into that temptation, Link."

"R-right," Link said, looking away. This is like a Fused Shadow, or a part of the Twilight Mirror... they tempt... and worse, they can transform. He recalled what had happened to Yeta when she had stared into a mirror shard for far too long; it turned her into a monster. "Come on, let's get to shore," he said, handing the Apple to Ezio.

Together, the two swam over to the shore and pulled themselves onto dry land. Link sighed. "I'm sorry, I should have known about that. The Fused Shadows... and shards of the Mirror of Twilight do similar things that the Apple can do."

"It's quite all right, my friend," Ezio said, still holding the Piece of Eden in his hand. "We need to hide this somewhere safe before--"

Then, a large buzzard came flying down, and snatched the Apple out of Ezio's hand. Without time to react, Link watched as the buzzard flew away with the artifact in its talons. Link pulled out his bow and aimed, but Ezio put his hand on the hylian's arrow.

"Don't. Lanayru was right--we would not recover the Apple," he said. "At least, not yet. If we tried to shoot it down now, we wouldn't know where the Apple fell." He turned around to face Link. "Capito?"

"Uh... yes," Link said. "So... that's one Templar down, and two go." He looked up at the setting sun. "We'd better get to the Gerudo Desert now. Who knows what they're planning besides Ganondorf's revival?"

Then, Midna came out of his shadow. "Well, well, I suppose I was wrong," she said, floating. She was in her physical form this time, so her expressions were clear. "Sorry, I shouldn't have scolded you two like that."

"What apologies are needed, Midna?" Ezio asked. She looked at him, and Link assumed she was surprised. "We're all friends here, correct?"

"... you're right." She looked at Link and then back to Ezio and then to the hylian again. "Come on, I'll warp you two to the desert, and you can track the last two there. Maybe we can kill them before they cause any more problems." She snapped her fingers and then flew into Link's shadow.

At that very moment, he felt himself de-materialize into the Twilight. It was the strangest sensation to watch the same thing happen to Ezio right before his eyes.

Soon, Link entered into the shadows, and knew that he would shortly appear in the Gerudo Desert.


Gerudo Desert

Link felt his body piece itself together again. He opened his eyes to see the large, and almost empty, desert before him. The setting sun increased the temperature by a bit and already he was sweating. He looked over to see Ezio at his side, and he, too was sweating.

They were standing atop a natural structure called the 'Gerudo Mesa.' It was a large hill with steep steppes, making it difficult to climb down without some climbing skills and tools. Jumping off the top of the mesa would be suicide.

"The heat... I'm surprised that many could survive in this temperature," Ezio remarked, wiping his brow.

"The Gerudos can. Or at least, when they existed," Link said.

"What do you mean?" Ezio asked him.

"You'll see when we get to the Arbiter's Grounds," he said. The hylian looked around. "I have my clawshots, so I can get down, what about you?"

"A parachute will work," Ezio said. He jumped off the Mesa.

What the...? Link thought, staring. Then, Ezio released a parachute from his bag and glided down to the ground safely. The ropes snapped upon contact with the ground. Good.

The Assassin looked back up at the Mesa. "What are you waiting for, Link?" He smiled.

Link nodded, and pulled out his clawshots from his adventurer's pouch. Placing them on both arms like bracers, he then locked and aimed for the dying tree below him. The clawshot fired, releasing its claws and grappled the tree's top. Link felt himself pulled toward the tree, and he stopped abruptly under it. Then, slowly, he lowered himself by moving the chain inside the bracer with his wrist and fingers onto the ground.

"Impressive," Ezio said with an approving nod.

Link grinned and put the clawshots back into his pouch. "Not bad, eh? They are called 'Clawshots,' and they are very handy for reaching far away places. Especially over chasms, and the like."

"Only if you have something that they can grab, I trust?"

"Yes," Link said. He turned to the north and saw the top of the Arbiter's Grounds with it's large columns that went high in the air. Each one had a symbol on a circle at the top. Link walked toward the grounds, and motioned Ezio to follow.

"What are those symbols at the peak of the columns, Link?"

"They represent the elements protected by the Sages. There were six of them, but now there are only five," Link said, frowning. He pointed at the broken circle on the far side. "Ganondorf killed one of them after they tried to execute him."

"I assume they failed because he has the Triforce of Power?" Ezio asked, walking beside Link.

"Yes," the hylian said grimly. "Like Midna said, only the Master Sword can truly kill him." He stopped, and looked ahead of him. He saw a firepit with two bulbins around it. A little closer to Link and Ezio were two unsteady looking towers made of wood. On top of each was one bulbin archer. "Well, it looks like they rebuilt the camp."

"We can easily deal with them," Ezio said, walking forward.

"I'd rather not," Link said. The Assassin turned around and blinked. "It's not necessary to kill them right now. We'd just be wasting time. The Arbiter's Grounds is a maze filled quicksand and traps, so it might take us awhile to get through."

"Capito." Ezio nodded. "Then we'll just sneak around them then?"

"Yes, but first, we need to take out those archers; they'll alert the camp if they see us even in this light," Link said, he noted that the setting sun was almost below the horizon, and the shadows were growing. He could feel the cool air beginning to breeze across the desert. "We need to hurry, when nightfall comes, it'll be freezing around here."

"Nessun problema," Ezio said, drawing his crossbow. He aimed and fired at the right bublin archer, and the bolt struck the monster. The bulbin fell to the ground, unmoving.

Link drew his bow, and fired an arrow at the other bublin archer. The arrow struck the creature in the neck, and it fell to the ground.

"They're down, let's move."

The two creeped around the two bulbins who were sitting before a roasting stick that held a bulbo. Fortunately, those two had not noticed the deaths of their companions. They were probably more interested in their meal than their friends' lives.

When they were fairly away from the camp, Link and Ezio climbed up some steep ledges to a plateau. There, the hylian stopped and took in a breath. I hope the old base isn't infested with monsters.

"What's wrong?" Ezio asked.

"There's a base up ahead that protects the grounds. Hopefully, it's still abandoned since I was last here, but..."

"You're assuming it's not because that camp was rebuilt?" he asked, and Link nodded. "I see. There's only one way to find out, amico. And standing here doesn't get us any closer to the Aribter's Grounds."

"You're right," Link said with a smile. "Let's go." He ran forward toward the base's entrance. "Keep your eyes open for any monsters. Your gift might come in handy for that."

"Molto bene," Ezio said. The hylian could hear his boots crushing through the sand behind him.

Link put his hand on his sword hilt. Just in case...

Nightfall was nearly upon the desert, and the wind was getting colder and colder. Link was starting to shiver a little as the breeze rushed past his body. Then, he stopped in front of the base. He heard Ezio's footsteps slow to a walk as he came to Link's side.

"Seems quiet," Link said. The base was a courtyard-sized area with a large building in the middle. A thick and wide shutter door with spikes on the bottom blocked the way to the Arbiter's Grounds. Granted, we could just go around, but...

"It's not abandoned," Ezio said, confirming Link's fears. He was looking around the base. "I see a few red auras around the area. Some are high up in the air, which means there are possibly more archers."

Damn... "All right, can you see anything else?"

"... yes," Ezio said. "There's a golden aura behind that door in front of us, and a trail as well." He looked at Link and smiled. "Another Templar is here. It might be wise to kill him before he can escape to the Arbiter's Grounds. It's possible we could listen through the door as well to see if we can find any information about Ganondorf's body."

Link scratched his chin. "Do you think you could scale those walls and take care of the Templar?" he asked.

"Sí, I could easily climb those walls," Ezio said. "Why don't you take care of the archers first, and then I will climb up?"

"Sounds good," Link said. "I'll sneak around to the back and join you later."

"Bene," Ezio said, nodding.

Link took out his hero's bow again, and looked through the darkness for the archers. Then, he saw them--their red eyes gave their positions away. Aiming, Link shot an arrow at the first tower on the right. He heard a soft cry as the arrow struck its target. He then peered around, looking for another set of red eyes. He found them on the far left hand side, floating in the air.

He took aim again, and launched an arrow at the bublin archer. Again, the arrow met its mark and there a soft cry as the bublin died. Link heard the scuffling of feet across sand and a few cries from other bublins, possibly to investigate the situation.

"You'd better hurry," he said to Ezio. "They're distracted for now, but..."

"Don't worry," he said, smiling at Link. "I can handle this. Grazie." Link watched as Ezio moved stealthily to the wall, and then ran up it, and grabbed a small stone jutting out from the wall.

Wasting no more time, Link rushed toward the door, and spun to his left. There, he saw the bublins still investigating their friend's death. Pulling out his bow again, Link shot two arrows swiftly to kill the the bublins. One after the other to avoid an alarm.

He ran around the building and found that the bublin tents were still intact from when he was last here. Link took out his lantern, and lit it. Thrusting the flame into the tent on the right, it began to burn.

The hylian quickly put his lantern out and then away into his pouch, and ran around the left side. He heard the loud cries of bublins from inside the tent. That should distract them.

He slid around a corner, and then realized he was right in front of a tower. However, he saw no pair of red eyes there, instead, he found the corpse of an archer on the ground with a throwing knife in its chest. Link smirked, and then waited for a second before rolling across the sand toward the large, open shaft in the building. He pinned himself against a wall, and peered inside.

Torches were lit on either side, revealing the Templar with the Twilight markings on his robes. Marco... Link thought as he watched the Templar speak with a set of bublins, he tried to listen, but from where he was he could only hear whispers.

Then, Link saw Ezio climbing down the side of the building closest to the hylian. The Assassin stopped, and he assumed that he was listening to the Templar speaking.

Link edged a little closer, but barely heard any words being spoken. Then, Ezio climbed to the sandy floor of the base and walked into the shaft slowly and quietly.

The hylian rolled to the other side where Ezio had been, and peered around the corner to see the Assassin right behind Marco.

That's when the bublins went wild and cried out, trying to warn their master. Marco turned around in time to move out of Ezio's attempt to assassinate him. The Assassin spun around, drew his sword and waited.

"So, you finally came, Assassin! All alone, are you?" Marco drew a long sword with a thick blade.

"I never liked large parties of twisted men," Ezio taunted, raising his sword. "They seem to have some difficulty keeping themselves clean. I suppose you smell as bad as the rest."

"Your words do not anger me, Assassin," Marco said. He motioned to his minions. They all raised their weapons and growled. "You're out-numbered, I think you ought to be afraid."

"I haven't been truly afraid in years, Templar."

The bublins advanced on Ezio with their clubs, and then Link jumped out from behind, drawing his sword, and slashed at Marco from the side.

The Templar looked surprised, and he cried out as the hylian's sword connected with his waist. Link heard the death cries of multiple bublins behind him as he faced off with Marco.

"Dammit, you lied, Assassin!"

"Well, he is an Assassin," Link said, rolling his eyes. "Do you really think he's going to be honest all the time?"

Marco snarled, and swung at Link. The hylian blocked the attack with his shield and then swung back at the Templar. He was surprisingly fast, and ducked under his attack.

"You cannot out-fight me, boy! I have--!" He dropped his sword as Ezio stabbed him through the neck from behind. The Assassin laid the body down to rest and he closed the Templar's eyes.

"Requiescat in pace," he said.

Link sheathed his sword. Apparently, Ezio had taken care of all the bublins. "What did you find out?"

"He told them to guard the base while he would meet with his master in the Mirror Chamber," Ezio said, rising. "I don't know exactly what it means, but I have a guess that they are going to perform the ritual there."

"The Mirror Chamber?" Midna came out of Link's shadow, in her shade form. "That's where... the Mirror of Twilight was! At least, until I destroyed it. It's at the top of the Arbiter's Grounds."

"Why would they hold the ritual there?" Ezio asked.

"Because they want the Twilight Realm, right?" Midna said. "I imagine they're going to use Ganondorf's powers to get back there. Though, how they are going to re-construct the Mirror is beyond me. Even Ganondorf can't do that."

"Who can?" Ezio peered at Midna.

"Me. And only me," she said.

Link half-frowned. "So... why would they hold it there if they can't restore the Mirror of Twilight?" he said. "That seems silly."

"Indeed, it seems quite irrational," Ezio echoed Link.

"Irrational or not, we have to get through the Arbiter's Grounds and into the Mirror Chamber!"

"Midna..." Link said, she turned around to face him. "Why can't we just warp there? Isn't there a portal above the Mirror Chamber?"

"I... can't," she said to the hylian's surprise. "I would, except that the portal... it feels like it's been blocked!"

"Then, we'll have to go the long way around," Ezio said. He nodded, and asked, "which way to the grounds?"

"Follow me!" Link said, and Midna flew back into his shadow. He turned around and ran north out of the base. He heard Ezio's quick footsteps behind him as he dashed toward a ruined building with a large staircase that led to the entrance of the Arbiter's Grounds. "Here it is. Come on!"

The hylian ran up the broken staircase, occasionally jumping across fallen steps, and then stopped at the entrance which led down into the ground. Catching his breath, Link could hear the dark moans of the dead below. Looks like Ezio's about to meet the Gerudos...

He looked at the Assassin, who nodded back at him, and the two descended the staircase into the darkness.

Chapter 15[]

Ezio walked down the unfamiliar path into the depths of the earth. He could smell the foul stench of the dead within. It was stuffy, cool, and uncomfortable inside the Arbiter's Grounds. This is almost like one of the Lairs of Romulus I visited... except worse, he thought, wrinkling his nose.

The Assassin examined the area before him. The room was filled with broken floor tiles, that were nearly covered in sand. In the middle of the room, there was a large pit of sand that went deep into the ground, swirling like whirlpool of death.

Link took in a deep breath next to him. "All right. This place is dangerous, so be careful. Watch your footing or you'll get sucked into the quicksand... which is pretty much everywhere in this place." He put something in Ezio's hand, which he recognized as a clawshot. "I won't need both of them here, so... if you can put that over one of your bracers, it'll help you get around while avoiding the quicksand."

Ezio nodded. "Grazie. I'm certain it will come in handy," he said. He placed the clawshot over his right bracer, and it was a little tight around his wrist, but otherwise it was a good fit. He pushed into the claw with his fingers and the claws opened with a loud cha-chink. "Perfect."

"Good," Link said, nodding with approval. "Think you can launch it?" He pointed over to a torch covered with a grate. "See there? The clawshot can grab that. See if you can grapple it."

The Assassin aimed at the fire with the clawshot and then twist his wrist slightly. Then, the claws fired with immense speed with the chain extending outward. He had aimed perfectly as the claws grabbed the grip and pulled him over the quicksand to the tiled floor.

Ezio found himself hanging from the wall with his feet pitted against the wall. Twisting his wrist in the other direction, the claws opened and dropped him ontop of the tiles.

"Good job!" Link said. Then, Ezio heard the sound of Link's other clawshot fire and attach to the wall. He dropped down to the ground next to the Assassin. "I'm surprised you figured it out so quickly."

He smiled. "I am familiar with using advanced devices. Lucky guess, I suppose." He looked at Link and then removed the clawshot from his arm. "However, considering how it works, I will need to remove this hidden blade. If I flick my wrist on accident, it may break the blade, damage the clawshot, or both." He took off his right bracer and handed it to Link. "Put that in your pouch, you seem to be able to carry more tools than I can."

"Yes," the hylian said, placing the hidden blade into his adventurer's pouch.

Ezio put the clawshot back on his right arm. "Where next?"

"Across the tiled floor to that door," he said, pointing north. There, Ezio saw a door with a strange symbol of a goat's head with large horns. He nodded to Link.

"Va bene, you lead."

Link hopped across the tiles, and then rolled onto the tiled pathway in front of the door. Ezio followed suit and arrived at the door.

"This does not seem so difficult," he said. "I thought you told me this was a maze."

Link swallowed. "This is only the beginning. It's going to only get harder from here on." He walked over to the door, and pushed up on it. The door slid upward, revealing a new room. Both Ezio and Link walked inside as the door closed behind them.

The new room was extremely dark, only a few dim torches sitting on the ground to light a door across the room. It seemed easy enough, but in Ezio's experience, these things were never easy. He tapped into his talent and gazed around the room. Sure enough there were red auras underneath the sand.

"It looks like we have some friends in here," he said, untapping his gift.

"No kidding, you're about to meet the Gerudos, or what's left of them in here," Link said, biting his lip. "These ones aren't very strong, but as we get deeper into the grounds, stronger ones are going to appear."


"Remember how the desert is called the 'Gerudo Desert?'" he said to Ezio. "According to Legend, there used to be a race with dark skin called the gerudos. They were all female except one male that was born every one-hundred years."

"I assume that the single gerudo that is dead now is that man? Ganondorf?"

"You're correct," Link said. "I don't know exactly what happened to the gerudos between the Hero of Time's era and ours, but whatever happened, it wiped them out."

"Then, we have no choice than to send them back into their graves." Ezio put away the clawshot in into one of his pouches and then drew his sword.

Link drew his own. "Right."

The two moved through the room. There was quicksand on either side of them, so they were stuck on the narrow path of tiles. Then, Ezio heard the crackling of moving bones on both sides. At that moment, shutters fell down over the doors, locking them in.

The Assassin looked around, watching for their foes. Then, they entered the light, small skeletons with short spears appeared from the darkness. They let out the cries of the dead and advanced on Ezio and Link.

The two stood back to back, ready to strike down their foes. As soon as his enemies were close enough, Ezio used a sweeping attack with his sword, and knocked the skeletons on their feet. The quicksand should suck them in... what the?

The skeletons stood up and thrust their spears at Ezio. He rolled out of the way, avoiding their attacks. He saw Link successfully cutting down the skeletons on his end with the Master Sword. Perhaps that is becaue the sword can strike down evil?

Ezio looked at the skeletons advancing on him and frowned. Now, he wished he had brought a mace with him. Then, he had an idea.

He rolled back and began slashing at the skeletons, only this time, he slammed them with the flat end of his sword, crushing their bones instead of cutting them. The skeletons swiftly fell into pieces, and were sucked into the quicksand.

"Are you all right?" Link asked.

"Sí, my sword has no magic like yours, so I had to use it like a mace to crush their bones." Ezio sheathed his sword. Then, the shutters on the doors raised from the ground like gates, opening the way for the two.

"Nice thinking," the hylian said.

There was a chuckle from his shadow. "I also approve. You're good at improvising, Ezio," Midna said.

"One has to learn many different ways of fighting in order to overcome his enemies," the Assassin said with smile. "Shall we proceed?"

"Of course," Link said. He advanced to the door north of them and lifted it up as before, and it slammed behind them.

"Do all the doors do that?" the Assassin asked. "It's a bit unnerving."

"They do," the hylian responded with a half-smile. "I got used to it." He looked north and Ezio followed his eyes. There, he saw a rising staircase that led to large opening. There were four torches lit with blue fire, two on either side of the stairs. "I hope those don't get taken again," he muttered.

"Eh? What are you talking about, Link?" Ezio asked, turning his head toward him.

"Nevermind," he replied, shaking his head. "Let's go up those steps." Link ran up the stairs and Ezio followed. Nothing seemed to happen to the torches, fortunately.

In the next room, Link stopped and Ezio could see the look of confusion on his face. "What's wrong now?" the Assassin asked.

"I... don't remember this room being shaped like this."

The room was shaped like a cylinder, and there was a large, round pillar in the middle. Ezio could see somesort of black indentations on the pillar that spiraled upward around it.

"There's a spinner track around that pillar," Link said. "So, I could get up there." He paused. "This is so weird... what happened?"

Midna then popped out of his shadow in her shade form. "The Templars probably have something to do with it. They possibly want to prevent Ezio from getting up here."

The Assassin peered around and spotted some rocks jutting from the wall. They looked like they would make perfect grips for his hands. "It looks like they did not count on the damage that this place has taken," he said with a smile. "I can see a way up."

"By climbing?" Midna asked.

"Sí," Ezio said with a nod. "Don't worry," he added, seeing the skeptical glimmer in her eye. "If there isn't anything that I can climb up on, I can just go to the side until I find something else to pull me up."

Midna snorted. "Well, if you think so." She flew back into Link's shadow.

"She was rather short with me," Ezio said to the hylian.

Link sighed. "Eh, don't worry about it. I'll get up using my spinner, and you can climb up."

What's a 'spinner'? "Capito," he said, walking to the left side of the wall. He ran up the wall and began to climb. Then he heard the strangest noise he had heard in his life; it sounded like a wall railing against metal. He looked back to see Link riding on a spinning disc that connected with black indentations on the pillar. Around, and round he went, going up the pillar.

I see, so that's what a 'spinner' is.

Ezio returned his attention to climbing. He pulled himself upward, and then looked up to see a crevice in the wall above him. He leaped up from his position and grabbed the bottom of it with his hand and then pulled the rest of his body upward.

There were a few times where Ezio had to shimmy to his side across the wall, but eventually he made his way up to the top. That was probably at least ten meters of climbing. He panted as he pulled himself onto the ledge. "I'm getting a little old for this."

Link chuckled. "Maybe, but that was really impressive. I've never seen anyone climb like that before," he said. "Do they teach that to all Assassins?"

"Yes," Ezio said. "Although, I learned how to climb mostly on my own when I was much younger; around your age." He patted Link on the shoulder. "However, it appears you have your own ways of 'climbing,' so to speak."

"Heh, you mean the spinner?" Link scratched his head. "That only works if I go across those black spinner tracks."

"Still, it's quite an impressive device, amico mio." He looked behind Link saw a door behind him. "Look there." He pointed to it.

Link turned around. "Ah." He approached the door to open it and then paused. "Be on your guard, my friend."

"Don't worry, I am."

The hylian opened the door, and Ezio followed him in. Inside, there were some spinner tracks along both sides of the walls. But there were also spinning spheres with spikes on them going across the tracks.

"Careful, amico. Those do not look like child's toys," Ezio remarked.

"No kidding," Link said with a snort. "They hurt pretty bad."

"Though, how are we going to get across this quicksand?" the Assassin asked, pointing to the floor of quicksand in front of them.

Link looked ahead with his hand above his eyes. "There!" he said, pointing to far wall. "I see a place where our clawshots can grapple to, getting us across the sand. Shall we?"

Ezio nodded, and took the clawshot out from his pouch, equipping it on his right arm.

"You first," Link said to Ezio, beckoning with his outstretched arm.

The Assassin opened the claws and then fired them at the grate. The claws grappled the circle and pulled him across the quicksand onto safe ground. He stepped back, allowing Link to fire his clawshot. The young hero's tool grabbed the grate, and he shot over the sand.

"I have to admit, clawshots are fun to play with. Especially when you have two," he said with a grin.

Ezio smiled. "I agree." He looked around. On either side of them were corridors leading deeper into the grounds. The one to their left had no floor, save quicksand and led into a larger room. The other had a tiled floor and led to a corner. "Which way? Do you remember?"

"No," Link said, peering from corridor to corridor. "This is different than I remember it. They keep changing the shape of rooms."

"I think we should split," Ezio said. "That way, we can cover more ground and see if we can't find a way to the Mirror Chamber."

Link nodded. "All right. Be careful, keep that clawshot for now and use it to get out of any tight spots."

"Va bene, buona fortuna, amico." Ezio went right while Link went left. The Assassin noticed that the young hero pulled out his spinner and glided over the quicksand. I wonder why he didn't do that earlier?

Ezio headed down the corridor and turned at the corner. There, he entered a vast room that, oddly, lacked any quick sand. However, on the ground, he see the bones of a large skeleton with a shield and sword on top.

The Assassin rubbed his chin and approached the skeleton. As he expected, the skeleton rose from the ground and composed itself, collecting its weapon. It let a screech and advanced on Ezio.

Drawing his sword, Ezio circled the skeleton cautiously. The skeleton kept moving its feet to face him at all times. Then, it advanced and slashed its sword at him.

Foolish mistake. Ezio spun out of the way and slammed the flat side of his sword into the skeleton's bones. There was a loud crunching sound as the blade made contact. He attempted to strike again, but this time, the skeleton raised its shield and bashed him, knocking Ezio off balance.

The skeleton brought down its sword and slashed into his shoulder. Wincing, Ezio rolled to the side and slammed his sword into the skeleton again.

The bones cracked again, and then crumbled to pieces. Ezio sheathed sword, a little disturbed at how easy that battle was when he heard a couple of screeches behind him. He spun around and saw two other skeletons, looking identical to the one he had just defeated, rise from the ground. Then, he heard the sound of bones composing themselves from behind him.

Che diavolo! Ezio rolled forward, feeling the wind of a swing sword behind him. These things don't die easily.

The skeletons closed in on him as the Assassin went over his options. Poison was worthless against the dead, bolts were too small, smoke wouldn't stop them from breathing, bullets were too small, throwing knives could only pierce. The only option he had was his sword or dagger, which were proving to be ineffective anyway.

Wait, the clawshot! He looked around and then saw a grate covering a torch on a high ledge above. Ezio locked and aimed the clawshot at the grate and fired it just as all the skeletons swung their blades at him.

They all missed as he shot toward the grate and landed on safe ground away from them. Each of the skeletons cried out and snapped their jaws at him. "I guess you three won't be returned to your graves for now," he said. "Mi dispiace."

He turned around and saw one of the doors that Link always opened. He walked up to it, and pushed up as he saw the young hero do. The door reacted, and slid upward. Ezio walked into the new room, and found himself in a place nearly covered in quicksand, save the place he was standing.

Looking around, he could see no spot that the clawshot could grapple. Perhaps I can climb around the quicksand... He put the clawshot away and looked around.

He saw a wall to his left where there were some crevices in it and some stones jutting out of the surface. Perfect.

He winced as his shoulder pain returned; the skeleton had wounded him worse than he had thought. He took out some medicine, took in a deep breath, and the pain dulled.

Tossing the worthless vial into the quicksand, Ezio ran up the wall, and grabbed the crevice. He shifted his weight and pushed legs to jump over to the rocks, grasping them. Glancing behind himself, he saw a pillar with a place he could hold onto in the middle.

Pushing off the wall, Ezio spun around and grabbed the ledge on the pillar. He heard a rumbling noise, and looked up. The supports on the ceiling for it had broken, and then it started to sink into the quicksand. He looked over and saw a platform above the quicksand with a door in front of it.

He didn't have much time as the pillar began to sway. He shimmied around to the other side of the pillar and jumped backwards toward the platform. He grabbed it with his hands, and pulled himself up. He turned around to see the pillar snap and crumble into the quicksand.

With a sigh, he turned around and faced the door. The door opened as he pushed up on it, and then he entered the next room.

It was large room with a low ceiling. Many pillars laid across the room, supporting the structure, though Ezio had his doubts about how secure they were.

He stepped forward to advance to the door across from him, but then his instincts kicked in and he jumped back, barely avoiding being skewered by a set of spikes bursting from the floor.

Hmm... I knew it would be not so simple. He tapped into his talent, and gazed around. Here and there, Ezio could see holes in red where other spikes lay in the floor, waiting to stab him when he got too close.

As he looked around the room, he noticed that the red auras constructed a maze leading to the door. Carefully, the Assassin moved through the maze, with spikes occasionally rising up at his side or in front of him.

After a long walk, he made it to the door. It was much larger than the others that he had seen. However, as soon as he reached the door, a shutter fell over it, blocking his path. The smell of fire filled his nostrils, and it turned around to see a flying skull engulfed in flames.

Merda... I wonder how I can fight these things?

The skull rushed him and he ducked and rolled away from the door, nearly ramming into some spikes that had blocked the way back. The skull turned around, glaring at him with its glowing eyes.

Then Ezio thought of something. He re-equipped the clawshot, rolling underneath the skull as it charged him again, and then fired it at the skull.

It worked. The flames were extinquished, and it pulled the helpless skull toward him. Ezio then smashed the flat side of his dagger into the skull, and it shattered into pieces. He heard the shutter open behind him, and the sound of shifting stone. He turned around and saw the door slowly rising on its own.

Sheathing his dagger, Ezio walked through the portalway and into the room before him. When he entered, the large door suddenly shut close behind him, sealing him in the new room.

Gazing around, he found himself in a dark room. It was circular much like the room where Link used his spinner, but this room was much larger. There was a chasm between it a large cylinder-shaped structure in the middle. There were three bridges that spanned the chasm. One in front of Ezio, one to his left, and one straight ahead, leading into the darkness.

"Hey, Ezio!" he heard Link's voice. On the left side of the room, the Assassin could see the young hero just entering the room.

So, our paths crossed... it didn't matter which way we took. Ezio nodded at Link. "Come! I believe that the exit to this cursed place is that large opening ahead of us."

"You are correct, Assassin," said a dark voice from the middle of the structure. "But you will not cross that bridge."

At that moment, the bridge on the other side began to slide into the wall of the structure. He sprinted forward toward the closing bridge, but only made it in time to reach the middle. Behind him, he heard a loud sliding sound as his own bridge slid into the wall. He looked left to see Link running across his bridge which was quickly growing shorter and shorter behind him.

He saw Link make it across to the middle, and nodded at him. Ezio looked forward and saw a large skull in front of him and a man standing on top of it. There was a slight pillar of light in front of the skull.

"I assume you are Carlo, are you not?" the Assassin asked, taking a step forward.

The man stepped into the pillar of light, and it was none other than Niccolò Machiavelli. He smiled at Ezio.

"Machiavelli?" Ezio asked, surprised. "What are you doing here?"

"Making sure you killed the Templar. Seems you have failed."

"I have not failed. You lied to me," Ezio said. "Why did you lie to me about Link, Niccolò?"

"Niccolò? Who is that?" Machiavelli asked suddenly. "Oh, yes. That fool who tried to stop me from meeting with you. Don't worry about him... he's safe for now. After I deal with you..." The pillar of light vanished, and there was a golden light. "He will die as well!"

"So, you are Carlo!" Link exclaimed.

The man nodded, it was too dark now to see what he was wearing, but Ezio could see a pale face with blue eyes, and a black beard. "Yes, I am Carlo. The master of the Templars. They were easy prey for you because they did not have the artifacts I do; the Apple of Eden, and the Twilight Ring."

"What!?" Midna's voice exclaimed from Link's shadow. She flew out of it as a physical being. Her eyes were filled with rage. "How did you get a Twilight Ring!? Only the leaders of the Twilight Realm have them!"

"Like yourself, Twilight Princess?" Carlo said. "Yes... I took it from your personal room while you slept a week ago."

"That's... my ring? Why you...!"

"How did you even get that?" Link asked.

"Don't you know? The Apple of Eden shows all the knowledge one needs to know about the world they are currently in." Carlo cackled. "I found out about a little rift you left open between Hyrule and the Twilight Realm. So, I used it to enter and to get your ring. Not that it matters now. The three of you will die."

Ezio heard Link draw his sword, but Ezio refrained from drawing his own. "And just how are you going to kill us?"

"With this!" He raised his hand and Ezio could see the Apple of Eden glowing in it all its glory, and all its terror above him. He couldn't see a ring, but suddenly, the giant skull flashed with red and gold light. The eyes opened and turned red.

"Farewell, hero and Assassin. May we never meet again."

"Oh no you don't!" Midna cried, flying at him. Suddenly, she stopped and was grabbed by something that Ezio couldn't see clearly. "What the!?"

"Midna!" Link cried out. He tried to scale the skull, his eyes frantic, but Ezio kept pulling him away. "What are you doing? Get off!"

"You're coming with me, Twilight Princess," Carlo said darkly. "You have a role to play in reviving the King of Darkness."

"No!" Link cried, but it was too late, the Templar Master vanished into the Twilight, taking Midna with him.

The young hero fell to the ground, and glared at Ezio. "Why the hell did you stop me!?"

"Because you cannot save her now! We have something else to deal with," he said, motioning toward the rising skull. Suddenly, bones from all sides gathered together to form a gigantic skeleton that had to be at least five meters tall. It flexed its hands and let out a loud, threatening roar.

Ezio drew his sword, and readied himself for battle. There was no going back now.

Chapter 16[]

The giant Stalfos towered over Link and Ezio as it flexed its jaws and boney hands menacingly. Link could see it peering from him to the Assassin, as if wondering which one to kill first. The hylian twirled his sword in his hand, unable to pour over his options.

Dammit, Ezio! he thought, gritting his teeth. Why did you pull me away from Midna? I could have saved her! While Carlo had taken her, Link had gone through his options quickly and knew the clawshot would have been his best bet at preventing the kidnapping. But instead, Ezio had to get in the way.

Then, he saw a giant hand about to hit his face, and he rolled to side. The Stalfos's hand smashed into the structure, leaving a large dent on the surface.

"Focus, amico!" Ezio said. Link saw him jump back as the other hand tried to grab the Assassin. "Or you'll become part of this creature!"

Damn him... he's right. The hylian tried to get rid of his anger, and thought of his options. How was he going to destroy a large mass of bones? I know. He pulled out his ball and chain, swung it around over his head and threw it at one of the Stalfos's leg.

The hit connected with a loud crunching sound. It didn't shatter, but there were many cracks in the leg.

Link pulled back the spiked ball into his hands and raised it again when he saw the Stalfos grab Ezio. The giant skeleton held the Assassin tightly and was bringing him to its mouth. This wouldn't be a problem if the jaws weren't filled with sharp fangs.

The hylian dropped the ball and chain. He pulled out his bow and attached a bomb to the end of the arrow. After lighting the fuse, Link shot at the Stalfos's face. The bomb exploded on contact, causing the Stalfos to stumble back and drop Ezio. The Assassin rolled onto the ground.

"Grazie, amico!"

"You're welcome--" Then Link noticed the Stalfos move forward again and all the cracks in its bones began to fill. The hylian almost swore loudly as all the damage he had done to the leg and the face was undone. "The Stalfos is regenerating, Ezio!"

"Is that what you call it?" he said, rolling away from the skeleton's reaching hand. "Va bene. We need a different strategy."

"Got any suggestions?"

"What about those?" Ezio said, pointing to the Stalfos's glowing red eyes. "Perhaps we can stab them."

"And how do we get up--watch out!" Link exclaimed. He dashed and rolled out of the way of the giant skeleton's foot. He looked over and saw that Ezio had successfully avoided the attack.

"Perhaps we can break its legs apart before they regenerate," he suggested. "And then use the clawshots to pull ourselves up to the eyes!" He jumped back again as the Stalfos rounded on him and tried to smash him with its arm.

"That's perfect," Link said. He wondered why he hadn't thought of that himself. "I'll do breaking, you do the stabbing!"

"Capito!" Ezio rolled underneath the Stalfos over to the hylian.

"Watch out," Link said as he picked up his ball and chain and slammed it into the the left leg of the Stalfos. It let out a hideous roar and reached for the hylian, but Link threw the spiked ball again into the same leg. With a loud splitting noise, the leg shattered. The monster stumbled and fell on its left side.

"Okay, go!" he cried, aiming his spiked ball for the other leg.

Ezio pulled out the clawshot, armed it, and shot it at the creature's head just above the eye. Link was glad to see a spike jutting out of the top of the Stalfos's head. Ezio's clawshot grasped it, pulling onto the monster's head.

Link threw the spiked ball into the right leg, crushing it. Then, he heard the same hideous roar he had heard before and looked up to see Ezio stabbing the left eye with his sword repeatedly. The Stalfos reached up, grabbed Ezio and threw him to the ground. Link thought that it was rather worthless attempt as the Assassin released a parachute in time to save himself.

And as he expected, the left leg regenerated along with the right, but the Stalfos didn't stand up, instead it kept roaring and cradling its wounded eye.

Link took the opportunity to smash the right leg into pieces with his ball and chain. As he did, the Stalfos fell onto the surface, barely holding itself with its hands. The hylian could see blood coming out of the left eye, and the glow was much weaker than before.

Ezio then fired the clawshot at the spike on the other end of the monster's head and pulled himself onto the creature. While his friend began to stab, Link decided, for good measure, to smash the Stalfos's left leg while it was down.

With swift motions, Ezio stabbed the eye repeatedly until he was tossed off when the Stalfos shook its head rapidly.

The Assassin tumbled onto the surface, stood up, and spun around to face their foe. Oddly enough, the legs did not regnerate this time, and the skeleton released a roar of pain and anger.

And fire at the same time.

Link and Ezio rolled forward underneath the Stalfos's belly to avoid the breath attack. When it was finished, they looked up and nodded at each other.

"Let's get those eyes!" the hylian said. The two pulled out their respective clawshots, aimed for the spikes on its head, and then fired. Link flew up into the air and landed on the monster's head. With one quick downward stab with his sword, he slammed the blade into the eye, and the its red glow vanished.

Then, the Stalfos let out a painful roar, and tossed Link onto the ground. He saw Ezio suffering the same fate and together they smashed into the surface. Link thought he heard his rib cage snap as he heard a loud crack and his stomach twist in pain.

Standing up with all his energy, the hylian watched as the eyeless Stalfos flailed its arms into the air, and then fall to the ground, its bones breaking apart, leaving only the skull intact. The creature didn't move, and Link assumed they had won.

"We did it!" he cried out. His stomach protested loudly, and Link winced, falling to the ground. "Ah... ouch."

"You all right, Link?" Ezio said, placing his hand on the hylian's shoulder, and kneeling down next to him. "What happened?"

"I think I broke something, what about you?"

"My armor protected me from any serious injuries," he said. He reached into Link's adventurer's pouch and pulled out a blue potion. "Here, you know what to do with this."

"Heh. Yes," he said, taking the potion and quaffing half of it. Immediately, he felt his energy return to him, and his stomach stopped screaming in agony. He stood up, and put the potion away. "I'm still angry at you, Ezio. Only a little bit, but still angry."

"Anger is something that will only consume you, Link," Ezio said, looking at the skull. "My uncle Mario taught me a great lesson once. I had killed one of my enemies--named Vieri, and I did not know how to respect the dead. I shook the dead body and started swearing up a storm, and that's when my uncle stopped me.

"He told me to respect the dead. I asked him if Vieri would have shown us such kindness, and then he said to me, 'you are not Vieri, do not become him.' And then he closed Vieri's eyes and gave him last rites ending with 'requiescant in pace,' meaning 'rest in peace.'" Ezio turned around to face Link. "It was a valuable lesson. Now, for every victim I have slain, I always give them their last rites."

Link felt stunned. The very phrase, you are not Vieri, do not become him, was replaced in his mind with you are not Ganondorf, do not become him. He looked at his left hand where the crest of Courage was.

"You're right, I'm sorry," he said after a long pause. "I... kinda always knew that, except not in the way your uncle said it." He stroked the top of his left hand like it scraped. "I bear the crest of Courage. You know that courage is not the same thing as bravery, right? Courage has virtue in it, and being quick to become angry is not a virtue."

Ezio nodded. "Capito, amico mio." He walked over to Link and placed his hand on his shoulder characteristically. "Come on, let's save your girl and stop this madness before it can finish."

"Yes," Link said. "Now... how do we get out of here? Hmmm..." He took a step forward with his hand on his chin.

"Indeed," Ezio said from behind him. "All the bridges are out."

"Well--" Link opened his mouth, but then he heard a rumbling noise to the south. There a large bridge slid out of wall and slowly connected itself to the surface of the middle structure. "I guess that solves that." He shrugged.

"Va bene, let's hurry," Ezio said. He broke into a sprint and Link dashed behind him. Gasping for air, the hylian wondered how the older man could keep up such a pace.

Then, Link felt the freezing air of the night in the desert as they exited the Arbiter's Grounds. He stopped and shivered, glancing at the full moon surrounded by stars in the sky. He glanced at Ezio and he was also shivering.

Link turned to his left and saw the broken staircase leading to the Mirror Chamber. Some steps were missing here and there, but it was nothing that he couldn't cross.

"Can you make those gaps, Ezio?" he asked, pointing at the broken parts of the staircase.

"Sí," the Assassin said with a nod. "Nessun problema, I can jump across those breaks in the stairs."

"Good. These lead to the Mirror Chamber, let's get going!" Link dashed toward the staircase, and leaped across each gap to the next part of the staircase. He heard Ezio's boots landing on the stairs behind him, grunting every now and then.

When he reached the top, Link didn't wait for Ezio, instead, he ran around to the left. A large wall blocked his path to main chamber, but there was an opening into the chamber. He heard the Assassin sprinting behind him, each foot becoming a little louder than the other.

They passed through the opening and then stopped. Link's heart filled with horror as he gazed upon the scene before him.

In front of the empty Mirror of Twilight was a black altar made of stone, there was a small, circular hole in very center of it. And there was Carlo with a dagger in his hand standing over a strapped down Midna on the altar. The hylian noticed that her Fused Shadow was missing.

"Link! Ezio! Help!" she cried as she struggled in vain against her metal bonds.

"I see you destroyed my pet," Carlo said. Because of the moonlight, it was much easier to see what he looked like. He wore a robe of scarlet with a black cross on its chest. His blue eyes narrowed, and his mouth curved into a wicked smile. "No matter, because you will get to behold the death of your precious Twilight Prciness!"

"Basta!" Ezio shouted.

"No!" Link yelled. Carlo raised the dagger above him to drive it into Midna. He was about to pull away the knife with the clawshot, but then Ezio hurled a throwing knife at Carlo's hand. The knife stuck, and he dropped the dagger onto the ground.

"Gah! Damn you, Assassin!"

"You are a fool, Carlo." Ezio drew his sword and jumped over the altar, confronting the Templar.

Link ran over to the altar and pulled on Midna's bonds, but they would not budge.

"You idiot," Midna said through gasps. "There's a lever on the other side."

The hylian ran over to the other side. He heard the clashing of blades, and he could only assume that Carlo had somehow gotten another weapon. Link pulled on the lever, but it wouldn't move at all. He pulled harder and harder, but the lever refused to obey.

"Dammit! It won't move, Midna!"

Then he looked at the circular hole in the middle of the sides. Wait... I remember something like this in the Temple of Time. He searched his adventurer's pouch and pulled out a blue rod. A bright green orb of magic lit up with a winding noise. He thrust the orb into the hole, and as he expected, the altar lit up with lines of green light moving through the altar.

Link swung the rod, and then the lever moved, setting Midna free. "You did it," she said, sitting up. "That was a clever use of the Dominion Rod, Link."

"Can you fly, Midna?"

"Not without the Fused Shadow..." she said. "Carlo took it from me."

"No!" Carlo suddenly cried out. Ezio had him pinned to the wall, but the Templar kicked him in the stomach, knocking him away. "I will revive the King of Darkness!" He grabbed the dagger, and Midna frantically tried to run away on her feet. However, she stumbled and landed on the altar face-first.

"Oh no, you don't!" Link said, gritting his teeth, he grabbed Midna by the hands and pulled her off the altar.

Then, she out a scream of pain. The hylian glanced over the altar and saw that Carlo had managed to stab one of her legs. Thick blue blood covered the dagger. "Ha ha ha! I have what I need to revive Ganondorf!"

Link saw Ezio behind Carlo, raising his hidden blade in the air to assassinate him, but Carlo rolled out of the way, spilling the blood on the altar.

"You fools! I have won!" he exclaimed as he pulled out the Apple and then stunned Link. He saw Midna captured by the same power, but oddly enough, Ezio wasn't affected.

"I've had enough experience with the Piece of Eden to resist its powers, Templar," he said, approaching Carlo. "Your plan has failed." He jumped up into the air to assassinate Carlo, but again, the Templar rolled out of the way.

Then, he ran over to a body that Link hadn't seen earlier on the far side of the wall. He saw a white wound in the middle of the body's waist. No! Ganondorf! Carlo, with his dagger that still had some of Midna's blood on it, stabbed Ganondorf's wound, and there was an explosion of bright light.

When the light cleared, Link saw that Ganondorf was now moving, and his eyes were alight with life. He was a tall man with dark skin and an orange beard. There was a jewel on his forehead and he was armored in black plate mail. The hylian could see that the gerudo still had the Sages's Sword that had been used in a failed attempt to execute him.

"Merda..." Ezio said, backing away.

Ganondorf flexed his hands and smiled. "Who has revived me from my slumber?"

"I have, Maestro," Carlo said, bowing before the King of Darkness. "It is time to take this world for yourself. Not to mention the Sacred and Twilight Realms."

Ganondorf turned to Link and Midna. "I see you have restrained my foes. Excellent."

Carlo smiled. "Using this, my lord," he said, showing him the Apple. He glanced over at Ezio, who was still standing back. Link wondered why.

"Beautiful, what is it?" Ganondorf asked, putting his hand over the artifact.

"It's called 'The Apple of Eden,' Maestro," Carlo said. He panned his arm, with his hand out, across the horizon. "With it, you can dominate all the minds of Hyrule, giving the land to you."

An evil smile crossed the gerudo's face. "Most excellent, I suppose the boy and the Twilight Princess have been held by its power?"

"Yes, Maestro," Carlo said. "It--"

"It will not avail you, Ganondorf!" Ezio said, pointing at him. "The Apple only creates illusions. Link and Midna are under the illusion that they cannot move. Yet... if they break those illusions..."

"Be silent, Assassin!" Carlo growled.

That's when Link remembered what he had done in the Sacred Grove. Remind himself that he was merely controlled by the illusion of the Apple, he broke free of its power. He drew the Master Sword. "It's over, Ganondorf, I'll defeat you like I did before!"

He heard Midna drop to the ground next to him, and he assumed that she had broken free. "Where's the Fused Shadow, Carlo?" she said.

"Hmmm... do you think I would not give that back to you. I hold it." He pulled it from his cloak and held Midna's headdress high in the air. "Such power..."

"You're the fool," Midna said.

"And why is that?"

"Because we can get it back now," she said.

Link aimed his clawshot and fired, pulling the Fused Shadow out of Carlo's hands. The Templar attempted to grapple the headdress, but he failed--the clawshot was too fast for him. "Here, take it, Midna. I can't touch it." Though, how did Carlo touch it without being harmed by it?

Midna grabbed the Fused Shadow and placed it on her head. She winced and Link could still see her leg bleeding. Nevertheless, a wicked smile passed over her face. "You two are dead meat."

"How amusing. Last I met you, Midna, I destroyed all your Fused Shadows," Ganondorf said. "I would ask you how you got it back, but it is time to leave." He raised his right hand, showing the crest of Power. "Remember you cannot match my strength."

"Shut up!" Link said, he dashed over and tried to attack Ganondorf, but Carlo raised his hand. Something on his finger let out a red light and the hylian was thrust away from Carlo, knocking him to the ground. Link grasped his head. "Ugh..."

"I'm terribly sorry, I would kill all three of you now," the gerudo said. "But I have something else to claim."

"Not under my watch!" Midna yelled, her hand formed into spikes this time and she hurled them at Carlo. The gerudo stepped in front of his servant and raised his hand. The spikes stopped in mid-air, unmoving. "Damn you, Ganondorf!"

"Interesting," Ezio said from the other side. "So, you care about your minions? I didn't think a heartless monster like yourself would care."

Why is Ezio not doing anything? Link continued to wonder. Wait... every time we attack him and Carlo directly, they've knocked us back... Ezio knows it's useless to fight right now.

"Farewell, my enemies," Ganondorf said. "We shall see you at the appointed place." And with that, Carlo and the gerudo vanished into the Twilight.

Midna glared at Ezio. "Why didn't you do a thing? You just talked to them!"

"Midna..." Link started.

She shot a warning glare at him. "What? You agree? Are you stupid?"

"There was nothing we could do. Carlo has the Apple, and the Twilight Ring, while Ganondorf has the crest of Power," Ezio said. His voice was calm, despite Midna's angry expression. "Nothing... not yet anyway. Where is this appointed place?"

"It can only be Hyrule Castle," Link said. "That is, if he's trying to get Zelda."

"Why would he be after the princess?"

"Because, she has the crest of Wisdom," Midna said, her arms folded. She winced again, grabbing her leg. "I'll be fine, stop looking at me like that, Link. Ezio, if Ganondorf gets all three of the crests, he'll be able to restore the Triforce and be able to make a wish."

"But he has the Apple... why would he need the Triforce to dominate Hyrule?"

"Probably to make it more powerful," Link said.

Midna huffed. "So, why are we standing here talking? Let's get to Hyrule Castle before those two madmen take over all the Realms!"

"Va bene," Ezio said with a nod. "Warp us there, and we'll stop them from destroying the will of the people."

"There's... no portal there," Midna said slowly. "The closest one is west of Hyrule Castle Town."

"If they can warp there from here, then so can we," Ezio said. "I know you are capable of this, Midna."

Link nodded. "Yes, I... we believe in you."

Midna relaxed, and Link thought he saw a tear in her eye. "... Thanks. All right, to Hyrule Castle!" She snapped her fingers, and then flew into Link's shadow. As he felt himself de-compose, the hylian felt like he was being crushed. He couldn't think and then he ascended into the darkness.

Chapter 17[]

Hyrule Castle Keep

Ezio had never felt so much pain being warped to a location. It took him several moments to catch breath, and realize he wasn't being crushed between two metal walls. He moved his arms and twists his wrists. Those seem to be fine, he thought. He shuffled his legs, and flexed them. Perfect, no bones broken. He looked over to see Link doing similar motions.

"It was painful for you, too?" Ezio asked.

Link nodded. "Yes, very painful."

"Sorry, guys," Midna said, floating next to Link. "I should have warned you that it would hurt if I warped you from a farway place to another place that didn't have a portal. Areas close to each other are fine, but..." She looked, to Ezio's surprise, sober. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be," he said. "That is a condition with your power. At least Link and I didn't break any bones. At least I trust he didn't," he added with a chuckle.

"No," Link said, stretching his left arm. "I didn't. I'm all right." He smiled at the imp and patted her gently on the back. "You did a good job, Midna."

"Thank you..."

Ezio pulled the clawshot from his pouch and handed it to Link. "Here, I have a feeling I will not need this anymore. Hand me my right hidden blade, if you would, amico."

"Sure." Link took out Ezio's right bracer from his adventurer's pouch and they exchanged items. Ezio re-equipped himself with the bracer, and tested the hidden blade. It released and then retracted. "Looks like it's working perfectly," Link said.

"Bene." Ezio nodded.

"We should head inside," Midna said. "Ganondorf... and ugh, Carlo are waiting for us, I bet."

"When don't they ever?" Ezio said with a smirk.

"This isn't funny! I was nearly sacrificed, dammit!" Midna snarled at Ezio. "If you weren't Link's friend, I'd strangle you right now."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" Link said, stepping between the two. "Calm down. We need to work as a team if we're going to kill them." His eyes wandered toward the darkened entrance of the Keep. "Remember what happened at the Mirror Chamber? If we attack them one at a time, we'll just get knocked back."

"It may not happen like that this time," Midna said, her voice considerably calmer. "They were just trying to escape. This time, they'll fight to kill us."

"Instead of discussing all of this," Ezio said, looking at the Keep entrance. "Why don't we just go in and find out?"

"Good point," Link said, nodding. They began to walk toward the entrance when the young hero put his hand on the Assassin's shoulder. "Ezio?"

He turned and looked at Link. The young hero offered his other hand. "Insieme per la vittoria."

Ezio grinned and took his hand. "Insieme." Midna placed her hand on theirs. Ezio and Link nodded at her, and she nodded back.

Releasing his hand from the young hero's, the Assassin ascended the staircase into the darkened room. He heard Link's footsteps behind him, and assumed Midna was floating either at his side (which was most likely) or behind.

Inside the Keep, all the torches were out. Ezio tapped into his talent and gazed forward. There, he saw two figures in gold, and a figure in blue. One of the gold auras seemed to be sitting on something while the other gold aura was standing next to the first. The blue aura was high in the air against something.

He untapped his gift and took a step forward. As his boot touched the tile in front of him, the torches lit up one by one. In mere moments, the room dimly illuminated. There, on the royal throne sat Ganondorf, gazing at Ezio, Link, and Midna with an amused expression, and Carlo standing next to him, sharing the same expression.

Ezio glanced over to the wall and saw a unconscious Princess Zelda strapped the wall.

"Ah, there you are, the Hero, and the Assassin, not to mention the Twilight Princess," Ganondorf said. Ezio turned his head toward the gerudo. "I'm so glad to see you all here. Welcome to my new castle. Is it not grand?"

"You...!" Midna raised her voice, but Ezio interrupted her.

"I see you have a fixation for strapping females onto objects," he said, folding his arms.

Ganondorf let out an evil, deep laugh. "I like your brand of humor... Ezio, was it? Yes, you're the Mentor of the Assassins. Regardless, I've heard you have quite a personalty go along with your deadly arts."

"Grazie," Ezio said. "But I'm afraid you will not get to know me very well."


"You may have just been reborn, but soon, you will go back into the grave."

"Brave words from a weak human," Ganondorf remarked.

"Yet you say that I am deadly." Ezio pointed out.

"Deadly... for a pathetic human," Ganonodorf countered.

"Enough of this!" Link said, drawing his sword. "You've taken Zelda, nearly sacrificed Midna, and are trying to take Hyrule with the Apple. Don't you have enough, Ganondorf?"

"I never have enough, boy," the gerudo said, rising from the throne. "Not until Hyrule, and every Realm is under my fist, and the Triforce is mine to use." He grasped the air with his hand for emphasis.

"You mean to abuse," Midna said with a dark voice.

Ganondorf laughed. "You cannot abuse the Triforce, Twilight Princess. After all, it grants to whomever touches it their fondest wish, does it not? How is that abuse?"

"Enough!" Carlo interjected. "Maestro, I think it's time we dealt with this trash as we planned."

"Don't tell me when and where I should kill my foes," Ganondorf snapped. "Right here is unfitting for such a battle." A grin spread over his face. "However, I think the middle of the room should be fitting."

"What are you waiting for, monster?" Link snarled.

"Such anger... I'm waiting for the Triforce of Courage, boy," he said smoothly. "I already have the Triforce of Wisdom." He pointed to the restrained Zelda. "Now I need yours. Give it to me, and I may spare your life."

Link snorted. "Only if I die! Which is not going to happen."

"I will have it either way," he said, stretching out his hand. "Restrain them, Carlo."

"Yes, Maestro." Carlo raised the Apple into the air, and bright light escaped it. Except it wasn't the normal golden light that Ezio remembered, it was a black, red and tainted gold light.

Then, he felt his arms and legs bind, and he could not move them, nor his body. He couldn't look to see Link or Midna. Merda! The Twilight Ring and Apple combined! he thought, as he struggled against the illusions, but it was all in vain.

Ganondorf stood up from the throne. "I get to claim them all."

"What? I thought we agreed that I would kill the Assassin--"

"I changed my mind," Ganondorf said with an evil grin. "Besides, why stain your own hands when another will gladly do it for you?" He snatched the Apple from Carlo's hand, and walked toward Ezio. The Assassin could see the rage on Carlo's face.

This is what you get for reviving the King of Darkness. Damn it. I need to break free!

Ganondorf raised his empty hand at Ezio. "I have no further use for you, Ezio Auditore. Farewell."

Something escaped his hand, and the Assassin felt excruciating pain, and he could see himself being torn into particles.

Ezio heard Midna and Link scream out his name as everything went black.


No... Link thought. He watched in horror as Ezio was shredded apart by the mere power of Ganondorf's Triforce shard. "No! It can't be!"

Carlo let out a wicked laugh. "So ends the life of the Assassin Mentor," he said.

"You, too, Link, will suffer the same fate if you do not give me the crest of Courage," Ganondorf said, lowering his hand and turning to him.

"I will not!" Link said. I cannot let him get the Triforce, no matter what.

"Then... you will die."

"Link...!" Midna exclaimed next to him. "No... please don't go..." He could hear her crying.

The hylian heard Carlo laugh again. "Look at this, the imp Princess bewailing the fate of her lover. How delightful."

"I agree," Ganondorf said, sneering. He walked over to Link and raised the Apple this time with his right hand--the one with the Triforce of Power on it. "Farewell, chosen hero of the gods."

"No!" Midna screamed. "Don't kill him!" She screamed again as Link heard a powerful shock go through her body next to him. "Agh!"

"Be silent, whelp," Carlo growled. "You'll shortly join him... in the nether world, or wherever you Hyruleans go to die!"

"Why do you need the Apple to kill me?" Link asked.

"Isn't it obvious? The Assassin did not have the power of the gods in him. Unlike you," Ganondorf said. "Now, away with you!"

The Apple began to glow brightly and Link swallowed, expecting to be shredded to pieces like Ezio was. I cannot die... I have to live... I will live somehow! I... I have to stop Ganondorf and Carlo at all costs.

Then nothing happened.

"What?" Ganondorf blinked.

Link saw the Master Sword in his hand begin to resonate along with the Triforce of Courage. There was a bright green light that blinded him, and then he felt himself drop onto the ground. I'm free...

The light cleared, and he saw Midna, still bound by its power. "Link..." she said. "Go! Kill Ganondorf! You're our only hope now!"

"H-how?" the gerudo stumbled back. "How is it possible? The crest of courage alone should not have saved you!"

"No, it was not simply Courage that saved him," a female voice said behind him. "But the Master Sword, and Wisdom."

Link stood up and looked behind him. Zelda was awake and free. The Triforce of Wisdom was glowing on her right hand.

"Link... use your Triforce shard along the Master Sword," she said. "And you'll set Midna free."

"Too late! I'll slay you both now!" Ganondorf yelled. He drew his sword and attempted to cut apart Link and Zelda. The hylian hero raised his sword to deflect, but instead a blue barrier of magic protected him and her. The gerudo jumped back, looking stunned. "What is this?"

Zelda ignored him. "Quickly, free Midna while the barrier is up."

Link nodded. But what about Ezio? He raised the Master Sword, and pulsed his energy from the Triforce of Courage into the blade. Then, he swung at Midna and the light around her shattered. She fell to the ground with a quiet thump.

"Midna," Link went to her. "Are you all right?"

"I... am... but... Ezio..."

"Carlo," Ganondorf said. "We cannot win here... yet." He sheathed his sword. "This isn't over. Your precious land is still mine! Follow us if you dare." Then, the gerudo and the Templar vanished into the Twilight.

Link tried to chase after them, but then tripped on something. "Ow..." He looked at his foot to see what it had caught, and there was a cape. A white cape with red lining. "Ezio's cape!" He picked it up in his hands, and held it tenderly. Tears began to stain Link's face as he thought of his good friend. "No... Why did he have to die? Why!?"

He felt a hand on his shoulder, and looked over to see Midna there. She, too, was crying silently. "I'm sorry, Link." She hugged him around the neck. "I'm... so sorry..."

"I am... also sorry," Zelda said from behind. "If I had acted faster... it may have been possible to save him."

"What stopped you?" Link asked softly, still holding the cape in his hands.

"I was still restrained. I was trying to break my bonds," she explained. Link didn't turn his head to see her expression, but he could hear sorrow in her voice. "I managed to break free when the Triforce of Wisdom began to resonate."

"Ezio..." Link said. "... requiescat in pace, my friend." He put his face into the cape and stained it with his tears.

"Link..." Midna said, her voice gentle.

"No... we have to go," Link shook his head and stood up. "We have to stop them... and avenge Ezio's death. He did so much for Hyrule... it's only fair that we pay the debt we owe him." He put the cape into his adventurer's pouch, and picked up the Master Sword.

Wiping the tears from his face, Link frowned, and then grit his teeth. Ganondorf and Carlo would pay. "Let's go."

"I'll warp us after them," Midna said. "I can sense where Carlo is because of that... ring." She paused and let out a deep sigh. "Um... yes, let's get them." She snapped her fingers and flew into Link's shadow.

Link felt himself de-materialize into the Twilight, and into the darkness. Then, when he re-materialized he landed on the dusty ground of Eldin field. Where I killed Ganondorf last time.

The sun was rising in the distance, signaling the morning, yet there was nothing happy about it.

Link looked forward, and there, he saw Ganondorf and Carlo standing in the middle of the field.

"So, you decided to join us after all?" the gerudo said with a wicked laugh. "I'm amused. I can tell by the expressions on your faces that you morn the Assassin's death. Why is that? You barely knew the old man." He laughed again. "Merely... an old man," he added, almost a whisper.

"The Assassin's death was necessary," Carlo said. "As are yours."

Link took out the cape from his adventurer's pouch and raised it in the air. "This is all that remains of Ezio Auditore da Firenze, the Mentor of the Assassins," he said. He glared at Ganondorf and Carlo. "This cape will be a mark. A mark of your deaths to come. You will not win, even with the Apple and the Twilight Ring. You're still the same old damned monster, Ganondorf. I killed you once, and I will kill you again."

"Very well..." the gerudo chuckled. "Come at me, then."

Chapter 18[]

Link placed the cape on his shoulder, and strapped it on. "For Ezio!" he cried, raising his sword in the air.

"For Ezio!" Zelda echoed.

Link dashed at Ganondorf. The gerudo whistled loudly, and then a black horse with armor and red eyes galloped between the hylian and her master.

Ganondorf got on his horse, and said. "Let's see if you haven't lost your edge with riding a horse, Link! Hyah!" He whipped the reins, pushing his horse into a run. He tried to run Link over, but the hylian rolled out of the way in time.

He heard footsteps behind him and he saw Zelda standing behind him. She merely nodded at him, and he nodded back.

Link sheathed his sword and pulled out his Horse Charm. The hylian blew into it, calling for Epona. At the same time, Zelda raised her hands into the air and summoned the power of light. The hylian assumed that she was helping Epona get her as soon as possible.

It worked. A portal of light opened before them and Epona ran through it. She stopped before Link, and he got onto the saddle. Zelda also got onto the saddle behind him, and he heard the pulsing noise of and object being summoned. The Light Bow... he thought.

"All right, let's go, Epona!" Link commanded. He didn't know what Carlo was doing. "Zelda, watch out for the Templar while I try to stop Ganondorf. I'll still need you to fire the Light Arrows at him, though."

"I understand. Go!"

"Hyah!" Link pushed Epona into a gallop, and chased after Ganondorf. He could feel Ezio's cape flowing through the wind on his shoulder as he rode. The gerudo was riding swiftly, gaining distance on Epona. Drawing his sword, Link continued to follow him across Eldin Field.

"There's Carlo!" Zelda said. Pointing to their right. Link looked and he saw the Templar riding a brown steed beside them. He raised the Apple into the air.

"Zelda! Get him!"

Link heard the magical hum of a Light Arrow being nocked into the bow, and then he saw out of the corner of his eye a flash of light. Carlo let out a yelp as (Link assumed) the Light Arrow made contact with the Templar, stunning him.

"Wh-what is this?" He heard Carlo manage to say.

"I thought the Apple was supposed to give all the knowledge you needed about Hyrule, Carlo," Link shouted with a grin. "You should know about the Light Arrorws."

He continued the chase after Ganondorf and closed in. This is for Ezio, you bastard. He raised his sword in preparation for a spin attack, and when the gerudo was close enough, Link released it.

The blade spun around and struck him in the shoulder. Ganondorf let out a grunt of pain and then tried to punch Link off his horse. At that very moment, Zelda released another Light Arrow and it hit, weakening the gerudo and slowing down his pace.

Link circled around the gerudo and slashed repeatedly, striking at various areas of his body. He was unable to strike the wound in the middle of his body, but at least the hylian was hurting him.

Then, the Light Arrow's power wore off and Ganondorf whipped his reins again and dashed away from Link and Zelda.

The hylian kept whipping his own reins to push Epona after Ganondorf, but then he saw out of the corner of his eye a blast of black and gold energy. He felt Zelda behind him freeze. Damn it, he's binded her! He glanced over and saw Carlo riding a distance away with a wicked grin on his face.

Link channeled his energy into the Triforce of Courage, and then raised the Master Sword for a spin attack. Unleashing his energy, he heard the bindings on Zelda shatter. "Get him, Zelda!" Link felt some of his strength leave him.

There was another flash of white light from behind Link, and then he heard Carlo yell in pain. That should keep him at bay.

While Link had been distracted, Ganondorf had gained a lot of distance from him. The hylian whipped the reins again and Epona dashed toward the black horse.

As he closed in, he heard the same hum again. Then, there was a burst of light from behind him and another Light Arrow soared toward Ganondorf. The gerudo tried to out maneuver the arrow, but he failed as it struck him in the back. Link dashed forward and slashed across the his body again.

The light stopped arcing around Ganondorf more quickly this time, and the gerudo glared at Link. He was bleeding, but not too heavily. He rode beside the hylian and then punched him off his horse.

Link was knocked onto the ground, and heard hooves pounding the ground next to him. He got up on his hands and saw Epona rushing toward him. Rolling out of the way, the hylian could feel his strength exhausted from being knocked off. He gasped for air. What exactly took away my strength? Was it Ganondorf's Triforce shard?

Epona stopped next to him and Zelda got off. "Link! Are you all right?"

The hylian looked at her. "No... I feel weak. I think Ganondorf hit me with his Triforce hand. I feel like all my strength is gone. Not to mention I keep having to channel my energy into my crest."

"Midna," Zelda said. The imp popped out of Link's shadow. She nodded at her, and the Twilight Princess nodded back. They laid their hands on the hylian's shoulders and then he could feel energy enter into his body, and his strength return to him. He stood up, and faced the two oncoming horses.

"Now what?" Link asked. He saw the triumphant grins on the faces of the gerudo and the Templar. Ganondorf had his sword raised, ready to kill all three of them.

"Knock them off, dummy," Midna said.

"I don't have time for--"

"Make some time!"

Link pulled out his heavy ball and chain and threw it at Ganondorf. He tried to evade the attack, but the ball struck his steed in the legs, causing it to crash to the ground. Carlo, seeming to get the message, stopped in front of them. Link pulled on the chain and returned the spiked ball to his hands.

"You want some of this, Carlo?" Link threatened.

The Templar didn't respond, instead, he backed his steed away from the three. "You know I can restrain all three of you easily. Even with your Triforce shards, you would be--"

"Enough," Ganondorf said, standing from his fallen horse. "So, boy, you still have good control over your horse, unless someone rams you with a fist filled with energy." He grinned. "Carlo, I want to do this my way. So, get out of the way. Link, come at me with your blade!"

Link picked up the Master Sword and faced off with Ganondorf. Midna flew back into his shadow. The gerudo snapped his fingers, and the black steed vanished into the Twilight. Carlo obeyed his master's commands and rode away from the battlefield.

The gerudo took up his sword and clashed it against the hylian's. Then, he swung at Link in an attempt to sever his head. The hylian ducked, and brought his sword around and slashed at Ganondorf's leg. The attack almost hit, but the Master Sword was suddenly restrained by golden-black light.

"You cheaters!" Link growled. Apparently, Carlo had returned to even the odds. "I thought Ganondorf said to leave us alone!"

"I never did play fair," Carlo laughed.

"I never said he couldn't assist, boy," Ganondorf snarled.

He raised his sword to slice Link in two, when he was struck by silver light. Link glanced over and saw Zelda with the Light Bow. Ganondorf growled, seemingly unable to move as white lightning arced all around him. She nocked another Light Arrorw and aimed it for Carlo.

Carlo took a step back, and then tried to run from Zelda, but she fired another Light Arrow and stunned him also.

Then, Link broke the Master Sword free of the light and stopped channeling his energy into his crest.

However, Ganondorf was no longer paralyzed, and he kicked Link in the face, knocking him onto the ground. He grabbed him by the neck and began to strangle the hylian, causing him to drop the Master Sword. The gerudo laughed. "You're pathetic, Link. Has your emotion over the dead Assassin weakened you?"

"D-damn y-y-you..." Link sputtered. He kicked the gerudo's arm, but without being able to use the Master Sword, his attacks were worthless. He pulled on Ganondorf's fingers, trying to set himself free. He wondered why Zelda hadn't fired another Light Arrow when Midna came out of his shadow and blasted Ganondorf with a bolt of Twilight energy.

The gerudo must have been surprised by this because he dropped Link and faced Midna. "You're getting in the way, Twilight Princess. Remember how I killed you before?" He sheathed his sword and then raised his right hand toward Midna. "You were too arrogant to ignore my power, relying far too much on your Fused Shadows. Now, I'll kill you like I killed the Assassin."

"Problem, moron," Midna said. "I'm not restrained." She flew out of the way of his hand and fired another bolt of Twilight energy at him. The bolt hit him in the chest and caused the gerudo to stumble, but Link saw him catch his footing.

The hylian picked up the Master Sword and stood up. Ganondorf drew his sword and tried to cleave Link, but he brought up his shield in time to block the attack. After backflipping, he glanced in Zelda's direction. Why...? Then, he saw her restrained by the same golden-black light that had been used by Carlo in the Keep.

Link rushed to Zelda, and tried to use his Triforce shard on her, but it didn't shatter the glow. He heard footsteps behind him, and he knew that Ganondorf was not going to let him release the princess.

He spun around to parry whatever attack the gerudo was going to use on him, when a large, orange hand grasped Ganondorf's head and pulled him back.

"Thanks, Midna!" Link said, seeing that she had transformed her hair into the large hand. Ganondrof did not look pleased.

"Not a problem," she said with a grin. Then, Carlo came up behind her with the same dagger in his hand.

"Midna, look out!" Link shouted. The imp turned her head just in time to see Carlo attempt to stab her. She flew upward, avoiding the stab while keeping Ganondorf bound.

Link took out his bow and fired an arrow at Carlo. The Templar was surprisingly fast, and he rolled out of the way of the arrow.

Then, Ganondorf pulsed with red energy and blasted Midna's hand off of him. She screamed in pain as her hand retracted into her head and she was shot back, right next to Carlo.

"What fun! I get to kill you at last!" The Templar cackled. He raised the dagger to stab her through the middle, but then Midna flew into Carlo's shadow, avoiding the blow. "What!?"

Ganondorf rounded on Link, raising his sword again. The hylian parried with his sword and then kicked the gerudo in the stomach. It didn't work as he grabbed the hylian's leg and swept him onto the ground. He raised his sword to stab Link through the middle, but he brought up his shield to avoid the blow.

"Keep the women at bay, Carlo," Ganondorf commanded.

"As you wish, Maestro." Link couldn't see what he was doing because Ganondorf picked him up by the throat and began to strangle him again. The hylian dropped the Master Sword and struggled against the gerudo's strength.

"M-Midna... t-turn... m-me... i-into... a wolf!" Link managed to get out. He tried to cough, but was unable to, the light around him was growing dim. He heard Midna pop out of Carlo's shadow, but he realized it would be too late by the time she got here, if she got around whatever Carlo was doing to keep Zelda and her away.

Then, there was a loud bang that echoed throughout the field, and Ganondorf dropped Link. He saw him wincing as he grasped his right arm.

That noise... The hylian thought.

"Link!" Midna's voice cried out. She had managed to get around Carlo somehow and was at his side. She pointed to his left. He looked over and saw a man in white and red standing there with his left arm outstretched. There was smoke escaping from his bracer, and a wide smile on his face.

"Link! Didn't you say 'we stand together?'" he asked with a chuckle. "Well... we can't stand together while I'm dead, amico mio. But... that problem has been remedied."

"Ezio!" Link gasped. "You're alive!"

The Assassin nodded, and then grinned.

Chapter 19[]

Some unknown time before...

Ezio felt himself floating through darkness, unable to move, unable to breathe. Yet, somehow, he was conscious. It felt very cold and very lonely. He was drifting away, almost nothing compared to his former self, unable to control where he was going and not knowing where he would end up.

Then, four golden-silver orbs appeared around him. "What do you wish, Assassin?" a voice asked.

What are you? The Triforce? Ezio tried to ask, but his words only escaped as a thought.

"Nay," another voice said. "We are the Spirits of Light."

"Again," said a different voice from the first two. "What do you wish, Ezio?"

It didn't take much thought for Ezio to respond to that. I wish to live.

"What for?" asked the familiar voice of Lanayru.

To help my friends save this world, and my own. But... I do not know how to return to the world of the living.

"Fear not," the first Light Spirt said. "We know how. Because of your own courage, wisdom, and power that you have shown throughout your travels with the chosen hero, your life will be restored to you."

The four Light Spirits began to swirl around and around Ezio, and light entered into what he believed to be his body (perhaps it was just his spirit... or maybe both). He began to feel warm again, and his limbs began to receive their strength.

"The living cannot linger here," Lanayru said. "Go, return to Hyrule where your friends have need of you. You are destined to save them from a terrible fate."

"Grazie," Ezio said, moving his mouth and projecting his voice.

The darkness began to brighten, and the Light Spirits engulfed his body. Soon, he found himself on solid ground as his body re-contructed itself. His right hand on the ground and his head facing the dirt. He looked up and saw the rising sun over Hyrule's distant mountains, and he took in the fresh air of the morning.

The Light Spirits spun around him, and then they vanished in gleams of light. He stood up, and checked himself. The Sword of Altaïr was sheathed at his side, as was the Dagger of Brutus. He could feel his crossbow on his back, his belt was filled with throwing knives, and both of his bracers were untouched. His light armor glimmered in the sunlight. He checked his gun. Six bullets... they restored everything. He checked his hidden blades, and they released and retracted perfectly.

He looked over the field to see Zelda, holding an elegant white bow, being restrained by Carlo using the Twilight Ring and the Apple, while Ganondorf was strangling Link. He was trying to say something, but Ezio couldn't hear what.

Midna was fighting Carlo off using her own Twilight magic, and then Ezio saw her fly into his shadow, and then out the other side toward Link.

Ezio remembered Lanayru's words, and then aimed his hidden gun at Ganondorf's arm, and fired. A loud bang resonated across the field, and the bullet connected with the gerudo's arm, forcing him to drop Link. The young hero looked surprised and dazed. Midna went to his side and then pointed toward Ezio.

He smiled. "Link! Didn't you say 'we stand together?'" he asked with a chuckle. "Well... we can't stand together while I'm dead, amico mio. But... that problem has been remedied."

"Ezio!" Link gasped, his face alight with joy. "You're alive!"

He nodded, and noticed that Link was wearing his cape over his right shoulder. "That cape goes on the other shoulder, my friend," Ezio said with a grin.

"What?" Ganondorf roared, staring at Ezio. The Assassin continued to walk toward the battlefield. "What manner of trick is this?"

"What can I say?" The Assassins spread out his arms, smiling. "I'm quite the escape artist."

Carlo was backing away. "Th-this sh-should n-not be possible," he stuttered.

Ganondorf looked furious, and unable to speak. He glared at Link as if it were his fault. He raised his hand, but then winced and grasped his arm. It seemed like he could be harmed by things other than the Master Sword. Whether it is the only weapon that can kill him remains to be seen.

"Carlo!" Ezio called, continuing to approach the battlefield. He released his hidden blades. "Release the principessa, or I will have to come over there and force you." Link had gotten up and picked up the Master Sword. He backed away from Ganondorf, twirling the blade as if thinking of what to do next.

"Ha!" Carlo kept Zelda bound by the black and gold magic. "There's nothing you can do as long as I have this ring! Not to mention you'll have to go through Maestro mio before you can strike me."

Ganondorf pulled his right hand into a fist, and he flexed his arm. Ezio saw something pop out of his muscle where the bullet had penetrated.

"Looks like your little toys will only buy your friends little time, Assassin," the gerudo said, laughing. He drew his sword and advanced on Link.

Ezio took the opportunity to sprint toward Ganondorf. He spun toward the Assassin, and his foe jumped into the air with his hidden blade out. He smashed into the gerudo, knocking him prone, and slammed his hidden blade into his foe's neck.

Ganondorf smiled, though Ezio wasn't completely surprised. The gerudo attempted to grab the Assassin, but he jumped out of his grasp, hitting the ground and sliding back on his hands. I guess the Master Sword is the only weapon that can kill him.

Ezio got to his feet and drew his sword, and Ganondorf let out a bellowing laugh.

"Didn't you just see that your hidden blades failed to kill me, Auditore?" he asked. "Now, you draw your sword in hopes of defeating me. That won't work."

"Maybe, but the distraction worked," the Assassin responded with a smirk.

Ganondorf's face filled with surprise and he turned around. Ezio could see Zelda free of the glowing bindings that once held her. She was stumbling onto the ground, looking weakened, but Link and Midna were protecting her from Carlo's attacks; Midna with her magic, and Link with his shield.

"Hmph!" Ganondorf turned back to Ezio. "I guess you are wiser than you appear, Assassin." An evil smile spread over his face. "But this time, you will not escape me. I don't know how you came back from the dead, but I will kill you." He raised his hand into the air, and a golden barrier in a small circle lit up around Midna, Link and Zelda. Then, a similar barrier, but in a much larger circle surrounded Ezio and Ganondorf.

"Without the boy, you cannot kill me. Only he can wield the blade of evil's bane," he explained. "You cannot."

"Then what do you gain from killing me besides satisfying your Templar puppet?" Ezio asked, putting himself in a parry stance. "It seems completely irrational. I pose no real threat to you, yet you intend to murder me? That is similar to a man who believes he can rule the world by killing a single ant."

"And do you consider yourself an ant, then?"

"Answer my question, first."

Ganondorf snorted, and shrugged. "As you wish. When I kill you, I can take your body and use it to kill the boy. Then, there will be none capable of slaying me." He pointed his sword at Ezio. "So, you believe yourself to be an ant?"

"That is up for you to decide," Ezio said smoothly. "So... why did you destroy my body in the Keep if you need it to murder Link? It seems rather pointless."

"Simple," Ganondorf said. "I assumed the boy would die by my hand in a similar fashion."

Ezio grinned. "And it looks like that plan failed."

"It's good to always have a back-up plan," the gerudo said. "Enough chatter! Die!" He charged Ezio with his sword in hand, attempting to ram the Assassin with its flat end.

Ezio waited until the last moment, and then jumped out of the way. He barely avoided the attack due to Ganondorf's large stature. He had to be at least a head or more taller than Ezio himself.

"Is that your first time using that sword?" he said with a smirk.

"You attempt to mock me? It will not work," Ganondorf said. He charged Ezio again and brought his sword down on his foe.

Ezio strafed around the attack, and avoided the blade. "Seems to be working well! You're attacking me, old fool!" he shouted.

Ganondorf sneered. "As I said before, I like your sense of humor, Assassin, but how will it save you from my blade?" Then, he jumped high into the air. Ezio looked up and saw the gerudo point his sword down at him.

He rolled out of the way as Ganondorf landed on the ground next to him, but the impact caused Ezio to bounce over the ground and land flat on his back, knocking the Sword of Altaïr out of his hand.

Ezio saw him not waste any time as he slashed his sword with the intent to kill. The Assassin rolled away, but he didn't manage to escape without being slashed across the back. "Agh!" Despite the fact that his armor deflected most of the attack, Ezio felt the wound's sting. He got up, wincing, and took out a smelling salt. He took in a deep breath, and the pain dulled right away.

This time, Ganondorf didn't rush him, instead he walked slowly toward the Assassin with a smug expression on his face. "Your armor is quite effective. Yet, I almost broke it into pieces with my sword. Did you not hear the scrapping of metal against your back when I swung?"

Ezio drew his dagger, and said nothing. He could feel that the armor on his back was a little lighter than before. He didn't have time to check though as the gerudo charged him again, this time, with the sword point directly toward Ezio.

The Assassin shifted to the side, avoiding the attack and then brought his dagger down into Ganondorf's arm. He dug down into the flesh of the gerudo, but Ezio noticed that he wasn't even wincing. The Assassin kicked him in the leg, but Ganondorf kicked back, right in the stomach, sending him flying into the barrier where he rebounded off of it onto the ground face-first. Pain shot through his back like lightning, and he dropped his dagger.

Ezio was sure he heard Link, Midna, and Zelda cry out his name and other words, but he wasn't certain. Then, his foe was upon him, and he grabbed Ezio by the throat. "I seem to be in the mood for strangling people, Assassin," he said with a wicked smile.

Ezio felt the pressure of his large fist begin to crush his throat. Losing his breath, he quickly grabbed a throwing knife from his belt and flung it into the gerudo's eye.

Ganondorf dropped Ezio, and let out a growl. He took the knife from his eye and hurled at Ezio. It was a pathetic throw; the Assassin rolled to the side as the throwing knife bounced off the barrier. He jumped to his feet and then winced as his back complained.

"Still hurting? What a shame." Ganondorf smirked. His eye was bleeding, but it was open and seemingly unaffected otherwise. "Perhaps you need more wounds?"

Ezio glanced over to his left and saw his sword lying in the dirt. Before he could act, his enemy was upon him, trying to slice him in half. Ezio raised his bracers and Ganondorf's sword clashed against them. Thrusting his bracers to his right, he pushed the gerudo's sword away, giving him an opening to his own sword.

But Ganondorf was fast, and seemed to regain his balance almost instantaneously. He spun toward Ezio, and swung his blade at the Assassins's neck. Spinning around, Ezio dropped a smoke bomb, and then ran for his sword. He heard it impact with the ground with the sound of thick smoke being released.

He grabbed his sword and spun around to face Ganondorf, but to his surprise, the gerudo was standing in the midst of the smoke, smiling evilly.

"Really? Is this the best you can do?" he asked. "All you have are these little toys that do nothing. And yet, you are suppose to be deadly..."

Ezio kept his composure and his sword raised. "Very funny," he remarked. How do I kill him? ... I can't. I have to figure out a way to knock him out to lower this barrier... That wasn't going to be easy, because Ezio didn't think his fists would do much against Ganondorf's powerful physique.

Then, he thought of something. He sheathed his sword, and aimed his left bracer at Ganondorf's head. He armed the trigger on his gun, and then fired.

Ezio saw Ganondorf's eyes widen for a second as the bullet struck him in the forehead, shattering the jewel. The gerudo crashed into the ground, jolting some of the smoke upward.

The Assassin waited for the barrier to lower, but nothing seemed to happen. Then, he heard a loud growl of pain in front of him. He looked back to the smoke, only to see Ganondorf rising out of it, culching his bleeding forehead.

"Damn you, that hurts..."

"Merda," Ezio said. He had expected his foe to survive the attack, but he didn't think that the gerudo would still be conscious. Maybe another bullet... He started loading his gun again, slowly backing away.

Then, Ezio was slammed into the barrier by a large fist. Pain shot through his chest, and then through his back as he rebounded off the barrier. His chest guard broke into large pieces, and scattered onto the ground. Ganondorf lifted Ezio up by the arm, and then threw him to the opposite side of barrier. The Assassin felt himself slam into the ground and slide up to the barrier. His arms, legs, back, chest, and neck all felt like they were burning.

He reached into his medicine pouch, and took out another smelling salt. Apparently, Ganondorf had figured out what it was, and dashed over to the prone Ezio. Quickly, he took a deep breath from the vial and then tossed it aside. His pain dulled enough that he stood up in time to see the gerudo bring his sword down upon him.

Ezio could do nothing but block with his bracers. The sword came flying down onto his bracer, clashing against it. The Assassin could feel the pressure from Ganondorf's strength, and the lack of his own. He was going to die.

"Link!" He heard Midna cry. "Do something! He's getting wasted over there!"

"There's nothing you can do to help him!" Carlo shouted, his voice smug.

"Ezio!" Link shouted, sounding frustrated. "Use this!" Then, a shimmering object came flying into the air above Ganondorf. The gerudo jumped out of the way from whatever was coming, freeing Ezio. The object landed, and dirt went flying into the Assassin's face.

He cleared his eyes, and saw the Master Sword laying there in the ground before him. And... this is supposed to help me how, Link? Breathing heavily, Ezio took out another smelling salt while he had the chance, and took in more of the medicine.

He heard Ganondorf laugh. "The boy has lost his mind. Is it not possible for one like you, Assassin, to wield that blade. You can only stand because of those strange vials you carry."

Ezio frowned. "We'll see about that." He reached for the hilt of the Master Sword, and this time, he didn't feel anything repel him. So, he grabbed it with both hands, and drew it from the ground. The Assassin raised the sword high in the air.

"What socrery is this!?" Ganondorf exclaimed.

Then, Ezio smiled. "Not sorcery, old man... skill," he said.

Before the gerudo could retort, Ezio charged him and stabbed the sword through Ganondorf's chest. He let out a scream of utter pain that rang in the Assassin's ears. He pulled the sword out and then the gerudo charged him with his own.

Ezio parried the attack and then spun around, stabbing his foe in the thigh. With a quick swipe of the Master Sword, Ezio took a step back and then swung again, trying to slice Ganondorf's head. The gerudo was too quick, despite his wounds, and their blades clanged against each other.

Ganondorf tried to push Ezio down with his blade, but then, the Assassin pushed back with all the strength he could muster. He heard the sliding of the blades against each other and the pressure of the gerudo's force.

I will not win this way.

Ezio kicked Ganondorf in his weakened thigh. When he let out a cry of pain, the Assassin put all his strength into pushing the gerudo away. It worked, and his foe stumbled back, far enough that he landed into his own barrier.

"Grayh!" he said, getting up. "You may have the sword... and it may have accepted you for reasons beyond the gods... but you do not know how to wield it! It will not save you!" He grasped his sword in hand and charged Ezio again.

Ezio ducked under the attack, and then sliced the right side of Ganondorf's waist. He growled in pain when the blade connected, and he jumped back--only a little ways--to get away from the Assassin.

"Now, who's hurting?" Ezio asked.

The gerudo snarled at him. "I'm going to cut that tongue out!" He advanced on the Assassin, but more slowly this time, perhaps because he was trying to be cautious, but Ezio could see the blood coming out of his thigh.

Ganondorf swung a fierce attack at Ezio's head, but he side-stepped it, and kicked the gerudo's sword arm. It didn't knock away his foe's sword, but the force knocked him off-balance for a second.

And a second was all Ezio needed. He sliced the other thigh, and as Ganondorf collapsed onto the ground, the Assassin shoved his foot onto the gerudo's leg, and then thrust down the sword into the white wound in the middle of his waist.

Ganondorf let out a shreik of agony as the Master Sword pierced his center. Ezio's ears were ringing, but he twisted the sword in his foe's wound and then brought it out with merciless force.

The gerudo was twitching all over, and Ezio was about to stab again when the bloodied blade of the sword lit up and released some mist. Out of sheer will, the Assassin's left hidden blade released and the mist went into it, causing the hidden blade to glow in the sunlight. I see...

Ezio dropped the Master Sword and then dropped to the ground above Ganondorf, and slamming his hidden blade into the gerudo's neck.

"No..." Ganondorf gasped. "I cannot... die... to you... Hyrule... is mine..."

"This land never belonged to you," Ezio said as he removed his hidden blade from his enemy's neck. "It belongs to those who have pure hearts and open minds. Not to those who seek to control and dominate... like you... and Carlo."

"It... cannot... be..." Ganondorf managed to say before his eyes rolled over, and his head fell back.

"Va' ora, che sia il tuoi dèi a giudicarti. Requiescat in pace," Ezio said, closing Ganondorf's eyes.

He stood up slowly, and turned around. The barriers had lowered, and he saw Link, Zelda, and Midna advancing on a very frightened looking Carlo.

"No... no...!" He screamed. "The Maestro cannot be dead!" He glanced in Ezio's direction and bit his lip. "I have the Apple... and the ring... you will not defeat me!" But instead of fighting, the Templar ran, sprinting at an incredible rate for a man his age.

"Oh no, you don't!" Link cried out, brandishing the Ordon Sword. He dashed after Carlo, but Ezio knew that there was no way he would be able to catch up to the Templar. Then, he saw something on the ground next to Midna and Zelda, and went to examine it.

"Link! Get him!" Midna cried. She glanced at Zelda, who was looking exhausted. "Can you fire another Light Arrow to stop him?"

Zelda shook her head. "I have drained all of my magical reserves."

"What about this?" Ezio interjected, picking up the object. It was the Gale Boomerang. "This should work." He didn't wait for a response and instead sprinted after Link and Carlo. He managed to gain some distance on them, and noticed that the Templar made a turn, and ran across a hill. The young hero continued to chase after him.

Ezio stopped, raised the Gale Boomerang in the air, and then wind swirled around it. The Assassin aimed for Carlo, and then threw the boomerang at him. He saw the Templar glanced back once at Link and turned to start running again when the boomerang spun around him, capturing him in a small wind storm.

The boomerang sailed back to Ezio and Carlo looked very dizzy. Link reached him when it seemed like he was beginning to regain his senses. Unfortunately for the Templar, he was knocked off the hill onto the ground when Link's shield slammed into his face. Ezio dashed forward to finish Carlo, but his friend was already sailing through the air with his sword pointed down.

Link landed on Carlo, stabbing him right through the stomach with such speed that the last Templar died without a grunt. The Apple rolled out of his hands as his arms went limp.

Ezio slowed to a walk and then knelt over Carlo's body. He closed the Templar's eyes. "Nulla è reale, tutto è lecito. Requiescat in pace."

"Ezio!" Link smiled, drawing out his sword. "You did it! You were able to wield the Master Sword!"

The Assassin smiled back and patted Link on the shoulder. "I did... I see you're still wearing my cape. It's on the wrong side," he remarked.

"Well, I am left-handed."

"But it's a cape made for the left-shoulder," Ezio said with a chuckle. "Va bene. How did you get my cape?"

"It was... left behind after you died... or at least, after we thought you had died," Link said.

He heard footsteps behind him. He turned around to see Zelda, and a tall and very beautiful woman, who he had never seen before. She was draped in a black cloak, had light blue skin (with some darker spots on her), and strange, glowing marks on her that seemed oddly familiar. She smiled at him.

"What? You don't recognize me, Ezio?" she asked.

It took him a second, but then he said, "Midna...?" The woman nodded.

"That's what she really looks like," Link said. Ezio turned his head to see the young hero stratching his head and his face rather red. "She's not cursed anymore because Carlo is dead."

Lucky kid...

"Would you tell us how you survived your death, Ezio?" Zelda asked.

The Assassin nodded. "It was the Light Spirits," he said. "They brought me back from the dead."

"Really?" Midna said. "That's not surprising."


"They brought me back to life as well after Ganondorf killed me the first time he attacked Hyrule."

The way she speaks... it's changed. "I didn't know you were so beautiful, Midna," he said with a smile. "I didn't realize how fortunate Link was."

Midna chuckled. "I suppose. But I have to seal off the rifts that lead to the Twilight Realm so no other madmen can get in and steal from me or take control of the Realm."

"... again, Midna?" Link said, sounding disappointed. "Do you have to? I..."

"I have to," she said. "That's why I destroyed the Mirror of Twilight last time." She smiled at him, and walked over to Carlo's dead body. She removed a black ring that occasionally shimmered with teal light and handed it to Link. "Here, I don't actually need it; I only store some of my power in it. With this, you should be able to come to the Twilight Realm whenever you want. I know it'll be safe with you."

"Midna..." Link said slowly. There was a pause and then he embraced her. It was a little awkward in Ezio's opinion because she was a head taller than her beloved. They released, both teary eyed. "Thank you, Midna." Link wiped his eyes.

"Come," Zelda said to the two of them. "It's time to fix what has been broken."

Ezio nodded at her. He scooped up the Apple, and the four of them began to leave (Link headed for the Master Sword near Ganondorf's body), but then Ezio stopped. He released his left hidden blade, and the metal was not glowing anymore.

"What's wrong?" Zelda asked, approaching him. Link and Midna seemed to have noticed, too.

Ezio retracted the blade. "Nothing. Don't worry about it."


Minutes later...

Link sheathed the Master Sword, and looked toward Ezio. He picked up his dagger and sheathed and then walked over to his broken chest guard. Link walked over to the Assassin. "It's broken..." he remarked.

Ezio chuckled. "How ironic, I had it repaired, and then Ganondorf breaks into pieces," he said. He looked at Link. "Nessun problema, I'm sure Gortin can patch it up for me until I return to Italia."

"How are you going to return to Italia?" Link asked. I don't know of any way to help him, he thought.

"That, amico mio, is a good question." Ezio patted the hylian on the shoulder. "Don't worry, I am sure Zelda or Midna might be able to figure out a way back for me." Despite his confident voice, Link could see concern on his face; dubious concern.

"Oh!" Link remembered that he was still wearing Ezio's cape. He unstrapped it from his shoulder and held it before the Assassin. "This is yours."

Ezio smiled. "Are you sure you don't want to keep it?" He laughed. "Don't look so surprised, my friend. I was only joking," he said as he took the cape from Link's hands. He placed it over his left shoulder and strapped it back on.

Link couldn't help but grin. "Good as new, eh?" He nodded at him. "I wonder why the cape wasn't destroyed, though."

"Perhaps it was meant to be a symbol of Ezio's courage," a female voice said. Link turned to his left and saw Midna and Zelda approaching them. "He did much for Hyrule," Midna added. "And not to mention the other Realms as well."

"Thank you, Ezio," Zelda said to him. She was smiling radiantly.

"Not a problem," the Assassin said, waving his hand. "Did you handle Ganondorf's and Carlo's bodies?"

"Yes, we did," Midna said. "Their bodies are nothing more than dust now. Hopefully, that will prevent another revival of the King of Darkness." She blinked, and then added, "you know... Link has a title that the Sages gave him. Few know about it, but he was titled in a similar manner to the Hero of Time. He is called 'the Hero of Light,' because he brought light back to Hyrule."

"Hm..." Link saw Ezio glance at him. "That's quite interesting."

"I think... you also deserve a title, Ezio," Midna continued.

Ezio looked surprised. "A title? For me? Why?"

Zelda chuckled. "For reasons that we've already stated," she said. "Midna and I decided on a title. Ezio Auditore da Firenze, you shall also be known as 'the Hero of Shadows,' since that's from where you strike."

The Assassin nodded and smiled. "Grazie," he said softly. "I am honored." He looked over at Zelda. "Now... about that tower. You promised me I could climb Hyrule Castle after this whole mess was over."

Zelda frowned. "Ezio... that's very dangerous," she said, sounding concerned. "You died once already, I, I mean, we don't want to lose you again."

Link arched his brow. Zelda? He had not seen her stammer like that before.

"I will be fine," Ezio said, laughing softly. "I promise. I will not die again."

"What should we do about getting you home?" Link asked, biting his lip. "I mean, I'm not eager to see you go, but you have friends and family in Italia, right? They probably miss you. Not to mention you need to help that fellow Assassin of your who got captured."

"It's true, I have to find Machiavelli," Ezio said. "But... I think I should be allowed to say good bye to everyone here I know here, eh?" he added, a caring smile spreading over his face.

"Of course," Zelda said. She licked her lips. "It would be a shame if you left so quickly."

Link felt Midna's hands carass his shoulder. "Link, I must leave for the Mirror Chamber now," she said. "Don't look at me like that. You know you'll see me again. Now, I need to restore the Mirror of Twilight for a brief time. Because I think I know of a way of returning Ezio to his home."

"Really?" Ezio said, raising his brow. "And how would the Mirror of Twilight help me return?"

"You'll see," Midna said with a kind smile. "I'll see all of you later." She was about to snap her fingers when Link stopped her.

"Midna... before you go..." His face felt very warm. "I should have done this before you left last time." He reached up, pulled down her head close and kissed her. They released, and Link could see that even she was blushing. He let go of her, and she shot a wink at him.

"Link... see you later." She snapped her fingers, and vanished into the Twilight.

The hylian sighed, feeling satisfied. He heard Ezio chuckle behind him, and Link spun around. "What?" he asked. Zelda was standing beside the Assassin. "I was just..."

"You really are popular with the ladies, Link," he said. Then, Zelda and Ezio broke out into laughter.

"Oh, stop that!" Link protested, although, he felt himself smiling. "Come on, we've got some things to do before we get you home."

They stopped laughing, and each cleared their throat. Ezio nodded at Link. "Va bene. I suppose I will go to Hyrule Castle so I can climb to the top, and get a good view of your land."

Zelda looked like she was about to protest again, but then she shut her mouth. "Very well. But I will come with you, Ezio. I want to make sure you do not hurt yourself," she said.

"Molto bene," the Assassin said with a knowing smile. "I will come with you to the Castle."

"I'll travel with you as far as Castle Town," Link said. "I think I need to stop at Telma's to tell them what happened. They'll want to know."


Hyrule Castle, sometime later...

Zelda watched Ezio climb up the Keep of Hyrule Castle. She kept opening and closing her hands rapidly while licking her lips. She had ordered her guards to watch for his 'Leap of Faith,' so that they could catch him if something went wrong. The Assassin had started at the very bottom, and now he was reaching the top. Yet, her anxiety never decreased.

I have to admit, she thought with admiration. That he is as good at climbing as he claimed to be.

When Ezio reached the top, he stopped for a moment. Zelda wondered what he was doing, and then, to her horror, he leaped off the tower down to the courtyard.

"Ezio!" she cried out. She expected to hear the screams of utter agony in any moment as the Assassin fell into the brush below. But instead of screams, she heard nothing. Oh no...! She was about to call her guards when she saw him jump out of the brush, wiping off his clothes.

Relief washed over Zelda, and she let out a sigh. She saw Ezio pass the guards and walk back into the Castle. Wait... why is he coming back? she wondered.

After several minutes, she heard footsteps behind her and she turned her head. "So... you did it. Just like you said you would."

Ezio approached her with a generous smile on his face. "You look a little pale, madonna. Perhaps you need a little rest."

"I am all right," Zelda said to him.

"Ah, but a little rest never hurt anyone," he said, stretching. "After all, we just saved Hyrule, and I'm sure you are... exhausted. A little time alone might do you some good."

Zelda smiled knowingly. She knew exactly what he was hinting at. "I'm sorry, Ezio, but I'm not that type of woman. I will not share my bedchamber with you." Ezio looked a little disappointed. "But..." She faced him, and then pressed her lips against his. Releasing, she added, "you have my gratitude."

"Grazie a mile, Zelda," Ezio said very softly.


Telma's bar, sometime later...

"You tried to get her to sleep with you!?" Link exclaimed.

Ezio thought the young hero was taking the news a little too harshly. "Relax, amico mio," he said. "She refused, so her virtue will remain intact." He saw the furious expression on Link's face. "Ah, I see. You are jealous."

"What?" Link frowned. He didn't blush at all. "Why should I be jealous? I've got a woman of my own."

"Yes, and I imagine those little 'visits' to the Twilight Realm will be more than visits, Link," Ezio said with a knowing smile.

Link opened and closed his mouth, his face red. "I... I'm not going to do that with Midna... I just want to see her. Maybe if I married her..."

"You know, you could consider the Twilight Ring as a wedding ring," Ezio said to him. Link shot him a shocked look. "Then, there's nothing wrong."

"No, you know it's wrong," the young hero said with an angry voice. "There has been no formal ceremony or anything."

"Calm down, Link," Ezio said, chuckling. He placed his hand on the young hero's shoulder. "I was only teasing you. I have faith that you will not break your chasity until you are ready to leave it behind. You're a good man."

"Thanks, my friend," Link said, his voice considerably more relaxed. He finished his milk, and stood up. "Come, I bet Midna is waiting for us at the Mirror Chamber. Did you say good-bye to everyone?"

"I did," Ezio nodded.

"Then, let's go."


The Mirror Chamber, Gerudo Desert...

Ezio, Link, and Zelda arrived at the Mirror Chamber. There, Ezio could see that the altar had been removed, and a mirror, similar to the one he had touched back in Rome, sitting before a large stone slab. There, Midna was waiting for them.

"I'm glad you made it," she said.

Ezio nodded. "So, what is your plan?"

"First... give me the pieces of your chest guard, Ezio."

He looked at Link, who nodded. The young hero pulled out Ezio's broken armor from his adventurer's pouch. He handed them over to Ezio, and he handed them over to Midna.

"Since I am no longer cursed... I can repair these, this time." She levitated the pieces into the air and conjured up some Twilight Magic. It arced behind between the pieces like lightning and fused the chest guard into place. "There, it's good as new." She had it float into Ezio's hands.

"Thank you, Midna," he said. He busily began to put the chest guard on. He removed his crossbow and continued to listen to the Twilight Princess.

"My plan," she continued. "Is to have you use the Apple of Eden on the Mirror of Twilight. I will then activate it, and if all goes well, it should send you back to Roma in Italia."

"Bene," Ezio said. He was finished putting on his armor, and strapped his crossbow back onto his back.

"Step onto the dias, Ezio," Midna said. "Take care not to stare into the mirror."

The Assassin did as he was told, and stepped on the dias before the mirror. He averted his eyes from it, and pulled out the Apple. The Piece of Eden lit up like a bright star in his hand.

"Wow..." he heard Link say. Midna waved her hand at the mirror, and it tilted upward toward the large stone. A light pulsed from the Mirror of Twilight and opened a white and black portal inside the stone.

Ezio raised the Apple into the air, and its light shot into the mirror, changing it into a golden-white portal. He turned around, and faced Link, Midna and Zelda.

"Good-bye, my friend," Link said. Ezio could see tears of joy and sorrow in his eyes. Zelda, and even Midna shared the same expression. "It was good to meet you, and travel with you. I hope... we meet again some day."

"I do, too."

"Safe travels, Hero of Shadows," Midna said. "You have my gratitude for saving Hyrule and my Realm as well."

"And you know you have mine as well," Zelda echoed.

"Arrivederci, amici mie," Ezio said. His own eyes felt a little wet. "Remember... my memory will always be with you. Nothing is true, everything is permitted. Addio." He turned around and walked into the portal.

It sucked his body in, but it didn't thrust him forward like it had before instead, he walked through the light. At the end, he stepped onto the ground and found himself out in the countryside of Roma.

Home... it worked, Midna, he thought. He put the Apple away, and wiped his eyes. Now, he had to find Machiavelli.


Ezio's Hideout, Isola Tiberina...

When Ezio arrived, he found the Assassins waiting for him. Machiavelli was there, as was Bartolomeo, La Volpe, and Claudia, his sister.

"Ezio!" Claudia ran over and embraced her brother. "Where have you been? We found Machiavelli in the Colosseo, tied up and gagged! What happened?"

The Assassin held the embrace for a moment, and then let go. "Come, sit down, everyone. Let me tell you a tale... of a legendary hero."


Author's Notes[]

  • This story takes place a year after Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, but some time before Assassin's Creed: Revelations.
  • The landmarks and locations are based off the original Twilight Princess, which was made for the Gamecube, not the Wii version.
  • Link's ability to carry tons of items, including the huge Ball and Chain will be explained--the adventurer's pouch has been mentioned.
    • The adventurer's pouch is not based off the Adventure Pouch from Skyward Sword. I made it up when writing a Zelda Fan Fic to explain Link's capacity to hold so many items.
  • I will not be able to explain how Ezio and the inhabitants of Hyrule understand each other via oral language.
  • In Chapter 2, When Ezio mentions that the Sword of Altaïr was kept in good condition by Mario, this refers to when you could purchase the sword in Sequence 9 of Assassin's Creed II. This is my way of explaining why you could buy an artifact sword from a blacksmith.
  • While Twilight Princess never directly refers back to Ocarina of Time (save for the Temple of Time dungeon), I am making the assumption that Link discovered this legend (as he mentions in Chapter 2) after the end of Twilight Princess.
  • In Chapter 10, Ezio refers to knowing that guards were around the corner when hunting a target. This refers back to the Assassin's Creed II intro movie.
  • In Chapter 10, Ezio refers back to Sequence 8 of Assassin's Creed II, when he talks about gathering information.
  • In Chapter 11, Link uses the Great Spin Attack. The Great Spin can actually only be used when you're at full health in Twilight Princess
  • In Chapter 14, Link refers to the dead of the Arbiter's Grounds as the Gerudos. This is not mentioned in any lore, but it is just my theory that all the undead in the dungeon are the Gerudos.