“There are a lot of legends about these woods. It’s said that people who get lost in them turn into monsters.”
“Whoa! We’d better not get lost then. What kinds of monsters?”
A young man and an angel walked together through the dabbled light of the forest. Golden patterns shone upon the grass and the dirt, though the shadows were ever increasing the deeper the two ventured. The swordsman, Link and Pit, his winged companion, were taking a break from fighting for sport in Smash City. Pit had expressed a desire to see Hyrule. Link was showing him around. They were in the Lost Woods in the Post-Twilight Invasion era of Hyrule’s history. It was the place and timeframe Link had come from, though he did have some vague memories of other lives in other eras that came to him in dreams, being that he was a perpetual reincarnate - what some called an “eternal hero.”
By contrast, Pit was a flat-out immortal. He was a strange angel in that he was a physical being, but he was a divine messenger and warrior in service to a particular goddess.
“Well,” Link said as they walked along slowly, “The are two kinds. Children that get lost and cannot find their way out are supposed to turn into faceless beings called Skull Kids. Their souls become bound to the forest and they act as its protectors. They can be pretty dangerous. They mean well… they’re only protecting the sacred trees here and when they hurt people, they don’t understand it. They think they’re playing a game. There is one around here somewhere – he should know me by now though. I defeated him a few times in his games, so he should leave us alone.”
“I should hope so. What about the other kind?”
“Stalfos,” Link said solemnly, “a kind of undead being. Not all of them are born of these woods. Skeleton-warriors, old knights whose bones cannot rest, even after they’ve died. It’s said that adults who get lost in the forest become Stalfos.”
Pit shivered slightly. “Good thing we’ve got a compass, right?”
“I know these woods like the back of my hand. Don’t worry. We’ll be fine. The temple ruins are beautiful. You’ll like them.”
Ever since the two young men had met up in Smash City after being invited to the multidmentionally famous Super Smash Brothers Tournament, they’d developed a mutual fascination with one another. They’d met when both their worlds and others had been put in danger. After that, the “Brawl” series of sporting and fighting games had gone on as planned. Pit and Link had both been invited in again for the latest series of competitions. Despite all the trash Pit had talked the day his goddess intervened to announce her invitation, Link had forgiven him. They’d wound up getting to know each other on the training stages, mostly, as the two had similar interests. They both fought with swords (though Pit was a dual-wielder and Link was a sword-and-shield fighter) and they both loved archery. This was where they were in reverse, of sorts. Link was primarily a swordsman and archery was a secondary skill. Pit was known far and wide as a celestial archer. They taught each other trick shots.
That was when the stories between them began. Pit looked up to Link as a man of many stories. He spoke with confidence of his own adventures and of the lore of Hyrule that he’d spent his life reading about and uncovering in the form of artifacts. Link was, in turn fascinated by Pit’s stories, especially of his fighting his way out of the Underworld. Link had never been to a Land of the Dead, at least while alive. Many Hylians mistook the Twilight Realm as being such a place, but it was not. Link figured that he might have been in some kind of Underworld as a way-station between his reincarnations, but he never remembered it.
Learning a tale like that was one of the many weird things about growing close to an immortal. Another was that Pit looked and acted younger than he was, but much like a Skull Kid or the Kokiri of legends, he could have been older than some of the ruins the two were on their way to say. The winged boy lived in a kind of static-state, truly timeless.
Still, strangely, even with his reputation as a god-slayer, Link saw Pit as someone he wanted to protect. It wasn’t a fatherly feeling or even a big brother feeling. It was something else. Because of their respective lifespan circumstances, Link did not know if it was wise to explore this twinge he felt in their friendship. Pit did, at least, allow close friends to touch his wings. He seemed to like it when Link’s calloused swordsman’s-fingers stroked his smooth feathers. It was like how the girls of the Smash-manor liked to braid each others hair, the Hylian supposed. After Smash-battles, Pit would actually request Link to help him out – letting him massage the muscles and press around his wing bones, soothing away aches and pulls.
Link knew what he was doing. He’d taken care of falcons during his childhood in Ordon and he still retained some skill in the care of winged creatures from his once-lifetime as the keeper of a giant steed-bird. He didn’t have all of the memories, but his spirit had never forgotten certain practical skills. Doctor Mario didn’t know much of bird-wings. Falco should have, but his own “wings” were more like forearms. The Pokemon-keepers could help sometimes but really only knew beings specific to their world. Lady Palutena was often very busy managing both Smashing and divinity – or else was the overly-playful cause of Pit’s pain. Dark Pit would help his brother sometimes, and Pit would return the favor, but, of late, Pit more often sought out Link.
Link sidled up to Pit and gave the arch of his left wing a little rub between this thumb and forefinger. “Huh?” Pit asked. “I haven’t used my flight-power at all today. I’m not sore.”
Link simply smiled at him. Pit felt a little heat rising in his cheeks. Link had such a nice smile. No wonder Lady Palutena called him “Ladykiller.” She’d also given the tease “Even the guys want him, right?”
That’s about when a dark beam sliced through the quiet forest air and nearly took Link’s head off. Before Pit could react, Link withdrew his slingshot from his hip-pouch, armed it and shot at the branches of a tree above them. A large black shape cursed and fell to the ground.
“Pittoo! What are you doing here?” Pit demanded.
His dark half hauled himself to his feet. “You know my name is Dark!” he complained. “At least around company.”
Link glared. “Why did you try to shoot the tip of my ear off?” he demanded.
Dark Pit ignored him and looked to Pit. “Mom’ told me to keep an eye on you.”
“Mom?” Pit asked.
Dark Pit rolled his eyes. “Palutena. She told me that since your laurel crown doesn’t work in dimensions she’s not in that I was to tail you and to keep an eye on you. She doesn’t want you to get eaten by monsters.”
“I can handle myself just fine!” Pit protested. “Besides, I’m with Link. This is his country. He takes care of the monsters here all the time!”
Dark Pit shrugged. “She just told me to keep an eye on you. Our interests happened to overlap for once. By the looks of things, I’d say I arrived just in time.”
“Why? It’s quiet. No Skull Kids or anything.”
“I think you were just about to have your face eaten by a Green-Hatted, Beast-Eyed Hylian.” Dark Pit smirked in a way that reminded Link of his erstwhile companion, Midna – in her imp-form.
“Dark…” Link said, “Don’t you really have something better to do? We were just having a walk. It was actually pretty pleasant before you showed up.”
“Let him come with us!” Pit said. “He might want to see the ruins, too. Besides, you can’t get rid of tagalong little brothers once they show up.”
“Hmmph!” Dark Pit groused. “Younger in age, light-years ahead of you in actual maturity!”
“I wouldn’t know,” Link said, walking ahead with Pit. “I was an only child and an orphan. I had Colin, but he was never very assertive.”
“You talk a lot for someone who’s supposed to be a silent hero,” Dark Pit pointed out.
That was when a disturbing sound echoed among the trees. Little divots of ground rose up and out of them, an army of tiny skeleton-men. In addition to them, large dog-like creatures, stripped to bone and ragged flesh showed up. Link immediately took a defensive stance, as did Pit and Dark Pit.
“What are they?” Pit asked. “The little ones are kind of cute…”
“They’ll stab your ankles out from under you and give you a death by a thousand cuts,” Link warned. “They’re Stalkin and the animals are Stalhounds. Just hack the bone.”
“Right!” Dark Pit said as he rushed in toward the large hounds, pulling apart the blade portions of his silver bow and rushing in.
“Dark!” Link yelped, “We need to stay together!” After that, the Hylian Hero yelped for another reason: A Stalkin’s spear stabbed right into his leg, just above the boot.
“Link!” Pit cried, helping him to steady himself. Black arrows sailed for them. Pit snorted. “An archer! I can’t see him. Hold on!”
“Pit, no, not you, too!” Link called out as Pit took off running blindly, seeking out whoever was shooting at them.
Dark Pit proved to be quite good at taking out most of the Stalhounds. Link wondered why they were even out of the ground yet. It wasn’t nighttime. Then again, they were in the shadowed heart of the forest. All he usually encountered were a few wild Keese, the Skull Kid and his puppets. The swordsman wondered briefly if anything had happened to the Skull Kid, as this place was under his eternal protection. He took the skull off an undead hound with a quick flick of his sword and stamped the last of the obnoxious Stalkin into dust with his right boot.
“Are we done now?” Dark Pit complained. “That was ea-”
That’s when the two of them heard Pit’s scream.
“Oh, no…” Link gasped as he gulped in air and went running in the direction of the noise. Dark Pit came up behind him, reassembling his blades into a bow as he ran. He took out the source of the flying arrows – a rogue Bulbin-archer standing on a high cliff-face.
“Damn!” Dark Pit cursed as his sandals skidded inches from a precarious drop. He looked around desperately. “He must have fallen! That’s the problem with not being able to fly…”
Link immediately grabbed a rock on the other side of the depression with one of his clawshots while Dark Pit flared out his wings, took a running start, and glided down.
“We’re near the ruins of the temple,” Link said as they regrouped. He immediately tensed when he heard the screeches of Bublins and the sound of rattling bones.
“Look…” Dark Pit pointed to a spat of blood upon one of the mossy stone tiles. He and Link both took off running toward the disturbing noises. Link’s boots met little drip-drops of blood upon the dirt.
“Hiyaaaa!” Link screamed as he leapt up and dispersed a small group of monsters with one spinning swing of his sword.
Pit was not there.
“Pit!” Dark Pit called. “Come on, Pit-Stain! We aren’t playing!”
“He’s hurt pretty bad…” Link said, feeling his very breath go numb. He looked at streaks and spatters of red that left a trail, littered here and there with small white feathers. He and Dark followed it until they came to set of ancient stone doors.
“It stops right here!” Dark Pit noticed. “It’s like he vanished!”
Link shook his head. “He didn’t vanish. This is the Temple of Time. I don’t know how he got inside without this.” Link held up the Master Sword. “This is the key I used.”
“Maybe it’s because of what we are? Angels can do a lot of things that you mortals can’t! I’m going in!”
Link held Dark Pit’s arm and pulled him back. “We can’t be sure what will happen if you go barging in! Stay close to me. These doors remember me. Stepping into the temple interior is stepping back in time. It’s a pocket of Eternity, preserved for centuries. Being close to the Master Sword means that we will be protected in a pocket of our own time. Considering how recently you were born, if you go in alone, the age of the temple’s interior might phase you out of existence or something.”
“What about Pit?”
“I don’t know,” Link confessed. “He must have headed here thinking he could find shelter. Hopefully, we’ll find him and he’ll be fine – well, as fine as one could be for what we saw. I’ve got potions on me.”
“Any other possible outcome in this funky time temple of yours?” Dark stepped inside with Link as the doors did, indeed, remember their Hero. The black-winged angel snorted at the dust floating in the air. “It doesn’t’ seem so special to me.”
The two walked further in. There was no more blood-trail to follow. They did not know whether this was a good thing or a bad thing. “Well…” Link said, “it’s possible that without the Master Sword, that Pit may have been, from his perspective, here for days or even years. Hopefully not… He’s probably curled up somewhere, waiting for us.”
They came to a round room and Link kicked an old Beamos platform with his boot and slapped its top. “Actually, it doesn’t look any different than when I was last here. See how the red lens is cracked? I did that the last time I was in this place. Otherwise, it would be shooting beams at us.”
“So, this place remembers you. Big whoop. We have to find Pit.”
That was when they saw wing bones emerge from the shadows. A figure came rushing for them. It had the classic form of a Stalfos – a human skeleton strangely animate without muscles. A few bits of flesh and skin hung off the joints in rags. It had lights in is eye sockets that were a radiant blue. Clothing hung from its frame, different than the typical armor and loincloth of a Stalfos-knight…
… It was a tattered toga, complete with a pin of gold and ruby that made Link’s blood run cold. A golden ring swung off one of the femurs and dangled around the elbow, likewise another ring adorned a thighbone and a knee. Half-boot sandals remained strapped around the feet. A crown of golden laurels rested upon a skull that still had just enough flesh on it to hold a full head of disheveled hair. The most telling thing about this undead creature was its wings – stripped to bone with a few long feathers hanging off the quill-knobs.
“Pit?” Link yelped.
The skeleton responded to him by rushing him with a pair of nicked golden blades. The Hylian dodged and caught a brief glimpse of resolute horror in Dark Pit’s face. Link’s earlier words echoed in his brain.
“There are a lot of legends about these woods. It’s said that people who get lost in them turn into monsters.”
“Pit?” Link called again as the winged-Stalfos put a neat gash in his forehead. “No, no, no, no, no!”
Dark Pit gave the creature a roundhouse kick, taking out a rib, which clattered out of the toga and onto the tile floor. “Pit, snap out of it! We can bring you back! Remember the Rewind Spring?”
Rewind Spring. Hope swelled up in Link’s heart. Pit had told him that story. They could restore him!
Link stepped back, holding up his sword and shield. “Pit…Pit…Pit! Listen! It’s me! It’s Link! And your brother! We can bring you back! Trust us! It’s okay… it’s just us!”
The Pit-Stalfos didn’t seem to understand at all. It held the same murderous glare that he’d seen in the eye-lights of any Stalfos.
Link cried out desperately. “You do not need to protect this place! Pit! I need to protect you!”
That was when Dark Pit came in for another kick to try to subdue the monster that was once Pit. Pit turned, grabbed him, and in a move that would horrify Link for the rest of his life, grabbed Dark Pit’s hair, pulled his head back and made a swift cut through the unfortunate boy’s throat with one of the curved swords. Dark looked at Link helplessly as a blurp of blood came up through his mouth in lieu of a scream as well as a gout from the clean slice through the windpipe.
Dark Pit’s eyes went flat before Pit could even drop him to the floor in a fleshy thump.
“Pit?” Link asked in pain. He stepped back, raising his sword. He almost stepped over the fresh corpse of the fallen twin and then moved back past it.
For just a moment, Link lowered his shield. He was readying a strike that he hoped might sever the skull from the neck, but he didn’t want to make it.
Pit sent a blade through his heart.
Link fell to his knees. He looked up at the Stalfos. For just a moment, the jawbone loosened, the eye-lights brightened and the skeleton looked like it had a hint of recognition. The Hero tried to speak, but no words would come up from his catastrophically injured chest. Instead, as the blade was yanked out, he fell to his side and then rolled onto his back.
The last thing he saw above him was a set of wing bones that he had before so tenderly cared for.
The Stalfos looked down at the intruders it had neutralized. A strange feeling welled up within what was left of its fading soul. The black feathers on one rumpled heap seemed familiar. The intruder in green – his eyes… he knew his eyes. The Stalfos did not know why it felt this way. It paced back and forth between the bodies.
They’d look like him in time.
The eternal guardian sensed more intruders approaching. Outside in the forest a group of people ranging from a princess, a goddess, a plumber and a humanoid fox were calling and searching.
The doors to the Temple of Time had been left wide open.
They had no idea what awaited them inside.