Zelda carefully approached the large stone door, aware that she could now feel the intensity of the heat in the room. She’d felt nothing when she first entered the temple. Her magic wouldn’t last much longer.
She looked over at Darunia, who gave her a confident nod as he leaned against his hammer.
“I’ll stand watch while you talk to the Sage,” he pounded his chest once more with a rocky fist.
Zelda smiled, even though he wouldn’t see it under her hood. “Thank you, Darunia. And I promise I’ll call you when the time comes.”
Darunia gave her a wide grin as she returned her attention to the door. The chanting she heard before seemed to be emanating from the other side. Zelda placed her hand against the door’s surface, closing her eyes and concentrating on the sounds and willing it to open for her. After a few seconds, it rose up, revealing a massive room with a large platform resting in a pool of lava. Four pillars surrounded the platform, which Zelda could use to reach the center.
She quickly made her way onto the platform, taking out her Goddess Harp as she made her way to the center. Just as before, the notes came to her. As she strummed her harp, the red tendrils of light rose from the lava until they took on the form of a man dressed in red robes.
He opened his eyes and slowly gazed about the chamber, as if just seeing it for the first time. He was completely bald, though his face was almost hidden behind a great, bushy white beard. His eyes were a deep brown, almost black in the darkness of the room. After his form settled, he paused for a moment, as if disoriented from the experience.
Then, as realization dawned on his face, the pool of lava surrounding the platform erupted into an inferno, the flames nearly reaching the ceiling. Zelda shielded herself, willing her magic to continue protecting her from the heat as it grew in intensity.
“I am Grig, the Sage of Fire, one who was intended to rest here for eternity. Why have I been awakened?” He glared at Zelda, his voice deep and powerful.
Zelda thought for a moment what she could say to convince him. Nove had reacted in a similar manner, and she was certain Grig would be no less difficult.
“Ganondorf has taken over Hyrule,” Zelda finally said with sweat dripping down her face. “He no doubt will seek out the Triforce.”
“You come here instead of the Hero of Time,” Grig mused. “So, then, things must be far grimmer than before.”
“Please,” Zelda said, pressing on. “The hero hasn’t returned, and I fear we’ll soon be out of time. The people of Hyrule will soon be enslaved by darkness.”
“Enslaved…” Grig seemed to taste the word, recalling what it was like to be under the command of another. “I do remember that feeling, but now I belong here where there is no one to order me about.”
“Ganondorf would order us all unless we act!” Zelda shot back. “I won’t allow him to make prisoners of innocents and defile the land!”
With those words, the room faded around them, and Zelda once again found herself in the Chamber of Sages, the six symbols floating on the surface of the pool of water. Grig rose up from the symbol of fire’s platform, a look of deep contemplation on his face.
“Enslaved,” he once again repeated a word Zelda had uttered. “You speak of prisoners as if innocence has completely escaped you. Yet you are still a child, still oblivious to the nature of your surroundings.”
“What do you mean?” Zelda asked.
“Do you know why we build prisons?” Grig turned away from her, as if looking out into the distance. “We believe there are those of us who can serve no purpose other than pure evil. So we lock or seal them away to keep them from those we deem worthy of being in our society.”
He turned back to face Zelda, gesturing around the chamber. “Yet even we, chosen by the Goddesses, grew arrogant and envious. We wanted a society completely of our making, where there’d be no need for prisons. And so this place was abandoned, left only to become a nest for a great dragon. That dragon was then slain by a Goron Hero, its bones laid to rest in that prison.”
Zelda stared into the water below Grig’s feet. She knew of Volvagia and the Goron Hero, yet she’d always assumed the Fire Temple was simply that, a place of worship. Yet, just as Nove had told her, it had once been something else entirely. What had changed? Why were these places repurposed in such a way?
“I chose to sleep here, where fire burned around me,” Grig continued. “I wanted to hide from the darkness of men, from myself. Yet their shadows form even now, even after all these years.”
Zelda opened her mouth before closing it again. Shadows. Yes, she knew something of shadows lately.
“You are not Sheikah.”
Grig noticed her hesitation and raised a white eyebrow. “Perhaps you are right to become Hyrule’s savior now, you who are of royal blood. Perhaps not. In time, we will see.”
The room began to change again, the Chamber of Sages fading back into the fiery chamber from before. Before Zelda could utter a word, Grig vanished, leaving behind a small red medallion as proof of his cooperation.
As Zelda scooped it up from the rocky surface of the platform, she saw it. It flickered in between the flames, as if trying to get a better view of her. A figure covered in shadows, its red eyes glowing as it looked on.
It shifted in and out of sight, as if it was desperately trying to cling to existence. Its determination didn’t cloud its intent from Zelda. She could sense its growing desire with each soundless step it took amongst the flames. It wanted to hurt, to maim, to destroy. It hated everything.
Zelda’s entire body grew stiff. Even in the center of the roaring flames, chills were running down her spine. She’d never felt dread on such a scale before in her entire life. Whatever that figure was, whatever it wanted, it was something Zelda wouldn’t dare to try to understand.
She simply needed to get away.
The Goddess Harp materialized in her hands, though she couldn’t remember when she’d called for it. The notes came to her instantly, and she began calling out to be taken to her next destination. The figure continued to approach her, gliding through the flames that should have disintegrated it. Thankfully, it was already too late. Tendrils of blue light enveloped Zelda until she could see nothing else, and before long she felt her feet leaving the ground.
Yes, she would escape this prison, and so would Hyrule.