Oh there once was a man, who had lost his own smile,
And he wondered the country, mile after mile,
Never quite knowing what he wanted to find,
For his heart, had laid heavy, with the weight of his mind.
And he looked at the land through the tears in his eyes,
For he knew that there were those who would will her to die,
And he wept for his mother as he lay at her feet,
And he heard a voice, singing him softly to sleep.
I’ll be your queen, I’ll be your mother, I’ll be your mystical child.
Be your best friend, your lover, your wife for all time,
Will there ever be another in this life of mine
, will there ever be another like my mystical child.
So he climbed a high hill and looked out to sea,
And he heard a voice calling out softly to him,
‘Open your heart boy, for it needs to be free,
And the next time you’re crying, come running to me’.
So he walked through the valleys, the trees and the fields,
And he came to a river where she waited for him,
And they looked at the water of life flowing by,
And he heard a voice saying ‘you’re not alone in the fight’.
~’Elation’ by The Levellers.
It’s been long time, since anyone in Hyrule last heard the voice of the Goddess. Some may say that it because in times of peace, the Goddesses have no need for conversing with the people of Hyrule. But I know that it is because people have forgotten how to listen. Hylians have the ears, but it appears they have forgotten how to use them.
A very long time ago, my ancestors were devoted followers of The Cult; they gave their lives to the Goddess in worship. But slowly, the world around them began to change, buildings sprouted, businesses began to grow like fungus spreading over tree bark, and people spawned so thick and fast, that soon the air around them was polluted with a dense wall of idle noise. It hurts my ears to think of it. Even the temples no longer held that sacred silence; we couldn’t hear anything anymore.
And so my ancestors were driven; forced by their piety closer to the heavens, and into the mountains. The HigherLands, as they are known. The mountains range to the west, that borderline that encloses around Hyrule like a loving embrace. This was the new home of my ancestors, a place where blessed silence holds, and even a whisper will echo on the wind. But for this sacred land, we had to pay a price. These lands belong to no one, and my family had to share them with the wild wolves. ‘Wolfos’, the scourge of any wonderer or travelling merchant, it became our duty to keep the mountain paths clean of this beast.
And so for centuries, my family and ancestors have guarded these mountains, guided the lost, and listened; to every word the Goddess had to say to us.
I am Robyn of The HigherLands, Robyn of the Greenbow, Ranger to the lost, Servant of the Goddess, and to my knowledge, last of my clan. I am alone.
Link sang to himself merrily, as he dropped his line into the crystalline waters of Lake Hylia, and rested back against the soft green bank. Light was just breaking over the eastern horizon, spilling a golden glow over across the cool blue waters that glittered brightly as the fish splashed about happily in the new dawn. The air was fresh and crisp; it was turning into one of those beautiful days, where Link had nothing more to do, then to indulge himself in his favourite hobby.
Fishing. So lazy, yet so practical, Link could spend the whole day laid by the lake, do nothing, yet the day would still feel worthwhile when he would take home a large catch of fish for his supper. And so, cupping his hands behind his head, and letting his cap slip over his eyes, Link allowed himself doze contentedly, waiting for the fish to bite.
Or at least he would have liked to. A low, but ominous rumble sounded, rolling down from the mountains and across the lake. Link sat up and looked at the sky. Above him was still a bright patch of the same blue, but as his eyes travelled, they set themselves upon the West. The mountain range that encompassed the western border of Hyrule was hidden under the shadow of thick black storm clouds that were heavy with rain and thunder. A chill wind followed, bringing with it the first few drops of rain. Link cursed under his breath as he quickly made to leave lake before the storm could set in. He couldn’t understand it, when he had set off that morning, the sky hadn’t even a whisper of cloud, but now as packed up his fishing rod, rain began to fall faster in a fine mist that threatened to thicken.
* * *
“It just doesn’t make sense” grumbled Link “it’s not even the season for storms!”
“Mmm...” replied Malon “hang this harness up for me, would you?” she said as she handed him the bridle of the horse she was attempting to settle. It whinnied, and reared up violently as lightning flashed outside the door to the stable.
“Poor thing,” she continued, as she stroked the horse’s long nose and hushed in its ear “rain doesn’t normally bother you…”
“It doesn’t bother me, I just wanted fish…”
“I was talking to the horse...”
“Oh.” Link blushed slightly, and turned to hang up the bridle. “Well, you see my point, don’t you? It doesn’t feel right…” Link paced the stable “Surely you can understand?”
“Rain is rain, Link” Malon shrugged. “Storms happen. It’ll pass over by tomorrow.”
Link sighed, and walked over to where his own horse, Epona stood. She snorted and shook her head, as the thunder sounded again. He tried to pet her neck, but she stomped her feet and pulled away. Link frowned and turned to Malon.
“Don’t you see? Even the horses are restless! I’ll wager you fifty rupees the cows will be giving sour milk next!” Link scowled and folded his arms tightly across his chest. Malon laughed at him.
“Oh, Link! Don’t be so melodramatic! I’ll agree the horses do seem a little unsettled…” her eyes drifted to the rows of steeds in the little stable, “But like I said, by tomorrow, I’m sure it’ll have passed.” Her eyes glanced back to Link and she smiled “I know you Link. You’re just looking for another excuse to leave, and go running off on another one of your ‘adventures’! But you promised you’d go with me to market tomorrow!”
Link rolled his eyes at Epona so that Malon wouldn’t see, and sighed. “I haven’t forgotten…” he said, turning to face her again. “And I will.” He said, forcing himself into giving her half a smile.
“Good!” Malon Chirruped “now stop fretting and come inside for dinner”
“Aye, I’ll be there in a moment…” he sighed as she headed out the stable and hurried towards the house. Link Turned back to Epona, who whinnied again. Link reached out and touched her neck with his fingertips, gently hushing her. “I guess its no use talking to her, is it Epona? Malon’s sweet enough, but she doesn’t understand me…You know sometimes I think she hears me, but doesn’t listen to what I have to say.” He smiled softly to himself as he ran his fingers through the horse’s mane, “yet still-sweet enough.”
I was never a priestess. I never lead the people in prayer, or preached idle sermons. My faith was far too deep. Far too many ‘priests’ had their brains rotted by greed or lust, and abused their position, and knew nothing of true faith. I despised such men, who could stand before their flock and fill their ears with worthless lectures, read from miserable books, written by those who knew nothing, priests who spoke of faith, but felt nothing. It is because of these brainless leaders, that few people know that the goddesses show themselves in many forms. People were taught to listen to the preacher, and not their hearts, or their land.
It was the goddess that created this earth, and through this earth, they show themselves. Few realise this. But I do. I know that when the snow blankets the land, the goddesses are at sleep, I know that when the sun shines, the snow melts, and the shoots grow, they awake. I know that when the rain falls, the goddess weeps, and when the storm clouds gather, the balance is about to tip and evil is at hand.
I do not pretend to be a priestess, or a soothsayer. I simply listen to the goddesses, and answer best I can, for I understand and know their language.
The day dawned afresh, but the rain had ceased to stop. Link had had a restless night, and was already up, standing at the door looking out on the rain as Malon came downstairs.
“Are you sure you still want to go to Market in this weather?” Link asked as he watched the rain continue to pour. “I doubt very much it will even be open…” he glanced over his to look at Malon as she pulled on a large cloak.
“The castle needs their milk delivery Link, I’m not about to let a little rain prevent me from my duty.”
“Duty?” Link laughed. “By the goddess, only you, Malon, could possibly make the job of a milkmaid sound so noble!”
Malon gave Link a sharp shove out the door. “Oh be quiet and hitch up the horses!” she scowled at him.
“But it’s pouring down with rain!” Link cried as he fell out the door.
Malon threw a cloak at his head.
As much as it would have stung Malon to admit it, Link had been right. The Market was all but cancelled, leaving the streets of Hyrule Castle Town empty, as people remained huddled inside there homes. But nevertheless Malon insisted on driving all the way up to the Castle to ensure that her milk delivery arrived on time.
Pulling up by the side of the castle, they were greeted by numerous kitchen assistants, who helped unload the cart, and ushered the two inside the dry halls of the castle. After being pushed into the kitchen and plied with hot drinks, Link and Malon were made to sit before the hearth and dry out by orders of the Cook- a hearty woman with a bossy temperament, but a warm heart, Link noted. As they sat before the fire, sipping steaming cups of tea, they listened to Cooks cheery banter as she complained about the weather.
“Haven’t seen rain like this since my Harold was pulled off t’ recruit” she chatted as she began vigorously plucking a cuckoo with her large hands “by my faith, Ah’ll never forget, the sky was as black as coal, and thunder that shook me t’ my very bones!” She sighed “horrible night, it was…An’ it wasn’t just the weather then either! There were so much fighting that night…Ah remember we were all just couched in this one room; me, ma sister, an’ cousin…clutchin’ our babbies t’ our breasts, an’ praying fo’t dawn…!” the Cook continued in her sorry tale, still merrily plucking feathers, as an enthralled Malon listened to every word with a horrified delight.
“How awful!” The young girl cried. “You must have been terrified!”
“Aye lassie! That we were! But what could we do? Times were difficult back then in the castle, I dare say you won’t remember much- being safe and hidden away in yer ranch, little as ye were back then…but Castle town was in a state o’ terror for a long time… and well, ye could almost believe that the skies were feelin’ it too…didn’t stop storming for days...” Cook continued in this vein for some time, thoroughly enjoying the attentive audience Malon was giving her. Link on the other hand, appeared to have lost interest, staring at the fire, eyes glazed.
He had been listening, however, perhaps better than Malon. ‘Ye could almost believe the skies were feelin’ it too…’ Link knew perfectly well what a terrible state Hyrule had been in seven years ago. It was true; the land had been gripped by terror as The War had broken out. And now, as Link delved deep into his memories, he realised the Cook was right. The weather had been very odd during that time. He distinctly remembered the dark clouds that had gathered about the top of Death Mountain, the birthplace of the terrible Goron-devouring Dragon Volvargia. That thought suddenly stuck him out of his reverie. He stood up so quickly that his stool toppled back from under him.
“I’m just going outside for a moment.” He said, already heading for the door.
“But you’ll get soaked again!” cried the cook with motherly concern. But Link was out of the door before he even heard the women’s protests.
“Ooh that boy just never listens to common sense!” Malon cursed after him.
The rain was a heavy as ever as Link ran out into road that led up to the castle. The day was ending quickly, and in the darkness of the storm, Link found it hard to see. Shielding his eyes from the rain, he tried to make out the horizon.
Clouds; the sky was thick with them, but Link could just make out the tips of the mountains to the West. Hadn’t that been the source of the storm yesterday morning?
“You’ll catch your death of cold, if you stand there too long…”
Link spun around to meet the tall figure of the Princess’s personal attendant. The Sheikah’s eyes could only just be seen shinning out from under the darkness of a large cloak hood, but her mouth was clear enough- it was smirking gently at the soggy hero.
“Impa…” Link breathed.
“Hardly the weather for an evening stroll…” Impa commented, her arms folded against breast. Without even phrasing it as a question, Link automatically found himself trying to explain his actions.
“I just wanted to…well, the clouds-they…I mean, this rain, it’s…”
“Not normal.” Impa finished for him. Link nodded. Impa was such a wise and powerful character; Link was always amazed at how quickly she could judge his thoughts.
“Not normal.” Link repeated. He breathed a silent sigh of relief that he had at last found someone who understood his feelings on this storm.
“Does it disturb you, hero?”
Link turned back to face the western horizon, his eyes lingering on the faint outline of the mountains.
“No…Yes…I-I don’t know” Link shook his head gently. His eyes fixed upon the same spot. “My mind keeps telling me the same thing as Malon. Its just rain, it’s only a storm-even if it’s a big one-what harm can a few days of wet do? But…” Link let out a heavy sigh “Ooh, I don’t know, it sounds so foolish but-” He pressed his hand to chest as if he felt some kind of discomfort “-my heart-”
“Yes?” Impa encouraged him. Link faltered.
“Nothing. I must have eaten too much.” He let his hand drop to his side.
Impa rolled her eyes, and stood herself before the young man. Picking up his hand, she pressed it to his breast again.
“Link; there is nothing more pure in this world then your heart. It is your source of courage, and strength. The moment you doubt your heart, is the moment you cease to be a hero. Trust it boy! Now-Tell me again, does this storm disturb you, hero?”
Impa stared Link down with her steely red eyes. Link couldn’t help but feel a little ashamed before her. His eyes looked past her to the West once more. As his eyes had become adjusted to the darkness, there was no doubt that the clouds were heavier, blacker. Link nodded.
“Yes.” He spoke softly, but with resolution. “Yes Impa, this storm disturbs me. I look at that horizon and I cannot help but feel…troubled.”
Impa followed his gaze.
“The HigherLands?” she raised her brow questioningly.
“I don’t what name those hills go by.”
“Those mountains are the boarder line of Hyrule.” Impa replied “They protect our land from invaders, nigh uninhabitable. Even the most skilled of map makers have difficultly in charting that range. In truth, the only people who have ever dared to traverse the HigherLands are the bravest (and the most foolish) of merchants-it is the most direct route out of Hyrule, supposedly very good for trade. Although the only ones who return, come spouting the strangest stories of monsters, and mountain spirits.
They say that the mountains themselves are alive; that they shift, and groan in mourning for the lost souls of those who perished on their cliffs. Wolfos litter what few paths exist, and are thrice crueller then the breeds that dwell in the forest.” Her eyes flicked over to Link “at least, that is the word of mouth in the local taverns.” She studied Link’s face as he absorbed this information. “What are you thinking, Link?”
“I’m wondering what possible evil may spawn from those hills… Do you think there could be any truth in what the people say? If those mountains are malevolent, then you don’t think that Ganon…”
Impa shook her head “I do not think so. Granted, we should never let our guard down, but our divine Princess has had no premonitions of such a possibility. Yet I daresay that the root of this storm may be worth investigation.”
Link looked at Impa with large glassy eyes.
“You’re not afraid, are you hero?” Impa raised a brow.
“Never” said Link “I never fear adventure. But this is uncharted, uninhabitable land we’re talking about...If I go…I suppose I’m a little-concerned-that I may not be able to-… find my way.”
“The Goddess will guide you, Link. Do not loose your faith.”
Link nodded, “forgive me Impa.”
Impa smiled at the boy. “Your heart is in the right place Link, but I think to put your mind at ease that I should tell you; there is rumour of a Guide that assists those in crossing those mountains. Perhaps you might be able to track him down to assist you?”
“A mountain Guide? But I thought you said that these ‘HigherLands’ were uncharted-uninhabited?”
“I think it best we continue this conversation inside” Impa said turning towards the castle “you’re soaked through, and night has set in.”
“Enough. Not another word till you’re dry”
The castle’s library was infinitely large, with walls so covered in shelves, that one could easily assume they were built of nothing but books, as a thousand different volumes stacked up atop of one another reached the ceiling on all sides. It meant that numerous ladders and balconies had been installed into the room in order for a person to reach their desired novel. Hundreds of candles sat glowing in the creaking chandelier that was hung in the centre of the great room, giving off a dull, flickering glow, that was barely enough light to read by.
The library was cold too; Link rubbed his hands together in an effort to warm them, his eyes glancing wearily at the tall glass windows that were being assaulted by the torrents of rain outside. The storm was certainly showing no signs of easing off. It was a relief to Link, that rather then sitting him down at the long table in the chill of this large library, Impa lead him through a small doorway, and into a smaller, much cosier room, where a large fire filled the grate that was set into the back wall. This room too, had been filled with books, but unlike in the main section of the library, where all the books were properly bound, and well kept, many of these seemed to be made out of leather pages, and roughly stitched at the spine with thick black thread, and no hard covering at all. On closer inspection, many of the shelves were in fact littered with scrolls, most of which were made of thick paper, but again, many appeared to be made from various animal hides.
Link noticed that some of the scrolls even had hair still sprouting out in the skeins. He tried not to dwell on the thought of what animals these had been created from, as he noticed in particular that one scroll had a luminescent pale tinge to it, which he has only ever seen before in the body of a Dead Hand. Instead he turned his attention to the small table, which despite its size, dominated most of the room. Here Impa pulled up one of the only two chairs and gestured for Link to sit down. He did so, pleased that she had placed his chair pleasantly close to the fire. As he warmed his hands by the blaze, Impa begin unfurling various scrolls that has already been laid upon the table before seating herself opposite Link.
“This is where we store the most important maps of Hyrule” Impa explained, passing Link an atlas, “everywhere that can be explored and charted within the realm of Hyrule has a recording in this room; from the Gerudo Valley in the northern West, to the Kokiri’s Forest in the East. We even have maps of the Underworld, and all known Dungeons…” She gestured to some of the more grisly scrolls in the shelves. “You need only explore these records for a short time to realise we have almost everything mapped except for… here.” Impa placed a long finger on the empty grey area on the atlas that Link was holding.
“The HigherLands?” Link asked. Impa nodded.
“That right. They lie directly west of Lake Hylia, and sit just beneath the Desert Colossus. Unfortunately little else is known about them. There are a million and one ghost stories and myths surrounding them, but nothing we can confirm as fact I’m sorry to say.”
“But I thought you said that merchants passed through the range hoping to trade with the land beyond them?” Link questioned.
“That is true. But sadly of no real help to us. There have been no merchants that have been able to confirm using the same path. Therefore we must assume that there is no set route through these mountains, and perhaps more disturbingly, that these paths (assuming there are any) shift and move. How this can happen, no one knows. We have rumours of ghosts, spirits, monsters…” Impa gave a small sigh “but quite simply we do not know.”
“So-how does anyone find their way through, or…back again?”
“Well, those that have survived the cliffs, and returned to tell the tale, come bearing radical stories of guardian angels, or that the very mountains spoke to them in guidance. But perhaps the most believable story is the rumour a hermit, who has somehow managed to survive within the cruel peaks of these HigherLands. I have heard of more than one scenario in which a traveller has been on the brink of madness from having lost their way, only to suddenly stumble across this mysterious hermit, whom appears to have ensured their safe return to Hyrule.”
“Does this man have a name?” Link asked. Impa shook her head.
“We don’t have a confirmed name for our mountain friend. Most call him ‘Ranger’ but we have heard a few nicknames passed around the taverns. ‘Greengroe’ or ‘Greengroen’ comes up most often I believe, and ‘Kestrell’ among others. But that is just about all I can tell you. We do not even know what race our ‘Ranger’ is. There is the possibility he may be Goron, though I find the doubtful, as Gorons are more inclined to reside within the mountains, and in much warmer climates. But this need not necessarily be so. Truth be, I were to speak my thoughts, I would say I am inclined to think it be a Shiekah due to the obscurity that surrounds him (we are, of course on the assumption our friend is male). But maybe that is just an old heart longing for the companionship of her own-kind…” Impa smiled, but it was tinged with a little sadness.
“I’m sorry Impa,” Link began “I always seem to forget that you’re the las-“
Impa silenced him with a wave of her hand, and smiled properly at him.
“Please, don’t dwell on it. I was merely letting suggestion run away with my imagination. Back to the business at hand- Link, you and I both share the feeling that the source of this storm should be investigated. And as the royal attendant, I can inform you that our blessed Princess also feels apprehensions concerning this violent and highly un-seasonal weather. Therefore I ask you: In full knowledge of the dangers that would lie ahead, would you be willing to travel into the Western Mountains, in order to asses if there be any threat to Hyrule brewing there?”
“Yes” Link answered, with only the smallest of hesitations. “When would you like me to leave?”
“I think this would a case of The Sooner the Better. If Hyrule is at risk from the mountains, we should not delay in seeking to defeat the danger.”
“Tomorrow then? At dawn, I shall see Malon returns to her ranch as planned, and then continue west.”
“Excellent. Thank you, Link. I feel a great comfort in knowing that your goodness can never be doubted.” Impa rolled the Atlas Link had been holding, and slotted it into a bone map case, before handing it back to him. “Take that with you.”
Link felt his cheeks glow as he accepted the map.
“Thank you, Impa” He said. “I’ll try to be back within a fortnight at the latest.” He smiled, “I will find out what’s causing this storm.”
Impa bid Link goodnight, and left him to attempt to plot his route using the maps that had been left out on the table, before he would return to the kitchen. He didn’t know how long he had been looking over the maps, but eventually Link pushed them all aside with a curse under his breath.
“Bah. You’re of no use…” he said to one map as he tossed it aside. “Alas! I think my eyes are too tired to for this…” Link sighed as he rubbed his hand over face, pushing his hair back. He relaxed into his seat and looked to the slowly burning fire.
“It seems that once again, I shall be putting myself to your mercy Mighty Goddess of three. I pray you grant me guidance…help me to find this mountain hermit, and allow me to heal the source of this storm…!” Link prayed, lacing his hands together, and pressing his heavy eyelids shut. Letting his prayer fade into silent homage to his goddess, Link didn’t notice a pale figure slip into room behind him.
“Amen” answered a soft voice from behind Link, as he looked up to the fire again. He spun around with a start and his heart gave a sharp jump. He leapt to his feet.
“Our Princess is as silent as a ghost!-My Lady, you startled me…” Link made a bow of respect.
The Princess Zelda stood in the doorway, an intimidating figure. Although she had a small frame, with limbs so delicate they might have been crafted of porcelain, her voice was thick with a wisdom that bordered on celestial, and her crystalline blue eyes shone a knowledge that was far beyond her years. She stepped forward, and her pale features shimmered in the firelight like crisp snow in a winter sunset.
“My apologies Link; I did not mean to surprise you.” Zelda spoke politely, but the way she addressed Link by his first name denoted certain warmth of friendship that made his ears grow hot. “I simply meant to pay you a quiet visit…Impa has spoken with you, correct?”
“Yes my Lady.” Link nodded.
“Then…you have agreed to travel west?” Her face was the picture of absolute calm, but Link could see that her hands were gripped tightly together before her.
“Yes, my Lady…” Link smiled gently, hoping to reassure the princess.
Zelda released her hands and touched her heart, letting out a shaky sigh
“Oh, may the Goddesses forever smile upon you Link; I thank you! You will be easing my heart of a growing concern…” She said, her eyes shinning on the brink of tears of relief.
“It is an honour to serve you, Princess…” Link gave another short bow, “Had I but known this storm was weighing so heavily upon your thoughts, I would have left sooner-”
Zelda shook her head, silencing Link and smiled “No, Link there is no way you could have known my feelings, please, do not apologise. In truth, what troubles me the greatest, is that I have not paid enough attention to my dreams of late… They have been troubled, but my life at court appears to have been dominating my being recently.” Zelda said, her voice verging on the emotional. She took a deep breath, and composed her self. “Should the source of this storm turn out to be of greater malevolence than I have allowed myself to believe….I…” Zelda swallowed and looked down and Link felt his hear go out to her at the moment.
“Your Highness!” he stepped forward “Please do not fret! You are loved by the Goddesses, and your powers of divination are unquestionable. I have every faith in you.” Link bowed his head “Please, allow me to deal with the mystery of this storm, and remove all troubles from your heart and head. I promise that no harm shall come to Hyrule.”
Zelda blinked and looked up at the hero before her, and smiled.
“Thank you, Link. You truly are good friend, I am proud to call you Hyrule’s Hero.”
Link didn’t look back up, but he could feel his ears glowing again.
“I consider it my honour, before my duty, your Highness.” He said solemnly. “And, if I might speak quite plainly?” he glanced up, catching the princess’ eye.
“Please do, I would have it no other way” she replied,
“You seem tired.” Link said. Zelda couldn’t help but smile at his bluntness.
“Ah me! Alas, Link it seems I cannot hide anything from you…!” She laughed, and the tension around her face eased considerably. “I think you are quite right, I am tired. Very tired I daresay. And this weather is doing nothing to lighten my spirits…The sooner the sun returns to the fields of Hyrule the happier I shall feel. Impa tells me that you have agreed to leave at dawn?”
“Yes, Princess; were it not for Malon, I would leave this very second!” said Link eagerly. Zelda shook her head.
“No, dawn is soon enough, tomorrow you will be supplied with previsions for your journey and may head westward. But tonight, you must rest, you will need your all your strength for the mountains.”
The rain has come. The skies are weeping and I with them. Wolfos are thick amongst the mountain paths, this earth is grieving for a loss not yet made, and I fear for what evil may arise from my land. Goddesses, protect me.
Dawn could not come soon enough for the eager young hero. Although under ‘royal orders to rest’, as the princess had so firmly phrased it, the night held very little respite for Link. Even as he laid his head upon the soft feather pillows of the Castle’s hospitality, the rain still lashed noisily at the windowpane, and the thunder rumbled on violently outside his chamber, leaving his heart in a raw state of unease.
Eventually, the black skies faded to grey, as the sun strained to shine upon Hyrule through the thick blanket of the storm clouds, and our Hero left the safety of the castle, to escort the young farm girl home, before heading into The West.
It took the length of the day to travel across the stretch of Hyrule field, even atop of his faithful horse, Epona, and as Link rode towards the dull grey sun, still sullied by the storm clouds, as it sank lower in the sky, he eased his racing gallop to a steady walk. Pausing momentarily, Link watch the light from the horizon begin to ebb.
“It appears to be very little trouble for you, Sun, to clear those mountains…but I fear it shall be somewhat more challenging for me...” Link pulled out the map case Impa had given him from where his had tucked it into his belt behind his back, (the driest place on his person, seeing as it was covered by a heavy travelling cloak) and eased out the leather parchment it contained, studying the map for what he felt must have been the hundredth time in the past two days. He had spent the majority of his previous sleepless night searching the map for the best possible route to access those formidable mountains. Looking at again now, he confirmed that the best course of action was to head to the Gerudo Valley, and with the pale light fading fast, and Link feeling the rain had thoroughly soaked him to his very bones, the sooner the better.
Ever since the Evil King had been vanquished over 7 years ago, relations between Hylians and the Gerudo had vastly improved. Whilst there were still occasional occurrences of misunderstanding between the two races, the truce between them had been proving highly beneficial, despite old prejudices. There was now a strong trade link between cultures; the Gerudo wastelands were incredibly rich in ores and precious stones, which more than made up for their lack of fertile land, of which central Hyrule was blessed with.
Now, with the Valley’s bridge being fully restored (or perhaps indeed, it had never been broken – Link’s memories were hazy on details such was the penalty for travelling in the stream of time.) a form of semi-permanent settlement had gradually evolved across the Valley. A hamlet of tents and wooden huts had sprung up, a mini community of merchants and travellers, providing a safe and welcoming spot to rest for those passing through, who were too weary, or still feared to continue into the Gerudo fortress. It was true; trade and relations were stable, but the Gerudo were still very much a closed society, and did not take all too kindly with strangers. So it was here, Link decided, that he would rest for the night, and enquire as to which would be the best path up into the mountain range. If it was travelling merchants that crossed the range most often, then surely it would be in this settlement that he would find the information he required, and from studying the map, it appeared that the Valley would be the point that offered the most direct access.
Link coaxed Epona across the large wooden bridge as the last of the light faded, and riding towards the hamlet of tents, he could see men lighting oil lamps that hung from their doors, and mothers chasing children inside and out of the rain. Dismounting, Link led Epona slowly up into the thick of the settlement, his bright eyes looking out from under the hood of his sodden cloak, searching for a communal tent where he might rest, out of the rain.
“Dylan! Come back here!”
Link saw a small giggling child dash through a series of large puddles, accompanied by a rather muddy dog, and being perused by a somewhat anxious young woman. The child, (‘Dylan’ Link presumed) paid no attention to the lady’s shouts, and followed the dog through another puddle, shrieking with laughter. In the brief moment it took for him to look behind at his chaser; collided head on into Link. Link caught the boy, just as he was about to fall back into the mud.
“Dylan!!” Came the exasperated cry of the boy’s pursuer. “Ooh you naughty boy! Look where you’re going!” She scolded. “I’m terribly, sorry sir, my cousin does not know how to behave himself”
The lady turned to Link as she seized Dylan firmly by the shoulders.
“Let me go!” The child squirmed in his cousin’s grip. Wriggling free, he stepped up to Link and stared.
“Hey! Mister! Who are you? You’re not one of us!” Dylan asked impertinently after attempting to stare Link down.
“Dylan!” The lady gave her cousin a sharp pinch, and he yelped in pain. “Ah! Forgive me for this little imp’s rudeness, sir!” the girl blushed, as she addressed Link again. She looked young, around Link’s own age, perhaps a little older, with small bright eyes coloured grey-blue, a trait she shared with her little cousin, and a pointed face smattered with freckles. Her hair was thick, mousey brown, cropped short to her shoulders, but extremely bushy. Link thought she was pretty, and found himself eying the pleasing curves of her figure. He smiled at her;
“No need to apologise Miss.” He looked down to the boy to answer him “My name is Link, I’ve travelled from Hyrule Castle Town,” he looked up to the girl again, “Do you know if there is anyplace where I might tether my horse, and rest for the night? I’ve been riding all day, and this weather…”
“Bless me! Don’t say another word! How rude of me. Of course, of course!” The girl interrupted, and began to lead Link around the back of a tent, dragging Dylan along by the hand. “My name is Anna by the way. This imp is Dylan. Goodness me, how you travelled so far in this weather…the goddesses must smile upon you…you must be freezing- soaked right through I imagine…well you needn’t worry, this tent is owned by Mrs Ragging, she’s acts like an inn keeper for those just passing through…she’ll see you right…what brings you this way anyway?...you don’t look like a merchant…most of them are covered in gold from the Gerudo…Have you ever seen the Gerudo before...?” Anna continued in this vein of idle, unending chatter as Link settled Epona under a crude, but dry wooden horse shelter, and as she led him into a large warm tent. It made him smile, listen to her talk. It reminded him of Malon in many ways- the unrelenting commentary that could spill from the woman’s lips. Link wondered why is it was that all women seemed to be able to talk for hours on end without pause to even draw breath. But such was the friendly nature of the Hylians, women especially, (people often thought Link was quiet, he maintained it was just that he could never get a word in edgeways.).
Inside the large tent was lit by the inviting glow of the hearth in the centre, upon which a large pot stood steaming and smelling exceptionally good. A tall middle-aged woman stood over the cauldron ladling out its contents to a line of hungry looking men, who were chatting amongst themselves. Link caught snatches of their conversation, and was able to assume these were the merchants Anna had talked about. They stood discussing the terrible travelling conditions; how this rain was going to ruin their stock of spice they had just bartered off the Gerudo; how much they were looking forward to returning to Hyrule Market town to their families and stalls; or how distressed they were that the Gerudos had suddenly upped their prices on precious stones. Link could see as he was dragged along by Anna that various bed rolls and sleeping mats lined the sides of the tents, and this is was indeed a form of communal shelter for various travellers.
"Mrs Ragging!" Anna called out. Link was dragged before the tall woman by the cauldron.
"Yes! What?! Oh, hello pet-what can I do for you?" The woman replied. Link noticed that up-close she appeared a little, well, stressed. Her eyes had fine lines around them, and were tinged with tired shadows. The straw coloured hair that she had pulled back into a bun upon her head was slowly but surely falling out of place, and faintly streaked with grey. He smiled nervously as she shot him a cold glance. "I'm sorry dear, but if you want feeding, its five rupees and to the back of the line!" she snapped.
"Oh, no, Mrs Ragging, he's with me. This is Link- he just arrived -all the way from Hyrule town!- and needs a place for the night. You have got space, haven't you? Oh here, let me do that for you...” Anna took the ladle off Mrs Ragging to replace her spot by the pot to feed the line of hungry men, "You take a break, oh, and could you show Mr Link to his bed? Thank you so much, Mrs Ragging!"
Mrs Ragging sighed and wiped her hands on her apron, smiling tiredly at Anna. "Yes yes yes. Certainly, pet. Right then you,” She tidied her hair a little and glanced Link up and down. “Well goodness me! You have come a long way! Hyrule Town, you say? By my Goddess, you have done well to come so far in this weather! Quite the intrepid little traveller aren't we?" she flashed him the same tired smile "You must forgive me if I was little short with you before, you can see we're very busy tonight; have been for the past two days, what with this blasted weather " she shook her fist at the roof of the tent, as if the clouds could see her displeasure, "And I'm run off my poor feet with so many mouths to feed, weary bones to bed, not to mention my own children to keep an eye on...Anna helps me out when she can of course, bless her soul, but with business as it is, well you can see for yourself, it gets somewhat hectic to say the least!... Not that I'm one to complain, the heavens know I'm grateful for the extra money it’s bringing in... one nights stay is 10 rupees by the way...supper is an extra five...we can't offer much privacy, but you'll be warm and dry, and I can dry your things by the hearth for another two seeing as you know Anna... I trust she's shown you where to tether your horse? I'm assuming you have a horse of course...be silly of you to come all this way if you didn't...." Link was starting to understand where Anna got her run-away tongue from.
Nevertheless, Link smiled politely, and happily handed over money for his dry bed and hot supper, and Mrs Ragging assured him Anna would be along shortly to gather his things to be dried. At long last, he laid himself down upon the soft matting, and stretched out his long and aching limbs. With a full belly and heavy eyes, he barely noticed the bustle and noise of people who had yet to go to bed, or the shouts and nagging of Mrs Ragging who kept insisting to a group of drunken youths that it was 'lights out!', and instead slipped into a deep and restful sleep.
Link awoke earlier then he would have liked, rising even before the sun. He sat up rubbing his eyes, and glared at the hulking figure in the bed next to him who was snoring louder than the thunder. Link was amazed to see that not a single other sleeper had stirred because of the din. Realising that returning to sleep was now going to be impossible, Link reached down to the base of his bed where he found his tunic, travelling cloak and boots all neatly laid out and dry, Anna having laid them out him whilst he had slept. Dressing himself quickly he muttered under his breath at hearing the rain still lash down upon the roof of the tent. Puddles were starting to form in the corners of the canvas, and while it was obviously getting damper inside the tent, Link would still have gladly stayed inside, rather then attempt another full day’s ride in the thick of storm with no definite bed to welcome him at sunset. Pulling up his boots and fixing his cap to his head, he sighed and stood up. This was his duty, whether he liked it or not, and had to accept his lot. His mood didn't improve when he stepped outside. A low grumble of thunder greeted him as the rain continued to lash down, he grumbled back and pulled the hood of his cloak over his head.
It was only as he was un-tethering Epona, and fixing her saddle pack that he was greeted by another human being that dark morning.
"You're leaving already?" came the slightly overanxious tones of Anna. Link turned around to squint through the rain. She was stood there in clogs and nightgown with only a shawl covering her head from the rain, shivering beneath the straw roof of the stable shed.
"What are you doing out here?" Link hissed in concern,
"Are you leaving? Already?" Anna repeated her eyes a little too wide for his liking. It made him uncomfortable.
"Well, yes. I have to. I have paid and everything, don't worry!" He hastened to add.
“Oh blow the cost!" Anna snorted. "But, I-, well...Where are you going to go? Today is 7th day- The Gerudo Gates are closed, don't you know? Please don't leave, come back inside-I'll cook you breakfast; you can go and trade tomorrow, The Gates will be open again tomorrow, I promise you. The Gerudo don't let foreigners in on Sunday, but tomorrow is Monday, and that's when all the merchants will go to barter and...Why are you still packing!?" Her eyes were wide again. Link sighed, and finished tightening the strap on Epona's pack.
"I didn't come to trade with the Gerudo" He said.” I never said I was. I'm a traveller, not a merchant. And I have a very important journey that must be finished as soon as possible." He tried to sound as gentle as he could with her. Anna it seemed barely noticed.
"But-!" She interrupted, biting her lip "Where under the heavens can you possibly be travelling to? Everyone in Hyrule knows that The Gerudo Valley is the end of the Hyrule boarder, and beyond that... why, there is nothing but sand! Why do you wish to travel so far for sand?!" She gave a mighty sniff then, but before she could continue, Link shook his head.
"I'm not going into the Gerudo Fortress, or the Dessert."
"Then where in-? Oh no...No. NO. You can't, oh please..!"
Link had no idea what Anna was so upset about, but he answered her question. He pointed up the mountains that were looming at their west. Anna clung to him then.
"No!" she cried "Please! You can't! Not that way! Nothing but ice and death lay that way! Not to mention wolves and beasts with teeth are large as daggers! They will shred your flesh and crunch your bones! Or if they don't get you the mountain will- Link I've heard them! I've heard them and their stories-such stories! Men go up there in search of riches or new land and the sparse few that return are never the same! A mans heart turns to a lump of ice upon those frozen rocks! The ice spirits steal their soul; the mountain takes your mind! If you go up there the only way you can return is dead, or insane! Please, I beg you! Reconsider!"
Link tried to prise the shivering girl's finger from the neck of his tunic, and holding them tightly in his own he attempted to quieten her.
"Anna, Anna! Shhhh...Don't distress yourself so. I will return, I promise. I've heard all the stories. But I'm not going to go alone. I'm not a fool, I'm going to seek The Mountain Ranger first, and ask him to lead me. I may not even need to travel very far up the mountain at all…” Even as Link said that, he knew it wasn't true. “I will be back down here within a fortnight with his help- just you see"
Amidst her sob, Link thought he heard Anna laugh,
"Oh Link! Don't be fooled by rumours of that wretched Hermit! He is as cold and selfish as the mountain itself! Anyone who's seen him comes back with the same stories! He doesn't help anyone! He changes the few signposts that there are to lead people further astray, or puts on the skin of wolves to terrify the lost and chases them right into the mouths of wild beasts! He was born on those mountains without a heart and had to forge one for himself from frost and stone! He was suckled on the milk of wild cats, and raised among a litter of rabid snow hounds! Look for him and you'll surely find your ruin, for he is more wicked then the storm! Please don't go!" Anna's grey eyes shone with tears as she stood there, a shaking figure in Link's arms consumed with worry for his safety. And for a brief moment, looking into those eyes, Link considered staying right where he was.
But then his minds eye was emblazoned with shinning face of his Princess, Zelda. He shook he head, and kissed Anna lightly on the forehead.
"I'm sorry, but I have to go, it's my honour."
And with that, he left her.
Travelling up the mountain was slow. Even upon the fastest horse in the land Link was not happy with the pace he was travelling at. It left him too much time to think. The image of the tear stained Anna still burned in his mind, not to mention her words. Naturally, as a hero, Link never showed any signs of weakness, fear or wavering judgement. He didn't because he never felt them. At least that’s what he told himself. And that’s what he continually told himself (and Epona) as they travelled slowly onward and upward.
So very slowly.
Staring at the small, steep, winding path ahead of him, Link didn't feel fear. Of course he didn't.
That was it. That's what made Anna's words echo about his head; concern.
Could it really be that the only person to possibly help him through the labyrinth of the mountains was really so evil? He could feel his hope sinking slowly away. Could it be true? The Hermit wasn't a friendly mountain Ranger, but rather some vile beast of a man that lead poor innocents further astray?
The path was so difficult for the horse to climb.
So slow. So slippery. So rocky.
Was this even a path at all?
Link told himself to stop being so stupid. Of course it was the path- he had only been travelling for half an hour at the most; he couldn't have possibly lost his way so quickly! ...Could he? He glanced back. By the Goddesses, surely the path hadn’t curved that much? He could no longer make out the hamlet at all, he couldn’t even judge what height he had climbed.
'Don’t think about it. Just concentrate on the job at hand.' he told himself, and continued to climb. The rain wasn’t making it any easier. It continued to pour down upon him, heavy and cold, seeping through the thick cloak he wore and soaking through his tunic to his skin, chilling him. It turned the rubble path to a small muddy river before him, making it difficult for Epona to step safely and to add to his luck, Epona detested deep and running water. But still he forced her on. He had to keep moving that was the most important thing right now, keep moving and find...
Link chewed his lip thoughtfully. What if the things Anna had said about the hermit were true? What could he do?
Keep on moving, he told himself. After all, Link wasn't a coward! He was a hero! The Hero of Time! Saviour of Hyrule! His Land! His home!
But that was just it, wasn't it? Hyrule was his home; he knew it's every corner, every river, every stream, and every rock. He has pushed this land to its limits: he had combed the Dessert Colossus, and dived to the very depths of Lake Hylia; he knew the forests and the towns, the fields and the hills and the valleys. It was his home, and he kept it safe because he felt safe there. There wasn't an evil in the land that could shake him from that! Not even the dreaded King of Evil himself! Only this wasn't his land anymore, he was leaving Hyrule behind right now, and somewhere deep inside him, Link doubted if he would be able to find his way home again.
And that terrified him.
He had to find that blasted Hermit of a man, and force him at knife point if necessary to show him the way!
'...He was suckled on the milk of wild cats, and raised among a litter of rabid snow hounds! Look for him and you'll surely find your ruin, for he is more wicked then the storm!...'
That's what Anna had said, sweet Anna who heard all the gossip and stories straight from the mouths of all who passed through her settlement, and the words began to spin around Link's mind, taking them deeper into consideration.
Anna talked a lot, who didn't, but everything she had said made sense, 'Link I've heard them! I've heard them and their stories' A first hand report like that shouldn't be ignored...
'He is more wicked then the storm!...'
And then it clicked. It all fell into place so perfectly. It was the Hermit...it had to be, he was such a wicked creature! Him, with a lump of frost and stone for of a heart...a man so vile his mother rejected him-left him at birth on the mountain to freeze; weaned off the milk of wild beasts, clothed bloody skins of animals...Link could see the filthy creature now; running around on all fours, more beast than man, he wouldn't doubt! The sacred Heavens above only knew what sinful witchcraft he was invoking to rouse this hideous storm; a vile attempt to flood Hyrule; it had to be! It made Link sick with anger to think of it. He spurred Epona on, further up the terrible ascent. He would find this most hateful of outsiders, force him to return to Hyrule, and destroy him. Only then, thought Link, can the sun return to our lives.
Link only looked back only once more. His eyes blurred.
'Only the rain... Keep on moving, Epona!' He shouted above the thunder, as he rubbed the gathering tears away.
The road Link had been following was becoming steeper and rockier with every step he forced Epona to take, and the higher they climbed the thicker the clouds around them became. It didn't take Link very long, to realise that as much as he hated to, he was going to have to continue his trek up the mountain alone on foot. He slid down off the wet saddle and Epona whinnied loudly against the rain. He rubbed her long nose tenderly, and set about unpacking from her saddle what he could carry about his person. Naturally, the sword came off first, and was strapped instantly to his back. He groaned as he had to leave behind his spare hose, but it seemed dry clothes were to be a luxury he couldn’t afford. It only took him a few moments to remove from his horse the bare essentials he needed for travelling on foot, Link only wished saying goodbye to Epona was as easy. He sighed as he stroked her strong neck and briefly kissing her long nose, he patted her firmly on the rump signalling her to return down the mountain. She didn’t move. He slapped her again. Epona whinnied, but refused to back down the mountain. She pushed her nose into Link’s chest and snorted gently, he took a deep breath and forced down the lump that was gathering in his throat. He clutched the horse’s head and gently rubbed her neck again, whispering to her through gritted teeth.
“For pity’s sake Epona, go back. You I’m not taking you up this track, you’re to go back to the Ranch…!” The rain had soaked her fine hair and mane, but she still smelt of faintly of straw and dust- the smell of the Ranch. Link couldn’t take it any more, and pushed her head aside, walking firmly ahead up the thin and barely negotiable path. He heard her whinny again, but refused to turn around.
“Go. Home.” He hissed through the falling rain without glancing back. He hopped to hear the sound of hoofs obediently clip-clopping away into the distance. But he heard nothing other then the rain falling upon the rocky round, and the insistent braying of his distressed horse, and instead he had to content himself with the sound of his own feet taking him up away from his dearest travelling companion. He prayed the stubborn mare would return to its stable, but somehow in his heart he knew Epona would wait for the goddess only knew how many nights, until her rider returned. Link only hoped he wouldn’t keep her waiting long.
* * * * * *
It was a week before Epona returned to the coral and a dry stable. Malon welcomed her with open arms and kisses as she always did, but was sorry not to able to do the same for he master. Epona’s saddle was empty, and the mare refused to be settled; noisily pining for her friend who had not returned.
* * * * * *
If travelling on horseback up the track had felt slow, it was nothing to the eternity of forcing oneself along alone.
These mountains were cursed; Link could feel the loneliness breathed out by the cruel peaks that rose above him. Even the feared Death Mountain hadn’t seemed this cruel. At least Death Mountain had been alive.
Not like this.
Even the Haunted Wastelands in the Dessert Colossus had felt more welcoming, with its scarlet flag posts to guide the hopeful, then this- this cold and bleak place…This hopeless mountain…
It wasn’t until a sudden blast of icy wind caught him in the face, so strong it felt as though he had been slapped fully across the mouth, that he looked up from his feet, and pulled him out of his despair. He looked about himself properly for the first time; it was different up here, Link could taste it in the air, it was cold, bitter and sparse. The rain that had soaked him through was starting to freeze to his skin, and his breath was turning to fog as his left his mouth, and as he took air in he could feel it cutting his lungs with a thousand frosty knives.
He suddenly regretted leaving the spare hosen behind…
The rain that had been falling had begun to mesh with the air to create a huge damp mist that had been obscuring his view of the peaks before him, but as the frozen wind ripped past again, it forced the fog to roll back revealing the landscape for the first time, but bringing with it Link’s first taste of the flurry of snow that the mountain was capped in. He shivered terribly and hastily took a sharp and painful breath of snow and air, as his eyes took in the scene. Towering in front and to the sides of him, Link was daunted by the jagged razor-edged mountain peaks, where the faint sun was sliding down and behind, like a corpse on a pike. The land before him had flattened out onto a plateau, covering with snow that blinded reflecting the dying rays of the sun.
And for one brief moment, there was pure stillness and peace. A silence so empty, it was like nothing Link had experienced before.
Suddenly the wind slapped him full in the face again, roaring in his ears and bringing with it a sudden painful flurry of snow. Link winced and shielded his eyes from the ice that bombarded his exposed face. It was almost impossible to see anything now the snow had arrived, and the only thing that made him continue forward was the threat of being frozen to the spot.
Forcing himself on using pure willpower, Link managed to continue for another hour before he finally lost his footing and collapsed into the snow. He fell hard, but his body was so numb with cold he felt no pain, only hearing a sickening crunch as his body collided with the frozen ground.
The sun had long since died, and it was now shadows and pale starlight that engulfed the mountain peaks. The temperature had dropped again, and ice gripped the inside of Link’s lungs, with tiny needle sharp pincers. Groaning he rolled over onto his back, and starred up, exhausted and helpless, at the frosted moon. He felt he slipped into unconsciousness then, he felt his eyelids droop uncontrollably; he tried to fight it; it was pure foolishness to sleep exposed upon a snow covered wasteland of a mountain. But try as he might, his limbs would not move; his body replaced by lumps of cold lead. And as his mind was fogged over by darkness, Link thought he heard the faint mournful howl of a Wolfos. Or a lost soul…
Although Link awoke, he felt sure he was dead. Every inch of his body felt as though it were part of the earth he lay on. Icy, dead, and numb. When he finally prized the frozen lids of his eyes apart, he attempted to lift his arms and raise himself to his feet. But lying upon his back, staring up at the grey sky where snowflakes still fell, he wasn’t even sure he had any arms. In a moment of panic he was convinced a wolf must have gnawed his limbs off in the night while he slept. In desperation, he attempted to kick and wriggle and move any part of his body that still remained. He felt his body spasm beneath him, and slowly to his great relief he began to recognise a dull ache of pain where his last new his legs to be. ‘That’s a relief’ he thought ‘at least I might still be able to walk’.
Forcing himself to a seated position, he felt blessed again to find that he still had arms, even if the cold had restricted his movement to above the elbow. He looked down at his hands that lay on his lap. They were a worrying shade of purplish grey, with raw and chapped knuckles. He tried to clench his fist. No response. He tried again. And again. He threw his lifeless hand against his back to try and grope the hilt of his sword. He felt a sting as his knuckles grazed against the handle, and easing his fingers around it, he finally unsheathed his blade with tremendous effort. Pressing the blade into the snowy ground before him, Link attempted to push himself to his feet; his knees buckled beneath him and his face connected with the frosty ground once more. Groaning, he slowly, painfully tried again. His legs shook uncontrollably, but this time his knees locked in place and he was able to stand his ground. His head was spinning violently, and his vision swam before his eyes, nausea rose in his stomach and he desperately shut his eyes and swallowed back the sickness as best he could.
Never before in his life had he felt this cold. He could feel nothing, only a faint sickly pain belied the numbness that had taken his body. He had not idea how badly he was hurt; it was impossible to tell; he might have lost a hand or broken a foot – there was simply no way of knowing. Barely able to open his mouth even to moan, his cheeks had lost all feeling and colour of health, taking on instead the blue tinge of the ice that surround him on the landscape. His lips too, were tight with cuts that had frozen over, running his tongue over them they tasted of iron before the saliva froze over. Every breath he took felt like sharp cold steal being forced into throat and slashing his poor lungs to shreds.
Consumed by the cold, Link’s mind was barren of all thought. It was only through some primal urge to survive, or divine blessing that the muscles in his body took over and Link put one shaky foot in front of the other, and slowly began to lumber forward. It never even entered his mind to turn back. So forward he blindly walked towards to whatever fate the mountain had in store for him.
And it welcomed him with a cry that would make blood curdle like sour milk.
Walking in his stupor, blinded by the brilliant rays of the sun that reflected all about him in the crisp white snow, he didn’t even see which direction the Wolfos came from. Its howl had been taken up by the wind and echoed horribly about the mountains, as the beast came crashing suddenly into his side. Pinning him to the floor as it ran into him, the animal sank it sharp claws into the flesh of his chest, before it leapt off Link and curved around for a second attack. Link made a guttural cry as he was thrown down; his head bounced on a rock that was hidden beneath the blanket of snow; black spots spinning in front of his eyes, he whirled his head around to look at the Wolfos. It stood; snarling with yellow teeth bared; eyes ablaze with mindless rage; panting heavily; its hot breath swirled in thick foggy clouds. It charged towards him again, fangs flashing.
As nimbly as his broken body would allow, Link rose to his feet and flung himself at the monster. As it soared towards him for the second time, its jaws wide in hungry anticipation to take a bite out of Link’s side; Link threw his bodyweight down into the beast, grasping fistfuls of fur, and the animal was launched over his head, and the two rolled to the ground in a furious ball of fighting. The beast lashed out, wrapping its razor-sharp claws about Link’s back, tearing flesh and cloth alike, Link desperately beat the monster with his fists, suddenly aware that he had dropped his sword as he had fallen. He pounded the Wolfos suddenly on the nose; it snarled and snapped its jaws about his arm in revenge. Teeth pieced through the thick leather of his gauntlets and bore down into his flesh, and scarlet leaked down his arm, staining the yellow teeth of the Wolfos red. Link cried out with a scream that rolled off the mountain and back to him in an echo that refused to die, and tossed with the wolfish beast again, desperately fighting to gain control of the scuffle.
But he was weak, and the animal pinned him down again, its large paws landing heavily of his beaten chest, knocking the wind out of his frozen lungs. Once again his head collided painfully with the stony ground. In a moment of paralysis, as Link’s eyes rolled up into the back of his head, all he could see was the grinning face of the evil Wolfos, lips curled back to reveal its gruesome teeth that were stained and gored with Link’s own blood, a growl rumbled from deep in its throat, and bloody saliva dripped from its jaw. Crushed into the snow by the animals mighty weight, all Link could feel was the hot breath of the Wolfos washing over his face, stinking of death and decay, and a bizarre wetness where his blood was beginning to pool about his back, and trickle in red rivulets down his fingertips. And as the beast loomed above him, ready to snap up his head, Link could feel his mind slipping from consciousness. Darkness slithered about his vision which was sliding uncontrollably in and out of focus.
Was this it? Was this how the Hero was to fall? His life claimed by the lonely mountains?
‘Goddesses protect me,’ Link thought,
And he blacked out to the sound of the Wolfos’ last triumphant howl.
Ice – Snow - Whiteness - The wind moaning - Howls echoing - Something was there - Something was on the hunt - A storm was brewing – Snow - Snow was everywhere - Snow that made everything white; the hills; the ground; the sky; the Wolfos - The Wolfos! - It was pinning him down - it was so heavy - it’s yellow eyes so malicious with an unnatural level of hate; its snarling fangs bared - It jaw opened wide – Wider – Wider - Goddesses have mercy! - He could see a face! - The Wolfos had swallowed a girl whole! - And she was crying - She was crying tears of blood - Her face was contorted in rage and fear - And her cheeks stained with dark tears of blood - He tried to reach her - He tried to help her - But he couldn’t - The weight was too much - He couldn’t move - He couldn’t breath - His world was spinning terribly and the girl slipped away from him - He was panicking - He was suffocating! - He was….
A heavy gasp passed through his dry lips, the sound tinged with a faint moan as his eyelids pulled back slowly. His body still felt like a lead weight; dead with fatigue, but the warmth had returned. He could even his toes. Attempting to move, he discovered himself to be restricted by a number of thick blankets and furs, he wrestled against them a moment, to try and push himself to sit up, but the effort was too great, and his limbs ached with pain. He lay still, and struggled to make clear thought as his head pounded and swam with sick dizziness.
Where was he? The Ranch; Surely; He was warm and safe and dry and…Malon didn’t own furs. Pulling his eyes open again he glanced around at his new setting. Through tired, heavy eyes he could make out the walls of a small house, lit by nothing more than a fire that was burning merrily in a grate that dominated most of the back wall. His bed seemed to be nothing more than a large shelf-like bunk that was built into wall, from which he could see a small wooden door opposite him. But other than that, the room appeared fairly sparse. The only decoration he could make out was a longbow, the colour of forest green, strung, and set above the door. It was obviously long past use, no self respecting bowman would store a bow strung. And its string was frayed; there was no way that it could withstand a firing.
Link closed his eyes again, and tried to work out what kind of man could live in such a bare home. Some poor, old man past his glory days as an archer, perhaps? Maybe he lived with a granddaughter who had tended him, and they had gone to market for fresh supplies. Yes, they’d gone to Hyrule market and would return shortly, he would give his thanks and be on his way to-
Link opened his eyes suddenly, lifting his head best he could, he looked around again. He now saw a little square window next to the door, where a candle struggled to burn on the sill. Clouds of white snow billowed past the glass, and an arctic wind rattled against the pane, and shook the doors hinges.
He was still on the mountain.
He collapsed back on his bed again, and choked on a sob.
Refusing to let despair overcome him, he stifled his crying, and attempted to focus his fevered brain but he was in the grips of sickness, and he finally slipped back into a fitful sleep.
* * * * *
The door clunked as the heavy latch was lifted, a blast of cold air washed over Link’s exposed face as the wind chased a flurry of snow into the hut. The door was slammed shut and Link heard a bolt being fastened. Heavy boot-falls sounded on the wooden floor, and Link struggled to open his eyes. Sleep had held him fast, and glued his lids together, but through blurred vision, Link tilted his head, and could make out the huge, hulking figure of a tall man, covered from head to foot in grey furs, his face concealed by a large red hood that was pulled right down over his head. The figure was covered in a layer of snow, and shook himself like a wet dog, brushing the ice off his shoulders into a damp patch on the floor where he stood. The effort to keep his eyes open was too great, and in his weakened state, he had no stomach to see the repulsive face of the wretched hermit-man. There was no one else it could possibly be, and it made him sick with anger and grief to believe that his life had been saved by the creature he had come to eradicate. What a pitiful excuse for a hero Link was!
Exhaustion was getting the better of him again, and he could feel his mind resisting the urge to black out again. His eyes closed, and tears slipped from under them as he moaned in pain and frustration.
The heavy steps of large feet came closer to Link’s bunk. Link didn’t seem to notice or care. A rough hand placed itself against Link’s forehead. The boy frowned gently only partially aware of the physical world around him, still caught up in the grips of fever and deep, restless sleep. Although he still shivered terribly, his body was hot and sweat glistened on his face. The palm that pressed against his head was cool and strangely comforting. It was disconcerting. The hand left him for a moment, but he felt extra weight suddenly laid upon him as an extra cover was placed over him, and the furs upon him rearranged and untwisted. His brow was wiped, and that tentative, comforting hand touched his face again.
The pieces didn’t fit together in his mind; by the power of the Triforce, what kind of man was this hermit? Curiosity refusing to let him rest, Link forced his open eyes again to face his mysterious saviour.
He was greeted by the cold, questioning stare of a girl’s face that was stained with dried blood.
Link fainted for the third time that day.
Link was in a constant state of fevered sleep for the next three days. When he slept he thought he was awake, and when he was awake he thought he slept. Days and night merged, and he couldn’t tell dawn from dusk, or his head from his toes. The fever of the mountains had him, and even for one as strong as himself he was struggling to fight it.
His dreams and hallucinations were plagued with visions of monsters and devils which taunted and terrorized him to the point of screaming.
Yet whenever he thought he wouldn’t be able to bare a moment longer, there were hands to comfort him, and in his minds eye, the image of Princess Zelda smiled down upon him.
‘Be strong, and the goddesses will guide you out of this hateful sleep…’
Her shining visage would softly kiss his forehead, push back the darkness and lead him to quiet rest.
And thus it went on, only barely aware of the true world about him, until the fourth evening, when he finally opened his eyes.
He knew where he was exactly this time, as he stared at the ceiling above his bunk. There were skins of rabbits, wolf furs and goat hides hung out for drying. The hearth was glowing away merrily as before, a few basic pots scattered before its glowing flame, the window pane still shuddered against the arctic winds, but the door was locked. The hut empty save for Link. His thoughts drifted back to the man he’d seen. Or rather, the woman. So he had been so convinced that his host’s presence was male, he was still bemused to have found a female residing within the mountains. He didn’t have long to ponder the question of gender however, as the latch on the door was suddenly lifted from the outside.
The tall figure slipped into the little house, dressed as before, head to foot in thick furs that masked the shape his host completely. He watched from the corners of his eyes as the hermit shook the snow from their body in the same animalistic manner, before shedding the great fur coat, pushing its weight from their back, and flexing their shoulders. Even without the coat, from the back Link may have been tempted to still register the figure as male through tired eyes. There was certainly enough height. The hermit had to stoop low to enter through the door, and Link guessed that he might only just be a few inches taller himself were they to stand side by side (and Link had always been very proud of his height). But now that he was able to study this hermit more closely, he could see that the shoulders where too narrow to be male, and the hands that went to hang up the furs, although large, were somehow more pointed and elegant than a man’s ought to be. Letting his eyes run down the length of his host’s body, he couldn’t deny the ultimately feminine curve of hip and thigh, dressed as it was, however in male leather breeches.
Link waited for this woman to turn around in order to see and greet him. She didn’t. As if completely unaware of his consciousnesses or even his existence, she strode directly over to the fire, and began to feed it with logs from a pile that was stacked by the hearthside. Link watched quietly as she continued to ignore his presence, and warmed her hands by the fire, before picking up a kettle that had lain on the floor and set it above the flame. Link rolled his eyes and sighed silently, gazing at the ceiling once more. Perhaps she wasn’t very alert and thought he was still asleep…maybe she was deaf…
A knee was pushed roughly into his side. Link was startled out of his idle thoughts to find the girl in question stood looming over him, an offered cup hovering before his nose. She stared at him, her face perfectly impassive as she held the cup out to him. Link blinked at her, and waited a moment for her to speak. She didn’t move. The cup still hovered patiently before his nose. Awkwardly he pulled himself to sit upright, and took the cup from her hands. He glanced at the water inside before guzzling it thirstily. The girl still just stood there staring at him at he drank. Nose buried in the cup, Link flicked his blue eyes over to her again. Her eyes didn’t flicker. She just continued to watch him intently, lips pressed together, her brows on the verge of a frown as Link stared back.
Their eyes locked, he returned the cup. She took it, and turned smartly on her heal back to the fire. Link’s eyes still followed her as she filled up the cup once more from a pitcher that lay nearby and returned it to him. He took the cup a second time and drank again, keeping his eyes on hers for as long as possible. Her eyes were steely green and deeply intense as they stared into his face. It was difficult for him to hold her gaze; it was so strong it made his insides squirm. He drew back from his cup and carefully handed it back to her, wetting his lips.
“Thank you.” He said as she took the cup back.
The girl looked startled for a moment, her eyebrow perked in surprise briefly before she frowned at him. She returned to the stove.
Leaning back against the wall his bunk was set into, Link continued to watch the girl as she busied herself with the rest of the pots and pans, removing the kettle and placing a small cooking pot in its place. As he studied her face in the glow of the firelight, there was something about it that felt familiar. Like a memory from a dream.
“Are you the only one that lives here?” he asked.
She ignored him, and poured something hot into a cup from the kettle, and gave it a sniff before sipping it.
“Was it you that saved me from the Wolfos?”
She looked into the cup, before snatching a handful of dried leaves that were hanging above her head and crushed them into the steaming liquid, and tested it again.
“My name is Link.”
She strode over to where he lay in the bed and handed him the drink, giving him a small nod of acknowledgement as he accepted it. He wrapped his hands about the warm pottery, but continued his in vein of questioning.
“Where are we exactly?”
The girl appeared to have resumed ignoring his presence. She sat down before the hearth and began to unlace the leather braces that encased her forearms. Apparently waiting for the pot to boil she busied herself in re-braiding her hair; the fierce winds had pulled locks astray bound tightly as it was in a long plait that ran the length of her spine. It was a deep brown, and the firelight flecked it with bronze.
“…are you deaf?”
The question was innocent enough in its approach. Link was concerned with the lack of reaction from the young woman. But the look she gave him just then made him feel as if he had just insulted her by comparing her mother to a pile of Goron excrement. She shook her head very slowly at him.
“Oh…” Link flushed. “…My apologies.”
She went back to the cooking pot. Link stirred uncomfortably. He cleared his throat to break the silence that was building and threatening to become awkward. He was about to ask ‘you’re not dumb are you?’ but thought better of it least she give him another one of those looks. Ever persistent, he tried another approach instead.
“What’s your name?”
She answered by giving him a quick glance as she began to unbutton the stiff leather jerkin she wore over a rust coloured shirt. Those fierce eyes studied him for a moment as her nimble hands danced over the fastenings. She turned away again, and slipped the green leather off her shoulders, casting it aside with her gauntlets and leant towards the fire, giving the pot a stir. Frustrated, Link swallowed hard, and pressed his fingers to his forehead, his eyes stinging with physical and emotional fatigue. He pressed his eyes tight and covered his face with his palm as he refused to give in to tears again, breathing heavily, when a hand gripped his arm.
He looked up sharply to find the girl stood by his bedside, her sympathetic hand firmly on his shoulder, and offering a bowl of hot soup that smelt wonderfully of salted meat.
"Rhoben" she said.
"Your Highness, something needs to be done!" The Zora slammed his fist onto the table, his pearlescent black eyes glaring fiercely at the pale figure that sat before him. "The rivers are bursting through their banks. The mire and filth that is being washed down from the mountains is seeping into our domain. What was once our pure and sacred home is being turned into a greying puddle of filth! If you do not take action soon, not only will our great and glorious Jabu Jabu suffer, but the beautiful Lake Hylia will become nothing more than Hyrule's illustrious cesspool! And then-"
"I am well aware of the dangers this rain is imminent of causing" The Princess interrupted. She was a shade paler than the day Link had left her, and if it could be said that the princess' countenance was ever less then perfect, it might have been noted that grey shadows were beginning to harbour beneath her glassy eyes.
"Trust me when I say that, I know better than any other how this rain is causing Hyrule to suffer. And as protector of this land, no one is feeling this pain more than I. I have the deepest concern for the Zoras home. I know all too well how your peoples wellbeing is essential to Hyrule's water supply, being that you are its guardians, and as such, I thank you for coming to the castle to voice your worries to me. But as the situation stands, I can no more to alleviate these problems than that which I already have. With my deepest sympathies, I am afraid I must tell you to continue in your efforts to rebuild the riverbanks with reinforcements and dam the lake as best you can." Zelda remained the image of absolute serenity as she made her speech, but her tone carried with it a weight of knowledge and understanding that could not be argued with.
The Zora paused a moment, his mouth opened to disagree, but his tongue failed him, and he had neither the strength nor courage to stand against Hyrule’s sacrosanct princess.
"You may leave and return to your home." She dismissed him coolly, but with eyes that sang of sadness. The Zora representative swallowed back his frustration, and made a curt bow before gathering his entourage and exiting the royal court.
The great doors swung shut and the hall stood empty of guests, courtiers and guards. Zelda fell back into her throne with a heavy sigh, and pressed her gloved fingertips to her temples where a golden circlet pinched her. She closed her eyes, and felt them sting with lack of sleep.
"Oh, Impa....." she whispered "whatever am I going to do...?"
The tall figure of her attendant stepped out from the shadow behind the princess' gilt chair. Standing at her side, Impa placed a firm hand upon Zelda's white shoulder.
"You're doing all you can, my Lady. Anything more is beyond reason."
"But my people are still in trouble..."
"A little flooding will not harm the people pf Hyrule, Highness. Do try not to fret."
"But Impa, if this rain continues as it does, soon the crops in the field will be ruined beyond salvation, the water will become polluted; the lake will become stagnant. My people will starve..." Zelda's voice became strained to the point of breaking.
"Princess, calm yourself" Impa exclaimed, dropping to her knee beside her princess. "It will not come to that!"
"Oh, Impa!" Zelda sobbed "I wish I could believe that! But how can we know? It's been over a month since Link left us at the castle, and the storm has shown no signs of clearing. What if he's failed? He's so far away...I can't feel him any more." Fat tears spilled from her watery eyes and rolled down her silken cheeks. "I can’t see him in my dreams! I look and I look, but there is nothing but a black abyss before my eyes. What’s happening Impa? Where is he?!” She hid her face in her palms as words gave way to weeping.
Impa gathered the distraught princess to her, and held her frail form tightly.
“Hush, my child, hush…He will come.” She soothed.
“But I can’t! My dreams-” Zelda choked.
“Will return” Impa confirmed, pressing the girl’s cheek to her breast so that Zelda might not see her concerned frown. “Court is done for the day, now you must go to your chamber and rest. Link will return. He will come home.”
“Home” Link repeated.” as in, the place where you live; where you hang up your boots, ‘where your heart is’…?” Link ran finger around the rim of his now empty bowl.
She just looked at him, licking his fingers Link waited patiently for an answer. Her eyes shifted about the room then back to him, as if that were her reply.
“So this is your home, just you. No one else?” he pressed again. The girl gave him the same blank stare before her eyebrows puckered slightly and she nodded slowly at him. He wasn’t sure, but it was either that this woman didn’t speak Hylian, or she thought Link was very stupid. Conversation was forced, like he was trying to communicate through a pane of glass, and she was constantly reluctant to answer him.
“Have you…always lived here, Rhobyien?”
He stumbled over her name.
“Rhobyen” She corrected.
Her voice escaped her throat in a hoarse whisper, like silk being pulled over broken glass. A low gravely rumble. Link wondered how long it had been since she last made a sound.
“Robiien” He tried again.
“Rhobyen” She rolled her R’s
“Rrrob-biin” He tried to copy her sound.
“Rob-yn” She said it again for him.
Her mouth twitched, and she nodded graciously at him. He paused.
“You’re not from Hyrule are you? Your voice, the accent, it’s, errh, well, I’ve not heard anything like it before. But- you understand what I’m saying, don’t you?” another small nod from Robyn, Link nodded back “right, right,” he continued “so, I can’t help but wonder how in Hyrule did you get up here?”
Robyn kept her lips pressed shut as she busied herself with tidying up pots.
“So… you understand Hylian. But you don’t speak it? Is that right? Din give me strength, where under the heavens did you come from? Please, tell me. Why won’t you answer my questions?” Link swung his legs over the side of his bunk to face her, his hands gripping the edge.
“With your tongue so busy asking questions, however will you hear the answers you seek?”
It was the most Robyn had ever spoken in all the days she had cared for Link. She spoke with such bluntness it stunned him into silence for a moment, his mouth slackened as he tried to comprehend what she had just said.
“I...” Link stammered. Robyn pressed her fingers firmly to her lips to signal him into silence. His cheeks flushed pink and his slunk back into his bed, afraid to make another sound, least he insult her or be reprimanded again. Her voice was very strange to his ears. There was something about it that sounded odd, yet familiar. Thinking hard it actually sounded reminiscent of the old sage Raru; the tone and rhythm in which she spoke held the same archaic twang. Impa practised it too on occasion, whenever she read aloud to Princess Zelda from ancient books about times long since past. He would have liked to hear it again, but they spent the rest of the night in silence.
Still in the process of recovery, Link fell asleep early, leaving Robyn sat by the fire sharpening a long hunting knife. He was surprised when he awoke the next morning, to find she wasn’t there. The fire had died down to a dull glow and even with numerous furs and blankets, Link could feel the artic chill drift through the small house. The candle in the window was still alight, but burnt down low, molten wax dribbling down the sill. The door, like before was locked, and the room was silent. Link sat himself up, swinging his legs over the bunk and stretched. Pain shot down his shoulder, and his stomach convulsed with a sharp pang. He doubled over clutching at the pain and looked down at himself. He was dressed in soft breeches and a long faded green tunic that did not belong to him, lifting it up he found that his middle had been bound in strips of linen dressing. His arm and shoulder too; where the Wolfos had sunk his teeth into his flesh, were also bandaged. His body had been extremely beaten leaving him very bruised and sore and having lain in bed for so long, his muscles were extremely stiff. He made to stand, and at that exact moment the latch on the door lifted. Robyn stepped through the small door dressed in her furs just in time to see the invalid Hylian’s legs give way beneath him. Link fell and she lunged forward to catch him, dropping the brace of rabbits she had been carrying. She staggered slightly under his weight, but supported easily him and set him back on the bed. The blood rushed from Link’s head and dizziness stole his vision. Robyn clutched his head as she knelt down before him and caught his gaze until he focused. When the room stopped spinning and Link found himself looking into a pair of steady green eyes, he let out a breath he didn’t know he’s been holding.
“Thank you” he whispered breathlessly.
Her face its usual impassive mask Robyn stood, but a thumb passed softly over his cheek as her hands dropped. His eyes followed her as she set about hanging the rabbits, ready to be skinned later.
Link rolled his shoulders, gently flexing them to try and alleviate a little of the tension, but his left shoulder was too painful, this annoyed him because he could feel his arm turn into a prickling numbness from not having moved enough over the past days. Yet before he realised it, without any seeming signal, Robyn pulled off her heavy gloves and came over to him. Kneeling upon the bed, she patted the space before her, gesturing for him to sit before her. With the efficiency of nurse, Robyn drew the furs about Link’s legs to keep him warm before smoothly easing the tunic over his head to revel his bruised and bandaged back. She warmed her hands by rubbing them vigorously together before placing them upon his back. Almost intuitively she worked out the knots in his muscles within a matter of minutes. The pain eased, and as she worked away so did a portion of the stress that Link had carried up the mountain with him from Hyrule. He felt it melt away from him like ice melting in sunlight. He relaxed for the first time. Robyn’s hands slid from his shoulders up his neck and around his head. He could feel her dexterous fingers plough tentatively through his matted locks of golden hair. His skull throbbed dully, and as Robyn pressed her thumbs gently against the back of his cranium he hissed sharply in pain. Robyn briefly stroked the side of his head by means of an apology, before turning her attention to rearranging his bandages.
Continuing to check her patient, Robyn traced a red raw scar that was starting to heal nicely over his shoulder and collarbone; she tilted his head back to rest on her shoulder as she adjusted a bandage to cover it. Link looked up at her cool face.
“You saved my life. Thank you” he said quietly.
Robyn nodded graciously but her lips opened; “Save your thanks for the Goddesses” she murmured.
Link wanted to protest, but he was starting to realise that words meant nothing to Robyn, and did little but irritate her, and so he held his tongue and nodded.
The next few days, were very much the same. The two hardly shared three words between each other during the time that Robyn was in the hut. Link would always fall asleep first, still occupying the only bed, leaving Robyn to busy herself with various ends of household maintenance; sharpening this; polishing that, cleaning, repairing, she always seemed to have something that would occupy her time. Yet whenever he woke up in the morning, she was no where to be seen. The candle the window was always alight though, and once he had found a pile of furs strewn by the embers in the hearth that Link assumed had been her makeshift bed. She would return by midday, or early evening at the latest, carrying the various fruits of her hunt, looking windswept and pink faced from the cold.
Link had learned not to force conversation between himself and the hermit. Idle chit chat did nothing but produce frowns upon Robyn’s face, and before he need ask for anything, Robyn would have seen to it before Link even thought to enquire. It was almost alarming the way she could read him, and distinctly unfair as Link was still trying desperately to better understand his host.
After the four days of this routine, the constant silence was starting to get to Link. He was desperate for simple, civilized talk. He had been quiet for so long he was starting to believe he was hearing voices on the wind, or in the crackling of the fire. He longed for the busy bustle of the town and the crowds of people; the chatty atmosphere of the Ranch; curse it, he even longed to sit in on the royal court again! With his strength returning, Link and Robyn were sat on the floor by the fire eating their evening meal together, when he snapped.
Robyn was focused deeply on the glow of the flames when he slammed his bowl down on the floor.
“Triforce turn black! How can you stand this?! Why won’t to talk to me? I don’t understand, why must we always sit in silence? It’s driving me mad! We’re the only two on this forsaken mountain that isn’t hospitable enough for a Wolfos to shit on, and yet you refused to open your mouth to me? What in heaven’s name is wrong with you, woman?! Are you so simple? Din be damned! Which goddess can be so cruel as to have lead me to this silent torture?”
A pair of blazing emerald eyes clocked him before Robyn struck him down. The back of her hand found his cheekbone with surprising speed and vehemence. Link fell back to his elbows in shock, a large red mark spreading itself across his cheek as he stared at Robyn in disbelief. He had never been hit by a woman before and he had to check himself not to retaliate. Robyn was on her knees before him, her teeth gritted and her eyes on fire.
“Never are you to speak ill of the Goddesses!” She hissed, breathing heavily she continued “What gall you possess! To speak thus, in my house! You desecrate my ears with your blasphemy. Now hold your tongue.”
Link pushed himself upright to face her. “I will not!” he growled back. “It is holding my tongue that driven me to blaspheme! And what is more, it appears to be the only way to gain a rise out of you, you lonely spinster!”
“How dare you?” Robyn’s face turn pale and her voice shook with anger. “After all I have done for you! Saving you from the snow, bringing you into my home, nursing you to health! And you do not have courtesy enough to respect the sanctity of this land!!” Robyn had even started raising her voice, “Do you hear him my goddesses?!” She thrust her palms up towards the ceiling, reaching to the heavens “What kind of man have you delivered to me?!”
“I never asked for your help!” Link interrupted her.
“No? From the moment you stepped a foot on this mountain have you not been crying out for help? You have been making such a raucous all this time what would you have me do?”
“I came to stop the rain!” He argued.
“Wrong! You came because the Goddesses called you!”
Link slumped back as he processed this idea. “What?” he murmured quietly.
“Never have I met a creature as noisome as you.” Robyn muttered “Even while you sleep your mouth refuses to rest.” She shot him a cruel glance “You have forgotten what I told you. I do not like to repeat myself. So please, hold your tongue and let your ears work for once. If you listen, you will have no need to disturb the divine silence with your insignificant questions!” And with that, Robyn leapt to her feet and flew out the room with barely a pause to throw on her fur coat leaving Link alone once again.
As soon as the latch fell on the outside of the door, Link pounded the floor with his fist and screamed. He let the sound rip through his throat and relished as it reverberated about the small walls he was encased in. His cheek was hot and stung where he had let the girl strike him and it made him mad. He howled and he yelled; he hollered in frustration but more than anything he bawled to spite the woman who had lectured the Hero of Time about the word of the Goddesses.
The sun had set on the mountains, and the flurries of snow concealed the light of the stars, yet the snow capped peaks seemed to glow with a light of their very own. Inside the small stone house hidden in the depths of the hills, a hero lay on the floor still and quiet, staring into the dull embers of dying fire.
He had screamed himself hoarse, and so he sat alone pondering the words the strange ranger had given him. The warm glow of the fire reflected in his glassy blue eyes as the flames danced before him. He sighed silently.
“What am I doing here?” the question raced around his mind chased by thoughts of the Goddesses, Zelda and the storm. The clues were there for him, if he could only piece it together.
He thought back to the day the storm began. It was such an unnatural occurrence something had to be out of balance. But what? Impa had had encouraged Link to trust in his instincts, and Zelda had confirmed the order to investigate.
For a moment Link almost believed he saw a flicker of her image in the flame. His poor princess had been so troubled as of late, with taking on ever more royal duties as avatar of the kingdom Link knew it had resulted in troubled sleep. The fire gave a loud pop, breaking the silence and startling Link. He shuddered. So long without talking resulted in the smallest sounds resounding like explosions in his ears. He looked at the fire again, but it glowed dull and innocent.
His thoughts trailed back to the palace and Zelda. He hated seeing her troubled; she had always been such a strong figure, her good judgment and grace never failed to inspire him.
“I’ve never seen the princess cry before, not even when she was dreaming premonitions about the evil Lord’s rise…” Link mumbled, and the fire crackled suddenly again, and an idea stuck Link as abruptly as the flames had jumped.
“If Zelda is having trouble sleeping, the surely she must have trouble dreaming.” The embers answered him by bursting into a patch of orange flame. “But that’s absurd! Her highness has always dreamt! She is Hyrule’s first line of defense is predicting danger… What would happen to Hyrule if she….?” Link fell silent as the fire exploded within the hearth into a roaring blaze of green flames forcing him to shield his eyes a moment.
“…My…Goddess?” Link murmured.
The wind whispered through the draughty windowpane and tugged gently at his hair.
“I must be dreaming” He thought.
“No, not dreaming” a voice within his head corrected him.
“Then I must be delirious. I’m seeing things.”
“Everything you see is perfectly within nature’s reasons. You are merely opening you’re eyes to what your heart has always known.”
“What in Hyrule does that mean?”
“Your faith Link, You had forgotten to listen to the goddess within you, the world around you. You were becoming lost within your day to day life and began to neglect your religion. That is why you are here.”
“The rain is because of me?”
“But it’s connected”
“Your faith will lead you to the answers you seek. The ranger will help you”
“What are you?”
“I am the part of you that you have forgotten to heed. But I am always with you.”
* * * * * *
The storms outside had waned and the frosty light of the stars could finally be seen sparkling upon the glittering snow that blanketed the mountainous land. Some flakes still fell, as large as and soft as the feathers of cuckoos, but the wind had dropped and the mountains were engulfed in a silence so serene it was as if sound had never existed. Link was motionless within the little house, wrapped up in a fur he sat inert before the hearth, the flames long since dead, his breath turned to fog before his mouth, too terrified of disturbing stillness to stir.
The latch lifted, and the familiar sound of heavy boots clomped softly behind Link. He spun his head around snatching a breath. Robyn looked at him with gentle eyes; he opened his mouth to apologise but couldn’t bring himself to sound the words. Instead he closed his lips, and returned her gaze with one of regret. Without shedding her coat Robyn went to kneel by his side, she wrapped her chilblained fingers about his cheeks and kissed his cold forehead with frosty lips. Link slipped his hands under Robyn’s fur skins and about her leather jerkin clad body returning the embrace, surprised to find out how warm she was.
“I’m sorry” Link said in a voice that was barely a whisper. Robyn stroked his head and brushed a finger over his lips to quieten him, she nodded gently.
“Do not try to explain” She spoke in a voice no louder than his, “I understand. You find difficulty in hearing the Goddesses around. Therefore I will be the translator for you. There is much that needs to be explained and considered.” She sat back on her heels and pulled off her cloak to sit on and went to stoke the fire, placing a kettle on to boil, she discarded her wet outer layers, and turned to Link.
“Tonight, we talk.” She announced.
* * * * * * * * * * *
The house was filled with the warmth and glow of the ever blazing fire, burning happier than ever, and Robyn had replaced the candle on the sill and so it burned merrily with fresh long wick. Link respected Robyn’s silence and remained quiet as she lit a long stick of incense from the coals of the fire, before settling down to their evening meal.
“Now,” Robyn said in a mild tone of voice “where would you like to begin?” she asked as she poured out hot tea into small clay cups.
Link opened his mouth with his first instinct to ask about the source of the storm, but he checked himself, and found himself asking “Where did you come from?” And for once, Robyn did not frown, or look confused or even insulted. She sipped her tea calmly and spoke in the same relaxed tone as before.
“I have always been here. I am one of many that form a great clan. We live amongst the mountains, no creature is as close to the Heaven as we, save for the kestrels. We have always been here- since that time the histories began to be written. We are a people devoted entirely to the golden lore of the Triforce and of the three Golden Deities. Our sole purpose is to listen and to serve as They see fit. But in the more recent of centuries-” Link was a little surprised to hear Robyn use the term centuries so lightly “- the inhabitants of the lower lands have grown more curious, and more greedy, and started to seek paths. They venture through the mountains in search of wealth or fame. Too many fail to realise how the mountain will reject them, and so it has fallen to my family to preserve the lives that the Goddesses have given, and ensure they have safe return to their homes.” Link listened intently as Robyn spoke, determined to take in every word of her softly lilting Hylian, broken and jilted as it was, heavy with an ancient accent.
“You speak of family, but aren’t you the only one here?” Link asked.
Robyn nodded and sipped her tea “Yes. No one lives here but I.”
“So where are your family?”
“When I came of age, I had been taught all I needed to maintain my life amongst the mountains. They left me to my duty.” She spoke without a trace of sadness.
“They abandoned you on the mountain?” Link was mildly horrified.
“I had been taught all I needed to maintain my life.” She repeated solidly “Provisions had been made, and I could sustain them. I am well provided for. I was not abandoned.” She said firmly.
“But where did they go? Are you not lonely?” Link felt his heart out go to the woman for a moment in pity. Link had never known parents, but he had always known the love and support of a family through guidance from the Great Deku Tree and the friendships of the Kokiri.
“I am not alone”. Robyn grew stern again. “How can you forget that the Goddesses are always with me, as they are with you?” She was beginning to sound rather put out, but sipped her tea and controlled herself. “I do not know where my family are. But I believe they are still around- amongst the various mountain ranges of Hyrule.”
“How do you know if they’re still alive?” the question was out of his lips before Link knew he had spoken.
Suddenly there was sadness in Robyn’s eyes as if she had truly never questioned the mortality of her blood relations before. She seemed at a loss for a reply for a moment. But placing her cup on the floor she blinked slowly and the sadness was gone as soon as it had come. “I do not know.” She answered. “But I have faith.”
Link sighed and stared at the girl. It was useless to pity her, or to console her for it was clear she felt no loss. But he couldn’t help but think that Robyn was desperately missing something vital in her life, the pleasure of simple human companionship. Yet as he was growing to understand his host, he was beginning to realise it would be useless to argue with her, and so he pursed his lips and nodded solemnly.
Robyn’s lips twitched in a faint smile as she took this to signal Links understanding and continued.
“Do you have another question?” She asked cheerfully.
Link sighed softly, as he tried to get his mind around the idea that this bright young woman had doomed herself to a life of solitude, and would eventually die alone on a cold mountain. It choked him somewhere inside to imagine her as a frail old woman trapped inside her hut with hungry braying Wolfos clawing outside. With Robyn sat in front him, her bright keen eyes shinning in friendship before him, he look away to the wall.
Amongst the various animal skins the walls of Robyn’s home were adorned with the oddest collection of weaponry Link had ever seen. Keen to try and change the subject he glanced at her again.
“Where did you find all these?” he asked.
“I collected them from the mountain”
“You mean you just find these kind of things lying around?”
“No. To collect objects such as these, one has to slay the beast that carries it first”
“I thought you only killed Wolfos?”
“I kill whatever is necessary. In this part of the mountain, the side of the rising sun, it is Wolfos. But it is not so for all of this mountain range. The side of the mountain on which the sun sets, there are other beasts. And the further away from heaven one descends, the more monsters one will encounter no matter which side of the mountain you walk.”
“You know what’s on the other side of the mountain?!” Link asked excitedly, his ears perking up.
“Land” she answered.
Link’s face fell.
“You’ve never been to it, have you?” He asked somewhat crestfallen, as he felt the opportunity of finding the source of the storm start to slip away from him.
“No.” she confirmed. “But I have seen it. And beyond the land there is water, a vastness of water that I fear”
Link perked his brow “You fear it? Why?”
“Because where the water begins, land ends and so does the kingdom of the goddesses”
“A place you could never live…” Link continued.
“Correct” Robyn sipped her tea again, unfazed by the topic of conversation. Link scratched his head and he began to slowly piece together Robyn’s character. He smirked a moment as an amusing thought passed briefly through his head.
“I suppose that means you don’t like fishing”
“When spring melts the snow and rivers swell again, fish are bountiful in some regions of this mountain, and are a good source of food” Robyn sniffed and sipped her tea disapprovingly at his tone.
“That’s not fishing.” Link grinned. “A mountain river? You can’t really fish in a mountain river, the waters not deep enough. I bet you use a net don’t you?”
Robyn looked down at him suspiciously “how else would one capture fish?”
Link laughed for the first time since he set foot on the mountain. “With a rod” he answered. Robyn looked confused. “A long pole… With a line and a hook on the end?” From her expression, Link could tell Robyn had never seen one before. He chuckled again. “I’ll show you one day.” He said lightly.
“It requires vast water?” Robyn asked.
“Well, deep water, yes”
Robyn paused a moment before shifting uncomfortably “I do not like the sound of that”
Link looked at Robyn and chuckled.
“Why do you laugh?” She asked sternly
“It amuses me to think that you’d be afraid of Lake Hylia when you’re brave enough to fight all these monsters” Link gestured to the walls of weaponry again.
“I did not fight them. I am not a warrior. I hunted them. I am a hunter” She said hotly.
“There’s a difference?” Link found it doubtful where monsters were concerned.
“How?” Link challenged her, folding his arms.
“You are a warrior.” Robyn spoke accusingly “You engage in battle head on and take delight in the struggle. I do not.”
Link didn’t care for the tone Robyn was using.
“Oh,” he replied “so you rather take the cowardly approach? Now I understand”
“No. I take the wisely approach”
“You think bravery is not wise?”
“Next time you are alone on Wolfos Mountain you will have a choice, warrior’s way or hunter’s way. Please, choose your warrior way. Then we shall see who is right and who is dead.” Robyn said dryly looking into her cup. She glanced up and saw the insulted look in Link’s face. “I am not to say the warrior does not have his place in combat. Against a fellow man it is the honourable way.” she continued “ Were you and I to stand against each other on the battlefield of war, I would stand little to no chance of victory.” Robyn saw Link’s hostility fade and his pride begin to swell, as he drank his tea comforted.
“Of course” Robyn added slyly “if your elimination was a means of necessity out of the Warfield, Goddess would not grant you a chance.” Link snapped his eyes onto Robyn unsure of whether to believe the idea that Robyn may have just tried to make a joke.
Her eyes looked back from behind the tea she drank, shining with light he had not seen in them before. Link grinned at her and laughed softly into his cup.
“You have still yet to ask me the most import of questions.”
Link sighed. He knew that he was letting personal curiosity get in the way of his heroic duty but he hadn’t been able to contain his questions about Robyn’s history.
“But I-” Link protested. Robyn glared him down.
“Alright,” He daren’t put it off any longer. “What do you know about this…storm?”
“No more than you do.”
Link had learnt by now not to become irritated at Robyn’s seemingly simple answers, he had finally come to recognise that Robyn never spoke without a purpose. She wasn’t being deliberately ignorant with her reply, he knew that. But it didn’t stop him from still being confused. He paused a moment, and tried to work it out for himself. When he decided he couldn’t, he looked to her in the hopes she might elaborate.
Robyn sighed gently, and placed her hands upon her knees as she knelt, and sat upon her heels. It was the same pose her father used to adopt when teaching her as a child, and she adopted it now as she set about to try and guide Link to his answer.
“The weather.” She began, “It is…”
“Unseasonable.” Link confirmed, as he had done with Impa before.
Robyn nodded. “And what does this tell us?”
“I don’t know,” Link answered too quickly, and Robyn scowled like a sour old school mistress.
“That is because you do not listen!” she hissed, and Link was sure from her tone of voice alone that had Robyn actually been a school mistress she would severely liked to beat him with her stick.
Link’s cheeks flushed with being scolded like a naughty boy and determined to redeem himself he set his mind to thinking back on everything he had heard since arriving on the mountains. Talking with Robyn he had found himself distracted by her history, but now he concentrated. What had been that voice he had heard?
“The voice in the fire…” Link began.
“In the fire?” Robyn checked him.
“Yes. No. Wait. Not in the fire more… inside my head”
Robyn nodded in understanding, and waited for him to continue.
“It was… it said…it was part of me” Link furrowed his brow in disbelief as he said it out loud “it was…” he couldn’t think of the right word, he glanced up at Robyn who leaned in closer towards him, silently willing him to speak what he knew was true. “The Goddess” He blinked as he said it, surprised at the conviction with which he spoke, and Robyn’s face lit up.
“Correct” she whispered and touched his hand lightly. Link felt a slight shudder as her fingertips brushed over the back his hand, and glanced down to where she traced the faint lines of the Triforce that were etched upon his skin. Her green eyes shone up at him, her lips curled in a gentle smile, the first real smile he had ever seen her wear, as she waited for him to continue. He stumbled slightly before he spoke again (that smile- it made her look so much younger).
“The storm is the work of the Goddesses?”
Robyn’s smile grew and she nodded. Link felt bemused to say the least. No monsters? No demons? No great evil? But why would the Goddesses cause such chaos for the land of Hyrule? Robyn read the confusion on his face instantly.
“Link, don’t you see? Why can’t you open you’re eyes to it? This is the answer you seek. It has been here all this time. It has been with you all this time only you could not hear it! The goddesses Link! Why won’t you listen to them?”
Suddenly it dawned on him.
“Oh sweet heavens. They’re talking to me?!”
Robyn threw back her head and gave jolly peal of laughter.
“My Ladies!” she cried as she looked up to the ceiling “I think you are finally getting through to the boy!” She laughed again and rocked her head back down to look him in the eye. “Yes Link! They are talking to you. Do you understand? All this time they have been trying to get you’re attention!”
It was Link’s turn to be silent for a moment. “But…why?”
Robyn groaned gently and tapped the side of his skull with her knuckles “stars give me strength…”she said “if I have had to say it once, I have had to say it a thousand times…Because you were not listening! That is ‘why’!”
“You mean to tell me, that this…ALL of this” He gestured to the window and the clouds that lay beyond it “Was just because I wasn’t listening? There is no imminent danger?!”
Robyn’s face turned grave again as she noted the frustration in Link’s voice. “Do not make it seem like so small a matter.” She said sternly “What greater crime can there be than ignoring one’s call to destiny.” She picked up his hand in both of hers and touched the Triforce mark it bore again. “I shall admit” she continued “When I first brought you here, I underestimated you; I was quick to judge you. But I was soon to learn from the Goddess of your valour, but that does not heal the fact I should have been more gracious to you than perhaps I was. Goddess grant that I may learn to be more forgiving of those that stumble onto these sacred lands.” She looked to his eyes with deep compassion. “But Link, you were brought here to learn understanding, and understanding I will grant to you. You are sacred Link. Blessed and chosen by the heavens. You bare the holy mark upon your flesh and so you are marked as avatar of the Goddess.” Robyn’s green eyes grew watery as she spoke, and she pulled her eyes away suddenly as she were looking at the sun itself in holding Link’s gaze, and pressed her lips to his hand. “Shinning Farore! Her essence breaths within you! Do not shut her out Link! Open your eyes and heart to her always. For the day when you ignore your calling, will be the day Hyrule falls into darkness.”
“But how do I prevent myself from shutting her out? Robyn, I had no idea! When did I slip away from her? I didn’t mean to!” Link protested innocently.
“No, of course you didn’t. But therein lays the danger. You do not train the body for a day, the muscles will not easily forget their strength. Temptation and idleness will lead you not to train tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. A week, and still your body is strong. But do not train for a year? What then? The body will forget. It is the same with your faith Link; once it was powerful within you, but peace in Hyrule has brought with it idleness.”
Link was suddenly filled with an overwhelming sense of guilt. “I’m so sorry…” he murmured, clutching her hand he blinked back his own tears.
Robyn smiled warmly and squeezed his hand tightly.
“I know” She whispered kindly. “And so do They.” She flicked her eyes up in gesture to the sky “They are not angry with you Link. That is why they brought you here, to awaken your mind to their presence again. All you need do now is find your balance. Between this land in which you live, and your sacred role as guardian of the Triforce of Courage.” She leant forward then and pressed her lips against his forehead. “It is not an easy life for you, but only you are strong enough to live it”
The black storm clouds still hung low in the skies of Hyrule, suffocating the land in a sinister blanket of rain. The clear waters of Lake Hylia ran dark with pollution and grime that torrential rivers had swept away from the towns and villages. In the field crops were beginning fail, struggling to grow in heavy waterlogged fields. In the Ranch horses trampled knee deep in mud throughout the corral, and the cows grew thin as stores of hay and fodder were continually ruined by damp.
Zelda sat, a weary figure, upon her throne in the darkness of Hyrule castle courtroom. Her eyes greyed and dull from fatigue, thin hands shrinking within silk gloves gripped the arms of her chair, and her crown rested heavily and low upon her head. For days she listen with compassion and sympathy to the hundreds that flocked to the courtroom’s door, each person a pale faced member of her kingdom worried, sick, starving and all of them begging for her help. But what could she do?
Link had been gone for over six weeks and still the land was suffering. The rain still poured, the sun still didn’t shine and Zelda still couldn’t dream. She had cried once, but the heavens were shedding more tears then she ever could, and so she sat. Tired, pale and weak but resolute, even though she was watching her kingdom fail.
For a long time there had been hundreds of subjects’ cueing at the entrance to her great hall, Hylian, Zora and Goron alike. All worried and anxious, all of the desperate for answers and all of them turned away. Eventually the inhabitants of Hyrule had accepted their lot, there was simply nothing more that the royal family could do, this storm was beyond help, and so people had to sit and watch as the flood waters rose, and the door to the castle drew quiet save for the ever present rumbles of thunder that cloaked the land.
The sudden noise then, of the heavy courtroom doors being thrown open, startled the faint heart of the princess, and she lifted her pale face to the assembly that marched possessively into the room before her.
A dozen Gerudo, their bright silken garb covered and protected back great swathes of dark cloth stood before her, each accompanied by a fierce looking guard. Upon reaching the foot of her throne, all dropped to their knees in respect. Impa took a step forward from her position in the shadow behind Zelda’s chair and asserted herself next to the princess, waiting. As if on cue a nervous looking attendant shot out from a small servant door in the side of the hall. Flustered and blushing he stammered an apology to the princess.
“You’re Highness!” He bowed low in his rush to her feet “begging your deepest apologies for this unannounced congregation! We tried to make them wait but...” nervous eyes flashed over the Gerudo and the little man gulped breathlessly “-they insisted on seeing you right away! I tried to-“
Zelda held up her hand to silence the fretful herald. Master of her own appearance, Zelda was shocked and silently alarmed at the abrupt intrusion of so many Gerudo, but her face was a mask of perfect calm and servility.
“It is quite alright; these people have come unarmed and wishing to talk. I will listen.” She waved the attendant away thought kept her eyes fixed upon the party before her, still kneeling and silent.
Once the anxious man had hurried off again, with only a single worried glance at the Gerudo, the party stood up and presented itself.
“You’re royal highness!” the leader of the group took a step forward, and removed the customary thin Gerudo veil from her mouth before she spoke. “We come to you, by word of the honourable Nabooru, as representatives of the great Gerudo race of the Desert Colossus and Gerudo Fortress. We are here to inform you that the Gerudo are aware of the plight Hyrule is in concerning the preternatural storms and stand by your side, as ruler of Hyrule, to serve and assist you in your time of need.” The woman bowed sharply upon finishing her speech. Zelda remained silent but nodded slowly. Upon realising the princess was not about to speak, the Gerudo continued.
“I am Noume,” she bowed again, “and with this news I also present to you our Gerudo offering to show you our loyalty and concern for the people of Hyrule. Krouin!” Noume snapped her fingers and one of the dark clothed figures bowed and stepped backward from the crowd to exit the hall, only to return a second later followed by another dozen Gerudo, each carrying two large sacks upon their shoulders apiece. Leading the gift bearers up to the princess, Krouin began to speak.
“You’re highness, here we bring you a mere token of the supplies we offer to help feed your people in this time of fam-“
“Stop!” Zelda rose suddenly her eyes suddenly regaining a flicker of their old life as she felt alarm bells ringing inside her head. “Remove your hood.” She commanded.
The Gerudo Krouin paused a moment, before pulling back the dark shroud that had been used to protect from the rain. Zelda’s eyes widened and her hands gripped tightly the arms of the chair behind her. Impa took a step forward, her hand around the handle of the kodachi blade that was strapped across her hips.
“What is the meaning of this?” Zelda demanded as she stared at the male Gerudo before her.
Krouin lowered his eyes from the princess in shame, and Noume quickly stepped up.
“Highness! It is not what you think! Krouin here is not of Gerudo blood, you have no threat of a desert king before you. Pray, see him for the man he is…” Noume pulled Krouin forward to the base of Zelda’s throne, and thrust him forward. “Has he the flaming hair, or golden eyes of our clan? No. Nor are his ears round and shapely like those of my sisters!”
“Silence” Zelda snapped, “Let him speak for himself. Who are you young man?”
Krouin looked up, and Zelda assessed his features. Although the lower half of his face was covered in a dark Gerudo fashioned mask, she could see his eyes were two inky black orbs within heavy lidded sockets, his hair so deep brown it looked almost jet in the shadows and pulled back from his face to reveal a pair of ears that were, indeed, not the small rounded shape of the Gerudo, but two shrivelled flaps of flesh upon either side of his head.
“You’re majesty” He murmured earnestly. “I am not, as Noume says, of Gerudo birth, but I am a child of Gerudo heart.” Zelda’s eyes did not ease in their suspicion. “I was born of a Hylian mother and father” he continued, “but orphaned not two winters after I was born, and left upon the brink of the desert, where the Gerudo found me. They have raised me and loved me, and I stand as testament to their kindness and good heart.” He bowed low before her, his nose but inches above the marble floor. Zelda released her grip on the chair, and Impa let her hands rest by her sides, but neither took their eyes from the bowing figure before them.
“Your ears?” Zelda asked bluntly.
“A defect from birth, highness, one that has cause me shame and pain in equal measures throughout my life and interactions with other Hylians.” He looked up to meet the princess’ eye “Not all people in Hyrule are as embracing as the Gerudo.” He added solemnly.
Zelda was silent a moment, her quick eyes studying the man before her, and the Gerudo entourage waited with bated breath. At length Zelda sat down again.
“I am sorry to hear of your sad tale, master Krouin, but it gives me pleasure and great hope for all the people of Hyrule that you have still been able to find a family within the Gerudo tribe. Mistress Noume, I offer you my humblest gratitude for your generous offer and kind support on behalf of your tribe. Your gifts are most welcome and will be greatly appreciated amongst the people of Hyrule town. Pray, pass these words on to the honourable Nabooru and tell her on my part, that I hope relations between Gerudo and Hylian may continue to strengthen and flourish.”
The Gerudo bowed lowly as a group before the princess in acceptance of her words.
“Your highness is most magnanimous. And let it be known that although Hyrule is suffering, while the desert continues to prosper throughout the rain, all that bears fruit and blossoms for Gerudo shall be shared with Hylian, Goron, and Zora alike.”
Zelda bowed her head, and smiled gently in acceptance, before dismissing them from the great hall and the Gerudo left as smartly as they had entered.
“A male among the Gerudo?” Said Impa, who had not moved, nor taken her eyes from Krouin even as he had left the hall. “And not of native blood? Such a rarity.”
“Indeed” agreed Zelda, “but it gladdens my heart. Truly we are no longer in the dark days of war and fear of the deserts shadow.”
“The princess was most grateful, my leader, she sends her deepest thanks and Hyrule is in your debt.”
“We are helping our allies, nay, rather our friends in their time of need Noume, ‘debt’ does not feature in these liaisons” Nabooru glanced a little coldly towards her subject. “And what about you, Krouin? How did the princess find you?”
“A more understanding and as compassionate a leader Hyrule could not hope for, My lady, except for perhaps yourself” Nabooru pulled a face at Krouin’s attempt at flattery, but didn’t interrupt him “she heard my whole tale and accepted me into her heart, truly she has gifted by the gods, for she is able to see into the true hearts of men as well as the future.”
Nabooru nodded, “Indeed, Zelda is wise. Understand me Krouin when I say that I did not doubt your heart when you first entered into our clan. I did not place you before the princess of Hyrule to test your loyalty or goodness, but I felt no reason to keep your existence within our clan a secret. The whole world may now know that I call you brother.” Nabooru stepped down from her chair and stood before Krouin, laying her hand resolutely upon his shoulder. He bowed his head in respect, and she smiled at him before patting his arm firmly. “You’ve done well, brother. Sister.” She nodded at Noume, “now, if you’ll excuse me, I have business to attend to at the temple” With a last smile, she left the two alone in the small meeting room.
Krouin turned to face Noume and looked her in the eyes.
“In what manner?” he asked, folding his strong arms across his chest.
“You know full well!” Noume narrowed her eyes “you lied to the princess about when you came to our clan!”
“Dear sister. I did not hear you raise this concern when we stood before her royal highness or out esteemed leader…” Although his mouth was still hidden, Noume could see Krouin was smirking as he spoke.
“Damn you. What would it have made our clan look like if I denounced your words before the princess? How would we have looked as a people if I accused one of our own as a liar when our group was picked to show the princess what a strong and united force we Gerudo are? How would it have made you look? Perhaps I should have taken more warning from the marking upon your lips…”
Krouin moved and took hold of Noume’s chin, brining his own head close to hers he pulled down the half mask to reveal his entire face. “I haven’t heard you complain about my lips before…” he spoke in a low voice that sent little shivers over Noume’s skin despite her anger, his scarred lips all but brushing against her skin.
“No.” Noume blushed in spite of herself, “But maybe the family that cut the cross onto your mouth had good reason after all. You’ve lied this once. What proof do you have that you haven’t done so before in your life?” Noume could feel Krouin stiffen in anger before her, his grip on her face tightened, and his eyes bore down into hers with a sense menace she had not seen in him before. With a sudden jerk, he thrust her back against the wall and pinned her there.
“How dare you?” he hissed. “I explained myself to you and your people once before, I will not do so again!! Yes, I concealed a portion of the truth from the princess Zelda, I had my reasons! So what? I’d love to see you report this to Nabooru! In not speaking up, you’re a part of the lie too! Would you like us both punished for this?” He glared at her. She glared back with equal fierceness in her eyes, but didn’t answer. Krouin let his grip loosen. “You have fire, Sister Noume, I like it, but do not let it burn out your common sense…” He stroked the side of her face before catching it up into a deep kiss. She didn’t fight him.
The rain had raged against Hyrule without rest for over six weeks, and although some days the rain eased in its torrents the clouds had not yet broken. Some days the rain came as daggers from the sky, heavy, sharp and unforgiving, other days it clung low to the sodden ground, covering the land in thick wet fog, but the sun had still not shone all this time, and the mainland of Hyrule grew more desperate with every passing day. Rivers were bursting their banks, and bridges had collapsed. Hylians and Zoras alike had suffered losses, and no one had seen the Gorons in weeks, it was believed they had all withdrew deep into the mountains and closed themselves off from the rest of the world. And while all these thoughts ravaged the princess’ mind night and day, she sought small solace in the fact that relations between Hylians and Gerudo were blossoming beautifully. And so was the desert.
What had once been a wasteland that held nothing but death and bitter winds was flourishing into a glorious oasis. The Gerudo were prospering as never before, and were generous with all they reaped. It wasn’t long before the majority Hyrule were all but dependant upon the Gerudo trade to bring them the grain and foodstuffs needed to live, rather than the usual luxurious spices and jewels. This shift in trade had gone largely unnoticed, and seemed of little consequence, so long as people were being fed and could survive, they cared little where their food came from. And thus did the kingdom attempt to continue in its day to day routine, unaware of the danger they were allowing themselves to slip into.
Robyn was tired. She sat on the edge of the bunk in her little home, the only light coming from the small candle burning on the sill that attempted to push back some of the night time darkness with its stuttering flame. Link lay next to her, almost invisible in the gloom as he slept, but she could hear the soft breathing of the heavy sleeper loud and clear, impossible for her to ever forget that she wasn’t alone. She needed to clear her thoughts; she needed the clarity of silence. She sighed, and turned her head to where she knew Link to be. She knew she had to help this boy, this strange and special young man, but how? The Goddess within her was difficult to hear when she was constantly distracted by his presence. She knew she had to take this moment of opportunity to go out onto the still, sleeping mountain, to the sacred space and ask the goddess for guidance. And yet, and she began to soundlessly dress herself in her outer snow layers and heard Link snore, she found herself pausing, watching him. For as long as she could remember she had never spent so many nights in the company of one person. It was frustrating, his continuous want for talk, and tedious conversation, for so many answers to irrelevant questions, showing little or no respect herself or the mountain. And yet despite all that, in some strange and alien way, Robyn found she liked the boy. She enjoyed coming home to another face, one that was happy, and would greet her. Link turned over in his sleep and gave another loud snore. Robyn rolled her eyes and shook her head, but found herself smiling in spite of it.
“This is no good” she said to herself as she left, “he will have to go” Robyn then promptly pinched herself hard for speaking out loud.
The mountain was thick with silence and snow. Heavy flakes fell without sound and covered the mountain in a blanket so pale and perfect, it give the landscape its own luminescent glow that rivalled the moon. Soundlessly Robyn walked, basking in the tangible stillness, barely daring to breath least the fog of her breath disrupt the peace. Further and further she went seemingly without any sense of direction, her head bowed low close to her chest as the snow piled up upon her back. Yet she had walked this mountain for more winters than she could remember, and her feet could find the way without fail even without her eyes to see it. She did not measure time, but had she gazed up to seen the moon through the breaks in the cloud, she would have seen it had travelled high up into the night sky before she finally stopped. She rested at the highest peak she knew, sat, and listened.
Alone at last in the in the sacred peace of the mountain she closed her eyes and let her mind free itself from the thoughts the cold, the pain the ice forming in her boots and the frost on her nose and gave herself over the silence, as waited for the voice of the goddess.
Her eyes shot open suddenly and her hand gripped at the stony ground beside her and she steadied herself, waking from her meditation in a ferocity she had not known before. She could feel her chest labouring for breath under her many layers of leather and fur before her ears finally tuned in to the sound of the physical world around her. Snow had all but covered her she had been still for so long, but now she leapt to her feet and flew back down the mountain, her long strides leaving heavy gashes in the snow where previous she had left barely a footprint.
“Wake now” came a firm and solid voice into Link’s ear. He stirred slowly, eyes adjusting to the dim light.
“What time is it?” he murmured through a stifled yawn.
“Awake!” Robyn said again, pushing his arm with a cold hand
“Ah! I’m awake! Robyn you’re hands are like ice! What are you-?”
“Dress” Robyn commanded as she began throwing random layers of clothing at Link as he sat up in bed. “We must move.”
“What, now? Is it even morning?” Link asked as he pulled a long sleeved shirt over his head.
“I have kept you here too long already….” Robyn paused and wrung her hands, biting down on her lip in an internalised rage, before continuing to search for clothing. “I blame myself...” She said through gritted teeth. “You will need this” she said, throwing Link yet another shirt to wear under his tunic.
Link stood up and began to dress himself as Robyn hurried all over the hut, gatherings furs and clothes. As he fastened up his tunic Robyn began strapping furs to his legs.
“You know… I’ve been dressing myself since I was four…” he said, tightening his belt looking down at her sceptically.
“I have been dressing your wounds since you came. You will not be frozen on the mountain again”
Link was tempted to laugh, but she looked up at him with all seriousness, and he thought better of it, and allowed her to wrap his body up in furs until he resembled a figure dressed much like her own. Fur lined his boots and gloves and well as the cloak she gave him. His (now patched) green tunic was hidden under a thick leather jerkin and long woollen tabard that bore a faded emblem upon it, similar to the old royal family crest, with a reversed Triforce and bird like embellishments. Robyn fastened the cloak about his shoulders,
“The mark of the Goddess will protect you,” she said pointing to the embroidery he was looking it. “All my clan members bear it with pride,” she pointed down at the apron she wore hanging from under her jerkin which bore the same marking, “that which you wear belonged to my father.”
Link was a little surprised at how quickly Robyn dispensed with such a sentimental item, but touched none the less, in spite of the fact she barely seemed to notice what possible meaning the gift could hold. He placed his arm upon her shoulder and gave it a squeeze.
“Thank you.” He said, “I hope I can honour it justly”
Robyn’s mouth curved slightly into her crooked half smile, and nodded as if to say ‘I know you will’.
“Come now” she said, as she swung a quiver over her shoulder and retrieved her bow from the corner of the room. As Robyn strapped a large hunting knife to her boot, Link felt a sudden lurch in his stomach as he realised he was missing something desperately important.
“My sword!” he cried.
Robyn pushed the small door open and inclined her head towards the exit, wanting Link to step outside. Curious he stepped out into the snow and Robyn followed him fastening the door tight behind her. It was the first time Link had been outside since Robyn had found him, the snow had slowed to a gentle drifting from the pale sky, and all about him the mountain peeks were great white silhouettes cut against an ice blue sky, and although they still appeared sharp, by the light of this day, in warm clothes and in the company of his guide, they did not seem half as cruel as once before. Indeed, had he taken the time to notice, he would have seen that in they’re current location the steep hills about him were actually acting a shield against the brunt of the weather, and that Robyn’s home was well protected sheltered from the peaks that he once feared. Yet all he could think about was his lost sword. He turned around to face the Ranger.
“Robyn…I cannot leave without-” his sentence was cut short as he looked upon Robyn who was framed by the doorway to her house, and felt his gut recoil slightly.
On either side of the doorway lay a large pile of wolf carcasses that appeared to be in various states of decay. The snow around them had taken on a dark pink hue from the blood of the more fresh kills, and the large heavy stones of the house were stained with the same dark blood where someone had painted a symbol of the Triforce upon each wall. Link could only imagine what the smell must have been like if the bodies had not been frozen by the snow. He looked at Robyn briefly in distaste before his eyes were suddenly pulled towards the object that was held above the doorway. There his sword rested, gleaming in the pale wintry light. Robyn fetched it down quickly and placed it ceremoniously into his hands.
Link felt a wave of warm relief and satisfaction wash over him as he held the weight of the cold steal in his hands once again. He gave it a practise swing. His arm was weaker than it should have been, but he squeezed the handle tight. His old strength would soon return after carrying it a few hours, and he began to check the blade over for any signs of damage.
“Why did you leave it outside?” He asked Robyn, a touch of anger in his voice, which made her blink.
“That blade is the sword of the Goddess chosen hero. Every evil beast you have slain with it has fed it with goodness and sweet fortune. Evil creatures can sense that. They avoid it. I needed that sword to protect this house. To protect you.”
Link looked at his sword, and then back at Robyn, “You do know that this isn’t the Master Sword, don’t you?” he asked her sceptically.
“If it were I would have no need for these,” She furrowed her brow and gave one of the Wolfo carcasses a sly kick with the toe of her boot. “The power of the sacred blade is such that no foul beast would venture within a five hundred foot radius of its steal. As it is such, I had to provide with additional protection”
“The Wolfos are a cruel and cowardly breed of beast. They prey upon the weak and unwary, they are keen of nose and fierce scavengers, and yet they cannot abide the smell of their own death.” She took out her knife and knelt down beside of the dead animals “Which is why we shall wear it also”. With a flick of her wrist, she opened the belly of the monster and slipped her hand into the gash, covering it with stale blood which she wiped onto her cheeks, streaking it down her face like two bloody tears, before approaching Link.
“You are needed in the lower lands, Link” She said as she painted his face like her own, “I will guide you down and keep you safe until we must part. You must go forth into the godless land and carry the wisdom you have gained here with you and trust it if you are to save this precious and of Hyrule.”
He said nothing, but nodded, and with that, the two put their mountain home behind them and set off.