Chapter 4: The Sacred Scarred
A week and a half out of the Gerudo camp, people in the caravan began getting sick. It started slowly. The
children got runny noses and fatigue. It was thought of as nothing, perhaps the result of too much nose-picking or a simple summer cold. A few days after the children’s first symptoms, almost everyone else displayed the same and came down with a nasty, liquid cough. Taylor
The caravan stopped near a clear-running stream to rest and assess the situation. Members of the group started sucking down their supply of potions like they were sweet milk. Only humans and Hylians were affected by the sickness. Kau and Maru – the young Zora couple, remained healthy. Rock likewise kept perfect health for his Goron physiology made him immune to organic diseases. Among the Hylians and humans, three members of the party remained strong – Colin, Ilia and Link.
“Why aren’t you three sick?” Sam wheezed as Link pounded the trail boss’ back to help him clear his lungs. “Heard-heard of wagon trains getting’ sick like this – everyone dyin’ or just wishin’ they had and losing time. Zora and Gorons don’t get sick with human bugs, but you’re all just fine. What’s your connection?”
“Ordon,” Ilia said bluntly. “Link, Colin and I grew up together. This illness… it has all the marks of Faron Influenza.”
“Faron Influenza?” Sam yelped, or he would have yelped if he was not too busy coughing. “This is bad. I heard it wiped out half of Ordon province many years back. You three… are survivors?”
Ilia nodded somberly. Colin looked toward the ground. Link’s eyes took on a dark look that was deeper than black.
“Colin was a baby back then.” Ilia continued. “He never caught it. It’s said that some people have a natural immunity to it. Those who don’t can catch it only once. They either die or survive and if they live, they cannot catch it again. I never caught it. My mother died when the epidemic hit Ordon. Link… Link was orphaned.”
“He didn’t catch it, either?”
“I did,” Link spoke up. “I caught it and I almost died.”
“Medicine-time. Come on, Link, wake up.”
Ilia held the small cup in her tiny hand. It was filled with a red liquid, syrupy and bitter. It was made from some kind of mushroom. The girl knew that her friend wasn’t really asleep. Link hadn’t been sleeping much lately, spending nights up coughing and days half-awake in a daze of fever and pain.
“Go ‘way,” groaned the pile of blankets atop the shaggy goat-skin that served as a bed. Ilia shook the pile with her free hand. She was intent upon her mission her father and the other adults had given her. All help was needed right now, even that of a little child.
The pile of blankets hunched up and shrank away from her. She shook harder.
“I know it’s bitter,” the little girl said, “but it will help you get better.”
The blankets shifted and the boy faced her, raising his head a little. He hadn’t been able to even do that a few days ago. The broth Mr. Rusl had gently poured down his throat had restored a little of the boy’s strength. Still, his face was a pitiful sight. His skin was pale, his nose was wet and his eyes were sunken and glazed over in pain. He coughed and wretched with the sudden movement he’d forced his body to make.
“Careful!” Ilia exclaimed. “If you can’t hold the cup yourself, I can help you to drink it – like the other day.”
“I don’t want any!” Link whined.
“But you need it to get better.”
“I don’t wanna get better!” Link hmmphed as he curled his blankets around himself and turned back to facing the wall.
“Why don’t you want to get better?” Ilia implored, “Link…”
“Mamma’s gone. Papa died. Then Nico – right in front of me, too. I watched him die. I’m alone… I want to go to where they are.”
“Link, please…” Ilia began to weep. “Link, you aren’t alone. You know Mr. Rusl and Missus Uli want to take you in. I lost my Mama, too. If you die, it’ll hurt us more.”
“I wanna be with Mama and Papa!”
“If you go…” Ilia said softly, “I’ll have no one to play with anymore. All the other kids are too little. I’ll be lonely.”
Link shifted back around and looked up at her.
“Don’t you wanna grow up to be strong like Mr. Rusl?” she asked.
The boy’s ears perked and his eyes look on a hint of life. Ilia held out the cup. “The medicine will make you feel better. Daddy said he put something in it to help you sleep and that’ll help you get better faster. Please take it. I hate seeing my best friend in so much pain.”
“H-help me, please?”
Ilia held the cup to Link’s lips and gently tilted it the way she’d been taught to. She watched as Link drank every drop. He lay back down and closed his eyes. She straightened out his blankets and tucked them up near his chin. She watched and listened as his breathing evened out and grew easy.
Ilia shook her head, shivering with the memory as she wandered toward one of the supply-wagons, listening to the coughing, groaning and other noises made by the sick. Of memories brought back to her of her childhood – memories she had lost at one point – not all of them were very pleasant. Memories of the Faron Flu Epidemic in Ordon were ones she sometimes wished had stayed gone, but she nonetheless found them useful. She knew what natural materials made for good medicines to ease victims’ pain. She knew that the leaves from a certain type of tree could be mashed to make a paste that could be rubbed on a person’s chest to ease coughing. She knew how to coax children into taking their potions.
Unfortunately, she also knew the signs of the terminal and about a third of the people in the caravan were showing those signs. It was about seven days since the wagon train had been stalled. No one was moving forward like this. It dawned on the young woman that when she’d been little, she’d been a big part of saving the life of the boy who’d grow up to become a Hero. As she neared the supply-wagon, she wondered if he’d come down with a fever, too – although she knew that he could not catch this strain of flu again. Link was rummaging through the wagon like a man Poe-sessed.
“What on Din’s green earth are you doing?” she asked as he inspected several empty bottles and jars he had set out before him on a part of the wagon’s bed.
“Bottles,” he replied, “I need bottles – as many as can be spared. Not the kind for beer and drinks. I need ones with wide mouths and corks or something else to use as stoppers. Fruit-canning jars are perfect.”
“Why?” Ilia questioned. “We have some empties, but what do you need them for? You seem…frantic.”
“That’s because I am,” Link replied as he inspected a jar that had once contained last summer’s peaches from east-Hyrule that had been eaten sometime during the trip. He slipped the jar into a pouch on his belt that looked entirely too small for it. The jar disappeared inside its opening. The pouch did not budge or bulge.
“How did you..?” Ilia began.
“It is a special item,” Link informed her calmly. “It works on some sort of relative time-dimensions-in-space system, something like that. It’s a magical item, given to me by the Light Spirits. I do not wear the Hero’s Clothes anymore, but I still wear this. There are many things in this pocket, things I could not have completed my journey as the Hero without. There are limits to it. It doesn’t hold unlimited rupees, for example – I guess the Goddesses didn’t want me to get greedy. I can fit many bottles into it now, because they are needed for a good cause.”
The coughs and groans of the sick sounded in the air. Colin could be seen in the distance, patrolling the perimeter of the camp on foot, ready to defend the defenseless should the need arise. His frustration with the suffering of the people he was guarding manifested thickly in his steps.
“Fairies,” Link said after a pause. “I’m heading out to hunt fairies.”
“What?” his companion asked.
“I’d like you to come with me, if you can. I could use the extra hands.”
“Fairies are rare. Most people are lucky to see one once a lifetime! Stories of ancient times had them being sold in stores, but it hasn’t been like that in at least a hundred years! How do you expect to find wild fairies?”
“I know of a spring near here,” Link explained. “Hopefully, it is not dried up. It comes and goes depending upon the rains. The fairies… they like me, Ilia. They appear for me. I am in tune enough with their magic that they do not hide from me, but they still don’t like being caught, so we’ll have still have to creep up on them. Maybe we can catch enough of the little buggers to make everyone healthy again.”
“That is how you stayed alive as the Hero, isn’t it?” Ilia responded slowly, realization hitting her. “You carried fairies with you into battle to heal your wounds. They’re supposed to be able to heal anything – even bring back the dead at the…instant of death…”
Ilia’s jaw gaped. Link had slipped off his buckskin shirt. A pair of small, round scars rested over his stomach. His chest bore a long, straight sword-scar slightly left of center – that one would have been a heart-wound.
“A few times. I wasn’t a perfect Hero. The fairies were always very good to me.”
Link put his shirt back on, but Ilia continued to stare. “It must have been so hard for you…” she whispered, “What did it feel like to die?”
“The times I could feel it,” Link began, “when I was getting beaten and cut down slowly… it was horrible. Part of the time, I didn’t feel anything at all because it happened so fast. One moment, I’m doing something stupid with an old canon in a snowfield, the next; I’m feeling myself sucked back into my fallen flesh while fairy-light dances around me. I saw my body once – for a split-second, broken upon Hyrule Field before being taken back into it and healed-up, good as new. I won’t tell you the details about the time I fell into some lava. The heart-wound… I was fighting a heavily-armored creature. It brought out a straight-sword when I’d cut its armor off. He got me quick before I came back to life and got him. I didn’t feel it. Oh, don’t cry! Come on; don’t cry for me, Ilia. I’m okay now. I’m here and I’m just fine.”
The former Hero held the weeping woman to his chest. He had not meant to make her cry, though the fact that someone was weeping for him touched him. “You can stop,” he said, almost panicky, “I’m in no pain. I accepted those kinds of things when I accepted the Goddesses’ call.”
“It was all because of me – us,” Ilia said, separating from him.
“That’s how it started,” Link replied with a nod, “And I’d do it all again in a heartbeat if I had to.”
Ilia dabbed her tears and smirked slightly. “You always were a bit of a fool, but I guess that comes with courage.”
“Let’s see if we can catch us some fairies.”
Link crouched on a huge rock. Epona was left to graze not far away. The Hero-turned-wilderness guide was acting strangely and he was wearing the most peculiar mask.
“You look like a cucoo!” Ilia laughed.
“I bought it from Malo years ago. He found it among some abandoned supplies in Kakariko…apparently. Are you sure I haven’t shown it to you before?”
Ilia shook her head, stifling another laugh.
Link pressed something on its top edge and it made a small clicking sound. Ilia could see the quick flash of glass lenses changing behind the mask’s eye-holes. “It’s a scope,” he said.
“Like the Hylian Knights have…” Ilia began. “They’re rare. Not many of them were made.”
“It lets me see things far away… very effective. Here, take a look.”
Without warning, Link had slipped the Hawkeye over Ilia’s face. She looked through the glass lenses. Link adjusted them for her. Everything was a blur at first, then she saw rocks and trees clearly, then, a strange and tiny bit of glowing – dancing will o’ the wisps.
“Look straight ahead and down – to that dark little hollow.”
“Do you see the little lights?”
“I see them!”
“Those are fairies. That’s the spring.”
“Link, this is amazing!”
“The scope helps me with hunting.”
“It’s… why you bring back meat every time, isn’t it?”
“Yep. There’s supposed to be a caravan stopover bein’ built somewhere in the Lost Hills, but I wouldn’t count on it. It’s in moblin-country and the ones in it aren’t the friendly-kind. Fool-soldiers trying to set it up are probably all dead or fled – I tried to warn them. There’s a small supply-store on Hena’s Creek – run by a couple of families from Hyrule – they run a gristmill for flour and meal, and they do a thing with dried fish you’d have to taste to believe.”
“That good, huh?”
“I said you’d have to taste it to believe it. I didn’t say it was good. It’d be a good idea to have a stopover there as soon as we can. I could tell your party was seriously undersupplied when I joined up. You’ve all been enjoying the meat – well, until everybody got too sick to keep it down.”
“What was that… shaggy purple creature you shot for us? I’ve never seen a cow that huge in my life. Everyone was hauling meat. How did you bring the poor thing down?”
. There are plains between here and the Buffalo that are full of ‘em. Brought her down with the help of the scope – the Gerudo use lances for those things, typically. The bulbins engage them with their giant riding-boars and the bigger ones use axes with huge heads – hack the poor beasts to bits as the run and fight. I shot it in the eye – pierced the brain. It was a lucky shot.” Serenity Valley
Ilia winced. Growing up in a farming village that raised livestock as its primary keep, she was a practical woman, but she still hated the thought of any animal suffering. She knew she was to regret asking Link about his hunting techniques. He believed in being quick, clean and humane as possible when dealing with meat, but it was still something she didn’t want to think too long about. She wanted to think about the bulbins’ hunting techniques even less.
“Well, let’s go.” He yanked the Hawkeye off Ilia’s head and put it back into his pouch of wonders. He gave Epona a quick whistle and they climbed aboard. They rode to the fairy spring at first briskly, then Link slowed Epona to a walk. He dismounted and signaled Ilia to do the same. He took a jar out of his pouch and gave it to her, then took another one for himself.
“Creep up on them silently,” he said. “Like I said, they do not like being captured. When you have one near, put your hand out like this, in a cup…and your jar like this, and whoosh it in there. It’s like catching fireflies. You have to be as gentle with them, too – fairy wings are delicate. They may be healing-creatures, but they have trouble healing themselves. This is why they’re limited, actually.”
“Don’t they die when they’ve healed someone with a very bad injury?”
“Nope. They just go back to the Great Fairy, or hide somewhere to rest for a while, to re-energize. They can die from expending all of their energy, but they usually are just fine – as long as they aren’t re-captured right after use. If you break a wing or a leg, however, they’re useless for healing anyone until they see the Great Fairy.”
“I got one!”
Link passed her another jar. Together, they systematically scooped little pink fairies into jars and sealed them. Link popped them into his pouch and assured Ilia that they’d be just fine in there.
“That little blue one seems fascinated by you,” Ilia commented, observing a small, blue fairy-orb that was hovering around Link. It looked like it was trying to inspect his face.
“Don’t catch that one,” Link said, “That one’s not a healer.”
“How can you tell?”
“She’s a blue. Pink fairies are the medical class of fairy. Blue ones are… I’m not sure what they are. They’re wild; I think – keepers of the trees and spirits or guides to lost children…something like that.”
“She looks like she’s in love with you.”
“Go on, little one,” Link said with a wave of his hand. “I don’t need you now.”
The blue orb bobbed sadly back toward the shadows.
“I think we’ve got them all,” Ilia said.
“Nope,” Link said. “There are a few more, and we need as many as we can get.” Without warning, he drew his large hunting knife from his belt and sliced the palm of his right hand with it. Ilia yelped.
“Sssh!” Link demanded, sheathing his knife and holding his hand out toward the center of the spring as he waded into it. His blood dripped into the water. A few fairies started drifting toward him, bringing up their lights to dispel the shadows they came from. A few more rose out of the water, all of them gathering toward his wounded hand. He swiftly brought a bottle over with his left and scooped one. His right hand bled over the glass of the bottle as he held it and fumbled to find a cork. He corked the bottle and slipped it into his pouch. “Ilia, help,” he whispered as he once again held his hand out to attract the fairies.
Ilia quickly scooped.
“Leave one,” Link ordered. Ilia watched in wonder as the last fairy spun around Link’s hand. The cut in it mended perfectly, as if sewn up, then pressed and sealed. Even the callouses that had been on the hand before he’d injured it were gone. The fairy proceeded to spin around Link’s entire body and vanished as it cleared the top of his head.
He opened his eyes. “I feel great!” he said. “Nothing like recharging the blood!” Noting her questioning look, he answered; “Sometimes, the only way to draw them out is with an offering… of sorts. They respond to pain – at least the pain of a good or neutral person. These springs are holy places that repel evil… really makes me wonder why they let a blood-filthy person like me here…but as long as the Goddesses have favored me, they’ve had an instinct to heal me.”
Ilia took his right hand in both of hers, inspecting it in the dying rays of the late afternoon sunlight. “The cut didn’t even leave a scar.”
“Fairies sometimes leave scars,” Link informed, “On really bad wounds, usually just the fatal ones.”
“The sun will set soon.”
“Let’s get back to camp. I’m sure everyone will be happy once they see the help we have for them.”
The trail winds ever onward…
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