Chapter 5: A Break in the Action
As soon as Link and Ilia got back to the caravan’s camp, the flurry of activity started. They went to the sick, releasing fairies on them. They subsequently shoved bottles into the hands of the newly-healthy and ordered them to see to others. The horses and oxen snorted their confusion at all the fairy-light.
“Last one,” Link said as he held his last bottle – the one that was encrusted with his blood from cutting his hand. The little fairy within was acting mildly distressed. Link knew that she probably smelled the blood and did not like it. “Is there anyone left?” he asked himself as he looked around.
Rock the Goron came shambling toward him, carrying a limp body in his strong arms. It was Zane Flake, the head of the young Flake family. “Too late,” Rock said forlornly. “He died.”
Link cautiously touched Mr. Flake’s neck. “He’s still warm,” he declared. “He’s still warm! There’s hope!”
“I think it is too late,” Rock repeated.
“No,” Link said, struggling to uncork the bottle he held, dried blood sealing the seam between the cork and glass. “If he’s still warm, a fairy can bring him back.” Link looked past Rock’s right shoulder, seeing something that he knew no one else saw. This was an artifact from his time spent as an animal and his time spent beneath the clouds of Twilight. It was Flake’s soul – his “light.” It appeared as a little puff of flame, shifting and dancing, remaining close to the body. If Link concentrated, it would shift into a full apparition with the appearance of the body – the person’s own residual image of their form, but Link did not concentrate and only saw the little flame. He knew what it was, though. There was a green tinge to its light that shifted to blue as it flickered, then back to green.
Link panicked, working the cork with ferocity. From what he knew of spirits and fairies, once a spirit had shifted into blue, it had been sundered from the body irrevocably and either moved on to the other side or became a ghost. Green was the color of ghost flames that were closer to life (green was the color of Farore, the Goddess of life, courage and all green, growing things). Blue was the color of Nayru – of wisdom, of law and of cosmic, spiritual things. The spirits that Link had seen in the Twilight of people who had not died had been green while all of the Poes (pure ghosts, born of the land’s hatred, beings that had never been alive in the physical sense) were blue.
The cork popped and Link slammed the bottle over the unfortunate man’s chest. He watched the fairy-light dance around the man’s body and over the ghost light, pushing it back in. Mr. Flake coughed and opened his eyes. Rock smiled and held him firmly.
“I’m alive?” Flake asked.
“Yeah,” Link answered.
Rock gently set the man on his feet. He staggered and leaned on the Goron. “I feel so strange,” he declared.
“It’ll take a few minutes to get your bearings,” Link said gently. “Just take it easy. It’s not like you’re in the middle of a fight, you have that luxury.”
“How would… you know?”
“I’ve died a lot,” Link said to the surprised man. “It was a lucky thing for everyone that the fairy spring was near. These fairies are all spent and there’s not another one until the very edge of the Stone Dagger Pass. Better hope that no one gets sick again – or hurt badly.”
“I was pretty sure I just saw something… a few moments ago. Myself, in Rock’s arms… and you standing over me. I had the impression that you were… something else… someone more than just a wilderness guide.”
“I think we saw each other and you were… there is a strange, spiritual quality about you, something like you are more than who you are, something ancient, something… blessed.”
“Nah. I’m just lucky, or unlucky, depending upon perspective. Go see to your wife and kids. I’m sure they’ll be happy they won’t have to dig a hole for you.”
Taking care of livestock presents a special kind of hell that only farmers know. When Ilia was able to tour Castle Town with her mind unclouded, not long after Link vanished from Ordon, she’d heard little girls chatter about how they wanted their own ponies as presents from their parents for the Winter Feast of Nayru. She’d wanted to correct them but knew it wasn’t her place. She’d shared their sentiment, after all. Horses were wonderful animals and she felt very privileged to have grown up in the country – it’s just that there were so many considerations to taking care of them that city people, and especially young children, would have a difficult if not impossible time of it.
Horses needed room to run and lots of food – either grass to graze on or hay and grains. If stabled, they needed to have their spaces cleaned every day (one of the world’s smelliest jobs and one that generally wrecked any shoes or boots a stablehand wore). They needed lots of water to drink and if their stable-stall was ever clean after they’d spent a night in it, there was cause for great concern. Ilia knew the many ailments that plagued horses, as well – some of them natural, some of them created by human keeping and use. For strong beasts, they were also supremely fragile. Injuries to the legs were a great problem – even if a horse survived a hole in the hoof or a torn ligament, they were generally crippled for life, unable to carry a rider or load any longer. A nibble at the wrong kind of food could send their guts into colic – a common killer of horses.
Movement usually cleared up minor issues before they turned deadly in the ways of colic. The horses of the caravan were on the move all the time. Still, there were the few days that Link walked Epona back and forth at the edges of camp after camp had been struck and before the morning move-out, worrying over her. Members of the party who had little experience with horses were surprised at how much joy their horse master and their wilderness guide could express over a big bowel-movement. Epona had no more problems after that.
Rock’s horse, his Goron-bred beast of burden, had no such problems. Much like the Gorons, themselves, Goron rock-drafters were creatures as hardy as stone. The huge beast subsisted on minerals, eating rocks and dirt. Rock was rather confused over the excitement of the human and Hylian members of the party over his horse’s droppings. Occasionally, old Quarz dropped a few nuggets of gold or silver. Apparently, it made an alternate currency to rupees. The Goron never understood the Hylians’ love of jewelry made from the same stuff that comprised manure.
The oxen presented their own dilemmas. They had to be given sufficient freedom to graze and to be free of the yokes, but had to be watched to make sure they didn’t wander off. Link took lead on this, having had half his childhood comprised of herding Ordon goats, which were close to the same size and with worse tempers. Zane Flake helped him, having had his own farming experience.
“There are kinds of dogs that are good with cattle,” Mr. Flake said as he and Link adjusted a yoke on a pair of animals in readiness to set out on the trail for the day. “Stocky-bodied, low to the ground. They can nip at the critters’ heels and are too low to get kicked.”
“Oh, I have my own experience with dogs,” Link replied, grinning.
“Dindammit!” Flake cursed, “One of ‘em’s in the river.”
Link dropped what he was doing and ran toward the river they were by. The group was moving out today because it had finally come down to a level Sam and he agreed was safe for fording. They’d been stuck for three days dealing with floods from rains further upland. An ox had wandered off and was stuck in the middle of the (now-shallow) river. It moaned and bellowed.
“Looks like his legs sank into the mud,” Link groused. He grabbed a spare bridle and waded out into the waters, caramel-colored from mud and silt.
“Wolf!” Maru cried as Link suddenly sank down to his waist. He hefted himself up and waved to everyone gathered on the shore. He approached the thrashing animal and spoke to it calmly.
“Come on, come on… easy.” He buckled the bridle over the ox’s head and began tugging the lead rope. It was a bit different than dealing with a horse. Link backed up, trying to lead the ox to the other shore since the shore opposite the caravan was the one the beast was closest to.
Colin was wading in to help him. Link held up his hand to tell him to stay where he was. The ex-Hero looked in horror as a wall of water gushed toward him from upriver. Everyone let out a collective scream as the flash flood hit, toppling the ox and pulling their wilderness guide under.
A moment later, the ox breached the water’s surface and hefted itself up onto the shore. Link was nowhere to be seen.
“Wolf!” Sam cried, “Does anyone see him?” “Wolllf!” he bellowed downriver.
jumped in, along with the Zora couple, searching the mud. Brandon
Ilia, Colin and Zane took off running downriver along the shore. They kept their eyes peeled for any sign of him.
Then they saw him, clinging to a rock with one white-knuckled hand, his face bruised, determined and grim. Zane waded in behind him. Colin scrambled over the rise in rock to reach down to grab his right arm. Ilia waded into the waters, sinking chest-deep in a hollow.
“You alright?” Colin asked.
Link answered with a scream was Ilia tried to take his left arm. She maneuvered to grab him around the torso. The three lifted Link up and helped him to shore. He sat down and winced.
“The arm… arm hurts,” he complained.
Ilia gently touched his left arm. “Can you move it at all?”
Link tried, grunting and wincing. “Think it might be broken.”
“Could be a sprain,” Zane offered.
“Not with those rocks,” Link shot back. “Ah! Ah!”
“Stop moving it, dummy!” Ilia scolded.
“Trying to find out… the extent of the damage… Don’t know whether it’s a clean break or just a crack. Feels pretty bad.”
Most of the caravan had heard the commotion and was coming. Colin, meanwhile, took Link’s belt off and rummaged through his pouches. “I can’t feel any bottles in here,” he said.
“We used up all the fairies,” he answered. “And there are no more springs for quite a while. Unless I’m lucky enough to find a random fairy in a bush, it looks like I’m going to have to ask someone to splint me… heal naturally.”
was already upon him with an aid kit. Link made pained faces as she prodded and manipulated his arm. She made him hold the arm in toward his chest as she wrapped it with something stiff to stabilize it and constructed a crude sling for him. Meanwhile, Dinah the dancer rubbed his back to try to make him feel better. Taylor
“Busted up guide,” Sam complained, “Just great. Too late to backtrack to them Gerudo if we want to make it to the pass before the bad weather sets in. What do we do?”
Link shot him a serious look. “We continue on. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be alright.”
“You’ll still be able to scout, but can you ride like that?” Sam asked. “I’ll have you ride in the lead wagon. Someone else will see to your horse.”
“I can ride Epona,” Ilia said.
“But you can’t fight like that….” Sam continued, “What if we run into trouble?”
“We haven’t so far,” one of the caravan members said, “and we have young Colin.”
“I’ve fought in worse condition,” Link assured.
“Take it easy,” Sam ordered. “We almost lost you.”
Link was riding next to Sam with an emptied potion bottle at his side when he called out and used his good arm to wave to figures upon a dry, grassy hill.
“Hey!” he called.
Sam halted the oxen. “What’s this about?”
On the crest of the hill was a covered wagon to which was attached a pair of mighty Goron rock drafters. A man knelt before a marker at the base of the hill and a lightly-armored woman came running down toward Sam and Link. Ilia pulled up on Epona.
“Ashei!” she called, “Is that you? Do you remember me? Ilia of Ordon?”
“Ashei?” Sam asked with a scratch of his head, “You mean like the explorer?”
“Yeah, one and only,” the woman said with a wink. “And yes, that man over there is the famous Shad. Doin’ follow up research. He insisted on coming back out this way, yeah? Mineral samples, wildlife, that whole deal. We stopped to pay respect to the grave of one of our men lost in the first expedition. See ya got a hurt man, there. Need help?”
Link was looking down, letting his hair hide his eyes. He sucked the last precious drops of his potion bottle. He was in more pain from being jostled and bruised than from the broken bone. His arm only hurt when he moved it.
“We’re all on our way to the
,” Sam said. “Our boy here’s Wolf, our wilderness guide. Almost got himself killed this morning trying to rescue an ox what got stuck in the Serenity Valley . Brave kid, but I’d rather lose an ox than a man.” Alig River
“What’s all this about?” said a man who strode boldly up to the wagon. All the other wagons in Sam’s party had halted and people were climbing out to see what was going on or to greet the people met along the trail.
“Ilia, why we haven’t seen you in eons! I trust all is well in Ordon? Telma misses you terribly.”
“I am with these people headed toward a bold new life,” Ilia answered, “One that you and Missus Ashei opened up for us.”
Shad pointed to her mount. “That equine seems familiar to me. It looks very much like the one our legendary Hero used to ride.”
Link looked up. Something passed between him, Shad and Ashei.
“L-L-La” Shad stammered.
“So the Gerudo tales are true…” Ashei gasped. “You are the Wolf of which they speak.”
“Link,” Shad said, “Hyrule has missed you dearly-much.”
asked, “THE Link?” Brandon
“He saved my life!” Zane Flake declared, “He brought me back from the dead! My intuition… we have been being lead by the Hero!”
“Now, now, everyone calm down,” Sam said. “This is precisely why he asked me to keep it a secret.”
A collective cheer went up in the caravan.
“There is no way we can fail!” someone declared.
“The gods are on our side!”
Link hung his head and closed his eyes.
“What is wrong, dear boy?” Shad asked, “Ashei and I have some spare potions if you are running low or are out. You do appear to be in pain. What you went through this morning must have been quite the ordeal.”
“It’s not that,” Link said. “I am glad to see you again, but… I shouldn’t have waved.”
“And why’s that?” Ashei groused, putting her hands on her hips.
“I really didn’t want to be anyone special.”
“But you are the Hero,” Shad said, “I do believe you have earned your right to honor.”
“No one will take your freedom from you,” Ashei proclaimed. “They’ll have to answer to me first.”
“The Goddess’ Hero is just a fancy title for exterminator,” Link said, smiling sadly. “Exterminate the evil things; get the land back in order. It was like that with the last one, correct, Shad? Otherwise, I am just an ordinary person. I like contracting with the caravans, leading people to new lives and opportunity. I never wanted any of them to treat me like a god. Now…I’m worried that they will.”
“Zelda will not make you a man of court unless you chose to be one,” Ashei said. She smiled – an honest, warrior’s smile. “I don’t think she’d want you – you’ve gotten all rough and scruffy, yeah?”
Link laughed. “I do still shave, at least.”
Without warning, Shad vaulted onto the seat of the wagon. He wedged himself in between Sam and Link, opened the book that he was carrying and produced a pen from a pocket. “I am, of course,” he asserted, “going to have to ask you everything about your time and journeys in these Western lands. For the advancement of knowledge, you see - the most noble of causes.”
“Shad!” Ashei scolded. “Get down from there! We’ve got our own wagon to hitch up and get out, yeah? You can bother him when we make camp.”
“I suppose she is right,” Shad sighed, hopping down. “Try to rest as much as you can on the ride, Mr. Hero, for later we have much to talk about!”
The trail winds ever onward…
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