Chapter 6: Assault
Link wore the Hero’s Clothes again. He had been helped into them by one of the other men in the party earlier. He rode in the back of the lead-wagon, surrounded by the caravan’s children. He wore the old garb to entertain them as he told them stories. Little Billy Taylor cuddled the wolf’s hide he’d previously worn over his wilderness clothes.
“So, this monkey held this bombling, right? Swung back and forth and I had to aim my boomerang just right…”
“You needed help from a monkey?” little Zaney Flake Jr. asked Link incredulously.
“Why, sure, yeah,” Link said, scratching the back of his neck with his good hand. It had been a bit of a pain to get his chain mail over the immobilized arm in the sling. It had hurt a little, too, with the movement required. Link was wishing they’d stumble upon a wild fairy for him. Potions were good to seal up wounds, to stop bleeding, and to soothe internal bruising. Some potions served as antidotes to poisons, but mostly, potions were just good for painkilling and stamina – something good to carry into battle, but nothing that would save your life unless taken at just the right moment. Links’ left arm was well past the right moment. Healing naturally wasn’t so bad, just inconvenient. He remembered the time before he became a Hero when he’d been run over by a goat in his ranch work and the beast’s hoof had cracked a rib. Healing had been inconvenient then, too. Fado had lost five goats to the woods the month he was off recovering. The village never did get them back.
They’d found one half-eaten by a wolf.
“Yes, I needed his help,” Link continued. “Everyone needs help sometimes, even heroes. In fact, I couldn’t have done any of the things that I did without someone watching my back, or being around to sell me medicine and supplies, or just giving me words of encouragement every now and again. I would have been sunk if I didn’t have good mentors to train me in the arts of swordsmanship. Ask Colin about that – his dad was one of my mentors. You see, kids, if all goes right with the world, we all save each other.”
First, it was the awe of the children, then Link heard a sudden “Whoa!” as the slowly-creaking wagon jostled to a full-stop.
“Link, get out here!” Sam shouted.
Link hefted himself down out of the wagon and went to the man’s side. Everyone else had stopped, equally confused. Ilia, Colin, Shad and Ashei were staring off into the distance, next to Sam, who had one eye to a spyglass.
“Think that’s trouble up ahead, right on the crest of that ridge over yonder,” Sam sighed.
Link did a one-handed reach into his hip-pouch and retrieved his Hawkeye. He slipped the mask onto his head. Ilia reached over and helped him secure the device. Link flipped the lenses and gazed off in the direction that Sam indicated. Upon seeing moving shapes, he flicked the lenses again, and again until he had maximum magnification.
“Trouble indeed,” the swordsman grunted, noting the red flag with an abstract black cattle-skull crest upon it. It was being carried by a rider on a large boar. “That’s the Midoro Bulbin Tribe. They are not friendly. They probably detected us a while ago, been trailin’ us, decided now’s the time to slaughter us and take our goods. Sneaky devils. They’re far off enough for us to prepare, but not to make a run for it. The oxen are far too ponderous. Things are about to get very bloody.”
“Wha?” Sam yelped.
Link continued to look ahead and he kept his voice calm. “We will survive if we prepare. Colin, are you confident in your skills with a bow?”
“Um… yes. Dad taught me.”
“Good. Reach into my pocket. It’ll feel like a little twig, but once you draw it out, you’ll find a full-size bow and a quiver of fifty-arrows. I am going to need you to fight at distance, since I cannot draw a bow right now. Once they crest our hill, pick off as many as you can. Switch to your sword when they come in close-range.”
“I’ll get my horse! I’ll ride to meet them!”
“Not the wisest thing to do alone, kiddo. Get everyone to huddle their wagons together, form a circle. All of the children and those who otherwise cannot fight should stay in the center. Riders can circle around and fight. I want every able-bodied man to grab a weapon – and any women willing to fight, as well.”
Colin had taken the bow and arrows.
“I am willing to fight,” Ilia said.
“Take my rupee-pouch.”
Ilia unlatched Link’s wallet from his belt, confused. “Are we going to bribe them?”
“Open it up and look inside,” Link answered. “There is a little red and golden thing, a funny looking little widget. If you press in upon it, it will become a full-suit of armor. It will fit any body it is placed upon. The catch is that the wallet hooks onto it and the armor uses rupees. You see, it is magical armor. It will protect you from any wound. Once it’s on you, you will be invincible, immortal. However, it takes a rupee every so often for wear, and larger amounts and denominations if you’re hit. Luckily, the going rate is the same for a fatal wound as for a flesh wound. Don’t ask me how it works, but I’m sure it’s made Malo very rich. He’s the one who sold it to me and I assume the rupees it uses go to one of his coffers. If the wallet runs out of money, either find some quick or press the gem on the chest to get it off of you quick. If it runs out of money for fuel, it loses its protective properties and becomes like a coat of lead. I’d call it a rip-off, but it’s saved my life once or twice and I really want you to be safe.”
“Link, I can fight as I am. Don’t you want me to be light and swift?”
“Ilia, I need you to do something special for us – besides just seeing to the rider-less horses. If you’ll reach into my pouch, you’ll find something soft and feathery. Draw it out.”
Ilia did so and found herself holding something strange, indeed. “It looks like a bird’s wing.”
“It contains the spirit of a powerful fairy. It is the Gale Boomerang and it controls wind. If the bulbins light the wagons on fire, I need you to throw the boomerang at them to put out the blazes.”
Ilia was hit with a sudden memory from the time when she was without her normal memories. She, in younger days, tended to a sick Zora prince in the back of a wagon being jostled about on the plains of Hyrule. Link rode behind, frantically, periodically fighting off bulbins and tossing a strange object at the wagon that sent small cyclones of cool wind everywhere. He’d put out many small fires and one that had blossomed out of control, threatening to consume them. When they’d finally arrived in Kakariko, that brave young man she did not know at the time was covered in many bleeding wounds and bruises, and he could barely stay on his horse. Still, he’d smiled at her and made sure the Zora boy was taken care of before he rested or let anyone see to him.
“Also, Ilia, that armor? If you’re wearing it while riding Epona, be aware that if it runs out of money, you will be thrown to the ground. I learned that the hard way. My wallet has enough for about two-hours, give or take heavy wounding. Make it count.”
Ilia wandered off with Colin, shouting orders to everyone to get organized and to find weapons.
“Rock,” Link said to the Goron who’d come up beside him, “You can fight, can’t you?”
“It would be my honor.”
“Do you need any weapons?”
“It is the pride of my people to fight with our bodies,” Rock replied, balling up a fist and pounding his proud Goron belly.
“When they come up over that hill, I want you to roll into them. Knock their mounts out from under them. Wrestle and toss the bigger pigs if you have to.”
“I am here, Link, just like old times, yeah?” Ashei assured. Link took off his Hawkeye and smiled.
“Shad, perhaps you should go to the center, keep yourself safe. Can’t have Hyrule lose its foremost scholar.”
“I-I-I’ll fight,” Shad said. “I was a part of the Resistance, too, after all, lest you forget.”
“I haven’t forgotten, I just know you as a research-man. Bulbins aren’t difficult to figure out.”
“He can fight, Link,” Ashei said authoritatively, “If something he cares about is at stake, he becomes like a lion. During our first expedition, we were under attack by moblins near the
. I was injured and was unable to reach my sword. A big blue moblin was bearing right down on me – suddenly, Shad sweeps in, grabs up my sword, utters the fiercest battle cry I’ve ever heard and cleaves the creature’s head off in one clean strike.” Morgue Swamp
Shad laughed nervously as Link gave him an impressed look. “Alright, then, grab a sword if you can find one.”
“Should I take yours, old boy? I do not mean to be rude, but you should go to the center. You’re injured. Hero or not, I fear you’ll be an easy kill, trussed-up like you are.”
Link gave him a hard glare as he drew his sword with his right hand. “I am going to fight.”
“But… you cannot hold a shield and aren’t you left-handed? Discretion is the better part of valor.”
“I have fought in terrible condition and lived,” Link said. “I have been the bane of many a bulbin. Like I’ve said, ‘Hero’ means ‘Exterminator.’ I’m not going down easy and I’m not going down now. Furthermore, I have a duty to this caravan. I am its guide and protector. I can’t shirk my duties for anything.”
“And if you die, yeah?” Ashei asked.
“It will be no finer death – taking care of people I care about, to die with honor.”
“You can bury me out here, or take me back to Hyrule-proper so Queen Zelda will know what happened. Either way, it doesn’t matter, ‘cause I ain’t dyin’. We’re going to make it through this.”
“They’re comin’,” Sam stated.
They came over the hill like a plague. The hooves of their riding-boars shook the ground. The goblin-like creatures rode two to a mount, three or four on the larger hogs and they blew loud, ivory horns. Most of them carried rude clubs, but mighty axes and spears winked in the midmorning sun. A large number of them were armed with bows and were skilled at lighting arrows to fire in succession.
Colin rode around the hasty caravan camp on the feisty little red Gerudian mare he’d picked up at the Tantari encampment. She was so small and light that she made Epona look like a Goron rock-drafter. Her hooves were nimble and swift and she snorted in a way that told Colin that she’d been bred and born to battle. She seemed more eager to it than he was. Lighted arrows sailed in, over his head and thunked in the ground around him. He drew the Hero’s Bow, sighted in on a boar-rider and made his first kill.
He remembered, with some discomfort, what Link had said about the bulbins. They had minds, like people. Colin wondered if his kill had a family – young bulbin-lings whose father wouldn’t be coming home. It may have even been a girl. Bulbins were one of those races where the females were indistinguishable from the males except, apparently, by their own tribe members. Gorons were like that, too. Some had asked Rock what he was and he said he was a male, but no Hylian or human could ever know for sure.
His horse spooked under him as another fire-arrow embedded itself near her feet. There was no time to ponder uncomfortable questions. Colin knocked back another arrow and fired, this time missing. Another arrow landed home in a green bulbin-throat. Yet another hit a bulbo-boar right between the eyes. It skidded in the dirt and grass, throwing its riders, which came running forward on foot, only to be ploughed into the earth by the Goron, Rock, who was curled into a ball, rolling at top Goron-speed. He’d achieved velocity enough to have magic-induced spikes protruding from his hard skin.
Meanwhile, Ilia rode an obedient Epona, decked out in the shining red and gold magic armor. She threw the Gale Boomerang frantically at the coverings of the wagons as they were hit by flaming arrows. Ashei covered her with her sword as foot-bulbins started rushing in. Men and women shouted, countering club and short-sword wielding bulbins with swords, hatchets, butchering knives, pitchforks…anything that was a weapon or could be weaponized that was on-hand. A few even picked up spears and swords dropped by fallen bulbins – anything to defend their own families and their fellow travelers.
Shad fought – perhaps a little clumsily, but with a skill quite a bit better than most of the caravan men. Colin caught a glimpse of him as he rode alongside incoming boar-riders, cutting them down with his sword. Shad had taken a wound somewhere on his head. Blood ran down and covered the left half of his face and he had lost his eyeglasses.
Oxen bellowed and horses panicked. Rock picked up boars by the tusks and jowls and tossed them hard enough into the ground to break their backs, ignoring their squeals of agony. The most amazing thing Colin saw in this battle, however, was Link. Link, with a wounded, sling-trussed arm where a shield should have been, and wielding a sword in his non-dominant hand - was cutting and stabbing down bulbins left and right. His movements almost seemed effortless, like a dance, even though a twitch here and there betrayed that he really was handicapped. The teenager saw, for a moment, his Hero’s face. There was a certain satisfaction in his features when he’d dispatched an enemy, but no thrill or “joy” in the killing. He was a man doing just what he had to do to protect all that he loved – nothing more, nothing less.
Then Link was struck down with an arrow coming in from the field.
Colin spurred his horse toward the fallen man, only to be blocked by a horde of foot-soldier bulbins. He swiped at them, screaming. It was then that he saw Link get up, a broken arrow-shaft in his left shoulder. He gave Colin a sad smile.
“At least it’s not my good arm,” he halfheartedly joked. Both he and Colin paused for a moment to look out over the field from whence the assault had come. It was still coming.
“We’re outnumbered,” Colin said.
“Yep,” Link replied.
“Are we about to die?” Colin asked.
“Yep, probably,” Link sighed.
“Maybe it is the destiny of the brave to die young,” Colin said, his grip tightening on his sword hilt while he held his reins equally tight. “I regret that I won’t get to have a son to raise to be strong like you.”
“You deserved a longer life,” Link replied. “I am sorry.”
“No need to apologize, Link. I chose to come on this journey. Despite the current situation, you were the best of guides, and don’t forget that you were the Hero. You will always be that. We’ll meet again in Farore’s Fields, in Din’s Country and by Nayru’s Infinite Waters. Let’s not go down without giving them a fight they’ll never forget, hmm?”
Link looked up at the young man. He had a great deal of his father in him – a far cry from the timid little child he’d once known. Link had always seen potential in the boy, even then, but now – in this moment, Colin’s courage had come to full-flower. There remained a deep sensitivity about him, but it was not a weakness. No, it had become a poetry of the soul. The poor kid really did deserve to live longer.
“Of all the times to be without fairies,” Link sighed before turning his gaze back upon the oncoming enemy – their on-rushing doom.
Just then, another horn-blast sounded over the hill. Another group of bulbins swept in, firing arrows and leveling spears at the first group. At their head was an enormous white boar, the size of a small elephant. Riding that boar was a huge bulbin wearing a helmet of horns. He wielded a great axe, with which he swept aside the boars and riders of the enemy.
“Well, Farore bless me…” Link gasped. Then he started laughing.
Colin simply stared, disbelieving the sight before him. What’s more is that he recognized this character with painful clarity.
“Ol’ King!” Link exclaimed. His spirit renewed, he ran forth, despite the blood running down his chest, to dispatch the remaining foot-bulbins that were trying to raid the wagons.
All was the blaring of horns the grunts of bulbins – both the dying ones and those victorious, the squeals of dying boars and the screams of wounded horses. The enemy was routed and there were only a few survivors left of them to scatter. King Bulbin and his warriors rode down into the camp. Link jumped out ahead of them, raising and waving his sword. He shouted at the members of the caravan to lower their weapons, that this tribe was on their side.
“Hero,” King Bulbin grunted. “Weak, filthy dog. Wounded. Should make you a dead dog. One stroke of my axe should do it.”
“Oh, King,” Link laughed. “Smelly old maggot-breath. I’d still whoop you, one hand tied.”
King Bulbin laughed heartily. “You’ve still got the balls of a giant boar. Your people may go in peace.”
Shad came walking up, only to have King Bulbin’s axe sweep in front of him, inches from his nose. His expression was wide-eyed. He stood shock-still. The big ogre guffawed and took his weapon back. “Kept your piss in your body,” he said. “The Hero would keep strong company.”
Then the King saw Colin glaring at him. He smiled a greasy smile and nodded to Link. “Face is familiar,” he said. “My flag.”
“Yes,” Link answered. “This is the boy I rescued from you – grown up.”
“Was going to make his entrails my necklace if you had not come for him,” King Bulbin grunted. “Would have taken his scalp to decorate my saddle. Still looks scrawny.”
Colin growled, his grip tightening on the hilt of his sword.
“Easy, Colin,” Link advised.
“Fights well,” the King said. The bulbin tribal leader steered Lord Bulbo, his great porcine steed, to the edge of the camp.
“You should smile, Colin,” Link said. “He complimented you. He’s not easy with compliments. Don’t worry about the other stuff he said. It is his way to greet people with insults. It’s a show of intimidation. Uf!”
Link fell on his rear end. Colin dismounted and went to his side. Shad knelt beside him. Ashei came, as well. Ilia came jogging up, releasing the latch on the magic armor and slipping the miniature of it into the rupee-pouch on her belt, still half-full. They grabbed Link and propped him up against the wheel of one wagon, placing a folded blanket behind his back for support.
Ashei dabbed at Shad’s forehead with a damp cloth, trying to clean and soothe the gash in his scalp as he, in turn, examined Link’s arrow-wound. It was only now that the Hero was feeling it keenly. The calm after the battle allowed his adrenaline to settle.
“It’s the gods’ own fortune that it hit where it did,” Shad declared. “A few inches down and it would have got a lung. As it is, this needs to come out. If that arrowhead works its way any deeper into you, it could cut a major blood vessel. You’ll exsanguiate in minutes.”
“Bite down,” Ashei ordered, stuffing a folded leather belt into Link’s mouth. She unceremoniously ripped the arrow shaft out of him. Ilia was quick to press a clean cloth to the wound.
“How about the others?” Link asked.
“Everyone’s seeing to everyone else,” Ilia assured.
“Hey, what are they doing?” Colin asked, pointing to the members of King Bulbin’s tribe, who were gathering the dead bulbins from the enemy tribe and loading them onto their boars. “Are they going to bury them in their own lands?”
“No,” Link gasped as Ilia wiped his sweaty forehead and face. “They’re taking them back to their camp for food.”
Everyone gasped. They stared at Link, then at the King’s tribe.
“They… they don’t think like us,” Link explained. “They don’t make distinctions in what meat they eat and they don’t see any reason for meat to go to waste. It’s sort of an honor, I guess.”
“So, if your ‘friends’ hadn’t shown up,” Colin began, “the first group would have eaten our slain corpses, too?”
“Yes. Don’t try to stop them from gathering their own, or you will be on the menu.”
The boy shuddered.
“Shad, here…” Ashei said as she wound a bandage around her husband’s head.
Wounded people could be heard groaning. Children cried, but by their shouts, Link could tell that each and every child in the party was alive and well. Ilia parted away his chain mail and tunic to wind a tight bandage around his shoulder, careful of his already-injured arm. “Thank you,” he said. “You’re very tender.”
At this, Ilia blushed. She yelped when Link stood up. “Link! Sit back down!”
“I will when I make sure everyone’s alright, okay?” he said, making his way across the camp. King Bulbin and his tribe left as he picked his way around the torn earth. Ilia had done an excellent job of fire-fighting and none of the wagons had significant damage. There were a few scorch-marks in the cloth of the coverings on the largest wagons, but they could be repaired easily. None of the important goods had been taken. Everyone’s injuries were minor. It would seem that he and Shad had gotten the worst of it.
Then he realized that one member of the party was missing. He jogged to the edge of the camp, ignoring the pain his fresh wound was giving him. He saw someone on the ground. When he got to the body, he knelt down before it.
lay still with a doused bulbin arrow in his chest. It was a clean shot. Sam, Colin and Ilia came up behind him, followed by many other party members. Brandon
“Oh, no!” one of the women gasped.
After examining the wound, Link looked off to the side. “I’m sorry,” he said. “There are no fairies near. Besides, it would be too late, anyway - you’ve shifted into blue.”
“Who is he talking to?” Mr. Taylor asked.
Zane Flake smiled. “I think he’s talking to
’s spirit. I know he saw mine when I was…” Brandon
Sam scratched his head.
“You… you should move on now,” Link said, still talking to what everyone else saw as empty air, “If you linger too long here, you may become a Poe or something just as bad – and that’s not good for anyone. I will tell her – when I make my way back to the Gerudo camp, I will tell her and that the father of her child is sorry he couldn’t see his son or daughter. Don’t worry about it. They’ve been raising their sons as proud tribe-members, too, despite them being human and Hylian. Yes,
, I’ll tell her you loved her.” Brandon
“Wow, he’s having a full-out conversation,” said Sherri.
“Looks a bit crazy,” Sam muttered.
Mr. Flake shot him a glare. “I would have thought the same if I hadn’t experienced what I’ve experienced, but this is the Hero. It makes sense that he would have strange powers.”
“We’ll give you all the proper rites,” Link continued. “And we’re all very sad. Please go on in peace. Don’t make us sadder.”
Sam shrugged. “It’s not like we have a priest on this journey.”
Link looked back to the body and placed the tips of his fingers onto the bloody chest. He closed his eyes and began reciting something. Colin immediately knew what it was and knelt beside him, following suit. Shad knelt and recited the Rites of Farore, as well.
“Someone get the shovels,” Link said, standing up. “He wants to be on the hill.” He swayed and Ilia caught him. She led him to one of the wagons so he could rest. He couldn’t dig anything himself in his condition. As he walked, he hung his head. Only Ilia caught his whisper; “Someone I couldn’t save,” he lamented.
Shad looked at Colin. “How did you know the recitation for helping a soul’s transition?”
“I had it said over me, long ago. Didn’t actually die, obviously. How did you know it?”
“My education. I’ve never had call to use it before – like that.”
“I’ll help Ilia gather the stray horses. You’ve been hurt. You should go rest – hang out with Link for a while.
Shad looked out over the caravan. “It’s going to be a bit before we get back on the road again.”
Sam walked behind them, shaking his head. “Nearly very one of these journeys has at least one casualty. I was hoping we’d have a clean-run, one where everybody lives. Poor kid.”
The trail winds ever onward…
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