Chapter XV: No Turning Back
He wandered the house, searching for Ilia, but some how he couldn’t find her. It was important that he find her, but no matter how he searched she was not to be found.
This pained him, though he knew it shouldn’t, she was often out in the garden or in the village talking with Sera and Uli, so why did it pain him so?
He paused by the door, one hand on the knob.
- No Turning -
Link woke with a start, he sat up. And it was a moment before he remembered where he was.
Ilia lay beside him, sound asleep, a gentle smile on her lips.
He slipped from bed with as little noise as possible, stealing across the floor with his boots in his hand.
Link pulled his tunic over his head- covering smooth, even bandages. He winced as stitches tightened painfully.
Three days of recuperation had done wonders, but then, he had always been a quick healer.
The night was crisp and clear, nearly silent. Epona blinked lazily at him, her tethers loosely secured to a sapling. He whispered reassurances and rubbed her nose as he slipped past. Link made no noise as he passed under branches and leaves.
Bulbin was awake, watching the moon as it hung above in the sky. Ashei was sprawled on the ground, looking up at the stars. She’d agreed to keep an eye on Bulbin while they camped under the eves of Ordon.
“You shouldn’t be moving about, you will burst the stitches,” Bulbin rumbled.
“I couldn’t sleep.” Link said, sitting down on a fallen log.
Bulbin grunted, picking up his pipe and lighting it.
He watched the young man from the corner of his eye.
“Heraji’s actions were none of your fault.” Bulbin’s voice was grave.
Link glanced at him, then away, frowning slightly.
“I’ve been thinking…” Link said, rubbing his chin, “Have you noticed the past few weeks? First the wolf riders, then the shadow, then Heraji.”
“You don’t think it is a coincidence.” Bulbin concluded.
Link shook his head, “It’s too convenient.”
The goblin pondered that for a time in silence.
“What do you plan to do?” The big goblin asked.
Link looked up at the moon, “I’m going back to Castle Town. I need answers.”
“And what will you find, I wonder?”
That voice came from above. Sheik had situated himself in the branches, one leg hanging below kicked the air lazily. Link considered him a moment without answering.
The young man regarded him in turn, head tilted at a queer angle. He was strange. Long bangs – blonde-white under the moon’s light– hung like twin curtains into alien eyes. Bare skin where one could find it (the scant space about his eyes and the back of his hands) was the lightly browned color of those easily tanned. The folded cloth of his facemask draped the bridge of a thin nose, hiding all but the most damning feature in his face: Those great sunset red eyes, dark and vivid as summer apples, Power pooling in every flutter of his eyelids.
Link shivered involuntarily at the seer intensity in that gaze, and realized he had never gotten a chance to really look at Sheik.
Now Link found the enigma unsettling, moreso because he had essentially taken the man to his home. The man had been characteristically tight-lipped on the path to Ordon. Not that any of them had been in the mood for conversation.
“I don’t see what you mean,” Bulbin rumbled.
“Cheh, things are moving.” Sheik waved his hands airily, “I don’t have time to explain the paths to you. What’s important is that you move as soon as possible.”
“I don’t think you ever explained why you are here.” Link said, “We were busy before, but I think an explanation is in order.”
Sheik laughed, a silky, quiet sound, “We have a common acquaintance, a certain princess concerned for your welfare.”
Link looked at him, “Zelda sent you?” he asked.
Sheik snorted, “The light-born? Feh, not likely.” Something dark lurked in his gaze.
“Cheh,” He noted Bulbin’s scowl with amusement, “I come from Midna.”
The Ordonian blinked, “Midna?”
“Yes, Midna.” Sheik snorted, “Try to take it in the first try.”
Link’s throat worked, “How?” he found his voice at last.
Sheik snorted, “How does one explain the paths to a child such as you? Meh, I won’t try, just know that I am and are, eh?”
Link glanced at Ashei, who shrugged.
“You had best be moving on.” Sheik continued, looking at him in such a… knowing way it left Link uncomfortable. “While there’s time.”
All four of them were silent, no sound but the fire’s quiet murmur in the dark.
“I’m done playing the hero.” Link replied.
“The shadow will return, and what if you are taken off-guard? Hmm? What about that pretty little wife of yours? Or that village you hold so dear?” Sheik nodded towards the distant hamlet, sleeping under the stars.
Link looked away, “I thought it was all over…”
Sheik’s eyes widened, and he laughed, “What makes you think this is the end, hero?” his gaze bored into Link, inescapable and powerful, “It is just beginning. Best get moving before it catches up with you.”
And with a flash of crimson eyes in the moonlight- a shadow stained silver by moonbeams –he was gone.
Link gazed at the space he had occupied a moment before turning and stepping out into the forest. He almost missed the quick footfall at his back.
“You okay?” Ashei asked.
Link looked up, startled by her voice, “Oh…yeah.”
A long moment passed, “How about you?”
“Oh, I’m fine I guess.”
Link nodded to himself without speaking, gaze directed out into the wood.
“I never…” he began, but forgot how he planned to finish. It wasn’t the first time he’d killed a man.
With Ganon it was different, his was a power so grand and majestic, and dark and potent you couldn’t really approach it rationally. If one could face that amount of power and evil rationally one would be driven mad. It was simply too encompassing. Even when it was happening, it seemed too surreal, like a dream. And when it was over the body hadn’t lain on the ground like bloody carrion. Ganon had died on his feet, unbending and proud even in death.
With Heraji… the man had fought beside him, and he saved his life. Fighting him, killing him had seemed… more real in a way, even though he had not landed the blow himself and sent the wizard off the crumbling cliff into the abyss. Even if the man had been abrupt and abrasive at times, it didn’t seem the proper end, somehow.
Ashei patted his shoulder once.
Link turned and leaned against a tree, something seemed to be constricting his throat, making it painful to breathe. He gasped the cool night air, looking upwards, into the stars.
His gaze fell and wandered over the ground, coming to rest on the glimmer of metal set against a tree. His claymore, and Heraji’s spear, black, glistening metal. He strode over slowly and took the shaft in his hands, turning it over in his hands.
Something red sparkled on the shaft, he leaned closer to see…
“Well, you’re not Heraji…”
The voice was light and lilting, the voice of a child, echoing without sound in Link’s head. Link almost dropped the weapon, “Hey! Don’t drop me!”
“Dear Goddesses, it talks!” Ashei exclaimed.
“Oh, great, a pair of geniuses…”
“Who- what are you?” Ashei was leaning in past Link’s shoulder now, the initial shock forgotten in a moment.
There was a sound like a snort, or perhaps a laugh, “What does it matter?” The red glimmer blinked, “You… you’re Link aren’t you?”
“You ain’t dead yet?”
“Pity.” The voice commented, “Where is Heraji?”
“… He’s dead.”
“Hm.” The voice digested that. “Interesting.” It didn’t seem particularly saddened by the passage of it’s late master, some remote corner of Link’s mind noted.
At least, for a spear…
The weapon was silent for a long time, “Well what are you going to do with me now?”
“I…” Link groped for an answer, “I guess I take you to Zelda…”
“The princess?” There was a moment of silence, then the voice spoke once more, “Her? Why her?
Link laughed, a harsh bark that crawled out his throat, “Because she’s the only one who might know why all this is happening.” Indeed, Sheik’s prediction seemed to be coming true, inexorably, inevitably. Link almost had to laugh- or cry, he was never destined for peace… Whenever it seemed he had found rest fate came and stole it away again.
“I’d rather you didn’t.” The spear said, “I’ve never gotten along with those.”
“What do you mean?”
“Um… Royalty’s always rubbed me the wrong way. A mutual thing, I think.” The voice replied, but now it sounded false in Link’s ears, like a small child who has been caught with the cookies and is trying to avoid being punished, “Never got along with them, especially princesses.”
Link lifted an eyebrow. There was a quiet muttering from the spear, muttering suspiciously like swearing.
Ashei leaned against the tree, “Can you tell us what you know about Heraji? Why was he in Hyrule? How did he know about the Triforce?”
“No, no, sorry, it’s nothing personal…” The voice said, “I mean, I’d love to- you’ve no idea how boring it is to be… like this.”
“But I’ve been bound to secrecy, no telling anyone about the boy’s magic or secrets.” There was a pause, “Of course, if you’re curious, you could inquire were one learns his arts…”
Ashei thought about that, “Wait. If you’re bound, how come you can give us hints? Isn’t that against the rules or something?” she glanced at Link, he shrugged.
“Ehm, well, yes, technically,” The child’s lisp stuttered, “But there’s always a loophole if you take the time to look for one…”
Link looked at the polished shaft skeptically, “I think we’d best let Zelda have a word with you.”
“Heh.” The bitterness was back, stronger, “ I guess I don’t have anything to say to you then, farmboy.”
The eye closed and the voice fell silent, refusing to respond to his questions or Ashei’s threats. With a sigh Link laid it back in it’s place.
“Well that was a bit of an eye-opener, yeah?” Ashei muttered, nudgeing the shaft with her boot.
“Hm.” Link agreed.
“Get some sleep Link, we’ve got a day or riding ahead of us.” Ashei said.
“Yeah.” Link said, “Thanks.” He wandered back towards the house, burdened by questions and the answers he didn’t want.
- No Turning -
They left at dawn.
The sun was just a glimmer in the sky, visible in the breaks between branches overhead. The only sound was a whispering breeze in the trees and the uneasy stamp as Epona adjusted to the new weight. The lingering morning chill bit the nose and numbed exposed ears, made the fingers clumsy, but mercifully there was little wind.
Link pulled the straps tight over his pack, then turned to pick up the last parcel.
The Master Sword, still in it’s sheath.
Link drew the weapon, testing it’s weight in his hand. The steel glimmered pale in the dark, reflecting the starlight above like a mirror. The blade was perfectly balanced, keen and flawless in his hand, as if it had been made with him in mind; like a blade forged the day before, not an ancient, legendary weapon.
There was no returning to how things were.
He flourished it once, experimentally, then replaced it in the sheath on his back. Accepting the weight at his shoulder. Heraji’s spear was already fastened to the saddle, still silent from the night before.
Ashei was carrying her pack, one foot tapping impatiently. Behind her Bulbin ambled with awkward steps.
“Yes, let’s go.”
Link climbed onto Epona and spurred her towards the opening in the trees.
- No Turning -
It was some time later, the sun high in it’s glory, that the day found Ilia by the gate, gazing out into the forest. A few weeds were beginning to spring up in the Pumpkin patch and the chickens had eggs that needed collection.
But instead she sat, it was eight o’ clock, the sun was well above the horizon, and she sat.
There was a footstep on the ground, she sat up, but there was no-one there. She turned, Rusl stood there, appearing somewhat embarrassed.
She nodded her head mutely.
And they could only stare at the empty path leading away out under the leaves.
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