They knew the land was untouched from the moment they set eyes on it. The rich black soil, still unscathed by harrow, gave a certain spring in the step for the Sheikah band. Each of them was forced to pause, taking in the unsoiled beauty of the landscape. There they saw a willow tree with ivy climbing up the trunk. Elsewhere stood a field of cattails, waving lazily in the mid-summer breeze. Beyond the ridge? Well, only their wild imaginations could tell them, but they were certain that they would find wonders more captivating than anything else they had ever seen.
Menteith stood apart from his clan mates. He claimed that he was merely scouting ahead, but the truth of the matter was that he just wanted to be the first. It seemed like such an honor to him. The first to set foot on the untouched soil. The first to gaze upon the shimmering blue water. These days, it was getting more and more difficult to be the first to do anything in Hyrule. The undiscovered lands were slowly dissolving into memory as the Hylians spread. Menteith felt a sense of awe and sheer, unabashed pride, shivering down his spine like a chilly trickle of water.
He looked back over his shoulder at the others. Nuria was in the lead, of course, the sunlight glinting off of her sleek caramel colored hair. The others all followed a step behind her, gazing where she gazed. They didn’t seem to realize the wonder of this place as Menteith did. Yet, when his eyes fell into Nuria’s gaze, he could tell that she too felt the exhilaration.
“Menteith,” she called to him after awhile. “Come back down here.”
Reluctantly, Menteith slowly began to retrace his footsteps, occasionally glancing over his shoulder to keep up his façade as the group’s watchman. “Yes, Nuria?” he asked dutifully, pounding a fist to his chest, the typical Sheikah salute.
“Stay with us for awhile,” she told him in her pleasant, husky voice.
“As you wish.”
The group began to walk again. There were eight of them in total and each specimen was more pleasing to the eye than the last. Such was the way of the Sheikah back then. Each was at least six feet high, with light hair pulled back tightly. They all wore the Sheikah eye proudly over their hearts, as if to leave no question to any who saw them that they were the proud race that protected the royal line.
“What do you think of this spot, Nuria?” one of them asked as they crossed over a rocky plateau.
“The queen wants to build the castle on fertile ground,” Nuria replied. “There, she can plant her rose garden.”
“Rose garden?” scoffed another Sheikah from the pack. “The best place would be on the high ground. To better fend off attacks.”
“Attacks from whom?” Nuria asked skeptically.
“Anyone who sees opportunity.”
“And who do you suppose would be foolish enough to attack the royal castle?”
“The Gerudo have been restless lately. They say there’s been a prince born in their number.”
Nuria shook her head. “The Gerudo wouldn’t dare. Besides, the high ground isn’t easily accessible for foreign dignitaries. Don’t forget that the palace will be more than just a safe haven for the royal family. It will be the center of Hyrule’s political activity.”
Menteith smiled inwardly. He adored how logical Nuria could be. He had long ago pinned his hopes on her. Nuria was the women he would marry and while she was still reluctant to declare her fidelity to any one man, Menteith felt sure in his heart and soul that when the time came, she would choose him.
He was shook out of his reverie quickly, however. Nuria stopped the group and held up a hand, signaling for silence. Following her gaze, Menteith’s eyes fell on a pass in between two steep rock hills. “The castle could never fit in there,” he joked, “it’s far too narrow.”
Whether or not she thought this was particularly funny, Nuria offered him a good natured smile. “No, it’s not that.”
“What is it?”
“The walls of the pass. Look at them.”
Furrowing his brow, Menteith glanced at them, feeling the others all do the same behind his back. “Smooth,” he commented.
“Too smooth to be natural.”
“What do you suppose that means?”
Nuria licked her lips. “Perhaps this land isn’t as uninhabited as we suspected,” she decided at last.
“Who could possibly have carved that out?” asked one of the Sheikah from the rear.
“Must have taken hundreds,” another decided.
“What’s the purpose?” a third wondered.
“Well,” Nuria drawled slowly, “we don’t need to return to the base camp until the sun is beyond the highest point in the sky.”
“Do you want to investigate?” Menteith asked her.
After a moment, Nuria nodded. “Come; let’s see what these people, if they exist, are capable of.”
There was no argument. There never was, not once Nuria had made up her mind. The group traveled across the plain, passing fragrant fig trees and apple trees with dappled barks. Menteith felt a sense of disappointment. If Nuria was right, if this land was inhabited, it took something away from his earlier feeling of discovery. He was no longer a daring pioneer now. Merely a trespasser on what had already been seen by Hylian eyes.
As they neared the pass, they were even more impressed with the craftsmanship and more convinced of inhabitants. The walls were smooth as teak, climbing high up into the sky on either side and curving around into gentle grass slopes. The fact of the matter was that they weren’t going through a natural pass at all, but rather a highway carved directly through the middle of a hill.
“Industrious fellows aren’t they?” one of the scouts muttered.
“So it would seem,” Nuria replied tersely.
“Could they be Gerudo?”
Nuria shook her head. “The Gerudo could never have gotten themselves organized enough to accomplish this. The prides are too busy fighting amongst themselves.”
“I wouldn’t advise building the new royal castle so close to these people,” he said wearily. “Think of the weapons they could develop.”
“They may be friendly,” Menteith pointed out.
By this point they had arrived at the edge of the pass. Everyone looked to Nuria for instructions. She examined the floor of the pass for a moment. It was covered with ancient, withered leaves. They were mashed down, creating a dull and dreary colored carpet. As her eyes went up the pass, she saw the uniform stretch clear to the other end. A small frown etched across her face for a moment. She felt uneasy about the sight, though she couldn’t say just why.
“Nuria?” one of the scouts called.
“Hmmm…” she muttered.
“Should we cross?”
For a long moment, she considered her answer. Finally, half wearily, she nodded. “Let’s go.”
Once again, there was no argument. Nuria filed into the pass and the others followed behind her in single file. Menteith brought up the rear as he wanted to move a bit slower, examining the sleek walls surrounding him. On closer inspection, he realized they weren’t as smooth as he thought from a distance. High up, beyond a single person’s reach, he saw shapes engraved into the rock. He paused, squinting against the sunlight to identify what they were.
“Menteith?” one of them called.
Nuria glanced over at him. She held her hand up and everyone stopped, turning to look back at Menteith. “What is it?” Nuria asked.
“There are figures in the rock,” he said, pointing up. “I can’t quite make out what they are.”
In that instant, they were all glancing up at the side of the rock. “Is it a person?” one of them wondered.
“Look, a horizontal person.”
They all tilted their heads in unison. “I think it is.”
“What’s going through the middle of the torso?”
“I’m not sure.”
“It looks like –”
But whatever it looked like, that would be lost to the annals of time. Nuria took a step back and her heel hit against something under the leaves. Instantly, there was a loud whooshing noise, followed by a low groan. The ground trembled beneath them, causing most of them to lose their balance. All at once, the man directly in the middle of the pack let out a horrified scream as the leafy ground dropped out from under him. He disappeared from sight. Before any of them could react, the two on either side of him fell into the widening abyss beneath.
Full of panic, Menteith, stepped back. Two more of his friends fell. By this point, he realized what had happened. Somehow, Nuria had tripped an old trap. The ground was giving way beneath them and though he could not understand the mechanics of it, Menteith understood well enough the implications.
As two more fell, he heard agonized sounds of pain. He broke out into a full sprint, but he knew, even as he ran, that he could not outrun the vanishing ground beneath him. At once, he felt his heels digging into nothingness. As he dropped, he reached his hands out and his fall was suddenly stunted and he felt his arms wrench, straining against their joints. For a moment, his vision was blurry, but then, when he blinked away the clouds of fear, he realized that he had somehow managed to catch hold of a root growing out of the ground. Listening to the sound of his heart racing, he swung above the gaping cavern. When he had finally managed to catch his breath, he turned to look over his shoulder. At once, he wished he hadn’t.
Below, a wide chamber was exposed. The floor was covered in sharp wooden stakes, each nearly three feet high and ground to a fine point. Menteith saw that all of his friends lay motionless on the cavern floor, most of them impaled directly through the stomach by the deadly stakes. Menteith felt his own stomach give way and he vomited. Dead. They were all dead.
His arms were beginning to tire. Gritting his teeth he pulled himself up, hoisting his body back over the ledge of the newly formed gap in the pass. It was a simple climb and soon, he was once again on solid ground. There he lay for some time, gasping for breath and shuddering with dismay. Suddenly, he understood what the hieroglyphics on the wall had meant. They had been a warning. If only he had realized sooner! Then they might still be alive…
Slowly, Menteith pushed himself up. As he looked back along the wide expanse of ground they had crossed, he came to the startling realizing that he wasn’t entirely sure which was the path back to camp. The navigator was dead and all the maps lay at the bottom of the deadly pit. Choking back tears, he started trudging back past the cattails and willow trees. It was too late, without his friends, he was lost.
Impa sat up with a sharp inhale. For a moment, the tent seemed to spin around her, but she quickly caught her bearings, taking several deep breaths to calm herself. Her heart was racing, but for the life of her, she couldn’t understand why. She felt something, something peculiar, in the pit of her stomach. Absently, she glanced over to her side. Glas was laying there, his hands resting on his chest. She could tell that he wasn’t asleep, though he kept his eyes closed.
“What’s the matter?” he asked drowsily, confirming her suspicions.
“I don’t know,” she replied.
“Then lie down again.”
Glas opened his bright red eyes, looking up at Impa. He tended to lack the steely gaze typical of a Sheikah. Instead, whenever he looked at anyone, it seemed like he was soft. Of course, Impa knew better. Glas had a stronger stomach than almost anyone else in the world. Still, when she looked into his eyes, she couldn’t help but wonder at them. “Lie down,” he told her gently, reaching out a hand to stroke her arm lovingly.
“Something doesn’t feel right.”
“Impa,” he scolded her gently.
Sighing loudly, Impa gave in and lay down beside Glas, staring up at the canvas above them. “Do you think the others will be back soon?” she asked after a moment, running her fingers along the stitching of her quilt.
“They’ll be back on time, as they were ordered,” Glas assured her, leaning forward to kiss her shoulder.
“I have such a sense of foreboding. I can’t explain it.”
“You always expect the worst,” he told her.
“That’s what makes me good at my job.”
“I know,” he replied, kissing the back of her neck.
“I can’t do this.” Impa tried to sit up, but Glas pulled her back down. “Glas!” she yelped indignantly.
“Calm down, Impa,” he told her.
Rolling her eyes in frustration, Impa relaxed, pressing her back against Glas’ bare chest. “I’m sorry,” she murmured gently after a moment.
“You’re on edge.”
“It’s not your fault. It’s just the stress of –”
“Your first assignment,” he finished for her.
“I’ve never been in charge of other people before.”
“You’re doing a fine job.”
Impa ran her fingers up and down his arm absently, staring at the side of the tent. “I just wish I didn’t feel so sick.”
“I feel like I’m about to lose my lunch. And I haven’t even eaten my breakfast yet.”
“Breakfast in bed? Sounds nice.”
Playfully, she smacked his arm. “I’m serious, Glas.”
“So I am. What would you like? I can probably go out and catch a wild chicken for you.”
“You couldn’t catch a cold,” she retorted.
“Besides,” she sighed, “I can’t eat. I’m sick.”
“Then it’s a good thing I’m a healer,” he said, sitting up. Brushing some hair away from her face, he leaned over and kissed her forehead. “Well,” he said, sitting up again, “You’re not running a fever.”
“I could have told you that.”
“True, but I make it sound professional. Let me check your glands.” Again, he leaned over, planting a series of small kisses down her neck and shoulder, first on the right side, then on the left. Impa laughed, her entire frame shaking. “Well, everything looks all right there,” Glas declared.
“I told you, it’s just my stomach. I feel nauseous.”
“Yes,” he muttered, lying down beside her again. “Well, I don’t blame you. Kaya’s cooking leaves something to be desired.”
“That is very true,” she snickered. Eventually, her smile faded. “I can’t keep from thinking that something is wrong.”
“With everything, Glas. This place just feels…ominous.”
She shrugged. “I’ve been having the most awful dreams about this place. Nightmares.”
“And what happens in them?”
“I don’t know exactly. I’m not very good at interpreting these sorts of things. You know that.”
“Frankly, I don’t put much stock in dreams. I don’t think there is anything to interpret.”
“That goes against a thousand years of Sheikah lore.”
“I suppose it does,” Glas sighed.
“Your grandmother would be horrified.”
“Well, I’ve already done enough damage there. I think she was ready to disown me when I decided I wanted to become a healer instead of a warrior.”
“It’s not exactly conventional.”
“I don’t like convention,” he answered.
“You don’t like convention, you don’t like fighting, you don’t like dreams. What kind of Sheikah are you? Do you like anything remotely Sheikah?”
“Well, there is one thing.”
Impa arched an eyebrow. “What?”
“I like you.”
She laughed at this. “Well, thank you very much.”
“You’re very welcome.”
Impa sat up, wrapping the quilt around her chest. She rose from the bed, crossing over to the other side of the tent where her clothing lay in a rumpled pile. Glas sat up as well, leaning on his elbow to watch her. “Stop that.”
“Leering like that.”
“This isn’t leering. This is leering.” He scrunched up his face, leaning forward to stare at Impa.
Again, she laughed. “I stand corrected.”
“What are you doing?”
“I’m getting dressed.”
“You’re going to do something foolish, aren’t you?”
“Of course not.”
“Where are you going?”
“I’m going to take Kaya out to do some scouting.”
“You already have a team scouting.”
“I’m anxious,” she said. “I can’t just sit around. I need to do something.”
Leafa had a secret. The secret was one she kept close to her heart, not out of fear or embarrassment, but rather for the sake of having a special secret. Her secret was that she loved calling meetings. True, it was in her right as leader of the clan to do so whenever she wished, but that wasn’t why she enjoyed them so much. The real reason she loved calling meetings was because it meant going into the meeting hut.
Most of the time, it stood vacant; a lonely little hovel off to the far edge of the village. At night, as the sun would set, Leafa would stare at the dark silhouette of the building: As the sky changed from yellow to orange to dark blue, the hut remained unchanged. It was the greatest accomplishment of the village to date. By far the biggest structure they had, it could fit every adult in the village, seated comfortably around a wide, gaping fire pit in the middle of the room. From the pit rose curls of bluish smoke, smelling vaguely of rosemary and sage. Leafa would sit in her wicker throne, watching as the fingers of fog licked the faces of the citizens, each smiling absently at her, enjoying the richness of the smooth aroma.
Unfortunately, today’s meeting was far from smooth. They had serious matters to discuss, not festivities to plan or initiation rites to witness. Leafa scowled, tapping her knuckles absently on the armrest of her chair. As her sharp green eyes swept over the faces of those around her, she could tell they sensed her tension. And there was plenty reason to be upset.
“Peace and long life,” she finally said, raising her hands in the customary salute of the clan.
“Peace and long life,” the people echoed, returning the gesture. It dated back from the ancient times, when the people used to believe that their leader was semi-divine. Of course, they had long ago abandoned the notion, but the gesture still remained for the sake of tradition.
“We are troubled today,” Leafa announced, “troubled by the appearance of strangers in our midst.” She turned to gesture absently to her champion, Tully, who stepped forward.
“One of our traps was sprung this morning,” he said in his deep, rich baritone. “Several strange creatures have been put to rest by the stakes.”
“Strange creatures?” someone from the crowd wondered quizzically.
As the others began to mutter nervously, Leafa glanced out to identify who had spoken. “Yes, Robia,” she said.
“What do you mean by ‘strange creaturs,’ Tully?” Robia asked.
Tully cleared his throat, stealing a quick glance at Robia before he proceeded to explain. “They are unlike our kind,” he told them. “Their eyes are scarlet as blood and they stand high as giants, twenty stones or more. Their ears point like those of a bat. On their faces, they wear war paint and on their chests, a symbol. Of what, I can only guess.”
Unrest immediately settled over the gathering. The villagers looked at each other, frightened and amazed. Leafa leaned back in her chair, bridging her fingertips in front of her eyes for a moment. When she finally spoke, it was with the customary calmness that had made her a beloved leader for five years now. “Tully, what do you think was their purpose in our land?”
He shook his head. “I cannot say, Basileaus.”
Leafa sighed inwardly. She hated it when Tully referred to her by her proper title. He certainly never used it when they were alone together, why did he have to use it in public all the time? Well, that was no matter. Not right now. “The odds are that there will be more,” she declared, although she certainly had no idea if that was really true or not.
“What are your orders?” Tully asked.
“Should any of you encounter the strangers, do not make contact or engage them,” she said. “Should you see them, run back to the village immediately and inform me at once.”
“Do you think they’re hostile?” a villager spoke out.
“I cannot say,” Leafa replied.
“They were armed, Basileaus,” Tully put in softly.
“That may be,” Leafa addressed him. “But carrying a weapon does not necessarily indicate hostility. Our people carry weapons too.”
“Until we know what they mean to us, however, I want to keep my people safe within the confines of the village. You have your instructions.” Her eyes scanned the room briefly, taking a quick count of all the faces, staring anxiously up at her. Finally, with a small sigh, she held up her hands again. “Peace and long life.”
“Peace and long life,” they chorused back to her.
With that, the meeting was over. Low murmurs began to emerge as the people filed out of the hut in small, family groups, all of them wondering about the meaning of the strangers. “Robia,” Leafa called.
“Yes, Basileaus?” Robia’s voice replied, although Leafa could not see her within the dense crowd.
“Come here,” she said.
There was some shuffling near the door. After a moment, a small woman emerged from the throng. Robia was a pretty girl, close to becoming eligible for marriage. It was whispered that many men desired her, none more than Darius, a man who had already outlived three wives. She had a slender, nymph-like build, not customary to the clan. Her hair was coal black, chopped with a severe edge hovering over her shoulders. She gazed at the world through wide, cobalt blue eyes that always seemed to be filled with a sense of hidden wonder. Most beautiful, however, was her flawless skin, stretched tight over high cheekbones that were high enough to be beautiful, but not so high as to appear stern.
Gracefully, Robia raised her hands in salute. “Yes, Basileaus?” she asked again as the hut slowly emptied, leaving behind three: Basileaus, champion, and beautiful village girl.
“Robia, where is your father?” Leafa questioned her. Her voice was firm, but certainly not unkind.
Tully, however, was another matter. “Sojef has disappeared again?” he mumbled irritably.
“No!” Robia cried, “Not disappeared!”
“Calm yourself,” Leafa assured her, “I’ve made no accusation.”
“However, I would like to know where he is.”
The girl sighed, playing absently with the necklace of polished white stones she wore around her neck. “He left the house early this morning,” she explained, “before I woke up.”
“Did he leave any indication of where he was going?”
Robia shook her head. “No.”
“And he must have been so far away that he didn’t see the smoke,” Leafa sighed, running a hand through her rust colored curls.
“Well, I don’t like the fact that he’s run off again,” Leafa muttered, throwing a casual glance at Tully. “Still, he could very well have decided to go fishing near the northern ridge.”
“I’m sure that’s where he went,” Robia said, though all three could tell that she didn’t really believe it.
“Go,” Leafa said finally, pointing to the door. “Find your father and bring him back to the village. Warn him of the dangers out there and tell him of the decree I have made regarding the strangers.”
“Yes, Basileaus,” Robia answered, holding up her hands in salute.
“Peace and long life, Robia.”
“Peace and long life,” she repeated, backing slowly out of the hut. When she reached the entrance, she turned around and hurried out, vanishing behind the deer hide that swung back in place, blocking the outside world.
“Peace and long life!” Tully called after her.
Leafa threw a bemused glance at Tully. “You like her,” she commented with only the slightest twinge of jealousy.
“Where do you suppose he’s really gone?” Tully asked quickly, making his best attempt to brush off Leafa’s observation.
She sighed inwardly. That meant it was true. “I strongly suspect he’s heard about the appearance of the strangers,” Leafa said absently.
“Do you think he’s sought them out?”
“No. Sojef isn’t that foolish.”
“He’s grown senile in his old age,” Tully muttered.
“I don’t think so,” Leafa replied. “And I know the villagers don’t see him as a mad man. Just odd. Eccentric.”
“Eccentric can be dangerous, Leafa.”
“Sojef is harmless.
“Then why did you send Robia after him?”
Leafa was unable to answer that question. Instead, she stared straight forward, watching the final plumes of smoke dissipate in the shafts of sunlight, spilling into the hut from around the hide doorway. “What do you think the appearance of these strange creatures means?” she wondered aloud.
“Perhaps it will be a great opportunity for us.”
“Or perhaps it will change our way of life.”
From the left hand side of the hill trap, one could see almost the entire prairie. It stretched out for miles and miles, everything swaying to the wind in unison, nature’s great choreography. For the moment though, that wasn’t nearly as interested as what lay in the pass. Sojef crouched precariously on the precipice, peering down into the trap, at the motionless forms lying on the cavern floor. In all his days - and they were starting to be many - Sojef had never seen creatures like this. They seemed so delicate, yet much longer and wider than his people. Perhaps it was because of their curious ears. Sojef had never seen a person with bat ears before.
He had been crouching there for hours, just staring down at the lifeless forms. He supposed his fascination was slightly morbid, but still, this might well be his only opportunity to see them. They were so beautiful and so strange. A pity they were dead. Sojef would have liked very much to have had the opportunity to speak with them.
Sighing, he ran a hand through his salt and pepper hair. He wore it cropped closely to his head these days, but in time gone by, in his hunter days, he allowed it to grow and grow, so long that it would dance in the breeze and become tangled in the branches of the willow when he happened to pass underneath it. With age, came the realization that he could no longer maintain it, so at the first sign of gray, he chopped it all off. Now, his hair was a veritable pallet of black, white, and shades of gray and his face had begun to resemble worn leather. Not that he minded. There was great respectability that came with age, even if some of the villagers still considered him to be eccentric.
There was a low moan from beneath. Sojef started, nearly falling backwards down the sloping hill. He regained his balance and peered into the pit. There it was again! He clearly heard someone moaning in a great deal of pain. Was one of them alive down there? His heart raced. Blinking a few times in a vain attempt to clear his worsening vision, he scanned the line of bodies, trying to determine which of them had made the sound. There! That one, on the far end. Clearly now, Sojef could see one of the females breathing raggedly.
He swung his weight, about to repel down the side of the cliff when he heard something else. Voices, coming from the right hand side of the hill. “Do you think they’d really scout a hill for the palace?” one of the voices asked, clearly in a feminine tone.
“No,” the second voice, also female, replied.
“Then why are we climbing up this hill?”
“To get better vantage.”
“Must you always be so logical?”
Sojef slowly crept back, shielding himself behind a bright green shrub with leaves like velvet. From there, he watched as two figures emerged opposite the pass. “Well, it’s quite annoying,” the first voice said as her body appeared. She was clearly one and the same with the creatures below, sporting long pointed ears and the same scarlet eyes. Her hair was pale red, pulled back by a ribbon near the base of her neck. Like the others, she sported the mysterious symbol on her chest.
“You annoy too easily,” the second voice said, also coming into view. She nearly took Sojef’s breath away. Never, in his whole life, had he seen a creature as beautiful and statuesque as this. She was a bit taller than her companion, with pale white hair pulled back tightly. Underneath each of her eyes was a streak of white war paint. Like all the others, she wore the symbol up on her breastbone, but her clothing was scant, proudly featuring her well defined muscles.
“Nothing annoys you, Impa,” the red haired one said.
“That’s not true,” Impa replied.
“What does annoy you then?”
“You annoy me.” Impa was smiling slightly, leading Sojef to believe that she was clearly teasing her companion.
The companion seemed to understand this as well. “We all have our purposes in life,” she answered. “Personally, I think yours is to –”
“Kaya,” Impa cut her off.
Impa was standing on the edge of the cliff. As she looked down, she too saw the lifeless forms of the creatures below. “Sweet Nayru…”
Kaya followed her gaze and slowly raised a hand to her mouth. “By the Triforce,” she breathed.
“A trap,” Impa muttered, glancing around now to see if there were any other traps to be concerned about.
“They didn’t have a chance,” Kaya said, angrily balling up her hands into two tight fists.
“They’re not all down there,” Impa sighed.
The pained moan came from the bottom of the pit again. Instantly, both women turned to look down. “Someone’s still alive down there.”
“We’d better go help them.”
With that, much to Sojef’s amazement, both women turned and jumped directly into the pit. He thought for certain, as he watched, that they would be impaled by the stakes below, but as they plunged closer, he saw the one called Impa remove a rope from her pack. Effortlessly, she swung it forward, catching it on a tree root. She reached out and grabbed Kaya’s hand, just as the rope went taut, a yard or so above the tips of the stakes.
Carefully, Impa lowered Kaya down to her feet, directly in between a few of the stakes. Kaya then turned around, cutting a few of the stakes away with a knife from her belt. Impa dropped down into the vacant space, landing in a crouch and standing quickly. “Sheikah!” Kaya hissed, turning around in a full circle.
There was another groan from the end of the pit. Together, Impa and Kaya clambered over the lifeless bodies around them, following the sound. “Nuria,” Impa said sadly as they identified the one in pain.
Nuria lay on the floor of the pit. Her breathing was labored and ragged, occasionally accompanied by a spray of blood. When she fell into the pit, her side had been impaled, the stake just missing her left hip bone. As the two other women converged on her, she groaned, turning her head to one side and letting a trickle of blood fall from the corner of her mouth.
“Don’t move,” Kaya cried urgently.
Impa knelt beside Nuria, scanning her wounds. “Can you feel your legs?” she questioned, jabbing at one of them carefully.
“No,” Nuria moaned.
“What happened?” Kaya asked.
“Don’t know,” Nuria replied weakly. “We were exploring the pass. Thought we saw signs of inhabitants.”
“Yes,” Nuria wheezed. “Something was triggered. Everyone fell in except Menteith.”
“Where’s Menteith?” Impa asked sternly.
“Don’t know…thought he went back for help.”
“We’ve seen no sign of him,” Kaya explained.
“When your team didn’t come back, we set out ourselves to try and find you,” Impa said.
“Probably lost,” Nuria sighed painfully. “No sense of direction.”
“We’ll find Menteith, but we need to get you back to camp.”
“I can’t move,” Nuria told her.
“I’ll take you,” Impa replied. She put her hands on Nuria’s shoulders, but glanced up at Kaya. “Follow us back to camp.”
“I will,” Kaya said with a nod.
Impa closed her eyes. Her lips began working rapidly, although Sojef could not hear what she was saying. Suddenly, a bright flash of light erupted from the eye-like symbol on her chest. The light turned green and flowed down Impa’s limbs, turning her whole body into a glowing form. It passed on, consuming Nuria as well. There was a rustle of wind and in a flash the two of them vanished from sight.
Sojef’s eyes widened in shock. He leaned forward, trying to see where they had gone and lost his balance. With a primal shriek, he fell over; hurtling down, head first, into the cavern below. Kaya looked up sharply at the sound. Instantly, she shot her hand out toward the rope, still dangling from the root in the ground. It telekinetically jumped to life, snapping into her hand. She jumped up, kicking off the ground, and swung over the stakes, catching Sojef in the middle with her left arm.
The weight was too much for the rope. It groaned as the root gave way. Kaya had just enough time to swing them back over the place where she had cut away the stakes. They dropped into a heap on the ground. Sojef let out a might scream and fell unconscious on top of Kaya.
“Great,” she muttered, squirming out from under him with surprising difficulty. As she got to her feet, she realized that his leg had been caught by the tip of one of the stakes. Fresh blood was drizzling down his calf. “Just great.”
With tender care, she pulled his leg away from the stake. It was then that she turned to look at him. She had never seen a creature quite like him before. He looked very much like a Hylian really, but his ears were rounded, his skin a bit more tan and coarse than was customary for a Hylian. Curiously, she pried one of his eyes open. Not blue. No, he definitely wasn’t a Hylian.
She paused to consider her options. She could leave him here to wake and find his own way home, where ever that was, or she could bring him back to camp. Curiously, she reached out and touched her finger to the tip of one of the stakes. Sticking out her tongue, she lightly dabbed her finger to it and made a face. The stakes were tipped with some sort of toxin, though she wasn’t sure what kind. After spitting, she knelt down beside Sojef and put her hands on his shoulders. With a gush of Farore’s Wind, the two of them vanished.
When he first opened his eyes, his vision was so hazy, that he was certain he was underwater. As his eyes rolled back into their sockets, he lost consciousness again. A little while later, no way of knowing how long, he opened them for a second time. This time he could see a bit more clearly, though the colors before him swam somewhat. Sojef realized that he was lying on his back, staring up at a brightly colored tent.
With a groan, he turned his head to one side. Several yards away, he saw a few figures. At once, he recognized the woman known as Impa. She was standing over a small cot, on which was lying the woman they had rescued from the hill trap. Nuria, was it? There was a third figure with them as well, a man Sojef hadn’t seen before. Like all the others, he was tall and brawny, sporting the alien symbol and the bright red eyes. He knelt beside the cot, pulling bloody bandages away from Nuria’s body, a mousy brown ponytail falling over his shoulder.
“When will she regain consciousness?” Impa asked urgently in her sultry, deep voice.
“I can’t say,” the man replied, never once removing his eyes from the work at hand. “I should tell you, however, that there’s a chance she won’t at all.”
“What do you mean?” Impa spat fiercely.
“There was hemlock in the wound. She was exposed to it for far too long. There’s nothing more I can do. And even if I could remove the hemlock, the gangrene will kick in soon. She was just there for too long.”
Impa’s face tightened. “Make her comfortable, Glas.”
A tent flap opened and Kaya ducked in. “I can’t find the telepathy stones anywhere,” she said in exasperation.
“Why were you looking for the telepathy stones?” Impa asked sharply.
“To contact Yonah and tell her what happened.”
“That is my responsibility,” Impa growled.
“All right, all right,” Kaya said, holding up her hands.
Sojef blinked in surprise. The girl called Kaya was saluting Impa in the same way his people greeted the Basileaus. Careful not to draw attention to himself, he watched them carefully. He remembered now. He had fallen from the cliff after seeing…it wasn’t possible, was it? As he searched his memory, he knew now, very clearly, why he had been so surprised. He had seen a miracle happen. This stranger called Impa had made herself and Nuria disappear in that green light. But such things were impossible! Weren’t they? Then again, how else could he possibly have found himself here in this tent?
“It’s an interesting patient you’ve brought me,” Glas said. Immediately, Sojef shut his eyes and not a moment too soon. All three of the Sheikahs turned to look in his direction. “I’ve never seen anything like him.”
“Nor have I,” Impa said darkly.
“What do you suppose he is?” Glas wondered.
“I haven’t the slightest idea,” Kaya answered.
There was a long moment of silence. “I’ve heard stories,” she said slowly. “Rumors really.”
“Rumors about what?”
“About a nomadic people. I don’t remember what they’re called. It was a long time ago.”
“Clearly, those rumors have proved true.”
“Clearly,” Impa repeated dryly.
“What do we do with him?” Glas asked.
“Heal him,” Impa declared without pause. “Then I’ll send him back to where he belongs. No sense in getting involved any more than we have to. His society needs to develop as it develops, without our influence.”
“Are you sure?” Kaya muttered. “He looks funny. I’d like to talk to him.”
“No,” Impa snapped.
“Okay, okay, sorry.”
“If we don’t want to make contact, I should give him a dose of ether,” Glas said. “Just to keep him asleep.”
“What are we going to do?” Kaya asked hesitantly.
“Menteith,” Impa answered. “We have to find him and bring him back.”
“Where do you suppose he’s run off to?”
“I haven’t the faintest notion.”
“We’ll find him,” Glas said, his voice much closer to Sojef than before, accompanied by the clinking of glass. “And perhaps find a better place to build the castle.”
A surge of disappointment filled Sojef’s chest as he sensed Glas nearing him. No! He wanted to hear more. Before he could decide what to do, however, he felt a cloth press against his mouth and nose. As he breathed, a sickeningly sweet aroma filled his lungs and suddenly, it seemed like all the strength in his sinews was undone. For a moment, he felt as if he were falling and then, there was nothingness.
“I’m going to go get the corpses,” Kaya said after a moment, as she watched consciousness slip away from Sojef. “They deserve proper burial.”
“Go,” Impa sighed.
Kaya nodded. With a spin, she flounced out of the tent, the flap swinging shut behind her. Impa sank down onto a crate, burying her head in her hands. “This was a scouting mission to find a place to build the
,” she whispered. “No one was supposed to die.” new castle
Glas put a hand on Impa’s shoulder. “The life of a Sheikah is always dangerous. And usually short.”
Impa looked up at him. “My first mission. I was in charge. Me. And now my people are dead. Under my watch.”
“It wasn’t your fault, Impa.”
“I’m the one who sent them to scout the prairie.”
Glas sat down beside her. “What happened was an accident. Wallowing isn’t going to change that fact. We have to honor them for their lives. They died in service of the royal family.”
“They died senselessly.”
“Is there really any sense in death?”
“I really hate you sometimes.”
“And why is that?”
“You’re too philosophical for your own good.”
Glas laughed. “For my own good?”
“All right. For me.”
He smiled, snaking an arm around her waist. “No one will blame you for what happened, Impa,” he promised tenderly.
“You can’t speak for the dead.”
“Neither can you.”
“If I can’t protect my own regimen, how can I be expected to serve the royal family when the time comes?”
“I have faith in you. Besides, you’re only seventeen. You won’t be serving them directly for a long time. There’s plenty of time to learn.” He kissed her shoulder.
Impa sighed softly. “Glas…”
“Think of it this way. You may have suffered some casualties, but you’ve discovered an entirely new species.”
“Or they’ve discovered us.”
She glanced across the room at the sleeping Sojef. “Do you suppose his people were responsible for the trap?”
He shrugged. “It’s possible, I suppose.”
Slowly, Impa stood up. She suddenly seemed transfixed by Sojef. After a moment, she took a step in his direction. Quickly, Glas reached out and latched onto her arm, pulling her back. “Hey!”
“That’s not what we’re about, Impa,” he told her sternly. “That’s not why we’re here.”
“But if his people –”
“One man cannot take punishment for an entire people. And if his people did set the trap, which we don’t know for certain, it’s a fair guess that they didn’t set it for us. It was probably to keep animals or Gerudos out of their homestead.”
Sighing, Impa sank down to her seat again. “You’re right.”
“Of course, I’m right,” Glas replied with a shrug. “I’m always right.”
“I’ll never make full warrior status now, though. Not after this.”
“Don’t say that.” He snaked an arm around her waist once more and began kissing her shoulder.
“What if Kaya comes back.”
“Let her get her own Impa. You’re mine.”
Impa found herself laughing in spite of herself. “You are incorrigible.”
“I know. That’s why you love me so much.”
“Well, I certainly love you.”
“I suppose I love you too.”
“Oh? You suppose?”
“Yeah. Sometimes I forget.”
“Well, I’ll have to remind you then.” Glas reached into his supply kit and pulled out a small length of twine.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m going to tie a string around your finger so you don’t forget. Hold out your hand.”
Laughing indulgently, Impa offered Glas her hand. With an impish grin, Glas tied the string around her ring finger, finishing it off in a bow. Impa looked down at her hand. “Glas?”
“That’s a very specific finger.”
He glanced casually down at her hand. “So it is.”
“Is it supposed to be?”
“It is. Will you marry me?”
As much as she enjoyed the ritual of the meeting, there was a ritual that Leafa truly disliked, one she was forced to perform every night: Sealing the village. It was getting late now and once again, she sat under her tree, watching with a sense of disappointment as Tully began to approach to announce that the time had come. Of all the duties of the Basileaus, this was the most tedious, and she had to perform it every night.
Leafa stood up, brushing the dust off of her chiton. A few generations back, the villagers had discovered a fantastic plant that created a rich, purple dye. They used it on all the Basileaus’ clothing now, adorning the robes with gold lining and baubles. Leafa’s wardrobe was astonishing, although she secretly wished she could wear green instead of purple. When her father had been Basileaus, she used to wear a pastel green sarong almost all the time, running barefoot across the prairie with her companions. Her father was gone now, and with him, that fantastic sense of freedom she once held close when she wore green.
“The sun sets,” Tully told her gently. He knew perfectly well how much Leafa hated the routine.
“It always does,” she replied with a wry smile.
“Yes, it has that annoying habit, doesn’t it?” he quipped, returning the smile. “Perhaps some day we’ll figure out how to make the world turn backwards.” Leafa absolutely loved it when Tully smiled. Sadly, he would never do it when they were in public. Only in the private moments they shared together, would she see the way his face could truly light up.
“Go ring the bell. I’ll start the tour.”
“Yes, Leafa,” he replied. At once, he turned around and walked away, heading to the bell tower.
Leafa watched him go for a moment. With a sigh, she turned around and headed in the opposite direction, to the village gate. As she passed the villagers, they regarded her with the customary divine salute. She really wished they’d leave that nonsense behind. Clearly, she was a mortal woman, born in the same sweat and pain as any other mortal. Traditions were just traditions.
The bell sounded. “Basileaus!”
Quickly, Leafa turned her attention to the field. There, she saw Robia racing across the grass, her eyes wide as always. “Come in, Robia,” she called. “I’m about to close the gate.”
Robia raced through the fence, saluting Leafa as she approached. “Basileaus, I couldn’t find him.”
“I couldn’t find my father!”
A crowd began to assemble. As they realized the cause of the commotion, the customary mutters began to arise. “Sojef again?”
“What’s he gotten himself into this time?”
“We have to close the village! Where is he?”
With a gesture of her hand, Leafa silenced them. “How far did you go, Robia?” she asked.
“All the way to the water and back,” Robia replied.
“Did you try going to the trap?”
“You told us not to go there.”
Leafa was about to respond when she heard a shriek. On instinct, she looked out the village gate. Many yards away, near the opening to the trap, she saw a bright burst of green light slowly begin to fade. “What was that?” she whispered, more to herself than to the villagers.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Robia breathed.
They heard a sudden shout. “Look!” a villager cried, pointing in the direction of the trap.
Leafa strained her eyes for a moment. Soon, it became clear what the villager saw. Getting closer, she saw the figure of a person running, positively sprinting, headed to the village. Slowly, she moved to the gate, the others all following behind her, each individually catching sight of the figure.
“It’s one of the strangers!” a villager shouted in horror.
“It’s a bear,” another said dismissively.
“It’s Sojef,” Leafa said quietly. It was clear to her now. She knew that sturdy gait well enough.
“Papa!” Robia cried. She surged forward, dashing out of the gate and meeting her father a few yards later. Moaning, she threw her arms around him and he lifted her off the ground, giving her a strong embrace.
“Daughter!” he said happily. “What tales I have to tell you. What wonders I have seen!”
“You may tell tales inside of the gate,” Leafa called to him. “The sun is setting. You know what that means.”
“Yes, of course!” Sojef set Robia down. Together, hand in hand, the two of them returned through the gate. As they stepped off to one side, the villagers crowded around them curiously. Leafa, meanwhile, started locking the gate.
“Where have you been?” Robia demanded.
“I cannot say for certain,” Sojef responded.
“What do you mean, papa?”
“I have been where no mortal has gone before.”
“To the gods!”
“What?” an old woman sniffed incredulously.
“Believe me, my friend,” Sojef said, walking to her and putting a hand on her shoulder, “I have traveled to the home of the gods.”
“Where were you, Sojef?” Leafa asked quietly.
“I started out near the trap,” he explained. “And there, I saw the strange creatures that were killed.”
“I have made a decree that no one was to go near them. There might be more, Sojef.”
“And you were right, Basileaus! There were more!”
Robia blinked. “You saw more of them?”
“Yes! They came to rescue their comrades; one of them was still alive!” He paused for a moment. “Their great leader, the one they call Impa, she is a goddess. She traveled down to the bottom of the trap and rescued her companion.”
“A goddess?” someone asked incredulously.
“Yes! I saw her do wondrous things.”
“What sort of things, papa?” Robia questioned him.
“The great Impa can travel on the wind. Did you see the flash of light?”
“We saw it,” Leafa said softly.
“That was her majesty. She can move people, objects, and herself through the wind with her great powers.”
“That’s impossible,” someone scoffed.
“Not impossible!” Sojef cried passionately. “I know, because she moved me with her wind!”
Robia stared at him. “You?”
“Yes! When I was injured, her servant healed my wounds and she returned me to this place with her words.”
“What you’re telling us is difficult to believe, Sojef,” Leafa said as she closed the latch on the gate.
“I know it is,” he told her, breaking through the crowd and holding his hands up to salute her. “But I speak the truth, Basileaus. The Impa’s companions even saluted her as we salute you.”
“But you know full well that I am not divine,” Leafa replied.
“Yes, Basileaus, but you cannot move people with the green winds. The Impa can. She is divine.”
“And her companions?”
“I do not know what they are called. But we’ve killed them, which will make her displeased with us.”
“Why did they come here?”
Sojef frowned, searching his memory for the answer. “I remember when I was in the house of the gods, hearing something about a castle.”
“Yes, they wish to build a castle.”
“Apparently,” Sojef said with a nod. He turned to address the villagers. “We have displeased the Impa in killing her companions. Hurry, we must set up an altar and make a sacrifice to appease her!”
At once, the villagers ran off, disappearing into their huts and shops, doubtlessly to gather the supplies they needed. Leafa stood motionless, watching as the scene played out. Somehow, she could sense a sudden presence behind her. She knew Tully was by her side.
“What’s going on?” he asked.
“Sojef has communed with the strangers. He’s met their divinity, a being called the Impa.”
“You seem concerned.”
“He says they wish to build a castle here.”
“Here? On our lands?”
“Yes.” Leafa folded her arms. Although she wouldn’t dare say it, not to Tully, not to anyone else, she realized that her worse fears about the strangers were coming to fruition. Gods or not, they were changing the way of life for the people. A cold fear ran down her spine.
Glas and Impa sat side by side on the floor of the tent, leaning against a wooden crate. Impa’s eyes were closed and she was resting her head on his shoulder. Absently, Glas traced invisible designs on Impa’s knee, barely paying attention to them as he examined her face. He wanted to memorize it, every curve, every line, as perfect as possible.
“Stop that,” she mumbled vaguely.
“Staring. It’s rude.”
Softly, Glas chuckled. He had absolutely no idea how Impa was able to do that. Every time, she amazed him more and more. It had always been that way, since they first met as young novices in the Sheikah order, preparing to take their places at the side of the royal family. That had been nearly fifteen years ago. He marveled at the way the time had changed them both. Impa was such a handsome woman now, perfect in every possibly way, as he believed.
“Hey guys?” Glas looked up. Silhouetted in the early morning sun against the canvas of the tent, he could see Kaya’s figure. “Quit smooching, I’m coming in!”
Sighing, Impa pulled away from Glas and stood up. “We’re clean, Kaya,” she said.
“That’s debatable,” Kaya called cheerfully, parting the flap and ducking into the tent. “I found the telepathy stones.” She held out two smooth tablets.
“Where were they?” Glas asked, standing up.
“Under Menteith’s unmentionables.”
“Give me that,” Impa snapped, snatching one of the tablets roughly out of Kaya’s hands.
“Irritable,” Kaya muttered.
“It’s a good thing you found those,” Glas told her diplomatically.
“Yeah. Now we can do a proper search for Menteith…who apparently failed to put on his unmentionables.”
Impa turned to look at him. “What did you have in mind?” she asked carefully, fighting to keep her voice neutral.
“The two of us can go out with one of the stones and do a sweep. You can stay back here and contact Yonah.”
Kaya scowled. “Are you sure that’s a good idea? I mean, there seem to be some traps out there and I’m not keen on the idea of being impaled.” Impa gave her a sharp look. “Oh…sorry,” she muttered, remembering how personally Impa was taking the whole situation.
“We have to find Menteith,” Glas answered.
“Kaya has a point though,” Impa muttered.
“Yeah!” Kaya cried enthusiastically. A moment later, she turned to look at Impa. “I do?”
“Just blindly stumbling out there isn’t going to help anything. We have to consider this hostile territory.”
“So what should we do?” Glas asked.
“You should go separately,” she replied.
“But we only have one extra stone.”
Impa licked her lips. “Kaya, you take the stone.”
Kaya blinked. “Why me?”
“I trust you less.”
“You’ll both head to the pass and then I want each of you to take one flank. Go no further than required to see the hill.”
Glas nodded. “How long do we have?”
“Sunset,” Impa said in her no nonsense sort of way. It’s harder to detect traps in the dark. I want you back here safely, with or without Menteith.”
Kaya put her hands on her hips. “If we’re considering this hostile territory, we should take some added measures.”
“What do you mean?”
Impa studied them for a moment. “I have a better idea.” With that, she set down the telepathy stone and raced across the tent to Glas’ supply pack. From it, she removed two long bandages. Behind her, she could hear Kaya and Glas following.
“Those were sterile…” Glas sighed.
“We can use them,” Impa said, standing up. “Like this.” She came to Kaya and wrapped the bandage around her head, covering her ears and pressing them up against her temples.
“Do you really think we can pass for these strange creatures?” Kaya wondered loudly.
“It can’t hurt to try,” Impa shrugged. She turned to Glas and began to wrap his ears in the same fashion. “We have some burlap bags that aren’t being used. They can be easily fashioned into traveling robes.”
“And what happens when they ask us who we are?” Kaya sniffed.
“Tell them that you’re from a village down south. That’s true enough.”
“What if they don’t have other villages?”
“Risk is part of our job, Kaya,” Glas put in.
“And I’m not saying you should go out of your way to make contact,” Impa added. “This is just in case.”
“All right, all right. Fine. But I’m staying as far away from these people as possible.”
Kaya marched out of the tent without being told twice. Once the tent flap swung back into place, Glas turned to look at Impa, taking her hands in his. “We’ll be back before sunset,” he promised, kissing each hand in turn.
“You, I’m not worried about. Kaya,” she sighed softly, “is another matter entirely.”
“We’ve known that for years,” Glas joked.
Impa leaned forward slightly, kissing Glas very tenderly. This didn’t seem to be enough for him however. He swept his hand behind her back, pressing her against his chest and deepened the kiss, dipping her over slightly. All good things had to end however, including this kiss. Glas straightened out and stepped back. He kissed Impa’s hand one last time, the hand with the string around her finger.
From outside the tent, the two of them suddenly heard smacking noises. “Quit it, Kaya!” Impa shouted.
Impa turned back to Glas. “Good luck.”
“You too.” With that, he departed.
Left alone, Impa returned to the other end of the tent. Reluctantly, she placed her hand on top of the smooth surface of the telepathy stone. Instantly, a warm, gentle feeling flooded her veins, making her feel as though her hand had become a part of the tile. She felt her mind expand, swelling to open up to the nature of Hyrule. She heard voices coming out of every village and town, every shack and stall, all the most intimate thoughts of her fellow Hylians struggling to be heard from miles away. Filtering these sounds out, she reached further until her mind was racing down the narrow hallways of the
. Shadow Temple
*Impa, is that you?* a voice whispered telepathically in her head.
*Yes, Yonah.* Impa would have known that voice any day, even without seeing Yonah’s tired, worn face
*How are things going down there?*
*Not well, Yonah,* Impa replied reluctantly.
*What’s the matter?*
*There’s been an accident.*
*An old trap was set off. Six of my people are dead. Nuria is dying. Menteith is missing.*
*By the Triforce…*
*Glas and Kaya are off trying to locate Menteith. Yonah, there are people here: An entire tribe, perhaps.*
*No. They have rounded ears.*
*I’ve heard stories of a race like that. I didn’t believe they actually existed.*
*What are they called, Yonah?*
*Humans.* Impa paused, her mind really not on the strange creatures.
Yonah seemed to sense this. *What happened wasn’t your fault, Impa. You couldn’t have known.*
*But I should have!*
*I’ll decide what you are to be held responsible for.* There was a moment of silence. *I’m going to travel down there to give our fallen comrades proper burial. Keep me apprised of what’s happening.*
*Yes, Yonah.* With that, Impa could feel the link severe. An unsettling quiet fell upon her as the thoughts and whispers disappeared from inside of her brain. She removed her hand from the stone and leaned back, sitting on her heels. Yonah was coming. In some ways this was a comfort to her. In other ways…a new dread.
As Glas descended from the right side of the hill, he could tell right away that the villagers saw him. Weighing his options, he decided it would be wiser to approach than to run away. They certainly didn’t seem alarmed at the sight of him. In fact, they barely seemed to pay much attention to him. This was just as well, however, as it gave him ample time to admire the architecture of this oasis in the vast expanse of nothingness around them.
On the surface, the dwellings appeared almost primitive. They were dome shaped huts of wicker and clay with holes in the zeniths of the domes. Long wooden ladders leaned against the side of each, climbing up to the entrances. It was a clever design. At night, they could draw the ladders into the huts, making it difficult for animals or intruders to scurry inside.
At the far end of the village, there was a hut much larger than the others, with an animal hide hanging over a more conventional entry way. Curls of blue smoke climbed out from around the skin, crawling into the air and disappearing. Glas reasoned it was used for meetings or perhaps even communal meals.
The entire village was encircled in a high picket fence made up of the same stakes that lined the bottom of the hill trap. They were spaced well enough apart that one could see in and out, but close enough together that no one could squeeze in, save for a gopher or two. The tops were pointed also, probably tipped with hemlock to discourage climbers. Along the fence were several gates with iron latches. The people were clearly more technologically savvy than they appeared at first.
Right now, all of the gates were wide open and as Glas approached, he could see shepherds leading their flocks of sheep and goats in and out through the doorways farthest from him. At the entrance closest to him, there was a large gathering of people, huddling together around one central figure. They were all very quiet, save for one voice that rang over the others. From this distance, he couldn’t hear what was being said, but from the intonation, he supposed it must have been something very important.
Glas turned around. Standing directly behind him was a fairly large man with short, spiky cornrows, pulling on a taut bowstring. There was an arrow nocked in his bow, pointing directly at him. Carefully, Glas held up his hands. This seemed to intrigue the stranger, who loosened his grip on the string and lowered the point of the arrow. “I mean no harm,” Glas assured him.
“I see that you do not,” the man replied, putting his weapon down on the ground. Suddenly, he held his hands up, in a similar gesture to the one Glas had just used to indicate that he was unarmed. “Peace and long life.”
Blinking, Glas kept his hands up. “Peace and long life.”
“I am Tully.”
“An unusual name,” Tully said, lowering his hands and picking up his bow again. “You are not of Kakariko.”
“The village,” Tully supplied, gesturing over Glas’ shoulder.
“Where are you from?”
“My village is to the south. It’s called Kasuto.”
“Who is your Basileaus?”
Glas fought not to stutter. After a moment, his logic set in. “Yonah,” he replied. He didn’t really know if Basileaus meant leader, but it seemed that way.
“We are ruled under Leafa,” Tully replied, seeming to accept Glas’ answer. “Why have you come here?”
“Yonah has sent me,” Glad answered.
“For what purpose?”
“To speak with your…Basileaus. We have been isolated from your village for generations,” he said smoothly, coming up with the lie even as he spoke it. “Yonah sends us to make friendly contact.”
“I’m afraid, you’ve come at a strange time,” Tully told him.
“Strange? Why so?”
“Unusual creatures have appeared in our lands. They are unnatural beings with bat like features and fire in their eyes.”
Glas held his breath, hoping against hope that there were people in the village with red eyes like his. “What do you think the creatures want?”
“Sojef believes that they come from the wind goddess.”
“He says he’s seen her himself. She is called the Impa.”
Glas nearly choked. “The Impa?”
“I’d like to hear more about this wind goddess.”
“You may hear Sojef himself,” Tully muttered, gesturing to the large clump of people near the open gate. “He’s speaking to the people now. Last night, he led the sacrifices to her.”
“I will hear this,” Glas decided quietly.
“Peace and long life.”
“Peace and long life.”
Tully headed off, moving to the hill. Glas, meanwhile, started for the village again. He was amazed the ruse had worked, but it seemed he had been accepted for one of the village creatures. His uneasiness was only rising though. As he got closer to the group, he was able to make out the central figure. At once, the recognition set in. It was the injured man Kaya had saved from the hemlock stakes.
“The Impa is a glorious wind goddess!” Sojef boomed to the people around them. “She rides her chariot on the winds of emerald fire.”
“Emerald fire?” someone from the crowd asked incredulously. “I do not believe such things.”
“You saw the flash yourself!” Sojef cried passionately. “All of you saw the flash, or know someone who did!”
The people murmured to one another in agreement. Glas glanced around. He realized that Sojef might recognize him, with or without his ears, so he casually stepped behind a gnarled tree just outside of the village gate. Sojef’s passionate sermon continued.
“We have destroyed her followers with our cruel and warlike ways!” Sojef shouted, “We must appease her anger! We must find forgiveness from her wrath before she sends her emerald fire upon us!”
“That will never happen, Sojef,” one of the villagers groaned.
“Mark my words, she will return to the trap to claim her vengeance. She will…” and Sojef trailed off, his eyes going out, somewhere beyond the gathering.
Everyone turned to see what he was looking at. Stumbling through the grass, two of the village warriors were guiding a bloodied and dizzy Sheikah. Menteith! Glas opened his mouth to call out to his companion, but his logic quickly restrained him and he held his tongue.
“You see!” Sojef shouted, breaking through the crowd and running to meet the warriors. “More of them have come!”
Tully came sprinting back to the scene. Apparently, he had seen his warriors too. “What’s this?” he asked.
“We found him near the water,” one of the warriors told him.
“He was delirious,” the other one said.
“You!” Sojef called to the confused Sheikah. “What’s your name?”
“He can’t hear you, Sojef,” Tully said.
“Menteith…” Menteith muttered, his voice dry and cracked.
Sojef gasped. “Menteith!”
“Do you know this man?” Tully asked incredulously.
“I heard the Impa speak of him!”
“She sent some of her underlings to find him! He must be a runaway from her order. Look, he has the same ears!”
“Why would she be seeking him?”
“He must have run away from her,” Sojef decided.
“What do we do?” one of the village girls implored Sojef, grabbing his arm.
“We have to send him back to her.”
The burlap robes itched! Kaya absolutely couldn’t stand it. No matter how she moved or what part of her body she moved, the scratchy surface of the burlap would grate against her skin. Desperately, she wished she had thought to wear her Sheikah uniform underneath, as Glas had elected, but no, she wanted to be cool in the sunlight. So there she was, stuck with itchy skin.
Kaya moved along the base of the hill. She absolutely refused to climb up it again, not after what she had seen in that pass. The vision of all her friends, splattered across the floor of the cavern was still haunting her. She wouldn’t admit it, certainly not to Impa and Glas, the two most fearless people she had known in her life, but she was still reeling. It was just so senseless! To be certain, she had seen death, many times before, but that had always been in battle, fighting to protect the royals. But this wasn’t a war. This was a scouting mission to find a good spot to build the
. new castle
She shuddered involuntarily. Of course, Impa was taking it much harder on herself, she always had a sort of martyr complex, but what bothered Kaya the most about the entire situation was that it wasn’t Impa’s fault at all. It was a completely arbitrary, random event in the chaotic flow of the life of the Sheikah race. Kaya sighed. She should have been born a Hylian. What a philosopher she would have made! Underappreciated, of course, but still possessing that greatness to linger after her when her time was done.
Giggling, Kaya, removed the telepathy stone from her pack and tossed it in the air. The tablet flipped several times then fell back, landing in her hand. Impa would be horrified, of course, to see her treating an important tool so casually, but Kaya just didn’t follow Impa’s staunch lifestyle, though she knew it would have been better for her. She glanced out at the landscape as she replaced the tile. It was pretty, in an untouched sort of way, but Kaya preferred the city, to be honest.
Off in the distance, she saw some movement. “Menteith?” Kaya squinted, shielding her eyes from the sun. No, it wasn’t Menteith, but the figure was definitely moving toward her. Glancing to the side, she noticed a willow tree a few paces away. Slowly, trying hard not to draw attention to herself, Kaya slunk off to the side, hiding behind the trunk of the tree. She removed her pack, setting it down at her feet in preparation of a possible fray or flight.
By now, she could tell that she was being approached by one of the villagers. This was a young one, a female, she supposed, based on the smooth face and slightly longer hair. She wore a baggy brown tunic with a necklace of white stones. In her arms was a bundle of kindling. Ever few paces, she would stop to gather up some more from the ground, rather indiscriminately.
Kaya watched as the girl came closer and closer, praying to the goddesses that she wouldn’t be spotted. The last thing she wanted was an encounter with one of the villagers who had been directly or indirectly responsible for the deaths of her friends on the scouting trek through the pass.
Several meters away, the girl stooped down to pick up some more wood. “I can see you, you know,” she said calmly, in a clearly feminine voice.
“I know,” Kaya lied, stepping out from behind the tree.
“Of course you do.”
Carefully, Kaya checked to make certain her ears were covered. She moved forward as the other woman straightened out with her armload of firewood. “I was just…testing you.”
“Of course,” the other girl said. Finally, she looked at Kaya. “Are you from the other village?”
“The other village,” Kaya repeated carefully.
“Our champion told us that we had a visitor from another village, called Kasuto, under Yonah.”
Kaya blinked. “Oh. Yeah, that’s me.”
“You seem a little bit lost.”
“You could say that.”
“The village is that way,” she told Kaya, pointing in the opposite direction she had came from.
“Lucky thing I ran into you.”
“Lucky thing.” She bowed her head. “I’m Robia, daughter of Sojef.” A moment of silence passed between the two of them. “And you are?” Robia prompted her when she didn’t respond.
“What? Me? Oh, I’m Kaya.”
“Peace and long life, Kaya.”
“I’m heading back to the village as soon as I finish gathering the wood. I can show you the way.”
“I just need a little more. This isn’t nearly enough for the sacrifice.”
“Yes,” Robia explained. “We’re making a sacrifice to the Impa.”
Kaya folded her arms. She unfolded them. Once more, she folded them. “The Impa?”
“The wind goddess,” Robia told her. “My father has had a vision of her and knows her desires.”
“Really?” Kaya’s mind was racing and she didn’t like it one bit. “And what are her desires exactly?”
“The being called Menteith.”
“Yes, our hunters found him. Father says we must send him back to the Impa to please her.”
“Send him back to the Impa?”
“And how are you going to do that, exactly?”
Robia shrugged. “By sacrificing him.”
Kaya was forced to cover a sound of astonishment with a cough. “Sacrificing him, huh?”
Glancing to one side, Robia frowned. “Honestly, I’m a bit skeptical about the entire ordeal. We haven’t believed in Joxom and the other gods for centuries. My father’s always been a bit of an eccentric. I can’t possibly believe he means to actually kill a person. I’m hoping it’s just…symbolic. We are not savages. Killing people is wrong.”
“I completely agree,” Kaya said.
“Anyway, would you like me to show you back to the village?”
“Why don’t you finish collecting your wood? I seem to have misplaced my pack somewhere, let me see if I can find it.”
“All right,” Robia agreed. “I’ll be back in a moment.”
Kaya watched as Robia walked away, disappearing around the bend of the hill. As soon as she was out of sight, Kaya raced back to her pack behind the tree, fumbling with the laces before she managed to rip it open and yank out the telepathy stone. She slapped it down on the ground and crouched beside it, putting her hand directly in the middle of the tile. Instantly, the uncomfortable sensation filled her mind. To Kaya, it was like warm water being dribbled into her ear and flowing into her brain, accompanied by a cacophony of noise.
Soon, she felt her mind link to Impa. *Impa,* she called impatiently.
*Yes?* Impa’s voice replied after a moment.
*We have a little bit of a situation here.*
*What is it?*
*Well, I just made first contact with a villager.*
*You did what?*
*I didn’t mean to. And for the record, it seems that Glas beat me to it. She was talking about a stranger from Kasuto and she mentioned Yonah’s name and I thought that –*
*What’s the situation?* Impa interrupted.
*Oh. Well, the girl I met told me the village was preparing for a sacrifice of the fiery variety.*
*So? We can’t interfere in the development of another culture.*
*It seems that we already have.*
*What do you mean?*
*Well…they’re making the sacrifice to a wind goddess called the Impa.*
There was a long moment of silence on Impa’s end. *What?* she asked very slowly.
*It seems that our villager friend we sent back wasn’t completely unconscious. He thinks you’re a goddess.*
*I know that, Glas knows that, you know that. Apparently this…Sojef guy…doesn’t know it.*
*Yonah will be furious…*
*I haven’t gotten to the other part yet. They’re sacrificing Menteith.*
*Yeah, apparently Sojef heard you talking about finding him and interpreted it as you wanted him sacrificed. So…what should I do, boss?*
Impa took a moment to respond again. *Get to the village and find Glas. Have him cause a distraction and use Farore’s Wind to get Menteith out.*
*I can do that,* Kaya replied. *But what about the people? They’ll still think you’re their wind goddess. We’ve damaged their civilization.*
*I know, I know,* Impa responded impatiently. *I’m thinking.*
Kaya glanced out. In the distance, she could see Robia returning to her. *Think faster,* she urged Impa.
*Okay. When you get to the village, find out who their leader is.*
*When you take Menteith, try and bring the leader too. The people will listen to their leader above all others. If I can convince him or her that I’m not a goddess, then we might be able to undo the damage.*
*I’ll do what I can, Impa,* Kaya promised.
*We’ve done these people just as much wrong as they’ve accidentally done us. Don’t try, succeed.*
*I will.* With that, Kaya removed her hand from the tile. She slipped it back into her pack and stood up, having her hands to Robia. “Hey, Robia! I found it. Take me to your leader.”
As the sun began to sink below the horizon, Glas was caught by the way it silhouetted the large hut near the edge of the village. He stood completely still for a long time, watching the beautiful vision. Behind him, he could hear the sounds of the sacrifice festival being prepared. None was quite as overzealous about the ordeal as Sojef, who eagerly barked orders to his peers. Glas had been careful to avoid any contact with Sojef, fearing recognition, but he had managed to follow Sojef and his group as they dragged poor Menteith into the meeting hut to await sacrifice.
There was a long figure standing near the hut, watching the sunset. Her name, he had learned, was Leafa, and she was the leader of this community. She seemed to possess many of the same attributes as the greatest Sheikah warriors; a sense of poise, dignity, and great stature. She had a rustic beauty, but a clearly cosmopolitan intellect that stuck Glas, even from afar. Somehow, he imagined that she was different from the others.
“That’s the one?” Kaya asked softly, somewhere behind Glas’ elbow.
He nodded. “That’s the one.” He gestured vaguely to the hut. “There are two guards near the entrance. There and there. I think there’s also a third one behind the hut. The first two will have to be dispatched. If you can do it quietly, you won’t have any trouble with the third one.”
“I can do quiet.”
“You can?” he teased with a slight smile.
Kaya whacked his arm. “Not funny.”
“I forgive you.”
Glas folded his arms, examining the situation some more. “The first thing you’re going to need to do once the guards are down is nab Leafa. Make sure to gag her right away, otherwise, she’ll call for help.”
“And the people will rush to the aid of their leader.”
“They seem to respect her.” He paused. “We’d do the same for Yonah.”
“Yonah? We’d do the same for Impa.”
He grinned. “Yes.”
“Okay, so I take her silently.”
“Get her into the hut with Menteith.”
“Hut for two.”
“And use Farore’s Wind to get all three of you back to base camp as quickly as you can.”
“What about you?”
He licked his lips thoughtfully. “I’ll keep the villagers distracted for as long as I can.”
“At the soonest possible moment, I’ll get out of their sight and use Farore’s Wind to get myself back.”
“Out of sight?”
“I believe we’ve already discovered beyond a reasonable doubt that it isn’t a bright idea to do that in front of them.”
Kaya nodded. “I can’t get over how strange it is. They honestly believe that Impa is a goddess.”
“Imagine how it would be if the roles were reversed, Kaya. One of us might very well make the same conclusion.”
“I find that hard to believe.”
Glas shook his head. “We’re no different from these people. Only a little bit further along in our cultural evolution. Not even further along necessarily, just different. Some day, they’ll be like us.”
“You think so?”
“The Sheikah race once lived in grass huts.”
He gave her a funny look. “You really need to pay more attention to your history lectures, Kaya.”
“I know, I know,” she grinned.
After ruffling her hair, Glas put a hand firmly on her shoulder. “Go. Fulfill Impa’s orders.”
“Be careful,” she implored him.
They stood to face each other, square shoulders to square shoulders. In perfect unison, they touched their fists to their hearts, saluting each other in the Sheikah fashion. With a curt nod, Kaya turned around and casually strolled away, making a leisurely and indirect path to the meeting hut and her duties there.
Glas turned to face the village. As he had anticipated, he saw. Sojef had built a makeshift scaffold over the growing pyre. He stood before it now, shouting out to the people as they passed back and forth in front of him, some carrying out his orders, others trying their best to ignore him as they went about their business.
“Great Impa!” he declared to the sky. “We will return your Menteith to you, as you wish!”
Closing his eyes, Glas rubbed his face. This wasn’t going to be easy. Nor was it going to be fun. “There is no goddess known as the Impa,” he shouted.
This stunned several of the villagers into silence, among them, Sojef. He stared out into the crowd, trying to locate the source of the blasphemy. “Who dares to question the power of the Impa?”
“No divinity is listening to your words,” Glas shouted again. By this point, several of the people nearby identified him as the speaker. They stared at him, some in curiosity, some in horror depending on how far into Sojef’s philosophy they had become enmeshed.
“Who speaks?” Sojef demanded.
“The stranger,” one of the villagers declared, pointing at Glas.
“I speak,” Glas declared. He was standing under the shade of a tree. In the dying light, the shadow obfuscated his face somewhat.
“What do you know of the Impa?” Sojef challenged him.
“Her divinity is a figment of your overactive imagination,” Glas replied. He felt somewhat horrible, calling Sojef out like this. He had no wish to humiliate or otherwise discredit the old man, but the truth had to be known. Impa was not a goddess. There was nothing else to be done about it.
“Heretic!” Sojef roared. Several of his more eager followers began to mumble in agreement.
“You’ve built a fictional goddess,” Glas answered.
“Seize him!” Sojef barked.
Several of his more loyal followers began to advance on Glas when suddenly, there was a scream. From the meeting tent, an eruption of green light spilled out, illuminating the sky for a moment. Glas felt a secret satisfaction, knowing that Kaya had accomplished her task.
“What was that?” someone shrieked.
Some of the villagers broke away from the pack and ran to the hut, meeting up with the third guard that Kaya had managed to evade. They tore the hide hanging from the doorway aside and peered into the building. “He’s gone!” one of them cried in horror.
“Who’s gone?” Sojef demanded.
“Does that mean the Impa has taken him?” another asked.
“That is the color of her fire,” Sojef said in a low voice, filled with awe and admiration.
“Do you think she’s pleased?” the villager wondered.
Sojef seemed to consider the question for a moment. His eyes darkened suddenly as he turned to face Glas. “No.”
“Because there is one who speaks blasphemy is in our grasp.” Sojef began to walk, the crowd parting around him as he moved. As he approached Glas, his face suddenly stiffened in a look of recognition. “You!”
Glas could feel his stomach drop out from under him. “Me?”
“I know you!” Sojef broke into a run, coming to meet up with Glas. Glas tried to back away, but there were two villagers behind him now, who each grabbed one of his arms to hold him in place. “You’re one of the followers of the Impa!”
“What are you talking about, Sojef?” someone scoffed.
Sojef reached out and grabbed the bandage around Glas’ forehead, ripping it off to reveal his pointed Sheikah ears. There was a collective gasp. Many people in the crowd took a step back in surprise. “He is a defector! Tie him up!”
The options flickered through Glas’ mind, even as he was being dragged through the village. He could attempt to do Farore’s Wind, but with so many hands on him, that would only cause a terrible mess, not to mention further Sojef’s overzealous assertions about Impa. Fighting his way to freedom was another option, but the last thing Glas wanted, both as a healer and a Sheikah, was to harm these innocent people. This left him with the third, undesirable option: Waiting it out.
Leafa paced back and forth like a caged tiger, every muscle in her shoulders and arms as tense as possible. One moment, she had been standing by the meeting hut, watching the sunset and the next, she felt a hand clamp over her mouth as she was dragged inside where Menteith was sitting. A blaze of green light flashed, causing her skin to tingle. When her vision cleared, she found herself in a strange tent with Menteith and a stranger who was carrying him. The stranger had instructed Leafa to stay where she was and left.
Ordinarily, Leafa was not one for taking orders, but something about the entire ordeal disturbed her so much that she gave in to her better reasoning. It would have been easy to slip out of the tent. There was no one else inside to guard her and the flap was swaying freely in the breeze. But Leafa’s logic reminded her that she had no idea what was on the other side of the entrance. For all she knew, there might be thousands of them, whoever they were.
The flap of the tent swung open and a woman entered. Leafa turned to face the newcomer, pulling herself up to her fullest height possible. The other woman looked at her with scarlet eyes, somewhat tired. “No one is going to hurt you,” she said. Her voice was surprisingly deep, though she looked only seventeen.
“Forgive me if I don’t believe you,” Leafa replied.
“You have ever right to disbelieve me,” the woman countered. “I’m told your name is Leafa.”
“Yes,” Leafa replied proudly. “Basileaus Leafa.”
“Basileaus. That means leader, right?”
“Yes,” she said fiercely.
“On my honor, Basileaus, no one will harm you here.”
Leafa folded her arms across her chest. “Where am I? Why have I been brought here? Who are you?”
“You’re about three kilometers from your village. You’ve been brought here at my bidding.”
“And who are you?”
“My name,” she said slowly, “is Impa.”
A nervous laugh escaped Leafa’s lips. “Do you jest?” she asked, the resolution dissolving from her frame.
Immediately, Leafa fell to her knees, bowing her head. “Forgive me!” she cried urgently.
“No! No! Stop that!” Impa crossed the room in three quick strides and took Leafa by the shoulders, lifting her off the ground.
“There is nothing to forgive.”
“I did not know you.”
“There is no reason you should have.”
“But it’s blasphemy!”
“It’s not blasphemy,” Impa sighed in exasperation. “This is why I’ve brought you here.”
“I’m not a goddess, Leafa. Your people have been terribly misinformed.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I’m just a mortal.”
“But how is that possible? I’ve seen the green fire.”
“The green fire?”
“Yes,” Leafa said, nodding vigorously. “When Sojef returned to the village. He rode on a breeze of green fire.”
Impa scowled. “That wasn’t green fire. That was Farore’s Wind.” Leafa stared at her blankly. “A spell,” Impa sighed. “A trick. Nothing more.”
“Where I come from,” she explained, “everyone can do that with a little bit of practice.”
“None of my people can summon wind.”
“No…not yet anyway.”
Impa shrugged. “It’s possible that someday, your people could learn to do it just as well as mine.”
“Of course not. There was a time when the Sheikah couldn’t do it either, but now we can.”
“There are more of you?”
“Yes,” Impa said with a nod.
Leafa’s eyes widened. “Then I am truly in the pantheon.”
“No!” Impa was about to try and correct her yet again when the tent flap opened and Kaya walked in.
“Impa,” Kaya called softly.
“What?” Impa snapped, her irritability started to crack the surface.
“It’s Nuria,” Kaya said gently. “She’s…”
Scowling, Impa nodded. Leafa looked back and forth between them in confusion. “She’s what?”
“Dying,” Kaya answered.
“Who is she?”
“One of my people,” Impa sighed. Suddenly, she blinked her bright red eyes. “Come with me.”
The three women exited the tent. As they passed over the Sheikah compound, Leafa looked around in amazements. There were many tents, built of tarp, of dark purples and blues. On the tent poles hung white flags with a bizarre shape in gold thread. It looked like three triangles forming a larger triangle or pyramid.
They made their way to another, much smaller tent of dark navy. Kaya lifted the flap for Impa who ducked in. Catching Leafa’s eyes, she gestured for her to follow. Inside the tent were several white cots, running in a line across the middle of the room. On the cot closest to the door was Menteith. He was unconscious, but breathing deeply. His wounds had been haphazardly patched up.
As Leafa looked along the line of cots, she saw that the very last one in the row was also occupied, by a woman with caramel colored hair that she didn’t recognize. This woman’s skin was damp with sweat. Her breathing was ragged and hard, her stomach jerking up and down violently. There were massive amounts of blood over her left side. Some of it was dry and clinging to her clothing, but much more of it was fresh, gushing out from an unseen wound.
Impa led Leafa over to this woman. “This is Nuria,” she said softly.
“She is your follower?”
“In a way. More so, she’s my friend,” Impa answered.
“And she is dying?”
“Can’t you save her?”
“No, Basileaus, I can’t.”
“I’m not able to.”
“Has she broken with you?”
“No. Nuria has done nothing wrong.”
“Then why won’t you save her?”
“It’s not that I won’t save her,” Impa replied, “It’s that I can’t. I’m no more a divinity than you, Basileaus. I have no power over life and death.”
Nuria let out a startling gasp, causing all three women to flinch in surprise. For a moment, her eyes popped open and she almost sat up. In the next instant, she crumpled back to the cot like a puppet whose strings were cut. Kaya leaned forward and pressed her fingers to Nuria’s neck. She turned to look up at Impa and shook her head.
“She’s dead?” Leafa asked.
“You see, Basileaus, my people are just as mortal as yours.”
Impa and Kaya lifted their hands, bringing their fists to their hearts to salute their fallen cohort. Leafa watched them for a moment before copying the gesture. For a full minute, all three women were motionless. Slowly, Impa and Kaya dropped the salute and Leafa imitated them.
“I’m so sorry,” Leafa whispered.
“You are not to blame for this,” Impa told her. “What happened happened.”
“You’re not a goddess.”
“No. I’m just a woman. Like you. A woman responsible for the lives of others, but every bit a mortal.”
“Why did you come to this place?”
“We came looking for a place to build our leader’s castle. We didn’t know that your people were here.”
“Will you build it here?”
“No.” Impa shook her head. “No, we’ll probably head north. Find someplace there to build it. We’ve already done enough damage to your way of life.”
“Which is why you need to go back to your people and tell them that Impa isn’t the wind goddess,” Kaya cut in.
“For some it will be easier than for others,” Leafa muttered. “Sojef is absolutely convinced.”
“Then we’ll have to make him see the truth,” Impa said.
“I agree. For the good of both our people.”
“Kaya, go get Glas. We’re going to return to the village. On foot.”
“Um…Glas…” Kaya frowned, shifting from foot to foot. “Yeah, about that…I can’t.”
“Glas is still in the village.”
Kaya quickly held up her hands defensively. “It’s not my fault. He just didn’t return.”
“Something’s happened to him,” Impa sighed. “Come on.” Grabbing Kaya’s arm, she marched out of the tent. Leafa followed after them. Perhaps this Impa wasn’t a goddess. Leafa had been skeptical from the beginning, but whatever she was, she had an admirable quality that Leafa was immediately drawn to. They were the same person in a sense. Impa had every quality of a Basileaus.
“For the Impa!” Sojef shouted.
“For the Impa!” the villagers under Sojef’s spell chorused together, wildly throwing their fists up in the air.
The situation was going from bad to worse for Glas. He found himself on top of the scaffolding, his arms and legs tied to an enormous stake running up the center of the pyre. As he looked down below at the situation, his eyes were greeted with an immensely polarized village. It seemed that half of the villagers had fallen in with Sojef by this point, convinced of Impa’s divinity from the flash of Farore’s Wind they saw with their own eyes. The other half was a bit more standoffish, most of them flocking around the champion Glas had met earlier, Tully. This half watched, half fearful, half indignant at the sight of Glas being prepared for sacrifice.
Glas couldn’t say he enjoyed it much himself. At this point, Farore’s Wind was no longer an option. He was tied down. While he still might be able to fight – though the very notion of violence repelled him – he highly doubted he could escape all of the zealots without someone getting hurt. Of course, there was always that dreaded third option, which grew less and less appealing as the torches began to travel closer and closer to the pyre below.
“Great Impa!” Sojef called to the sky. “In place of Menteith, we send you this blasphemer who abandoned your side!”
“Oh, the irony,” Glas muttered.
There was a burst of light. The villagers all shrieked and started in surprise, turning to look at the empty ground near the meeting hut where the light slowly faded. Standing there, freshly materialized, they saw Impa, flanked by Kaya and Leafa on either side.
“Leafa!” Tully shouted, forgetting all formalities and running over to her.
“Everything is all right,” she assured him quietly, holding up a hand to stop him mid-stride.
Sojef’s eyes widened. “Behold!” he cried, “the Impa!” Amidst the excited whisperings of his followers, Sojef vaulted from his place, racing over to the three women and falling in prostration at Impa’s feet.
“Glas!” Impa screamed in shock as she caught sight of her beloved. “Let him go, get him down from there!”
“Do as she commands!” Sojef barked to his followers. At once, they began to climb the pyre and untie a very grateful Glas.
“Sojef, get up,” Leafa said. But he refused to move. “Sojef, I order you to stand up.”
“Forgive me, Basileaus. I answer to the goddess before I can answer to you,” Sojef replied.
“You’ve been deceived,” Leafa pressed. “Impa is not a goddess. She’s flesh and blood, the same as us.”
“That cannot be!” Sojef insisted. He looked up at Impa. “Please forgive my Basileaus, she doesn’t know what she says.”
“Stand up,” Impa told him.
At once, Sojef climbed to his feet. “Welcome, great goddess. Welcome to our village.”
“I am not a goddess,” Impa said.
This set off a chain reaction of murmurs in the crowd. “What?” Sojef blinked. “That cannot be.”
“Your Basileaus speaks the truth,” Impa addressed the people. “My name is Impa. I am not a goddess: Just the Basileaus of a different people. We are called the Sheikahs and we mean no harm to anyone.”
More murmurs. “But…but the Sheikahs are a holy people,” Sojef insisted loudly. “They have great powers.”
“The Sheikahs are flesh and blood, dust and shadows,” Impa replied.
“But I beheld your great power,” Sojef pressed on.
“What you beheld, what you all beheld, was a trick. A simple spell that all of my people can do.”
“Which makes you sacred!”
“No,” Impa said. “Which makes us different and nothing more.”
“Impa!” By this point, Glas had been completely freed. He ran over to the others, the crowd parting around him. When he reached Impa, she held her arms out and pulled him into a tight embrace. Kaya rolled her eyes. Leafa smiled slightly. As the two of them shared their reunion, she stepped around the silent Sojef and walked to the crowd. Tully fell into step behind her.
“Listen to your Basileaus,” Leafa called. “I have met with the Sheikahs, I have seen their home. They are mortals like us. They have come from the land down south on a mission from their Basileaus, a man they call the King. They came here seeking a new home for their King and thought to build one here. They did not know that our people existed. For them, the Human race was merely a myth. They mean us no harm, they never did.”
“But our trap killed their people!” Robia cried urgently from the crowd. “They’ll want vengeance on us!”
“That was an accident,” Kaya said.
“Yes,” Leafa agreed. “They did not know that we were protecting our village. They didn’t know it was here.”
“We will leave your society alone,” Impa promised, pulling apart from Glas at long last. “We do not wish to interfere in your natural course of evolution. Your way of life is safe. We’ll travel up north and seek another place to build the castle of the Hylian King.”
“What has happened here in the past few days will become a part of our history,” Leafa told her people. “We will remember it forever, but it will not destroy us. It will become part of our cultural capital. We will change and grow.”
“No!” Sojef roared, sounding more like an animal than a man. He tore down from the Sheikahs to Tully and Leafa. To defend his Basileaus, Tully stepped in front of her. Sojef seized the champion with surprising strength, throwing him to the ground. Instead of going after Leafa, however, he ripped Tully’s bow and quiver from his back and clumsily tried to nock an arrow.
“Sojef!” Leafa shouted.
“I’ll prove it!” Sojef growled.
“What are you doing?”
“The Impa is a goddess, I know it!”
“Sojef, stop this at once!”
But it was too late. Sojef pulled the bowstring back, taking aim at the Sheikahs. He released his hold and the arrow went flying. Impa shoved Glas out of the way and he went tumbling down, knocking into Kaya and taking her with him. Quickly, Impa turned to one side, wrapping her arms around her middle, but before she could take a step, the arrow went whizzing at her. She was lucky, to be certain, lucky it didn’t strike her heart. Instead, the arrow stuck into her shoulder, throwing her back a few steps, though like a good and true Sheikah, she remained on her feet. At once, blood began oozing down her arm, trickling off the tips of her fingers to the ground.
Tully climbed to his feet. He easily grabbed the bow from Sojef, tossing it to one side and pulling Sojef into a tight bear hug so that he couldn’t move. Glas, meanwhile, jumped up to his feet. He sprinted to Impa, who was staring in fascination at her new wound. “Hold still,” he told her. At once, he took hold of the arrow and broke the end off, so only the arrowhead remained, embedded firmly in Impa’s arm. She cried out in pain, calming herself as quickly as possible.
“Look, Sojef!” Leafa shouted, more to Sojef than to anyone else. She pointed to Impa. “Your goddess bleeds.”
“No,” Sojef whispered.
“No, it’s not possible.”
Leafa turned to address everyone in the crowd. “All of you look! See what I see and remember it. The Sheikahs are flesh and blood, dust and shadows. They are not gods, they are men. They are just like us!”
Kaya got to her feet, moving quickly to her companions. “Are you all right?” she asked Impa.
“Fine,” Impa mumbled, half breathless.
“Remember what you’ve seen tonight!” Leafa roared. “This is what we must never forget!”
“Impa?” Glas called. To her, his voice seemed miles away. “Impa?” Slowly, the edges of Impa’s vision began to blur. She knew that she was going to lose consciousness, it had happened many times before. A part of her secretly liked the feeling: The noise around her swirled along with the colors in her vision. She could feel herself falling and falling, but she knew she would never hit the ground. Weightless and formless, she allowed the darkness to overcome her.
Fourteen days and fourteen nights passed without incident. The Sheikahs had no additional contact with the Human camp. Menteith was soon on the mend. He explained everything that had happened in the hill pass and it was ruled an accident, a circumstance that no one had any control over, due to both ignorance and carelessness. Impa too was healed from her wound and blood loss. Once again, she was moving about the camp, bossy and commanding as ever.
On the fifteenth day, Yonah arrived, accompanied by an honor guard of Hylian knights serving the royal family. As her carriage arrived, Impa, Kaya, Glas, and Menteith came out of their tents and stood in a single file line to greet her, all of them raising their fists to their hearts in a Sheikah salute.
The door opened and one of the knights held his hand out. From the depths of the carriage came an old, gnarled palm that clasped it. Yonah stepped into the night, the sun illuminating her wrinkled face. She was old, even by Sheikah standards, her long white hair pulled back into a tight braid that ended somewhere near her thighs. She was dressed in elegant courtly attire, now too old to don the uniform of a Sheikah warrior. Quickly, she surveyed the scene, her eyes suddenly falling on Impa with a startled expression.
“Welcome, Yonah,” Impa barked, standing stiffly at attention.
“Impa,” Yonah replied, ducking her head. “Come; let us speak inside of your tent.” Politely declining the arm offered by one of the knights, Yonah passed by the line of Sheikahs, Impa falling into step behind her. Briefly, Yonah paused by Glas. “Hello, Glas,” she said.
Glas bowed his head. “Hello, grandmother.” It was a bit of a lie. Yonah was more of a great, great, great, a few more greats, great grandmother, but Glas didn’t take the time to say all that.
Yonah continued down the line, passing into the tent with Impa behind her. “We will give your people proper burial,” Yonah said, taking a seat in Impa’s chair.
Impa knelt down near Yonah’s feet. “I am ready to accept the consequences of my actions.”
“Very well,” Yonah sighed, licking her chapped, thin lips. “Then I will pronounce sentence on you.”
“For the charge of performing above and beyond the call of duty, I hereby promote you, Impa, daughter of Klymene, to full warrior status with all the rights and privileges that go with it.”
She blinked in surprise, looking up at Yonah. “What?”
“Are you hard of hearing, Impa?”
“I don’t understand.”
“There is nothing to understand. You have achieved the status of a full warrior for your actions here.”
“But all the fallen…”
“Let the fallen rest,” she said with a wave of her hand. “Glas has told me about your efforts with the Humans. I know all about how you managed to peacefully undo the damage that we did to their culture.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“Say thank you, my dear girl.”
“Of course,” Yonah sighed, “this means that you won’t be going on any more scouting missions. I’ll have to give you a new charge.”
Yonah leaned back in the chair. “I’ve been informed that the king’s wife is one season with child. I hereby appoint you the child’s royal guardian.”
Impa blinked, unable to grasp what had just been said. “You want me to work directly for the royals?”
Laughing, Yonah smiled. “Impa, you’ve been set on this course since the day you were born. It was your destiny; we were all just waiting for you to claim it. The events here have proven that you’re more than capable of finding solutions to the most difficult of situations. And believe me, children offer some of the most difficult situations you can imagine.” Yonah glanced down at Impa’s hand. The string Glas had tied to her finger was still there. “As you will learn for yourself.”
Impa blinked. “What?”
“I’m very old, Impa. I have powers you can’t possibly begin to fathom at your tender age. I knew you were pregnant from the moment I arrived in camp.”
She absently placed a hand over her stomach. “I haven’t told anyone yet.”
“And you mustn’t. Not if you’re going to serve the royal family. You know very well what would happen if our enemies found out you had a child. It would spell disaster for you, the royals, and that child.”
“I won’t tell,” Impa swore. If it were possible for her to blush, Impa would have blushed. Instead, she merely lowered her eyes, smiling slightly. “Thank you very much, Yonah. For everything.”
“I am very proud of you, Impa.”
“With this,” Yonah continued, pulling a dagger out of her cloak, “I hereby grant you full warrior status.”
Impa accepted the dagger, turning it over in her hands. A bright Sheikah eye gleamed from the hilt. “I am speechless.”
“No you’re not. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have been able to say, ‘I am speechless’ just now.”
“Ahem.” Both women turned to look at the tent flap. Kaya was poking her head inside.
“What is it?” Impa snapped, perhaps a little more harshly than she should have in Yonah’s presence.
“I hate to interrupt,” Kaya answered, “but I think you had better come out here right now.”
“What is it?”
Kaya disappeared from the tent flap. With a sigh, Impa got to her feet. She offered Yonah a hand, but the old Sheikah matron refused standing of her own volition and walking straight past Impa, out of the tent. Blinking, Impa shrugged and followed her out.
Outside, standing a good deal downhill of the Hylian and Sheikah mob, Leafa, Tully, and a handful of villagers lingered in a clump, looking up with wide eyes. “Hello, Basileaus,” Impa called.
Leafa held up her hands. “Peace and long life.” She then proceeded to offer Impa the Sheikah salute.
Impa smiled slightly, returning the gesture. “Peace and long life.”
Yonah examined Leafa and her band critically. “Are these the Humans?” she asked.
“Yes, Yonah. This is Leafa, their Basileaus…their leader.” Impa gestured to Yonah. “Leafa, this is our leader, Yonah.”
“Greetings, Yonah,” Leafa said politely, saluting the elder. “Peace and long life to you.”
“I’m already quite old, I think.” As much as her old age would permit, Yonah bowed. “Hello, Basileaus.”
Carefully, Impa made her way down to the Humans. “Why are you here?” she questioned Leafa softly.
“Kaya says that you’re leaving,” Leafa replied, gesturing to Kaya.
“She says you plan to go north to find some place to build your King’s castle. Is this true?”
“Because of what’s happened here?”
“We don’t want to meddle with your people’s way of life, Leafa. We’ve already done enough damage.”
“Damage can be repaired,” Leafa answered. “I was once very afraid of change, but I’ve learned something from this encounter. Change is at the very heart of what we are.”
“What do you mean?”
“We’d like it very much,” Leafa said, “if you would consider calling this land ‘north’ and building your castle here.”
Impa was rendered speechless for yet another time. When she regained her words, she stuttered somewhat. “What?”
“My people wish to join the larger world. And it’s about time we did. We’ve lived alone for a very long time. You saw how eager we were to welcome strangers from Kasuto. Well, nothing would please us more than to welcome strangers from your entire world. We want to become part of it.”
“I’m not sure what to say,” Impa admitted.
“This is an idyllic land,” Yonah said softly. “And although it’s hardly what I’d call northern, I believe I can speak on behalf of the royal family and say that they would be honored to call this land and their castle ‘north.’” She beckoned to Leafa. “Now, come up here girl. Let’s make this official.” Slowly, Leafa walked uphill, coming to a stop right in front of Yonah. “Give me your hand.” Leafa obeyed. “Impa, you as well.” Impa placed her hand on top of Yonah and Leafa’s hands. “Here we lay two kinds of foundation,” Yonah declared. “A foundation for the castle that shall hereby be called
, and the foundation for a new age in the history of both our people.” North Castle
End of Part One
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