Chapter 9 - The Calm
Link emerged out of the barrel dripping wet with the warm water that had been placed into the container only a half hour earlier. He stepped over the side and used a horribly scratchy cloth to dry himself off as thoughts swirled like a maelstrom through his mind. He recollected everything he had seen and witnessed the previous day. He pondered what his next course of action should be. Wrapping the itchy towel around his waist, he pushed back the navy blue curtains with nice gold trimming along the bottom and stepped out onto the verandah.
The prickling morning air was strangely delightful to him as he looked out across the village with the first rays of sun striking the rooftops. The cuts along his arms and legs had screamed in release at that bath and he was feeling a million times better. He stretched relishing the cool breeze kissing his skin. Winter was definitely on the horizon. Along with the wind came a scent of smoke. He frowned as he remembered the source of it being further south, to his former home.
Slamming into his brain was his other friends: the Zoras and Gorons! He couldn’t believe he had forgotten completely about them during the night. He whisked around on his heel ready to get dressed when he spotted Zelda behind him watching from the doorway. He yelped trying to cover himself up better but instead stumbling backwards towards the railing. He hit the edge and wildly groped for some hand hold before flipping over and falling from the verandah when Zelda screamed and rushed forward reaching for his foot.
She latched onto it tightly. Link was hanging upside down with one foot in Zelda’s grasp, his towel happily obeying gravity much to his dismay. She dug hard into the side of the banister with her feet as she pulled back with all her strength. He struggled to lift his upper body to grab the hand rail. With some considerable effort Link flipped over the rail and on top of Zelda who landed firmly on her butt.
Link hastily rolled off of her and tried in vain to decently cover both his lower and upper body with the measly towel. “Zelda,” his voice slowly coming down from a higher pitch, “a courtesy knock would have done much better! I could have been killed!”
Still winded, she continued to sit where she fell. She couldn’t help but giggle, not only had she surprised Link but she caught him off his guard too! This was almost too much!
“Oh silly! I’ve seen baby animals being born; don’t think I haven’t seen that thing before!”
As this she laughed even harder. However it did no favors to Link’s ego.
“I don’t think comparing me to animals is exactly the same thing Zelda.” Link contradicted.
Gripping his towel with white knuckles, he motioned for her to turn around. She helped herself up and with a curtsy she obligingly turned around to look upon the rest of Kakariko village. He deftly slipped passed her and into the room, he quickly snagged up his Kokiri clothing. The clothes smelled fresh and clean this morning after some nice inn worker offered to wash them during the night. He loved his green Kokiri garb. He was raised in the Lost Woods most of his life and it held special meaning to him now that Naar destroyed it.
Link’s gaze flitted to the mirror on the vanity briefly as he flung on his clothes. He noticed a small smudge of what looked like dirt on his backside. He rubbed it gently but it wouldn’t come off. Figuring it odd but promising himself he’d wash better next time he resumed pulling the tunic down over his head. Signaling that he was ready, he tapped Zelda on the shoulder. She turned around and appraised him.
“You look much better.” She complimented.
“You do too.” Link said, and he meant it too.
Zelda had changed during the night from her regal princess attire into something far more…tomboy-ish. She was wearing leather breeches that had attachable suspenders to keep them up on her lithe waist. A pale ivory peasant shirt with sleeves cut at the mid forearm adorned her torso. She had her hair done up in a bun where if viewed from certain angles, she could almost pass for a boy; a boy with brilliant, shining, golden hair.
She placed her hands on her hips like a real tomboy would and accepted the compliment in stride, “Thank you Link.” She looked at him with a somber expression, “I truly am sorry about before when I startled you just now. It was rude of me. Will you forgive me?”
Link simply smiled, “It’s okay Zelda. By now I should have been used to it. It was my fault for letting my guard down.”
Zelda still had that forlorn face and apparently wasn’t convinced of what was going through her own mind, “It’s not that Link. It is something…deeper.” Link cocked his head as he was completely lost as to where she was going with this. “I’ve been thinking…neither of us has been letting our guard down with each other enough. Am I making any sense?”
Link thought long and hard before finally understanding what she meant, however, “No, I don’t see what you’re getting at.”
Zelda sighed before realizing Link was holding in the biggest grin of his life. That little…he did know what she was talking about! She gave him a small shove to the shoulder as he laughed manically at his own joke and bounded away. She beamed again. It was good to have her old friend back. She thought she had turned him away from her forever just a day ago.
She stepped past him and headed for the door, as she reached the threshold she placed a hand on the frame and looked back, “Link, I know you want to get out there and start helping your other friends, but you should recoup here for a day. Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’ve ordered the town guards to not let you leave until tomorrow. So…” she giggled, “I’m forcing you to get some rest!”
“Well I guess I’m all out of options Zelda!” Link gave his special smile that seemed to be only reserved for her. How she truly cared for him.
“Link, I just love that smile. I swear, if I ever catch you giving that special smile to anyone else, I think I might get jealous!” She gave him a devious smile before leaving. She backed up a few paces when he hailed her to return. She tilted her head inquisitively at him.
“Hey Zelda,” trying to put his thoughts together, “Do you know where they put Saria and Epona?”
“Well, if you had waited for a few more minutes instead of passing out on your bed you would have known Saria is just down at the end of the hall. I’ll show you maybe?” She looked at him in expectation.
“Ha ha.” Link faked and shook his head.
“Well,” Zelda continued, “Epona is in the stables outside and a doctor came by during the night and applied some new medicine. I think everything will be fine Link.”
Link sighed with relief at the news, “Also…um…Zelda,” he seemed a bit unsure of how to word his next question, “What about Talon and Malon, did they also come here to Kakariko Village?”
She smiled sadly at his last words, “Yes,” she haltingly started, “they both came here. They are on the first floor in the guest rooms. The innkeeper will direct you to them if you wish.”
Link’s countenance deflated visibly as she weakly dropped the smile and carefully shut the door behind her without making a sound. Link stood in the middle of his room staring at the spot Zelda once was. After a few minutes, he came to his senses and started gathering his belongings and packing them away for the morrow. Once satisfied that everything was in order, he closed the doors to the verandah and stepped out into the hall.
Link bounced down the hallway as he noted the lamps adorning the walls at intervals, the inn had a simple, rustic charm to it. The floor boards were worn and creaked with every step. He stopped at the end of the hall in front of Saria’s room. He knocked lightly and upon receiving no response quietly opened the door slowly, allowing the light from the hall to pierce the gloom. He carefully snuck inside and shut the door; he stood waiting at the threshold letting his eyes adjust to the darkness. The curtains had not yet been drawn and all candles were extinguished still. He frowned upon noticed her room was not as lavish as the one he received; but it was quite a deal more than anything Saria ever had in the Lost Woods.
He looked on the dresser and found some things he knew weren’t hers and had been given to her. Some combs, hair ointments, as well as styling cream, all the female essentials he concluded. He stifled a laugh as he looked upon the objects as Kokiri didn’t need any of this stuff! He recalled when they would both go out into the woods playing through the bushes and her hair would get so tangled and messy. As if by magick, it would resume its normal, pristine shape in a couple hours. It was the same when she got wet. Unlike Link whose hair always stayed messed unless he did something with it.
After fondly reliving his memories, Link turned towards the bed where Saria lay sleeping silently. He tiptoed over to her side and softly sat down on the plush blankets and looked down upon his friend with compassion. A rush of overwhelming emotion flooded his senses and he silently cried for his Kokiri friends. Wave upon wave of tears racked his body. Violently trying to compose himself, he wiped away his tears on his sleeve.
“Mmm…Link?” He jumped a bit when he realized he had woken Saria. “Is everything alright?” She groggily mumbled.
“Yes Saria,” he gently ran a hand down her arm and grasped her hand in his, “get some more sleep. You are safe.”
Saria closed her eyes once more and drifted back off to sleep. Link stayed a few moments longer until he could hear her sleeping soundly underneath the blankets, watching her chest slowly move up and down with her steady breathing. Link gave her hand a gentle squeeze of reassurance before letting go and getting back onto the floor.
Link cringed at the light as he reentered the hallway. Looking around he didn’t see anybody tending to the front desk of the inn as he descended the stairs to the bottom floor. Wandering down the halls he was at a loss as to which room was ultimately the one Talon and Malon would be residing in. It turned out that it needn’t have mattered since Talon opened the door for him. His belly barreled out of the doorframe well before the rest of him and knocked Link across the hall with a yell.
“Whoa there Link! I was just about to look fer Malon. She told me she’d be back because she went to explore the village. After all, it is her first time here!” Talon boomed jovially.
Link got up and dusted off his tunic as he absently nodded, he didn’t have time to react when Talon swept Link up in a crushing bear hug. Gasping for air and thinking that he heard some bones pop down his spine, Link kindly pounded on Talon’s chest to put him down.
Talon heaved a heavy guffaw before placing him down more roughly than intended, “Sorry about that. I’m just so happy you’re alive! I truly thought you were a goner when ya left fer the Lost Woods!”
“Yes, I met the army.” Link tossed out casually.
Talon stood rigid, “You what boy?!”
“I met their army.” Link repeated as if this wasn’t that hard to understand.
“Good Goddesses Link! Ya managed to get through the woods an’ stand up ta them face ta face? Have ya gon’ mad?” His speech was turning rather unintelligible at his incredulousness to Link’s story.
It was Link’s turn to laugh, “Well, we got out okay and I managed to save Saria.” Link suddenly looked down at his feet in anguish and said through closed teeth, “She was the only one I could save.”
Talon placed a comforting hand on Link’s shoulder, “It wasn’t yer fault Link. Ya tried and that’s all that can be said.” Suddenly changing tack, he questioned, “Can I ask you a favor?” Link nodded, “I want ya to come help me find Malon in the village. She should be somewhere, but I honestly don’t know where. Can ya help me with this?”
Link nodded again before Talon clapped him on the back a couple times as he moved off in the direction of the eating area. Link chuckled at Talon’s appetite, but he knew where Malon might be and made a straight beeline for that place. Within minutes he stepped outside and looked up to see the sun slowly rising into the morning sky. Rejuvenated, he headed towards the most obvious place Malon could be. He noticed Impa across the road leaning up against the opposite building, even in her own home she preferred to stay in the shadows. She simply nodded her head as he passed by.
Kakariko village was initially founded by the Sheikah and was an exclusive community. It wasn’t until Impa was born and raised in this town, that was forever in the shadow of Death Mountain, did that all change. She graciously opened the village up to the poor common folk to make a decent living. Hylians who could not afford to live in the upper class provinces or in Hyrule town itself could make a good life in the mountains.
It was built in a strategic location nestled in a valley at the foot of the mountain pass that led up to the summit of Death Mountain on its northern border. It had all the basic necessities a village could need. There were some unique structures and places that set Kakariko apart from most other towns. The windmill on the eastern hill overlooking the town was of special note and was the pride of the village. They utilized the wind power generated from the windmill to stimulate new inventions.
The other location of note was the royal graveyard tucked away on the eastern side of the village. It housed a great many monarchs of Hyrule and their Sheikah caretakers. It was a sacred place and well taken care of. Impa had informed Zelda that she herself would be buried there one day along with the king. In time Zelda herself would find a plot in the ground to call her own. That talk of inevitable death didn’t sit well with Zelda at the time.
Link stopped in front of the small stable building at the foot of the hill just below the windmill. He opened the stable door to see a diminutive corridor with only a few stalls. He sighed realizing that they probably could only afford to build a small stable in a hamlet such as this; the castle life sure did spoil him rotten! Hay was scattered all over the floor and bundles of it were tied up in rolls in a few of the stalls. Anticipation flooded his heart as he heard a familiar neighing in the last stall at the end. He ran forward several stalls until he heard a whinny to his right. Epona had spotted him! Link dashed towards her and hugged her neck. Enormously happy, she nuzzled her nose across his shoulders and playfully nicked his hair with her teeth.
“I missed you too girl.” He said patting her neck lovingly.
Excited, she tried to move from her reclining position but her new splints prevented her from doing so. Link calmed her and told her not to move, amazingly able to understand she ceased her movement but could not contain her joyful mood. She kept trying to lick Link’s hair as he examined her front legs. It seemed the doctor knew his stuff. His makeshift splints were replaced with sturdier, more sanitary substitutes. He shifted around to see the long gouge on her hind leg; he lightly trailed his fingers over her large wound on her back thigh. The memories came flooding back as he slumped to the floor overcome with insurmountable grief.
Malon had been watching him from the shadows the moment he stepped foot into the building. She kept to herself until she saw Link fall to the ground crying. She rushed over to him and lifted his face to look at her. His eyes conveyed the meaning that did not need to be said. She hugged him with all her might. Feeling the wetness of his tears dampening her clothes, she held him even tighter. The flow of her tears matched his own as they cried together. The grief they both shared was universal, the Kokiri were no more…