Chapter 18 - A Place of Refuge
They galloped across the fields in the midday sun. The black column of soldiers off to the east could barely be seen from this distance. Making sure they were masked by trees and hills, Link directed the horse ever northwards. Impa was far behind but promised to meet up with them later, she indicated that Zelda knew where their ultimate destination was and would meet them there with Epona. Satisfied with this answer, Link had left Impa alone and rode with Malon to meet up with his friends.
Sora had crawled underneath Link’s tunic and was resting on his shoulder using the fabric as a blanket. She had made herself comfortable and was simply enjoying the ride. Malon had completely fallen asleep in his arms within minutes of the journey. Clearly he was the only one awake on the horse yet wanting nothing but sleep. Link forced himself to remain conscious as the life of Malon could depend on it. He did not want to falter with the stallion and have either him or her falling off.
Link noticed Talon first with his hefty paunch. He was sitting against a tree taking a nap. Zelda was nearby tending to the horses while Saria was sleeping on the ground beside Talon. They had made sure she was in the shade of the tree to keep the sun off her. Link smiled at their concern. Zelda turned in surprise as his horse reared up beside her. Link quickly nudged Malon awake who dreamily accepted Zelda’s assistance in hopping down off the brown stallion. Link observed two other horses, so we now have three at our disposal he noted.
In a flurry of wings, Sora shot off like a rocket towards Saria and landed gingerly on her chest. Malon rushed into her father’s arms, startling him awake with the sudden weight of her body slamming into him with a bear hug. He could do nothing but laugh in joy at the return of his daughter. Zelda moved to give Link an embrace but only managed to touch his arm as he swept past her, his eyes only for Saria.
Zelda followed him morosely as Link knelt down beside his friend, intently watching the actions of Sora. He glanced over as Zelda sat down beside him before resuming watch over his friend. The little fairy had placed her entire body on Saria’s breast, placing both hands on her sternum where a soft, pulsating glow was forming. Link could visibly see beads of sweat forming on the little sprite’s forehead as she moaned in exertion at what she was undertaking. A final flash of light erupted from beneath those small hands when the fairy collapsed onto Saria’s chest.
Link quickly picked up the fairy and cradled it in his hand. Sora looked up into his eyes with something akin to relief, “She’s going to be all right Link. I gave her most of my spirit.”
Zelda cocked her head at this statement, “Spirit? What do you mean?”
“Silly Hylian, your spirit! What powers you.” Sora explained weakly, fading quickly into slumber. She had completely exhausted herself.
Link kept his gaze on the sprite as he explained to Zelda, “She means your life force, the very essence of your being. It is something I never shared with Navi, because I couldn’t. I wasn’t a Kokiri.” A sad tone of bitterness entered his voice at these last words.
Talon and Malon slowly made their way over to Saria and the group, having finished their jubilant reunion. Talon was about to speak but realized he would be interrupting what Link was explaining and decided to hold back. He placed a hand in front of Malon, this was a private moment between Link and Zelda. They should remain out of this.
“Throughout our travels, I always felt that Navi kept things from me. I was never truly connected to her although I wanted to be. A Kokiri bonds with their fairy and they share a life force that is unique only to them.” Malon had a hard time following with some of the educated words Link was using, “They share thoughts, feelings, emotions and hearts with each other. It is a special type of bond I desperately wanted for myself. Navi and I never merged that way, she was always the fairy and I was just the Hylian.”
Zelda edged closer and draped an arm across his shoulders as a muffled sob came from Link, “I went to go looking for her after I came back from the future. I never did see her again. Why did she leave me Zelda?” He turned to her with a tear streaming down his cheek, “I don’t understand. Why?”
All Zelda could do was give him an awkward smile before shaking her head, she had no answers for him. This concept of a bond between fairy and Kokiri was foreign to her, but she could easily see why Link had yearned for it so badly. It was like sharing a piece of your soul with another and having it be fully accepted, cherished and loved. She also wanted that experience too, so she understood him in that sense.
“She had always loved you Link.” Link shook at the voice he thought he would never hear again. Saria was still laying on her back but she was facing him with a warming smile spreading across her face.
Quickly handing Sora to Zelda, Link hopped over and draped himself over Saria in an embrace of utmost relief. “Ahhh…please go easy!” Saria yelped.
Link rebounded away in alarm, “I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to hurt you Saria!”
“It’s okay Link,” she giggled faintly, “I’m just a bit tired.” She looked at the others a bit before adding, “Do you have any food?”
Talon leapt at this chance to offer assistance, “One momen’ my young lass!” He puffed over to the horses and started digging into the saddlebags. As they waited, Malon sat down in the grass next to Saria and placed a hand on her shoulder. Saria warmed to her touch and reached up to hold the gesture of comfort.
“I’m glad you are back Saria.” Malon was a bit shy. She had never formally met a Kokiri before. She didn’t know exactly what to say to one. Saria looked like a young child like the rest of them but she had flawless skin. She wore a knee length tunic that was strangely missing a belt for it seemed to fit her more like a nightie than actual daily wear. Her hair was fashioned into a bob that ended at the nape of her neck. It gleamed in brilliant green hues as the rays reflected off her hair through the branches of the tree above.
Talon came back with some cured meats and an apple. he frowned when Saria waved off the meat but readily accepted the apple. He turned to Link but all he offered was a shake of the head. Shrugging, he presently started chewing the jerky himself as he looked on his charges, doubled now that Malon and Link had joined the group. He felt obligated to protect the lot of them.
Link turned to Zelda, “Impa said she was meeting us somewhere. She said you would know where that was.”
“Don’t be alarmed Link,” he wasn’t really on edge until Zelda said that, “but we are going to the Gerudo and seek refuge with them.”
Saria and Malon were clueless but Link was left staring open mouthed at Zelda as Talon let loose a growl. Why would they even go there? He hadn’t made friends with them yet in this time period, didn’t she know that? How did she expect to get all of them safely into their fortress, especially with two males in the group?
“Are you insane!?” Link stood up, upsetting Zelda with his venomous tone. “You do know what they do to men and boys?”
Talon rumbled his ascent, “I said it was a bad idea! Impa would hear none of it!” He stood resolute with arms crossed across his chest, jerky all but forgotten in his fist. “I say we move south, travel pas’ Lake Hylia and seek refug’ where we can!” His mustache was bristling with agitation.
Zelda rose up, walked over to Talon and confronted him directly, “Impa is expecting to meet us at the valley pass leading to their fortress in the north. We have very few alternatives. The army is to the east of us, dragging itself all the way from Nevachrea. That entire path is blocked to us. Anything past Lon Lon Ranch has fallen. What else can we do?”
Talon leaned over into her face, “Ya do not speak to me in that tone of voice young lady. I am still yer elder.”
Zelda stood on her tiptoes to gain a bit more height to match and face his gruffness head on. She spoke with regal authority, “And I am still your princess!”
Link was shocked at Talon’s defiance to Zelda and moved to intervene but was brought back down to Saria’s side by her distress. This fighting was causing her to become tense. She just wanted it to stop. The presence of the anger was flowing into her mind, clouding her thoughts. Saria was not used to yelling, she had never heard the like.
Talon huffed derisively as he landed the final nail in the coffin of Zelda’s argument, “Yes indeed; princess of a fallen kingd’m. Where does that leave ya now?”
A slap to the face stunned Talon out of his fury as both him and Zelda turned in shock at Malon standing there fuming at her father. She looked absolutely livid and was breathing heavy, both at the hard slap she delivered and the astonishment that she was the one who had done it.
“Just stop it! You have no right to talk to Zelda that way! She is trying to do what’s best for her kingdom, for those still fighting for it! What happened to you daddy?!” Malon was practically screaming at the top of her lungs. Link was slightly worried how far her voice could travel.
Talon’s ire melted away into shame at how he was acting. He had let the past get away with him. He looked to Zelda, mumbled a quick apology and lumbered over to the horses to be by himself with his thoughts. Zelda stood shaking in her boots at the first confrontation she had ever experienced in her life. Never had she been yelled at, nor fought back. It was frightening and strangely exhilarating.
Malon rushed into her arms as Zelda awkwardly wrapped her hands around the ranch girl. Zelda looked over to Link who just stood by unsure of what to do. She let Malon cry it out on her shoulder, it was probably the first time she had ever seen her father get angry over anything. It was quite clear she didn’t care much for it.
“So,” Link asked after a few minutes, “what makes you think they’ll let us in? They are very strict on security.”
With a quick flick of the eyes over to Talon, Zelda answered, “Impa says that we have connections within our group that will allow us into their domain.”
Link caught the look but didn’t quite make the association with what Zelda was implying. He started forward to assist Zelda when an arrow whistled inches from his nose. He jerked his head back as a dull thunk was heard in the nearby tree. Looking up on the eastern rise he saw four riders with the lead nocking another arrow to his bow. Link swore an oath as he began directing the group.
“Talon! Grab Saria and place her on a horse and make for the Gerudo pass. Zelda, grab Malon and take another horse, follow Talon!” Link ordered with such command that they dared not question his orders.
With a flurry of moment, bodies were being picked up, carried, slung over horses and straddled in. Sora flew from Zelda and tucked herself into Saria’s hair. Two more arrows flew within feet of the group, one digging into the dirt a few paces from Talon.
“Go! Go!” Link yelled as the four diverged off and galloped northwards toward the valley pass. Link hopped onto his horse and spurred it southwards to Lake Hylia.
The lead rider on the hill made a hand signal as two of the four broke off and trailed after Talon and the group, the other two proceeded down the hill towards Link. Cursing, Link had needed all to follow him. With a rage-filled cry he galvanized his horse into a break-neck run down the hill. Off at the base of the decline, he saw a patch of flowers growing out of a small organic bush. With a mischievous grin, an idea came to mind.
Ducking low to avoid an arrow whisking above his head; he goaded the horse to charge directly at the shrub. With a crackling sound of upheaved dirt and grass, the bush surged upwards from the ground revealing itself to be a massive plant with a wreath of sharp leaf blades spinning in deadly spirals.
It was a parasitic plant commonly known as a peahat. It would normally lie in the ground waiting for potential prey to mistake it for another shrub. It would rise from the ground and chase its victims down before slicing it up with its sharpened blades. Once dead, it would descend onto its meal and devour it slowly over the course of weeks as it resettled into the ground. Every fall they would sprout buds that would grow into peahats of their own which would travel the air currents to find new locations to grow its insidious brood.
Link observed that several buds at the base just above the blades were beginning to resemble baby peahats. Good, he thought, this is the perfect time of year for this. The horse was clearly in a state of panic at the sight of the enormous plant spinning in a deadly arc towards them. Link forced the horse to run just past the blades as they whisked over him slicing a few strands of hair off his head. Blowing a sigh of relief at the close call, he reared the horse around to see if his plan had worked.
The two riders were slowing their horses down as they assessed the situation and the best approach to reaching the young boy. Their attention was diverted as three of the buds sprung off the peahat and flung themselves high into the air; miniature blade wheels sprouted from their undersides as they dived down at the two men. They split up as each horse galloped around the primary peahat, deftly avoiding the babies as they swooped in from above.
Link’s eyes bulged as he noticed they were leading the little peahats directly at him, he kicked the horse into a charge at the nearest man. He really wished he had a weapon right now, sighing he decided to make do with the peahats swirling through the air. Movement out of the corner of his eye warned him of the imminent danger. Link slammed backwards into the rump of his sprinting horse as a peahat sliced through the air a foot above his stomach.
Slightly dazed at ramming his head injury on the horse, he wobbly sat back up into the saddle just in time to see one of the riders raise a sword to strike him from stallion. With a yank of the reins he swerved directly into the primary peahat as it surged forward to slice both horse and rider. The sword swung harmlessly past him as Link forced the horse in a circle around the irritated plant mother.
All he needed was a weapon! It was then a scream was heard as all eyes went to the younger of the two enemy riders, one of the peahat children had sliced off the man’s arm. It lay twitching on the ground as it tried in vain to keep hold of its weapon. Taking this opportunity, he urged his steed onward towards the man’s arm. The other rider quickly saw Link’s trajectory and hastened to intercept him. He had to swerve to avoid another peahat as it cut through the air near his ear. Already sensing one of its prey injured, the large peahat eagerly rushed forward to envelop both horse and man.
Link knew it was going to be tight timing but he had little choice, the man would reach the amputated arm shortly after he did. Link swung a leg over so both feet were on one side of the horse. With one foot in a stirrup and a firm hand on the pommel, Link leaned down with arm outstretched to grab the sword from the jerking hand as the horse rushed past.
With a flick of the wrist, his fingers closed on the hilt as he swung his body up over the saddle facing backwards. Knowing the impending danger, Link ducked low over the body of his horse as he felt a rush of air sweep over him. Looking aft of the horse he saw the other rider wheeling around for another pass. Link quickly flipped in the saddle and urged the horse back around for the inevitable joust.
His concentration was briefly interrupted as a blood-curdling scream was issued from the one-armed rider. His horse had bucked him off and galloped away before vaporizing like black mist. The core peahat descended upon him with its children following suit, its sickly body pulsating with the gorging of its meal.
Link and the remaining rider sat on their horses staring each other down, with a kick to the flanks the man shot forward first. Link simply let his horse stand idly as the attacker charged ever closer. The man raised his sword in triumphant victory at the idiot boy who refused to escape his death. A look of confusion passed over the man’s face as Link quickly leaped off his steed. Kneeling on one knee, Link held the sword out slicing through all four legs of the careening horse as it dashed past.
With a stumble, the horse pitched forward ejecting its rider onto the ground. Link ran forward and stabbed the man quickly in the back. He needed time to make good his escape. With considerable effort he violently dragged his sword down the length of the man’s backside until it came clear out slick with blood. Steaming entrails began slipping out of the body-length gash he had inflicted on the rider. Link nodded, that should delay him long enough to get away.
A stinging in his hand forced Link to drop his sword as it evaporated in a pungent mist that stained the ground black in the place where it fell. So they only last for so long, Link noted. Stepping around the horse shaped stain on the grass he walked over to his stallion and prepared to lift himself back into the saddle when he noticed two more riders up on the far rise.
“You’re kidding me.” Link exhaled.
With a start, both riders were charging down the hill towards him. He leaped into the saddle and urged the horse northwards. Hopefully he could catch up with the others in time…