Chapter 26 - Visitors in the Night
It had been a long, tireless evening. The healer flopped onto the nearby chair as she rested her head on the slab that had acted as the operating table. They all had worked briskly on the poor Kokiri girl, trying to save her life. It seemed the more they repaired the wounds, more would simply expose themselves and start leaking blood and pus. Many of the healers had despaired several times during the whole process. A few couldn’t even finish, so repulsed they were at what had been brutally done to the girl.
It was just starting to get dark outside when the poor Kokiri breathed her last, it was almost heartbreaking. She sluggishly turned her head over to one of her caretakers before sweetly smiling, that woman could do nothing but cry as the dying girl comforted her saying ‘it would be okay.’ With one last shudder, the Kokiri had exhaled and then lay still. It shook the healers to the core at what had transpired in front of them.
In time, all the healers flowed out to their respective quarters for the night, leaving the one woman the little girl had talked to crying by her side. Slowly drifting off into slumber, she was awoken by a slight sucking sound, as if someone was inhaling with water in their mouth. The Gerudo looked around for the source of the sound before identifying it coming from the dead Kokiri corpse in front of her.
The healer’s eyes popped open as she discerned various blood pores gone from the nude body; the girl’s skin was slowly healing itself at an unnatural rate! A tart odor immediately filled the air as some squishing was heard. The woman stood quickly as the chair was knocked to the floor in her haste. What in Din was going on here? She noticed some black fluid seeping from the girl’s womanhood. Intrigued, she went to have a closer look.
“You’ve met with a terrible fate, haven’t you?” The melodious voice crooned.
Link jerked awake at the sound as he scanned the stables for its source. Fumbling with the horse cover draped over him, Link tried to sit up proper as he strained to see in the dark recesses of the room with only the candlelight to go by. A rustle to his right riveted his attention where he saw a youthful man sitting on a nearby stool examining a mask. Link yelped before flipping over trying to gain distance between them. Epona was strangely quiet, if not still sleeping.
Involuntarily reaching behind his back for a sword that wasn’t there, Link was up on one knee ready to spring on the intruder. Breathing heavily he interrogated the man, “Who are you? What do you want?”
Without bothering to look up from the mask, the man replied in a sing-song voice, “The first is irrelevant, the second is a bit harder to answer.”
Wary of the unknown visitor, Link stayed where he was. “Answer what you can.” Link insisted.
“What I want…” The man began slowly, “is to restore balance.”
Link cocked his head at this unexpected answer, “I’m sorry?”
The man tilted his head to look over in Link’s direction, it was so subtle that he barely noticed the movement until the man’s gaze was on him. Link shivered unwillingly. The man smiled at Link before humming, “Mmmm…yes, I believe the balance you severed; quite fascinating how you were able to do such a thing.”
Link was at a loss for words at the accusations this man was pitching at him. “I…don’t understand.”
Carefully fondling the mask cradled in his arms, whether out of habit or a nervous tic, Link was not sure which. “Because of you, I am required to set in motion pieces that must do their role for the greater good. You are that first piece Link.” The man stated with sincere firmness.
“What are you going to do to me?” Link asked suspiciously, he still wasn’t sure who this man was or what he wanted, all he knew was that he had a familiar look about him.
The man looked back at the mask, “To you? Nothing. I am, however, going to give you something.”
With this innocent gesture of holding out the mask, the flood of memories burst forth from the dam in Link’s head. The mask staring him down was unlike anything of this world. Fractured images flashed behind his eyes of a doomed world, people dying, souls that needed healing, and above all a grand apocalypse from the sky. The horned mask with the bloodshot eyes burned holes in Link’s retina. It was hideous to gape at, but he couldn’t force himself to look away.
“Go on, it is yours to protect.” The man urged the mask forward insisting Link accept it.
The man’s voice hurled Link out of his spiraling dread as he looked up at the man, finally recognizing him for who he was, “You! I remember you now!”
“Do you now?” The man questioned, the smile smeared across his face unchanging.
Link’s eyes flicked down to the mask briefly before looking back at the man, “I don’t want that. It is dangerous and I know what it can do.”
A trifling crease appeared on the man’s brow but did little to diminish his seemingly cheerful demeanor, “I’m afraid that is not an option you have Link. You will take it and you will keep it safe.”
“Wasn’t the evil inside it destroyed?” Link said bewildered at how the mask could still be filled with malice.
“Was it?” The man stated vacuously.
Link shied away from the mask as it was held out further his direction, “Why can’t you keep it? What makes you think I’d be able to keep it safe?”
The man turned away as if deep in thought, “I recall that I was robbed once of this precious mask. I do not wish for that to happen again. Because of who you are, where you are and where you must go, the mask is safest in your possession at this moment in time.”
With much trepidation, Link asked the question he was dreading the answer to, “Am I supposed to wear this mask?”
The man laughed heartily, “Ho, ho, ho! I do not believe that would work out well for you. No, the true bearer of this mask has yet to be revealed. I believe you will be the one to find its rightful owner.”
“Then what do I do with it?” Link asked.
“Who knows?” The man shrugged, his smile widening, “I trust your judgment when that time comes. Now take it.”
Link edged closer to the creepy man and tentatively stretched out a hand. He couldn’t quite force himself to fully grasp the mask, so the man finished the job for him and shoved it onto Link’s outstretched arm. Instantly the whispers from the mask inundated Link’s mind. The eyes seemed to glow as they tried to suck him into a decision there would be no escape from.
“It will only take a moment…place it on…there is no harm in that.” The mask soothed.
Link felt himself slipping forward towards the mask when the man brought him back to his senses, “I’d watch out for its lies if I were you. Keep it hidden, keep it safe. Always travel with it; only then can opportunity present itself.” He chortled softly to himself.
Link trembled as he set the mask down, eager to be free of the murmurs in his ears. “So no one is to know I have this mask?” Link queried, feeling a bit better after having released the mask from his grip.
The man nodded in agreement, “That is correct.” He lifted a finger, “There are also several other points I must impress upon you before I see myself off.”
Link feared what more would be asked of him by this strange man, “Is it more masks?”
The man shook his head, the smile never changing, “When you come of age Link, you must leave here and head southeast to Nevachrea. What you will find there will be of grave importance to this world.”
Link sighed, “Why can’t you just tell me outright what I’m looking for?”
“Ho, ho, ho! My dear Link, I merely tell you what you need, not what you want. Learn the difference.” The man promptly corrected.
“So is that it?” Link exhaled, wanting this cryptic conversation to be over.
A small shake of the head sagged Link’s hopes, “I’m afraid not. You must further convince two mortal enemies to make peace or you may never overcome the impending doom that will befall Hyrule.”
“You mean it hasn’t already?” Link said exasperated.
The man simply kept his grin. With a grunt he heaved himself off the stool. He leaned over to pick up his satchel of masks and slung it over his shoulder. He turned to Link before departing, “I am placing a lot of trust in you to help restore the balance. I pray that my faith is not misplaced. Shall I deliver the mask to your room for later?”
“What?” Link was perplexed at what the man had meant.
Just then a high-pitched scream rent the air, jolting him out of his nightmare. He quickly looked over to where he had laid the mask down but it was no longer there. Link breathed a sigh of relief; it was all just a dream. Another scream followed the first galvanizing him to action. He flung off the horse cover and bolted out of the stables.
Her eyes opened for no apparent reason, but her dream was horrifying. She couldn’t get the pictures and the dissonance of sound out of her mind. It was boring a hole of insanity that she could not escape from: beating wings, the flapping of wings. What did it mean? The malevolent grin loomed into view, always taunting her. The wings beating louder and louder until she thought her ears would burst. The figure turned and revealed a face she did not want to see. It rushed towards her with the intent to kill. She woke up.
Saria lay on her bed a few minutes waiting for her breathing to slow down. Her forehead was perspiring with sweat. She rolled out of her stone bed and hopped the short distance to the ground. She poked at her clothes on her left breast, “Sora? You awake? Come out!” She checked.
Nothing. She thought that was strange. Ever since their reunion, Sora had never been too far away from her. Sora was always there when she needed her; a dear and loyal friend to confide in. The fact she was nowhere nearby was a bit disconcerting. Her heart thrummed its strings trying to locate her. Sora wasn’t too far away, but the response was weak. She was a little despondent about the whole matter but decided not to press the issue. If Sora wanted some space to herself this evening, that was her business. It was just odd that she was gone at all.
Suddenly remembering the talk she had with Talon earlier, she carefully sneaked out of her room, unsure if the Gerudo had orders to keep her there for ‘rest.’ She stifled a laugh at how easy it was to get by the guards with her small form. All Kokiri had the innate ability to make themselves invisible, or rather force a way of perception. They had the talent to appear quite uninteresting to anyone who wasn’t looking closely at them. So those who were gazing in their direction wouldn’t see anything of interest and would not be able to distinguish them from the background. It required some mental effort on the Kokiri to maintain the ruse however. Mass distraction would ruin the effect.
Recalling the path she traveled with Talon earlier that day just before she visited Link, she navigated the multi-level fortress to where she thought Talon’s room was. Sure enough, rounding the corner, she spotted Talon just outside his chamber apparently waiting for someone. She quickly ducked into a doorway as he glanced in her direction, doing her best to appear dull as she peaked out to listen in on what could be unfolding.
It seemed like hours Talon stood waiting there. Malon was obviously asleep. Saria had to stretch numerous times to get the kinks out of her body from standing so long. Finally footfalls were heard echoing out of the corridor opposite Talon. He rose up from his reclining position against the wall to face the visitor. As expected, Nabooru came out of the darkness into the torchlight and stood a pace away from him. An unrecognizable look was on his face, it was almost apathetic.
Nabooru spoke first in silky tones, “When I first saw you, I had almost thought you had come wanting another child.”
She laughed while Talon merely grumbled, “I will admit, I am grateful fer ya assisting us in escaping. I did not want her ta be raised by the Gerudo. She is my daughter and I want her ta be raised in my-”
Nabooru raised a hand to silence him, “I understood then as I understand now. It is hard to let a loved one go, especially your own child. You must understand. I’ve had over six children already. So I really can’t feel that much of an attachment to any of them, even more so when they are living here with me in the fortress and I can go see them whenever I please.”
“Do ya use them like ya use the other apprentices?” Talon spat with disgust.
Nabooru had to suppress a laugh, “For Din’s sake no, we all are aware of each other’s children; we split the wealth of the young between other Gerudo. It is our way. It is what we’ve always done. The children are community property of everyone but our own. We must be willing to give up our offspring for the sake of the rest.”
“Sounds like a messed up society ta me.” Talon griped; arms still folded tight across his chest.
Nabooru looked away briefly before confirming his assertion, “I agree that not all aspects of our culture are ideal but we must survive somehow. It is not easy living in a society that can only give birth to a single boy every few hundred years. Even then, that king who is borne to us may not always lead our people in the right direction.” She bowed her head as she thought of all the practices Ganondorf instated since becoming king of the Gerudo.
Talon looked slightly guilty after hearing her confession, “It’s been tough on us at the ranch. I had ta always hide ta Malon the true origins of her mother. I was ‘fraid that if she knew her heritage that she’d want ta leave me and come here ta be a Gerudo. I…I didn’t want ta lose her. So I lied ta her saying ya had died in childbirth.”
She smiled fondly at Talon and placed a caressing hand to his cheek, he did not resist. “Poor man, I did not mean to have your life stolen from you for over a year. I did not mean to bring hardship in your life.”
He looked into her eyes with the start of tears, “It is not ya fault, it is the other women who captured me and abused me. Ya were the only one who listened ta me.”
Her eyes creased in love for the man standing in front of her, baring his heart, “We’ve grown soft as a people. Back then we would have killed intruders on the spot. Now we only take them prisoner, induct them into Gerudo society or use them as breeding stock if they are male. You realize that if it weren’t for my interference that one night, you probably would have been killed.”
Talon brushed her comment aside, “I’m sorry fer being rude earlier. I’m happy ya did what ya did. If it weren’t fer ya, I wouldn’t have my beautiful daughter Malon. I wouldn’t trade her fer the world.”
Saria held back her shock as Nabooru and Talon embraced with a passionate kiss, memories of their long nights years ago coming back in waves. Their arms feeling familiar bodies that were intertwined so long ago, their internal lust reawakened within the two of them. Talon realized what could happen and forced himself to push away. Nabooru looked slightly hurt.
“You do not like me anymore?” She asked confused.
Talon sighed, “No. It’s not that. I just don’t think we should be havin’ another child during such grave times.”
Still holding him in her arms, she nodded in agreement. “You know we Gerudo drink a special herbal tea so that doesn’t happen.” She playfully smiled at him, hoping to entice him once again.
Talon’s eyes bulged slightly, “That’s possible?” Nabooru grinned wickedly.
“We Gerudo decide when to have a child.” They parted as another thought crossed her mind. “Talon? Can I see my daughter? I mean…our daughter?”
With a warm smile he gently pressed the door inward and showed her in. Talon left the door slightly ajar guessing Saria was nearby. Not missing the brazen opportunity, she hustled to the door and peeked through the open crack practically giddy at watching something secret.
Nabooru slowly stepped up to the bed where her little girl was sleeping soundly. Her brilliant, red hair splayed out across her pillow, shimmering even in the dim candle light. Nabooru knelt on one knee and put her hand over Malon’s small arm. Silently she watched her daughter’s chest rise and fall with controlled breathing. Nabooru smiled as she felt a trickle dance across her cheek. The daughter she gave up to Talon was back home with her. She didn’t know why this child of hers was special. Why was this girl more unique than all the others she birthed? Why was she effected so?
Presently, she rose up and whispered into his ear, “I’ve made arrangements with the elders to have you as my personal manservant if you so desire.” She backed away as he stared at her dumbfounded.
“What does that mean?” Talon probed.
Hands behind her back, teetering like a young school girl, she explained thickly, “It means only I can have you. You will not have to put up with anyone but me.”
Saria strained to hear the rest of the conversation as they whispered heatedly with each other for a few minutes. Talon turned around with a start and grabbed a few of his effects off his bed alcove before being led out by the hand by a very excited Nabooru. Saria shot backward as they flew out of the room. Talon stopped briefly and quickly glanced down the hallway behind. He thought he saw a glimmer of green in the darkened corridor. With a smile and a curt hand gesture, it was quite clear she was not supposed to follow them.
So that was it? Saria wondered. Nabooru and Talon were once lovers and Malon is their child? Did Malon know? She wondered what they were going to do next. She wavered on the edge of deciding to shadow them. With one final puff of breath, blowing the bangs out of her eyes, she decided it best to go looking for Sora instead. She had been gone an awful long time now and she was starting to get worried.
Saria wandered the halls for several minutes trying to remember the multitude of turns they had taken earlier that day. The last place she remembered being with Sora was at that strange wall mural. After a time, she became aware of a slight pitter patter of bare feet. She stopped to look around the empty corridors for the source but found nothing. The sound had stopped. Slightly unnerved, she continued on through the dim passage, lit only by the occasional torch. Where were all the guards?
The tapping of feet intensified just behind her. Saria swerved around only to see nothing but an empty corridor. The padding of feet had stopped. Saria had not known much about fear living in the Lost Woods all her life. She was quite uncomfortable with the foreign emotion welling up in the pit of her stomach. Ignoring the growing knot in her belly, she cautiously paced down the corridor.
“Hello? Is anyone there?” Saria’s voice trembled.
A scrabbling of nails above her head made her shriek in terror as a brush of wind blew the flames from the torches ahead of her. Something had climbed the walls and was scuttling along the ceiling. Saria didn’t know how she knew this just that it became fact. She gawked at the ceiling only to see bare brick. Another skittering of sound behind her made her scream.
Saria started running down the passages without a care of where she was going. Her heart was crying out desperately for Sora to come; she felt a meek response initially, but it slowly grew stronger as she ran. She stopped at a T-bone junction of halls and ducked behind the corner of the wall. She pressed her back up against the cold stone, breath coming in ragged gasps. She was terrified and she didn’t know why! Where was everyone? Crystalline tears formed in her eyes as panic set in.
It was then she noticed the female body lying on the ground at her feet. It was a Gerudo guard lying face up, her glazed eyes turned to the ceiling looking at nothing. Saria had to smother a swell of nausea when she discerned that the woman’s stomach had been disemboweled. It seemed something had been feasting on the organs. Saria turned away in revulsion as she knew whatever killed this woman was tracking her down.
A flicker of torchlight at the junction signaled the entity’s arrival. Saria was paralyzed with fear, she couldn’t move from the wall. A scratch from the hallway she had left jolted her from inaction. She leaped out facing back down the darkened hallway trying her best to sound menacing, “Don’t c…come any c…closer! I c…can fight!” The threat came out hollow and she knew it.
Saria stood in the center of the passage breathing heavily. It was deathly quiet. After a few moments of indecision, she turned around to leave this awful area. She stopped suddenly, there in front of her with gore stained hands and blood streaming down her mouth and chin was Kiera. Her beady eyes penetrated Saria. Kiera tilted her head at an awkward angle, as if considering what to do with her. Saria opened her mouth to scream.