Chapter 3 - The Messenger
He belched loudly after what was most certainly a most delicious meal, chicken and dumpling stew with creamy mashed potatoes with fried gravy on the side. It was one of the best home cooked meals he had had in quite a while. Link was offered to be head cook and helped stir the potatoes in the pot. Talon, obviously, had finished the majority of the stew but would swear that no one could do excellent potatoes except his dear Malon. Taking the challenge, Link leapt to the iron cast stove and started stirring the mashed taters with renewed vigor. They didn’t turn out half bad.
Malon giggled while Talon frowned at the belch, “Hmm, I should think they taught ya better than that in the palace Link.”
“Excuse me,” Link offered, placing a hand to his mouth as if in supplication, “it was all just so good!”
With a grunt of acceptance, Talon stood up and swept the dishes and cutlery off the table, “Malon, please go upstairs and get ready fer bed. Link, if ya could help me with cleanin’ up?”
They walked the dishes over to the wash basin on the far end of the living room and knelt down on the wooden boards. They creaked under Talon’s weight and bore the brunt of many years of service; already cracking, the intricate details of the wood itself were worn off with the multitude of boots that had walked across them. Talon pulled to himself a bucket and filled it with soapy water and gave a rag to Link for drying off whatever he had cleaned.
“I hear things aren’t going so well at the castle son?” Talon said in a soft voice after a while.
Link swallowed a lump in his throat at having to face this conversation yet again, “Yes sir, that’s correct.” He did not meet Talon’s eyes but kept them rapt on the dishes he was drying off for him; he could tell Talon was still looking at him through the corner of his eyes.
“I see. Malon told me about it before dinner. I’m sorry it didn’t work out for ya. You can stay here fer for a time if you’d like,” upon seeing a look of excitement on Link’s face, “but don’t get any ideas now! You’ll be sleeping down here by the fireplace!”
Link’s enthusiasm was slightly deflated at this prospect. Sleeping in the hay out in the stable next to Epona would be far superior (not to mention more comfortable) than being wrapped in a blanket on the floor next to the fireplace. Talon could see the effect his words had on the boy and he softened visibly.
“We’ll make a good farmhand out of you yet boy!” clapping a firm hand on Link’s back; if he were drying off a plate in his hands at that moment, it would most assuredly have been flying by now, “If you prove your keep, we just might make an additional bed downstairs fer ya.”
Link seemed visibly agreeable to this notion. Talon was no dummy and he knew something was blossoming between Link and his daughter; you would have to be blind not to see it. Both being eleven however, he knew that they were far too young to do anything serious but he wanted to belay that inevitable event for as long as possible. There was no need to rush the children into something they weren’t emotionally prepared for.
With the dishes and cutlery dried and cleaned, Link got up and assisted Talon since he was having some trouble getting back to his feet. He was not as spry as he used to be in his younger days. He opened up the armoire resting in the corner and pulled out some blankets for the boy and started settling them down by the fireplace. Malon had just started coming down the stairs in an ankle length nightie when there was a knock on the door.
“Who in blazes is knockin’ this late at night?” With a groan, Talon hauled himself back up off the floor and strode over to the door and opened it.
Link registered the surprise on Talon’s face at the visitor; it was clearly not someone he expected. A Sheikah stepped into the house unbidden and after a few paces stopped just inside the room. After surveying the living space briefly, she turned to Talon and began whispering in urgent, hushed tones. Link tip-toed closer as he strained to hear the conversation while Malon nervously looked on from the bottom of the stairs. He only managed to catch various pieces of information but none made any sense.
“Uh huh…I figured as much,” Talon nodded his head at the news, “thank you for the news, I will keep them safe.”
With a curt motion of the head, the Sheikah gave one brief glance at Link and then proceeded out the door into the night. It had all happened so quickly that he wasn’t sure if it had even happened at all! Talon slowly shut the door behind him and stood there for a brief few moments thinking silently to himself. At last, he turned around and gave a look of despair on his face.
“Malon dear, I don’t think this is a safe place anymore. We must seek refuge at Hyrule Castle.”
“But why?” Malon was beginning to get distraught; she had never seen her father this visibly worried before.
“Dun’ argue! Get upstairs, get dressed fer th’road.” Talon’s speech becoming slightly unintelligible in his rising worry.
“At night? It is already dark!” A whine was creeping into her voice at the prospect.
With a commanding finger back up to her room, “GO!”
Malon, on the verge of tears, rushed upstairs into her room, leaving the door slightly ajar. It was clear to Link that the Sheikah was here to warn them and possibly others who lived on these plains of some impending danger. Talon lumbered over to Link and had them both sit down and for the first time in Link’s life, he saw a look of misery on the jolly man’s face.
“Link,” Talon started in a low voice, making sure he had eye contact with the boy, “I think ya should get Epona and also come with us. I doubt even you can handle this threat, despite the tales I’ve heard ya say to Malon.”
Link paused, just what had Malon been telling her father? “What threat?”
“Nevachrea. Its army is headed right fer us and it will not stop.” Talon did little to dumb it down for Link; despite what he considered ‘tall tales’ Malon said she heard from Link, he never doubted the boy’s capability with the sword. Link was experienced in a way few eleven year olds were, Talon wanted to grieve for the boy having to grow up so fast.
Link was dazed with the impact of the news. He had only just recently learned what the word ‘army’ was and now knew its dreadful capabilities. Something with the size of that magnitude, he knew deep within that he could not fight something like that off himself. He honestly doubted that Hyrule was ready for such an army either. Unless something was done here and now or previous preparations had been made, Hyrule would surely fall. Link knew this since he had watched the soldiers train every day, they were not battle ready.
“Does the king know about this Talon?” Link croaked; swallowing the bug seemingly caught in his throat.
“Of course he does.” Talon sighed, “Why do ya think he was preparin’ a feast fer all the land’s dignitaries, emissaries and such? It was a ruse fer its real purpose, to warn them of the coming threat and form national ties of support to assist each other in standin’ together against Nevachrea. I had only found out a day or so ago,” he gestured out towards the pasture at the haphazard mess still strewn across his ranch, “that isn’t wasn’t happenin’. Nevachrea moved too soon, we have not secured the necessary alliances with other nations fer national defense yet.”
Link looked off into the fire, now starting to gather energy after having bit lit just prior to dinner, “Tell me about Nevachrea, why are they waging war now? What’s the point? What did we ever do to them?”
Talon sighed deeply and looked at Link. Crossing his arms, he stared off at nothing in particular as he recounted what he knew, “From my recollectin’ it began a long time ago. The country of Nevachrea was an essential line of trade fer Hyrule. I won’t get into specifics because I don’t know ‘em. Let’s just say our king at that time wasn’t the smartest puppy in the litter.”
Link chuckled at this, after a swift glance of admonition from Talon, Link continued to listen intently. “Hyrule was the main supplier of crops, materials and fabrics fer Nevachrea. They couldn’t have risen as a new nation without our help. Fer whatever reason, the king decided to cut ties with Nevachrea and leave them to their fate; it effectively crushed them as a country. It was also a declaration of war, even if it wasn’t publicly stated. All people, I suspect, born in that country have an innate hatred towards us ever since.”
“Not too long ago,” Talon continued, “probably right before you were born, Nevachrea staged an assault on Hyrule. It was terrible, many people died durin’ that conflict. Ganondorf, the king of the Gerudos, is to thank for placing a barricade on our southern border.” He pressed on despite the look of shock on Link’s face, “Indeed, thanks to him and the rest of the Gerudo, they erected a magickal barrier using whateva’ witchcraft they possess to keep Nevachrea at bay. Knowing Ganondorf is a traitor now an’ all, I reckon him languishing in prison has something to do with it failin’.”
Link had a sneaking suspicion as well that Ganondorf residing in the dungeons of Hyrule Castle may not have been the best idea in protecting Hyrule from the new threat that now faced it.
Link made an involuntary jerk at Talon’s next words, “The Sheikah just now told me that they are already at the border of the Lost Woods and she is going to evacuate as many of the Kokiri as she can. I also believe-”
This was clearly the wrong thing to say and Talon knew it as soon as he noticed the expression of horror on Link’s face. It was immediately masked with a look of grim determination as Link swiftly flew out the door towards Epona. He untethered her and hoisted himself into the saddle. Rattled at this sudden change in plans, Epona stomped the ground nervously as she wondered what her master had in store. She did not argue when he gave a swift kick to the sides and launched into a gallop.
Talon ran out of the house yelling for Link to stop, but it was far too late. He saw the boy round the bend and was gone from the ranch. As the clop of hooves faded off into the night, Malon rushed down the stairs and to her father’s side. She was wearing a light travel shirt and leather breeches; she had yet to put her boots on.
“Father,” she said in a worried tone, “Where has Link gone?”
Talon hung his head and suppressed a tear as looked despairingly at Malon.
“Malon honey, I’m afraid Link may be a goner.”
Impa stepped out of the shadows and tapped Zelda on the shoulder as she walked past. After a stifled scream, Zelda quickly composed herself and elegantly faced Impa.
“Yes? I don’t mean to be rude Impa, but I’ve got things to attend to.” It came out a bit fouler than she had intended. She winced slightly at her own words.
Impa scowled, “And my main priority is for your safety. Frankly, I don’t believe it is assured anymore with you staying here. I am tasked by the king to take you somewhere safe.”
Zelda gave a lilting laugh before she spoke, “And what is there that doesn’t ensure my safety? We are behind legions of well-trained soldiers and two castle walls as well as numerous Sheikahs. What could possibly be a threat to my safety?”
Impa violently shook her head, “Will you drop your regal attitude princess! Surely you might have gathered by now that the Royal Feast at Lon Lon Ranch has been cancelled. You were there at the meeting today with the king! A war is about to erupt between Hyrule and Nevachrea and our attempt to establish war allies has failed.”
Zelda gaze was indifferent; her mind had been mostly on Link during that meeting, the news hadn’t sinked in, “Nevachrea, yes I’ve heard father talking about that during the council meeting. But isn’t it simply supposed to be a small peasant country? I should think it hardly a threat at all.”
Impa understood that the princess was young and not all things were yet understood by her. She struggled to find a way to get the princess to understand their predicament. As future queen of Hyrule, she needed to understand the nature of politics and of war. She held Zelda by the shoulders and briefly shook her which made her uncomfortable at Impa’s touch.
“Zelda,” Impa exasperated, “They already have the winning advantage by moving first and their army is already poised just south of the Lost Woods. They might even be burning it down to the ground as we speak!”
Zelda’s demeanor changed in a heartbeat, a look of pure terror permeated her face, “But…what of the Kokiri? Of Saria and all them?”
Impa looked down at her feet in sorrow, “At this rate, I’m afraid there is nothing we can do for them. We were not warned in time. No one truly knows what will happen if the Kokiri leave the forest. Maybe they will die or maybe they will start aging like the rest of us. I haven’t a clue. What I do know is that we do not have the resources to get there in time and stop an army that big. I’ve already sent several riders to the nearby provinces to help in the evacuations.”
Zelda absently picked at her dress, unsure of what all she could do. As princess of her kingdom, she felt obligated to make decisions. She looked up hopefully at Impa, “Maybe if we gather all the soldiers and all the people in Hyrule to fight back against this army? We can win and stand our ground!” She pressed further upon seeing the rebuttal on Impa’s lips, “Besides, exactly how big is this army? Can we not stand up to them?”
Impa shut her mouth and turned away, pressing her hand against the cold marble wall as she stared at the ground. She contemplated on whether she should tell Zelda the truth. Her response was just what was expected from someone her age. She couldn’t comprehend the gravity of the situation. She had to put it into terms Zelda would understand, it was the only merciful thing to do. Impa looked at the marble she was touching and pondered how fragile everything was; even this seemingly impenetrable castle would most likely be nothing but ashes and dust within weeks. Nothing lasts.
Pushing away from the wall, Impa turned to look at Zelda, “Princess, my last scout reported this: The army is as far as the eye can see in every direction. They move slowly each day, but after several months of waiting, there still is no end in sight to this massive army. We even sent scouts to sneak around the mass to scope out the tail end. They haven’t returned yet, be it they were killed or have yet to reach the source of the army is unclear. That was over a year ago.”
Zelda gasped, “My Goddesses that is impossible! How could one build such a huge army like that? How would you feed them all? Cloth them all? Entertain them all? Supply them all? It’s an impossible task!”
“I don’t know princess,” Impa intoned, “but we must evacuate the castle and ultimately Hyrule itself. We can no longer stay here.”
She slowly guided the dumbstruck Zelda down the corridor towards her living quarters when Zelda remembered something critically important, “The Master Sword! If we leave, we will be opening up the doors right to the enemy! They will claim the sword as theirs! We must stop them!”
Impa stopped dead still in the corridor and took Zelda by the shoulders, “We cannot do anything, that’s a risk we must take. The seal on the Temple of Time is great and there are many fail safes at work in that structure. We must trust to them that they will hold until we can come back and win against this foe.” She reached into the folds of her armor and revealed the ocarina that was one of the treasures of the royal family, “Besides I have this, they will not be getting far without it.”
Zelda looked sheepishly at the ocarina, “How did you get that? I thought they had it locked in the castle vaults?”
Impa clucked, “I am Sheikah. I go where I please and do what I please; as long as it does not endanger you or the king. It is our gifts that enable us to do things normal Hylians cannot. I knew it wouldn’t be safe here in the castle, so I took the initiative to move it elsewhere.”
Suddenly another Sheikah emerged from the pervasive shadows and startled Zelda.
“Why must you always do that?” Zelda rebuked the new Sheikah.
The Sheikah simply stared at Zelda briefly before turning to Impa relaying a message in harsh whispers. Impa’s eyes widened slightly at the news before nodding her confirmation.
Impa turned to Zelda, “Princess, please return to your quarters and pack your travel clothes. Be sure to stop by the kitchens and pick up food for the journey. I do not know how far we will have to travel, but we must be prepared.” After a curt nod from Zelda, she continued, “Once you are finished, meet me at the castle stables and we shall be on our way.”
“What about father?” Zelda questioned.
“He will be safe, he is in the care of another Sheikah and they are evacuating him as we speak. Go now, do not delay!”
With a hand motion to see Zelda off, both Sheikah ran down the hall, they quickly melded into the shadows and were gone. Zelda stood looking down the corridor for a time before an idea popped into her head. She didn’t quite understand why she would think such a crazy thought at that moment. It didn’t make any sense, yet it brought everything into perspective.
Link’s stories! He came back to stop Ganondorf from getting his hands on the Triforce, and with him now in the dungeons, it had come to pass. Did they just change the outcome of the future? Is Nevachrea now a threat because Ganondorf is not? Could Link’s stories truly be real? Zelda had a tough time believing everything he said, but it all seemed to make sense! Without a further thought, she spun on her heel and headed for the dungeons. She needed to know something and Ganondorf himself would be the only one who knew the answer!