Chapter 48 - The Long Journey South
“Yes, that’s it. You don’t have to suffer the misery any longer.” The soothing voice whispered in his ears.
Link was sitting a fair distance away from the campfire but well within the reach of its light. He dared not go any further or the protection of the Cyn’Taak would be negligible. The pack of Wolfos were lingering around the edges of their group, biding their time for an opportunity to strike. It was only by the grace of having a Cyn’Taak among them that they tarried along the border, whining and panting with hunger.
It had been a week and a half since they left Yolland with Ingo and Ashley in tow. Within that short span of time, Xavier had grown in size substantially. She was just about the height of Link’s head when she stood. The Cyn’Taak was still too young in orbits for any real venom being produced in its wicked barb of a tail. Thankfully the Wolfos had no way of knowing that fact and elected to steer clear of its massive bulk. She was sleeping comfortably near the fire, with her tail wrapped around her like a blanket, her gurgling snores quite loud in the oppressive gloom of the night.
In his hands he gazed upon the mask of Majora, he had finally put a name to the memories he had once blocked long ago. Of a land called Termina lying in an alternate dimension, a place he stumbled across in his journey to find Navi. In this weird reality, there were duplicates of every person he had ever met. Some were the same but others were quite different than his previous experience with them.
His meeting with Kafei and the Bomber Gang brought back a multitude of remembrances. They were like night and day. The Kafei and kids he knew in Termina were carefree and kind, courageous and daring. They had a certain passion for life that was infectious. His encounter with this reality’s Kafei was quite different and it bore a permanent mark on his soul for having experienced it.
The flood of horrible experiences came crashing down on him in the past week. He recalled first the raping of the Kokiri and his childhood home. He remembered the destruction of the Zoras and his subsequent capture just beyond the doomed Kakariko Town. No doubt Hyrule Castle and the Gerudo at this point had fallen and now Kafei. His heart ached with so much grief that he couldn’t bear to go on.
Link began sneaking off at night to regard the mask with growing awe. How easy it would be to simply just put it on and forget all the cares of the world. To let the host take control of his mind and allow him to seek vengeance on the vile men who dared disrupt his world. Each night, the whispers grew stronger in his ears and permeated his thoughts. The bloodshot eyes stared into his soul and promised solace in its depths.
“I just want everything to be the way it was.” Link droned just barely above a murmur.
“And it can be. All my power will be at your disposal if you but put the mask over your face.” The mask lulled.
He barely noticed his head slowly slipping down as his hands began raising the mask higher. The urgency in its very fibers were reaching, stretching out to grasp Link’s face and claim it as its own. How simple it would be to just place it on. His eyes were so close to the interior of the mask he could make out the individual patterns of the material it was carved from. Just a few inches more, he thought, and he would feel the cool, loving embrace of the mask.
“Link, is everything all right?” Malon called out to him, only a few paces away.
Link shuddered; startled at her sudden interruption of his thoughts. With a quick movement, he stashed the mask back into his pack before closing the flap. A silent howl of rage echoed through his brain as the mask fumed at being denied yet again. Straightening up, he twisted his torso to get a better look at her. She walked over before sitting down beside him.
“Yeah, everything is fine.” Link mumbled hastily.
“Fine, don’t tell me fairy boy. Just don’t expect me to tell you the truth when it matters!” She countered hotly, even though Link could see it was a jest.
“Don’t be like that Malon…” Link began.
She punched his arm roughly, but not painfully. “Oh, I’m just teasing you Link! If you don’t feel like telling me just yet, that’s fine. It’s just that you’ve been rather aloof lately.”
His gaze flickered briefly to his pack before resting back on her face, “I guess I’m just in a bit of a funk. Seeing Kafei, or rather, our world’s Kafei, really made me happy for once. However, with the way things turned out…” He let the sentence hang, knowing full well she knew the story. Indeed, after a few days of recovery, Malon was eager for news as to what happened while she was sleeping. Zelda informed her meticulously along the journey.
She placed a comforting arm around his shoulders as she rested her head on him. “I understand your feelings but it was his choice to make. He had to bear the consequences of his own actions.” Malon reasoned.
“I understand that but I can also see his point of view too. With the people of Yolland doing nothing but standing by while their own country destroys other nations, are they no better than them? By condoning the action, does that make them equally responsible?” Link refuted, confusing himself in the process. It was all so complicated.
“I don’t have that answer Link.” She sighed deeply, unsure of how to comfort her dearest friend. After a time, she broached the subject that had been on her mind, seeing this as a perfect occasion to question him. “Could you tell me what exactly you were doing with that fish woman?” Malon asked tentatively.
She could feel Link tense up slightly at her inquiry. A few moments passed before he responded haltingly, “I don’t exactly know myself. Her name is Ruto and she was…maybe is, still the princess of the Zoras. She liked me.” At a glance from Malon, he pressed, “Well, she liked me a lot. She thought we had been married.”
Malon gasped, raising her head to look at him. “Were you?”
Link scrunched up his nose, “No! I like her as a friend and all, but seeing her in that light just gives me an unsettling feeling.”
“So what happened then to have you become naked under her?” Malon grilled ruthlessly.
If it had been daytime, she would have surely seen him blush. “She knocked me out.” He placed a hand by his temple. “The last thing I remember was falling to the floor. When I awoke…” He gasped slightly as he recalled the scene. “I…I don’t know; she did something to me.”
Malon laid her head back down on his shoulder once more, “What did she do?”
It was clear Link felt prickly with the topic, “It felt good but sickening at the same time. Like I had been violated and there was nothing I could do about it. Now I just feel odd about the whole situation.” His shoulders slumped.
She hugged him tighter with her arm before responding, “I understand, I’m sorry I ever doubted your intentions. It was just so shocking to see that though. You do not have to tell me any more if you don’t want to.”
Link nodded his head absently as he sighed in relief. His gaze swept the rolling fields and spied several sets of eyes looking back. “They just keep following us, don’t they?” He gestured over to the pack of Wolfos sitting on their haunches in the distance, quickly changing the subject.
Malon shivered from something other than the wind. She looked out into the blackness at the creatures. “I’m sure glad we have that sin…syn…” She struggled with the pronunciation.
“Cyn’Taak.” Link corrected.
“Yes!” She exclaimed happily. “That. I’m glad we have it, but does it have to be so…repellant? The way it feeds is just disgusting!”
Malon had been in a pain-induced coma for much of their encounter and escape with the Cyn’Taak, so they had to explain where the small infant had come from. Once she saw how they were feeding it, she had to go somewhere to retch. After a time, she got used to the unusual sight and was now actively participating in hunting down deer, elk and other wildlife game to feed its voracious appetite. Indeed, they had to hunt whole animals several times throughout the day to satisfy its ravenous hunger.
Link looked back to see the sleeping behemoth resting comfortably by the fire. Zelda was leaned up against it talking with Ingo. “Agreed, but Zelda says we had to take responsibility for it now that we’ve torn it from its mother and got her killed. Now that I see what it does for us, I think it was a wise decision. Better to have something that dangerous to be on our side than against us.”
“So, you ready to turn in for the night?” Malon quivered, this time from the slight chill.
Thinking a few moments more, Link finally stated, “Yeah, let’s head back to the group.”
Looping an arm through his pack, he assisted Malon up from the faintly dampening grass; they walked back over to the fire pit hand in hand. Zelda looked up briefly from her conversation to smile at Link, her eyes lingering slightly on the two of them holding hands. Her countenance fell mildly at the sight, but she kept the happy look for their sakes.
Leaving them to set up the bedroll that they would all share together as they had done in the past, she turned back to Ingo. She was fascinated with the simple life he had lived these past few cycles. Ingo delighted her with tales of his boy, Lloyd, and all the crazy antics he would do to upset his mother. She laughed when he recounted one time he had brought home several frogs and stuck them in a pot pie Orauna was baking, she was not thrilled to see the end result of that meal.
Although he was not downcast in telling tales of his now deceased family, there was a certain sadness to the man. Ingo refused to leave Yolland without first burying his family and those of the villagers properly. It was just as well since Malon required several days of bed rest to recover fully from the painful operation on her lungs. There were only half a dozen men left in a town with nothing but women and children. The Southern Raiders had taken their toll on the poor hamlet and it was dear.
Feeling some sense of obligation in joining their cause, he offered to lead them to Glaun’rung far to the southeast. He claimed contacts from within the capital that would enable them to sneak in undetected and finish whatever task that they were to complete. Apolloni had been a bit vague on the topic, preferring to instead keep her distance from the rest of the group. Ever since Aveil’s death, she was not quite herself, if there ever was such a thing with her.
“Your family sounds charming Ingo.” Zelda complimented with sincerity.
Ingo mused in gloomy thought, “They were.” He sighed. He looked up at her with a smile. “It is not every day one gets to tell his personal life story to the Princess of Hyrule.”
Ever since Apolloni had routed their secret over a week ago, they dropped any pretense of hiding the fact. From then on, everyone knew her for who she truly was, Princess Zelda. With any lack of information about the whereabouts or wellbeing of her father, she might as well have been queen. Queen of a dead, conquered country; she scoffed sometimes at this and was quite hard on herself for not being able to do more to defend her kingdom. This course of action about striking the very heart of Nevachrea seemed to be the only viable option left to her.
Apolloni had divulged little of the overall task Ganondorf had set upon her but it required Link specifically because of his heritage. How exactly it was revealed that he was part Hylian, Sheikah and Nevachrean was unclear. Link had a hunch it could have been the earnest nature of Saria during her long talks with Ganondorf. She never could tell a straightforward lie to save her life.
“Well, I’m always interested to hear people’s life stories. I feel that I learn new things from others every day.” Zelda flushed at his praise.
“That is a good trait to have in a ruler. I feel you will go far. That is, if we reclaim your kingdom.” He finished at seeing the defeated look on her face.
The conversation having reached an abrupt end, Ingo excused himself and set up his sleeping bag on the opposite side of the fire. He was still not comfortable being so near the Cyn’Taak. He walked past the young boy they had taken with them, Ashley shriveled away from Ingo’s blistering glare.
He was not forgiven yet of trampling over Lloyd. Ingo was utterly merciless with taunting the boy and berating him for every bad thing he did. Zelda and Malon offered to make peace between them but were promptly told off by Ingo. They ultimately dropped fixing the harsh treatment of Ashley, for they needed him for the final leg of their journey. Merin cringed each time Ingo cuffed the youth behind the ears when he slipped up carrying some of their bags off the horses each night.
Ashley scampered over to the Gerudo woman who had become somewhat of a surrogate mother for him. For some inexplicable reason, Merin felt her motherly tendencies kicking in whenever she was around the boy. Never being chosen to get pregnant by the elders, she went for cycles without knowing what it was like to have children. She was already in her thirties, past the prime for child bearing, and she had given up all hope in becoming a mother. Taking the young boy under her wing, she felt renewed as a woman and within the short week they had traveled, was quite protective of him.
“Did you water and feed the horses?” She asked him as he settled in next to her. He merely smiled at her and nodded his head.
“That’s good. You do a great job Ashley.” She beamed at him as he shyly looked away from her approval. Merin wrapped him tight in her arms and gave a kiss to his hair.
Zelda looked on in yearning as she observed the two of them setting up their bedroll together. Ashley had taken it upon himself to cling to Merin and they slept combined in the same bag, like a mother hen and its young. The Gerudo had certainly changed for the better since adopting the wayward youth. It was apparent to all involved that Ashley was a victim in the whole affair. The only one who didn’t bother to see it was Ingo.
Turning to Link and Malon, she saw they had just settled comfortably in the roll. He was looking in her direction, an obvious question written on his face. She shook her head convivially, yes, she was coming to bed! He grinned as she got up and made her way to their conjoined sleeping bag. Swiftly slipping in and settling herself next to his furnace of heat, they relaxed together and looked up at the stars.
Ingo frowned as he regarded the trio, “I would never have thought Talon’s daughter and the Princess of Hyrule would be so scandalous in sharing a man like that.” Disdain in his voice. Even after so many nights watching them sleep together, he still couldn’t wrap his mind around the concept. He had only known one woman, Orauna.
Merin offered an explanation as she looked up from her bag, “I don’t think it is as you say Ingo.” He looked at her incredulously. “I’ve spent a good while with those three already and I don’t think there is anything funny going on there. I see it as three friends enjoying company together. That and body warmth, it does get quite cold at night.”
Ingo grunted, “I can see where you are coming from, it is just odd seeing it from my perspective.” He paused, thinking about who was talking, “Coming from you however, it doesn’t mean much! Your culture is based around nothing but your sex.” He pouted.
Merin smiled as she overheard the soft snores of Ashley next to her, “That may be true, but it also gives me more credibility.” Ingo shot her a look but she pressed on, “I know what sexual looks like,” She gazed upon the three friends happily whispering to each other as they pointed out constellations, “and that is not it. To think that I could be as happy as them, to have friends like that.”
Ingo mumbled something incomprehensible under his breath as he rampaged into his bedroll. Within moments he had his back turned to the group and was fast asleep. Merin looked out across their camping space. What a motley crew they were: two Gerudo (three if you counted Malon), one Hylian princess, one Nevachrean, one triple-half breed, one Hylian boy and a Cyn’Taak. She shook her head in amazement. She would have never guessed when leaving her homeland that she would be here in this place with this crew.
Merin gazed over to Apolloni. She had situated her bedroll further away from the others, well outside of the heat the fire was producing. She exhaled despondently, with Lorva and Aveil gone, she had little else in common with her sister Gerudo. It was clear there was a difference in loyalties between them and Apolloni had begun to treat her like the outcast Malon was.
She focused her attention to the three of them huddled together. The two women had already fallen asleep, their arms draped over Link’s chest. She could discern he was still awake but staring up at the stars. What was he thinking? As much as she longed to be with a man, to have him warm her bed and fill her body with his manhood, she knew deep in her heart she would probably never have Link. There were already two who had laid claim to his heart, even if he could not see it, it was obvious to her.
“At least I have you little buddy.” She whispered softly to Ashley as she snuggled in tight, keeping the boy warm. Putting her protective arms around him, she soon fell fast asleep. An infuriated howl of the nearby Wolfos pierced the night. It went unheeded among the group, for they had a Cyn’Taak to protect them.