Chapter 61 - Campfire Memories
Nabooru’s breath caught in her throat as she gazed upon the majestic building that stood before her. “What is this place?” She breathed heavily.
The four of them had traveled northwards for several moons, riding hard for hours before stopping to let Epona and Fado rest. The relentless prowling of Wolfos was a constant detractor from what was mostly a relaxing journey. Xavier was employed several times to chase the despicable beasts off. Regardless of their multiple attempts at frightening them, the Wolfos always came back, lingering along the fringes of their group.
It was just that morning they broke the line of trees that commenced the forest resting at the base of the mountains north of Glaun’rung. They avoided the trailing army line, comprised of the last undying recruits, by heading eastwards for the better part of a day before turning north.
Nabooru was in awe at the stately beauty of the woodland realm. Living in the desert all of her life and rarely going to the Negev herself, being in the middle of trees stretching to the skies was stirring. Several times she had to be nudged roughly by Zelda when she was steering Fado off the game trails, completely absorbed in the sights and sounds of the woods.
The structure ahead of them lay in a hidden thicket surrounded by an elevated canopy resting on rising bluffs that bordered the building. The abnormal aspect of this entire construction was actually the hollowed out tree trunk that acted as a tunnel burrowing through the ring of rock that enclosed the copse, almost as if this was originally created by the hands of man.
Zelda hopped off the horse before walking toward the vine encrusted structure. Having switched into travel pants and a loose fitting green tunic, she looked not much different than Link. He proudly wore his Kokiri recreation that Malon so thoughtfully made for him. The only exception was the brown cloak he wore which covered his wings, which were tied tight to his back. Nabooru sported her traditional maroon Gerudo garb which V-necked down to her navel. With her dual scimitars strapped to a clasped holder hanging off her back, she looked ready for any confrontation.
“I don’t know.” Saria spoke, flying off of Epona. She inspected numerous statues in varying stages of decay or rubble. “But I feel no evil here…only a sense of peace.” She delicately placed her hand on the cold stone of a fluted pillar.
“Good.” Link said tiredly. Slipping off Epona, he unfastened his cloak, letting it drop to the ground. Undoing the knot on the rope secured around his chest, he tossed the twine to the ground with forceful purpose.
“What are you doing?” Zelda squeaked. “Aren’t you supposed to hide those?”
Bending low to touch his feet, Link ignored her question as he spread his limbs out wide, stretching them smoothly as he flapped them gently. “Ah, that feels much better.” Standing up to look at Zelda, he replied calmly, “True, but you try growing wings and then be forced to keep them cramped close to your body, unable to move them. Besides,” he pointed up towards Saria who was still inspecting the remainder of the atrium, “if she says that it is safe here, I highly doubt I have anything to worry about.”
She gave him a skeptical look, “Well, it never hurts to be cautious.” She replied unsure of how else to refute his assertion.
Nabooru fastened the horse tethers to a nearby tree before walking over to the two of them, “I for one don’t mind it. I’ve heard from Impa how useful those are to him when he is fighting. So if we do get ambushed here, then I wouldn’t want him hindered in any way. I think it’s a smart tactical move.”
Glancing up at Saria who seemed content with exploring the ruins from her high vantage point, he turned to Nabooru, “Thank you. I’m going to go check out the area to make sure it is safe. Will you please start a fire?” Apparating a sword into his hand, he smiled at the two women before setting off around the perimeter of the enclosure.
Zelda stared after him for a few moments before commenting uncertainly to Nabooru, “He does seem happier out here in the woods.”
“Isn’t this where he was born and raised? That would make sense.” Nabooru plied several packs off Epona and Fado.
Shaking her head tersely, Zelda replied, “Well, not exactly here. The Kokiri probably made their home further west of here, just north of Ordon.” She looked around trying to orient herself, “Which I think we’re actually quite near.”
“Either way, it makes sense that he would be far more comfortable out here in the woods and with animals than around other people.” Nabooru established confidently, reaching into her own pack to pull out a few artifacts she would need for building the fire.
Tapping a finger to her lips, Zelda ruminated softly to herself, “What a restless spirit. Link, where do you set your stake in the sand? Where do you call home now?”
Link had already arrived at the massive archway that divided the ruined structure from a separate chamber. The lack of a ceiling made the entire enclosure feel more open than it really was. Moss and crawling vines had invaded the cracks in the underlying edifice and gave a feeling of ancient veneration. He had stepped up to the center of the smaller vestibule where a raised podium lay, no higher than his shins.
His breath caught in his throat as he kneeled down to brush off the layer of dirt from the front of the pedestal, emblazoned on the stone was an effigy of the Triforce! Suddenly looking around him with new clarity, he began noticing more marks along the crumbling walls bearing the symbol of the Triforce, enveloped with what looked like wings.
“Navi?” He exhaled wondrously, “What is this place?”
I’m not sure. I remember being here once before in my search. All I know is that I feel at home here, it feels…serene. Her tone was practically singing with the joy in her voice.
“I feel it too.” Link stood up; gazing around him with new found reverence for the location they were to call their temporary home for the night. “Navi, I have a feeling we are going to be quite safe here.”
Agreed. She sounded.
Link slammed the carcass of the elk in front of Xavier, who was practically salivating at the prospect of tearing her meal apart. He grimaced as she hastily poked it several times with her barbed tail. Thankfully it didn’t balloon into a grotesque spectacle of blood boils. It would still be a few days, maybe weeks before that happened. Leaving the delighted Cyn’Taak to its meal, he strolled back to the campfire where the others had gathered, hanging out cooked meat from a previous kill earlier that day.
Zelda scrunched up her nose as she viewed Xavier slurping down the elk’s intestines. With a small hiccup of bile, she politely set down the piece of meat. “Ugh…I know you like providing food for Xavier, but did it ever occur to you that she might need to learn how to hunt things for herself?” Zelda offered; eager to get her mind off eating her meal that was no longer appetizing.
Link gratefully accepted the warm meat from Nabooru before sitting down next to Zelda, unconsciously wrapping one wing behind her. “I guess you do have a point.” She winced as he tore a hunk off the grilled meat, talking in-between bites of his repast, he offered, “Next time I go out to hunt,” More chewing, “I’ll take her with me and I’ll see if I can teach her to hunt.”
“Ugh…could you please at least swallow before talking?” Zelda complained, scooting a few inches away from his smacking sounds.
Saria giggled, “Oh, he’s always been like that. Ever since he was still young growing up around us Kokiri, he never learned manners to eat and then talk after.” She crunched into a delicious apple she found previously.
“I know.” Zelda moaned in despair. “I remember the many moons we tried to teach him etiquette in the castle. A lot of things took, but there were always a few manners that just never stuck.” She placed her head in her hands as if embarrassed at their failure.
“You lived in the castle before Link?” Nabooru questioned curiously; she had been sitting cross-legged beside the fire opposite the two of them.
Swallowing his bite just so he could please Zelda and keep her quiet about the issue, he answered blithely, “For a time I did.” He gave an uncertain glance at Zelda before continuing, “I wasn’t overly comfortable with it, but I did enjoy myself during my stay.”
“You said it was stifling.” Zelda interjected, looking at him directly.
“And you have a freakishly good memory.” Link retorted with a smile.
Nabooru leaned forward resting her head on her arm, elbow digging into her leg, “I can understand where Link is coming from. All my life I felt I was different from the rest of the Gerudo. I didn’t feel overly fond of the way Ganondorf treated us as his subjects. His methods were cruel, manipulative but somehow always just. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. There was something off about my people, about where I lived but I couldn’t put my finger on it.”
“Ganondorf does have a sensitive side to him.” Saria blurted out.
Zelda, who had just recovered from her nausea, was about ready to take a bite of her steak. Hearing this just made her queasy all over again. “What?” She scoffed. “Next you’ll tell me he spoiled you rotten and was a good listener?”
Saria nodded curtly, looking down her nose at Zelda as if insulted, “As a matter of fact he was! He liked it when I sang songs to him. His favorite was a song both Link and I shared.”
Zelda’s gaze swiveled to Link, his mouth open in shock, “He asked you to sing our song?” He couldn’t wrap his mind around the idea of Ganondorf enjoying music.
Saria beamed as she took another bite of apple, munching it between her teeth as she explained, “He was always so nice to me. He would take me on walks all the time!”
Teeth grating at Saria’s chewing, Zelda fumed, “You’re just as bad as he is!” She violently pointed to Link. The two of them busted up laughing, much to her vexation.
“Walks?” Nabooru cocked her head, “What did he think you were? A dog?”
“What?” Saria glared at Nabooru. The Gerudo only gave her a crooked smile.
Link waved his hand to eradicate the current line of dialogue. He could see it turning south quickly. “Enough of that.” Turning to Nabooru, he resituated himself with his wings before asking the question that had been on his mind for the past moon. “Why did you come along with us in the first place?”
Realizing that Link made an excellent point, Zelda jumped in, “Yeah, it was my understanding that Impa was to be with me.” She certainly felt that the Sheikah wanted to be beside her during her second reawakening. Why did she feel the need to say Link was a suitable replacement for her? It didn’t make much sense. Link had no idea what he would be doing, let alone the purpose of it.
Nabooru sighed, she was trying to avoid the issue altogether but knew it would be brought up one way or another. “Well, it started with a ghastly dream. I can barely remember much about it now. All I remember was dying. I saw the face of my daughter, Giana, dead.” Zelda gasped as she placed a hand to her lips in sympathy for Nabooru, it sounded like a horrific dream. Nabooru pressed onward despite the reaction, “The strangest thing about the dream was black wings descending.” Saria’s expression grew pale at this as her wings slowed their incessant flutter.
Link shivered, his mind went instinctively to his own wings but they were white not black. “Do you have any inkling what it means?” He asked; the remainder of his meal completely forgotten.
Nabooru merely shook her head dismally. The memory of the dream had completely fouled her mood. “I’m afraid not. But it was the catalyst that spurred me to see if Ganondorf would be willing to change the plan and have me travel with you to find the ruby. I don’t know why I felt the need to be with you Link, only that it was important that I do so. Strangely enough, he agreed without so much as an argument.”
“Now that’s odd.” Zelda murmured.
“No it’s not!” Saria chipped in. “Maybe he just saw the reasoning in the idea and went along with it?”
“Even so,” Link put a hand to his chin in thought, “That doesn’t explain why Impa would have chosen to stay in Glaun’rung. That threw me off as a bit weird too.” He turned his face to look at Zelda. “Unless my memory is failing me, she was around you constantly, even when we never saw her. Aren’t the Sheikah supposed to protect the Royal Family?”
Zelda knew it went a bit deeper than that, she was seriously hoping Impa could have accompanied her so she could find out the truth of their relationship. She simply nodded in response, “There was never a time when I was without a Sheikah watching over me. It feels weird to have her back around only to suddenly lose her again.” She gazed off into the fire, her eyes going out of focus trying to see beyond it.
“That’s the strange thing, I expected her to reject the idea outright, but she agreed without so much as a protest!” Nabooru exclaimed.
Zelda winced as she heard Xavier crunching on the remaining bones of the elk behind her. Blocking out the sounds of the Cyn’Taak’s feasting, she pondered, “That is unlike her. She is very protective of me. To so easily hand off her duties to another…” Her voice drifted off.
Licking his fingers as he finished the last bite of meat, Link casually tossed out, “Well, what’s done is done. I’m sure she had her reasons that you can ask her later about. For now, I think we should focus on getting a good night’s sleep and see if we can make the foothills tomorrow past these woods.”
Nabooru slapped her thighs as she picked herself off the ground, “That sounds like a great idea. Anyone want the last piece?” She held out the remaining strip of steak. Upon getting negative responses from the rest, she shrugged before taking it with her. “Saria, did you want to help me set up our bed rolls?” She asked, smiling at the Kokiri.
“Yeah, sure.” Saria said flatly, taking one last bite of her apple. She was a bit conflicted about the whole talk with Ganondorf. She knew he was capable of accomplishing despicable deeds, but she also knew that he was capable of being compassionate and generous. Why couldn’t the rest of them see that?
Their small band had already settled into some semblance of order whenever they turned in for the night. Nabooru usually slept near Saria. The Kokiri shunned her own sleeping bag, preferring to use it as a blanket cover instead. She had grown used to sleeping with her wings and the thought of confining them inside a zipped up container of fabric seemed dangerous to her. Saria usually waited for Xavier to come lumbering over to them before settling up against the sleeping giant and falling asleep against her. The Cyn’Taak had grown extremely fond of the little Kokiri. For whatever reason, Saria seemed to have this calming effect on animals.
“Nabooru?” Saria asked suddenly as she lounged up next to Xavier who had come over to sleep beside them. Nabooru gave a small sound in her throat, indicating the Kokiri could continue. “Have you…ever wanted someone that you couldn’t have?” She had no idea why she was asking this of the Gerudo, some wild flight of fancy was dancing around in her head.
“Well…there was Talon. But I don’t think what you are asking applies to him. No, I don’t know what you speak of.” Nabooru answered. “Why do you ask?”
“No reason. Forget I said anything.” She rolled over onto her side, facing away from Nabooru. The Gerudo stared at her a while longer, wondering if she should persist in drawing out more information from the mysterious girl. Finally resolving to let the matter rest, she slipped into her roll.
Resting her head on a clawed foot of Xavier, Saria watched in silence at Link and Zelda unfurl their bedrolls a few paces away. They were initially actually eager to relive their travels along the road. Regrettably, trying to share the same bag didn’t quite work out the way they had hoped. They figured this out the first night after leaving Glaun’rung. Sleeping on his back was completely abysmal in practice, trying to sleep beside him when he was either on his side or stomach was a disaster as well. In the end, they opted to set up their rolls beside each other and sleep separately; which worked out just fine for Link, who seemed to thrash about a lot more often in his sleep since the sprouting of his wings.
He grumbled as he flopped over onto his other side facing Zelda. “Is something wrong?” She asked with a bemused smile.
“Yes.” He growled. “I can’t seem to get comfortable! The worst part is that I can’t lie on my back so I can watch the stars!”
“Would you like for me to describe them to you?” Zelda offered grinning.
“Don’t make fun of me.” He scowled.
“I’m not!” She said defensively, “I was…okay, so maybe I was a little, but you are just too cute trying to figure out what to do with your wings.”
Link flushed at her remark, “You try living your whole life without these things and all of a sudden you have to figure out how you get them to work. Half the time, it feels like I have some measure of control, the other half it seems they have a mind of their own. You know, this is all your fault Navi.” He accused irritatingly.
Don’t go blaming me for this. I had a hunch this would happen but I had no control over what transpired when we joined! She jingled affronted.
“Whatever.” He sighed. Not wanting to talk anymore, he was extremely tired. Collapsing onto his stomach, he arched out his wings so that they laid flat across his back with the tips touching the cool stone underneath them. Link’s body jolted as he felt a soft hand rummaging through his plumage. He flipped his head around to behold Zelda smiling as she nonchalantly fondled his right wing. “Zelda, you know that feels weird.” He squirmed uncomfortably.
She maintained her expression as she continued her gentle foray, “It looks weird seeing you with these. I’m honestly quite fascinated with them.”
Link opened his mouth to say a witty retort, but closed it. Why shouldn’t he let Zelda feel them? They were friends and he trusted her implicitly, he knew she would do nothing to harm them. Deep down inside, he felt he’d be curious too if she suddenly sprouted wings, Saria even let him feel hers when she melded with Sora. So odd that something he considered so unnatural would be so fitting for her, would they ultimately become normal for him too?
At length, he responded softly, “Then keep doing that, it’s actually lulling me to sleep.” Her soft caresses were actually having a soporific effect on him. She looked surprised before beaming at his consent. She took both hands and began massaging the thick bone at the top of the wing where all other underlying structures draped down from.
Now comes the most boring part of my night. Navi sighed in Link’s head.
“Why’s that?” He murmured, almost asleep.
All I get to see is the inside of your eyelids until your brain conks out. She chimed.
“You can’t sleep?” He asked.
Not until you do. She affirmed.
He chuckled slightly, enjoying the delicate massage Zelda was gracing him with. “That’s funny Navi.” He never got to hear her rebuttal before shutting her down when he finally drifted into slumber.