Chapter 67 - Caught in the Web
Link swore an oath trying to disentangle himself from the sticky fronds of silken thread. He had slipped on a rather large bone of some unknown creature that had the unfortunate fate of being a Skulltula snack. Landing in a rather large depression of bones and webbing, he writhed vainly until Saria floated over to assist in cutting the thick strands of gossamer caging with her apparated dagger. Still unaccustomed to such a weapon, she fumbled with its edge as she struggled to cut each filament one by one.
Xavier had her share of infuriating moments navigating through the web infested passageways. Despite her immense size and strength, the Skulltula’s threads were especially dense and held her mighty girth with ease. She raged at the irritating blockades that barred their progress forward and attempted to crash through the corridors of stone which resulted in her getting stuck worse which vexed Xavier all the more.
“It’s hopeless Saria.” Link slumped down into the webbing, idly watching her slice through yet another strand.
“Don’t say that.” Saria encouraged, giving him a weak smile. “We followed the trail this far, we can find them!”
Link shook his head despairingly, “It’s impossible. I lost their trail the moment we entered this dank cave. I have no idea where they went. Every passage looks just the same as the next.”
Saria looked at him dismally but didn’t speak. She returned her focus back onto the task at hand and proceeded to cut more threads. At last, he was finally free and able to move back up to the higher ground outside of the death pit of bones and decay. Shivering slightly, he scanned the uneven hallways for any clues as to where the Skulltulas took Zelda and Nabooru. It seemed fruitless. Each passage was nondescript and crowded with webs. There were no tracks left to follow on these stony floors, none of the halls had any disruptions in their diaphanous doorways.
“It’s my fault Saria. I got us into this mess.” Link pressed onward when he saw her begin to shake her head in rebuke, “No, I’m serious! It was my idea to come up from the south to navigate the mountains to find the Gorons. We should have taken the longer way up to the northwest and come in through Kakariko. We might have attracted the attention of the army along the way, but at least it would have been easier to traverse.”
Relieved to finally be free of that maddening hallway, Xavier lumbered up to the conversation, “That ‘ight be true. ‘Ut we are ‘ere now and we ‘ust help ‘ur friends.” She gave a goofy grin that came off more menacing than she had intended.
Saria sidled up next to the hulking Cyn’Taak and laid an affectionate hand on Xavier’s scaly arm, “Xavier’s right. This is no time to beat ourselves up over this or figure out who is to blame for this situation. We must focus now on saving them. Now just breathe and think about what we have to do.”
Link squeezed his eyes tight as he inwardly cursed himself for being so agitated over the whole ordeal. In his heart, he knew Saria was right but he hated the fact that everyone looked to him to be the leader. Even before their capture, by all rights, Nabooru should have been the de facto leader based on her age and experience. Despite this obvious choice, they all deferred to him and followed his lead and decisions. He never asked to become the person they all looked up to. Life was so much simpler being a young boy in the Kokiri forest, without a care in the world.
After a shuddering breath, Link opened his eyes with new clarity. “You are right Saria. Thank you.”
She beamed at him in respite. Her face filled with worry when she noticed a grimace of pain cross his face, “Is everything all right?” She asked hesitantly.
“I’m fine.” Link dismissed, rubbing his shoulder slightly.
“Maybe we should have a look at that.” Saria pointed to the still open wound in Link’s wing where the Skulltula had pierced through his feathers. The blood had dried but it still looked nasty.
“I said I’m fine. We need to hurry.” Link pressured, ignoring Saria’s concerns.
Flexing his wings to stretch out the kinks in them, Link surveyed the environs intently. He didn’t spot anything overtly suspicious. He knew the passage leading them out of the caves, that path had a small inkling of a breeze which had a small waft of fresh air riding on its current. Breathing it in alerted him to yet another smell, one he had overlooked in his haste to follow Zelda and Nabooru. Inhaling again, he noticed a scent of death and rot coming from the hall to his left.
Link pointed his sword in the direction of the webbed path and discerned unsettled strands of silken thread along the upper ceiling. “This is where they took them. Let’s go!” He ordered.
It was an arduous slog through the caverns, both Link and Saria were sweating and exhausted after an hour of slicing through a plethora of vexing Skulltula webs. Xavier was also fatigued by the end of it and began rumbling her dissent at the whole notion of finding their friends at all. It was then that Link nearly smacked himself with shame for not having realized the solution sooner.
“Argh! I am so stupid!” He admonished himself.
“What is it now?” Saria consoled, placing a hand on his back.
Ignoring her question, Link summoned the innate power inside himself and conjured a burning torch right into his hand. He nearly laughed loudly at the simplicity of it all, “This is what I should have done to begin with!”
“Good ‘oing Dad!” Xavier complimented.
“Thanks.” Link accepted sheepishly. He still wasn’t comfortable with the notion of being a father to a child, let alone to a confused Cyn’Taak who considered him its parent.
“You did great Link. I knew you would.” Saria said slyly.
Link barked amused, “Oh great, now I’m being cheered by you now! I guess the tables did turn, didn’t they?”
“Yep!” She chimed cheerily.
Motioning them to follow, he surged onward down the passage holding the torch aloft to provide both light and a means to burn the webbing before them. With their newfound fire, they made swift progress through the caverns. The additional luminosity also made it easier for Link to spy the trail that he hoped would lead them straight to Zelda and Nabooru.
At length, they came across a bend in the stone hall which rounded into a huge atrium of rock that spanned upwards for several hundred feet. Link immediately disbanded the torch and held up a hand for Saria and Xavier to halt. The skittering of limbs and chattering of Skulltulas was oppressive in this chamber. Looking up into the room, his adjusted eyes could see hundreds of large spiders scampering over massive nets of strong silk. His heart sank when he saw the dozens of hanging cocoons, some still moving from inhabitants freshly awoken from the paralyzing Skulltula venom. Where would he find Zelda and Nabooru in all of this?
“Where do you think they could be?” Saria asked hopefully, not fully expecting a positive answer.
“I have no idea.” Link stared, his mouth slightly open at the prospect of figuring out which of the cocoons were the ones he was seeking without attracting the ire of the Skulltulas.
Her heart pattering extremely fast, Saria took the first steps out into the gloom of the chamber followed shortly after by Xavier. Link bounded out in front of them and impressed upon Xavier a hand, “No. I think it better for you to wait here at the entrance. Only come if we need help or support.”
“That’s ‘ot fair!” Xavier growled, clearly peeved at being told to sit behind.
“You might attract too much attention.” Link quickly tried to explain.
“You are far bigger than us Xavier. Link and I are smaller and with our wings, we can probably fly up there and find Zelda and Nabooru faster than you can.” Saria intervened, offering a reasonable justification for the insult to Xavier’s pride.
With a huff, Xavier slammed back onto her rump in disgust as she glared at the two of them. “Fine. But I’m ‘oming in there at the ‘irst sign of ‘rouble!” She promised.
“Very well. Thank you Xavier.” Saria smiled. Link shared a knowing look with her as they moved out into the massive colony.
Link had never seen so many Skulltulas in one place before. They were draped along the walls and skittering across the high catwalk of webbing like ants. Many of them were readjusting several sacs and lowering them to specific heights, while they took the wriggling ones up into their nests for a snack. Several cocoons looked like they had been fed on several times with their occupants partially drained of body mass but most assuredly dead.
He motioned Saria to fly up to the hanging bodies and cut down each one. Link positioned himself under the falling cocoons and caught them before they hit the ground. They were efficiently quick and most of all, silent. Time was of the essence, it would only be a matter of time before the Skulltulas noticed a good majority of their meals missing.
Hope fading with each passing body, he carved through yet another mass only to find it wasn’t Zelda or Nabooru. Panic slowly rising in his gut, Link rose up and signaled Saria to proceed onward to the next body. Saria had just finished cutting through the last strand that held the cocoon aloft when a shout from below diverted her attention from her task. Jerking her head upwards, she squealed in fright as a Skulltula made a reach for her with its front legs.
Catching the falling figure, Link swiftly placed it on the ground and began to slice through the thick sheath. He gasped in delight at the face before him, they had found Zelda! She was completely unresponsive and cold to the touch. He placed a hand just under her nose and detected a slight rush of air which signaled life. Looking up at Saria as she screamed, he knew all pretense of stealth had evaporated. The Skulltulas were onto them.
“Saria, cut the one down next to you! It just might be Nabooru, Zelda is down here!” Link shouted up at her.
“Easy for you to say!” She yelped, fluttering down out of reach from several Skulltulas.
Saria squeaked again when several of the spiders ejaculated thick, ropey lines of web. They were trying to envelop her in webbing and have her fall out of the air. Dread filling her body, she zipped over to the indicated body and fumbled desperately against the lone strand holding it up to the massive net above them. A shout from below caused her to look up at a Skulltula descending down on that lone thread, its eyes perceiving her terror with delight.
Fear for his friends overcame Link as he looked up desperately. A clicking riveted his attention back to the ground revealing multitudes of Skulltulas scuttling over to him with several more descending from above. Various others were climbing up the walls to assist in bringing down Saria from the air. The situation seemed beyond hopeless. Gazing down at Zelda who was still comatose, he realized they had no real plan on carrying two bodies out of here. They’d be nothing more than dead weight.
“Xavier…I need you now!” Link cried out, his eyes still locked onto the horde of approaching Skulltulas.
“I ‘new you ‘ould!” She smirked as she rampaged through the throng, tossing up wriggling bodies and spewed webbing.
Both of them circled around the prone body of Zelda, warding off incoming Skulltulas as they jabbed and lurched towards them. Many of them exploded in bloody messes after a quick jab of Xavier’s tail followed by a swift cut from Link’s sword. Within seconds the two of them were covered in blackish blood and viscera. They were flagging from the constant toil of battle, the number of Skulltulas seemed endless and any hopes of escaping alive were dwindling by the second.
Link’s brilliant idea slammed back into his memory like a flash of light. Recovering from a lethal stroke dealt to the eyes of the nearest Skulltula, he apparated a raging torch in his right hand. In unison, all the spiders skittered backwards to avoid the harmful nature of the flames, many trampled each other in their rush to escape the blinding light. Link grinned as he stepped forward with the torch held aloft, watching in grim satisfaction at their reaction to his newly acquired weapon; its light glinting off the plated skulls on their backs.
A scream alerted him to the unfolding situation above where two things happened simultaneously for Saria. She had just finished cutting down the second cocoon and Link tracked its form hurtling down towards the mass of squirming Skulltulas just ahead of him. Secondly, the descending spiders managed to ensnare Saria’s wings so thoroughly to the point they could no longer function. With a trill that echoed throughout the chamber, a half wrapped Saria fell alongside the body she worked so hard to release.
“Xavier, look up!” Link shouted frantically.
A quick glance gave her all the information she needed to know. She bounded forward into the pack of Skulltulas in front of Link, throwing them around like ragdolls. Several Skulltulas managed to get in close enough to sink their mandibles into the tough skin of the Cyn’Taak. She groaned as she could feel their potent venom coursing through her veins, only through her natural resistance to toxins was she able to function for a few minutes more.
Leaving an opening for Link, he stepped forward to catch the flailing Saria, the weight of her body knocked them both to the ground. The collision scattered the summoned torch into nothing more than black vapor. Rolling her off of him, he quickly scrambled back onto his feet as Saria hysterically disentangled herself from the sticky threads. Xavier caught the second falling body before tossing it over towards Link, letting it rest with a plop next to Zelda before collapsing herself from the venom. Within moments, the Skulltulas were upon the paralyzed Cyn’Taak, eagerly wrapping it up in their sinewy strands.
A quick slice through the middle of the cocoon confirmed Link’s suspicion that it was indeed Nabooru who was strung up alongside Zelda. None of that mattered now since it was clear they were all going to be captured and eaten by this entire community of spiders. Parrying stabbing spider legs and puncturing several other Skulltulas through the eyes, Link worked his way back to the bodies of Zelda and Nabooru. Presently he bumped up against Saria who was facing the other direction with the short sword he gave her, shaking violently in her hands.
As one, they reached a palm out behind each other and grasped hands. They dared not look at each other, for fear of seeing defeat in the other’s eyes. “I’ve always loved you Link.” Saria blurted out, eyeing the throng of Skulltulas surrounding them.
“I’ve loved you as well.” Link returned tensely.
“Wait, what?” Saria chanced a quick glance back at him, he wasn’t looking at her but had his eyes focused on the spiders.
With a smile on his face, he clarified, “I’ve always loved you too. You were my best friend. I miss the days we used to play in the forest.”
Realizing he didn’t quite get the gravity of her words, she spoke with wavering confidence, “No…I mean…I’ve loved you like more than a friend.”
This did get Link’s attention as he looked back around and beheld her small, quivering form. He went to embrace her when a ringing shout thrummed through his head, Link! Get down now!
Navi’s sense warned them both of the impending danger when a nearby wall exploded with concussive force, several pieces of rock went careening through the air. Link held Saria close to his chest as they dove to the ground. Massive chunks of limestone sailed over their heads and crashed into a pack of Skulltulas, crushing them instantly. Saria’s shrill scream echoed throughout the chamber at the sudden nature of the blast.
Link couldn’t believe his luck when through that smoky opening revealed numerous Gorons rolling through, each one barreling over rows of spiders. Doing a double take, he noticed several Sheikah rush through the fissure slicing up arachnids. The squeals and clicking in the atrium grew to a fever pitch as dark blood splattered everywhere. With renewed vigor, Link pushed himself back onto his feet and began making his way over to their rescue party.
Sensing the horde closing in behind them, Link swirled around to protect the bodies they worked so hard in retrieving. He yelled for Saria to aid him in dragging the two bodies as they made their way to the Sheikahs. Navi warned Link of an incoming threat. Quickly pulling Zelda out of the way, a Goron came crashing through just inches off his left side. He watched the plucky Goron unfurl and begin punching and smacking spiders into the ground.
The Sheikahs surged into the roving pack of Skulltulas, several of them sliding between scrabbling legs thrusting their weapons up into the soft underbellies drawing out torrents of blood and guts. Their efficiency at killing was unparalleled. Link was slightly shaken at seeing fully trained Sheikah in their element of death. Impa had been out of practice for many cycles when she trained Link and the others in recent orbits. Seeing a fully capable Sheikah in their prime was terrifying.
“Up there!” One of them cried, pointing her baton high into the air indicating several batches of dangling bodies. “We’ve found them!”
Their leader nodded her head as she rounded up several sisters to her side, “Lace your hands; remember not to touch any webbing with unfurnished skin!” She warned.
As one the Sheikah poured a pungent smelling lacquer over their hands, arms and legs; within seconds they were bounding up along the walls before leaping towards the nearest threads. Gripping tightly, they effortlessly began ascending the hanging strands to the webbed ceiling above. Each Sheikah gouged and mutilated any Skulltula that dared come within range of them. With startling speed, they began cutting down the bodies and letting them fall to the Gorons below who were ready to catch them.
Seeing the mob of arachnids finally thinning, Link took the chance to call out to the lead Sheikah, “Help! We need your help over here!” He shouted urgently.
The woman’s head snapped in their direction, it was obvious she had been unaware of their presence in the chaos. Not taking any chances, she whipped out her baton and flipped open the spiked head before advancing on the two of them. Her eyes flicked down to the two bodies they were dragging and noted the face of the young woman he was holding, recognition coursed through her mind as the familiar features of Princess Zelda made themselves known to her.
“We also have a Cyn’Taak over-” Link began to point with his chin in the general direction of where he last saw Xavier when he noticed the Sheikah about to strike out of the corner of his eye.
“What are you doing with Zelda?” The Sheikah commanded swinging the baton down. She was alarmed slightly at the surprising agility the young man had, he had leapt completely free from her range and was slowing his descent with what appeared to be white wings. She had never seen the like. “Are you a spy?”
“What? No!” Link sputtered, confused as to why he was being treated this way.
Both of them sidestepped adjacently as a Skulltula landed in their midst. Apparating a sword into his hand, he joined the Sheikah in running the spider through. Her eyes narrowed at his display of magick, only a Nevachrean would have the ability to summon a weapon into their hand like that. Recovering first from the arachnid attack, she vaulted over its crumpling body and landed a boot to Link’s face knocking him to the floor unconscious.
“Don’t hurt him!” A cry erupted behind her, the woman turned around to see a curious sight. A young girl with angelic, ethereal wings was running up to her before quickly placing her body over the youth.
Confused, she stared down at the collapsed form of Link and the young winged girl who was protecting him. She gazed over to the two wrapped bodies of Zelda and an unknown woman. Recalling something the man said, she looked further into the gloom and spotted a rather large behemoth partially covered in thick webbing.
A fellow Sheikah stepped up beside her, “What’s going on Cayla?” She inquired curiously.
Cayla shook her head, “I have no idea Sasha.” She admitted.