Chapter 68 - Investigating the Truth
“What is this?” Cayla asked dubiously, picking up the audacious mask from inside the rucksack and lifting it up into the light.
“I do not know.” Said the accompanying Sheikah who stared at the colorful mask, its bloodshot eyes burrowing a hole into her soul; she gave an involuntary shiver.
Setting down the mask onto the wooden table, Cayla inserted her arm back into the rucksack and pulled out yet another mask. This one was more human in appearance. Its white painted hair gleamed in the torchlight, its features vivid and well formed. Cayla cocked her head as she brought the mask in closer to study the shaved portions alongside the chin and cheeks. She figured it odd that the youth had such peculiar items stashed in his pack. What was its purpose?
“Sasha.” Cayla motioned for her companion to join her by her side. “Where did that Kokiri girl say they were from again?” She queried, curiosity was getting the better of her as she laid the second mask down beside the first.
Sasha set down the various clothing articles and miscellaneous food items they garnered from the rucksack and turned to Cayla and haltingly replied, “The girl said…they were from Hyrule, like us. They had traveled all the way to the Nevachrean capital and were just returning from there.”
“Did she say what they were doing there?” Cayla pressed, her fingers absently twirling her white ponytail in lazy circles.
“No, she did not. Did you want me to interrogate her again?” Sasha asked stoically.
Cayla shook her head, “No, I will do it myself.” She gazed over at the sleeping form of Zelda with a heartfelt smile, “I’m just happy Princess Zelda is back under our care.”
“Where is her Sheikah guardian? Was she not with Princess Zelda at the time of our last parting?” Sasha asserted.
Cayla’s smile faded, “Yes, Impa. She was there. That is something I wish to know. Impa wouldn’t readily part with Zelda unless she either had no choice or is already dead.”
Sasha stood quietly for a moment, leaving Cayla to her thoughts. At length she looked over at the table with the man’s effects. “What should we do with all this stuff?”
Stroking Zelda’s hair motherly, Cayla answered without looking at Sasha, “Keep it. Until such time the boy can talk to their purpose, they should be kept safe. Any of it could be valuable.”
Sasha bowed her head in agreement and a smirk, “What of the other woman? Do you think she is a spy as well?”
Cayla walked over to the red-haired woman. Glossing over the encrusted ruby in the woman’s forehead, she didn’t need to look any further to know that the woman was a Gerudo. “Hard to say…I do know that Impa took refuge with the Gerudo instead of coming with us. I am still baffled as to why she felt that was a valid option.” Her eyes trailed down the comatose body, “Maybe she was drafting them to assist in the protection of Zelda, or maybe she was sent along with them as a means of keeping tabs? We won’t know for sure until the venom inside them abates and they wake.”
As if recalling, Sasha brightened, “The young man is doing much better after we addressed his wound.” Cayla lifted an eyebrow in interest, Sasha continued, “His heavy exertion must have accelerated the infection. He is deep in fever and sometimes cries out in his sleep.”
Cayla tapped a finger to her cheek asking coolly, “Will he survive?”
“He will. Our treatments seem to be working. It is only a matter of time until he fully recovers.” Sasha replied confidently, a proud smile on her face; she had seen to it personally the operation on the youth.
“How long do you think we have before he wakes?” She probed.
“A day at most, he should be fully recovered in several moons.” Sasha responded.
Cayla nodded. If the situation turned out exactly as advertised, that would put them right around the time they were to leave this sanctuary. The choice would be laid before the newcomers to either join them in moving further eastward or stay here to rot in the frigid mountains during the winter. Regardless, something was irking her that needed to be addressed.
“I don’t recall asking you to personally oversee the medical treatment of the boy.” Cayla stated; it sounded like a simple off-handed comment, but the intention behind it was clear.
“You didn’t.” Sasha responded casually. “I thought you wanted to have at least one Sheikah by his side to watch over him in case he did something irregular. After all, we still don’t know if he’s working with the Nevachreans. It would be just the type of thing they’d attempt by infiltrating us from within.” She scrutinized the youth’s effects once more as she lazily scratched the scars that trailed slightly up the cheek from the crease of her mouth.
Cayla narrowed her eyes, she never recalled Sasha having those. She recognized the fact they hadn’t been together like they should have in the past few weeks, but surely she would have noticed something like that sooner. “Where did you get those?” She pointed at Sasha’s face.
Sasha stopped the scratching before turning back to Cayla, “Oh these? I got them during the last raid by the Skulltulas. One got the jump on me and gave me these.” She elucidated effortlessly.
Cayla was clearly not convinced but decided Sasha would reveal to her the truth in due time, there were more important matters to attend to. Sweeping by Sasha, she instructed, “Never mind. Repack his belongings and set them beside my bed tonight. I would like to go over them personally. Thank you.”
“As you wish.” Sasha bowed her head deeply again before setting upon the task with due diligence.
Cayla stepped out into the dark stone corridor that resembled dried magma, as if the walls had literally dripped down over time and cooled. She surmised that many millennia ago, there was molten lava flowing through these tunnels. Whatever happened geologically since that time that caused them to be nothing more than hollowed out vestibules was anyone’s guess. Such conjecture was futile, she knew. She was just happy they were able to use this network of caves as a place of refuge for the past seven cycles.
It had been a long, arduous expedition from Kakariko Village into the Xaagar mountain range. They had narrowly escaped the initial onslaught of the Nevachrean army and took shelter in the jagged precipices and snow-bound peaks of the range. It wasn’t until four cycles ago that the dragons were awoken and alerted to their presence, not a week went by that there wasn’t some raging dragon attack on their strongholds.
Stepping out into a major artery passage, she descended down the sloped ramp to the lower hallways leading to the various bedrooms, storage areas and grand hall. Looking down at the milling Gorons trucking heavy sheets of steel upon their backs, she could only marvel at the craftsmanship they possessed with regards to metalwork. Despite the obvious appearance of having all thumbs for hands, they were quite dexterous and could bend the metal to their will and form glorious suits of armor, weapons, furniture or even décor. Well before this war was ever conceived, their handiwork was much sought after in the land and any quality piece of work from a Goron always fetched a pretty rupee.
Cayla sighed as she considered the stress everyone was undergoing and marveled that it took the Goron council this long to finally decide to move on from this place, the dragons certainly hadn’t been making their lives any easier. The vile serpents lived further up the peaks deep in the heart of the frigid mountains where scalding magma still flowed. Very few Sheikah attempted the trek to look at the beasts with their own eyes. Many simply left the dragons alone. The rule of the day when an attack occurred was to get behind cover and hide until they lose interest.
She wandered down the larger hall flanked by iron wrought braziers and checked her steps as it descended into the greater hall where the council and the current ruler, Darunia presided. Cayla couldn’t help but smile at the mere thought of the wily Goron king. He was as mad as ever and thoroughly enjoyed being besieged, almost as if he lived for this lifestyle.
The Goron hierarchy consists of the one, lone king which is decided upon by his peers and approved by the council of elders. The council is usually comprised of previous kings that had retired from their reigns and are treated with great respect within the community. Although it may seem the elders make the majority of the decisions with regards to the day to day living, the overall direction and vision their tribe follows is decided upon by the king. The remaining Gorons are broken out into several groups depending on their specialty. Some Gorons are great metal workers, while others are trained to be warriors. Still others are great builders and it wasn’t just the females who were good at cooking up some good, scrumptious rock.
Cayla could do nothing but laugh as she beheld the Goron king draped over a makeshift, steel throne that his subjects hastily wrought together so that Darunia could keep vigil over Saria’s room. The king had taken an immediate liking to the youthful Kokiri and took it upon himself to stand by her door during the night in case she needed anything. She shook her head; in the short time she had met the girl, she too had taken a liking to the Kokiri. Her ability to get others to warm up to her was infectious.
Stifling a laugh, Cayla walked right up to the sleeping king and rapped softly on his forehead, trying hard not to break out into hysteria at the enormous snot bubble from his nose. “Hello? Anyone in there?” She teased.
“Whasha? Whose there?” Darunia mumbled loudly, jerking upright with a dazed look in his eyes. With the reflexes of a cat, he whipped out his ancestral hammer and slammed it down on the rock where Cayla once stood. A round, cracked depression was left in its destructive wake.
“As violent as ever I see.” Cayla smiled, now standing off to his side.
Darunia, irritated, turned his head to look at her, “You should know better than to interrupt a Goron’s sleep like that.” He growled.
“And miss the show? Never!” She chortled.
“Bah!” Darunia dismissed her with a wave of his hand, “What is it you want woman? You came here for a reason I imagine?”
With a flourish of her ponytail, she leaned up against the throne, “Indeed I have. I would like to speak to the Kokiri about-”
“Her name is Saria.” Darunia interjected with a stern eye.
“Yes, Saria.” Cayla corrected herself without missing a beat. “I would like to speak to her about the youth she calls Link. I want to know for certain if he is truly-”
“He is my sworn brother and that is that! I recognized him the moment I saw his face. Sure he looks a good deal older and he’s got them weird things on his back, but I would not forget a face like his! You have my word as king!” Darunia beat his chest proudly.
“What of his wings? Or his ability to summon weapons like Nevachrean soldiers? Should we even test to see if he’ll revive if he dies?” Cayla pressed; ignoring the aggravation she was causing Darunia.
“By Nayru’s mercy woman! Do you trust anyone at all?” Calming himself from his outburst, Darunia leaned heavily on the shaft of his hammer as he regarded the jaded Sheikah. “I understand that you are suspicious of everyone and are weary of this war, but you can’t let that blind you to the truth! By some Goddess luck, both Princess Zelda and my sworn brother land at our very doorstep against all odds!”
Darunia scratched his chin distractedly before continuing, “Granted, he is quite a bit different than I remember him. He didn’t have those wings before and I don’t recall him using any sort of magick.” Shaking his head, he affirmed, “Either way, it doesn’t matter. We should accept the fact they are here with us now, safe and relatively unharmed.”
Cayla scoffed, “If you consider two half-comatose, paralyzed women and one feverish youth unharmed.”
“Well, I’ll take what I can get!” Darunia grinned. After a few moments of silence, he flicked his eyes to the door, “Did you still need to confirm your suspicions or do you feel I’ve satisfied your curiosity?”
Cayla shook her head, smiling warmly, “I’m afraid not. I still wish to speak to the girl.”
“Very well.” Darunia grunted, hefting the hammer as if it were a twig and pointing it at her chest, “If she is asleep, you come right back out. I’ll have none of this interrogation business while she is resting.”
“Duly noted, your highness.” She smirked, enjoying their never-ending banter.
Ignoring his grumblings, she quietly opened the door and slipped into the candle lit room. She scanned the chamber quickly and was surprised to find just how accommodating they had prepared the room for Saria. They brought out royal tapestries and skin rugs which they placed throughout the room at haphazard intervals, Gorons were never one for orderly decorum.
Amazingly exhaustive in their hospitality, the Goron king spared no expense in getting a plush bed frame and mattress for the Kokiri, she could see her small form practically swallowed up by the enormous bed. The royal treatment given to Saria almost made Cayla feel remorseful for how they were setting up Zelda and the others in their rooms.
“Hello.” A tiny voice rang out in the pale light of the room, it was clear Saria was sitting up in her bed and had followed Cayla’s movements from the moment she set foot into the chamber.
“Hello to you too, little one.” Cayla greeted jovially. Grabbing a nearby chair, she flipped it around and sat down on it, crossing her arms across the back brace before looking at the young girl.
“I’ll tell you what I told the others, we are not spies! We came here to find you all! We were sent to acquire the Goron Ruby from Darunia.” Saria blurted out, weariness invading her voice.
Cayla crooked an eyebrow at this. Sasha never mentioned anything about their objective being the ruby. “Why did you want the ruby?” She continued, since it was clear the girl wasn’t even remotely going to lie.
Saria exhaled loudly at having to explain things again, “Well, Link needs to get to the Master Sword back at Hyrule Castle. He can’t do that without having all three sacred stones and some ocarina that Impa gave him.”
This was far more than she got from Sasha. Granted, Cayla didn’t ask her much about the details of her previous questioning, but that still didn’t account for her omitting vast amounts of information. Cayla and Sasha were paired and always did things together. Within their tribe there is always two Sheikah. This is both for efficiency, protection and lethality. Now that she thought about it, Sasha had been acting rather peculiar of late, but she couldn’t really put her finger on why.
Shaking her head from the turmoil of her thoughts, she refocused on the conversation at hand, “And where are these stones now?”
Saria rolled her eyes as if the Sheikah knew nothing, “Well one of them, the Goron Ruby, you have! Silly…” She laughed at her own humor. Cayla said nothing and waited for the Kokiri to continue. “I have the Kokiri Emerald.” She pressed two fingers to the lightly glowing, green jewel hanging around her neck. “And…Naar has the Zora Sapphire.”
“And the ocarina?” Cayla prodded, knowing full well the implications of the valuable item.
Saria stared at the Sheikah blankly before responding, “Link had it. It should be with him somewhere.”
Cayla’s eyes grew wide with the revelation but revealed nothing to the Kokiri. Was this why Sasha personally wanted to oversee the treatment on Link? “Thank you. That is all I wish to know.” Without another word, she got up from the chair before setting it alongside the wall adjacent to the door.
“That’s it? Not going to ask how I’m doing?” Saria asked incredulously.
Cayla paused at the doorway, her silhouette framed by the lights beyond the archway. One hand holding the door, she turned to Saria, “Are you okay after braving those Skulltulas? Did they injure your wings?”
Fluttering them briefly, Saria responded, “I don’t think so. They feel okay.”
“Then you’re fine.” Cayla said curtly before shutting the door behind her.
“Can I at least see Link?” Saria called out after her.
“No.” Came the reply.
“Well she’s quite rude, isn’t she?” Saria fumed. Sora had to agree.