Chapter 74 - Sins of the Father
“You are a courageous young man.”
These were the last words spoken to him nearly two moons ago by Zelda’s father, Harkinian. He remembered the meeting vividly, as if it only happened moments ago. Link was packing his rucksack for the journey ahead. He was partially worried how the inclusion of Cayla would affect their plans for acquiring the Goron Ruby. He didn’t altogether trust the Sheikah, having grown so accustomed to Impa during his long cycles with the Gerudo. It appeared the feeling was mutual. She barely let Zelda out of her sight and preferred to step in whenever they tried to have a conversation.
Saria had visited him only once since their last encounter on his recovery bed. She seemed almost shy and coy around him, rarely looking him in the eye. Did she feel guilty for what she had done to him while he was immobilized in bed? He had consented to the act and felt perfectly at peace with his decision to help prolong the Kokiri race, despite the unusual nature of their mating. The last few days before setting forth, Saria had kept to Darunia’s chambers and spent many nights regaling stories and telling fine jokes to which everyone in the outer hall could hear the Goron king’s boisterous laughter. No one really knew where Nabooru spent her days.
For the remainder of his time in the Goron refugee camp deep in the heart of the Xaagar mountain range, he spent it alone in his chamber that they had set aside for him. It wasn’t extraordinarily fancy, but it suited his needs well. It wasn’t any larger than a half dozen paces across and a dozen paces deep. It had an inset alcove with furs and blankets for his bed and a simple table complete with stool and sputtering lantern. There were a scant few tapestries hung up to give some degree of decorum to the room, but it was clear that the Gorons were more interested in functionality than visual stimulation at this point.
It was clear to Link that his belongings were tampered with during his stay with the Gorons. All of his gear was completely out of place. He suspected Cayla but made no mention of his accusations whenever she was nearby, her true colors would show soon enough on the trail he figured. Her partner familiar, Sasha, was far more agreeable and easy to get along with. She was consistently the only person who bothered to visit him since his full recovery.
“What’s that mask for?” A voice behind startled him, making him jump with unease. It was freaky how quickly a Sheikah could sneak up on him without even being aware that they were there. Sasha emerged from the shadows, a big smile on her face as she looked upon him. She leaned slightly over, her head cocked teasingly as she looked on the scene with Link fumbling with the vile mask, trying in vain to stuff it back into the bag.
“I’m honestly not sure.” He said truthfully, blushing slightly. Giving up on any pretense of hiding it, he let the mask sit there, its bloodshot eyes boring holes into them both. He could hear the seductive whispers but promptly ignored them. “Some loon gave me the mask.”
Idly scratching the scars at the edges of her lips, she gazed down at the hideous mask. Its swirling colors of reds and purples seemingly drawing her in. “Then why carry it? Why not just get rid of it?” She grilled.
Link shrugged his shoulders, giving the mask an askance look, “I don’t know. I guess I feel that there is something important about it. I’m worried about keeping it with me but on the other hand, I’m more worried about what would happen if I abandoned it.”
“May I hold it?” Sasha asked nonchalantly.
It seemed such an innocent question, but something inside Link screamed at him and it wasn’t Navi this time. With a look of mistrust, he hastily stuffed it into his rucksack, making sure he dug deep to rest the mask at the very bottom of his clothes and provisions. He breathed a small sigh when his hand touched the other mask, the one where he couldn’t feel malevolent energies emanating from it all the time. He turned awkwardly to Sasha, “No, I’m sorry. It was entrusted to me. I should be the one who must bear the burden of possessing it.”
Sasha looked pained but the feeling passed from her face like ripples across water. “I understand, I get sentimental to items and objects and refuse to let them go despite common sense.” Link began to shake his head, it wasn’t that. Sasha ignored his protest and kept going, “Well, if you ever-”
Their conversation was cut short when Zelda popped her head in, “Link? Are you in here?” Her face brightening upon seeing him, she strolled into the room. Sasha shot her a scowl that went completely unnoticed. Following closely on her heels was Cayla. The two Sheikah shared a look before Sasha got the hint that it was her turn to leave. Quietly slipping into the shadows, Sasha left them.
“Are you busy?” Zelda chimed cheerily.
Link looked her up and down. She truly seemed ready for the rough journey ahead. They had outfitted her with furred trousers and a long sleeve garment that was to be worn underneath a fluffy fur coat. Her boots were of the finest leathers and Dodongo hides, quite expensive indeed.
Where they were going, it was cold and they expected blizzard conditions, they had to be prepared for anything. Underneath her trousers were most likely thin, cotton leggings. They had planned to strip their cold weather gear for warm underneath once they reached the dragon’s domain, which Darunia confirmed was to be broiling hot.
“No.” Link stated flatly, his mind still on the conversation with Sasha. The quiet communique between Cayla and her did not go unnoticed by him. “I was just finishing up my packing. You seem to be ready for the road.”
She beamed. “Yep! Oh…my father said he wants a word with you before we leave today.”
Link scrunched his nose at the prospect. King Harkinian never did fully like Link back when he was a young, honorary Knight Templar to the Hyrule royal guard. He was ever watchful of his interactions with Zelda but never understood why, they were just children then. “What does he want?” His tone indicated great distaste to the idea of visiting with the king.
Cayla stepped forward, “You will respect your king boy! If he asks anything of his subjects, then they are to obey without question.” Her tone was deadly.
Before Zelda could respond, Link bounced back, “I was a child of the forest long before I was ever a citizen of Hyrule. I claim the great Deku Tree as my king.” He smirked as he spouted the last sentence.
“And the great Deku Tree is dead.” Cayla shot back venomously.
“You have quite the temper for a Sheikah. Is that normal for your race or is Impa an exception?” He folded his arms casually, leaning back slightly to get a better look at the veins popping at Cayla’s temples.
Zelda almost had to put a hand out to stay her de facto guardian from going on an all-out assault on Link. “I think that’s enough. We’ve all been through a great upheaval recently. I just found out my father has been alive this whole time with the rest of the Sheikah and Gorons. You all found out I was alive with Link and the others. It was a lot to take in. We’re all just rattled. Let’s step back and take a deep breath.”
As if on command, Cayla did as she was told. Zelda truly wondered if Cayla was even aware of her true purpose as a guardian of the Royal Family or was Impa one of the few Sheikah who still recalled why they existed? Making sure one last time that Cayla would stay her ground, she turned to Link exasperated, “I really don’t know. He wouldn’t tell me,” with a small smile on her face, “even after all my probing. I guess being his daughter still doesn’t give me privileges in knowing state secrets. He only wanted to talk to you.”
“Just me?” He stared at her blankly.
“No other.” She nodded, confirming the statement.
He sighed heavily, “Fine. I’ll go. I’m done packing anyway. Are we still leaving by mid noon?”
Bowing her head in assent, she turned to walk towards the chamber entrance, “As far as I know, yes. Go meet with the king and then come to the eastern passage by the dining hall. We’ll wait for you there.” She gave him her special smile she reserved just for him before pivoting and walking regally out the door, Cayla followed swiftly and was gone.
Link shook his head. Ever since being back with her father and the royal guard, the Sheikahs, Zelda started to regain some of her regal bearing. She’d never admit it, but she truly did feel at home with the royal life. That was something he was never going to be comfortable with, it didn’t jive with him the first time and it would not the second time or any other time. Hefting the pack onto his back, being careful to loop his wings through the straps, he trotted out of the chamber.
It felt good to stretch his wings again, they had been so concerned with looking ordinary and normal that the group thought it best to strap his appendages to his back and cover them with a heavy cloak. It was understandable for such drastic measures when they were traveling across the plains northwards to the Xaagar range, when they were still within eyesight of the column of soldiers spreading out westward towards Hyrule. Since hitting the foothills and beyond, Link felt it ridiculous to keep up the ruse. He knew his wings were startlingly white, but they weren’t that bright, were they?
Several Gorons greeted him as he walked past. Their stares were amicable, but they were rather enthralled at his glorious set of feathers. They had never seen the like. Swiftly scampering past them, it was all Link could do to avoid their pawing hands. Every Goron wanted to see what it was made of and if they could replicate it somehow through metalwork. He laughed off their offers to examine his plumage more closely, he wasn’t exactly sure if they were dead serious or not. He hurriedly jogged down the pathway and darted down another tunnel.
Before long, he reached the inner mountain where Darunia and Harkinian kept their quarters. Link cricked his neck to the side, hearing a satisfying pop as he did so. He looked over at his right wing and reached over to massage the odd shaped lump in it. It looked like a mass of flesh had recently grown over something soft and meaty. Every time he pushed into it, it stung something fierce. No feathers seemed to grow around the object. Just what did the Sheikah do to heal him? Was this the result of such treatment?
Letting the wing go, he furled them behind his back, something he was quite happy with learning how to do several moons ago. He hated how they had always stretched out further than his shoulders, forcing him into an awkward gait. It was not until recently that he had managed to gain more control over the muscles in his extra limbs to contort the wings in different forms and shapes. If he concentrated hard enough, he could have both wings curled up behind without having to tie them up all the time.
He raised his fist and rapped on the doorway several times. A mild voice allowed him entrance. Link opened the door a crack before slowly pushing it all the way open. He stepped in a bit unsure of himself. The last time he was in the presence of the king, it was seven cycles ago. A day before he left the castle…and Zelda. “You called for me, your highness?” Link spoke hesitantly, slightly bowing at his last words.
The king waved irritably for him to come closer, “Never you mind the formalities! You don’t have to put up a pretense of being a subject of Hyrule.” He laughed scornfully at himself, “Hmph, a country with a wretched king who did nothing but run and hide. Some leader I turned out to be.”
Harkinian drifted off into thought as many things swirled through his mind. Stroking his brown beard just barely tinged with flecks of grey, he was dimly aware Link was still standing at his side, arms clasped behind him ceremoniously. “Bags boy!” The king drew up a chair and placed a forceful hand on Link’s shoulder and pressed him down into the chair. “I said to stop being formal! I am no king to you, let alone to this country.”
Link was slightly taken aback at this turn of events. He didn’t quite expect the king to be so self-deprecating. “Sir, I don’t think that is true. You brought the nation together after many years of war.”
Harkinian gave him a doubtful look, “Yes, peace after the war with Nevachrea, but at what cost? We made a deal with a villain to secure that peace! I trust you are aware that the Gerudo were responsible for the barrier separating Hyrule from Nevachrea?” Link nodded. The king pressed on, “My father was king of Hyrule for far longer than any man should have to retain kingship, living well into his eighties. I was on the throne for barely thirteen cycles when this current war broke out.” His face was haggard as he slunk deeper into the oak throne.
Link sat silently, not sure what to say. He only knew Harkinian as king all his life. He had never considered the fact that he was a relatively new ruler in comparison to Hyrule’s long history of kings. Not content to let Link mull it over, Harkinian looked him directly in the eye and spoke openly, “Do you even realize what this entire war is all about?”
“I remember Impa telling me that it dealt with an agreement between our two countries. They provide us slaves to help build up our infrastructure while we provide goods and supplies they needed to rebuild their flailing country.” Link admitted.
Harkinian nodded his head, “That is part of the story, yes. Did you know our country of Hyrule was only founded not even 500 cycles ago?” Link’s eyes went wide. The king grinned but dismissed Link’s surprise, “There is a secret passed down through the Royal Family that our country was inherited from a race of beings that used to live in the sky. Whether our people were once part of that great culture is unknown to me. I am only the ninth king in succession to ascend to the throne.”
With a grimace he surged onward, “My father was a very despotic man. He used the bargaining agreement with Nevachrea to get what he truly sought after.” After a brief pause to gauge whether Link had guessed the reason, he spoke, “The Sheikah.”
Link’s mouth dropped at the revelation, “The slaves? What was so special about them? Weren’t they always like that, living in Nevachrea serving others?”
Harkinian shook his head, “No, my dear Link. The Sheikah were always bound to Hyrule. There was a great war even before my time between us and several other countries, including Nevachrea. The reason for that war still eludes me. The current king of Hyrule made a treaty with Nevachrea in return for their aid to fend off the other warring nations. They accepted the Sheikah as payment to help rebuild their country, which was utterly devastated during the war.”
“It wasn’t until my father learned of the Sheikah that he devised a most hideous plan. He staged a war in our own country and razed most of it to the ground. It provided a justifiable excuse to beseech the growing nation of Nevachrea to return the Sheikah to help rebuild and defend the people of Hyrule in exchange for our blossoming wealth and bounty. The current ruler, Naar, agreed to the pact and thus the deception began.”
Link’s stunned face explained his feelings, “Why would he resort to such abhorrent tactics?”
The king gave Link a wry grin, “I told you, he was a tyrant. He felt the Sheikah were the property of the Hylian royal family. They had served as retainers for them in the past. He felt he was just reclaiming what was already rightfully his. What was most unfortunate was what he did after all the Sheikah returned home to Hyrule…”
The king gave a heavy sigh. He learned over the table next to them and poured a pitcher of cold tea into two goblets. He offered one to Link who took the drink with deference. After taking a sip, he continued his story. “Naar had a half-sister whom the king took a great liking to. Seeing as how my mother died during childbirth with me, my father had no queen to call his own. One night, on the eve of the betrayal, he swept south to Glaun’rung, their capital, with a legion of soldiers. They razed the city to the ground and stole her away, thus ending the pact between our two nations and causing their economy to collapse due to sudden lack of Hylian support.”
“So this war Naar is raging against us is more personal than just a simple matter of politics and bargains between countries.” Link began to piece it together. “Naar feels slighted at having his Sheikah taken away by deceit, his country collapsing, but above all his sister stolen from him.”
The king huffed back a chuckle, “Slighted is a mild term for it. If there is one part of Nevachrean culture that you must learn, family is everything. Children are a blessing and are to be treasured. I suspect he also lost his family in the attack.”
Link listlessly scratched an itch on his arm as he churned the information over in his mind. “From what I’ve seen of their culture, they don’t seem to care either way about family or children.” He suddenly recalled his experience with Ingo and Francis and their relationship with their offspring. “On second thought, I do understand what you mean. The majority of citizens of that country are very family oriented. It is those in the army and under Naar’s leadership that are not.”
“Yes.” Harkinian said dryly, “So you can then understand the reasoning why the theft of his very own sister meant so much to Naar. What was worse was the sister was swollen with child. I remember, for I was there when my father and his men returned from their raid carrying what was to be my new mother. Zelda’s grandmother. So you see Link, there are valid reasons why he declared war on Hyrule.”
“But that alone does not justify his actions!” Link exclaimed.
“No.” The king shook his head languidly, “It does not. I agree with you. But you must understand that there is no bargaining with the man, no reasoning with him. You have no leverage to make any sort of treaty with him or his people. You have no choice but to kill him.”
Link sighed exasperated, raising a hand out towards the entrance of the chamber, “You’ve seen how they cannot die easily. Naar is no common soldier, he has magick at his disposal and Goddesses knows what else! Furthermore, you are wrong.” Harkinian raised an eyebrow at his accusation but did not comment, allowing the youth to continue. “When we liberated Glaun’rung from the clutches of their regime, the people were glad and grateful for our presence in rebuilding their city.”
The king raised a finger, “Yes, the common folk. They no doubt harbor no ill will towards us, but that does little to aid our current situation when a vast army pulled from the far corners of the world filled with the dead bodies of the fallen. The more victims that fall to their blades, the more are enlisted into their numbers. I do not yet know how they are able to do this.”
Link’s face brightened a bit. This was something he could enlighten the king about. He reached around and searched in his rucksack and pulled out the white haired mask they had found in Glaun’rung. “Harkinian, we found this in their vile temple. We believe this is what gives them their immortality.”
The king took the proffered mask and examined it over, “And with this gone, they are now mortal?” He asked dubiously.
“No.” Link answered gravely. “See those shaving marks on its face? We believe these are the cause of their unnatural revivals. Unless this is removed or we destroy them outright, we cannot win. Without this mask however, they simply can’t make any more undying soldiers.”
Harkinian handed the mask back to be placed into Link’s bag. He sat back in his throne defeated. “Well that is little consolation here. Regardless,” He took in a breath to resume his account, “before his death, he made a deal with the Gerudo in exchange for sealing Nevachrea off from everyone. It wasn’t until after his death that I ascended to the throne. My singular goal was to unite the people of the neighboring nations and for a time, a great peace fell upon Hyrule for the first time in centuries. It wasn’t to last however, Ganondorf had come to Hyrule to rehash the details of the agreement made with my father. That was when you came in and revealed his treachery. For that, I am thankful.”
“Hmph, much good it did. Because of that one action, the barrier fell.” Link asserted angrily, he began to wonder if that was coincidental or deliberately done.
The king clasped his fingers together as he considered the youth, “Would the alternative have been any less unpleasant? You did what you felt was right. So what do you propose to do now once you acquire the Goron Ruby?”
“Well, we already have the ocarina that Impa gave me before we left Glaun’rung.” The king nodded for him to continue, “Saria has the Kokiri Emerald still in her possession, and soon we will secure the Goron Ruby. All that is left is to infiltrate Naar’s camp and take the Zora Sapphire.”
“In the heart of darkness, I presume? That will be no easy task.” Harkinian established. “I assume you already have a plan in place with regards to how you’ll accomplish this feat?”
Link nodded enthusiastically, “We do your highn-, I mean Harkinian. Once the Goron Ruby is secure, we head westward to Kakariko to meet up with-”
The king raised a single palm for Link to stop. “That is enough, the fewer who know about this course of action, the less the liability. I, for one, do not wish to be the weak link should I become captured at any point.”
Link couldn’t find fault in the king’s logic. They sat there, staring at each other, ruminating over the awkward silence between them. After a nervous sip of the sweet tea, Link set down the cup before addressing Harkinian again. “Sir? Is there anything else you wanted to speak to me about?”
With a subtle shake of his head, the king waved a hand to see the youth off, “No Link. I merely wanted to make sure you understood the full ramifications of the ideology and reasoning behind why we are in this war. It would do no good in sending off any of my subjects to their possible deaths without at least giving them the knowledge of what they were fighting for.”
Link bowed his head as he stood up and prepared to leave. “You are most gracious in that respect. By your leave.” He bowed again and hoisted the sack over his shoulder before turning to the door.
The king called him back one last time, Link turned his head to look into the intensely blue eyes of Harkinian. “You are a courageous young man.” With a smile and a nod, Link shut the door behind him and went to join the others for the expedition.
A hand startled him out of his reverie. Zelda’s touch was calm and soothing to his taut nerves. “Are you all right Link?”
Link smiled at her, “I’m all right.” His expression turned grim as he turned his attention to the billowing winds that whipped around their capes and fur hoods. Their ultimate destination was nearly a click away across a great ravine and up on the opposing mountain side. The blizzard made it near impossible to make out. “There is no way we are going to reach the other side tonight.” He sighed tiredly.
Zelda glanced off up the snowy slope to Cayla, who was watching them keenly from a respectful distance. Further up were Nabooru trailed by Darunia who was carrying a quivering bundle of blankets and furs. Saria was absolutely miserable in this weather and could not walk for long periods of time, let alone fly in this madness. Darunia took it upon himself to carry the weakened Kokiri for the remainder of that day.
“It looks like they’ve found some sort of cleft overhang where we might camp for the night.” She gently pulled on his bulky sleeve in hopes of nudging him to walk beside her up the incline.
Giving the cavern maw across the fissure one last glance, he turned to face the rest of the group. Sure enough, Darunia was sliding some boulders into place near the overhang to prepare more cover from the biting winds. Link turned to his right and patted Xavier on the shoulder glibly, “Nothing really phases you does it Xavier?” Link laughed.
“This ‘old got nothin’ on me!” The Cyn’Taak barked.
He gave Zelda one last look before striking up a good pace to keep up with the others, “Let’s rest tonight. We’ll tackle the dragons hopefully tomorrow.” She returned the look but could see he was anxious. They didn’t have a firm plan yet of how they’d be able to get the Goron Ruby from their lair without being detected. There was nothing to do but sleep on the problem that night.