Chapter 75 - Campfire Stories
“Link, would you please place my mat over there by the larger rock?” Zelda requested, pointing in the general direction of the alcove just past the passage that led deeper into the cave.
“Of course Zelda.” Link said with a smile. Grabbing the two bedrolls, he carried them over to the indicated section of the floor and with a flourish unfurled them next to each other. This was their third night on their journey. To think they would make it all the way to the fissure bordering the mountain that was the dragons’ lair in three days time was quite remarkable. He honestly thought it would have been further away.
A scuffle at the entrance directed his attention. Cayla was obtrusively trying her best to make her way around the bulk of Xavier who was blocking the entrance to the cave. She shot an irritated look over at Link before exasperatingly asking, “Would you mind telling your pet to move?”
A low growl emitted from Xavier as she gave a death glare to the Sheikah. “I ‘o where I ‘ant!” She rebuked.
Link laughed which infuriated Cayla more, “Xavier is not my pet. She is…” He gave her a strange look, just what exactly was Xavier to him? He didn’t quite know what type of relationship he had with the beast, friendship maybe?
Zelda stepped in to help with a smile, “Our adopted child.” At this, Xavier lumbered over and gave Zelda a rather alarming hug complete with talons coming dangerously close to piercing her soft skinned arms. A slimy tongue lathered itself through her golden hair as Cayla scrunched her nose in disgust. Zelda had to admit, she didn’t quite know why Xavier was so affectionate to her in this way. Xavier never bothered to show Link this type of fondness. “That’s enough now Xavier.” Zelda implored meekly, gently pushing the loving brute away.
“If any ‘arm comes to my ‘arents,” Xavier paused for effect, “I will kill ‘hem!” She finished with finality. Completely content with her point being made, the Cyn’Taak scampered over to the far side opposite the passage leading deeper into the mountain and slumped to the ground. She curled up in a crescent shape and watched the others with languid interest.
Slightly taken aback by the casual nature of the creature’s statement, Cayla stated flatly, “I can assure you that my primary goal is to keep your…mother safe.”
Darunia stepped up behind Zelda, pressing a firm hand on her shoulder. She looked over up at him, he smiled down with a huge grin. “Not even been with a man and already with a child? You are quite the scandalous one, aren’t you Princess Zelda?” Cayla smoldered at the Goron king for his bold nature, he merely gave her a devious look. He glanced over at the relaxing Cyn’Taak with interest, “Although I’ve certainly never seen a beast quite like her. You probably would do well to pick a better father next time Zelda.”
Both Darunia and Link laughed at this joke as Zelda cried out in shock at the indecent ribbing at her expense. She stormed off to her bedroll, slamming her pack down next to it and violently rummaging through it, for what she didn’t know quite yet. Cayla strode over to her charge and knelt down to assist in any way she could. Zelda furious with her company at the moment, viciously shook off the comforting hand of her Sheikah guardian. Cayla looked hurt but stepped back and said nothing.
Shrugging his shoulders, Link turned to Darunia, “How is Saria?”
Darunia motioned him over as they walked past Xavier to the bundle of furs and covers lying on the floor. A pair of eyes peeked out from underneath the folds, “Is the fire made yet?” She squeaked.
Darunia laughed heartily, “Not yet little one, but it will be soon enough.” Still chuckling softly to himself, he unbuckled the hammer strapped to his back and set the massive weapon up against the wall with a dull clunk.
Both men walked over to Nabooru in great humor. The Gerudo had been mostly quiet up to this point. She was sitting cross-legged next to the meager amount of tinder they were able to bring with them on the journey. She was busily setting a fire utilizing two sticks but having little success with the endeavor. Frustrated, she tossed the sticks away from her with a shout.
Link squatted down next to the ravishing, desert beauty. Despite loving Malon, he still caught his breath when he looked at Nabooru. He could clearly see where Malon got her looks from and it wasn’t her father. She jerked her head at him, giving him a mad glare. “How does anyone get anything to light with two wooden sticks? It’s absurd! We have flint stones for starting fire, not two pieces of dry wood!”
Link smiled at her gently, “Mind if I try?” He asked, holding a palm out for the two sticks.
With a huff, she raised herself up and picked up the sticks and slapped them into his hand with a click of her tongue. “By all means.”
With the deftness from years of training, he got to work on the two sticks. Darunia looked over with interest as Link rubbed the smaller stick between his palms furiously, each rotation of the wood drew smoke in the groove set in the larger stick. Within moments, he had a small flicker of flame lick the bottom of the wood. He set small bits of kindling across the base which quickly caught fire. As the flames grew brighter, he placed larger tinder on the base of the fire. After a few minutes, a roaring blaze was heating up the interior of the alcove, melting any snow that dared enter that far into the cave.
“I hate you.” Nabooru snorted, crossing her arms with aggravation.
Link looked shocked at her statement, stepping back before placing a hand to his chest. “You hate me? Is it because I can start a fire or because I’m in love with your daughter?”
“Link,” Nabooru sighed, “I’d rather Malon be with a Gerudo man, but knowing that Ganondorf is an asshole, I’d rather her be with you than anyone else.” Both Link and Darunia sniggered at the comment, but she pressed on ignoring their immaturity with a roll of her eyes. “Despite that, I hate the fact you could make a fire I couldn’t.”
Saria stepped up beside Link, surprising him as she peeped up with her opinion. “I also hate the fact that you get this juvenile when you are around Darunia.”
Link laughed harder as he looked down at her simmering eyes, “What are you Saria? My conscience?”
Saria scowled harshly, placing her hands on her hips, “I see no one else doing it! And it’s clear I can’t leave you two men alone, you’d get into all sorts of trouble without me!”
Darunia slapped a hand on Link’s back, making him lurch forward awkwardly before regaining balance. The Goron king bursted jovially, “Nonsense Saria. He is my sworn brother and I would never let him become anything less than the outstanding, moral man he is!”
“Just like you?” Cayla scoffed as she butted in on the conversation.
Without missing a beat, Darunia rebuffed, “My fair lady, I have nothing but the utmost respect for women. If I dare see Link treat any of you with disrespect, I’ll be sure to cave his head in.” A look of slight horror emerged on Link’s face as he looked on the Goron’s impassive expression. Was he actually being serious?
“That would definitely be a change for the better.” Zelda simpered as she stepped up beside the bulky Goron king, her arms crossed with regal abandon.
“Now that’s not fair Zelda!” Link exclaimed, his wings wilting. “It’s just that…” He looked over at Darunia for help, but saw none forthcoming. “I’ve never been around another man who accepted me for who I am. Ganondorf is no friend to me. He still stalked around me at Glaun’rung like I was a criminal. Ingo is nice, but certainly weird to talk to. Who else do I turn to when I have guy problems? You women? Wait…” Link back-peddled, seeing the looks on all the females, “That came out wrong.”
“You can ‘leep next to me ‘onight.” Xavier offered cheerfully.
Link shivered slightly, “I may not have a choice.”
Darunia put a mentoring hand on Link’s hair, “Brother, we have a saying in our culture: stop digging your grave with dull rocks.”
“Indeed.” Zelda agreed. “Come on Saria, let’s warm ourselves by the fire and leave this peasantry behind.” She bent slightly and tucked her arm under Saria’s and walked her over to the fire, the Kokiri’s ethereal wings beating agitatedly.
Darunia smiled warmly at Link before lightly punching Cayla in the arm as he stomped by her. The Sheikah smirked before punching back as hard as she could, profusely cursing as she forgot how hard the Goron’s arm was. Shaking her hand out, she moved over to sit beside the imposing Goron king.
“Will you at least rub out my wings tonight before I go to bed? You know I can’t sleep until you do that!” Link implored sulkily.
None of the group chose to look at him but were content to stare into the crackling flames, none except Nabooru. She gracefully walked up to him and wrapped an arm around his shoulders. Despite having grown into a young, handsome man, Link was still almost a half foot shorter than the Gerudo elder. She pressed her head aside his before murmuring, “You could always sleep next to me Link.”
He leaped back with a start, looking at her with dismay. “You are Malon’s mother, and you have Talon!”
She took a finger and lightly bit it, teasing it around her lips, “But neither are here. It is not uncommon in our culture for mothers and daughters to share a lover. We would only be doing what is natural to the Gerudo.”
Disgusted at the blatant display of eroticism, Link raised his lip in revulsion. “No Nabooru. That is not natural to me. You have Talon.”
Saying his name again was like dumping a bucket of cold ice over her head. Glowering at him, she swept past him and towards her bedroll. She stripped off her blouse and leggings, making Link blush something fierce as he saw the naked backside of the Gerudo elder. She adroitly slipped into the fabric and wrapped herself tightly into its folds, her back to them all.
Link gingerly tip toed up to her sleeping bag and sat down beside her. After a few moments, her form visibly sagged, “Yes Link? What do you want?”
“I’m sorry if I offended you, but I’m just not used to-” Link began to apologize.
She rolled over in her bag and stared at him with her vivid, green eyes, “After seven cycles with us and you’re not used to…?” She sagged further, “Nevermind Link. You don’t have to say sorry. I’m just…lonely, that’s all. I miss Talon…and Giana. I also miss Malon too.” Nabooru added hastily, looking away briefly.
Link smiled sincerely, “You and her never did fully get along did you?”
Nabooru shook her head, “No. Not really. After the birth of Giana, she finally began to tolerate me. We never did have the connection mothers should have with their children. The one I have with Giana.” She looked off at the group huddled around the fire, chatting away amicably. “It’s funny, I’ve had several daughters before Malon and several after her, but I never felt attachment to any of them until Giana.”
“Maybe it’s because of the man whom you made her with?” Link offered.
Nabooru’s gaze flickered back to his, “For such a young youth, you are quite insightful. You are probably right. There has been no man who made me feel the way I do than Talon. I can’t readily explain why I chose to disobey all the customs of my people and be with one man and claim him as my own.”
“Probably because you love him.” Link stated, his expression softening.
At this, Nabooru smiled back, “Just as you love my daughter. I can see how she looks at you. She would rather die than lose you. Maybe this is what true love feels like. To be so heartsick at being far apart from the one you love.” She looked back into his eyes, “I’m sorry for what I offered to you tonight Link. I should not have done it. I just miss my family. I don’t even know why I volunteered to come on this mission. All for what? Some dream?”
Link cocked his head slightly at her revelation, “Dream? What are you talking about?”
A hand shot out of her bag, dismissing his question with a wave, “Nevermind. It’s silly.”
Link leaned closer, “Just tell me. I’m pretty sure the rest don’t even want to talk to me right now, and besides, I’ve got time to listen!” He grinned.
A look of dread passed over her face. Her bluff to throw him off the trail of her dream was a ruse. She began to tremble uncontrollably, her teeth chattering from the sudden cold. “Please don’t ask me to relive it. I’d rather I didn’t.” Nabooru rattled.
Link grasped the hand outstretched from the sleeping bag. Nabooru gripped his own with a vice-like hold. He stifled back a small yelp as her fingers dug deeply into his palm, her hands warm to the touch. “Ah! What is wrong Nabooru? Is it really that bad?” Link inquired uncomfortably.
Her pupils dilated as she looked up at him, her eyes seemingly staring through him. She began to speak with a small clatter to her voice. “I remember black wings, many wings encircling me, driving me insane. I see my death and the death of my daughter Giana and a horrific moon grinning at me.”
Link’s ears perked up at this, he leaned in close as he whispered to her tensely, “A moon? What did it look like?”
Nabooru shut her eyes as she shook her head briskly, “Evil. Its bloodshot eyes were staring into my soul. I’d rather not look at it again.”
The whispers were coming back again. Link glanced over at his pack seated next to his bedroll. He couldn’t see the mask from within his rucksack but he had no doubt that it was facing him through the fabric, staring at him with its eyes. A chill went down his spine as he looked quickly away. Facing Nabooru again, he could tell she was slowly drifting off to sleep. “Nabooru?” She moaned in response. “Why don’t you sleep in your clothes?” He asked trying to shake off the anxiety building in his heart.
“Hmmm?” She mumbled, “Because your clothes are cold and damp from the snow. If you sleep in a dry bedroll with them, you are going to keep that cold with you throughout the night. You let your body heat warm up your bag. Even better when you have a second person to share the body heat.” She smirked happily as she reminisced something delightful before shutting her eyes.
“Huh...” Link sat back on his legs, releasing her hand. He never knew that about sleeping in cold climates. He was so used to being in warm weather that he naturally slept in his clothes to keep out the cold at night. He never considered that removing all his clothes would be warmer than having them on when they were cold and wet. He learned something new every day.
Leaving Nabooru to her rest, he pulled himself up and walked over to the rest of the group. Darunia looked back and moved aside to allow him to sit between Cayla and him. The Sheikah didn’t bother to look in his direction but stared straight ahead into the flames. It was nice to be closer to the fire and feel its heat warming up his skin. Both Saria and Zelda smiled at him. Seemingly all was forgiven from earlier. He breathed a sigh of relief at that.
Darunia had to shift over more as Link’s wings flapped irritatingly up against his rocky backside. “Brother, can you possibly put those wings away?”
Link shifted the muscles in his back that helped contract his appendages closer to his body. They folded inwardly and straightened up vertically making it appear like he had two long white ears coming out the back of his head when viewed from the front. Saria giggled at the view, “You have white bunny ears!” She joked.
Link grimaced, “You’ve got wings too. Aren’t they annoying for you?”
Saria shrugged, “Sometimes, but it has been so long that I’m used to them by now.”
Darunia nudged Link in the ribs, possibly bruising him in the process, “That reminds me, you really ought to tell me one of these days how you got those wings brother! I’m sure it is quite the interesting story!”
Zelda visibly drooped, “Not entirely. It was quite a horrific experience.” Cayla looked up to see Zelda’s face noticeably shaken. Her attention skimmed over to Saria to see her knees balled up to her chin, arms wrapped around them tightly. Her wings were very still. Clearly something horrendous happened to them.
“I almost died.” Link filled in the blanks. A guttural response emitted from Darunia as he shifted to look down at his sworn brother. Link pressed. “We were deep in the heart of Nevachrea, facing off against a demon. I never knew such things existed until I met the Hunger.”
Cayla’s eyes relaxed at this revelation, “I understand your unease. We Sheikah are also aware of such beings in this land. They are creatures of the old world. Many Humas don’t even know they exist anymore since some take on the shapes of Hylians, Nevachreans or even other races, all unnaturally of course.”
Saria quivered at this talk of demons, “Do all Sheikah know of such monsters? Why do they even exist?”
All eyes turned to Cayla for answers. She sighed deeply before resigning to explain, “There are stories passed down through my people that we are protectors of a greater power. The Sheikah have been involved in a great war that stretches back to the times of the Goddesses and their absence from this world, leaving the Triforce behind at the point which they departed to the heavens.”
“A war between the forces of darkness and the forces of good was waged on this world, each vying for the power of the Triforce. The Goddess Hylia was the last defender and protector of the Triforce against the demon horde bent on claiming it for their vile ends. I do not know how they were defeated but I do know the Triforce was secured away to this day behind magickal barriers now resting in the Temple of Time just outside Hyrule castle.”
“Since their defeat, these demons have not been seen on this world, at the very least not by the regular populace.” Cayla stopped abruptly, for she had nothing left to say. She wasn’t sure just how much more she could say, given that her charge was sitting directly across from her. Did Impa even bother to tell her who she really was? What her duty was?
“Well that would explain all these blasted Nevachrean soldiers! They are demons, all of them!” Darunia grunted roughly, crossing his arms with irritation.
“That’s not exactly true.” Zelda gazed through the pyre at the Goron king. “We’ve discovered the source of their power to be a relic that they used to create their invincible army. We secured it ourselves with the help of the Gerudo and their king.”
Cayla shot up onto her feet, metal baton swiftly clasped in her fist. “Then we must destroy it right away! Where is it?” She looked around at the packs. Firmly knowing it would be in Link’s pack, she began making a beeline straight for his rucksack.
A flurry of movement occurred as Link used the movement of his leap to swiftly glide over to Cayla. Wings outstretched, he tackled the Sheikah to the ground. Within seconds she flipped him over, placing a firm boot on the sensitive fleshy mound on his wing. Link screamed in agony as she brought the baton up underneath his neck, her finger twitching on the button at its base that would shoot the spikes out into his skull.
“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t kill you now!” Cayla spat, her irises reflecting the fury in her jaded heart.
“Please stop fighting!” Saria yelled, grinding her hands at her inability to do anything to assist Link.
With one smooth motion, Darunia grabbed the Sheikah by the scruff of the neck and tore her away from Link and threw her across the cave. Nabooru was already up onto a knee, a scimitar in her hand as she watched the scuffle occur just mere meters from her sleeping position; apparently oblivious to her lack of clothing. Xavier was completely asleep and unaware of the violent proceedings. Cayla landed gracefully onto her feet and secured the baton to her belt behind her back.
“No one is to harm my sworn brother while I’m around! We made an oath to uphold each other and I will not go back on my honor while I’m still alive, even to a friend.” Darunia bellowed, wrath evident in his eyes.
Jabbing a finger at Link, Cayla growled, “Then explain to me why, for seven damn cycles, you took Zelda to the Gerudo’s fortress while the rest of us were to meet up with the king at Death Mountain? What did you do to Impa? What were you thinking bringing Princess Zelda into the hands of the enemy like that?” Her questions came out like daggers, her breathing heavy as her anger slowly subsided.
Link groaned as he massaged the small, odd patch on his wing. Just what in Din’s forge did they do to heal his wing? Wincing in the lingering pain, he met the glare Cayla gave him, “It was not my decision to take her there.” A look of incredulousness crossed the Sheikah’s face. “I speak the truth, it was Impa’s decision.”
Cayla sputtered, “Why…why would she do that?”
Zelda stood beside Link to support him, her chest pushed out in defiance at her supposed protector. “I can attest to his words. Before leaving to rescue Link when he was captured by Naar’s men, she pulled me aside and told us that when she returned, we would head for the Gerudo fortress.”
Cayla stood there flabbergasted, “But I don’t understand…I was her assigned sister.” At a blank look from the others, she explained. “The Sheikah always traveled in pairs back then. I was the one that went with her to come get you and Malon.” After a pause, “At your insistence Zelda.”
A blaze of realization sparked in Link’s head, “You were the Sheikah by the trees with Epona! I remember seeing you!”
Cayla nodded curtly, “I secured Malon while Impa went deeper into the camp to find you. There were more than four riders that day when you were being chased. I was sent to ward them off your trail, albeit I was unsuccessful doing so. When I returned to the agreed meeting place, none of you showed up. For seven long cycles, I had no idea if my sister was dead! I had no idea if Princess Zelda or any of you were captured, killed or worse! We were imprisoned in the mountains fighting a losing battle for seven cycles, without word from anyone about our friends, families, or the state of the war. You have no idea what we’ve been through…what I’ve been through.”
Zelda’s countenance melted as she made an attempt to reach out to the hurting Sheikah. Cayla brushed her off and moved towards the entrance of the cave. Looking out on the snowy landscape, she ignored the buffeting winds assailing her face with stinging snow. Zelda asked meekly, “Where are you going?”
“I’m going to patrol. Make sure it’s safe.” Cayla stated monotonously before striding out into the whiteness. She was gone.
Darunia heaved an odd sound before rumbling over to his corner of the cave. “I do understand where she is coming from, for I was there with her. The war hasn’t affected me as badly as it has her, but we are all feeling the strain of being stuck in these mountains fighting an impossible enemy.” Sighing, he looked out after the Sheikah but saw nothing but swirling white. “There’s nothing for it now, she’ll be back on her own time. Let’s just get some rest for tonight.”
Saria gave both Link and Zelda a weak smile before cuddling up next to Xavier for the night. Like a bad habit, the Cyn’Taak absently wrapped its tail around the Kokiri while moving slightly so Saria could nuzzle back up into her stomach. Seeing that the immediate danger had passed, Nabooru sheathed her scimitar and rolled herself back into her bag and was promptly asleep within minutes.
Zelda followed Link towards their sleeping rolls, her eyes lingering on the passage leading deeper into the cave. “Say, Darunia.” Zelda began. The Goron kept his eyes closed but grunted in response. “What is beyond that passage behind you?” She asked.
The king opened his eyes and glanced briefly down the dark corridor before settling back down to his sleeping position. “Nothing much there but a freshwater spring. I guess you could bathe there if you want but no idea what lives in that water.” He chuckled a bit before going silent.
“Come on Zelda.” Link gently took her by the hand and helped Zelda to her bedroll.
Zelda beamed warmly at him as she established herself next to her bedroll. Link politely turned away and began switching into his night clothes, asking for help from Zelda only to unzip his upper tunic so he could remove it from around his wings. He usually slept half nude above the waist because of the awkwardness of his appendages, but was considering putting on a shirt Malon had made specifically for his nightwear because of the cold. Remembering what Nabooru had said earlier, he decided it best to maintain the status quo keeping his tights on.
He had just situated himself into his bag. Lying on his stomach since any other position was rather uncomfortable given his new additions. After a few moments of silence and some loud snoring from Darunia, he felt the familiar hands of Zelda gently massaging the bones that ran along the tops of his wings. Link moaned in pleasure at the tender kneading as she moved down to the base of his wings and then back out to the tips.
“Dear Nayru, don’t stop.” Link entreated.
“You know I wouldn’t do this for anyone else.” Zelda said, a small laugh catching in her throat.
Link chortled into the fabric, “How many people do you know have wings?”
“Good point.” Zelda concurred.
They enjoyed each other’s company in silence as she continued her routine of rubbing out the kinks and taut muscles within his wings. She liked the feel of them and rather enjoyed doing this for him. It was a way to be closer to him. She thought about doing something else but her thoughts were interrupted by his snores. Just like him to fall asleep! She shook her head at him but continued the massage until she touched upon every inch of each wing, making sure to avoid the fleshy patch. After she had finished, Zelda crawled over to her bag and moved it closer to his. She slid into it and looked over at the sleeping form of Link. As if by instinct, Link’s wing lifted up and draped itself over her like a second blanket.
She giggled, “Good night Link.” He simply snored on.
It was when the embers of the fire had died down to a smoldering glow that Darunia finally awoke to a sudden realization, that boy hadn’t yet finished telling him the story of how he got his wings!