Chapter 77 - Deep Breath Before the Plunge
“That is quite remarkable.” Darunia commented, scratching his chin with obvious interest. “I never quite understood why our forefathers made a pact with the Hylian royal family. We were tasked to come to their aid in times of dire need and to protect the holy relic given to us, the Goron Ruby. Now it all makes sense as to why we do what we do.”
Zelda nodded her head at his comprehension, “Indeed. I left the protection and care of my future legacy to one of my trusted servants, Ballos.”
Link interjected abruptly, “You mean the same Ballos the Nevachreans are supposedly worshipping as a god?”
She shook her head as she gripped her right elbow with her hand. “I don’t believe so. I think Barrachas and whatever other demons he was working with, managed to steal the mask of the champion. They must have known who Ballos was and simply used his name as the god of the mask.” She grimaced with contempt, “To think they would use such holy and just names and objects for their vile deeds. His name is probably tainted forever, with it being aligned with the abhorrent power that was given to the Nevachreans through the mask of the champion.”
“It is a common enemy tactic.” Nabooru explained, placing a hand to her hip. “You take what the enemy holds dear and you twist and malign it to the point they either do not trust it or consider it detrimental to their survival.”
Link rummaged around in his rucksack and pulled out the mask of Ballos, or rather, the mask of his own face from a lifetime ago. “So this mask once held the power, courage and heroism that my former self once had?”
Zelda indicated that this was true, “I believe so. They have marred its surface and polluted its holy nature. It no longer has the power to do much of anything except make more soldiers who cannot die. It’s awful.”
Link looked down with a mixture of sorrow and anger. What a cruel blow to strike, to destroy something that was once supposed to be a symbol of courage and hope. They all stood around in a circle; silence pervading their group, save for the slight whisper of wind through the cave opening. The blizzard had abated but they were still no closer to their goal. The thought of crossing the chasm did not seem altogether appealing to them.
Cayla broke the silence first as she faced Link directly, “So are you willing to offer a more reasonable explanation for your actions last night?” Her countenance was firm and unyielding, but the former anger and rage was no longer present in her eyes. The time off from the group seemed to have done her well.
Link’s mouth dropped open, “You want to talk about all that now?”
Crossing her arms, she waved a hand amongst the rest of the group, “I don’t see why not. It is a good time as any. Besides, if we are all supposed to trust each other with regards to completing this mission, we have to know the reasons for your deviant actions. For all I know, you could assault me next in my sleep.” Darunia had to cough heavily to avoid guffawing heartily at her allegation.
Xavier snorted in disgust, “What ‘usiness is it of ‘ours? He is full ‘rown man, he can mate with ’hom he wants!”
“Not helping Xavier!” Zelda and Link rebuked in unison, both glaring at the clueless Cyn’Taak. Seeing that her opinion was unneeded, she growled and lumbered off to guard the cave entrance, suddenly content to looking out over the snowy landscape.
Seeing no way out of this mess, Zelda sighed before beginning first, “It was my fault. I asked him to come with me to the lake just down that tunnel and help me relive my past self.”
Cayla grunted in assent of what she had already guessed, there was no way Zelda could have known about her past unless Link had been the one to initiate the ritual. “You do know that only a Sheikah is supposed to assist the reincarnated Goddess in remembering her true self? Did Impa not tell you this?”
Zelda placed her hands on her hips, staring the Sheikah down, “Frankly, no. In fact, she was actually the one who told me that Link could accomplish the same thing when we parted ways in Glaun’rung.”
Cayla’s eyes bulged, “Why would she tell you that? That doesn’t sound like her.” She let loose a cry of frustration, “Why is everything she does not make any sense? Why can’t I understand what she is trying to do?”
Link offered his opinion, “Well, it seems that it worked just fine. Zelda remembers who she is now.”
Cayla shot him a withering look, “And where did that get you? From what I gathered, you were almost jumped. And then I find you two naked together. What else am I supposed to think?”
“Um…well, her initial actions were a bit unexpected.” Link admitted. Zelda’s cheeks flushed furiously as Darunia stifled a chortle.
Saria merely walked up to Zelda and hugged her around the legs, “Well, you two were really warm last night. I appreciated it.” She gave her a smile that wasn’t altogether comforting given that they were being interrogated by Cayla.
Ignoring the leering stares of Nabooru, Zelda faced Cayla, “I don’t see how my relations are any business of the Sheikah. I get the fact they are the Royal Family guardians, I get the fact they are to help protect me as Hylia reincarnate and I get the fact they are to help defend the Triforce. What I don’t get is why you are taking offense that Link was the one that woke me.” She jabbed a finger in Cayla’s direction.
All heads swiveled to Cayla for her answer. As cool as ever, she responded calmly, “It is our duty to defend both Hylia and the Triforce. Part of this responsibility is to reawaken each reincarnate under controlled conditions. After fully realizing who you are, you have to be surrounded by your guardians. Having your Goddess mind suddenly being thrust forward into the future in a mortal body shed of all divinity can be quite bewildering for you. We would be there to calm you and reconcile this difference between your divine nature and your humanly wants and needs.”
A look of dawning realization spread across Zelda’s face. She began to feel awfully distressed about the position she had placed Link into. What was Impa thinking? “You mean by having Link near me when I awoke…?”
“There was no one there to properly reconcile your two natures.” Cayla continued unperturbed at the interruption. “Your love for your champion and his heroism was mixed with your physical body’s love for him. You couldn’t resolve the two and were lost to the passion. Things could have gone wildly out of hand. It is a miracle at all that Link managed to finally break through your confusion and help you differentiate between your two natures.”
I don’t think you would have managed at all if it weren’t for me! Navi chimed snootily. Link quieted her swiftly with an inaudible grunt.
Cayla turned to face Link, “For that, I actually have some respect for you. Not many who are untrained in our ways could help Hylia like that. Maybe it’s the connection between you and her, but whatever the case may be, I am just glad there was less damage than expected.” Link looked rather offput at the compliment, as if he his attention was elsewhere inside his mind, raging at the internal diatribe within.
“Huh…” Zelda pondered. “Well, be that as it may, that still doesn’t explain your actions with Saria, Link. So she is pregnant now?”
Darunia inhaled in shock, “My little forest flower?” He turned to Cayla, “I’m a bit muddled, is this a joyous event or something bad?”
Zelda proffered to provide her personal explanation of it, “Link, a grown man, impregnated a Kokiri girl.”
“Dear Goddesses man!” Darunia said aghast. It was clear he was unaware of this aspect of last night’s events, “There is a saying in my culture: Din’s forge hath no fury like a Goron woman scorned. Boy, you best tread lightly when it comes to your passions!” Link scowled at the Goron king for his overtly parental advice.
“I guess I better save you.” Saria giggled.
“You better.” Link fumed. “You got me into this mess. I was trying to help you out.”
“You what?” Zelda grilled again.
“Calm down Zelda…everyone. For one, Link is still a proper gentlemen and a great friend. My best friend, actually.” Saria began confidently. “And secondly, I am older than probably all of you. I may not know much about the world, but I learned a lot during my time with the Gerudo.” She proclaimed proudly.
“I’m sure you have.” Came a lilting laugh from Nabooru. Cayla sneered at the woman. Why was the Gerudo even here?
Saria cleared her throat to continue, “Well, we never…” She glanced up at Link as he looked away embarrassed. “did anything physical. It was more…how do I put it…spiritual. I can’t explain it very well, but he did not do anything to me. I was the one who asked for it first. So please don’t be mad at him.”
“Oh…” Zelda stated flatly, utterly befuddled at what exactly Saria meant. The concept was beyond what she currently understood. It sounded familiar to her but she couldn’t quite determine why.
After some moments of silence, Nabooru stepped forward, “So where do we go now? How are we to traverse the valley and get across to the other side? It seems it is quite treacherous with all those jagged rocks. It might be days more to even find a pass that’ll lead us around.”
“Oh!” Zelda exclaimed, “I remember seeing a tunnel leading down into the earth at the bottom of the lake. I can’t explain how, but I know that it’ll take us to where we need to be.” With her newfound powers as Hylia incarnate, almost no one seemed to question her suggestion.
“No.” Darunia refuted heatedly. “Water and Gorons do not mix! You all may be able to take that route, but I refuse. I will travel my own way and I’ll meet up with you on the other side.” He folded his arms roughly and glared at the others, resolute in his decision.
“So what does everything think? Should we split up? Or go back outside and brave the elements and figure out a way across?” Link looked up at the Goron king, “Not everyone can travel in quite the same way Gorons do. What might be easy for you is rather difficult for the rest of us.” Darunia rumbled in agreement, but did not back down from his decision.
Cayla raised a palm in the direction of Zelda, “I’ll let my charge decide. She is the one I am to follow. I will do as she says.”
With all leadership resting on her shoulders, Zelda looked around at all her companions. Even Xavier was craning her head to look back at her, curious as to what she’d decide. At length, she finally spoke, “We take the submerged tunnel.”
“Bah!” Darunia complained as he hefted his mighty hammer onto his back. “Come on Xavier, let us travel together. Chances are that passage is most likely too small for our bulky frames anyway. And unless you know how to swim or breathe underwater, you’d be best off traveling with me.” He clapped a hand on her scaly back.
Unsure of what to do, she looked from Darunia back to Link and Zelda, as if asking for permission. Link laughed at the sight of such an imposing creature actually indecisive as to what to do and looking to him for guidance. He waved both hands to shoo her away, “Go on Xavier. Darunia is probably right. Don’t worry about us, we’ll be fine. You’ll be back with us in no time.”
Her tongue lolling out in relief, she clambered out of the cave mouth and bounded through the snow. Darunia followed her out but took one last look behind at the two of them, winking as he did so, “Never fear, I will keep close watch over your unusual child!” At this, he roared with laughter before chasing after the excited Cyn’Taak. Zelda was still quite embarrassed about that joke and was a bit flustered Darunia had brought it up again.
Link shook his head, chuckling as he turned to the others. Zelda glowered at him for condoning such behavior. Link promptly ignored the look and addressed the remainder of the group. “Let’s pack up only what we don’t mind getting wet and leave the rest here. Hopefully we can take this passage Zelda is talking about back here to this cave, otherwise don’t expect to retrieve anything you leave behind.”
All of them nodded before turning to their designated sleeping places, each of them reevaluating their packs to ensure all that couldn’t be spared was in their rucksacks. Link dumped everything but a few food items that could withstand being soaked and the two masks. He refastened his tunic belt tighter before securing his Goron tempered sword to his waist. It would be weird not having a sword draped across his back. Sighing, he swung his pack around his appendages and secured it over his shoulders.
Once all preparations were complete, they followed Zelda down to the tarn. She surveyed the still surface until she pinpointed the passage beneath the waters. “Down there.” She pointed. It wasn’t too deep to reach it, but it was unknown of how far the tunnel traveled before they hit an air pocket.
Cayla stepped forward first, “I’ll go scout it out to make sure it’s safe.” Although not a word was spoke, everyone was visibly relieved that she offered to go initially.
With the grace of a feline, she dove head first into the water, slicing through it with her hands. She curved and twisted in the water before gripping the sides of the flooded tunnel and pulling herself through. All eyes were on the last remaining bubbles from Cayla’s passing, slowly rising to the surface. Saria almost forgot to even breathe, she was so tense. She gulped in some air which brought a few nervous snickers from the others. None were looking forward to what lay beyond that tunnel. Nobody had ever faced a dragon before save for Link and his memories of the previous encounter wasn’t a happy one.
“You think you can swim with those wings Link?” Nabooru probed; a small hint of concern in her voice.
He shrugged, “I will have to learn won’t I? They aren’t the most helpful things when I’m swimming.”
Saria grinned, “Water doesn’t affect my wings at all!”
“You learned that from your last bath?” Zelda simpered, edging closer to the unsuspecting Kokiri.
Saria pivoted on the spot to see Zelda making a grab for her. With a yelp, Saria leapt high into the air in an attempt to fly away from her clutches. With a howl, Link flapped his wings giving his jump greater loft and wrapped his arms securely around her legs. With one horrified look on her face, the two of them tumbled into the water with a huge splash.
Link came up laughing as Saria spluttered her way back to the stony shoreline, “You are terrible Link!” She moaned as she regarded her macerated clothing.
“Oh come on! You were going to get wet anyway.” Link riposted.
“You are right though Saria.” Nabooru admitted, “I see that your wings are completely unaffected by the water.”
Saria pouted, “We could have waited until Cayla came back.”
As if on cue, a head surfaced from the water nearly freaking Saria out. She screamed as she scrambled up into Nabooru’s arms, holding on tightly around her neck. Cayla dismissed her reaction and spoke to the others, “There are four air pockets, with the greatest distance being between the third and fourth. I will help ferry each one of you individually if you’d like or we can all follow in tow.”
“Let’s go together.” Zelda confirmed.
Nabooru dropped the panting Kokiri as the rest waded out into the water, preparing to dive headlong into the waterlogged passage. Saria was the last to enter the tepid water, Nabooru had already submerged and Zelda was about to follow suit with Link beside her.
Saria sulked, “Do all Sheikah do that?”
Without looking around at her but both sharing a smile together, Link and Zelda chimed back, “Yes.”
A malevolent sword of purest white flashed before her eyes. Beams of energy shot out from its tip as its black winged wielder gripped the blue pommel of the powerful weapon. She tried to escape the seeking beams of crackling death, but there was nowhere to hide. She dove behind a boulder but the beams shattered it into many pieces, causing deadly debris to rain down around her. She screamed for her life as she continued to run towards her sisters, they were reaching out to her with their hands just as the beams struck her body. She shrieked in agony as the light invaded her very being, forcing blood to gush out her very pores.
Merin woke up screeching. She was entangled in the furs she had used to cover her body that night. She writhed and squirmed her way out, scrambling across the grass like a hunted rat. A swift hand on the shoulder stopped her apparent mania. She stared up wide-eyed at the seemingly unrecognizable face of Impa.
“You’re okay!” The Sheikah soothed. She was practically petting the terrified woman. It strangely had a palliative effect on Merin. Presently she calmed down enough to the point she wasn’t hyperventilating. “You had a nightmare. Are you well?”
Merin shook her head fiercely. “No.” She wailed. “It’s the same dream I’ve been having for moons now, but it’s getting more vivid. More real. I truly felt like I was dying.”
“Is it the death on black wings again?” Impa asked, continuing her stroking of Merin’s hair. She couldn’t imagine what it was like to relive the same awful dream every night. It would make her want to stay awake to the end of her days.
Merin nodded numbly, staring at the ground watching the ants idle by her feet. “I actually saw my death this time. I saw my Gerudo sisters reach out to me. I could not reach them. I don’t understand it. Why am I having this dream?”
Impa ceased her stroking as she gazed upwards towards the shimmering dawn, the sun just barely creeping up over the horizon. They had traveled far these past few moons and it was exhausting on them both. The lone horse they shared was completely spent every night. To alleviate the hardship on the poor stallion, they began to turn in early each evening to give the poor creature more time to rest and relax.
With Ganondorf’s magick unable to assist them, they knew riding through the Nevachrean horde would be certain doom. Crossing the pass where they had originally planned to was no longer an option. Ganondorf and Apolloni were to be heading that way north into Hyrule. Instead, they retraced their steps and passed through Yolland as they made their way up the south side of the mountain range. It was only yesterday that they finally made it back down into the valley of Hyrule alongside a tributary of the Zora river just south of Kakariko, the massive black stain now to the west of them.
Impa began to offer words of comfort when her ears perked up at the sound of galloping hooves. She immediately crouched low and drug Merin down to the dirt with her. She waved a hand over their lone horse, hoping her impromptu stealth haze was enough to shield their mount from untoward eyes. Thoughts of her dream long forgotten, Merin waited with baited breath as they lay quietly in the tall grass.
The clopping of hooves began to grow distant as they slowly made their way up from the ground. Upon seeing who had passed them by, Impa swore an oath. “Curse that man. What is he doing here?”
Merin stalked up next to Impa, “Who is it?” She looked after the twin riders galloping off in the direction of Kakariko.
“Ganondorf and Apolloni. What are they doing here on this side of the army?” Impa spat. “This will change our plans considerably.”
“As if it hasn’t changed enough already?” Merin asked.
Impa suppressed a chuckle at the Gerudo’s question. “Come, we need to see what they are up to and see if it interferes with helping Link and the others. We haven’t the time to waste!”
Quickly snatching up her small haversack, she leaped up into the saddle and gripped Merin’s wrist enabling her to hop aboard behind her. With one swift kick to the flanks, they rode off north in the direction of their quarry.