The Gorons of Death Mountain
The hilly terrain of Kakariko was hidden in deep shadow, visible only by a soft, pink outline created by the rays of the setting sun. It was really quite pretty and Link might have stopped to appreciate it if he wasn't so eager to finally climb Death Mountain to find the next Spiritual Stone. He wore the Keaton mask when he approached the guard, which made the guard laugh. "Trying to sneak past me by hiding your face, little friend of the Royal Family?"
"No," Link said, annoyed. "I just thought I'd surprise you, is all."
The soldier took another look at Link's mask. Then his eyebrows jumped up in surprise. "Wait! That mask! Isn't that the kee-something mask? The one all the kids are crazy for?"
"So this is the one you wanted?" Link said hopefully as he took off the mask.
The guard held out his hand for the mask. "So you got it for me after all, did you? Thanks."
"Wait, wait." Link pulled the mask out of his reach. "I'm supposed to sell it to you. If I don't then the Happy Mask Salesman…" He and Navi exchanged glances. Then he shuddered and shook his head. "Anyways, you have to pay for it."
The soldier grumbled, "All right, all right, I'll pay you for it. Here." He dug into his pouch, pulled out three blue Rupees and plopped them into the boy's hand. "Will this satisfy your greed, Royal Family Friend?"
"Oh, uh, sure," Link studied the Rupees with a brief look of surprise. Then seeing Navi drifting closer for a better look, he quickly passed the mask to the soldier before his fairy could say anything. She was sure to tell the soldier that the mask was only ten Rupees.
Regardless, he looked happy with his purchase. He put the mask on over his face and then stared down at Link through the tiny eyeholes. "My boy can't pester me for this mask anymore! You really are a Royal Friend!" He burst into another fit of laughter.
Navi, meanwhile, studied the Rupees in Link's palm with a frown. "Fifteen Rupees for a ten-Rupee mask."
He guiltily bounced the money in his hand.
Finally, she said, "Guess we earned a bit of profit. We should probably pay the ten Rupees for that mask."
Link nearly gasped aloud in surprise. What came out instead was, "Right now?"
His fairy amended, "When we have time."
Link nodded, smiling in relief. Then he said, "Well… let's see what's up Death Mountain, huh, Navi?"
She turned to him with a bewildered expression. "You aren't willing to go back to Hyrule Castle Town to pay for the mask, but you're willing to climb a mountain?"
"We've wasted enough time," Link explained, starting up the mountain and forcing Navi to follow him. Three days, to be precise, and all that time looking up at its smoky peak had tantalized him with mystery. What was hidden in that shroud that hung over its steep face? Who were the Gorons that supposedly lived up there? Did they really have the Spiritual Stone of Fire? What sort of challenges awaited him? He was still very nervous about what he would find once he climbed the mountain, but he also felt a thrill run through him - a promise of adventure awaited him! And the princess was waiting for him to return with the Stones. And Saria… she was waiting for him to come home. No doubt she would want to know all about his adventures. He had to make sure he had adventures to tell to her!
"Besides," he said out loud to his companion, "I'm sure it's not that far up the mountain."
It was that far up the mountain, Link found out. The sun had vanished behind the mountain and the moon had taken its place, and still he was climbing. It was exhausting work heaving himself over rocks and shuffling across narrow gaps. Many times he had to stop to rest his aching legs.
"When did you plan on getting to the Gorons?" Navi asked him during one of these rests. If Link didn't know better, he might have thought there was a smirk in her voice.
"Very soon, I hope," he answered evenly. Then he massaged his legs as he groaned, "Maybe I should have waited until morning."
"If we keep going, we might get there by morning," his fairy responded with a straight face.
Higher they went, with Navi's light guiding them through the more perilous sections of the path. After the road crumbled under Link's boot for the fifth time, he snapped bad-temperedly, "Couldn't we have taken a less dangerous path? I lost count of how many times I almost fell down the mountain!"
Navi suddenly stopped and fixed her gaze thoughtfully on the ground under her Kokiri's boot. She said slowly, "You make an interesting point. Perhaps that is why there is a gate and a guard before this path - to keep others from risking the climb."
"He never told us that!" Link said indignantly. Then he mimicked, "Hey, be careful climbing up Death Mountain, but hey, before you go kill yourself, why don't you do me a favor?"
"He did warn us it was an active volcano," Navi reminded him. "And he also warned us we needed the king's permission. And we do need to climb this mountain. Just be grateful that he wasn't more difficult than that."
"And who knows?" Link added waspishly. "If I happen to fall to my death, he might just look for my body and have Dampé bury me in the graveyard."
"Don't think like that. Just tread carefully and you should be fine," his fairy told him patiently.
So that's what Link did. Then quite abruptly, after he had sidled around a large boulder that projected into a steep drop, the path widened and smoothed. Almost immediately after that, it switched back, but Link's attention was drawn to the elbow of the turn. It appeared to be the entrance to a cave, but several large boulders had been piled in front of it, allowing only small cracks to show.
"What is this?" Navi flew to the crack and peered in.
Link collapsed against a boulder and watched Navi thrust her head inside the crack. "What do you see?" he called.
"I see red light," she answered, her voice coming out muffled. "Doesn't look like there are any Gorons here though."
"How do you know?" Link asked her. "I mean, what do Gorons look like anyway?"
Suddenly, the boulder he was leaning on shifted. He gave a startled jump and turned to it. His mouth dropped in amazement as the rock gave a grunt and stretched itself up. He gave a cry of shock and pulled out his sword.
"What's the matter, Link?" Navi hastily pulled her head out and turned to her charge.
Link backed away from the creature with his sword pointed at it. It was a lumpy-looking creature - long, lumpy arms with fat fingers on its lumpy hand; short, lumpy legs that held up a lumpy torso; and sitting on top was a small potato-shaped lump with beady black eyes, slits for nostrils, and a thin line as its mouth.
"Who are you?" Link asked, keeping his sword pointed at it.
A puzzled look appeared on its face and it scratched its belly. Then it smiled, showing off block-like teeth that looked powerful enough to crunch Link's skull. Link lifted his sword higher.
"Hello, stranger," it said, throwing the boy totally off guard. "You must be new here." It had a friendly voice that was strangely high-pitched for such a lumbering creature. It also sounded quite easygoing - not at all threatening.
But just in case, he asked, "Are you friendly?"
The creature threw back his head and laughed, causing his paunch to wobble. Then he looked down at Link, grinned, and replied, "I guess you've never met a Goron before, eh little guy? Don't worry, we're harmless. My name is Budibi."
"Boo-dih-bee," Link repeated as though this would reassure him. Then he asked, "So you don't eat people?" Navi flew down to him and said sharply, "Link! That's not polite!"
The Goron answered him as though he hadn't heard Navi, "Oh, no, we've never eaten people. Rocks is what we like." He rubbed his stomach dolefully. "But it's not a good time to talk about food. Look over there." He pointed a thick finger to the pile of boulders where Navi had been looking through. "That was the entrance to Dodongo Caverns where we mined our ore."
"What happened?" Navi asked concernedly.
Budibi sat down heavily with a sigh. "Well, one day everything was going swell and the next day it was swarming with dodongos! We had no choice but to block it off. Big Brother says it was all the work of that Gerudo in black armor."
Link and Navi exchanged knowing glances. Then Link asked the Goron, "Did he ask for a Spiritual Stone?"
Budibi threw up his hands helplessly. "I don't know what he wanted. All I know is that one day he came, and then our cave was overrun with dodongos! But if you want to know more, my brothers may be able to tell you. Just head up to our city!" He pointed up the trail. "It's not too far from here. Just follow the trail until you come to a big cave."
"Thank you," Link told the Goron gratefully. "Do you know where I can find a place to sleep?"
Budibi scratched his head in puzzlement. "Why not just sleep wherever you are? It's what we Gorons do." Then his eyebrows jumped. "Oh, but you're not a Goron, are you? Well, maybe you'll find something in Goron City."
Navi bowed to Budibi. "We appreciate your hospitality. We're sorry about your predicament but perhaps there is something we can do to help."
"If there was some way to take care of the dodongo infestation," the Goron sighed, still rubbing his belly.
Link was beginning to think that Budibi had lied about the length of the trail when it suddenly turned and he found himself in front of a grand entrance that had been bored into the mountain. Around its edges danced Gorons in a simplistic art style, their blocky, orange arms thrown in the air and their red mouths gaping in laughter. After taking a minute to inspect the artwork, Link stepped inside. He walked through an enormous tunnel that was twice as large as his house. And when he emerged on the other side, he came to a stop and gaped.
"Impressive," his fairy agreed breathlessly.
They stood at the end of a great city. It was arranged in layered rings that stretched both up and down as though the city had been carved within the inside of an enormous volcano. Lights twinkled inside Goron dwellings, and many, many torches burned at intervals around each level, like candles on a birthday cake.
"This place is huge!" Link exclaimed, craning his neck up. Then he ran to the edge and peered down to the bottom, which stretched so far below that it looked like he was gaping into the throat of a monster that had rings of flickering orange teeth.
"Where do I go from here?"
Navi glanced to the side and then said, "We do as Budibi suggested and talk to the Gorons here. I'm sure they'll give us the Spiritual Stone. And perhaps we may learn a way to relieve them of their angst."
They started walking toward the nearest dwelling. As they approached, they saw Gorons reclining against the walls, rubbing their round bellies, and groaning.
"Oh, I'm so hungry…"
"If only we could get back into Dodongo Cavern for delicious sirloin rock…"
"I might waste away if I don't eat soon!"
"Excuse me," Link said. The Gorons languidly turned their faces to him. They didn't seem surprised to see him, but that may have been because they were weak from starvation. He raised his hand hesitantly, "Hi, I'm Link. I'm here to find a Spiritual Stone."
Suddenly, one of the Gorons slammed into the ground and let out a keening whine, clenching his eyes shut and grabbing his stomach in a death grip. Another Goron held out a trembling hand to Link, "Please. Some food. I'll do anything!"
The boy backed away in alarm. "I, uh, don't have food for you. But maybe I can help you… if you tell me… where the Spiritual Stone is."
Navi suddenly cried, "Wait, Link! What about that bottle of milk in your pack?"
"Bottle of…" Link suddenly brightened. "Oh yeah!" He dug into his pack and then pulled out the milk. He hesitated when he saw the film that had developed on top of the milk and the fat that had settled at the bottom. He gave a hearty shake and then proffered it to the Goron. "Will that do?"
The Goron snatched it greedily, ripped off the cork and gulped it. The first Goron that had fallen to the ground shot an arm for the bottle and the two began a struggle that eventually caused the bottle to slip from their grasp and roll on the ground, tipping out the milk. The third didn't move a muscle but instead stared blearily at the commotion, apparently having lost all motivation.
The two Gorons scrambled madly over each other for the bottle. Link was forced to retreat to a safe distance to avoid being taken down. Navi on the other hand was transfixed in horror at how desperate the Gorons had become in their hunger.
The bottle escaped them once again and rolled toward the edge. Reactively, Link stepped forward to stop it, but it bumped onto the lip of the edge, spun on the spot until its bottom hung over, where the milk collected and weighed it down, and finally tumbled out of sight. Link felt as though the bottle had taken his stomach with it for a moment, but then his horror turned to shock when the two Gorons charged after the bottle, leaping over the edge without a moment's hesitation.
"Oh my goodness!" Navi screamed. "The Gorons! They jumped right off!"
Link ran to the edge and looked down to see the two Gorons tumbling in the air. They had curled into balls and looked remarkably like rocks, but Link doubted that they would survive hitting the bottom. He was struck with an image of two rocks striking the ground and bursting into rubble.
A moment later, they hit the ground. The echo of the thud was delayed, demonstrating to Link just how far down the bottom was. But to his astonishment, he saw the two Gorons uncurl themselves and tackle each other as they still fought for the milk.
As Link watched, he noticed other Gorons gathering on the other levels and watching the scuffle below. They must have seen the two of them falling and were now curious to see what was going on.
Navi zipped back and forth in agitation. "We need to do something, Link! They'll destroy each other!"
Link's first thought was to get down there. But though he had shown he wasn't afraid of heights, this drop was something he dared not risk. So he scanned the city for another means of descending to the bottom level. That's when he spotted in the walls openings arranged in intervals that were unusually large. Looking closer, he realized he could see stairs through them. After a quick search for the closest one, he hurried over and leaped down the stairs several at a time, with his fairy flying close behind him. He was pleased to see that the stairs seemed to go all the way down and he wasted no time dashing down them, almost tripping in his haste. Still, the descent was a long one and he observed on his way down what looked like an avalanche of Gorons dropping to the bottom. By the time he reached the bottom after what felt like several hours later, it was as if the whole city had come down here to see what the fight was about. Many of them were talking at once - very excitedly as though they were at a sporting event. Link even thought he heard one say, "Poke him in the eye!"
"We have to reach them!" Navi cried, bobbing frantically above the crowd.
Before Link could say anything, there was a deafening bellow, "WHAT'S GOING ON HERE?" Immediately, the Gorons quieted, the only sound being the shuffling of their feet.
"I thought I heard fighting!" the voice bellowed again, drawing Link's attention above the gathering's heads. There was a Goron standing on what must have been a platform raised to oversee the crowd. Link couldn't see below his waist. He had his meaty hands planted on his hips and there was a stern look on his round face. "Now speak up! Who was causing a ruckus?"
The crowd shifted. Between Gorons, Link spotted the two Gorons who both had their hands on his bottle. Then one of them spoke, "We were, Ubaro."
Ubaro swiveled his glare to the two of them. His voice came out reproachfully, "Kago and Ougud - two Gorons with the strongest ties of brotherhood known in our city. And you disgrace yourselves with petty squabbling now of all times when your ties should be at their strongest! Disgraceful. What would Big Brother say if he heard this?"
They protested, "But we suffer from starvation and our spirits are nearly broken! When a human boy gave us this milk, we couldn't help ourselves!" They held up the bottle, which was now empty. Only a thin white film remained.
Ubaro's expression transformed instantly to shock. "A human gave you food?" The crowd suddenly erupted into fervid murmuring and they swiveled their heads as though desperate to find the human with the milk. Link suddenly had a bad feeling about this and he began to back slowly into the shadow of the stairway. But he had only taken two steps when a Goron shouted, "There he is!" and they all charged toward him.
Link gave a cry of alarm and stumbled backwards. He fell onto his back, his shell-like shield tipping him back awkwardly, disabling him from a clean escape. The rock eaters were soon upon him. They lifted him above their heads and jostled him toward their leader.
"Now look what you've done, Navi!" Link cried, flailing his arms.
"What I've done?" she responded indignantly. "I only remembered your compassion and wished to alleviate their suffering!"
"With one puny bottle of milk! Now I'm surrounded by rock people and they all think I've got food for them! What do you think they'll do to me when they find out I don't?"
"Just calm down and explain to them what we're here for. And tell them we can work together to solve their problem."
At this point, Link was put down on the ground and the Gorons stepped back from him, creating a circle around him. He looked at them all and then noticed the leader standing on the pedestal above him, which turned out to be in actuality an outcropping of rock that jutted out into the crowd. There were stairs on either side that curled in from the bottom and up to the projection.
The Goron leader studied him with a curious frown. He said to Link, "Are you a human?"
Link swallowed and nodded mutely.
"Are you the one who gave my brothers Kago and Ougud food?"
The next swallow stuck in his throat but he managed a nod. The Gorons around him shifted and murmured.
The leader leaned forward, a fervent look in his eyes. "Then, do you have more food?"
Link felt a painful thud in his chest, certain that his heart had just stopped. Very slowly, he shook his head.
The murmuring escalated in volume and the rock people's movements became even more agitated. Somewhere in the crowd, a voice growled, "That's it then! We're to die of starvation!"
Another voice roared, "I say we open the cavern and either we get our food or we allow ourselves a swift death by dodongos! Either would be better than this slow death we suffer day after day!"
The Gorons roared in assent, throwing their arms in the air and shaking their fists. But then Ubaro's voice echoed above them, "No! Big Brother has forbidden it! We cannot allow the dodongos to escape the cavern for it would not be just us who would suffer! You know that!"
"But we must do something! Big Brother promised us he would think of a plan, but it has been many days since then! He has shut himself in his room while we all wait for his decision! How long must we wait?"
Ubaro raised his arms in a gesture to silence the unruly crowd. "He has already sent a message to the Royal Family, asking for help. Now he is waiting for their messenger."
"He will open his door for the Royal Messenger but not for his own people?" demanded a Goron. "And he calls himself our leader? Ha!" This was followed by a rumble of agreement.
"Are you challenging Darunia as our Big Brother?" Ubaro demanded.
Navi had been growing increasingly concerned about the situation, and now she flew down to Link and told him, "This is getting out of hand. There must be something we can do! Where do you suppose the Royal Family messenger is?"
"We didn't pass anyone on the way up here," Link said.
Navi suddenly gasped and clapped a hand to her mouth. "Oh dear. It just occurred to me. The climb was rather treacherous. You don't suppose…"
The thought gave Link a funny feeling in his stomach so he pushed it out of his mind. He focused on the Gorons, who were still shouting back and forth. He shuffled uncomfortably as the arguments got more heated. "What do you suggest we do?" he asked his fairy.
"If we offered to help…" she began.
Link heaved a nervous sigh. "All right." Then he puffed up his chest and bellowed, "Hey!"
The voices immediately ceased and every beady Goron eye turned to him. He gulped and squeaked out, "M-maybe we can help?"
There was a ripple of murmurs from the crowd and then they gradually all began to laugh.
"A little human runt and a little glowbug help us?" one Goron burst out.
"Maybe they can squeeze into a hole into Dodongo's Cavern and mine out sirloin rocks for us!" another guffawed.
Link felt his ears turn red and he ducked his head, wishing he could crawl into a hole and stay there for the rest of his days. Navi, however, started to glow red while her balled fists began shaking.
Then Ubaro bellowed, "Enough! Let them speak." When the Gorons had obediently quieted down, he turned to Link and Navi and said, "Now. What do you propose?"
Link stared up at Ubaro but did not say anything. He was strongly resisting the urge to shrug his shoulders with his hands turned up helplessly though he couldn't think of what else to do. But then Navi bobbed into the air and said in a strong voice, "We have come here for the Spiritual Stone, which we will use to open the Door of Time, behind which lies the Triforce."
The crowd was murmuring again but anxiously this time. Navi ignored them and continued, "We were sent here by the princess, Zelda, in an effort to thwart an evil man's ambition to claim it for himself."
The Goron leader leaned forward, a look of excitement on his face. "Then are you the Royal Family messengers that Big Brother has sent for?"
Navi hesitated for the briefest of moments before she answered firmly, "Yes. And we promise that we will do all we can to end your suffering. But to do that, we will need the Spiritual Stone that is said to be here, so that we can use it to open the Door of Time and claim the Triforce. If we take its power before Ganondorf does, we can defeat him. After that, we can see if we can use it to open the Dodongo's Cavern for you."
Link gazed around at all the Gorons and found to his relief that they were nodding with growing excitement. Ubaro though was still frowning. His brows were furrowed. "Are you speaking of the red stone that was once displayed here?" His finger bobbed toward his feet. Link squinted at it until he discovered that he could faintly see an impression a little ways down the face of the rock where the Goron stood.
Navi bobbed excitedly. "Yes, yes, it must be the Spiritual Stone of Fire! Will you give us that red stone?"
Ubaro shook his head. "Our Big Brother, Darunia, has taken it and sealed himself in his room. He has declared it will stay sealed until the Royal messenger arrives. You will need to prove yourself as Royal messengers before he will speak with you."
"We have Princess Zelda's letter," Link offered. "Will that work?"
All eyes in the crowd watched Ubaro as he considered it. Finally, he nodded slowly, "Yes, I think a letter bearing the seal of a Royal Family member will work." He waved Link up toward him. "Just come up the stairs. Big Brother's room is just up here."
The Gorons parted to allow Link and Navi through. As they gradually worked their way to the stairs, Navi said quietly to him, "But Link, we gave the letter to the guard back in Kakariko Village. He never gave it back."
Chilly waves washed down Link's spine as he realized she was right. He had no proof after all. But he couldn't tell the Gorons that now. They were all looking so eagerly at him as the one who would finally get to talk to their Big Brother and figure out how to solve their hunger. He had seen how unruly they could get. He didn't dare think of what they might do to him if he told them that he couldn't help them.
"What do we do?" he whispered to Navi.
She shrugged and whispered back, "Without the letter, we'll need to prove our connection to the Royal Family some other way. Perhaps if we explain the situation…"
She stopped talking as they approached Ubaro. Link swallowed with difficulty as he looked up at the Goron's serious face and then turned his attention to the crowd below. They all gazed back at him expectantly. Trying not to let his nervousness show, Link turned back to Ubaro, who then waved his hand toward the back of the platform. There was a large door set into the wall there that was four times as high as Link and six times as wide. On its face was painted all sorts of designs based mostly on triangles, with its focus a red diamond shape flanked by black triangles. Link turned to Ubaro uncertainly, who nodded for him to go on. So he turned back to the door and approached it slowly, his fairy following behind, biting her lip as she thought furiously.
Prove our connection to the Royal Family some other way, Link thought. And that's when an idea sparked in his head.
Our connection to the Royal Family… of course! Excitedly, he reached into his pack.
Then Navi gasped out loud, "Oh, Link! I just remembered! Impa taught you a song! She said it would help to prove your connection to the Royal Family, remember?"
"That's why I've got this out," Link replied, pulling out the ocarina.
"Oh," she said. "Excellent. Well done, Link." She sounded a little disappointed, he thought. Probably that he hadn't needed her help, and that made him nervous. Would that make her think that she didn't need to stay with him?
I think I should be more careful about figuring things out on my own, Link thought.
But he would have to work that out later for they now stood in front of the great door that led to Big Brother's room. He was surprised to feel something soft under his feet and when he looked, he discovered it was a plush, snow-white rug with black designs.
He shifted his feet a little in the carpet. "Nice," he said. "Feels smooth and soft."
"Perhaps it is set here to make strangers feel welcome," Navi suggested with a hint of encouragement.
Link nodded. Then, taking a deep breath to settle his fluttering heart, he brought up the ocarina. Then he hesitated, wondering if they should announce themselves first.
Navi seemed to think the same thing for she nodded and said, "Perhaps we should knock first. He could very well be sleeping, considering it's the middle of the night."
Which reminded Link that he was sleepy himself, having gone almost a full day without a single nap. But with all the Gorons behind him, waiting expectantly, he instead raised a fist and rapped his knuckles on the stone door.
It seemed that Big Brother was not asleep after all, for his voice came through the door immediately, muffled yet powerful and authoritative, "WHO IS THERE! THIS DOOR WILL NOT OPEN FOR ANY BUT A MESSENGER OF THE ROYAL FAMILY OF HYRULE!" Link staggered backwards from the force of the voice. He looked nervously at his fairy, who shooed him forward. Link swallowed nervously and announced as loudly as he could, "I am a messenger of the Royal Family of Hyrule!"
He braced himself for the reply but it was still a shock when the voice rumbled through, "IF YOU SPEAK THE TRUTH THEN SHOW ME PROOF!"
Link felt as though all his senses had left him. He couldn't remember what proof he had. He glanced at Navi for help and she hissed at him, "The song! Play the song!"
"Oh." Link spotted the ocarina in his hand and he put it to his lips. He closed his eyes as he tried to remember how the song was played. Navi helpful hummed the tune. He listened to it and tried to get his fingers and mouth moving, but it felt as though his mind was moving too slowly. He blew through the mouthpiece and a harsh, shrill note rushed out. Embarrassed, Link adjusted his fingers and blew more gently this time.
"Calm down, Link," Navi said soothingly next to him. "Just play the song. Don't think about the Goron leader. Just play the song." And she hummed the song again.
He did what she told him, letting his mind be wiped blank by the relaxing melody that Navi hummed. After a while, his fingers began moving over the holes in time to the music and eventually he had calmed down enough that he was able to play the song.
It soothed away all his fears and worries and he forgot why he was afraid to play it. In fact, all he remembered now was how comforting the song was and all that it reminded him of: Saria's warm smile, his cozy bed, the cute giggle of Malon, the wondering eyes of the cuccoo chick…
Gradually, the song ended and he was facing the door again. He started at the voice that came through the thick stone.
"Messenger of the Royal Family of Hyrule, you may enter."
The door slid into the wall with a grind of stone against stone. Link stepped back and peered through for a glimpse of Big Brother, only to find that he was looking into a tunnel that sloped down before leveling off, blocking his view of anything beyond three feet. It looked like to see the Goron's leader, he would have to go inside. So with a nervous swallow he started down the tunnel.