Ocarina of Time - Book 1: Quest for the Spiritual Stones

Sworn Brothers

It was some time before Link raised his head from the cavern floor where he lay. The light was very dim - a mysterious red glow in front of him was all he could see. It was black as pitch everywhere else. He could have used Navi's light right about now…

He gave a start. Where was Navi? He clambered to his feet and then spun around, looking for her telltale blue glow. When he didn't see it, panic ballooned in his chest, making it difficult for him to breathe. He burst out, "Navi! Where are you?"

A glimmer attracted his attention. He hurried over and then knelt down in front of it. It was his fairy all right. She was lying face-down on the floor but, with a flicker of light, she lifted her head up with a murmur as though she had only been sleeping. "Is that you, Link?"

"Right here, Navi," he answered. He gently scooped her into his hand. She immediately sat up and then climbed to her feet. Then with a hop she flew into the air and studied her Kokiri critically.

"You're a mess," she finally declared though not unkindly. "Do you hurt anywhere? Any bones broken or fingers missing?"

Link waved her question away. "No, I'm fine. What about you?"

His fairy inspected herself, flexing arms and legs and prodding her skin. "I seem to be fine. No lasting damage from that explosion. All in all, it's amazing that we're still alive; and what's more, you actually expunged the dodongos from this cavern, including their king!" Her voice had risen as she had spoken until she was practically giddy. "You did it, Link!"

"We did it," Link corrected. "I'd have been flattened by King Dodongo if it wasn't for you. Or blown up. Or cut up by the lizalfo."

Navi gave a thoughtful nod. "Very well then. We did it. Now let's go back to the Gorons and tell them the news!"

"Yeah," Link agreed though it wasn't with much enthusiasm, for he had just thought of something. "The only problem is… how do we get out of here?"

They couldn't go back the way they had come - they had dropped into this chamber after the floor above had collapsed from under them. They decided to explore the cave to see if they could find a way out. It wasn't long before they discovered something that made their search more urgent - the flow of dark magma from the ruptured wall was slowly creeping forward, and if they didn't escape soon, they would soon be cornered and ultimately burned to death.

They found the wall and followed along it, hoping they would eventually find something that would allow them to get out of there. A short while later, they found exactly that: holes in the walls just big enough for Link to crawl through.

"These must have been made by the Queen Dodongos," Navi observed. "Ways to get to their king and then retreat to their own dens."

Link muttered to himself, "Couldn't they have burrowed larger holes? I'm sure Destiny is getting a nice laugh out of making me crawl through these things." Of course, it was probably nice of Destiny to give him a way out in the first place, which he was sure Navi would point out if he complained, so he kept his mouth shut. Still, he couldn't repress a shuddering sigh as he lowered himself to his hands and knees and began following his fairy through.

It was an agonizing trip through the tunnels for him, as he expected. It felt like hours on his hands and knees, which were already raw with cuts and bruises. The rock he crawled on was hard with sharp edges, while the walls and ceiling occasionally squeezed inward, catching at his clothes and tearing them remorselessly. His labored breathing seemed louder in the cramped space, like he was breathing right next to his own ears, and it made him feel as though there wasn't enough air to pull into his lungs. As many times as he had been forced to crawl through tight spaces so far, it was not getting any easier for him. He was just really glad that he had Navi's glow to follow and her quiet words of encouragement to keep him from breaking down into hysterics. He wasted no time in getting to his feet when they finally emerged into a corridor, and he stretched himself, relishing the space. After a moment, his fairy called for him to move so that they could get out of there. It seemed she wasn't any fonder of this stifling, dark cave than he was. He followed her through the tunnel.

It eventually led to the central cavern where the Gorons had built their machines. Not much remained of their feats of engineering. The dim and hazy red light didn't do much to make it look any prettier. The ground had been ravaged thoroughly too by Link's careless toss of his bomb. Suddenly, the young Kokiri wasn't so eager to leave the cave anymore. In fact, he almost wished he was fighting King Dodongo still. When the Gorons found out what he had done to their cave, they were going to tear him limb from limb! He came to a stop.

"Well, come on, Link. We are nearly out," Navi called to him when she discovered he wasn't following. "What's wrong with you?"

Link took a few steps forward and then hesitated. With a sigh of impatience, Navi flew over to him. She asked him, trying her best to sound understanding, "Is there something wrong?" Then she noticed he was looking at the demolished machines and at last understood.

"I'm sure they'll understand," she said, this time with sincerity. "And you're forgetting that you destroyed the dodongos, including their fearsome king. You did them a great service - more than what could be expected from anyone, let alone a child of the forest - and they would do well to remember that."

"Yeah, well… I guess so," said Link. He actually did feel a little better. He added sheepishly, "I guess I should start listening to you more often."

Navi thought it wise not to reply. Instead, she beckoned him and said, "Come on. The Gorons are waiting for us outside."

It was to their surprise that they discovered the rocks were still blocking the cavern entrance. The walls and floor were pocked with all the explosions that had gone off, yet the pile of rocks looked untouched. The Gorons must have replaced them. Link could imagine their frantic efforts to reblock the cave. He hoped they were still out there.

"Hello?!" Navi called, pressing herself into a cleft in the rocks. "Let us out! We've taken care of King Dodongo and his offspring! Hello?!"

They listened for a response but for a long time they heard nothing. So Navi tried again, raising her voice, "Please! We've done as you've asked! Your cavern is safe now! Move the rocks so that we can come out!"

Still they heard no reply. After waiting a few moments longer, Link offered, "I can probably just blast the rocks out of the way. I still have a few bombs left." He reached for his bag.

Suddenly, his fairy threw out her hand and hissed, "Wait!" and Link froze. They listened for a while and then realized they heard something shifting behind the rock pile.

"They're coming!" Navi said with delight.

The sound of rocks shifting grew louder. Then light speared the dark cavern as a rock came away, followed by several other spears and finally a volley. Soon they saw the knobby hands of the Gorons ripping the rocks away until the last one was tossed to the side.

The light stabbed at Link's eyes, making them water. He blinked away the tears and raised his hand to shield his eyes, so that he could make out several lumpy bodies, partially obscured by the brightness, standing around the entrance.

"Hey kid," came a gruff voice, "are you all right?"

"Yeah," Link replied faintly, "I'm all right. Just… tired, is all." He stepped forward, keeping his hand against the searing light.

"Are you sure you're all right?" came another voice, this one a little soft for a Goron. "We heard a lot of explosions going on in there. And you look like a mess."

"Everyone, stand back!" boomed a commanding voice. "Give the boy some space to breathe!"

Link detected movement as the Gorons took a step back from him. His eyes were adjusting a little slowly. A broad face swam in his vision, sliding in and out of focus.

"Are you all right, kid?" asked the commanding voice. "It's me, Darunia."

Link squeezed his eyes shut and then opened them, hoping this would clear his vision. It seemed to help. He spoke, "I did it. I beat King Dodongo." His voice was tired but triumphant.

For a brief moment, there was a stunned silence. Then Darunia burst out a laugh and said, "He's really done it! By Din, he's really gone and done it! Well done, boy, well done!" He clapped his meaty hand on the boy's shoulder, causing his knees to buckle.

"Wait a moment!" a Goron exclaimed, "You're saying he really did exterminate King Dodongo? And the other dodongos?"

Darunia swept his hand through the air. "You heard it, didn't you? All the explosions and the roaring going on in there? Why else would they have been making that much noise? Throwing a pest party?" He chuckled at his own joke and then continued, "Thanks to this kid here, we have our cave back and can gorge ourselves on the most succulent rocks it has to offer!"

This declaration was met with a deafening cheer. After going so long without food, it was little wonder they were excited. But how would they react once they discovered that all their machines inside had been destroyed? This question ate at Link. Should he tell them before they discovered it, or did it even matter?

Darunia declared, "Let us prepare a feast in celebration! Quartz, feldspar, obsidian, and, of course, sirloin rock!"

"Ah, but let's not forget," he added, looking down at Link, "this boy, who saved us from starvation; we owe him a debt of gratitude. If we want to honor him at our feast, we'll need to provide him with proper sustenance. Do you like tektite, kid?"

"Tektite?" Link asked.

"I hear it's a delicacy among you Hylians," Darunia explained. "At least, according to Ubaro." He waved to his second-in-command.

"It isn't a common meal," Navi murmured thoughtfully to Link, "but I haven't heard anything about it being terrible."

Regardless, the Kokiri wasn't sure he had the appetite. He whispered back, "But what about their machines? How do I tell them?"

Darunia noticed the boy talking with his fairy and he frowned. He said, "If you would rather have something else, I'm sure we could find a way to get it for you."

Link shook his head hastily. "Oh no, it's not that. It's just… I need to tell you something…"

The Gorons waited expectantly, some with anxious frowns, which only made it worse for Link. Even Navi was waiting. How was he going to tell them? Would it be better to explain what he was trying to do first, or should he just blurt it out and get it over with?

Darunia spoke, "Go on, kid. What do you need to tell us? Something to do with the dodongos?"

Link shook his head and answered, "No… well, yes, sort of… it's what I did… when I blew them up, I sort of… blew up… some other stuff, too."

Ubaro asked him, "What other stuff?"

A lump caught in the boy's throat, making it difficult for him to swallow. He ducked his head in shame. Staring at their thick legs, he croaked out, "Your machines… I blew them up when I blew up the dodongos." He tensed himself, waiting for the blast of fury from the Gorons.

He waited. He heard the Gorons murmur amongst themselves. Then he heard Darunia making some sort of noise that gradually grew louder. Bemusement replaced his trepidation, making him curious to look up. When he did, he realized that his ears had not been tricking him. He saw the leader of the Gorons hunched over, his shoulders shaking and his mouth stretched into a grin. The sounds he was making that gradually grew louder were the sounds of chuckles. Darunia was laughing!

"Is that all?" Big Brother burst out in a fit of laughter.

Link was speechless. He was sure the Gorons would be furious. He knew that he would be if someone had gone into his home and destroyed his things. It made him mad when the other Kokiri set up pranks in his house - hiding his things, making a mess, leaving live animals inside. It must have taken them years to build their machines, and yet Darunia - a short-tempered person himself - was laughing!

Darunia must have seen the confusion on his face for he explained, "With a swarm of dodongos in there, I already expected our machines to be ruined! Heck, I'm surprised the whole mountain didn't come down with all the noise we were hearing in there! Really sounded like you were wreaking havoc on those scaly little pests! Hoo! I can't wait to hear about your wild adventure! I'll bet it's an incredible story!"

Leaving Link a bit stunned, Darunia turned to the crowd and bellowed, "But we'll do that later! Right now we've got a celebration to prepare! Ubaro, get yourself a team and gather as much rock and fairy tears as you can. Ougud and Kago, you will assemble another team and hunt some tektite for our little friends here. Berod, you gather the musicians; we're going to dance tonight!"

The Gorons cheered in response. Then they immediately broke up to carry out their duties, curling into balls and rolling away like an avalanche of boulders. Link had to dodge out of the way to avoid being barreled over. He turned up to Darunia and asked, "Do you want me to do something?"

Darunia shot a glance down at him. "You? Kid, you've done more than we could have expected anyone to do! But yes, there is something I want you and your little friend to do…"

Link waited expectantly. Navi asked, "And that is?"

Darunia flashed them an enormous grin. "Experience some proper Goron hospitality."

The change in Goron City was quite drastic. When Link and Navi had first entered the city, the air had been full of despair and lethargy. Now it was a hive of activity as Gorons rolled past each other to prepare for the celebration. Decorations were hung all about - red pennants bearing the Goron symbol of an upside-down triangle with three smaller triangles on top, and tassels with tiny colored crystals dangling on the ends. On the lowest level of the city, long tables were set up, with white tablecloths draped over them. On the level above, podiums were placed, followed by an assortment of enormous instruments - drums and others that Link had never seen before. Then came the crew that had been assigned to mining out the rocks from Dodongo's Cavern wheeling carts full of magma that had partially cooled though it was still hot enough that Link could feel it as they passed. It wasn't long after that when the party assigned to hunting tektites returned, bearing huge creatures with long legs between two of them each. Link eyed them warily. The tektites looked a lot like gohmas to him, and that made him lose his appetite.

Still, the celebratory mood was infectious and, as the city became even busier as the preparations neared completion, he forgot all about his loss of appetite. The butterflies in his stomach were getting excited.

"It's shaping up to be a real big bash," Darunia announced as he walked up to Link and Navi. "All thanks to you two." He flashed enormous white teeth at them.

"We're glad to have set things right," Navi replied. "Though much of the credit should go to Link here." Her Kokiri glanced up at her curiously as she explained, "It was Link who decided to go into the cavern to root out the pests."

"But if it wasn't for you," said Link, "I'd have died way before I found King Dodongo. And it was you who beat him."

Navi didn't answer. Darunia chuckled and said, "Who'd of thought? A small boy and his tiny fairy taking on a monster that not even the mighty Gorons dared to face?" He chuckled again and repeated to himself, "Who'd of thought?" Then he continued, "In any case, we owe you both a debt of gratitude. After the feast, we have a few surprises for you."

"Surprises?" Link asked a little warily.

The Goron boss chuckled and patted the Kokiri on the shoulder, making his legs buckle again. "Gifts, kid. Surprise gifts. And I think you'll like them. Should come in handy, anyways."

Link's eyes lit up. Navi on the other hand said, "That is rather generous of you, but…"

Darunia cut her off, "Don't worry about it, little fairy. You saved us from starvation, and I don't want it to be said I didn't know how to show my gratitude! Besides, we haven't had a chance to give surprises in a long time! And if there's anything a Goron likes, it's a surprise!" He glanced away and then exclaimed, "Ah! We're nearly ready! Just a few more things to take care of, so if you'll excuse me." He gave the boy and his fairy a wink and then tumbled away.

Darunia was right. It wasn't long at all before there was the sound of drumbeats, which seemed to be the signal to start the party, for all the Gorons immediately gathered toward the tables. The tables were laden with dishes that were filled with all sorts of rock-themed foods - including a pot full of a glowing red stew and a flagon of what looked like purple water with tiny glittering crystals floating around inside.

As the two of them approached, they heard Darunia call from across the space, "Ah, Link, Navi! Over here!" He waved them over to his side at the head of the arrangement. They navigated carefully between the bustling crowd of the rocky people until they reached his side, where he gestured to a seat next to him and said, "As the two of you are our guests of honor, I want you to sit here on my right side."

"We are very honored," Navi said with a bow as Link took the seat.

"No, the pleasure is all mine," said Darunia, flashing the two of them a grin. Then he got to his feet, spread out his arms, and boomed, "Brothers! What a long time it's been since we've had a feast like this one! But today is a day for celebration! So eat, drink, and laugh your heart out! LET US FEAST!"

Link almost jumped a league out of his seat at the roar that followed. Navi shot several paces in the air in alarm. But the Gorons' passion had only just begun, for they lunged for the food, fighting each other for the lion's share, reminding Link of a dodongo swarm except that the Gorons laughed good-naturedly as they sparred. The city echoed with the sounds of chatter and the crunch of rocks being ground between powerful teeth. Link wondered how any of them could hear each other over the din.

Darunia nudged him in the side. "Care for some roasted tektite?" He pointed behind Link to two Gorons holding platters of steaming, golden brown slabs of meat. The smell of it was so savory, it immediately caused him to salivate. He said, "Sure!" and then as soon as they had placed it in front of him, he dug right in.

"Oh, 'is is goo'!" he exclaimed, his cheeks bulging. He offered a piece to his fairy and said, "You ough' 'o 'ry i'!"

She looked a little sick. She shook her head and then turned to the Goron chief and asked, "You wouldn't happen to have some forest mushrooms, would you?"

Darunia's own cheeks were bulging, but after a few hasty swallows, he answered, "Nope. Sorry, little fairy. Nothing grows around here except for bomb flowers and the occasional shrub. We do have fairy tears if you want some of that." He gestured to a Goron sitting a few seats down the table and barked, "Pass the fairy tears, brother!"

The flagon of glittering purple water was passed along until it reached Darunia. He then scooped up Link's goblet and splashed the tears in. When he had nearly filled it to the brim, he set it in front of Link again and then said, "You'll have to share it. We don't have any dishes that are fairy-sized." He shrugged. "We don't usually get the chance to entertain them, you see."

Navi nodded. "I understand. We thank you for your hospitality." She flitted down to the goblet, cupped her hands, scooped up the drink and sipped it.

Then she spluttered. It was so unexpected coming from Navi that Link burst out laughing, spraying food all over the table in front of him. When she recovered, she said, "Goodness, that is quite strong!"

Darunia pounded his chest. "The finest stuff in Hyrule! Fresh spring water with the strongest rejuvenating minerals found only on Death Mountain! If you're feeling low, one gulp of this and you'll be up and at 'em in no time!"

"Rejuvenating, in-" she hiccupped, "indeed! But perhaps a bit too strong for someone of my size."

"Ah, yes, of course." Darunia grinned sheepishly. Then he turned and called, "Bring some spring water for the fairy. Without the minerals."

A little while later, two Gorons returned with a pitcher of crystal clear water that they poured into what Link recognized as half of a Deku nut. She accepted it gratefully and gulped the water down. Then she sighed, "Ah, that is better. Thank you."

"I'm sorry we don't have anything more to offer you," said Darunia with a sincere look of regret on his face. "From now on, I'll make sure we have a stock of forest mushrooms and anything else that you like to eat."

Navi bowed. "You are very kind, and that is enough for me."

"There's still some of this tektite," Link said, waving a chunk of it in her face.

She gave it a look of discomfit before she said slowly, "I suppose I'll try it…"

She found it palatable though it didn't take her long to have her fill. But the appetites of the guests seemed endless, including Link's. He stuffed his mouth as though he hadn't eaten in days and then washed it down with the fairy tears before snatching up more. Navi was rather appalled by Link's behavior and was about to tell him so, but then she was startled when Darunia belched. Link laughed at her expression.

"Ah! Good eating!" the Goron boss exclaimed and patted his bulging stomach. Then he reached for more. As he did, he turned to Link and said, "So tell me what happened while you were in Dodongo's Cavern with all those dodongos."

Link told him everything that happened - about finding the den of Queen Dodongos, about the loud elevator that woke up the dodongos and brought them to the surface, about escaping them across a lake of magma, about the lizalfo that attacked, about the field of bomb flowers that collapsed from under him, and finally about defeating King Dodongo. He tried to get Navi to tell Darunia about her near escape with the fire keese, but her only response was, "I ran into a little trouble with a fire keese, but I outmaneuvered it until Link killed it." Even when the Goron chief cajoled her, her account remained flat and to the point. "There isn't much else to add," she said.

Darunia chuckled and shook his head. "If you say so. But it really is an incredible story! A whole horde of dodongos suddenly appearing, overrunning our cavern! Yet a tiny fairy and a little human boy faced them all and actually won!" He shook his head again. "Incredible."

A few minutes passed as everyone ate, drank, and talked. Finally, Darunia stood up and then rapped his knuckles against the table. Everyone almost immediately quieted and turned to him. It looked like he was going to make an announcement.

"My brothers! It seems like a long time since we've eaten a meal as fine as this! A long time since we'd been able to go into Dodongo's Cavern for our favorite rocks because of the dodongo swarm that had infested it. And that dodongo swarm made it necessary to block off the cavern. We sacrificed our well-being to protect everyone else from the threat of those scaly pests!"

The cheery mood darkened somewhat by this news. Many exchanged glances as though to say, "We don't want to do that again."

Darunia gazed at each of them and nodded. "Yes, I can see by your expressions how painful that time was - to give up food to protect the Hylians. But it wasn't them you should have been angry with. Everything we suffered through - all the trouble that forced us to go hungry was caused by a Gerudo thief, Ganondorf!"

There was a gasp of outrage from a few of the Gorons. Many of the others looked confused as though they didn't know who this Gerudo thief was or why he would do something so cruel.

"What you need to know, my brothers, is that this thief, Ganondorf, was after something. Something that we were charged to protect. The Spiritual Stone of Fire." He crossed his arms, frowned deeply, and took in a deep breath through his nose. "He said, 'Give me the Spiritual Stone, only then will I remove this curse from you.'" He then lifted his fist. "But we are proud Gorons. We don't take threats! We don't give in to worms like him!"

A few cheers backed this declaration. Darunia smiled at the reaction. Then he continued, "Our strength was tested, our will challenged, our ability to endure tried. And though our bodies grew weaker, our resolve remained strong! Our bodies would perish before our spirits would break!"

Link gazed in wonder at the Goron leader. He felt a newfound respect for Darunia - a Goron who would rather have died than given in to evil. Even Navi was misty-eyed. The Gorons, too, seemed to be inspired.

"But Destiny must have more for us to do, for it sent us a savior! A boy of great courage to match any Goron's!"

Navi glanced down at Link. He ducked his head, his cheeks burning. Darunia thought he had great courage? Like a Goron's?

"He had a chance to take our Spiritual Stone of Fire and use it to get the Triforce, but instead he decided that he would go into Dodongo's Cavern, where all the dodongos were nested, including King Dodongo, and take care of them himself - knowing fully well the dangers he faced. That alone showed great courage! Courage worthy of a great Goron!"

The cheers were louder this time, with fists thrown into the air. They lasted much longer, too, where Darunia had to hold up his hands for silence.

"And that is why, Link, I ask you this, on behalf of the entire Goron race…"

The air grew thick as every Goron held his breath. Link was aware of every eye trained on him and he shook with nervousness. He looked helplessly to Navi, who waved his attention back to Darunia.

The Goron chief spoke, his voice solemn, "How would you like to be our sworn brother?"

Link was so nervous that he stammered, "S-sure… I mean, I'd like to… no, what I mean is it'd be an honor to be… er… a sworn brother… yeah…" His face turned beet red and he ducked his head as low as he could.

Darunia smiled in amusement. Then he threw out an arm as he addressed the crowd, "Then it's official! From this day forth, Link is a brother of the Gorons. This means he will always be welcome in our homes. And if he should ever ask for our help, we will give it without hesitation! Gorons, let us give a shout to our new brother. Link the Dodongo Buster!"

"LINK THE DODONGO BUSTER!" they all roared, pounding the tables and pumping their fists in the air.

Navi smiled down at her Kokiri. She could see he was a bit overwhelmed by all of this… ceremony. Certainly, he must never have had this sort of reception before. In Kokiri Village he had only one friend, but here he had an entire city that had just become his family. Indeed, it was almost literally a lot to take in.

Darunia continued, "As a token of our friendship, we have a few surprises to share with you." He looked over his shoulder and called, "Ubaro, please bring in the gifts."

Link immediately perked up, turning to where the big boss of the Gorons was looking. Ubaro and another Goron came up from behind them, their arms laden with various items that got Link excited. The two of them set the gifts on the table between Link and Darunia and then backed away.

Darunia pointed at the pile. "The finest selection from our store of treasures: a large Rupee bag filled with two hundred Rupees, a bomb bag full of bombchus, bombs to refill your bomb bag, a bottle of fairy tears, and a magic pouch!" This one he snatched up and began stretching as he said, "It may look small but you can fit a lot of items and gear in here - perfect for any treasure-hunting adventurer! And it's a lot easier to carry than your average adventure pouch," he added, his eyes twinkling as he nodded meaningfully at Link's bulging pouch.

"Wow," the boy breathed, his eyes shining. "And it's all for me?"

"All of it," Darunia confirmed. Then he frowned and leaned closer to the pile as though he had just spotted something wrong. He said, "Ah, but there seems to be something missing…" He snapped his fingers and exclaimed, "Of course! The Spiritual Stone of Fire! I almost forgot! Ragon, if you please."

A third Goron stepped into view. In his hands he held what Link recognized as a candle, but the fanciest candle he had ever seen. It was blue with green patterns in relief that depicted symbols, including the Triforce. The candleholder itself was ornate, shaped like a gold and purple star with a decorative curl for a handle. Ragon set this down in front of Darunia and then backed away.

An eerie hush fell on the crowd as they stared transfixed at this candle. It must have been important, Link knew. He himself felt his heart pattering nervously in excitement.

Darunia took the handle in his left hand while taking the other side with his right. Then he thrust it into the air.

Link gasped aloud when a flame burst to life on the wick. A ruby red flame much larger than Link had seen on any candle that writhed and danced as though it was alive. He almost wondered if it would leap off the wick and start tearing through the city. But it stayed on the candle as Darunia gently lowered it onto the table again like a precious infant. He carefully removed his hands and then raised them toward the flame in a conciliatory gesture. Link had the absurd thought that the Goron chief was taming a pet. The illusion was carried when the flame grew higher and leaned toward his hands, licking his fingers.

Darunia gently closed his hands around the flame. Black smoke puffed out from between his thick fingers as though something had exploded in there. He turned to Link, pushing his cupped hands toward him. Link and Navi leaned in close, eager to see what Darunia hid in his hands.

Then he spread them apart, allowing a small eruption of black smoke to escape. Within the smoke, a red light flashed. Link backed away, thinking it was the flame jumping at him. But when the smoke clear, he saw what it actually was and he leaned in close and gasped in amazement.

Inside the Goron leader's hand rested a ruby shaped like a teardrop, which was edged by gold that jutted out into prongs on both sides. It glowed strangely, a red light deep within that flickered. Link reached tentatively inside Darunia's hand and touched the ruby. He was surprised to feel that it was warm - a flickering heat as though it was a miniature fireplace. He glanced up anxiously at the big Goron, feeling that he wasn't supposed to touch it, but Darunia gave him a reassuring smile and a nod, so he gripped it between his fingers and then held it up for all to see.

The Gorons cheered in response. After a few moments, Darunia raised his hands for silence and then he boomed, "Brothers, long ago had the Royal Family of Hyrule entrusted this sacred stone to us for safekeeping. And now, today, we give it back. Our duty has been fulfilled."

After the Gorons cheered, he continued, "And now that our bellies are full and our spirits are high - LET US DANCE!"

The Gorons all roared in approval and immediately stood up and began pushing the tables to the far ends of the room. Link dodged out of the way before he was crushed in the chaos. On the higher levels, Gorons appeared and readied the instruments that had been set up there. After a few moments of practice, the band began to play, beating out a lively rhythm that soon had the Gorons hopping and swinging about the dance floor.

Navi observed their wild gyrations - which often threw them into the brothers - growing increasingly concerned. At last, she turned to Link and asked him, "Do you plan to join them? They seem dangerously rowdy."

"I want to look at my presents first," he answered her as he began pulling his gear out of his old pack. He scattered Deku nuts, Deku sticks, his slingshot, the pellets… then he pulled out something unexpected. Something that gave him chills.

It was a mask of a fat, old man wearing a bejeweled crown - the mask that the Happy Mask Salesman had given to him in that dream! But if it had only been a dream then why did he have it here?

Navi spotted the mask he was holding and she flew in closer, a look of consternation on her face. "Where did you get that?"

For a moment, Link didn't answer. Eventually, he said, "In a dream."

His fairy frowned in puzzlement. "I don't understand."

He didn't explain. He had just caught something out of the corner of his eye and he turned to see what it was. One of the Gorons was staring at the mask in his hand. When he realized Link had caught him looking, he hastily looked away. Then when he realized Link was still staring at him, he turned back and sheepishly made his way over to him.

"I wasn't meaning to stare," he explained when he was close enough to be heard above the music and Goron shouts. "I just saw that mask of yours and I was wondering… if those gems were real."

For a moment, Link didn't react. Then he turned to the mask and used his finger to gently tap the gems. They felt pretty solid but he wasn't sure if that meant they were real or not. He finally admitted, "I don't know."

The Goron held out his hand with an eager expression on his face. "Do you mind if I look at it? I'll give it right back."

"Uh, sure." Link gave it to the Goron, who then whisked it above his head and began tilting it to catch the light in the gems. After that he lowered it to his ear - or at least, where his ear should have been - and tapped the gems with his knobby knuckle. After that, he sniffed them. Link simply watched in bemusement.

"Glass," the Goron finally announced. "Not worth very much, but whoever made this mask did a pretty good job. Might get you a couple of laughs." He handed the mask back to Link, who took it somewhat reluctantly.

Then the Goron spoke in a bizarre change of topic, "Must be nice getting presents. Darunia gets them all the time just because he's the boss. Ubaro too because he's the second-in-command. But I get nothing because I'm just a regular Goron who mines rock sirloin all day. And now you get presents because you go and beat up King Dodongo." He shook his head. "Why can't I ever get nice things? Why can't I be the boss instead of working down in the cavern? Then I can tell everyone else what to do and get all the nice things, sleep in a nice bed, do whatever I want all day…" He sighed.

Link and Navi stared oddly at the Goron and then turned to each other. Then Link turned to the pasty face of the ugly king. He was reminded quite strongly of what the Happy Mask Salesman had told him: "A royal visage for one who craves the power of leadership." Was this what he meant?

He turned to the Goron. "Do you want to buy this mask? It's twenty-five Rupees."

The Goron whipped his head around, his face lighting up eagerly. "Really? You'll give it to me?"

"It's twenty-five Rupees," Link repeated.

The Goron pouted. "But you've already got a wallet full of Rupees from Big Brother. How are you going to carry more if I pay you?"

Link glanced at his new adventure pouch still on the ground. "I think I'll manage."

But the Goron wasn't going to give up that easily to Link's dismay. He said, "How about this, I pay you fifteen Rupees and I'll throw in some rock candy."

"But the Happy Mask Salesman said it's twenty-five Rupees," he said with a note of desperation in his voice. Likely the Goron didn't know who the Happy Mask Salesman was, but Link wanted to get across how important it was that he sold it for full price. He didn't know what the strange salesman would do to him, but there was something about him that suggested to Link that he didn't want to make him angry.

"Eighteen Rupees," the Goron offered.

Link glanced at his fairy for help. She shrugged and said, "You got plenty of Rupees from Darunia. You could always pay the Happy Mask Salesman with that if need be."

Link protested, "Whose side are you on?"

The Goron pouted and turned away, mumbling to himself, "I guess I can't have it then. He wants to take my hard-earned Rupees away from me in exchange for a silly mask. I guess I was just meant to be picked on and stepped on - always at the bottom of the pile, doing the most work and getting the least. Why can't I have something nice for once?"

Link became desperate. Though he really didn't want to sell it for anything less than twenty-five Rupees, he didn't want the Happy Mask Salesman to find him still with the mask and no money at all. He jumped after the Goron and cried, "All right! Eighteen Rupees! You can have it!"

The Goron spun around in surprise. Then he shook his head sadly. "No. Forget it. I'm not interested anymore. I mean for eighteen Rupees…"

"Then fifteen!" Link shook the mask at him. "Fifteen, that was what you asked for before."

"Oh, well…" said the Goron hesitantly as he played with his fingers.

"Ten! You can have it for ten!"

The Goron brightened slowly. At last, he said, "Okay then. That sounds fair." He reached into a tiny pouch hung around his neck, which Link had assumed was another lump on the Goron's lumpy body, and pulled out two blue Rupees. They exchanged, Link not very happily. As the weight of the mask was replaced by two tiny and hard gems, he could not help but notice how pitiful his return was.

The Goron, on the other hand, was quite ecstatic. He said to Link, "Thanks, little brother! My brothers are going to be jealous! None of them have anything like this!" Then he slapped on the mask, turned, swaggered into the crowd, and cried, "Hey, everyone! Look at me!"

His brothers greeted him with roars of laughter and slaps on the back. Link, meanwhile, looked dolefully at the two blue Rupees in his palm. After a moment of hesitation, his fairy spoke, "At least, you made the Goron happy."

"Yeah," Link said, "but I don't think the Happy Mask Salesman will be very happy about getting ten Rupees for a twenty-five Rupee mask."

Navi shrugged. "You'll simply have to make up the difference with Rupees from your own pocket. I doubt the Happy Mask Salesman would mind too terribly about what you sold it for as long as he gets the amount he asked for. Now put away your Rupees and join the party. It's in your honor, you realize."

With a nervous sigh, Link clenched his fingers over the Rupees and then bent down to continue organizing his new adventure pouch. It didn't take him much longer and he soon had the pouch sitting comfortably on his hip, with every item snugly inside except for his sword and shield, which sat on his back, and his bomb bag.

"I will admit," said Navi as she looked him over, "that is all making you look more like a proper adventurer."

The compliment cheered Link up some. "Yeah, and wait until I tell Saria." Then he brightened. "I think I just had an idea. Do you think Darunia would mind if I played Saria's song for this party? I should probably ask him."

"I can't imagine it would hurt," his fairy replied, an eyebrow rising ironically.

Link gave an abrupt nod of his head. "I'll do it." He moved forward into the rowdy crowd of Gorons, scanning them for a glimpse of their spikey-bearded chief. Then someone bumped into him.

"Oh, excuse me," said Link.

"Not at all, lad," said the Goron whose thin body was clothed in a shiny purple suit. Link did a double-take and discovered the Goron who bumped him wasn't a Goron at all but the Happy Mask Salesman, who removed the mask and beamed down at him. "I was rather hoping to bump into you - quite literally, it would seem." He giggled.

Navi seemed quite surprised to see him. "What are you doing all the way up here?"

"Collecting my payment," said the salesman matter-of-factly. "You sold the Fool's Mask, didn't you? That's twenty-five Rupees for me."

Wordlessly, Link picked out the Rupees and tipped them into the salesman palm. Just as before, the salesman closed his fist immediately and then dropped them down his front. Then he smiled and said, "Payment received. Now then, for your next assignment." Taking the Goron mask he still held in his left hand, he reached behind his head and then drew his arm forward again. He did this in one motion, yet somehow he had switched the Goron mask for a different one with a leathery face, gaping eyes and a cavernous mouth locked in a grisly scream.

"This is the Spooky Mask," said the salesman. "With this on, anyone can become terrifying - even one with a cute face." He winked and giggled. "The price for this mask is thirty Rupees. This may prove to be a challenge, so don't give up. Just keep looking and you'll find the one. You may even be surprised when you do." He giggled again and then pushed it toward Link.

Link didn't take it. He wondered what the Happy Mask Salesman would do if he just ignored him. After all, though he had seen the salesman do many strange and impossible things, the man had never actually done anything threatening.

He glanced around at the dancing Gorons. Not one of them gave Link, Navi or the salesman a second glance. They didn't seem to have even noticed the strange man with a grisly mask in his outstretched hand. Was this also the Happy Mask Salesman's doing?

His grin never wavered nor did his hand. He almost looked like a statue - a statue that would come to life and pursue Link if he didn't do what it wanted.

"Well?" Navi prompted. He could hear her unasked question, What are you going to do?

With a sigh of defeat, the boy accepted the mask. Once the mask left his hand, the Happy Mask Salesman snatched his hand away and then rubbed both of them together, giggling happily. "Excellent! A great pleasure doing business with you." He performed a sweeping bow. "Until we meet again, my most enterprising friend." Then he straightened, bringing his hand up, which was clutching the Goron mask. He put it on his face and then turned and strolled into the wild mass of dancing Gorons. They rock men twirled into a crushing embrace where the strange salesman had been and then spun out again. He was gone.

Link stood staring at the spot where the mask salesman had vanished, still holding the leathery mask. Eventually, he looked down at the mask and then let out a soft sigh before putting it in his pouch.

"Very unsettling," Navi murmured quietly to herself. Out loud, she said, "I wonder why he came all the way up here just to give you a mask?"

"He did it before, in my dream," Link responded. "I think he's watching me." He shuddered.

"Perhaps we'd best keep our eye on him," she said. Then on a change of subject, she said, "I think I see Darunia. You can ask him if you can play Saria's song."

Unfortunately, Link was no longer in the mood.

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