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

Letter in a Bottle

Link wasn't sure how it happened. One second, he had the bottle in his hand, and, the next, he lost his grip on it and it was gone! On this terrifying ride, it had been a small measure of comfort to know he had his fairy safely in his grip, but that was now dashed. In blind panic, he could only see the shattered remains of the bottle and Navi's body battered against the walls by this cruel current. He made desperate, blind grabs for the bottle though he knew it was futile.

After what seemed an eternity, Link felt the current dissipate, and eventually his tumbling came to a stop. He was relieved and doubly so when he saw light shimmering above him. He had come out of there all right. But what about…

Navi! He spun around in the water, looking for her bottle but couldn't see it. Looking up, he thought he saw the light rippling strangely - like it was glinting off of something… the bottle?

He swam upwards, drifting to the side to shift the glare of the light in the hopes that he might see the bottle clearer. It didn't help, but he did see something definite moving up there.

He swam faster. Above him, there was movement again. Then he heard a splash and saw something white dip toward him. It was the bottle! Putting on one last burst of speed, he stretched out his hand to grab it.

It grabbed him back to his alarm, and that's when Link realized it wasn't a bottle but a hand! Before he could react, it pulled him up with great strength and he burst through the surface of the water with a gasp.

"You certainly know how to get around," giggled the Happy Mask Salesman as he swung him around and set him on dry land.

"Navi!" Link started to run past him, but the salesman caught him and put him back, saying, "Surely, you're wet enough that you don't need a second douse?"

"But my fairy's in there!" Link cried, jabbing his finger into the water. "I've got to rescue her! Make sure she's okay!"

"Fairy?" the mask salesman cocked his head. "You don't happen to refer to this fairy?" He pulled out a bottle from behind his back and held it in front of Link. He gave it a bobble, causing the fairy inside to stagger.

"Navi!" Link swiped for her, but the Happy Mask Salesman raised it out of reach above his head and tut-tutted. "Not so hasty, boy. We have some business to attend to first."

"What are you talking about?" Link protested. "That's my fairy you've got! Let her go!"

"In due time," the grinning man said, "as soon as I am paid for the mask you sold."

The boy was rendered speechless for a moment. Then he stammered, "Y-you can't do that! You can't hold my fairy hostage like that! That's… that's wrong!"

"That's my proposition. I will return your delightful, little companion when you have given me my payment."

"You give her back…" Link whipped out his sword and thrust it threateningly at the salesman, "…or else!"

The Happy Mask Salesman didn't appear too perturbed by Link's reaction. Instead, he gave a weary sigh and said, "Surely, you have more common sense than this? It is a very simple exchange. The money you owe me for the mask in exchange for your friend."

Link kept his sword trained on the man. The man simply watched him, waiting for him to make his move. At last, the sword lowered in his grip. He sighed and then sheathed it. He reached into his wallet and pulled out a handful of Rupees. Without looking at the salesman, he asked, "How much?"

"Actually," said the salesman with a giggle, "I'm interested in those unusual scales you found. Give me one of them and I'll consider it payment for the mask. And I will give you your fairy friend back."

Link wasn't very keen on giving the mask salesman one of his magic scales, but if it was the only way to get his fairy back, he wasn't going to press it. He passed one to the salesman, who snatched it greedily and then gave Link the bottle with a callous toss that made him gasp in alarm before he managed to catch it safely. He immediately ripped the cork out of the bottle and gently tipped Navi out. She was quite bruised and trembling.

"I am never going back in there," she whimpered. "That was the worst I had ever experienced in my life."

Meanwhile, the Happy Mask Salesman was studying the silver scale in his hand. He had it up the light so that it gleamed.

"How unusual," he stated. He turned to Link and bobbed the scale in front of him to draw his attention. "This is a scale from a very large fish. What's unusual is that it appears someone has imbued it with magic of some sort." He studied it from a few new angles. "Smells like the work of a Great Fairy." Emphasizing his point, he gave it a deep sniff and then added, "Living up in Zora's Domain."

Navi was starting to calm, thanks to Link. At the mask salesman's remark, she looked up and repeated, "Up in… wait, you mean to say we're not in Zora's Domain anymore?"

The Happy Mask Salesman giggled and shook his head. "You're a long ways from there. You're on the shores of Lake Hylia far to the south. The waters of Zora's Domain feed the lake, and it's been said that many strange things eventually wind up here." He canted his head and his eyes flashed mischievously, "Including, it seems, young boys and fairies." He giggled again.

"There's a Great Fairy in Zora's Domain?" Navi wondered aloud. At the same time, Link asked the salesman, "When you say 'far…' I mean, how far is it to Zora's Domain from here?"

The salesman tapped his chin thoughtfully. "I'd say… a two-day trip…" When Link groaned, he added with a giggle, "If you were traveling on foot."

The boy perked up. "You're saying you know a faster way to get back there?"

The salesman giggled and pointed across the shore. "In that laboratory over there lives a marine scientist. He is a rather strange one and as a result has many strange ideas." He tapped his temple meaningfully, grinning. "One such idea led to the creation of a contraption that can push water uphill. There you'll surely find a quick way back to Zora's Domain. Ah, speaking of which, your next assignment." He reached under his left arm and then pulled out a green mask - this one being the strangest yet that Link had seen. To start with, the eyes were glass, huge, and insect-like. The nose was very pinched, barely even a bump on the mask. And finally, where the mouth was there was some sort of tube that curled up the side of its face and extended above it.

"This is the Snorkeling Mask," said the Happy Mask Salesman, placing it in the crook of Link's arm. "One of a kind and quite unusual, I'm sure you will agree." He giggled. "The price for this one is fifty Rupees."

Navi leaped into the air, her mouth agape in astonishment. "Fifty Rupees?! You intend for us to sell that ugly thing for fifty Rupees?"

The salesman shook his head reproachfully. "You're daunted by this task? And yet you embark on the hopeless task of locating the Zoran princess with such vigor."

"Wait, how did you know we were looking for the princess?" asked Link. "Do you know where she is?"

"Now I didn't say that," said the mask salesman with a tap on the side of his nose and a wink. "However, I did find this fine glass bottle…" he reached into his vest and pulled it out, "…if you're interested."

Link looked closely at the bottle and immediately spotted something that did perk his interest. There was a piece of parchment inside.

Seeing the gleam in the boy's eyes, the Happy Mask Salesman giggled. "What do you say? Do you want this bottle for, say, twenty Rupees?"

The gleam went out of the Kokiri's eyes, and they roved hesitantly to the wallet at his hip. He fingered the mouth of the pouch. "Twenty?" he repeated meekly.

"Are you willing?" The salesman stretched it toward him. "Twenty Rupees for the bottle and the mystery it holds inside? Or perhaps you would be happier not taking the risk? Content in your plentiful store of money as opposed to satiating your curiosity? Of course, it is possible that this bottle holds nothing of value and you would be gambling away twenty Rupees." He waved his hands in the air in a show of nonchalance. Then he beamed, "But is that not the joy of life? Discovering the answers to mysteries?"

"The wrong choices can often cause a lot of damage," Navi pointed out. "Sometimes even death, and you won't be making any more choices then."

The Happy Mask Salesman laughed. "Very true! How fortunate that we have others to make those discoveries for us. So many lives sacrificed in the pursuit of the right choices. We are simply the latest of those who pursue it, blazing the path for those behind us."

Link shook his head. "Wait, are you saying that buying this bottle might kill me?"

The Happy Mask Salesman giggled. "That is a possibility. However, I doubt it is at all likely."

"So it won't kill me?"

"Possibly."

"That it won't?"

"No, it won't," Navi finally cut in, who had grown tired of the circuitous conversation. "Please just make your decision, Link, so that we can continue our quest."

"So you think I should buy it?" he asked her.

Navi groaned before she answered, "That is your decision, Link. But please be quick about it."

"I'll take it," he said decisively as he turned to the salesman. Even if the parchment inside was worthless, at least the bottle was worth something, though he couldn't help but glance at his fairy to see if she approved.

The Happy Mask Salesman beamed. "Excellent! Twenty Rupees, if you please."

They made the exchange. Without preamble, Link pulled out the cork and turned the bottle upside-down to shake the parchment out. The salesman dropped the Rupees down his front and then announced, "Payment received. And now, if you'll excuse me, I'd best be going." He turned toward the water and began walking.

Link called after him, "Wait, where are you going? Don't you want to know what's in this bottle?"

The salesman turned and gave a small bow. "The surprise is for you, not for me. What you discover is not my business. My business, rather, is of a timely nature, so with that I bid you farewell until the next time we meet." He gave him a wave and then turned back to the lake. With growing bemusement, Link watched the salesman walk lower and lower into the water until it slipped over his head like a blanket. There was barely a ripple. Link waded into the water for a closer look at where the Mask Salesman had vanished but found no sign of him under the crystalline surface. He muttered to himself, "How does he do that?" Then he waded back to land where he pulled off his boots and dumped the water out.

"Let's continue our search for King Zora's daughter, Link," said Navi. "We need to get back to Zora's Domain." She turned to the shack along the shore and said, "If that strange salesman was telling the truth, then we should be able to find a quick way back in that house over there."

"But pushing water uphill?" Link exclaimed. "That's crazy! How in the world can you push water uphill?"

"Once we get there, you can ask the one who lives there."

There was a considerable distance from where they stood to the house. This gave them the time to take a good look at their location. They were traveling along the muddy bank of a large lake whose opposite shore was too distant to see. On either end of the lake sprung forests. The field leading away from the lake rose into a green hill dotted with white flowers. The setting was picturesque and Navi said so, adding, "Don't you think so, Link?"

He didn't answer. He was too engrossed in his attempts to shake the parchment out of the bottle. It was stubborn though, bouncing in every direction but the opening. Finally he tried sticking his little finger inside and scraping it out though ultimately this failed too.

Then he stuck the bottle against his mouth and drew in a deep breath, sucking the air from the bottle. And still the parchment would not come out. Navi raised an eyebrow as she watched him struggle. Finally she said, "Shall I help you with that?"

The bottle came from the boy's lips with a pop and he reeled in dizziness. He shook his head to clear it and then offered the bottle to her. With a sigh that may have been either exasperation or resignation, she crawled into the mouth of the bottle and grabbed the parchment. She tugged it, grunting in surprise at how stubborn it was. Link did his best to hold the bottle steady though his arm was starting to ache.

At last, after a considerable amount of grunting, twisting, and tugging, Navi finally pulled the parchment through the neck of the bottle. Link pulled it the rest of the way out, throwing his fairy off balance. "Sorry," he said.

"You're all right."

Link turned to the parchment. When he unrolled it, it turned out to be smaller than he expected, only slightly larger than a leaf. When he read the message on it, however, his mouth dropped and his eyes bugged.

"Navi! Navi!" he cried. "Come look at this!"

She flitted into position behind his shoulder.

The message said: Help me. I'm waiting for you inside Lord Jabu-Jabu's belly - Ruto.

P.S. Don't tell my father

Navi's mouth dropped open. "This letter is from Princess Ruto!"

"And it says she's inside Lord Jabu-Jabu's belly," Link added. He allowed the parchment to roll up again and placed it back in the bottle, being careful not to shove it too deeply into it. He corked it and then placed it into his pack. Then he looked up at his fairy with a puzzled look and said, "Who's Lord Jabu-Jabu?"

"I am certain the Zoras will know if we ask them. We must show this letter to King Zora as quickly as possible!"

"But the letter said not to tell her father," Link pointed out.

"We must. You saw how sick with worry he was. Besides, how will you ask how to find Lord Jabu-Jabu without explaining why you need to find him?"

She had a point. Link pondered it. Then his fairy waved forward. "Let's get back to Zora's Domain now that we have a clue that will help us find the princess. Let's see about that shortcut the Happy Mask Salesman spoke of."

They hurried to the house with renewed vigor. In his excitement, Link almost burst into the house, but remembering just in time, he knocked on the door first.

"What? Eh? Who's there?" came a high, scratchy voice from behind the door. The two of them heard shuffling and then the door opened. Standing in the doorway was what appeared to be a withered, old man. On top of his skull he wore a square, blue cap, and a long, blue robe draped from his thin shoulders. There was no way to hide his bony face, however. It almost appeared shrunken, which made his eyes appear as though they were being squeezed out of the sockets, and from his lower lip jutted large, crooked teeth. He had the startling appearance of a skeleton. But as withered as he looked, there was a palpable air of energy about him.

"Well now. You don't look like a Zora," said the man with a note of surprise, staring hard at Link with his protuberant eyes. "What are you doing all the way down here?"

The boy gaped for a moment before he shook his head and answered, "We were looking for Princess Ruto."

"And we would like to know if you could kindly send us back up to Zora's Domain," Navi added. "We have found a clue that might help us find her."

"Ah yes." The man bobbed his head. "The Zoras have been busy with that particular business for two days now. Usually they're very proper and composed so I was puzzled when they started acting so frantic until one of them managed to stop his silly fish-flopping and explain it to me. Of course, he had only stopped because he thought I might have seen the princess, but of course I told him I hadn't seen any particular Zora that looked princessy - they all look the same to me. But they're interesting folk when they're not so busy searching for missing princesses." He cast his bulbous eyes toward the lake and chewed on his upper lip. This made him appear rather gruesome and Link watched him with some fascination.

Navi gave a cough to bring the man's attention back to her. She said, "If you wouldn't mind, sir, do you have something that could send us to Zora's Domain quickly?"

"Oh, well, certainly!" the man cackled. "One of my more useful inventions. I also study the life and goings-on in this lake - I love my work so much I barely give myself time to eat or sleep! Right before you came knocking on my door, I was constructing something that I hope will let me walk on the bottom of the lake! Then I wouldn't have to use the Zoras to do the observing for me! I could do it on my own!" He cackled again, slapping the door frame in his mirth.

"Sir," Navi said, her voice hinting at impatience, "the way back to Zora's Domain…"

"Of course," the scientist said graciously. He bowed. "Would you like to come in?"

They stepped inside. Link wrinkled his nose and looked around room. It was small and seemed to be the house's entirety. Many strange sea animals were hung on the wall, which explained the musky smell of fish. There was also an acrid smell that stung Link's nostrils. A table against the left wall was covered with reams of papers with sketches and writing, which were getting stained by the bottles and beakers full of strange liquids and slimy parts - including eyeballs! - that sat on top. In the center of the room was a suit that was partly assembled. It looked like soldier's armor but slightly different. For one thing, the helmet was larger and rounder with a round window in its face. To the right was a tiny bed, which was piled with robes and more papers. Link was puzzled as to how the man slept in it.

But the most interesting thing about the room was the far end. There was pit full of water about two feet wide that spanned the entire width of the house. On the left end of the pit was an enormous water wheel. Connected to it was a complex network of pulleys that eventually connected to a crankshaft.

"Wow," Link breathed.

The scientist shut the door and then moved past the boy and his fairy toward the odd suit. He chuckled and rubbed it fondly. "Here's my underwater suit - my latest project. With it, I will be able to walk underwater and explore under the lake!" He cackled excitedly. Then he grinned apologetically. "But I'm still not finished. I can't seem to keep the water out of the suit entirely, and what's the point of an underwater suit if it's filled with water anyways?"

Link nodded sympathetically, but Navi cleared her throat to once again remind him what they were doing.

"Right, my water crank - over here." He walked over to the crankshaft and grabbed the handle.

"I meant this as just an experiment. I only wanted to see if I could force water uphill. See, I've always been puzzled by the fact that water always flows downhill. I've always wondered, 'Where does the water come from to be flowing downhill all the time?' And I developed a strange idea that maybe water flows in a circle." He traced a circle in the air. "It flows down and then back up and then down and back up again - around and around and around… so I decided to follow the river to see if my idea was right. I followed it all the way down to this lake, then I tried to find where the water flowed back up, but I never did find it. But as I was losing hope, I thought of another brilliant idea: why don't I just follow the river back up and see where it loops around? But when I did follow it up there, I couldn't find where it went back down to the lake, so I just came back down here and puzzled on it some more. Apparently, there is no water that flows uphill and that really bewildered me… eventually, I began to wonder if there was a way water could flow uphill."

Link listened in fascination. These kinds of questions had never bothered him before; it just wasn't something he had thought to wonder about. But the man was forcing him to wonder about it now and he was actually intrigued by the strange questions. Where did all the water come from to flow downhill all the time? Why couldn't water flow uphill? Was there a way that it could?

The old man grinned. "So I plotted. I thought. I began to imagine how water could be made to flow against its natural course. I tinkered, I experimented, I fixed things that didn't exactly work until I had this!" He slapped his crankshaft proudly. "This contraption that creates rivers that flow uphill!

"'Course, I never expected it to be of any use, but when those Zoras saw the water flowing back to their domain, why, they were quite excited, let me tell you! Probably more so than I was. They convinced me to let them use it to ride back quickly after they were done with business down here. Imagine that! It just astounds me that such a crazy idea like that could have such useful applications." He cackled.

Link studied the crankshaft and the water pit. "So how does it work?"

The scientist chuckled. "Well, my little, green friend, you just hop in there, I turn this crank, and then this giant wheel pushes the water and you up the tunnel. My contraption is so powerful, you'll be pushed all the way up to Zora's Domain! The distance is long, but this pushes water so fast, you'll be there in the blink of an eye!" He grinned. Then suddenly his grin faded and his eyes widened as though seeing Link for the first time. "But wait a minute! You can't ride in there!"

The boy was startled. "Why not?"

The skeletal man waved his arms. "You're a human boy! You've got no gills to breathe underwater with! How are you going to survive the ride? The whole trip you'll be completely surrounded by water!"

"But I've got this," Link said, pulling out the glowing silver scales from his pack. "These help me hold my breath for a long time and swim better too. I came down here through a tunnel from Zora's Domain and I'm still alive."

At the sight of the silver scales, the scientist's mouth dropped open and his already protuberant eyes bulged further. He breathed, "By the goddesses, could it be true? If I had… such a charm, why, that would help my research immensely!" His gaze turned abruptly to the Kokiri. "My boy, would you be willing to part with just one of those for, perhaps, one hundred Rupees?"

Link choked in surprise. Navi seemed just as astonished. She said, "Well, sir, that's a generous…"

"No? Two hundred, perhaps?" He thrust a finger into the air, spun around, and rushed to his bed. "Just give me a moment, boy, and I'll have your payment ready." He dropped to the floor with a crack of his knees. He grunted, "Ah, my rheumatism. Old age can be cruel, boy, but that certainly doesn't stop me." He began moving things around under his bed as he continued to murmur, "While you yet live, you must experience all that life has to offer and enjoy it, and while not every experience will be enjoyable, joy is an experience, too. Remember that, boy, experience is like digging for treasure: all gold is found in dirt… ah, here we are." He pulled out a small chest. With a grunt of effort, he staggered to his feet and then dumped it onto his bed, crinkling papers and knocking stacks of them off. He opened the lid to reveal it full to the brim with glistening gems.

"All of this if you give me one of those scales," he repeated his offer.

Link came over, his mouth wide open and his eyes shining. Navi opened her mouth but her Kokiri turned to the man and said, "I can't carry all of that! That would be way too heavy!"

"Then take as much as you can carry, by all means!" The marine scientist flailed an arm emphatically. "It isn't much use to me anyways. Durn heavy and takes up a lot of valuable space!"

"Well…" Link's head bobbed down to his wallet, which he then noticed had somehow been partially pulled into his pack. He tugged it and found it resisting, to his surprise. With a harder tug, he managed to pull it out - with something that was attached to it before it dropped with a clunk.

The sound attracted the scientist's attention. He nodded to it. "What is that?"

Link picked it up and turned it in his hands. "Oh, this. This is a mask… the uh… Snorkeling Mask, I think."

"A snorkeling mask, you say!" The man clapped his hands together excitedly, startling Link and Navi. "Another bit of apparatus that will aid my underwater exploration! Can I have it? I'll pay you, of course. Have you anything else for me?"

Just the magic beans, which excited the marine scientist when Link told him what they could do. He happily accepted a bean as well as the mask and a Zora scale, and waved the boy to the chest full of Rupees, saying, "Take it, boy! Take as much as you can carry - I'd better be able to lift it with my little finger when you're done!" All in all, it seemed to be a very profitable exchange for the both of them. Link's wallet became full to bursting though the chest wasn't close at all to being light enough to lift with a finger. Fortunately, the scientist didn't seem to notice. He was more focused on his new treasures, holding them up to the light and prodding them.

Navi cleared her throat to get the man's attention once again and said, "If there's nothing else, can we please use your contraption to get back to Zora's Domain?"

For a moment, the scientist looked astonished that the fairy had interrupted him in the middle of his scrutiny. Then he started and said, "Oh, yes, of course. This way, lady and gentleman." He cackled as he swept himself back to the crankshaft. Then he gestured to the water pit. "All right, little Zora human, jump on in."

Link had some business with his fairy to take care of first. She was refusing to go back into the bottle for the ride up, even after Link promised not to let go again.

"Well, what do you want to do then?" he asked her.

Navi answered decisively, "I will hold onto the scale with you and hold my breath."

He wasn't convinced. She was so tiny he was sure the current would tear her away, but as much as he tried to persuade her to just go into the bottle, she stubbornly refused. Eventually, he decided to let her have her way. She wasn't easy to argue with. But when she took hold of the scale, he cupped his hand protectively around her and then jumped into the pit. Navi protested loudly but was muffled under his hand. He kicked himself to the surface just long enough to gasp, "Go!" and then splashed back in. Without his arms, he wasn't able to keep himself above the water.

The old scientist got the message though. He began turning the crankshaft as hard as he could - slowly at first but gradually getting faster - stooping and stretching as his crank went round. The paddles of the wheel pushed against the water, starting the flow uphill. It wasn't too long before the wheel was turning on its own momentum, which the old man kept going with greater ease now. The water roared upward, pushing Link and his fairy up the tunnel until they were gone from sight.

The old man kept cranking. He wasn't exactly sure how long it took to get back up to Zora's Domain from here, but with his previous passengers he usually counted to one hundred before he stopped. It had worked before - the Zoras hadn't come back down this way before, and why shouldn't it work now? When he reached one hundred, he let go of the crankshaft and let it spin itself to a stop. Then he turned to the treasures that the boy had given him and began scrutinizing them in meticulous fashion. As he did, he cackled to himself.

"That's a find lad. Reminds me of myself when I was his age - adventurous, curious, and quite attracted to danger - though I never had a companion who nagged me like his does! How ever will he accomplish anything with her in tow?" He cackled again.

Link kept a very tight hold of his fairy, not where he would crush her, but he kept the rims of his palms pressed as tightly as he could. He tried not to react when his shoulder brushed against an outcropping, and he let himself tumble freely in the current. As long as Navi was safe, he could take it.

At last, they launched out of the tunnel - which seemed to have been set fairly high up the wall - into the palatial chamber of Zora's Domain. Before Link splashed into the water, he tossed his fairy into the air and then sucked in a breath. Once the water slowed his descent, he paddled himself back to the surface and gasped for air. He turned anxiously and saw with relief that Navi was hovering above him, holding the silver scale.

"Thank you, Link," Navi said, sounding somewhat embarrassed. "That was very kind of you." She fluttered down and dropped the scale back into his hand.

"Thanks. Time to look for the princess now that we've got that note telling us where she is."

"Let's ask her father where we can find Lord Jabu-Jabu," Navi added.

It was just starting to get dark and the first stars were beginning to appear in the sky above as they hurried up the steps to King Zora's throne. When the king's attendant saw him approach, she swelled and turned purple with fury. "I thought I ordered you to leave!"

Navi said," Allow us to speak with the king. We have some hopeful news for him."

"The king is not seeing anyone today! He is very upset! GUARDS!"

"But I know where the princess is!" Link protested.

The Zora women froze in shock, their mouths gaping, which made them appear ironically like a pair of fish. The king immediately looked up and leaned forward.

"Did you say…?" he whispered, his tear-stained face hopeful.

Link nodded. "She wrote a letter." He pulled out the bottle where the note was sealed. He uncorked the bottle, tapped the note out, and then passed it to Navi, who flew it up to the king's outstretched, webbed hand. He took the letter reverently as though he had been handed a precious jewel. His bulging eyes rolled right to left as he read the letter.

"He's right!" he exclaimed. "It is from Princess Ruto! Hmm…" He studied it a while longer. "Let's see…" Then his mouth dropped and his eyes bulged even further. "She's inside Lord Jabu-Jabu?"

The Zora women gasped. Then the Zora on his right spluttered, "That can't be true! He's our guardian god! He'd never eat any one of use, least of all the young Princess!"

The other Zora woman coughed hesitantly, bringing attention to her. "I might point out that lately Lord Jabu-Jabu has been acting strangely and he hasn't looked at all well… it must have been the work of that dark stranger who came here a few days ago, Ganondorf."

The Zora king nodded. "Mmm… yes, it all does seem to add up…" He stroked the fins growing from his upper lip thoughtfully.

Link spoke respectfully, "Your Majesty? Perhaps if you tell me where I can find Lord Jabu-Jabu, I can go and bring her back."

The Zora woman on the king's right stiffened. "You will do nothing of the sort. We do not allow just anyone to enter Lord Jabu-Jabu's sanctuary…"

"Excellent! That's just the sort of courage we need!" the king interrupted, sounding grateful that Link had volunteered. His attendant gave a cry of protest until he fixed a stern gaze on her. She stepped back and bowed her head respectfully. The king nodded and then turned to Link again. "You will find the altar where Lord Jabu-Jabu rests behind me. As thanks, I will return this bottle to you." He tucked the tiny roll of paper into his robe carefully, still as though it was the greatest treasure. When he finished, he turned to Link. "Please return my daughter safely to me!"

The boy bowed. "Yes, sir."

King Zora then grunted as he lifted himself off the throne. It appeared to be an enormous effort for him as his face started to turn purple and he wheezed. His attendants did their best to help lift him but it was clear that he was much too heavy for them. Still they grunted as they pulled, and he wheezed as he lifted himself off the throne, slowly, ever so slowly, gaining ground. Link fought hard not to laugh. He glanced at Navi, who had a peculiar expression on her face like she had eaten something that was upsetting her stomach.

The Zoran king wheezed as he continued to struggle to get to his feet. His arms wobbled as he pushed on the arms of his throne. Then, with a herculean grunt of effort, he managed to get to his feet. He wobbled on them while using the throne to keep himself from collapsing. He puffed, "My apologies… it's harder for me to move in recent years… grateful for Lela and Donna here for waiting on me… though perhaps I depended upon them too much!" He chuckled weakly. Then he addressed his attendants, "Just a little more to the side, dears. Yes, that's it." Leaning on their shoulders, he took little steps away from the throne.

As he slowly moved away, Link discovered the pathway that had been hidden behind him. What he had thought to be the back of the throne was actually a doorway. Through it he could see a stream tumbling down from a large tunnel.

With an explosive sigh, the king collapsed onto the step and worked himself into a comfortable seated position. His attendants took their positions by his sides, trying not to show how winded they were. King Zora turned to Link and said, "The way is clear. You know what to do!" Then he gave a peculiar sound that sounded like, "Zora!"

The Kokiri boy nodded. "Yes, your Majesty." He hopped off the dais and started up the steps toward the passage through the king's throne. The Zora women watched him as he began to pass. Then one of them stopped him with a cool hand on his shoulder. He turned, wondering irritably what she wanted.

"If you're going to visit Lord Jabu-Jabu," she said quietly, "then you must present a gift to him. It is only proper."

Link asked, keeping his voice polite, "What should I give him?"

She answered obviously, "Catch him the fattest fish. You will find them in the nursery through the corridor down there." She pointed to the lower level. "It is the first chamber on your left."

"Very well," Navi answered her before Link could say anything - not that he was going to say anything rude. "Thank you for your help."

Still, he wasn't pleased to have to go back down to catch a fish, but at his fairy's insistence, that's what he did. It wasn't too difficult to find the nursery and it was surprisingly interesting as it was a small room of water that was knee-deep, with glowing ice-blue crystals scattered along the bottom. Swimming around the crystals were strange fish of assorted colors and shapes. He soon had a large one swimming in his bottle and he made his way back to the throne room. As he passed the Zora woman, he held up the bottle to show her his gift to their deity. She nodded in approval and Link continued through the opening in the throne and up the tunnel.

The tunnel was short. It curved to the left and then opened up to a great vale in the shape of a half-bowl. Beyond the rim of the bowl, he could see the peaks of more mountains in the distance - blue teeth capped in white. Directly in front of him was a wide platform reached by squat steps. And directly in front of the platform was the biggest fish Link had ever seen.

The lake it rested in seemed barely big enough to hold it. The fish itself looked like a great, blue hill sitting just above the surface of the water. At its peak was a colorful, woven cap with gold tassels.

"That must be Lord Jabu-Jabu," Link pointed out. He exclaimed quietly, "Wow, he's big! I can see how he swallowed Princess Ruto."

"That must be him," Navi agreed. "But he doesn't look too well, does he?" And indeed, he looked woeful. The froglike eyes on either side of his head were glazed with a milky substance, his skin was tinged with green, particularly around the gills, and the two of them could hear him wheezing as he drew breath.

"The poor thing," Navi muttered sympathetically.

A thought occurred to Link, and he said meekly, "You don't suppose that there's a Queen Gohma inside him, do you?" He felt icy needles of fear stabbing him in his arm as he recalled the parasitic arachnid and how she had rampaged after him.

"With the princess inside?" His fairy gasped at the thought. "If that's the case, we can't waste any more time! Quickly, offer up your gift."

The boy uncorked the bottle and lifted it into the air in offering. Lord Jabu-Jabu didn't seem to notice, so he called up to him, "Hello? Lord Jabu-Jabu? We have a gift for you! A fish!" He waved the bottle more vigorously, spilling some water. But for a second it still seemed that the giant fish hadn't heard him. Then his dull eyes swiveled down and focused on him. The boy stepped back so that Lord Jabu-Jabu could see him better.

"A tasty fish for you, Lord Jabu-Jabu! Right here! I got a nice, tasty fish for you! Can you hear me?"

Lord Jabu-Jabu blinked wearily. He continued to wheeze pathetically as though wondering why this boy was bothering him.

Link persisted, "Please, Lord Jabu-Jabu! If you'll just open your mouth then I can give you this fish - nice and fresh! See?"

Lord Jabu-Jabu let out a groan that rumbled from the pit of his stomach. The Kokiri boy was startled and jumped away. His hand jerked and the water splashed out of the bottle. The fish also leaped out and landed on the platform with a loud smack. It bounced and flopped noisily, trying to get back to water.

Link's fairy sighed and spoke, "It seems he's not hungry, which I suppose should be no surprise. He is ill, after all."

"Then how did Princess Ruto get inside him?" Link asked, dumping out the rest of the water in frustration. "We'll never get that Spiritual Stone! If we don't, how are we supposed to stop Ganondorf? If he gets to that Triforce first then we're all doomed! He'll probably destroy the entire world! Even the forest! And then everyone will be gone, and Saria…" He choked. "Saria… I won't see her again. I won't be able to tell her about my adventure…" He blinked back tears. "And I'll fail again… let everyone die again… like the Great Deku Tree…"

"Link…" said Navi.

"No." Link looked up, his vision distorted by the tears. "I can't let that happen. Lord Jabu-Jabu, you have to let us in! Please, Lord Jabu-Jabu!"

"Link…" said Navi again.

The boy turned to her, wiping his eyes dry. "Huh?"

She pointed. "Look."

Lord Jabu-Jabu had his hazy eyes focused on the flopping fish. His rhythmic wheezing had just become more experimental - sounding as though he was sniffing the fish. Then he opened his mouth and a loud, rushing sound followed. Link watched, fascinated, as the fish flopped one last time and then was snatched in midair and sucked down Lord Jabu-Jabu's monstrous gullet.

Then Link felt the tug on him. His cap flew off his head. He snatched at it and then realized, too late, he had stepped within the vacuum. He was plucked off his feet and, with his fairy tumbling beside him, was carried yelling into Lord Jabu-Jabu's belly.

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