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

Princess Ruto

Link braced for impact as he arced toward the ground. Though his shoulder did hurt upon impact, it was softer than he expected. But it was also slimy and as a result he skidded across the ground like a pebble across a frozen pond, coming to a stop when he splashed into cold water. He snorted it up his nose in surprise and then splashed frantically as he coughed for air. Fortunately, the water wasn't very deep and he eventually managed to get to his feet.

"Are you all right, Link?" he heard Navi say. He saw her glow ahead of him and he made his way carefully to her, trying not to slip on the slime.

"My wings have gotten wet," she said, flapping her wings in demonstration, which flung droplets of slime. Link picked her up and transferred her to his shoulder. He asked her, "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine." She wiped her arm. "Not the most dignified means of entering someone's belly, but we don't seem to be the worse for wear."

Her Kokiri wrinkled his nose. "Phew! It stinks in here though. Like dead fish."

"What else would it smell like, considering that Lord Jabu-Jabu is sick?"

Link decided not the answer the question. Instead, he turned around to discover two sets of glowing yellow points that appeared in the gloom. He drew his sword and raised his shield before him just before he heard two sharp sounds followed an instant later by two impacts on his shield that sent him skidding backwards.

"Deku Scrubs?" Link asked, who had recognized the spitting sounds.

Navi replied, "I don't think so. Let me see if I can…" She brightened herself, casting a dome of light that illuminated a large chamber of pink flesh. Her light slid over the slimy, pink slope that Link recognized as Lord Jabu-Jabu's tongue and then rippled over water. Two creatures bobbed in it. They had large egg-shaped heads with puckered mouths that jutted forward just as the Deku Scrubs' did. Their heads connected to four slithery legs that paddled the water to keep them afloat. Their skin was fleshy purple that glistened with water and slime.

"Octoroks," his fairy reported. "They attack in the same manner that Deku Scrubs do except they spit rocks rather than nuts."

"Rocks?"

"Don't worry. They're still only as threatening as Deku Scrubs. Perhaps even less as they aren't intelligent enough to speak."

The two Octoroks spit two more rocks at him, which he deftly dodged. He pulled out his slingshot and shot them between the eyes. They gave strange deep-throated squeaks of pain as they tumbled backwards, thrashing the water. Link and Navi watched the path of their retreat to the sides of Jabu-Jabu's mouth until they stopped moving and the water settled.

"They're not likely to bother you again. Octoroks are cowardly creatures, retreating if the threat is too much for them. To be frank, most things are too much for them."

All the same, Link kept his eyes on them as he cautiously waded into the water. It only came as high as his chest before it sloped up again toward the throat. He was stopped by a constriction created by three wedge-shaped muscles that met in the center. Swollen blue veins crisscrossed over the muscles, keeping them shut together. Link experimentally tapped the center. The muscles reacted slightly but then tightened again.

Hmm," he murmured. "How do we get through?"

His fairy answered, "Up there!" She pointed to a knob dangling from the roof. It was transparent and covered in oozing slime. "I think that's the uvula. If anything touches it, the throat muscles react and the throat opens."

"Sounds good enough for me." Link fitted his slingshot with a pellet, aimed at the knob, and shot it. There was a leathery croak behind him and he turned just in time to see the veins shrink. Then the throat muscles retracted, creating a hole large enough for the Kokiri boy to step through.

"It worked," Navi said, sounding pleased.

The hole led into a sloping tunnel where the floor was slicker than Lord Jabu-Jabu's tongue. Link slipped on it several times, sliding downward each time before he stopped himself and pushed himself back to his feet. The ceiling was supported by a chain of round bones with ribs running down the walls. This must have been Lord Jabu-Jabu's throat. Attached to the top of the throat were strange boils - blue against the bright pink flesh - that swelled and then shrank as though they were breathing.

Navi murmured, "I don't think those are supposed to be there."

"Should I get rid of them?" Link asked, pulling out another seed for his slingshot.

Navi mused it over. Then she began to say, "Perhaps not. Popping them may harm more than they might help," but her Kokiri had already fired.

The blue boil burst with a blinding flash and a crackle. It fell to the floor with a plop, spreading out hair-like extensions that crackled and fizzed with electricity before it eventually dissipated.

Navi looked down at it in horror. "I don't think you should have done that."

"Why?" Link prodded it with his toe. "What is it?"

He was alarmed when the air echoed with fizzing and crackling. He looked up to discover the blue boils detaching themselves from the ceiling and then flipping over so that their hair-like extensions were hanging down - sparking with live electricity that sent blue light dancing frantically in the throat. They slowly drifted down toward the boy and his fairy like falling leaves - except leaves had never made Link's skin crawl like this before.

"Biri!" Navi cried. "If they touch you, you'll be electrocuted! Run!"

In his haste to flee, Link slipped and slid down the throat. He instinctively pressed his hands against the walls to slow his descent but the slime prevented him from doing that. It sprayed over him, soaking him cold. His fairy clung to his shoulder, bracing herself against the spray.

They eventually shot out of the throat into a cavernous chamber. Link spun like a top on the ground as he slid, having pulled himself into a defensive ball. He crashed into something, which made a rather strange sound like a cry of surprise and fell on top of him. This effectively stopped his sliding and he allowed his body to collapse from its ball. Immediately and most unexpectedly, something began attacking him with blows to his side.

"Get away!" shrieked a voice. "Leave me alone! Get off!" The thing that had fallen on him was attacking him and was struggling to get away. Eventually, it did get away and stood back, taking shallow breaths. Link scrambled to his feet and backed away in case it attacked again. Then he stopped and his mouth dropped when he saw what it was.

"Are you all right, Link?" Navi asked.

He didn't answer. He was staring at a Zora girl about his age standing across from him and staring back with a frightened look in her eyes. The eyes were a deep sapphire blue. She stood in a defensive stance, holding what looked like some sort of weapon above her head.

She thrust a finger at him. "You! Who are you?!"

He stammered, "L-Link."

"What are you doing here? Here to kidnap me? To take me to your lair and eat me?"

Link burst out with a loud, "Ha!" in surprise and then rushed out, "No, no! I was just looking for someone… you, I think."

"What do you want with me?" She still hadn't relaxed her guard, and the weapon in her hand seemed ready to be thrown at any second. "Do you know who I am? I am Ruto, Princess of the Zoras."

"What good fortune!" exclaimed Navi, causing the princess to jump. The fairy stood up on Link's shoulder. "We're glad we found you safe. And no doubt your father will be overjoyed once we've returned to him."

The Zoran princess turned her head sharply to Navi. "What?! You're saying my father sent you? Lies! And besides, I don't need help!"

Link was puzzled. "But what about that letter in the bottle? It said you were inside Lord Jabu-Jabu's belly, and it had your name on it."

"'Letter in a bottle'?" Princess Ruto looked momentarily surprised before she hastily corrected herself, "Ha! What nonsense you speak! I never wrote such a thing!"

The princess was suspicious of them, Navi realized. She didn't trust them. Navi could only imagine the sort of ordeals the princess had been through while here in the great fish's belly. She spoke to her in a reassuring voice, "We realize you may be scared, but you must trust us. We're here to help you. We've come to rescue you."

"I don't need rescuing!" The Zora princess straightened and lowered her arm. "I've been in here many times since I was little."

Link and Navi gave her an odd look. Unexpectedly, her defiant look became an embarrassed one and she lowered her head, bringing the weapon in front of her and playing with it. What Link thought might have been a strange wooden sword or flimsy-looking club seemed to be something else entirely - a curved piece of painted wood with a sharp metal edge. In the center of the weapon - if that's what it was - was a triangular, red gem.

He pointed and asked her curiously, "What's that you got there?"

This question caused her to spring away from him, holding it behind her. "It's mine, and you're not taking it away from me! Get out of here! Understand?" She continued backing away.

Link shook his head in bewilderment. "What is your problem? I was just curious."

She thrust her finger at him. "What gives you the right to stick your nose in where it doesn't belong? Go now, or I'll throw this at you!" She drew back the weapon in her hand.

He followed her. "But I'm here to take you back home to your father! I came in here to help you and you're acting like a… like a brat! I didn't come all the way here just to be sent back by some snobbish Zora princess! Are all of you girls so high and mighty?"

The princess's mouth dropped open… just before she fell backwards with a shriek of "Oooh nooooo!" and then disappeared. Link and Navi cried out in alarm and they hurried to the spot where she vanished. He skidded to a stop when he discovered what was there: a hole surrounded by muscle that rippled toward it, which would carry anything that stepped into it down to the hole and through it.

Navi nudged him on the side of his neck. "Go on after her, Link!"

"But I… but she's… urgh!" Link threw up his hands in disgust and then with a sigh he jumped in. He slid down the slimy pit and into the hole in the center where his waist became surrounded by muscle. He felt a firm ripple travel up his body like some giant worm, pushing him through the hole. Then he fell, yelling in terror, unable to see the bottom. It came rather quickly and his body slapped against it, pain flaring. With a groan, he picked himself up. Then he wiped slime from his face.

"Go on after her," Link mimicked grumpily, shaking his hands free of the muck.

"I'm glad you're not too hurt to complain," Navi muttered from his shoulder. She hopped off and brightened herself to light up their surroundings. "Where's the princess? I do hope she's all right."

"Are you following me? You obviously have no respect for authority!" said a voice behind him. He spun around to find Princess Ruto glaring at him with her hands on her hips. "I commanded you to leave!"

"Look," said Link, trying to keep his temper, "I can't leave without you. Your father asked me to look for you and I'm not going back without you!"

"Your father is really worried about you," Navi added.

The princess glanced up at the fairy with a surprised expression on her face. "He is?" Then she shook her head and snapped, "That's none of my concern! Besides, I have to do something here first."

Link had just about had enough. He stomped his foot on the ground, which wasn't as effective as he had hoped since it rippled under his foot, making hardly a sound. To compensate, he raised his voice, "What do you mean you can't go home? Why can't you? Haven't you noticed the monsters inside Lord Jabu-Jabu?"

"Of course I've noticed the monsters!" the princess shouted. She waved her hand in the air in a gesture of agitation. "Everything's wrong in here! There are these electrified creatures, strange holes, and some disgusting, pulsing columns in here… and on top of that I lost my…" she paused and her eyes widened as though she had almost revealed a secret, "but that's none of your business! Now for the last time, I command you to leave!"

"Well fine!" Link threw up his hands in exasperation. "I'll just tell your father why you wouldn't come back with me! I'm sure he'll understand! After all, he did tell me you were a stubborn brat!"

The princess's haughty face twisted into shock. Link didn't wait around to hear the tirade that was sure to follow though. He pushed past her and stormed through the tunnel that was behind her. Navi observed the Zora princess as she fell back.

"I think you hurt her feelings," she told her Kokiri.

Link threw up his hands and protested, "She started it! I'm trying to be nice and help her get back home and she tells me that she doesn't need my help and that I should just go home! Well, if she doesn't want my help then I guess I won't give it to her!"

"Then what will you do?"

Link couldn't answer. He knew that King Zora likely wouldn't be pleased if he returned without bringing back his daughter, but the princess wasn't going to willingly come back with him and he was at a loss for an alternative plan. He felt guilty for hurting her feelings, but he wasn't ready to go back and apologize so he continued forward.

Then something gradually brought him to a stop. A putrid smell was coming from the tunnel that Link was traveling down. It was so strong that it was making his eyes water and stinging his nostrils. He pulled up the collar of his tunic to cover his nose and groaned, "Ugh! What is that?"

"Perhaps we should try a different way," Navi suggested. With her hand placed over her own nose, it made her sound reedy.

But going back meant facing the haughty princess, which Link didn't want to do. He just took a deep breath and moved deeper into the stink. Navi wanted to heave a sigh of exasperation but didn't dare for fear she might breathe in the foul air, so she rolled her eyes instead and followed after him. They ventured further into the tunnel until they were stopped by a pool of dark brown sludge. Bubbles swelled on the surface before bursting and spraying the sludge everywhere. The smell here was absolutely pungent. Link could feel the fumes burning his eyes. He turned them up to lessen the sting and discovered a shaft going up.

"What about now?" Navi asked, coughing violently. "Shall we go back now?"

Link held up his hand. "Hold on. Look up there." He pointed up the shaft. Up the wall there was an enormous protruding lump and it was traveling down, causing the skin to ripple over it. It disappeared under the filthy pool for a moment and then it rolled back up.

The two of them watched its progress. It climbed to the top of the shaft, paused, and then rolled back down to the bottom. When it became clear that this was a pattern, Navi remarked, "How odd."

"Maybe we can ride it," Link suggested. As soon as it came down and then rolled back out of the filthy pool, he leaped.

Something burst out of the filth with a high-pitched screech, leaping high and then veering toward the boy, trailing the dark sludge behind it. It was a large creature with a flat body that allowed it to glide. Two orbs of blood-red protruded on top near the front of its body and were oriented toward Link, which must have been its eyes. It clipped him as it passed - a claw on the tip of its wing screeching horribly across his shield - slamming him against the wall, which bounced him off and sent him plummeting into the filth.

"Link!"

He burst to the surface with a gasp, the dark sludge streaming down his face. Then another large creature leaped out and slammed onto his head, forcing him beneath the sludge again.

Nothing could be seen under there. Link didn't dare open his eyes to the filth. It was unpleasantly cold too, but what concerned him the most were the invisible creatures attacking him on all sides. Sharp claws slashed at his skin - across his chest, his hand, his leg… They also slashed at his back except that his shield protected it so there was only a screech instead of pain. Still, the constant attack was disorienting and weakening him. He needed to escape before they tore him to pieces. It was a good thing he was holding on to the silver scales.

He twisted himself in the sludge and pushed himself forward, hoping he was heading away from the danger. It was hard to tell since the attacks came relentlessly, pushing him this way and that, which he tried to correct, hoping he wasn't drifting away from safety.

He hit against what felt like a wall. He crawled along it, still trying to escape. As he did, he felt the sludge around him shudder. The wall pulled from his hand and then pushed against it again, making Link's climb more difficult, which only made him scramble harder against it. The viscous liquid surrounding him shuddered again more violently. It felt as though there was something big in here coming to get him, which only increased his panic, and he scrabbled against the heaving wall all the more.

The muck suddenly swelled, pushing him backwards with incredible force. He was unprepared and helpless before this force, which felt like a mountain pushing him. With his heart pounding hard against his ribcage, all he could do was pray that he wouldn't be slammed against a wall and crushed.

Then it suddenly reversed, leaving him without a stomach. It pulled him headfirst until his entire body slammed to the ground and skidded. The breath had been knocked forcefully from him and he was gasping it back in. Muck dripped down his face and into his mouth, but he was barely aware of it.

"Link?" he heard his fairy's voice. Then she bobbed to his side. He raised his head to acknowledge her, his breaths easing gradually out of the gasps.

"I'm glad you're all right," she said. Then she coughed and said, "You stink though. We need to find a way to clean that gunk off of you. You're sure to frighten people."

Link grunted as he slowly climbed to his feet. "What were those things?" he asked, wiping the gunk off his arms.

"You mean the stingers?" Several of them were scattered about the chamber where they had been spewed, flopping feebly on the ground like large, grotesque fish. "They're aggressive pack hunters that use echolocation to track their prey. They use the claws on the ends of their wings to tear their prey to pieces and feed off those pieces."

The thought made Link slightly ill. He turned his gaze to their surroundings only to discover that they were back in the chamber where they had first met the princess. He spotted the pit of rippling muscle where they had fallen through.

"How did we get back up here?" he asked.

Navi shook her head. "I don't know what you did down there, but while I was worried about you, that muck began roiling as though something in there was getting angry. I didn't like the looks of it and decided to fly higher, and as I did, that muck suddenly shot up after me! I managed to escape it, but then I saw you shoot out of it and then fall back down. What happened down there?"

They approached the pit though Link was sure to stay away from the rippling muscle. He peered into it as he answered, "I'm not sure. I couldn't see a thing down there." He stepped away from the pit.

Navi canted her head to the side and planted her hands on her hips as she studied Link. "Well, what do you plan to do now? If we're simply going to leave the princess here, the exit is this way." She tossed her head to indicate the direction.

"I wasn't planning to leave her," Link protested. He glanced toward the exit and then down at the ground. He played with the silver scales in his hands.

His fairy's gaze steadily bore a hole in him. "Well?" she pressed.

Link scratched the back of his head in agitation. "Well, I can't just go back to her father without her, but she won't come back with me, so…" He scratched his head again. "I don't know what to do." He turned toward the back of the chamber. "I just need to think." With that, he plodded toward the back. Navi sighed and followed after him.

Link was indeed thinking as he plodded through the room, absentmindedly steering around the rippling pits that he encountered along the way. He needed to find a way to convince the princess to leave Lord Jabu-Jabu's belly. It was obvious that it was dangerous in here. There was something in here making the giant fish sick. It must be some sort of parasite - probably a Queen Gohma.

Then a tunnel that appeared when Navi's light spread over it distracted him. He instantly abandoned his thoughts and hurried to explore it, drawn by his curiosity.

"Have you thought of something?" asked Navi, who knew fully well that this was unlikely.

She was surprised when he answered, "Maybe the princess won't come back with me, but the king might be happy if I helped Lord Jabu-Jabu. If there's a Queen Gohma in here making him sick like the one that made the…" a lump formed in his throat, "Great Deku Tree… sick… then…" A steely look formed in his eyes.

His fairy nodded. "I understand." Then she added with a steeliness in her own voice, "And I'll be right beside you."

There was no reason for them to doubt they could expunge Queen Gohma from Lord Jabu-Jabu if that was what was afflicting the great deity of the Zoras. They had done it before in the Great Deku Tree. They had defeated King Dodongo in the Dodongo's Cavern too. And over the course of his journey, Link had learned much and grown strong with the help of everyone he had met: Aben, Princess Zelda, Darunia, the Great Fairy, and, yes, even the owl. That monster wasn't going to kill this time. This time, Link was ready.

At least, he thought he was until the tunnel opened into some sort of hub where many tunnels branched off. Peering down each of them didn't offer many clues to which tunnel they should take, for down every one of them was a strange, crackling, blue light and a slurping noise that raised the hairs on Link's neck and churned his stomach.

"Which one do you think we should take?" he asked his companion.

Navi peered down the tunnels thoughtfully before she replied, "I don't know. I can sense evil down each of them. Powerful evil. And to explore each of these tunnels could take time - time I'm afraid Lord Jabu-Jabu doesn't have.

Link raised his hands. "But what choice do we have? The longer we wait here wondering, the more likely it is Lord Jabu-Jabu will die!"

"Actually, I think there is an alternative."

Link waited for her expectantly. But when she told him her idea, he exclaimed, "What? You want me to ask Princess Ruto for help?! But she doesn't even like me! She wouldn't come with me to her father, so why would she help me find my way through here? How would she even know anyways?"

"She said she's been in here many times, so it's likely she knows her way around in here. And I don't think she hates you. She's just frightened. All you need to do is gain her trust."

"Easy for you to say," Link grumbled. He moved forward.

"Where are you going?"

Link answered gruffly, "I'm going to try this one. I've got a feeling that Queen Gohma, or whatever it is making Lord Jabu-Jabu sick, is down here," which wasn't actually true. What he was actually feeling was that it would take even more time convincing the princess to help him. If Princess Ruto really was just scared then why did she act like a brat? Why would she treat him like something she stepped on? If she was scared then why didn't she want to go home?

The hair-raising sound in the tunnel grew louder and the crackling blue light grew brighter. Eventually they came upon the source, which appeared to be a column of dark red muscle shimmering with blue electricity. Periodically, a ripple traveled from its base to the ceiling. Given its color and the strange light it was giving off, Link was sure this didn't belong. He drew the Kokiri Sword.

"That thing will electrocute you if you touch it, even with your sword," Navi reminded him.

"Maybe directly," Link agreed. "But I'm going to try that sword technique the Great Fairy taught me."

He noticed his fairy stiffen at the mention of the Great Fairy and he worried he might have made her mad. He was relieved when she spoke evenly, "Very well. Let's see what she taught you."

Link closed his eyes and searched inside himself for the power that the Great Fairy had granted him - a small ball of warmth in his chest like a tiny sun. Almost immediately, he felt it expand, flowing through his body toward his left hand where he held the hilt of the sword. The hilt grew warm and the blade began to hum. Link opened his eyes to find it glowing. He glanced toward his fairy whose eyes were slowly widening. Link wasn't sure if she was impressed or afraid. But why would she be afraid?

He turned back to the pulsing column of muscle. As he did, he became aware of how close the walls were to it. He hadn't given thought to it before but now it occurred to him that the walls were the insides of Lord Jabu-Jabu and unleashing his power could cut them, and who knew what that would do to the Zoras' deity?

But he already had the magic ready to be released. His arm was already shaking from holding it in. Could he put it away? He tried it, concentrating on pulling it in, but it was like trying to force a river to flow uphill. If he could do what the scientist at Lake Hylia had done, using a giant waterwheel… but he couldn't. He would have to release it. He would have to direct as much of this power toward the column of muscle as possible and do his best not to hit Lord Jabu-Jabu's innards.

Carefully, for any sudden movement could unleash the magic, he brought his sword above his head. His arm wobbled. Cold sweat beaded on his forehead. In response he gritted his teeth and focused on keeping his arm steady. Then with a yell he slashed his sword down in a short, very controlled stroke.

A wave of ruby red fire slashed through the column almost vertically. With a crack and a flash of blue light, it split into two, one half falling to the ground with a flop like a dead fish and the other waving in the air as though in pain, blue electricity trailing behind it with much crackling. After a few moments, it retracted into the ceiling with a sickening slurp.

Link suddenly felt exhausted. That burst of magic seemed to have drained his energy as though he had just finished walking across Hyrule Field. At least it got rid of the thing. Wearily he sheathed his sword and trudged forward, stepping over the fallen half of the strange column of muscle.

Navi darted in front of him. She snapped, "You told me it was a sword technique! You didn't tell me it was magic!"

Link didn't have the energy to argue. He simply pushed past her and continued on through the tunnel. His fairy darted next to him to keep pace and continued yelling at him, which he tuned out. Continuing through the tunnel, which was now curving to the left, he found himself gravitating toward the wall to keep himself upright, soft and slimy though it was. He started staggering over his feet.

"…just look at you!" Navi was yelling. "You can barely stand now! How do you expect to slay the monster in here with you tripping over yourself…"

They reached the end of the tunnel, which dropped into a dark pit that Link nearly pitched headfirst into. He dropped to his knees and peered into it, trying to see the bottom but without luck. Then he gestured feebly and said, "Navi… could you… see what's down here…"

"No, Link, we cannot go farther as you are now! You need to rest and gain your strength back. If you had told me what that Great Fairy…"

Link flopped against the wall with a heavy sigh and rummaged into his pack to see if he had anything that could light the pit. After a moment, he pulled out a bottle full of pink liquid with glittering minerals swirling around inside. The Great Fairy tears! How could he have forgotten? He ripped out the cork and then downed the water in three gulps.

Gradually, he felt the water restoring his energy until he was able to get to his feet. He turned to his fairy and spread his arms, "Look, Navi. I'm feeling much better! Will you look down that hole now?"

She glared at him, which Link took to mean no. Then she said brusquely, "Wait here. Don't do anything foolish while I'm gone." Then she dove into the hole. She returned much too soon for Link to attempt to find trouble, which honestly hadn't even crossed his mind, and reported, "The place appears to be infested with tailpasarans - too dangerous to take on, and you need to conserve your energy for whatever creature is infecting Lord Jabu-Jabu."

"What are tailpasarans?" Link asked, peering down the hole again.

"Electric worms," Navi answered as she headed down the tunnel. Link followed after her. "Nasty parasites that burrow into the flesh of their hosts. Worse, if you attempt to remove them, they will attack you with either their electricity or sharp mandibles. Nothing's harder to exterminate."

"Harder than Queen Gohma?" Link asked, shuddering.

"It's tough to kill something that could kill you simply by being close to it," Navi answered.

They came to the hub. The two of them glanced through the other branches. Then Navi turned to her charge. "Do you still wish to find your way on your own?"

Link grunted in annoyance. But before he could retort, they heard a scream. They whipped to the right tunnel where it had come from and then raced down it. Coming into the chamber of the rippling holes, they slid to a halt and took in the situation.

Princess Ruto had somehow found her way back up here. She was taking steps backwards while throwing her weapon at something coming down from the ceiling. Her weapon spun through the air, curved around and came back to her hand. The creature she was throwing at appeared to be a giant worm pushing through the ceiling with a sickening squelch, its red body crackling with blue electricity. It descended slowly, probing the air experimentally, twitching in response every time the princess's weapon spun past it.

Then her weapon struck it. There was a flash of blue light and a loud pop, and then the worm-like creature convulsed violently. The lower portion flopped strangely like a marionette whose strings had been cut. Giving it a closer look, Link discovered that the princess's strange weapon had ripped it almost in half with just a few bits of sinew holding it together. It pulled itself quickly into the ceiling though its lower half was ripped off in its haste and it fell to the ground with a heavy flop that caused the chamber to ripple, threatening to throw Link off balance. When the waves stopped and Link recovered, he and Navi hurried to the princess's side.

"Are you okay?" he asked her.

"Well, I took care of that… thing, didn't I?" she snapped, flicking her weapon, which was covered in yellowish ooze.

"We heard a scream and we thought you might be in trouble," Navi answered.

"Well, I'm fine! You don't need to worry about me. I am just a stubborn brat, after all." She glared at them. Link noticed that they were red and puffy like she had been crying, and unexpectedly he felt a pang of guilt. He glanced at his fairy, who gave him a meaningful look.

He turned to the ground and swallowed. Then with a nudge from Navi he croaked, "I - I'm sorry about that. Your father… really didn't say that… I mean, he really is worried about you, and… well, it's just… it's dangerous in here and I don't want anyone else to get hurt because of me…"

The princess gave him a querying look. "Anyone else?"

Link swallowed a lump in his throat. He shrugged and croaked, "It's not important. But I think I know what's causing Lord Jabu-Jabu to be sick and I want to help."

"Help?" asked the princess. Navi too was giving him an odd look. That was when Link realized what he had just said. He stammered, "Um, yeah… uh, well, it's dangerous to go alone, and… well, I think we stand a better chance together…"

The princess's eyes were wide with surprise. She spoke softly, "You… want to help me?" Her voice had come out thick, so she cleared her throat. Gathering her dignity, she straightened herself, brought her arm with its small cape-like fin across her chest, looked down her nose at him haughtily, and said, "If you sincerely wish to help me, then I will give you the honor of accompanying me. But we're not leaving until we find my… the thing I'm looking for."

Link didn't reply. She huffed and then turned to the tunnel where Link had come from. She pointed, commanded, "Follow me," and then strutted toward it with her nose in the air. Link gave his fairy a strange look. She gave him a shrug in return and then floated after the princess. He sighed with exasperation and then hurried to catch up.

After a moment, he spoke to Princess Ruto, "By the way, what's that thing in your hand?"

The princess shot him a look over her shoulder. "You mean you've never seen a boomerang before? You throw it and then it comes back to you. I found it in Lake Hylia one day; all sorts of things float downriver and end up there."

"That's what the Happy Mask Salesman said… and the old woman in Hyrule Castle Town."

This time the princess turned to him, her eyes gleaming with curiosity. "Who's the Happy Mask Salesman?"

"A guy who sells masks… I think. Although, he's very weird and can do things like magic… He made me his partner so I sell masks for him."

"Masks, huh?" She suddenly turned her back on him, lifted her nose, and continued strutting forward. "Sounds droll."

"What's 'droll'?"

Navi supplied, "It means, 'silly.'"

"Oh."

They came to the hub where the path branched. The princess turned her head down each tunnel. Then she thrust her finger forward. "This way. Most of the things Lord Jabu-Jabu swallows goes down here. Stay behind me and don't get lost!" She broke into a run, surprising the boy and fairy. They hurried to keep pace with her into the tunnel. It immediately dipped down, which - with the addition of the slime coating the floor - made it unbalancing for Link, but somehow the Zora princess maintained her footing without breaking stride. Noticing that he was falling behind, she turned around and said crossly, "What's taking you? You're slowing us down!"

This goaded him into increasing his pace except that his foot slipped and he started sliding down the tunnel, crashing into Princess Ruto's legs. She cried out in surprise and then snapped at him, "Clumsy oaf! Watch where you're going!"

Link managed to keep his temper in check though his ears turned red from the effort. It didn't get much easier continuing down the tunnel with her criticizing his careful pace. Navi tried to explain how slippery it was for him but the princess only retorted that she wasn't slipping around like a Rope. The bickering was momentarily forgotten when they came upon another column of muscle blocking the way, rippling and crackling with blue electricity. The princess drew back her boomerang, yelled, "Such a disgusting creature should not be here!" and threw it. It spun through the column with a pop and bright flash of light, and then the bottom half flopped to the ground while the top twisted itself in the air before vanishing into the ceiling with a slurp. The boomerang plopped to the ground after severing the column. Princess Ruto stepped carefully over the muscle and retrieved her weapon. Then she turned to Link and beckoned with an impatient snap, "Well come on then! Don't just stand there like a simpleton!"

Link took his anger out on the limp cord of muscle as he passed it.

It wasn't long before the corridor leveled out and ended before another constriction formed by three wedge-shaped muscles. The Zora princess hesitated before it as though afraid of what might be waiting beyond it. Then after visibly pulling herself together she gave the center a poke. They separated to create an opening and the three of them stepped inside.

The chamber was small. It seemed smaller because of a large platform in the center of the room, which only left a narrow ring to navigate in, made narrower by spikes that protruded from the base of the platform. It would have appeared to be a dead end of little significance if it wasn't for a deep blue glow emanating from the center of the platform.

"That's it!" the princess suddenly cried, her façade of formality dropped. Her mouth dropped open in shock and her hands clapped over it. "Oh my goodness! We really found it!"

Link couldn't speak. On top of the platform was a small token of three round sapphires bonded together by gold and it was glowing fiercely like blue fire. It was evident that this was significant. In fact, Link was certain that this was the Spiritual Stone of Water! The princess had been looking for the same thing they were!

He was snapped out of his shock when Princess Ruto tapped his shoulder and said in breathless excitement and relief, "Come on! Give me a boost up there! We found my stone! Oh, we found it!" Still feeling dazed, he did as he was told. He boosted her onto his shoulders so that she could climb onto the platform. She ran to the glowing stone and crouched before it, creating a shadow against the blue light for Link. A moment later, she spun around and raised the stone high, spreading the light throughout the rest of the chamber.

Navi bobbed excitedly. "Well, that was certainly an unexpected turn of events. Princess Ruto got the Spiritual Stone!"

Link turned to her with a puzzled expression. "But… why Princess Ruto?" His fairy didn't answer.

Princess Ruto lowered the stone and cradled it tenderly in her hands like a child. Her voice came out soft and thick as though she was holding back tears, "Oh! I can't believe I finally found it! It was my mother's and she gave it to me…" She swallowed an emotional lump in her throat and continued, "I was feeding Lord Jabu-Jabu, but then he scared me and I dropped it. And when he swallowed it, I feared I would never find it again. But I did…" She sniffed and wiped tears from her eyes. Then she straightened and smiled at Link.

The effect was unexpected and left him bewildered. Had she just been snooty and mean only because she had lost her stone? Was she really not as cruel as she pretended to be?

Princess Ruto continued in a brighter tone, her sapphire eyes shining, "So it's all right now! We can go home…" She trailed off for a moment.

Then suddenly she stiffened. She crossed her arms, turned in profile, and raised her nose to look down on him. She gave a haughty sniff and demanded, "So, as Princess of the Zoras, I command you to escort me home!"

Link was a bit turned around by all of this. He had been certain that it was King Zora who had the Spiritual Stone and would have given it to him once he rescued his daughter. But now that it was revealed that the stone actually belonged to Princess Ruto, this set back his plans entirely. It was obvious that she was fond of it. How was he going to convince her to let him take it?

The Zora princess frowned at him. "Didn't you hear me?"

"Oh, what?"

"I command you to take me home!"

"Oh, uh, right…" He started forward.

The platform shuddered, throwing Princess Ruto to the ground. She cried in annoyance, "Oh! What is…" Then her expression immediately became fearful. "What's happening?" The platform was starting to rise.

Link gasped and then yelled, "Hurry, Princess! Jump!"

She immediately scrambled to her feet but by that time it was already too late. A hole opened in the ceiling and the platform ascended through it, carrying her away. Navi gasped and clasped her hands to her mouth. Link stood with an open mouth, staring up at the platform, which was now a giant pillar studded with sharp spines.

Muffled through the ceiling, they heard her scream. "What is this thing? What's it - NO!" Then she screamed again, higher in pitch and more terrified.

"Ruto!" Link whipped out his sword although he knew it was no good. In desperation, he started to turn and charge out the door when Navi cried, "The platform!"

It was coming back down. Link turned back and watched it anxiously, hoping that the Zora princess would be appearing. However, when it descended from the ceiling, he saw something on it that was definitely not Princess Ruto. And when the platform settled back to its original height, Link saw what it was.

It was an octorok - an enormous, fleshy creature ten times the size of the ones Link had encountered earlier. Stubby tentacles swept the platform as it swiveled in circles and its large protuberant mouth sucked wetly.

Princess Ruto! Link thought in shock as he stared at the monster. Oh no, it must have eaten her!

It turned its enormous, dull yellow eyes toward Link and paused, a line of drool hanging from its O-shaped mouth. Then with a deep-throated squeak it scrabbled off the platform, landing with a heavy thud in front of the boy.

"Run, Link!" his fairy cried.

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