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

Inside the Great Deku Tree

Link was in high spirits as they traveled down the path. Navi, however, was anxious. She remembered how sick the Great Deku Tree had seemed and how urgent he had sounded when he had spoken to her, and a sick feeling began to settle in her stomach.

He sounded so weak when I left him. And I've been gone for such a long time. What if, when we got there, he's too weak to tell Link his message? What if he's…

Fearing the worst, Navi flew faster. She almost left Link behind despite him calling for her to wait. Fortunately, the path wasn't long for they were soon in the Great Deku Tree's glen.

"Great Deku Tree," Navi gasped from her haste, "I've brought him."

The Great Deku Tree's eyes were shut, causing Navi's heart to stop. A moment later, she let out a breath she hadn't realized she had been holding when his eyes opened, though they were bloodshot and rolled in rusty jerks. He looked weak and depressed, but when he spotted Navi hovering next to the boy, his drooping mouth turned up into a weak smile.

"Ah… Navi…" he croaked and, as Navi feared, he sounded weaker, "I see thou hast succeeded in this task. Well done." He drew in a deep, rattling breath and then let it out in a slow sigh. Then his eyes fell on Link and his smile widened slightly. "Link… welcome… I trust thy morning was a wonderful surprise for thee?"

"Yes," Link answered, trying to sound as respectful as possible. He was well aware of what an honor it was to speak with the Great Deku Tree and he wanted to leave a good impression on the father of the forest. "I couldn't believe that I had gotten a fairy when I hadn't had one for so long…"

"Yes…" the Great Deku Tree sighed. Then he let out another sigh, this one much heavier than the last. "However, I am afraid the reason that I sent thee a fairy is for a greater purpose than to provide thee with a guide and companion…"

A greater purpose? Link wondered.

"Link…" the Great Deku Tree spoke with a sudden authoritative voice, "there is something I must tell thee… it is an issue of utmost importance…"

Link nodded nervously. "O-okay."

The Great Deku Tree drew another rattling breath and then began, "Of late, an evil influence is pervading the land. In time all people shall fall prey to the poison of dread it carries with it. There are some who already feel it - who have had nightmares as a result of this evil… such as thee, if I am not mistaken…"

Link was surprised. So those nightmares… they were caused by an evil influence? He hadn't thought they were anything to worry about except that they made him terrified to go to sleep.

Then that man in black… he's real? Is he that evil climate that the Great Deku Tree is talking about?

"Link," the Great Deku Tree spoke, interrupting the boy's thoughts, "I must ask thee to lend thy courage at this time"

Link stammered, "My-my courage?"

"Yes, for I have been cursed, and I wish for thee to remove it from me. It is a task that will require great courage and wisdom, and thou art the only one I can call upon for this. Can I ask this of thee? Dost thou have courage enough for this?"

Link felt as though a boulder had fallen upon him. The Great Deku Tree wanted his courage? At the moment, Link felt no courage. He was terrified at having to prove himself so quickly. In earlier days he had dreamed of being a hero… of saving the day… of everyone looking up to him and saying, "He's special. He's the chosen one." But now that it was upon him, the whole idea seemed ridiculous. Him, a hero? The chosen one? He had never beaten a monster in his life! He didn't even know how to use a sword! How was he supposed to find the courage to break a curse?

As though sensing his thoughts, the Great Deku Tree spoke, "Thou hast been given a great task, Link. One that may seem impossible, but thou dost not know until thou hast tried. Thou may think a mistake has been made, but Link… destiny has chosen thee since thy birth… Thou wast born with the responsibility of saving our land and vanquishing the evil that threatens it…"

Link protested, "But how does destiny know? How does it know that I can save the land? How does it know that I have courage or wisdom or… or anything?"

"I know thou hast courage, Link," the Great Deku Tree responded gently, "but I ask the question so that thou may determine the answer for thyself. Dost thou have the courage… to undertake the task of breaking the curse that has been set upon me?"

Link opened his mouth to answer but no words would come out. There was a raging battle going on inside him. Should he answer yes and face whatever horrors that the Great Deku Tree wanted him to face, or should he say no and disappoint the Great Deku Tree who had given him his fairy and also the chance to speak with him?

Do I really have a choice?

Then Navi bobbed in front of him with both hands clasped to her face, which was creased with desperation. "Please Link! Answer yes! Can't you see the Great Deku Tree is suffering? Do you want him to continue suffering? Don't you have any pity… for the guardian of your sacred, wonderful forest? Do you not want to repay him for keeping you safe, keeping you warm, keeping you happy? Are you going to turn your back on the one who has taken pity on you and given you…"

"Enough, Navi," said the Great Deku Tree firmly. "The decision is Link's alone to make."

But Link could not shake the image of Navi's tears from his mind. He had seen them before she turned away and buried her head into her hands. Now guilt wrenched him from the inside. How could he disappoint Navi like this? How could he let the Great Deku Tree down after all he had done for him?

So he mustered all the courage he had inside him-though he felt it was a little short of the amount he really needed-drew himself up to his full height, and answered the Great Deku Tree, "I will try my best to break the curse on you… even if I die in the attempt." His heart pounded painfully as he had said, "die," but when Navi turned to him with her mouth open that became a grateful smile and the Great Deku Tree's smile stretched further across his face, Link felt his courage rise just a little bit more.

"Then enter, brave Link," the Great Deku Tree said solemnly but proudly, "and thou too, Navi…" He turned to her and nodded, "Navi the fairy… thou must lend Link they wisdom. Hold nothing from him." Then he turned to Link. "And Link… when she has advice, thou wouldst do well to heed them."

Then, without another word, he opened his mouth. Link felt as though he was staring into a deep cave and felt his courage plummet into the looming darkness.

"Come Link!" Navi darted toward the entrance. "The Great Deku Tree does not have much time!"

Link sighed. "Well… I guess now's the time… time to face my destiny…"

And hoping against hope that his destiny did not eventually lead him to death, he followed his fairy inside.

...

Link wasn't quite sure what he expected when he entered the Great Deku Tree. But as his eyes adjusted to the dim light provided by Navi, he was surprised to see that it somewhat resembled the inside of his own home. The room wasn't even that large. The only thing about the room was a couple of dry, weedy-looking flowers with huge, ugly purple bulbs dangling from the stalks and a hole in the middle where a web had been weaved over it.

"Wow," Link said. "I imagined the inside of the Great Deku Tree to be a lot bigger."

"Perhaps you haven't considered that the Great Deku Tree isn't a great, big, hollow tube but an intricate network of chambers that functions in much the same way as your body and my body does," Navi reproved.

"Oh," Link said. "So you're saying the Great Deku Tree's inside body is a bunch of rooms?"

Navi hesitated. "Well, if you want to look at it that way… then yes."

"Whoa." Link had just looked up and discovered where the room lacked in width, it made up for in height. It was so high Link thought it had to be touching the sun. But up in the air were two levels of platforms that ran around the walls. Cobwebs hung from the ceiling like tattered curtains, swaying gently.

Navi spun around as she took in the room. Then she murmured, "This is not good."

"Not good?" Link repeated. "Nothing's attacked us yet, so I say we're actually doing swell." He pointed and said to Navi, "Let's check that hole covered by a web over there. It looks like it goes somewhere." And he started forward.

"Wait!" Navi cried. "Look out for the Deku Baba!"

"Huh?" Link skidded to a halt.

He saw what he had at first taken to be very ugly flowers. The purple bulbs rose, turned and then split in half, slime oozing between it. Then they lunged and snapped their jaws!

"Whoa!" Link backed off. The Deku Baba erected themselves and then swayed in place, waiting for him to come closer.

"It's all right, Link, there's no reason to be afraid," Navi told him calmly. "All you need to do is get in close enough to sever their heads from their stalks. It's simple enough. The Deku Baba aren't much of a threat."

"They aren't?" Link asked doubtfully. The ugly plants' huge mouths seemed like a big threat to him. They looked large enough to swallow him whole!

"That's right," Navi answered. "Just dodge them as they lunge and just make a good swipe of your sword and you're done."

"Right." Link nodded, though his heart pounded nervously. He drew his sword and shrugged his shield from his shoulder to his hand and raised it in front of him. "Just… dodge-" He stepped forward.

The three Deku Baba drew back, stretching their mouths open wide, and then lunged forward. Link jumped to the side and the huge mouths struck the dirt where he had been standing.

"-and swipe!" He brought his sword down quickly, severing all three heads at once. They gave a shrill but momentary shriek, and then the stalks became stiff and dark with a dry crackling sound. The huge purple heads of the Deku Baba lay on the ground with their mouths still wide open where slime pooled around them.

"Excellent, Link!" Navi applauded him. "That wasn't so hard, was it?"

Link stared at his defeated foe in a daze. He did it! He defeated his first monster! Wait 'til Mido heard about it! He would be so impressed and jealous!

Navi bobbed in front of his face, snapping him out of it. "The stalks become Deku sticks once you cut off the heads. They're useful to have. You should pick them."

"Why would I need them?" Link asked. But remembering what the Great Deku Tree had told him about listening to Navi, he gathered them up and tucked them into his adventure pouch hanging from his belt.

"Good." Navi nodded. "Now let's get going."

Link stepped up to the hole. He eyed the web stretched over it. He tentatively stretched out a foot and placed it on the web. He was surprised to find it firm, even when he brought both feet in and walked to its center.

Navi bit her lip thoughtfully. "That appears to be a very strong web. But would it resist your sword?"

Link brightened. "Hey, good idea, Navi! I'm going to try it." He pulled out his sword.

Navi reacted in alarm. "Don't you think you ought to…"

She didn't get the chance to finish. With a cry of exertion, Link plunged his sword into the web… and then he tugged. He grunted as he tried to slice it across the webbing but he could not get it to move. Worse still, when he tried to tug it out, it wouldn't come out!

"It's stuck!" Link tugged on it fiercely and then wiggled it. When he did this, the sword came up, which heartened him, and he wiggled it harder until at last it came out with a jerk that sent Link staggering backwards. He looked at where he had stabbed to find the web seemingly unharmed.

Navi bit her lip again as she studied the web. "So it holds your weight and you can't cut it. We have to find some way to get rid of that web."

"Like what?"

Navi growled in irritation, "That's what I'm trying to find out. Now be quiet so I can think." She began drifting back and forth, her head low and an intense frown on her face as she thought. Link watched her for a few moments and then glanced around the room. Something caught his eye and he wandered over to investigate. After studying it for a few moments, he called, "Hey, Navi! Come look at this!"

Navi huffed and then flew to Link. "What is it?"

Link waved his hand over the wall. "Vines. And it goes all the way up to there," he pointed to the platform above.

She followed the vines up the wall with her eyes. "So I see."

Link could tell by the tone of her voice that she didn't think much of it. He continued, "If we climb up there, maybe we'll find something… maybe there's nothing down that hole anyway."

"Perhaps so." Navi nodded though she didn't look convinced. She shrugged. "It can't hurt to investigate."

"Right!" said Link eagerly. He felt proud that he had said something that Navi agreed with. He immediately turned to the wall, gripped the vines firmly in his hands and heaved himself onto the wall. To his pleasant surprise, the vines held-a worry that hadn't occurred to him until that moment. He started to climb, grunting with the effort.

Then a scratching noise startled him. Even worse, Navi gasped and then hissed to Link, "Don't move!"

"What is it?" Link whispered, his throat tight with fear.

"Skullwalltula," Navi whispered back.

"What's that?" Link carefully turned his head. When he saw what it was, his skin prickled with goosebumps.

He was staring face to face with what looked like a grimacing skull. Then he noticed black and yellow striped spider legs extending from it and gripping the wall. Its two forelegs were moving, scraping against the bark and sending a shower of sawdust to the ground. It looked as though it was digging for something. Link imagined those sharp legs arcing for his face and a cold shiver traveled down his spine.

"Be careful not to touch it," Navi warned him tensely.

Link hissed back, "You think I'd be that stupid?" He eyed the Skullwalltula fearfully. "Can you get rid of it for me?"

Navi hesitated. "I'll see what I can do." She darted toward the Skullwalltula and shooed it with a big wave of her hands. It responded with a hiss as it raised its body to make itself appear larger, and the skull's eyes flashed red. Navi leaped back with a yelp but then moved forward again and made big shooing motions.

"Go away!" she yelled.

The Skullwalltula hissed back and swiped at her with its foreleg. Link got the feeling that it would attack soon and, with his heart thudding in his chest, he began to climb.

"Not too quickly," Navi warned him, still waving her arms at the spider. "Sudden movement will send it into a frenzy."

But Link couldn't help it. His arms had become stiff and automatic, springing up to grasp the next vine just as soon as the other had gripped. He felt like he was in a nightmare, being chased by some shadowy threat that always stayed behind him. He was climbing for his life, and he barely noticed that the platform above him was getting closer. When he finally pulled himself onto the platform, his arms were still springing forward for the next grip and he was dragging himself across the wood.

"Stop, Link!" came Navi's voice. "Stop! Stop! You're going to drag yourself over the edge!"

Link obediently stopped, and he listened to his heart pounding through the wood. His limbs were shaking. He whimpered, "Is it gone?"

"It's gone," his fairy affirmed. "Get up, Link. We need to keep moving."

But Link still couldn't move. His limbs were locked in place and shaking. His breath came out in shudders. Navi tried to patiently coax him to move but it was a long while before Link could get to his feet. He shook himself and then said to Navi, "That was the biggest, scariest-looking spider I had ever seen."

"I sense that is the least of the horrors we will face," Navi told him curtly. "How can you expect to help the Great Deku Tree if you balk at the smallest threat?"

Navi's rebuke shook Link. He felt shame for letting Navi down. But mostly he felt fear. Being a hero had sounded like an exciting idea, but if these were the kind of monsters he would be facing, Link wasn't sure that he wanted to be a hero anymore.

What if I just quit?

He felt a thrill at the idea. What if he just quit? What if he just didn't do it? Walked away?

Navi seemed to sense his thoughts for she turned to him with a concerned look. "Link?"

Link wasn't listening. He was feeling bold. He could do it. He could just walk out right now. After all, what could the Great Deku Tree do to him? What could Navi do to him? He didn't have to do this! He didn't have to risk his life for them! All he had to do was turn right around and walk out of the Great Deku Tree and go right back to his house. Probably he would disappoint the Great Deku Tree. He might even take Navi away. Then the others wouldn't like him and make fun of him again and he'd be without friends again. But it didn't matter. Link had lived his entire life without a fairy. He had lived his entire life without friends. Why should he have to risk his life just to get a fairy? Nobody else had to! What had anybody ever done for him? It didn't matter if nobody liked him. Nobody had ever liked him anyways. And besides, he had Saria…

This gave him pause. Saria. Saria was waiting for him. He remembered he had promised to tell her what the Great Deku Tree said when he got back. How could he go back to her if he walked away now? How could he tell her that the Great Deku Tree had asked for his help and he refused? He could see the look of disappointment on her face… and he felt his heart tearing at the sight.

No. He couldn't do it. Saria was waiting for him. When he told her what the Great Deku Tree had asked, she would expect him to have done everything he could to help the Great Deku Tree. Link knew that he could lie to her, but he didn't want to. She had been so kind to him, done everything for him, and he had no intention of repaying her with something so vile as a lie.

"Link?"

Link drew his sword and lifted his shield. With these in hand, he actually felt courage trickling back into him. He drew in a deep breath and then said in a resolved tone, "I'm ready. Let's go."

Navi wasn't sure how to react to this. She decided to simply nod and answer, "Very well then." Then they started forward.

Up here they could see dark tunnels in the walls. They peered briefly into each one, Navi brightening herself so that they could see better, but found nothing that seemed important. Of course, it may have been hidden deeper than where they looked, which is what was gnawing at Navi and increasing her worry the more tunnels they checked.

We're wasting time! She thought, clenching her fists in frustration. At this rate, we'll never cure…

A sound startled them from inside a tunnel they were checking. It was a dry rustling sound like something slithering through a pile of dead leaves. Link tightened his grip on his sword and lifted his shield a little higher. Navi drifted forward to cast her light further inside.

At first, it appeared as though nothing was there. Nothing but a large pink flower that lay flat against the ground. But then it shivered with a rustling sound-the same rustling sound they had heard before.

Navi gasped, "What?"

Link glanced up at her. "What is it?"

Before she could answer, they were both startled by what appeared to be the flower exploding into a flurry of red, brown, and yellow leaves. Then, amidst the falling leaves, something turned and glared at them with glowing orange eyes.

"What is that?" Link cried, keeping his shield up high. The creature spit something from a round mouth that protruded like a snout and Link was startled when it hit his shield with a solid crack.

"Deku Scrub," Navi answered. Her tone surprised Link. He had expected her voice to be filled with fear or forced calm, not anger. Yet when he looked up at her, she did appear to be angry with her mouth pressed in a thin line, her eyes narrowed and her fists clenched.

Another crack startled him. He peered over his shield and was surprised to see dents in the wood.

"That Deku Scrub sure seems dangerous," he commented just as another crack sounded on his shield.

"No. It's cowardly. It will hide in the grass if you get close to it." There was much contempt in her voice this time.

"Then how do I get it?" Link asked, flinching again when his shield received another crack.

"Bounce the nuts it spits back at it."

Link blinked. "The nuts?" And that's when he noticed the reddish brown shells scattered about him.

So that's what's been hitting my shield! He thought in astonishment. I thought it was deadly acid! There was another crack on his shield and this time he saw the nut explode into fragments and hit the floor. Relieved that he wasn't going to melt into a puddle, Link turned his attention to the Deku Scrub with a determined glint in his eyes. He watched its mouth closely and when it puckered for another shot, he tensed for action. Immediately after it spat, he drew back his shield and then swung it forward like an awkward bat.

To his surprise, it worked. He saw a reddish brown blur zoom back to the Deku Scrub where it hit it just below the eyes. The Scrub leaped out of its flower with a squeal of pain and tumbled onto its back. Two wooden feet waved madly in the air.

Link stared. He had never seen anything quite like it. It seemed the Deku Scrub was actually made up entirely out of leaves! Saria won't believe me when I tell her, he thought.

Navi snapped him out of his thoughts, "Go Link! What are you waiting for?"

"Huh? Oh!" Link ran forward, thrust his sword into the air and yelled out a battle cry. The Deku Scrub squeaked and rolled to the side where it hit into the wall and bounced to its feet. After staggering dizzily, it hopped in fright and scurried to the back of the tunnel with Link close behind. When it discovered there was nowhere else to run, it turned back to Link, trembling.

Link noticed the fear in its orange eyes and he slowed. His sword dropped and he stared curiously at the creature. Then Navi snapped behind him, "Do not hesitate, Link! Destroy the thing!"

Link obediently brought his sword up. The Deku Scrub squeaked in panic.

"Wait! Please! Forgive me, master!"

Link staggered backwards in shock, dropping his arm. "You talk!"

"Please don't hurt me!" the Deku Scrub pleaded. "If I give you something nice, will you let me go?"

"We will not be showing any mercy to you!" Navi snarled. "You have no right to be here!"

"But I've got something really cool that you'll like! Look!" The Deku Scrub tossed something from within the folds of its leaves. It landed next to Link's feet. With a cry, he snatched it up.

Link recognized it. It was a slingshot carefully crafted from the springiest wood, darkened at the grip after many uses. But more importantly, the name LINK was carved in the handle.

"I thought I'd lost this! Where did you get this?" Link turned to the Scrub and waved his slingshot accusingly at it.

"I just found it lying on the ground, I swear!"

"A likely story," snarled Navi. "No doubt he stole it, the thief!"

The Deku Scrub started to sob. "No, no, I found it! I didn't know it was yours, I swear! Please don't hurt me!"

Link felt sorry for the strange, little creature. Navi, on the other hand, showed no remorse. She said coldly, "Go on, Link. Show the little coward what happens when he takes advantage of the weak and defenseless. Punish him for what he's doing to the Great Deku Tree."

Before Link could respond, the Deku Scrub squealed, "But it's not me! I'm not the one making the Deku Tree sick!"

"You miserable little miscreant!" Navi snapped. "How dare you! How dare you excuse your heinous acts?"

Link asked the Scrub, "Who is?"

Navi snapped at Link, "What are you doing? We're not going to listen to that despicable creature!"

Link ignored her. He focused on the Deku Scrub, which hiccupped and suddenly trembled. "I-I can't tell you. She-she'll gobble me up if I tell!"

"Who will?" Link responded.

"Queen Gohma."

Navi gasped. Link turned to her, his eyes creased with worry. "Do you know her?"

Navi shook her head though it didn't seem that she had heard Link for she murmured, "The Great Deku Tree is plagued by that parasite? We must find her!" She turned to the Deku Scrub, zipped to its face and spat, "Where is she?"

"I-I don't know." The Scrub was getting increasingly agitated, turning its head and shuffling back and forth as though it was trying to find a way to escape. Suddenly it froze and its eyes grew larger. Then it began hopping excitedly and squealed, "Up there! Up there! Queen Gohma is up there!"

Link turned to where it was looking, which was at the platform above. Very little could be seen past the cobweb curtains as they swayed gently. Just about anything could be lurking up there.

"You are certain she's up there?" Navi asked, her tone hard.

The Deku Scrub hopped up and down excitedly. "Definitely! Most definitely! Queen Gohma is definitely up there!"

"If we go up there and find out that you've tricked us…" Navi threatened.

The Deku Scrub shook its head, which also happened to be its body, earnestly. "Oh, no! No tricks! She's definitely up there!"

Navi glared at it suspiciously for a moment before she said, "Very well then. But you had better be gone from the Great Deku Tree when we come back, or else…"

The Scrub danced on its feet. "Oh, yes. I will be gone when you come back. You are so very kind and generous!"

Navi shot it a cold glare before she drifted to Link. "Come on then. We'll see if 'Queen Gohma' is up there."

Link followed his fairy to the vines. As he started to climb them, he asked her, "So do you know anything about Queen Gohma?"

For a while, Navi didn't answer. Link wondered if she had heard him and was about to ask again when she finally said, "There are few creatures that have been given that name or some variation of it. But from what I understand, it is a parasitic creature that leeches the life from its victim until dead before moving on to another victim."

The gruesome image caused Link to shudder and he hesitated, looking up into the cobwebs, imagining Queen Gohma waiting to pounce on him and suck all the life from him. He shuddered again.

Navi noticed and she said hastily, "But I don't think she's that much of a threat. It's likely she'll be too busy leeching life from the Great Deku Tree to see you coming until it's too late."

"Besides," she added, her voice returning to her usual commanding tone, "there is no time for you to hesitate. You must remain strong for the Great Deku Tree and rid him of his curse. You must destroy Queen Gohma before it's too late!"

Link stared up into the folds of the cobweb curtains again. Seeing them sway, he couldn't help but feel that there was something ominous up there waiting for him. Something like Queen Gohma…

Link shook his head. He had to drive these thoughts from his head. He had already made up his mind that he wasn't going to go back to Saria without helping the Great Deku Tree. Resolutely he began to climb.

"Wait!"

Link froze. Before he even asked, he heard the scratching sound. It was just above him.

"We can't go past it," Navi murmured, sounding frustrated.

"Maybe there's a different way up," Link suggested, his voice deceptively calm.

Navi sighed heavily. "I fear we may just find more Skullwalltulas." She gritted her teeth. "If only there was a way to get rid of them."

Link imagined shooting them off the wall. And that's when he remembered.

"My slingshot!"

Navi turned to him.

Link began climbing back down. "I just remembered I have a slingshot! I can shoot the Skullwalltulas down so I can climb up safely!"

For a moment, Navi stared. Then she clapped her hands together excitedly. "What great fortune! And an excellent idea! Why hadn't we thought of this sooner?"

Link hopped down. He nearly landed on the Deku Scrub who was watching him with a very nervous look on its face. "Aren't you going to go defeat Queen Gohma up there?"

"I'm going to shoot the Skullwalltulas first," Link answered just as Navi snapped, "Didn't we warn you to be gone before we got back?" The Deku Scrub didn't seem to have heard Navi, but it hopped excitedly and squeaked to Link, "Oh, then you'll probably be needing this!" and it tossed out a small pouch that clacked to the ground.

Link picked it up, his expression a little bemused. He peered inside and found they were full of bronze-colored Deku seeds-a favorite ammunition of the Kokiri. "Oh yeah. Good call."

Link was well practiced with a slingshot. With no friends, besides Saria, to play games with, he had spent many hours shooting targets-sometimes imagining them to be someone who had tortured him that day, which was often Mido. He confidently pulled out a seed and fitted it into the sling. Then he drew it back and aimed for the Skullwalltula, which was scratching busily at the wall, unaware of its impending doom. He let it go.

The hiss of pain was momentary and not quite loud enough to muffle the squelch. It was a little longer for the Skullwalltula to grow stiff until it could no longer cling to the wall. Then it dropped to the ground with an unexpectedly loud thunk. It lay unmoving, its legs curled into its body.

Link crept up to it and cautiously lowered his face for a closer inspection. Then he let out a whoop. "All right! It worked! Now I don't have to worry about them getting me while I'm climbing the wall!"

"We'd better search the rest of the wall in case there's more," Navi suggested.

There were two more inching through the vines but Link swiftly took them out and they joined the first at Link's feet. Feeling bold, Link kicked their bodies off the edge of the walkway and he felt a surge of satisfaction when he heard them plunk to the ground below.

"Creepy little things!" he snarled triumphantly. "Serves you right! No more trouble from you!"

The Deku Scrub danced excitedly. "You sure showed them! Now climb up there and show Queenie who's boss!"

"Ha! I'll show her! Is that all she's got?" Link turned to the wall and began climbing with what could only be described as swagger.

Navi was unnerved by this show and she darted next to him. "Do not throw away your caution, Link. There may be greater dangers waiting for us."

"Like what?" scoffed Link. He was already nearing the next level of walkway. "With my slingshot, that Queen Gohma doesn't stand a chance!" He ripped aside a curtain of cobweb, heaved himself onto the walkway, and then climbed to his feet.

The air was different up here. It was… heavier. Cobwebs were everywhere, making it difficult to see, and they seemed to be absorbing Navi's light, making the place look darker.

Navi gave a dry swallow. "I don't like this."

"She's got to be in here somewhere," said Link loudly. He yanked his sword out and swiped at the curtains but then his sword became tangled in the netting. With a grunt of exasperation, Link tugged his sword, trying to pull it out of the webbing. He was thrashing it with such furor that the cobwebs around him shook as well. Navi, who had a sudden feeling of dread, whipped her head around until she spotted it. She screamed, "Look out, Link!"

"What?" Link gave one last tug, ripping his sword free, and stumbled backwards just as something enormous crashed to the boards directly in front of him, causing him to scream.

A giant spider, even bigger than the Skullwalltula, stood in front of him! It was almost twice as big as Link and twice as ugly as its smaller counterpart. It angled its body so that Link could see the huge skull grinning at him. The eyes of the skull throbbed an angry red, and it rubbed its legs together, creating a rasping noise that drained the strength from Link's legs.

"Navi," he cried, "what do I do?"

"You kill it," Navi answered, sounding just as frightened as Link. "And quickly!"

Link screamed as the spider suddenly charged at him, its forelegs raised. He dodged out of the way, almost sliding off the edge. He just managed to push himself back to his feet when the Skulltula wheeled on him, hissing angrily, the red eyes of the skull pulsing faster. It charged at him again, and Link brought his sword down on it with all his might but it only thunked on its hard back and the Skulltula tackled him to the ground.

In blind panic, Link scrambled to tuck his legs in and under the Skulltula's belly. Then with all his might he pushed with his legs, forcing the heavy spider off of him. It hissed and spun around to face him as Link rolled to his feet. He swung his sword, only to have it stopped by the monster's jaws. It wrenched him sideways, throwing him into the wall. Flushed with adrenaline, Link barely noticed the pain as he swung his sword at the Skulltula, stopping it in its tracks and allowing him to scramble back to his feet.

"How do I kill this thing?" Link yelled, backing away as the spider started toward him.

"Its soft belly! Aim for the underside!"

"How?" He swung his sword wildly but the Skulltula kept coming, forcing Link backwards.

"Flip it onto its back or wait for it to show it to you or… I don't know!" Navi darted helplessly above him, thinking desperately of a way to help.

As Link was backing, his foot tangled in a wad of cobweb, causing him to trip and fall onto his back. He swung his sword in an attempt to keep the giant spider at bay while he tugged on his foot. The Skulltula did slow but continued to approach, its hissing growing louder with each step and the sharp tips of its forelegs waving. It seemed to know that Link was trapped and wanted to take its time in tearing him apart.

"Get back!" Link yelled, swinging his sword while he yanked desperately on his foot to get it free. "Go away! Shoo! Go!" But neither swinging his sword at it nor yelling at it was scaring it away, and it crept closer and closer, with its sharp forelegs slicing the air.

Navi darted back and forth as she fretted over the situation. The Kokiri couldn't die now! Not when the Great Deku Tree was depending on him! And the Great Deku Tree was depending on her to keep the Kokiri safe! He had entrusted her with the care of this boy, but if she didn't think of something soon, he would be dead… both of them! But what could she do?

The giant Skulltula crawled on top of Link. It raised both forelegs where sharp claws glinted and then brought them down!

"No!" Acting on instinct, Navi dove in front of the Skulltula's claws and raised her hands. Her body gave a burst of light.

To her surprise, this seemed to work. The Skulltula twisted to shield itself from her light, its claws slicing past Link's face. They cut through the webbing, which freed Link's foot. He immediately jumped to his feet. Then, shielding his eyes, he watched in amazement as his fairy slowly forced the Skulltula backwards.

"Wow, Navi," he said, "I think it's afraid of your light."

"Most vile creatures prefer the dark," Navi agreed. Link grinned. His grin quickly disappeared when he saw the Skulltula crouch. It was going to jump!

"Navi, look out!"

Navi dodged upwards just before the Skulltula leaped into the air. It flailed its legs in an attempt to snatch her but she was too quick. When it landed, it raised itself on its hind legs and stretched for Navi, who flew out of reach.

"Now Link!" she called. "Now, while its weak spot is exposed!"

Link raised his sword above his head and rushed at the monster with a yell. He brought it down just as the Skulltula dropped to the ground and his sword screeched off its hard back. The Skulltula lunged and snatched Link around the waist with its jaws. He yelled in pain.

"Link!"

Link raised his sword again and jabbed at the hard shell of the skull, trying desperately to force it to free him or, better, force the blade into its body. The Skulltula squeezed its jaws together, trying to crush Link. It was thanks to his shield that he held in his right hand that he was still alive, but it was slowly cracking under the strain.

The Skulltula started to drag him backwards. Link dug in his heels and in desperation swung his sword for its legs instead. Although his sword didn't go through, he was surprised that it did at least cut a notch. The Skulltula dropped him and hissed angrily, hunching close to the ground as it backed away.

Navi zipped toward Link. "Are you all right?" she asked, relieved that he had been released.

Link could feel the left side of his stomach soaked in something sticky. He looked down and noticed his tunic had a large dark stain. It didn't hurt very badly though. "Yeah, I think I'm okay."

"Quickly then," Navi cried. "Destroy that Skulltula before it gets away!"

Link stumbled forward with his sword pointed in front of him. The Skulltula shuffled backwards at a faster pace. It backed into the curtain of web then wheeled around and began climbing up. Link pumped his legs faster and raised his sword in the air. Though he knew it was pointless, he thrust his sword at the retreating monster. As he expected, his sword simply screeched across its hard shell and plunged into the curtain. Link didn't dare waste time trying to get his sword out with the Skulltula next to him, so he simply let it go and retreated backwards.

"There's got to be a way to destroy it!" Navi cried out in frustration. She glared at it as it retreated up the curtain, its demonic red eyes flashing as though taunting her. Then Navi was struck by a thought.

I wonder… Then she yelled to Link, "Go for its eyes! The eyes that are glowing!"

Link's sword was stuck in the cobweb curtain, so he reached for the only other weapon he had: his trusty slingshot. He snatched it from his pocket while he reached into his ammunition pouch with his other hand. In one smooth motion, he dropped the seed into the sling, drew it back as he aimed for the burning eyes of the skull, and then released.

He heard a satisfying squelch and then the angry hiss of the wounded Skulltula. Link yelled in alarm when it dropped from the curtain and he dodged out of the way just before it crashed into the boards. It flailed its long, spindly legs in the air but it wasn't able to get back to its feet for it was firmly wedged into the hole it had created in the walkway.

"Now's our chance!" Navi cried. "Grab your sword and stab it into its belly!"

Eyeing the waving legs of the Skulltula warily, Link edged around the monster to his sword. He started working the sword out of the web while looking backwards every so often to make sure the Skulltula hadn't escaped and wasn't coming after him. But it was still flailing helplessly when he finally pulled his sword out. Still, he approached it cautiously.

Navi huffed impatiently. "Now's not the time to hesitate. Take your sword and kill the Skulltula!"

Link set his face in a determined grimace. He took the Kokiri sword in both hands, lifted it into the air, and then, with a cry, plunged it into the Skulltula's pale, fleshy belly. The Skulltula let out a shrill hiss as its legs stuck out rigidly like poles, and then the legs fell to the ground and the spider's hiss faded into silence.

Link held still for a few moments, his sword still sunk into the Skulltula's belly. Then he let out a breath he hadn't known he'd been holding. He pulled the blade from the spider's flesh and shakily attempted to fit it into its scabbard, missing a few times until he finally managed to slide it in. Navi floated down to him.

"Are you all right? I'll admit I was worried-I thought it would crush you! But you did it! You were very brave! You defeated that monster! You should be proud!"

Link's breaths came out ragged and he felt cold all over. He had come up here expecting to slay Queen Gohma and instead he had fought for his life against a giant spider.

A fresh wave of fear swept over him. Could there be more monsters like these waiting for him? And if he somehow managed to get past all of them, could Queen Gohma be the worst monster of them all?

Navi broke through his thoughts. "Link? Are you all right?"

Link found himself staring at the dead Skulltula and he shuddered. I was almost killed… that monster almost had me…

"Link?"

Link shook his head. Then he took a deep breath and, trying to sound braver than he felt, replied, "Let's go."

They proceeded… with caution. Link glanced up repeatedly, watching for more Skulltulas that might drop on him. He paused at every curtain that impeded him and drew it tentatively aside, examining the area thoroughly before stepping through. At every dark alcove they encountered, Link let his fairy go ahead of him and light the way while he checked for the slightest sign of danger.

A rustling noise caused him to react in alarm. He whipped out his sword and hunched behind his shield while Navi froze. Then a flurry of leaves erupted beneath her, startling her but only for a moment.

"A Deku Scrub!" she snarled.

Link looked over his shield just as something thunked on his shield to find that it was indeed a Deku Scrub. He felt an unexpected surge of anger. He had come up here, risking his life, to find Queen Gohma and instead he found another cowardly talking bush! The Deku Scrub thought it could mess with Link! Well, he'd show that pile of dead leaves!

He waspishly thrust his shield to bat the nut back at the Deku Scrub where it struck it in the right eye. It squealed in pain and launched from the flower like a slingshot, crashing into the webbing and then toppling upside down to reveal that its foot was tangled. It swung from the curtain, wriggling like a fish on a hook. It stopped wriggling when it heard Link running up to it and then it froze when he thrust his sword to a point between its eyes.

"All right," Link growled. "No funny business. Where's Queen Gohma?"

"P-p-please forgive me, master," the creature wheezed, trembling, "I'll never do it again!"

"Where's Queen Gohma?!" Navi snapped, appearing suddenly in its face.

"A-at the bottom of this tree," it answered. "Close to the roots."

"But your friend told us she was up here." Navi glared at the Scrub.

"He lied," it responded. "Nothing's up here but Skulltulas and me."

For some strange reason, Link believed the Deku Scrub. It had a wheezy voice that nonetheless was calm and guileless.

"Why would he lie?" Navi asked.

The Deku Scrub shook its head and squeaked out a sigh. "He's trying to protect Queen Gohma. But he's only doing it because the others think we should. He doesn't really know what we're getting into."

Navi's face became dangerously red. "There are others?" she asked with barely controlled fury.

The Scrub nodded. "Three others-besides my brother, whom you've met down there. They're the ones who decided we should move in here. Thought it would be much safer in here than out there where there's Wolfos and Stalfos and such. In exchange for allowing us in here, Queen Gohma demanded we protect her and serve her. I didn't think it was a good idea, but my brother wanted to go along with it and I couldn't desert him." It sighed. "So I tagged along to make sure he didn't get into too much trouble."

Link's sword lowered. His no-nonsense façade fell away and was replaced by sympathy. To have someone that was willing to look out for you like that… it touched Link.

Even Navi wasn't as harsh when she spoke, "We're going to find Queen Gohma and destroy her. You and your brothers had better be gone from the Great Deku Tree by the time we've returned."

"If you destroy Queen Gohma," the Scrub replied, "they'll realize how powerful you are and do whatever you want so that you'll spare them-including leaving the tree. But you'll have to get past them first before you can get to her."

"That shouldn't be too hard," said Link cheerfully.

"There is one problem though," interrupted the Deku Scrub. "The way to get to her is blocked by a web. You'll have to find a way to get past it."

Link frowned. "Wait a minute. You mean the one just down there? He pointed through the boards. "The hole that's right there when you walk in?"

The Deku Scrub nodded. "That's the one."

Link shrugged. "We tried cutting it with my sword but the web is too tough."

"But the Skulltula must have some way of cutting it," Navi interjected. Link turned to her in surprise. He thought maybe he was imagining it, but Navi had sounded excited for a moment there. And it was rubbing off onto him. "You think maybe we can find something from the Skulltula that can help us get past the web?"

"It seems as logical a place to start as any," she replied.

Link rubbed the back of his neck. "I just hope we don't run into another Skulltula on the way back."

"We'll watch carefully for shadows of monsters that hang on the ceiling," Navi assured him.

They started back. Then the Deku Scrub stopped them. "Master, before you leave, if I am worthy of your mercy…"

Link turned around.

The Deku Scrub wriggled once and then fixed Link with a despondent stare. "…will you get me down?"

Link glanced at Navi who returned his hesitant look. Link shrugged and said, "He did give us some useful tips."

Navi didn't reply but glanced at the Scrub dangling helplessly by its foot. After a very pregnant silence, she said slowly, "Very well then… but on the condition that he and his brothers leave the Great Deku Tree immediately."

"If you defeat Queen Gohma, I have no doubt I can convince them to leave," the Scrub said, nodding its head eagerly.

So Link hurried over to help it down. It was an awkward few moments while he groped the Scrub for something to grab on to. He finally just dug his fingers under its many layers of leaves while the Deku Scrub squirmed and giggled, "Ooh, master! That tickles!" Then he pulled while the Scrub wriggled its foot from the webbing until at last they tumbled to the walkway, the Deku Scrub squeaking as it rolled over Link and toward the edge.

Alarmed for the Scrub's safety, Link rolled to his stomach and pushed himself to his knees. He relaxed when he saw the Deku Scrub had stopped just short of the edge and it was reeling from dizziness.

"Are you all right?" Link asked.

The Deku Scrub got to its feet and then bounced as it turned to face Link. "Oh, thank you, master! I will never forget your kindness!"

"You better not forget your promise," Navi told it severely. Then she turned to Link. "Now, let's see about that Skulltula."

They made their way back, pushing through the web curtains almost carelessly before Navi warned about other monsters that might be hiding. Fortunately, they didn't encounter any monsters. Then they found the Skulltula.

"Yeck!" Link gasped.

"Oh." Navi's eyes grew wide.

The Skulltula was no longer visible under the swarm of bugs that was tearing it to pieces. Two lines stretched between the Skulltula husk and an alcove, one traveling to the carapace and the other vanishing into the dark opening, each bug carrying a piece of flesh.

Link eyed them warily. "Are they dangerous?"

"Not as far as I remember," his fairy answered. "They're scavengers although I don't recall learning that they were vicious about it." She looked ill.

Link took out his sword and poked it into the swarm. Immediately, they began traveling up the sword. Link withdrew his sword hastily and shook them off. Immediately when they landed on the ground, they scurried back to the Skulltula carapace. Even those that had landed on their backs immediately flipped onto their legs and hurried to join the swarm.

After checking that his sword was free of bugs, Link sheathed it and then shrugged at Navi. "Well, now what do we do?"

His fairy thought for a few moments. "Perhaps we could find another Skulltula."

Link shuddered and shook his head. "Any other ideas?"

Navi bit her lip while she thought. While Link waited for her, he looked around. He stared at the teeming mass of bugs and then turned his attention to the cobwebs. A curious thought entered his head and, since he had nothing better to do, he thought he'd try it. So he took the cobweb curtain and pulled it over the swarm.

They climbed the curtain. Link followed them up and as he did he noticed something interesting. The bugs were traveling in a wave. And below them…

"Navi! Navi, look at this!"

Navi turned to where her Kokiri was pointing. Slowly her eyes widened.

Link laughed. "They're eating the web!"

"No," Navi said in wonder, "they're taking it apart and reusing it. See how they're weaving it into rope?"

Link snapped his fingers. "We can use them to get past that web down there!" He was so excited about the idea, he forgot about being squeamish as he stuck his sword in the mass and swept it toward the edge. He was careful not to step on the bugs left behind as he moved forward to sweep the body off the edge, but they were already swarming toward the body anyways so that wasn't too much of a worry. He plunged his sword in again and swept it through the curtains and off the edge.

After pulling aside the curtain, Link and his fairy watched in fascination as the half-eaten, bug-covered Skulltula tumbled through the air. Bugs flew off in a shower that clacked against the walls and the floors below. When the Skulltula hit the ground, it broke into pieces that slid outward, including a leg toward the web-covered hole. Link was disappointed that it didn't reach the hole though.

Navi nodded. "It appears all that is needed now is to climb back down and introduce those scavengers to the web."

"Climb?" Link repeated with a grin appearing on his face. "I was thinking of a quicker way."

Navi spun to him with a perplexed expression on her face. "What do you mean?"

Dropping the curtain, Link backed away and then leaned forward as though preparing himself. Navi watched him with dawning horror.

"You're not really that foolish, are you?"

Link didn't answer her; just narrowed his eyes in concentration with the same smile stretched across his features.

"Link!" Navi cried in dismay, "this is not an example of courage! This is foolishness! This is an absolutely unnecessary risk! This could kill you!"

Link ran. He reached out, grabbed the curtain and swung outward. Then he dropped.

Navi screamed in horror and covered her eyes.

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