Across Hyrule Field
Link expected the journey through the woods to be long, but it was a surprisingly short time later when he noticed the woods were getting thinner.
"We're nearing the edge of the woods," Navi informed him. "We should come out into Hyrule Field in a short while."
She was right. Before too long, the trees had spread farther out and they were looking out at a vast plain of rolling grass hills. At the far end of the field, Link spied mountains barely visible above the mounds.
"Wow!" Link exclaimed. "Look, Navi! It's so huge!"
"This is Hyrule Field," Navi explained. "Hyrule Castle should be on the other side." She pointed across the vast sea of green. Link squinted until he made out a small gray castle nestled at the base of the mountains.
"That's where we need to go?" Link exclaimed. "That's going to take forever!"
"And we're not going to get there any faster by just standing here," Navi told him. "Let's go."
Link knew that she was right, but the distance was not something he looked forward to crossing. He groaned as he put his foot forward. Just as he set it down, he heard a strange garbling noise.
He froze. "What was that?"
"What was what?" Navi asked, pausing.
Then from above them they heard a voice, "Hoo, hoo, up here!"
Link and Navi both looked up.
From the highest bough of a tree was what appeared to be an enormous bird with ridiculously small eyes. Its head jutted forward on a long neck, inspecting them closely.
"It appears that the time has finally come for you to start your adventure!" it garbled in a soft voice. Then, to Link's amazement, its head rotated until its beady eyes were at the bottom of its face. But as Link looked, he realized they weren't the real ones.
"Whoa," he said. "Navi, look! Look what it is!"
"An owl," his fairy answered curiously.
"Very correct," replied the owl, blinking its large glinting eyes
"How do you turn your head like that?" Link asked as he tried to turn his own head.
"The talents of an owl," it replied, "and being an owl, I am able to turn my head, like so." It twisted its head upside down again so that the beady black eyes were on top. Then it rotated back and the owl's real, large ones observed Link.
"You are rather young," it remarked, cocking its head in puzzlement.
"I'm ten years old," Link replied, "but the Great Deku Tree thinks I'm Hyrule's final hope, so I'm supposed to make a journey to Hyrule Castle."
Navi darted to his ear and whispered, "Enough said, Link. It may not be wise to say too much about what you are doing."
"He may be a spy."
"But he seems nice to me," Link answered and then he turned to the owl before his fairy could stop him, "I'm supposed to talk to the Princess of Destiny and then somehow I'm supposed to save Hyrule."
"Ah, 'somehow,'" the owl repeated, slowly sounding out the word as though it was new to it. "…you doubt your own strength?" It jutted its head forward and peered closely at Link.
Link backed off a bit, suddenly nervous at being so intensely scrutinized. "Uhh… well, first I was supposed to break the curse on the Great Deku Tree, but I was too late to save him. So I don't know if I would be able to do any saving the world… I… just don't know if I can do it."
"I see." The owl withdrew its head. "Of course, the path is not always easy. This will be especially true for you. Fate has given you a most difficult path that few have ever overcome."
"But why?" Link protested. "What did I do to deserve it?"
"We know not the ways of fate, but it usually turns out for the best," the owl answered brightly. "So keep your spirits up! Don't give in to despair no matter how much it tempts you." It flapped its wings emphatically. Then it turned toward the fields and stretched out its wing, "Just across this field is Hyrule Castle, the center of commerce."
"Is there a shortcut over there?" Link asked, "or maybe something I can ride to get over there?"
The owl ruffled its feathers. "Mmm… a shortcut - if it exists, I have yet to find it, and as for riding there…" It twisted its head around the field and then turned back to Link. "I have found that the best and almost foolproof method of getting to your destination is with your feet!"
"But that'll take too long!"
"Yes, walking does take some time, but so does everything else. It's all about how that time is spent!" The owl gave another emphatic flap of its wings. Then it jutted its head forward. "Now, do you remember all that I've told you?"
Link said uncertainly, "Uh, I think so."
"Very good!" The owl pulled its head back in. "I'll be seeing you!" And it flapped its wings, rising into the air. Then it turned and sailed off toward the castle.
"Wait!" Link started to run after the owl.
"It's no use chasing him," Navi told him. "He's already disappearing."
"But that's not fair! He's got wings! He can fly!"
"I'm quite aware of that," Navi said, rolling her eyes. "You'll just have to make do with your feet."
Link reluctantly started off across the field. He complained, "That owl was huge though. I bet he could have carried me clear to the castle in no time!"
"I doubt that," Navi responded.
"I bet he could have," Link argued.
His fairy groaned silently. She had the distinct feeling that in many ways this would be a long trip.
As Navi predicted, the journey was an arduous one. Link complained frequently that he needed to stop. When he did, Navi let him rest. But when he started needing rests more and more frequently, in her irritation she urged him to hurry.
"We need to reach the castle before nightfall," she warned him.
"Why?" Link looked up at her from his sitting position.
"There are dangers about when it's dark," she explained. "Stalchilds, Wolfos, Peahats… they become abundant when the protecting rays of the sun are gone."
To her pleasant delight, this resulted in him speeding his travel and needing less breaks.
Time passed. The sun rose higher into the sky. Link began to pant and flap his hand weakly at himself. Navi noticed his suffering.
"What's wrong, Link?" she asked.
"It's hot," he answered, shielding his face from the sun.
"Perhaps we should see if we can find a place to shelter up there." Navi pointed. Link looked and saw a rather steep incline toward a low-walled area, behind which he could see several buildings. Then he turned to the castle.
"I don't know," he said, shielding his eyes and squinting at the castle. "I think we might make it there. It looks like a shorter distance anyways."
"Very well then," Navi said, smiling slightly. "Let's continue."
Despite Link's optimism, it was getting dark before they got close to it. The sun sank quickly behind the mountains, casting long shadows that stretched far into the field.
"Quickly, Link!" his fairy urged him, "before night falls!"
Link sped up, nearly running in his earnest to reach the safety of the castle walls. He could already see someone out on the drawbridge with a long pole where something flaming dangled off the end. The figure was lighting torches on both sides of the drawbridge.
"Wait!" Link called out to him. "Wait! I need to get in before you close that! Hey!"
The figure didn't seem to have heard him. Finished with the torches, he disappeared back into the gatehouse.
Link was now sprinting as fast as he could. He had to make it. He didn't want to be trapped outside where all the monsters were going to appear. All the Stalfos and Stalchilds and Wolfos and other beasts that Link was not willing to meet.
The archway leading into the castle was getting closer. Link ran desperately to reach it. His heart pounded. His legs were beginning to ache.
I'm going to make it, he encouraged himself, I'm going to make it.
That's when he heard clanking and creaking. He saw to his horror that the drawbridge was coming up!
"No!" he yelled. "Don't pull it up yet! Let me get in first!"
"Faster Link," Navi urged him. "The drawbridge is closing!"
Link couldn't run any faster, not that he didn't try. His legs were simply too sore to be pushed any more. As a matter of fact, he was slowing down. Slower and slower he went as the drawbridge rose higher and higher. It was swallowing up the gatehouse.
He eventually reached the moat. He panted and groaned as the drawbridge clunked into place. His legs were very sore so he collapsed onto the ground.
"We didn't make it," Navi said.
"Now what do we do?" Link asked, rolling onto his back.
His fairy considered the question. Before she could come up with an answer, there was a loud howl that echoed across the field. Several other howls joined in, making it sound like a chorus.
"Wolfos," Navi whispered in fear.
Link got to his still sore feet and pulled out his sword. He licked his lips nervously as he waited for something to appear in the dark.
The chorus of howls continued for a few minutes and then gradually died out. Link waited with his heart pounding, still expecting snarling beasts to appear from the darkness.
Navi flitted close to his ear, shedding light on his scared face. "The Wolfos are in the woods. They're too far away."
Link turned to face her. "So I'm not in danger?"
His fairy didn't answer. Scrabbling noises had just reached her ears. And they sounded very close.
"I don't think you should put your sword away," she answered.
Link had heard the noises too. He whipped his head around, trying to find whatever was making the rough noise.
Then he saw it. The ground was moving in front of him. The dirt was rising and then rolling out. Like trickling fountains, the dirt grew into mounds. Then something white appeared from the ground. Navi drew in a sharp breath as it stretched out and waved. Then it plunged toward the ground with a pound and the dirt rose in an even larger pile.
"Stalchilds," Navi told Link in a high, quiet voice.
Link didn't reply. He only watched in horror as the dirt fell away from the monsters while they pushed themselves to their feet. Then they turned their heads to him, their eyes glowing red.
Link had never seen a Stalchild before though he had heard stories about them. Local legend said that they were lost children who carried lanterns to lure unsuspecting Kokiri into the woods where they would never be seen again. Now Link saw that the legend was false, for what he faced was far more frightening.
They were nothing more than bones but horribly deformed. Their skulls were disproportionately large to their bodies but their eye sockets where points of red glowed were tiny. Their upper jaws sported large tombstone teeth but Link could barely see their lower jaws. They had one arm that was so long that it dragged along the ground, tipping them to the side, while the other arm stretched forward, red claws glistening in Navi's icy blue light. They had a slow shambling gait, but there were many of them that surrounded Link and they were getting closer.
Link backed slowly away from their outstretched fingers and almost fell into the moat. He held up his shield and stuck his sword out in what he hoped was a threatening pose.
But the Stalchilds were unfazed. Their bony fingers swiped at the sword and bounced off with a metallic ring.
"You'll have to fight them, Link," Navi told him. "Swing your sword!"
He had to jerk his sword out of their grasp first. This brought away several pieces of bone that clattered against the stone and then plopped into the moat. Then he started swinging it. Sword met a lot of bones, which limited the arc of his swing.
"Force them back!" Navi commanded him. "Use your shield against them!"
Link did as she commanded, slamming his shield against the Stalchilds. This sent a chain reaction through the crowd that caused them to fall against each other. Bones shattered on impact upon the ground. Many others, however, remained intact for they were cushioned by each other and managed to push themselves back upright. Link swung his sword and shield, trying to force the hideous skeletons away.
"I can't keep doing this!" Link cried as the Stalchilds piled up around him. "I can't!"
"You must, Link!" Navi cried. "You must keep them at bay until the sun rises!"
But the longer Link fought, the more apparent it was that he was losing. His swinging was slowing and getting feebler. He had long, ragged gashes where the Stalchilds managed to swipe their sharp claws on him, and he was being forced closer and closer to the moat's edge.
"Keep going, Link," Navi encouraged him. "We'll be seeing daylight soon."
"I'm too tired," Link panted as he raised his shield just in time to stop a Stalchild's slash. "Just too…"
He suddenly fell face forward onto the ground. His sword and shield clattered to the ground and bounced away from him.
"LINK!" Navi screamed.
The Stalchilds gathered around him, flexing their bony fingers that would soon tear into his body. A strange chittering sound escaped from them, sounding almost like laughter. Their claws lowered over Link's lifeless body.
Suddenly, a flaming arrow pierced the skull of a Stalchild. It began to hop and dance around as it shrieked in agony. The rest of them looked curiously at their burning companion and then they all turned to the castle where the shot had come from.
Another flaming arrow plunged into another Stalchild's eye. It shrieked also and leaped into the moat. Its scream died as its bones disintegrated in the dark water.
The Stalchilds were sent into an uproar. They chattered and ran as arrow after flaming arrow plunged into their ranks until the last of them-visible by the few that were on fire-disappeared over the horizon and then the arrows stopped.
There was silence. Navi flitted to Link's ear, her features etched with terror.
"Link?" she asked tentatively.
He didn't answer. He lay unmoving on the ground. Navi backed away, feeling a hole eating away at her stomach.
"No… Link… please, wake up…"
She was startled by a clanking, creaking sound. She spun and saw the drawbridge lowering. She looked to the sky but saw that it was still dark. The torches burned bright in their sconces but they didn't illuminate the dark interior. It was like a black mirror reflecting the flickering light from the torches.
The drawbridge settled on the ground with a thump. Navi watched anxiously toward the opening.
Someone appeared, walking towards them. He made metallic clanking sounds, which confused Navi at first. Then she saw that it was a man dressed in armor. He wore a plumed helmet with a visor, which was up, revealing the guard's face.
He clanked toward the prone figure of Link where he paused. He grunted in surprise and lowered to his knees to take a closer look.
"So I did hear someone," he mumbled.
Navi flitted higher into the air as she watched the guard roll Link over. He made disturbed sounds as he inspected the cuts and bruises on Link's body.
"Been cut pretty deep on the arms. Those Stalchilds can be pretty nasty…" He shook his head and tutted. "Not safe for anyone to be outside the castle grounds at night. Especially children. What with all the Stalchilds and Stalfos and the other monsters."
He grunted as he lifted Link into his arms. Then he turned and clanked his way toward the gatehouse. Navi was unsure if she should show herself to the guard. But she flew close behind and hoped the guard would know what to do.