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

Hyrule Castle Town

When Link awoke, he was surprised to find himself in a bed. He was further surprised when he saw bandages on his arms. He leaned over the bed and saw his sword against the bedpost and his shield lying next to it. He drew in his breath when he saw the deep gouges made in the wood.

"I'm going to need a new shield," he muttered. Then he looked up. "Where am I?"

"Well," said a voice, startling him, "You're awake. I was beginning to think you were dead after all." A man stood up from a small table and walked to the stove on the far end of the room. He spooned something from a frying pan onto a plate and carried it over to Link.

"I'm sure you're hungry after fighting off all those Stalchilds," the man said, placing the plate in front of him.

Link found that he was hungry. He ate the breakfast, which turned out to be scrambled eggs mixed with mushrooms, onions, and some spices he was unfamiliar with. It was very good. When he finished, the man took his plate away to a sink.

"Thank you for the food," Link told him.

"You're welcome," the man answered. "Not often do I get a visitor who gets to taste my cooking. The name's Aben, by the way."

"Link," Link responded. "Pleased to meet you, Aben. Thanks for rescuing me."

"Link, huh?" Aben repeated. "Don't think I've heard that name before. But I think I like it. If I ever get a kid, that's what I'll name him. Link." He began humming to himself as he washed Link's dish.

Link looked curiously around the tiny room he was in. It seemed to be the man's entire dwelling, with the bed he was sitting on against the wall, a table in the center, a stove against the opposite wall, and a sink next to it in the corner. On the wall to his right hung a row of swords, axes, bows, and arrows. A single lamp hung from a hook in the ceiling.

"Where am I?" Link asked.

"I'm guessing you mean my home since I'm sure you already know you're in Hyrule Castle Town."

"I am?" Link took another look around the room. "How'd I get here?"

"I carried you in. I heard you fighting off all those Stalchilds while I was at my night post, so I got my bow and chased them off."

"Oh… thanks."

"Not at all," said Aben. Then, as he poured water into the sink from a bucket, he asked, "So what were you doing out there so late at night?"

"I was coming to Hyrule Castle. The Great Deku Tree told me and Navi to come here," Link answered. Then he gasped and looked around. "Where's Navi?"

"Who's that?" asked Aben.

"My fairy. The Great Deku Tree made her my partner when he sent us here. I'm supposed to talk to a princess here."

Aben shook his head. "Whoa, whoa, slow down there. First of all, who's the Great Deku Tree?"

"He's our guardian… or was our guardian." Link hung his head in shame. "He asked me to break a curse on him, but I failed."

"I see," the man said quietly. Link hadn't really explained all that much - Aben still didn't know who the Great Deku Tree was or who he was a guardian of - but he could see that the topic was painful for the kid so he remained silent. He turned back to his dishwashing.

Then he cleared his throat and said, "You say you want to see the princess?"

Link nodded. "The Great Deku Tree told me to find her. He said that's who I'm supposed to find so that I can save the world."

"Save the world, huh?" Aben smiled slightly. "And what exactly are you supposed to be saving the world from?"

Link shuddered as he recalled the dark nightmares he had had. "A man in black armor."

Aben looked up in surprise. Then he turned back to his dishes, washing them more slowly.

"I think I know who you're looking for."

Link looked up at him.

Aben shook his head. "There's a man dressed in black armor. I saw him just yesterday. He had a party of… well, they weren't men… Moblins, I think they're called. He had these with him when he went up to the castle. I thought I had a bad feeling about him. He claimed he was offering his allegiance to our king, so the king ordered me to let him pass. If that's who you're up against…"

He hesitated. Link waited expectantly.

After fumbling with his words a few times, he finally said, "Just be careful, kid."

Aben changed Link's bandages. He offered to find Link some clean clothes, but Link was in a hurry. He thanked Aben as he left his house. Just as he shut the door, a small ball of pale blue light zipped down to him.

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

"There you are, Navi!" Link exclaimed with relief. "I was just talking with that guard in there." He lowered his voice to a whisper, "He said that the man from my nightmares is here in the castle though."

"Then we must be cautious," said Navi. "And we must reach the princess."

Link nodded. He turned and headed in the direction of the castle. As he approached, he could hear people. When he ran out into the main square, he stopped and looked around in wonder.

"Whoa," he breathed.

He had never been in a place with so many people. They were everywhere! And how noisy they were! At different stands, large crowds argued loudly with each other. Then there were others just wandering around the square. One ran past him with a bag over his shoulder. Link dodged around him. He watched the man run across the square. He was too busy looking everywhere and bumped into an old lady.

"Oh, sorry," Link said hastily, grabbing her before she could fall.

"Quite all right," the old woman chuckled. "I'm in a good mood today! See? I made a lot of money!"

"That's nice," Link said, interested.

The old woman nodded. "You want to know my secret to success, sonny? Just go to Lake Hylia. You can find all sorts of things down there just washed up on the shore!"

"Where's Lake Hylia?" Link asked her.

"Link," his fairy interrupted him, "we need to see the princess. We don't have time to loiter around."

"Oh, right." Link waved to the woman as he followed Navi. "Goodbye!"

They weaved their way around the people as they made their way toward the castle. Before they reached it though, they paused as they saw two men being thrown into the square by two stern-looking guards. Link was fascinated to notice that the two men looked identical. He ran towards them as they were getting to their feet. One of the men pushed himself to his knees and then he fell over as he began laughing hysterically.

The other man cried in a sulky voice, "We almost made it!"

"I told you it wouldn't work!" the other man laughed. "Oh, dear me, it was worth being thrown out just to see the look on your face!" Tears rolled down his cheeks as he laughed.

"Thrown out of where?" Link asked curiously.

The sulky man turned to him. "I wanted to see Princess Zelda! See? I snuck past the guards…" he pretended to be sneaking past imaginary guards, "swam through the moat…" he paddled his arms, "but just as I was about to get inside the castle the guards caught me!"

"I knew that you would!" guffawed his twin. "You're as sneaky as a rattle-boned Stalchild!"

Link shuddered at the comparison.

The sulky man shook his head. "It was that stupid drain hole. I tried to get through but I get stuck in it instead!"

"That was the best part!" his twin howled.

Link joined in the man's laughter. The other man only frowned more deeply. Then he said, "I'm going home. Maybe I'll try again tomorrow."

"Ooh, I can't wait!" his laughing brother cried and jumped up and followed after him. Link watched them go, his face split into a wide grin. Then he noticed someone standing next to him and watching them with him.

"Maybe I should have asked them if they've seen my dad," said the girl, sounding oddly cheerful.

Link turned to her and asked her, "Your dad went through?"

"Oh yes." She turned to him. "You see, my dad is selling milk up there." She pointed up the path leading toward the castle. Then she turned back to him. When she did, her eyes widened as though she had just noticed him. Her eyes swept down his body.

Link suddenly became very conscious that his clothes were muddy and sweaty. He tried wiping off some of the mud, but he only ended up dirtying his hands.

"Hey, your clothes!" she exclaimed, pointing. Link flinched and subconsciously tried to wipe the mud off again.

"They're different…" she continued. Her eyes eventually drifted up to his face. She frowned thoughtfully at him. "You're not from around here, are you?"

Link shook his head slowly. "Uhh… no."

"Hmm…" The girl rested her chin on her hand as she studied him thoughtfully.

Navi, who had been hovering above Link, suddenly spoke, "We don't mean to be rude, but we really must be going. We're wasting enough time already." Here she glared at Link meaningfully.

The girl gasped in surprise and then laughed, "Oh! A fairy! You must be from the forest!"

Link nodded and then blushed. Navi cocked her head curiously at Link's behavior.

She giggled and then tucked her hands behind her back and rocked on the balls of her feet as she said brightly, "My name is Malon."

"L-Link," he responded.

"I live at Lon Lon Ranch, home of Hyrule's best milk. My dad's the owner there," she continued. "We just made a delivery here today. My dad went on to the castle, but he's been gone for a while now…" She turned to the castle again. Link turned in the same direction.

"Hey, are you going up there?" she suddenly asked, turning back to him.

"Yeah," Link answered.

"Well, do you think, while you're up there, could you find my dad?" She watched him eagerly. "See what's taking him so long."

"All right." Link nodded. "If I find him, I'll ask him." And with that promise, he hurried up the cobblestone path. It wasn't long before the stones began to thin out until he was running on a dirt path. He also noticed that the stone walls that had surrounded the town and lined the path to the castle were gradually replaced by natural embankments where grass and trees grew.

"Hey, Link! This way!" a voice called from atop a tree. Link looked up to find the owl peering down at him.

"You are nearly there, Link. You will find the princess inside the castle just up this path," it said, spreading a wing toward it. Then it folded its wing and jutted its head forward, whispering as its eyes glittered with a conspiratorial look, "Though I would be careful about sneaking past the guards if I were you!" Then it laughed, "Ho ho ho hoot!"

Link gave it a puzzled look. "What will the guards do if I get caught?"

"Just throw you out," the owl replied with a shrug. "But I do imagine it can get tiresome after a few times."

"Couldn't we just explain to them about how urgent it is that we speak with the princess?" Navi asked.

The owl cocked its head thoughtfully. "I don't suppose it would hurt to try, but I don't believe either of you have much of a chance of explaining anything to these guards." It jerked its head toward a soldier standing by a gate just ahead.

"Then how do we get past them?" Link asked, looking up at the high banks.

The owl smiled and cocked its head. "Mmm… you are indeed in a predicament. Hoo hoo hoot!" Still laughing to itself, it flapped its wings and flew off.

"Wait!" Link cried. "Do you know how I can get past…"

He saw it was no use for the owl had just disappeared back in the direction of the town.

"He's no help at all," Link complained.

His fairy replied, "Why don't we try just asking the guard if we can speak with the princess? It would seem you would have to speak with him to get past the gate anyways."

"Okay," Link said uncertainly. He continued on the path leading up to the guard, who looked bored standing next to the gate all day. As a matter of fact, he looked half asleep when Link walked up to him. But he was suddenly upright and holding out his hand.

"Halt!" he barked. "What is your business?"

Link halted. Then he answered timidly, "I… I've come to talk to the Princess… the Princess of Destiny…"

The guard relaxed his guard and smiled though Link noted that it wasn't a very friendly smile. He eyed Link with amusement. "Come to see Princess Zelda, eh?"

Link nodded hopefully.

The guard nodded. "Let me guess, you come to the big city and hear about the princess up at the castle and decide you want to see her."

"Err… not exactly."

"Well…" The soldier tapped his chin as though he was thinking about it. Then he yelled without warning, "Get lost!"

Link stumbled backwards in surprise. The guard laughed. "Beat it, kid. The Princess would never grant an audience to the likes of you!"

"But it's urgent that we speak with her!" Navi burst out. She zipped to the guard, glowing an angry red. "We were sent here by the Great Deku Tree! He has told us-"

"Ohhh… cute," the soldier said mockingly, tapping Navi away. "The boy's got a fairy! Now won't the Princess like that?" He suddenly swatted her, sending her tumbling through the air with a yelp. Link caught her and looked at her with worry. To his relief, she seemed all right, but when she rose into the air, she was glowing a very deep red.

"Now beat it!" snapped the guard. "I'm not here for the fun of it, you know."

Navi gritted her teeth. Then she spun around and drifted back towards town.

"Come on, Link," she snapped. "We'll just have to find another way."

Navi was still in a bad mood. They had decided to travel around the town, looking for other ways into the castle. They checked the alleyways but only found a few scary-looking people. Link skirted nervously around a broad man who had his arms crossed with a knife in his hand. They also passed a woman dressed in rags, lying next to a building, who reached out to them and begged, "Please… sell me something… please…"

Around the main square, they asked the people if there was any way they could talk to the princess, but they all told him that there was only one path to the castle and it wasn't likely that he and his fairy would be able to see her, let alone talk.

By this time, the sun was sinking behind the mountains, casting long shadows across the square and lighting up the sky with pink and orange. Link's legs were aching from walking all day, but Navi refused to give up.

"There must be some way into the castle to talk to the princess," she steamed. "What does it take?"

"A delivery of milk?" Link joked half-heartedly, leaning on his sore legs.

He was surprised though when Navi suddenly brightened and exclaimed, "Of course! That girl's father! He got through somehow! If we find him, perhaps he can help us get past the guards and reach the princess."

Link frowned. "But I thought Malon said that he's still up at the castle and hasn't come back yet. And we never saw him come down."

Navi bit her lip thoughtfully. She finally spoke, "You're right. Perhaps we should look for the girl instead. She may be able to help us get past the guards."

Link looked around the square. "But where is she? Almost everyone's gone."

He was right. There were only a few people milling around the square in the dusk. A young couple danced to nonexistent music. An old, heavily whiskered man in a thick, blue cloak plodded around with his hands behind his back and mumbled to himself. And a bald man stroked his long, bushy beard as he slowly swept his eyes around the square, harrumphing to himself.

Navi said, her voice heavy with irony, "She shouldn't be too difficult to find then. Ask around for her. Perhaps that man over there."

So Link walked up to the old man. "Excuse me, sir, but do you know where a girl is?"

"A girl?" the man turned to him with a politely puzzled expression on his face.

Link nodded. "Yeah. She's about my age, as tall as me, with red hair and a white dress."

The man rubbed his chin through his gray beard. "Mmm… I may have seen her, but I don't recall where. I don't usually pay attention to such things. I'm usually too busy thinking."

"What about?" Link asked curiously. Navi warned him, "We need to stay focused, Link."

The old man answered, not having heard Navi, "Oh, this and that-have you heard of the 'Shadow Folk'?"

"No." Link shook his head. "But they don't sound like they're friendly."

"Oh, they are friendly," the man assured him. "They are the Shiekahs, the shadows of the Hylians. They are a mysterious people who have sworn to protect the Royalty of Hyrule." He looked up with a puzzled frown on his face. "The Family doesn't need much protection these days, with the war behind us, so no one's really seen one in a long time, although…" He leaned towards Link's ear. Link leaned in closer.

"There is a rumor that the Princess's attendant is actually a Sheikah woman."

"In the castle?" Link asked. "But wait, you said the Shiekah is a woman?"

"Does that surprise you?" the man asked.

"Oh, I was just thinking of… someone else…" He shook the image of the man in black armor from his mind.

"Ah… I see…" The man nodded then turned away and began wandering away, humming to himself.

"Link!" Navi said in Link's ear. "Ask him…"

"Oh yeah, wait!" Link called to the man. The man turned to him.

"Do you know how I can get to the castle?"

"The only way I know of is up that path." He pointed. "But you'd have to somehow get past all the guards and I do not know how that is possible… I'm sorry I can't be more help."

"That's all right," Link told him, though he watched his fairy warily.

"Perhaps someone else will know," Navi said, managing to keep her temper in check. "Come on, Link."

"Goodbye." Link waved to the old man and hurried after his fairy. She led them to the bald man with the long, bushy beard.

"Excuse me, sir," said Navi.

In response, the man burst out, "Ahem! Hrrrrm!" and gave them both an intense stare that made his eyes bulge while he stroked his beard more furiously. Link took a step backwards nervously. Navi, however, merely raised her eyebrow quizzically. "Sir?"

"What do you think?" he said, raising his chin. Link didn't quite understand what the man was talking about until he spoke again, "Have you ever seen a beard like mine with such luster?"

"It's impressive," Navi replied flatly and then told him, "We're looking for a girl with red hair and a white dress. Have you seen her?"

The man didn't seem to have heard her, for he was talking again, "Took me six years to grow it like this. I doubt you'd find anyone with a more impressive beard than mine."

"Yes, yes, I'm sure yours is the best, but if you could help us…" Navi tried again.

"I've seen plenty with beards. But they were all pathetic! They either grow them too thin or too long or too short or scraggly, but mine! Mine beats them all!"

"If you would please, sir!" Navi cried in exasperation. "Can you tell us…"

"I tell you, just today, I saw a man with a shabby beard. He was delivering boxes of milk to the castle."

"We're looking for him!" Link exclaimed. "…actually, we're looking for his daughter, but…"

"For him!" the man scoffed. "Ha! The one with the shabby beard? Don't waste your time. Mine's the only one worth looking at."

Navi finally sighed in exasperation and told Link, "I don't think we'll get anything out of this man. Let's pray the next person we ask has more useful information."

The next person they asked was actually a couple who were dancing around each other, giggling and cooing to each other.

"Ohh," the young man sighed. "You are… more beautiful… than Princess Zelda."

His partner giggled and replied, "And you are more handsome than the King."

"Oh, let us dance until we can no more!" the man cried with passion.

The two of them giggled and twirled around the square. Navi darted between them impatiently, trying to get their attention.

"Excuse me," she said loudly. "Can you tell us where we might find a young girl with red hair and a white dress? Or perhaps a way into the castle?"

The young woman gasped in surprise, "Oh! Look, darling! I'm so giddy with happiness, I can see little stars dancing with us!"

"They are rejoicing in our love," he told her.

Link was barely able to contain himself. He doubled over, trying to keep from bursting aloud with laughter while his fairy darted around the couple in an increasingly frustrated dance with them. She finally came back, her glow redder than ever.

"Let's just go find it ourselves," she muttered through clenched teeth. Then she caught the grin on his face. "What are you smiling at?"

"Nothing." Link hastily forced his smile down. He ducked his head meekly as he followed Navi back up the path toward the castle. As they walked along, the area around them began to be filled with a chorus of crickets. As they traveled further up the path, there was a different sound that made them pause.

"Do you hear that?" Link asked.

Navi didn't reply but she turned her head, listening to the sounds floating across the dark pathway.

"It sounds like someone's singing," Link remarked.

"I wonder who it is," Navi murmured.

They moved to find the singer. They rounded a bend and saw a figure leaning against the embankment. They could hear the singing coming from her. Navi brightened herself and flew over for a closer look.

"Oh, hello," Malon said, smiling at Navi. Then she turned to Link, "Have you been to the castle yet, fairy boy?"

Link shook his head. "Not yet."

"You did say you would find my dad, didn't you?" she said brightly. "I'm sure he's still up at the castle - probably fallen asleep."

"Fallen asleep!" Link exclaimed. "Does he do that a lot?"

She giggled, "Oh, all the time!"

"Do you know how I can get to the castle?" Link asked her. "The guard won't let me pass."

"He won't let me pass, either," Malon answered though she didn't sound very upset by it. In fact, she smiled slyly and told Link, "But I think there's a secret way up this cliff." She pointed up. Navi flitted to the cliff wall.

"Link!" she exclaimed. "This wall is covered in vines!"

He blinked in astonishment. "How did we miss that before?"

"Boys always miss things like that," Malon said matter-of-factly. Then she brightened as she turned to Link. "Oh yeah. Here's a little something for you for agreeing to help me." She reached into a large pocket in the front of her dress and pulled out what looked like a bundle of cloth. Link took it. When he felt something in the bundle, he unwrapped it.

"I've been incubating this egg very carefully…" Malon tapped the egg peeking out from the folds of the cloth. Then she stroked it as though it was a fluffy animal.

"Uh, thanks," Link said uncertainly. He wasn't sure what use an egg would be, but he didn't want to hurt Malon's feelings, so he tenderly placed it in his pack, being sure to wrap the cloth carefully around it first. Then he turned to the vine-covered face of the cliff.

"I'll try to find your dad," he told Malon as he began to climb.

"Oh thank you, fairy boy," Malon giggled.

"My name's Link," Link grunted.

Malon didn't seem to have heard him. She was back to singing her little tune.

With an exasperated huff, Link continued his climb. It wasn't too long before he reached the top of the embankment. He rolled onto his back, staring up at the stars while he caught his breath.

"Don't rest too long," Navi said. "Let's hurry to the castle while we still have the cover of darkness."

"All right," Link panted, waving her advice away. "Just let me rest for a few minutes." He listened to the thumping in his chest as it slowly settled and his breathing started to slow. He let his eyes dart across the stars, which were like dazzling diamonds in a deep blue sky.

"Wow, that's pretty," he murmured to himself.

His fairy watched him impatiently with her arms folded. After a few seconds, she spoke, "All right, Link, you've had long enough. Let's hurry to the castle."

With a groan, Link sat up and pushed himself to his feet. Then he followed after Navi across the ledge. He had only gone a few paces when he saw something that flashed as his fairy flew past it.

"Wait, Navi, what's this?" He paused before a dark, round shape. "Come here, Navi."

She groaned, "What now?" and flew over to her charge to see what the matter was.

"What's this?" Link pointed to his discovery.

By Navi's light, they could see it was a white stone half as tall as Link. It protruded from the ground, shaped like a thumb. But what was unusual about it was the symbols that were carved into it. A smiling mouth with a single eye above it.

Navi made an impatient sound. Then she answered, "These are called gossip stones. It is said that they whisper secrets to those who listen."

"Really?" Link put his ear to the carved mouth.

His fairy snorted. "I personally don't believe it. I've never heard of anyone being able to hear gossip stones. Now come, we're wasting time."

Link strained to listen for any whisperings from the strange stone for a little longer before running after his fairy. The path ran right over the top of the gate. Looking down, Link saw the guard who had refused to let him pass. A smirk flashed onto his face and he began performing a dance while he hissed a taunt at the guard, "Ha! You thought you could keep me out! Well, try to stop me now! Come up here and try to stop me!" He thumbed his nose.

Navi zipped to his mouth and pressed her tiny hands against it. "Shh! Quiet, Link! You'll alert the guard!"

Link shook her off and whispered, "But he's down there."

"I'm talking about the guard over there." Navi pointed across the top of the gate, and sure enough there was the dark figure of a guard on the other side. Fortunately, he didn't seem to have noticed the two of them-his gaze was turned up to the sky and he was murmuring to himself.

"Oh." Link shrank back, feeling chagrined. "How do we get past him?"

Navi searched around and soon her sharp eyes spotted something. She flew over to it and lit it up.

"Down here." She motioned to him. Link joined her and looked down through a hole in the top of the gate. There was a ladder for him to climb down.

"Come on, Link," Navi urged him and dove into the hole. Link climbed down after her. At the bottom, he found he was in what appeared to be an armory-daggers were arranged on a bench, spears lined one wall while shields covered another, and lanterns hung from chains on the ceiling. It was surprisingly small and Link was feeling claustrophobic, so he quickly pushed open the door and stepped out. He jumped when he heard a guard cough.

"Shhh!" Navi placed both her tiny hands on Link's mouth. "Don't alert him!" She pointed to the guard on the other side of the gate. Then she darted forward. "Come on."

Sneaking past the guards was a little more difficult than they expected. Link thought he had left them all behind at the gate, but as he hurried along the path leading up to the castle, Navi stopped him and hissed, "There's a guard! Get off the path!"

So Link dove into the high grass. Then, being as sneaky as he could, he crept past the guard, who was looking down the road unwaveringly. As soon as he was a good distance past, he crept back onto the road but had to get back off when his fairy hissed again, "There's another one!"

Time and again, Link found himself diving into the tall grass just after sneaking past a guard. It seemed they were everywhere, continually scanning the area for intruders. Link didn't like crawling through the grass. Not only was it noisy, making his muscles lock in fear every time a soldier turned his way, but it rubbed against his bare arms and slithered into his clothes, making his skin itch. It also made his eyes water and, more times than he could count, he had to stifle his sneezes. As miserable as he was becoming, he was looking toward the castle with more and more desperation, which seemed to make the distance further and further away every time he looked.

At last, the front gate was within sight. He was dismayed, however, when he discovered two guards standing beside it.

"What now?" Link whispered to Navi.

She scanned the area. Then she told Link, "Wait here. I'm going to scout ahead and see if I can find anything."

"Oh… okay then," said Link, trying not to sound anxious. He sat down in the grass. As his fairy flew off, he whispered to her, "Don't take too long, okay?"

She didn't. In fact, Link was surprised when she returned. He opened his mouth to say, "Back already?" but she was already whispering to him, "There's a wall over here that you can climb. Follow me."

Link got to his feet as quietly as he could and then crept after Navi, who led him through the grass right up to a natural earthen wall that abutted the fence. This also had vines growing up its face, which he used to pull himself over. He looked down.

A narrow path along the wall followed a moat that surrounded the castle. The gurgling water didn't sound very powerful, which gave Link an idea.

"How are you going to get down?" Navi asked, who had just noticed that the other side of the wall was smooth. Link thought about telling her, but then decided against it. If he didn't tell her then she couldn't tell him not to do it and wouldn't get mad at him for not listening to her. So he got into a crouch and then jumped. His fairy gave a cry of surprise before quickly stifling her mouth. Link, on the other hand, had made sure to keep his mouth firmly closed as he sailed through the air.

He had not anticipated the enormous splash that he was going to make though. When he surfaced, his heart pounded at urgent voices.

"What was that?" cried a soldier.

"Something just splashed into the moat," another replied.

Link heard the gates creak open and the soldiers' feet clicking on the flagstones. Sucking in a deep breath, he dived into the water and began swimming up the moat.

"It came from around here," one of the guards said. He waved his lantern over the water.

"What do you think it was?"

The first soldier didn't answer. He waved his lantern up and down the moat, looking for whatever had caused the splash. He could not see past the reflection of his lantern on the black water, though.

"It was probably nothing," he finally said. "It's probably been swept down the river and will end up in Lake Hylia."

Feeling satisfied, the two guards went back to their posts

Link surfaced at the corner of the moat. He tried not to make noise, but he couldn't help drawing in a noisy gasp.

"That was a close one!" Navi exclaimed in a hushed voice, flying in beside him.

Link clambered out of the moat. He shivered as he stood in the chilly air. He took his cap off, wrung out the water and then placed it back on his head.

"So…" he said, his teeth chattering. "That wasn't reckless and stupid I just did back there?"

Navi hesitated before she answered, "It was the best plan. The splashing couldn't be helped, but at least we're now closer to finding the princess."

"She's probably inside the castle," Link said. He looked up at the enormous stone structure in front of him. "So how do we get in?"

"Wasn't there a pair of twins who were thrown out?" his fairy asked. "And didn't one of them tell us how he got in?"

Link nodded. "He said he snuck past the guards…"

"Which we have done," Navi interrupted.

Link nodded again. "Swam through the moat, and…"

"Tried to go through a drain hole," Navi finished.

"But he got stuck. We probably can't go through there."

"Actually," Navi said, causing Link to turn to her, "you're much smaller than that man was. You could probably fit through there."

"If we could find it," Link replied, glancing around.

"That shouldn't be too difficult." She drifted to the water. "Just follow this stream to where it comes." She pointed up the flow. Link traced the water as it rounded the castle and up to where he saw a trickling waterfall coming from a hole in the side of the castle.

"Aha!" he said and ran toward it.

"Careful, Link," Navi warned him. "Don't be too loud. We don't want to be caught now."

"I know," he told her. "But I don't think there are any guards around here…" Then he skidded to a stop.

"What's the matter?"

Link whispered urgently, "Oh no! I think there is a guard here! Listen!"

They both fell silent. They both heard a rumbling sound just ahead of them… a gentle, rhythmic rumbling… someone was snoring.

"Perhaps we can sneak past him," Navi whispered finally after what seemed like hours.

Link nodded, not wanting to make any more noise than was necessary. Slowly he started forward with careful steps. His fairy dimmed her light as she drifted beside Link toward the noise. As they got closer, they began to distinguish large shapes, which Link eventually decided were crates. The snoring was coming from among them.

Closer and closer they crept until they were at the crates, which were stacked haphazardly on top of each other. Link flattened his back against one of the crates, eyeing the crates above warily as they wobbled slightly, and then edged silently around it. Then he peered around them toward the snoring. Navi flew to Link's cap, peering above it while hiding her light behind its folds.

Faintly they saw the outline of a short, round man whose barrel of a chest rose and fell with each snore. Link was puzzled to note that the man wasn't wearing guard armor. Navi noticed this as well, which gave her courage enough to venture from Link's cap and take a closer look at the man. She even brightened herself.

He seemed to be a middle-aged man with a bushy mustache. He wore dusty coveralls over a red, cotton shirt and a pair of shoes that looked to have been recently shined but had gathered dust. He was fast asleep, curled up against one of the boxes. Navi flew closer to shed light on them.

"Lon Lon Milk," she read.

"Wait a minute," Link said excitedly. "Didn't Malon say that her dad owned Lon Lon Ranch? So this guy must be Malon's dad!"

"But what is he doing, sleeping here?" his fairy asked, staring down in puzzlement at the man.

Link tapped the man with his foot. The man grumbled and then turned over, still asleep. Link tapped him with his foot again. The man murmured something and then fell silent again.

"Hello?" Link said. "Mister? Hey! Malon's dad! Wake up!" He tapped the man with his foot again. The man turned over and mumbled something, which Link caught as, "Welcome… to Talon's Rodeo of Dreams… can come true…" Then he was snoring again.

"He's not waking up," Link said to Navi.

"Then I guess we'll just have to wait until he does," she replied. "Which means we'll take a rest too."

When she said this, Link realized that he was tired. He yawned, stretched his arms, and then settled against one of the milk crates. He set his adventure pouch on the ground where Navi settled onto it. Then he bunched his cap to use as a pillow. It wasn't the most comfortable place to sleep, but he was tired enough that it didn't matter to him. He mumbled to his fairy, "Good night, Navi."

"Sleep well," she replied.

They were soon both asleep.

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