The Cabin on the Hill
Link was anxious and annoyed in equal parts—anxious to be doing something to find Zelda and Gardamon; annoyed that his body rebelled against him.
"Link, you survived no small thing," his father said, trying to reason with him as he was forced to spend a second day in bed. "It's a miracle that you didn't die."
"Yes, I know. But it's my duty to carry on—near-death experience or no near-death experience."
Mars looked at him with a little confusion and worry. "You are very young to be pushing yourself so hard."
Link actually laughed—almost bitterly. "This has been my entire life: pushing myself to be ready for my destiny, then pushing myself to complete it. Whenever I meet one goal, there is another one in front of me. I am never done. There is no rest."
"I'm sorry," Mars said sadly. "I should never have agreed to let Vizier Ryu take you. I should have never let this burden be put on you."
"You didn't do this, Father; this was the work of the gods. And, if it is to be believed, I have done this in past lives, too. I was made for this.
"And, truth be told, I drive myself more than anyone else. I don't know why, but I feel a great desire to do these things—a compulsion to do them. No one is forcing me to do this, and yet I can't be at peace while these things are left undone."
Mars looked at him critically for a long moment. "I am proud of you," he said quietly. "You have grown into manhood and… and I think you are more a man than I will ever be. I don't know who I am that the gods should have chosen me to bring such a child into the world, but I'm proud to have done it."
Link was stunned. "Father, why do you talk like that?" he asked in astonishment. "I have always looked up to you. I have always endeavored to be like you. What's this nonsense about not being worthy of me?"
"I meant… you have this heavy destiny—a destiny to do great things. And I'm just a fisherman—and not much of that these past thirteen years."
"I don't care if you're a fisherman or the king; you are my father and you a good person; that's enough for me," Link said firmly.
In an effort to quell Link's cabin fever—or perhaps because he was beyond lonely after thirteen years of isolation—Mars spent most of the day talking to Link. The only time he took a break was when Link—despite his fighting it—fell asleep. Mars used the opportunity to search the beach again, but every time Link awoke, the only answer he could give was a shake of his head.
Link tried reaching out to her telepathically several times during the day, too, but he had no more luck than his father.
He fell into a sort of numb denial. He couldn't cope with the idea that she might have died at sea, so he tried to keep his mind on what his father was saying and he made plans for locating Gardamon and continuing his quest. He completely ignored the fact that Zelda's unknown fate was hanging over his head like a pall. If he didn't acknowledge that she was most likely dead, then it wouldn't be true.
He needed something to do to keep his mind off that fact—to keep away the crushing pain that he knew was coming. If that ever hit, it would cripple him—likely for life. He owed it to his family and to all the innocents in Hyrule and elsewhere in the world to keep going. He could fall on his sword later.
That's what he told himself every time he called out to her and got no response: he could hurt later.
The following morning, Link got up before his father could wake up and stop him. He was slow and tired very easily, but he was on his feet again, which was a great benefit to his mental health. Concentrating on walking took all of his energy, so he didn't have time to worry.
After breakfast, Mars led him down the gently-sloping path to the beach. They combed the shoreline together, but saw nothing new.
Even Mars was growing concerned. He didn't say anything to his emotionally-fragile son, but it was written all over his face nonetheless.
Link had to rest before they could begin the second part of their search. His father sat beside him on the sand.
"Do you think there's enough wreckage here that we could salvage it and sail back home?" Link asked, looking out at the ocean. "We'd only need a week's supplies or so; it's really not far."
Mars shook his head sadly. "I'm afraid it won't work."
"That's the first thing I did." He pointed up and down the coast. "There are powerful currents here. Powerful. Even with the outgoing tide, I was never able to make it far from land before I was pushed back. I tried several miles up the coast in either direction, and I tried at different times of the day and night—when the tide was high, low, coming, and going—but I could never break away from the currents."
Link frowned. Even if he found Garamond's things—even if the answer to the demon problem was written on the first page of the first book he found—it would be useless to him unless he could get back to Hyrule.
He was quiet for a while, mulling over this new information. He was idly watching gulls hang on the wind when he had a thought.
"I could fly out," he muttered to himself. But as soon as he said it, he realized that was easier said than done. A week at sea in a boat with supplies was one thing, but flying for a week with no rest and no supplies was something else entirely. In fact, he was pretty sure he wasn't up to it; he got tired flying after just a short period of time.
Mars shook his head again. "I don't think so," he said. He pointed to the gulls, which were suspended in the air, making no progress. "I've never seen a bird fly out to sea. The wind always blows from the east. If I had a good westerly wind behind me, I might could break away from those currents, but with a header on top of them, I can't get anywhere."
Well, that killed that idea.
When Link felt strong enough, his father helped him up and they walked farther up the beach, towards the other huts. They were all in similar states of decay—looking so rickety it was surprising that a strong wind hadn't already blown them down. They all appeared to be cobbled together from pieces of wreckage and driftwood and random bits. They had—or had once had—roofs thatched with sea grass.
"These were all here when you got here?" Link asked.
"Yes, but there was no one living in them. The people must have died, or maybe they were rescued or went inland. My cottage was the best of the lot, so I took it; it was less work to fix up."
"Have you gone inland to see what's there?"
"Yes, but not far. It's nothing but jungle as far as I can tell, and there are some big cats in there—and gods know what else. I prefer to take my chances with the ocean; that's an untamed beast I at least understand to some degree. I wasn't made for the land," he added.
Link began to head towards the nearest hut, but his father stopped him. "There's nothing in those," he said. "I've already been in them and stripped out everything useful."
He pointed farther down the beach. In the hazy distance, there appeared to be a point of land that stuck out into the sea. On a hill above the water, there appeared to be a structure.
"Down there is where you want to look. It's… well… I'll show you. Maybe you can figure out what it is."
Curious, Link followed his father down the beach. He had to stop and rest again on the way, but within an hour, they were at an eroded trail that snaked its way up the sandy hill to a sturdy-looking hut.
Mars went up the hill first and Link followed him. Link found he was even weaker than he thought, and he nearly didn't make it up; his father had to reach down and pull him to the top.
"Thank you," Link panted, sitting on the grass.
Mars just nodded. Even he was a little breathless.
Link took a minute to look at the hut. It was in as good a condition as the hut his father lived in, making it look occupied.
"Why didn't you move in here?" Link asked.
"Well, that's the thing," his father said, looking a little nervous. "I tried the door, but it seemed to be locked. When I looked inside, I could see that everything was dusty—like it had been locked up for a long time. Then I saw what appeared to be an old man sitting in a chair. I knocked on the window for a long time, but he never moved. I decided that he must have died in there. So I tried to break in the window, but the glass wouldn't break—no matter how hard I hit it with a rock. I tried to kick in the door, too, but it never budged—even though it looks like it's barely held together. That's when I decided that whoever was in there was either a sorcerer or had been imprisoned by one, so it was best if I left it alone. I haven't been back up here since."
It was clear from the way he talked that he was afraid of the place. Sailors were, by nature, a superstitious lot. Being alone and having no source of help if something happened to him had probably only compounded Mars's fears. Why take an unnecessary risk?
Link, on the other hand, had seen magic being used when he had been in school. He had never had any aptitude for it, but he wasn't afraid of it, either.
He pushed himself to his feet and slowly walked around the cabin, looking for anything out of the ordinary. He looked in the window and confirmed what his father had said: everything was thick with dust and cobwebs and there appeared to be a gray-headed man sitting in the chair by the fire.
Link made a circle, coming to door last. But when he neared it, he heard voices—it sounded like children's voices—whispering. They echoed as if they were distant, and yet the sound seemed to be coming from the door itself.
"Do you hear that?" Link asked in surprise.
Mars was still, listening for a moment. "I don't hear anything."
Link moved closer to the door, but the voices didn't sound any nearer or louder. But when he backed up, there came a point at which they stopped—not grew fainter; just stopped. But when he moved closer, they began again. He tried to listen to what they were saying, but he couldn't make out any words or even any semblance of words. It just sounded like children making noises.
"I can only hear it when I'm near the door," Link said, stepping out of range again. "Here, it stops. But when I step closer…" he took a step forward, "it begins again."
His father took a big step back, looking a little afraid. "It must be part of the spell," he said. "Link… maybe you should leave it alone."
"And do what? Stay here until I die? If this is Gardamon's house, then I need to get into it and see if he left behind any books or things that will tell us how to defeat the evil that's taking over the world. If I don't stop it, everyone will eventually become demons—including Mother and Alons and Meghan."
Mars stood up a little straighter, bracing himself. "Do what you must," he said, looking more resolved.
Link reached out and touched the doorknob, but nothing happened. He tried to turn it, and, to his surprise, found that it opened easily. His father was right; some sort of magic had obviously been locking it. But what did it mean that he could open it when his father couldn't?
Link slowly pushed open the creaking door and stepped into the dim interior.