The Westeastern Monastery
The next morning, Link and Zelda ate cold leftovers and got an early start on their journey. They both felt impatient; their destination was, at last, in sight.
They found the trail into the valley to be a fairly mild slope, so Zelda transformed into a horse and Link rode. The day warmed up nicely; in the valley, spring was in full-swing.
At the foot of the mountain, the trail wound through the bamboo forest. It was narrow, but level, and Zelda proceeded at a trot.
Eventually, the narrow trail hit a wide, grassy road.
Which way? Zelda asked, as she came to a stop on the road.
She turned and proceeded up the road at a canter. It gradually began to rise and the bamboo forest on either side gave way to great forests of spruce trees.
Eventually a building became visible ahead of them. Near the top, the road became so steep, Zelda was forced to drop to a walk. She was breathing heavily by the time the road leveled off in front of a walled enclosure with a wide gate. The structure looked very similar to the Sanctuary outside Castle Town, but there were small differences that marked the architectural influence of Shi-Ha. For instance, the roofs, instead of having straight lines, curled up at the edges. And on top of the corners of the wall, there were little pagoda-like structures.
Zelda walked inside the open gate slowly, looking around as she did so. The main building, directly across from the gate, looked rather eastern; it had a deep porch, low to the ground, that crossed the front and wrapped around one side.
To the right, there was a large courtyard where dozens of boys, of various ages, appeared to be practicing their swordplay—or had been doing so before Zelda and Link arrived. Now, they were staring silently—their weapons hanging loose and forgotten in their hands—as Link rode past.
Several older men—wearing the habits of Hyrulian monks—stepped out onto the porch. One man moved forward from the group and stood on the edge of the porch, watching carefully as Link rode up. He had a long white beard, a bald head, and piercing blue eyes.
"I didn't know if I would ever see you again, young Link," the man said, as Link and Zelda stopped in front of him. "I have been watching your stars and a great darkness has surrounded them for some time."
"Well, everything has been out to kill me lately, but I've managed to survive. So far," he added.
"I can see that the journey has already changed you; you are not the boy who left here seven years ago."
The abbot gestured behind him, to the open door. "I know you have not returned for personal reasons, so let us go inside and you can tell me all that has happened."
Link threw his leg over Zelda's neck and dropped to the ground. A moment later, there was a flash of light and Zelda resumed her human form.
There was an audible gasp from the boys in the courtyard, as well as from the monks. Only the abbot showed no sign of being surprised.
"Y-you bring a woman into this monastery?" one of the monks sputtered in outrage.
Link narrowed his eyes. "This is Her Royal Highness, Princess Zelda—the soon-to-be queen of Hyrule. It had not occurred to me that anyone here would deny her hospitality… or have you been so long in Shi-Ha that your loyalty no longer lies with Hyrule?"
The monks looked even more shocked. But the abbot replied calmly. "Of course we extend our hospitality to any traveler in need, and most especially to our sovereign. We are honored by your presence, Your Highness," he said with a bow.
The other monks followed suit.
Zelda glanced at Link and he gave her a conspiratorial wink, then gestured for her to proceed him.
She stepped up onto the porch and passed through the bowing monks and into a bright, but sparsely-decorated reception area.
The abbot followed Link inside. "Come, let us have a seat and some refreshments. Have you eaten today?"
"We ate a little breakfast early," Link replied, following the abbot down a hallway. Zelda fell in behind him.
"It's nearly lunchtime now," the abbot said. "I will have a meal brought in."
The abbot led them into a small room that was taken up by a table large enough to seat eight people. It was made in the eastern style and was low to the ground. Pillows, not chairs, were provided for seating.
The abbot gestured for them to take seats, then he closed the door—shutting out the other brothers who had followed behind them and were looking rather curious. Apparently the abbot wanted to hear Link's story before anyone else.
Link gestured to Zelda to take the place of honor at the head of the table. He sat down across the corner from her, on her right-hand side. The abbot took a seat at the opposite end of the table.
"First, let me extend our hospitality," the abbot began. "What do you need that we might be able to provide?"
Link glanced at Zelda questioningly. She nodded for him to take the lead. He knew the abbot better than she did; he would know best what they could reasonably expect to get—and how best to ask for it.
"We are both in need of fresh clothes," Link said, turning to the abbot. "I'm embarrassed to be seen in these war-weary clothes that we have on now."
He had managed to soak some of the blood out of his gambeson, but there was still an obvious brown stain—as well as holes front and back—where he had been struck by the arrow. And both his gambeson and Zelda's were held together by pins where Tarsus and his minions had ripped all the buttons off.
"We can clothe you easily enough," the abbot said, looking at Link, "but I'm afraid we have nothing fit for Her Highness," he added, looking at Zelda.
"I will wear whatever you give Link," she said. "I need something practical and sturdy—not dresses. We still have a lot of work ahead of us."
"Then we can oblige." He turned to Link again. "Anything else?"
"We need a room—a private room," Link said.
"We have a room for guests, but only the one. You will have to—"
"That's fine; we only need one."
The abbot perked a brow.
"Her Highness does not go anywhere without me," Link explained. "There are too many people out to kill both of us; the moment we're separated is the moment someone will take us both out. We never separate."
"That does seem to be a wise course of action, given the situation," the abbot allowed.
"We will also need food for a few days, and then we will need some supplies—mostly food—when we are ready to leave again."
"You need not even ask for that; of course we will feed you."
"I also need some medical help," Link added. He tried to lift his left arm, showing the extent he was able to move it. "I took an arrow in my shoulder and, although it is completely healed, I can't move it. It's stiff and begins to hurt when I try to raise it more than this."
The abbot nodded gravely. "That can be fixed. It will be painful, but we can fix it."
Link grimaced a little. "Yes, I was afraid of that."
"Anything else? So far you have not asked for anything that we would not have offered you. Surely you did not need to come all the way here for such simple things."
"Well, actually, those things have been a little hard to come by; our list of allies is growing thin. But, you are right: we have a specific reason for coming here."
Link leaned forward, looking at the abbot seriously. "We need the Master Sword, and I have been told that you keep it here."
The abbot, for once, looked shocked. "That is no small thing you ask for," he said, once he had recovered. "And one I'm not permitted to give to just anyone. I think you had better explain such a request."
Link began retelling the story of how they came to be in the abbot's presence—beginning back when Ryu had fetched him from the monastery and installed him as a page at the castle. He omitted nothing—not the fact that he and Zelda both could turn into animals, nor the fact that he and she had been meeting in secret for months before Nagadii caught onto them.
Their lunch had been served, eaten, and the remainders grown cold before Link—with some help from Zelda—finished the tale.
The abbot sat in silence for several minutes, taking it all in. Then, he slowly nodded. "Yes, I can see why you need the Master Sword. And it would certainly seem that you are the Hero destined to wield it."
He nodded again, looking thoughtful. "Ryu seems to have foreseen most—if not all—of this," he said, more to himself than to Link. "That is why he brought you here: to be trained in the arts of the Knights of Hyrule."
"He didn't know you have the sword—at least he didn't tell me about it," Link corrected. "It was Master Gardamon who told me that not only was it what we needed to kill the demons, but that it was kept here."
"It is indeed kept here. But it is in the catacombs below us. No one here has ever seen it; no one here has ever met anyone who has seen it. It was placed here hundreds of years ago. It is said that the catacombs were specifically built to hold it—and to test the courage and strength of the person who came to claim it. It will not be as simple as walking in and picking it up; there will be a maze of rooms, traps, and possibly foul creatures—all there for one purpose: to keep someone who is not worthy from taking the sword."
"But of course," Link said with a wry smile. "Nothing is simple for us. It's not allowed."