The Waters of Castle Town
Link and Zelda traveled as animals by night and took turns sleeping during the day. By the third morning, they had reached the forest that marked the dividing line between Hyrule and Erenrue.
"We're back in Hyrule once again," Link announced.
"And this time we're going to stay," Zelda said firmly.
When there was light enough to see by, they detoured into the forest and Link hastily created a tiny shelter from bare branches and some still containing greenery or leaves blazing with color.
"That won't keep us dry," Zelda said, when he finished and began moving their supplies inside.
"It's not meant to," he said, not looking up from his work.
"Then what's the point?"
"To hide us."
She looked at the structure skeptically. "It looks very obvious; I would think we would be less noticeable if we weren't in it. I mean, we're a lot smaller than it is, for starters."
"You would be surprised at how hard this will be to spot, even if you're fairly close to it. People will be on the lookout for things like movement, fire, and colors that don't belong. The eye will skim right over this because it's stationary and blends in."
She still looked unconvinced.
"Trust me," he told her. "I had a teacher who showed us how to build a shelter like this, then he sent us out to do something and when we came back, it took us forever to find it. And we knew it was there; we were looking for it. Someone who is not looking for it will come close to walking right through it before he sees it.
"In fact," he said, as he spread out the fur pelt, "I'm so convinced we'll be well-hidden by this, I'm willing to go without keeping a watch."
That seemed to be all it took to convince Zelda. With them taking turns keeping a day-time watch—and the days growing shorter due to the lateness of the year—neither of them got more than six hours of sleep. And the hours spent on watch—with nothing to do—were more excruciating than the sleep deprivation.
There was just enough room in the shelter for the two of them to lie side by side; their feet touched one end and their heads were just inches from the opening at the other end.
Once inside, Link pulled a thick, leaf-covered branch across the opening, blocking them from sight. It didn't stop him from sleeping with his hand on his sword, but he did sleep—and well.
They repeated the exercise for several more days. It was close to a week before they found the entrance to the Northern Road that would take them into the heart of Hyrule.
"Where does this road actually go to?" Zelda asked, as they walked down it. Although it was after dawn, they were still on the move. Now that they weren't out in the open, it didn't matter as much if they traveled during the day. And the faster they could move, the better. The more time Nagadii had to prepare for their arrival, the worse it would be for them.
"I think it will take us to the village of Mynar, which is just a little north of the Great Plain," Link replied.
"Can we go around? Nagadii will probably have some troops there, don't you think?"
"I would expect he does—if not looking for us, then to oppress the population, at the very least. But yes, we should be able to get around it unseen and get to the plain."
She frowned. "But then how will we get across the open plain, much less into the city without being seen? If Nagadii put out a lot of soldiers to look for us coming from Erenrue, he will surely have many more than that waiting for us around the city."
"I don't know," Link admitted.
I know, said a voice in the air.
Link and Zelda glanced at one another and, at the same time, said, "The fairy."
Link spoke to the air. "How should we proceed?" he asked.
Come. I will show you.
The wind began to rustle the orange and red leaves, blowing their limbs so they seemed to be pointing down the road.
Link and Zelda glanced at one another again, then began walking down the road. A few minutes later, the trees began to blow towards a faint, moss-covered trail which branched off the main road.
Link and Zelda followed the trail a little way, then it went up a small rise. On the other side, there was a depression in the earth with a crystal-clear, bubbling spring at the bottom. The basin was completely carpeted with some sort of moss that had turned fiery red. It looked like the ground was covered in glowing red coals.
As they approached, the color-changing mist over the spring formed into the young, green-haired fairy they had encountered before. Link wasn't sure if he was just being paranoid, but she seemed to be smiling at him in a rather suggestive way—as if there was a secret that they shared just between the two of them. Which was true, in a way; Link had never told Zelda what the fairy had done to make him wake up during the battle against the Demon of Illusions. Link wasn't sure if fairies could be killed, but Zelda might very well make a try. She had been jealous enough months ago in Erenrue; if her jealousy had grown with her affection, then it would be quite formidable now.
The fairy beckoned to them. "Come."
A little wary, Link slowly approached. He was glad he didn't need any healing; he didn't want to have to get in her pool—especially if that meant getting naked again.
But, whether because Zelda was present, or because business took precedence, the fairy remained perfectly respectable.
"It will not be easy to get near Castle Town," the fairy said. "Nagadii knows you are coming for him."
She held her hand out and the water bubbling up in the middle of the little pool beneath her feet began to churn and froth. The entire pool turned black and then, suddenly, the surface calmed completely, creating a dark mirror. As the fairy spoke, images began to appear on the surface.
"He has doubled the guard on the walls," she said, showing them the patrols walking the walls around the town. "The guardhouses have four times their normal number."
Link frowned as she showed him Nagadii's might. "There's no way we can sneak in through any of the gates, and fighting our way in is certainly right out," he said.
"What about the monastery?" Zelda asked.
The fairy shook her head, then showed them the throne room. There was an entire company of guards milling around the dais or sitting on its stairs. "He is hoping you will come that way," she said. "He has a trap ready for you."
Zelda glanced at Link. "Do you know any other way inside the city?"
He shook his head.
"The gates are for the people," the fairy said. "The passage from the throne room into the monastery is for the royal family—as a means of escape. Can you think of nothing else that comes and goes from the city?"
Link thought about it for a moment, but the only thing he could think of were animals—but they passed through the gates like the people.
He finally shook his head.
The fairy smiled, as if pleased they hadn't been able to guess the answer to her riddle. "Water," she replied.
"Water?" Zelda asked questioningly.
"Where do you think it comes from? A large city like Castle Town needs a lot of water, and yet it is not located by a river."
"We have wells," Zelda said.
The fairy shook her head. "Not really."
"What do you mean?" Link asked, also feeling confused. He had seen wells around the city and in the castle. How could a well not really be a well?
"Long, long ago—before Castle Town was built—there was a stream that flowed from these woods and crossed the plain. Over time, it cut a deep trough in the soft earth of the plain, so even though it wasn't very wide, it couldn't be easily crossed.
"The city began beside the stream and bridges were built across it. Eventually, though, as the city grew and it became more difficult to get to the water, it was decided that the waterway should be reengineered. Tunnels were cut under the existing city and stone arches were laid to support the ground above from the erosion of the water below. The original path of the stream was entirely encased in stone and then built over.
"Holes were cut from the surface down into the network of tunnels that carried the water under all of the city. What you think of as wells aren't really; instead of accessing water at the bottom of a single hole, people are, in fact, putting their buckets into a waterway that runs under the entire city; everyone's water is coming from the same source."
"But… there is no stream anywhere on the plain," Zelda pointed out.
"The city was besieged during a war long ago and the enemy blocked up the stream which fed the city. The people inside were forced to come out and fight. Luckily, they did so at night and were able to take the enemy largely by surprise and they ran them off. But they learned their lesson and they covered the entire length of the stream with stonework. Dirt was carted in and in no time the prairie grew over it and you could never tell there had once been an open stream there. Eventually, the knowledge of stream and the water passages under the city was forgotten."
"That might be something important to remember," Zelda insisted. "What if it needs repairs?"
"Never mind that," Link said, cutting her off; governance could wait until she had a kingdom to govern again. "Is there a way to get into this tunnel system?" he asked the fairy. "I mean, the water has to start somewhere. They couldn't have covered it all up."
"The water fills the tunnels under the city almost completely, except during the height of summer or during a drought; if you were to get into one now, you would almost certainly drown. However, you are correct: the stream does have a source. The village of Mynar sits near where the stream comes up from its true underground source. In fact, the town was built there to help guard the water source.
"Just east of Mynar—nearly within sight of the plain—you will find where the tunnel begins. If you could put something there to block the water from entering—even partially—you will lower the water levels in the tunnels enough that you should be able to go anywhere under the city that you like."
"But how will we get into the tunnel if we block it up?" Zelda asked.
"Ah, in that regard, Nagadii has helped you. He is hoping that you will come back into the city by the secret passage, so he has left the monastery unguarded."
"To tempt us in," Link deduced.
"Exactly. But there is a well in the courtyard of the monastery; you can descend into it and enter the tunnels that way."
Link was so elated by the plan, he was sorely tempted to give the fairy that kiss that she wanted. "This is great!" he said. "There are numerous wells we can come out of inside the castle. We'll have to fight our way to Nagadii once we're in there, but we expected that. This at least gives us a fighting chance."
"We may not have to fight too much," Zelda contradicted. "If he has most of his men guarding the city and the road to it, the castle itself may be thinly protected. And I have a lot of experience sneaking around the castle at night."
"Something you should know," the fairy said: "there is a well in the dungeon."
"You mean… where they're keeping our families?"
"Yes. I'm no military mind, but I think it might benefit you to try and find that access point and liberate your family and friends. Some of them might be beneficial to you."
Link nodded, thinking of Long Fang and Growder and Sir Elgon; even Zelda's old guard, Horace, might still be good in a fight. "I think that's a good idea," he agreed.
The fairy moved her hand over her pool again and a piece of parchment rose from its inky depths.
"This is a map of the tunnels," she said. "The general outline of the city is sketched on top, but not where the actual wells are; you will have to find those yourselves."
Link nodded, taking the paper and looking it over. "I think I can figure it out."
"One more thing," she added. "Even if the monastery isn't guarded, that doesn't mean you can't be seen by the sentries guarding the walls, or the patrols which are spread out on the plain between Castle Town and the border of Erenrue. You will be at your most vulnerable when you leave these woods and cross the plain to the monastery."
Link nodded. "We will have to wait until a moonless night."
"It won't be good enough, I'm afraid."
"What else can we do?"
"I can cause it to rain. If you move at night while it is raining, you will not be seen."
"Yes, but we won't be able to see, either. I've been out at night in the rain before; you can't see your hand in front of your face."
"You will have to travel as animals; you will have sight enough then to see. But you must hurry. Nagadii has lost much of his power, but none of his ambition; if anything, he's more desperate now than ever. He's trying to call up the Dark Lord, and while the Dark Lord would never answer to a mortal like Nagadii, he shares Nagadii's desire to conquer this world. If he can cross over, he will."
"Who is the Dark Lord?" Link asked. But the fairy just shook her head. She actually looked afraid.
"I dare not say his name; it is like a curse to even utter it. Suffice to say, it is no one that you want to meet in person."
Link and Zelda exchanged glances. An enemy so powerful he couldn't even be named was dangerous indeed.
"Rest here, in safety, until the afternoon," the fairy offered, "then travel by the road south. It should be dark by the time you reach Mynar and you can skirt the town without too much trouble. You will have to block up the stream in the dark, but once you have accomplished that, I will send a storm so you can safely cross the plain. I will let it rain until morning because that may help conceal you if you have to cross the open courtyard in the castle, and it should cause many of the sentries to huddle where it's dry and create gaps in their defense, but be aware that the rain will cause the water to rise in the tunnels—even with the stream partially blocked. So don't stay down there too long."
Link nodded. "Understood."
Zelda washed up in the fairy's pool—the water healing her arrow cut—while Link spread out the pelt over the red moss and rolled the cloaks up for pillows. The day was pleasant, so they didn't need to cover up.
Zelda glanced around nervously as she walked over to where Link had made camp. She took the food he offered her automatically, not even looking to see what was in her hand. "And we'll be safe here?" she asked no one in particular.
Link understood her fear; while they hidden from view inside the little depression, they also couldn't see anyone coming.
The fairy—who had returned to her mist form—giggled a little. "I can keep myself—and this area—hidden if I don't want to be seen," she said, speaking from the mist.
"Really?" Link asked.
"Oh, yes. In fact, we can all do it. Otherwise, we would be at the mercy of anyone. You wouldn't want Nagadii's men coming here for a health-restoring dip in my pool, would you?"
"No, certainly not."
"We know what's happening in our respective realms," she explained, "and we know who is seeking us out. If we cannot or do not want to help them, they can wander for the rest of their lives and never find what you can walk up to without any trouble at all."
"I guess that's why seeing a fairy is so rare?"
"Yes. Illness and injury is, for good or ill, part of a mortal's existence. We cannot—and should not—interfere with the natural course of things."
"Except for us?"
"I didn't say we didn't make exceptions," she replied. "And the two of you are certainly the biggest exception to the rule. But then, Nagadii and his demons aren't exactly part of the natural course of things, are they?"
"I would hope not."
"When people go against their destinies—when they create evil to the extent that they actively interfere with other people's destinies—then we will use our powers to help restore balance, if we can."
"The fairy in Shi-Ha said that you would help us later if we get sick because of the dragon's poison," Zelda said. "Will that only last until Nagadii's gone, or will you continue to help us long after he's gone and we have peace again?"
"I will help you whenever you need it—for the rest of your lives. You have suffered so much to save this world; it is only fair that you receive help if you should continue to feel the ill-effects of wounds you have taken in our defense.
"Besides, you still have your own destiny to fulfill, Your Highness. I cannot allow Nagadii to triumph over you from beyond the grave."