chasing dragons - ThatOneFunAnon, cruisercrusher (2024)

Table of Contents
Chapter 1: it was like that when i got here! Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 2: shrine time Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 3: Link exercises poor judgement Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 4: gordon ramsey who??? Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 5: local bisexual disaster embarrasses herself in front of cute hero, not clickbait Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 6: The People of Kakariko Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 7: if women are oppressed then why Symin? Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 8: you can't spell 'Hateno village' without 'communist utopia' Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 9: Impa's answers are as straight as she is Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 10: click HERE to chat with hot fish in YOUR area NOW Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 11: casts spell of ‘just friands’ on Link and Mipha Summary: Notes: Chapter Text "SILENCE!" "Enough. We Zora have lived here for even longer than our history books can record. We will not be driven from our home now." "There is no more time for hesitation. I will go up there and silence Vah Ruta myself." "Sidon, you’ve returned! My boy, I just received word of the Lizalfos barricade. I am glad you are safe." "Hm?" "You have done well to come all the way here! I am King Dorephan, ruler of the Zora people. Hm… that object upon your waist, is that not a sheikah slate? Come closer, young one, so that I may get a good look at you." "Yes… it is all too clear who you are. You are the Hylian Champion, Link!" "That expression on your face… do not tell me you have forgotten me?" "I cannot believe it. The Hylian Champion, Link, has appeared before us…" "We have met numerous times, I’ll have you know. Ahh… so many memories! My mind is overflowing with nostalgia, my young friend! I had…" "I heard a terrible rumour you had fallen in battle, but it appears you have managed to survive. Extraordinary..." "Come again? You have lost your memory? But surely you must remember my precious daughter, Mipha, yes? You do, do you not?" "I cannot believe it… you have truly forgotten my dear Mipha as well? Yet you were so close… and you do not remember her? Young hero…" "Yes, I suppose you’re right. Let us retire for the night. Link," "I am sure your journey here must have been challenging." "Of course! He will be tended to by a royal physician, as well as given access to the finest accommodations we can offer. Seggin, will you please fetch an attendant to show Link to a room?" "It is good to have you back in the domain, young Link." "We will discuss the matter of the divine beast in the morning," "Rest well, Champion." "Sidon, please stay. We have more to talk about." "Ah, Link, you look positively gallant in that armour! Mipha truly was a skilled craftsman." "Shall we call in the Generals and form our plan of attack?" "Oh? Then tell me, my boy, what is this plan of yours?" "Marvellous," "Where did you find this research?" "Unless you are about to tell me you once travelled all the way to Hyrule Castle without telling me, then I am sure that will not be the case." "It has never been safe, you know it is forbidden for anyone to get that close to the divine beast!" "Had b-- how many times have you gone up there!" "Your sister was curious, too!" "And that relic is what got your sister killed! Have you forgotten that!" "Next you’ll be telling me you want to board it!" "What is it, Link?" "What? She spoke to you?" "Is that so… I can not believe it… she is still alive, after all these years, just as you were!" "Then this could mean… perhaps…" "Hm… I sense there is still a part of this plan you are not telling me, my son." "Do not be absurd!" "I will not allow you to take that risk, going up against the divine beast! Not even to mention being in such close proximity to shock arrows!" "That is completely different! You are my only son, you could be killed!" "You will not put yourself at risk like this, I forbid it!" "Absolutely not." "No." "You should go, Link. You have much to prepare." "Link, I would like a moment alone with Sidon, please." Notes: Chapter 12: out of the kiddy pool and into the frying pan Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 13: please accept... Mipha's netflix password Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 14: Link confirmed Not Dead Summary: Notes: Chapter Text "Link," "You have done well! We have all been awaiting your return." "The violent downpour has disappeared, as has the threat to our home! Thanks to you, Link, there is no longer any danger of a great flood laying waste to Hyrule, and we can start to recover from the isolation the storms have caused." "We are truly grateful. What you have done for us today… there are truly no words. From the depth of my heart, thank you." "I know you have a long journey ahead of you yet, but should you ever return to Zora’s Domain, you shall carry not the weight of defeat, but the honour of a proud knight. Rise, Sir Link, as a knight of Zora’s Domain." "Keep it," "It will serve you better on your quest than it will mounted in memorial here." "Your bravery shall be remembered in our hearts and history for centuries to come, Link." "As will yours, Sidon. As your father, I am so proud of you for saving us all. You have grown much recently. I know you will be a worthy heir when your time comes." "The storms have stopped, and the Divine Beast is our ally once again! This calls for celebration!" "By the way, Link… I noticed when you arrived you are without your blade, the sword that seals the darkness," "Never mind. I must be truthful, Link, though I was rejoiced to see you survived purging the Calamity from Vah Ruta… I was also saddened to see that Mipha did not return with you. A part of me had always hoped she was simply trapped within the Divine Beast, and had survived… but she truly has left us after all, hasn’t she." "Her spirit? Did… did she say anything to you?" "I see… my dear Mipha… there was nothing I could do to save her. But… she will never be alone. It is my duty as her father to watch over her, even now." "I… appreciate you saying that. You’re right. You are a good man, Link." Notes: Chapter 15: Everyone is gay for the great fairy Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 16: filler episode Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 17: Link rolls a nat 20 on friendship Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 18: it's a horse! STOMP STOMP Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 19: aloe vera Acquired Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 20: civil servants with swords voted #1 obstacle in Link's quest Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 21: the 'h' in hero stands for 'hips don't lie' Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 22: it's me boy, the ps5 speaking to you inside your brain Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 23: loz: friendship is magic Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 24: Link and Barta's bodacious battle against the bogus Blight Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 25: WHO LET THE DOGS OUT Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 26: dont_talk_to_strangers_DIO.mp3 Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 27: *airdrops you a divine intervention* Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 28: 'rito meat' is not what it sounds like Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 29: if you’re Wile E Coyote, and I’m the roadrunner, then who’s piloting Vah Medoh!? Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes:

Chapter 1: it was like that when i got here!

Summary:

Link wakes up, not all the way whole.

Notes:

cw vague panic attack (drink ice cofy...... panik ettec)

HI WE HAVE A BLOG ITS @zelda-without-a-licence-plate FOR OUR REDESIGNS AND ART https://zelda-without-a-licence-plate.tumblr.com/

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

A light. There, in the distance, cutting through an endless black. Bright and golden.A murmur. A voice. Farther away than the light is. But still… it wants something, he thinks. It wants something from him. It’s pleading for it. But he can’t make out the words.The light grows— grows, or gets closer, or maybe it’s him that’s racing towards it, he doesn't know. But then the light is huge and blinding and the voice rings out as clear as can be.

Open your eyes…

The voice speaks again, less pleading this time. More guiding. The voice is soft, and gentle. The voice sounds kind. He wants to listen to it.“ Open your eyes… open your eyes."

He opens them. Sees a light. It’s different than the one from the black. This light is blue. He blinks a few times as his eyes adjust— once they do the room seems quite dim, and the blue light above him is not so harsh. He can feel the opening and closing motion of his eyelids like it’s the only thing he can feel at all, like a giant moving in slow motion. Every twitch and every breath awakens a new part of his body he doesn't realize he has until he moves it.

Wake up, Link.

Link wakes up.

There’s a strange feeling of wetness. The wetness goes away with a rushing noise, and he’s no longer quite floating. The ground under him is solid, and rough, it hurts his head to lie on it. So he sits up. Despite the wetness that surrounded him moments ago, as soon as it’s drained into the ground, his skin and clothes and hair only drip for a moment before they dry.‘Clothes’ is generous. He's in a pair of underwear and nothing else. His feet are bare. His fingertips slide across the stone under him. He can’t tell if wherever he is is cold or not. It’s sort of just… Nothing.

Everything is kind of Nothing. There’s a lot of Nothing, right now.

He looks around. He’s in some kind of chamber. Some kind of empty pool, raised above the ground. Pulling himself out, he takes a step. His knees shake once, and then no more.

The Nothing is inside him. In his head is empty.

The whole chamber is filled with some kind of noise that he could never begin to identify. Maybe it’s the chamber itself that makes it. Either way, he definitely hears it, ringing in his ears and bouncing around his empty head. It’s a sort of humming, but not quite, it’s also like a hundred voices singing from the bottom of a canyon, and he is standing alone at the top. Maybe the sound is coming from inside his own head, and it is not the chamber at all that makes it. Maybe that’s the sound all this nothing inside him makes.

Looking around more, he spots a pedestal, glowing in the same way as the chamber around him. Something resonates in him upon seeing it— not familiarity, or recognition. But all his senses zero in, like he knows whatever is on that pedestal is very important. He walks over to it. The voice comes back.

That is a Sheikah slate. Take it. It will help guide you after your long slumber. ” As she speaks, the pedestal moves, stone on stone making a rumbling grinding noise. Some sort of device raises itself from the pedestals grip. The Sheikah slate.

He takes it. It’s a little bigger than his hand, and it hums in a way that feels both familiar and alien. There’s a sort of handle on the top of it. After a second of fiddling with it, he manages to turn it on. It’s a very strange device.

The closed door before him raises up with another rough grumble, revealing another chamber. Dust covers every surface within, piled up in corners and where the wall meets the floor. There are huge wooden crates and barrels, dilapidated and rotten. He barely spares them a glance. What captures his attention are the two equally dilapidated chests right in front of him. He opens one, and finds nothing inside but some clothes. he picks up the old, moth-eaten shirt. The stitches are weak and the fabric is thin, but he decides to keep it anyway. He shivers when his bare skin slides against more bare skin. He feels too exposed like this. He puts the shirt on.

The sleeves are too short, but it fits fine in the armpits and the torso isn’t too loose or tight. Peering back into the chest, he inspects the rest of the outfit; pants, boots, and a belt. The pants are old and worn also, the frayed bottom hems coming down to his calves, and a little loose around the waist, but the belt easily solves that problem. The belt has a hook on it that he clips the slate onto, so he doesn't have to constantly worry about dropping it. The soles of the boots are hard and thin, the leather cracked and dry. When he stands, they don’t offer any cushioning or support, but at least they’ll protect his feet from sharp things on the ground.

He walks forward once more, more comfortable now that he's clothed, and not sure what to do next, just knowing that he wants to see more than this room. He wants to go further. The voice comes back just as he wishes that it would.

Hold the slate up to the pedestal, ” the voice says. “ That will show you the way.

There’s another pedestal by the far wall, almost exactly like the one in the first chamber, just without the slot that the slate fit into. He grabs it off his waist and taps the face of it to the top of the pedestal carefully, and the pedestal lights up with an otherworldly noise— and the wall moves.

Then, again, light—

But real light this time— sunlight—

Golden like the light he saw at the beginning, and so, so bright he has to shield his eyes against it, but—

A infant of a breeze whispers against his face, and inside him something swells, pushing against his lungs, filling him up and chasing all the nothing away—

The voice is back, ringing in his head, deafening, or maybe she’s speaking from somewhere inside the chamber, he can’t tell, he can barely make out her words through the frenzy steadily overcoming him--

Link… you are the light— our light— that must shine upon Hyrule once again. Now go.

Link goes.

He runs like he's possessed, his legs carrying him towards that light with a power he can hardly believe is his own. He barely notices the puddle he storms through, water soaking his boots and the bottoms of his pants, and the wall in front of him is nothing to his sudden need to get out .He scrambles up and over it without a thought, and then there’s just a few more steps and the light is there , filling up the maw that is the exit to this alien, nothing filled place, and he runs as hard as he can.

The air that fills his lungs the second he steps outside practically breathes life back into him. Wilderness on all sides, the sky huge and bright and endless above him, wind whipping his hair around and tickling the tips of his ears, the sound of birds chirping and the grass under his feet rustling as he keeps running. Life, everywhere life.He only stops when the ground stops, skidding to a halt on the edge of a cliff, and from here he can see—

I can see everything .

The thought rings clear and loud in his head, and he is not empty anymore.

I can see the whole world from here.

The whole world is all there, stretched out in front of him, and he feels so, so small, and like a giant all the same. If before there was nothing in him, now there is everything.

He feels everything.

chasing dragons - ThatOneFunAnon, cruisercrusher (1)

This must be Hyrule. He looks up at the sun. He looks at the mountains in the distance, and the trees and the grass and the flowers and huge stone buildings he sees very, very far away. It’s beautiful.

Something in his peripheral vision catches his attention. It’s a person, walking around on the hill below him.

The slate beeps. He pulls it from his belt and turns it on. There’s a compass and a map on it, but it’s empty. All he sees is a little orange blip nearby, in the general direction of where that person is. The voice did say the slate would help guide him… Following the orange blip is probably his best bet right now. He puts the slate back and starts walking down the hill, fully intending to go talk to that person he saw before he does anything else.

It’s a stick on the ground that distracts him and banishes all other thoughts from his head. Sitting innocuously in the grass by his feet, a pretty sturdy looking stick, with a little green leaf stuck still on the end. He picks it up, swinging it around a few times like a sword. The action pulls a little chuckle out of him. Look at him, playing with a stick he found like a little child. He decides to keep it-- it’s the closest thing he has to a weapon right now. He’s not sure why he knows that’s important, but he feels better not being empty-handed.

Apparently, he is very easily distracted. Because when he looks back up, what does he see but another stick! Why is he so excited about finding sticks on the ground? He can’t say. But he dashes forward and picks up that stick too, so he's dual-wielding sticks. They’re good sticks. He smiles. That’s when he discovers that he can store things in the slate. There’s no way he could ever begin to understand how it works, but he can store things in the slate.

At the top of a small stone outcropping on the side of the cliff, about as tall as he is, Link spots a small gathering of mushrooms. He hops up onto the outcropping and picks them, not entirely sure but fairly confident they’re edible. They’re an orange-ish colour, with large lighter spots on the top, and white stems… he takes a bite out of one, chewing carefully, slowly and thoughtfully.

A few minutes later, he hasn’t died, felt any pain, or violently ejected the mushroom out of either end, so he assumes they’re safe. Food can be stored in the slate, too! That’s pretty cool. There are only a couple of mushrooms here, but he picks them and stores them anyway. Food, he knows for sure, will be important to have. By now he’s almost completely forgotten what he was doing. He wonders if there are more mushrooms up this little cliff, and he climbs it to find out.

He's a really good climber. He scales the small cliff easily, finding bits of stone jutting out to grab onto, or to use as footholds, until he reaches the top, only a little bit tired. He doesn't find any more mushrooms. But he keeps going straight anyways, eager to explore the great expanses of green before him. But then the slate dings, and he's reminded of what he was supposed to be doing. Right, the blip. He takes the slate out and looks at the empty map, and the little blip. He looks out in the general direction of the blip— there's a building there. Some kind of temple, it looks like, on the verge of ruins. Maybe that’s where he's supposed to go. He heads straight towards it.

Stopping at the edge of the cliff, he peers down, looking for a good place to climb back down. He travels along the edge of the cliff, always towards the temple. It’s as he's looking down that he spots the small camp of monsters. Cognitively, he doesn't really know what they are, but something buried in his head, something that lives next to his instincts, does know. He scales down the cliff— they’re nearby, but not nearby enough to see him coming. Armed with a stick and rising adrenaline he charges into their camp, barely giving the red monsters time to react before he's swinging at the head of the nearest one. It only takes a few good blows for his stick to break, but it’s okay because the monster he’d hit drops a thick wooden branch of a spear. He grabs it and spins. Another red monster is coming at him with an ear-grating screech. He blocks its attack easily, laughably easily, knocking it to the ground with his shiny new spear.

Not shiny anymore. One, two, three bludgeons to the monster’s head with the thing and the monster is done for. To his confusion, the monster curls up and bursts apart into nothing but foul black smoke.

His momentary lapse in concentration is enough for the third and last monster to whack him across his back with something painfully solid. He stumbles and manages to roll away on his shoulder before the monster can get another, more damaging blow in. The distance remaining is just as long as his spear is and he grabs it with both hands and jabs it forward as hard as he can-- the tip connects with the monster’s bony sternum and cracks and splinters in his hands as the ugly red abomination falls and disappears the same way the others did.

Small bursts of pain make themselves known in his palms as the adrenaline from the fight fades. He hisses and looks down, dropping the shards of the spear. His hands are full of splinters. He sighs and makes his way over to the large log on the ground that must be part of the monsters’ camp and sits heavily on the slightly mossy surface. He sets about pulling the splinters of varying sizes from his hands, biting back small noises of pain as he does. This pain is infinitesimal-- but he doesn't know what he's comparing it to. As he works through his task he takes the opportunity to study his hands. They’re calloused and scarred, which puzzles him, because he can’t remember ever gaining such marks.

He doesn't remember anything, he realizes jarringly. That did not make him as uneasy as it does now, faced with evidence of wear and tear on his body that he has no recollection of. Evidence that he lived and existed before The Nothing.

He shakes those thoughts away. It does no good to dwell on that which he doesn't understand. That thought resides in the same place in his mind as whatever it was that drove him to fight those monsters.

Trying to distract himself, he takes another look around the camp, looking for things he can take with him. Like that giant hunk of meat roasting over the fire. He pulls it off the bone and stores it, and it’s as he's doing that that he realizes those monsters left things behind. Crouching in the dirt, he examines the small sharp objects on the ground-- what looks like teeth and horns. He takes them, not sure why, but he has a feeling they will be useful. He takes their dropped weapons, too-- a second spear, and a torch. He doesn't really want to take the spear, because it sucks and this one would probably also give him splinters, but pragmaticism wins over. There is also a pot lid resting on the ground, which he figures might make a fine makeshift shield.There are more mushrooms at the base of one of the trees, he notices gladly, and two bushes of what he thinks are hot peppers. He takes an experimental bite out of one. Immediately his mouth feels like it's on fire, but he grins around the mouthful. He likes spicy food-- another thing that he knows but doesn't know how he knows.

He moves on. That temple is still there, in the distance, and he still feels drawn towards it. Jogging down the hill he stays close to the edge of the cliff, water below him. The temple looms closer in view, and it’s as he comes to the start of some broken up stair path that he fully realizes how in ruin it is. Broken glass crunches under his feet as he slowly steps forward, taking it all in.

Almost all the windows are at least a little broken, some more than others, at least one completely shattered and empty. Moss and vines cover the entire crumbling structure, stones bricks teetering and fallen, leaving gaps in the walls. From here he can see that the roof is in disrepair, even caved in in some places. But as broken and abandoned as it is, a sense of significance washes over him. This is a very important place. A tugging in his chest wants to weep at the state it’s in, something in his soul that he thinks is himself and also not himself. He skips over trying to find an entrance and simply pulls himself in through the empty windows.

The temple is even worse on the inside than it is on the outside. Grass has completely grown over what was once a proper stone floor. Nearly all the other wall and the roof on that side has crumbled away to nothing, blue sky exposed beyond. Unstable piles of brick and shattered pillars litter the ground. He frowns. Something tells him this did not happen just out of neglect… this place seems like it was too well designed, too sturdily built to have succumbed to the ravages of time as thoroughly as this.

Something had been done to this sacred place.

His feet carry him up the stairs of their own volition, until he is standing below a large statue of the Goddess. He recognizes her on a primal level. She, too, is covered in moss, like everything else in here, and the smaller, smoother and rounder versions of her image that sit at her feet. Flowers grow here, and small butterflies flit about. Despite his torn apart surroundings, this feels peaceful to him, almost like despite the cruelty that has been unleashed upon it, this place is still somehow as it is meant to be.

He kneels before her, but…

She seems to be smiling down at him, real even though that is simply the way her face is carved. If he strains his mind-- not quite, something deeper, but he doesn't know what to call it, he thinks he can almost hear the Goddess calling out to him, like the voice that roused him from the Nothing before he could make out her words. He feels a pull, both towards the statue of Hylia and at his back, away from it.

He stands and turns, walking away. He glances to the side, and spots something that makes him freeze.

Barely twenty feet away, is… he doesn't know what it is, but he doesn't like it. Its shape reminds him of the empty place he woke up in, but there’s a more evil aura that he senses from it, as broken and lifeless as it is. Its legs are sprawled, claws gripping fallen stone, and its dead eye sends fear shooting down its limbs. His heart races, his throat squeezes shut and sweat drips from his forehead as he carefully sidesteps past it, never taking his eyes off it. There’s a phantom pain in his chest. He tries not to make any sudden movements even as he chastises himself for reacting like this to a mere shell .

Snap out of it ! He berates himself. It’s dead! It’s dead!

He doesn’t know what that means. He doesn’t know, he doesn’t know anything --

Pretty soon the thing is hidden behind a piece of wall but that does nothing to soothe his nerves. he knows it’s still there, it’s not gone, it’s there and deadly and waiting to--

He bumps into something and jumps out of his skin, a screech piercing through the panicked fog in his head as he turns, muscles tense and already moving to strike whatever it is--

His panic unlocks a strength he hardly knows he has and not only is the red monster felled by that one blow, but his spear shatters as well, broken in half on it’s skull. Panting and gasping, he stands there and tries to come back to himself as the monster disappears in that same smoke, leaving it’s club and more teeth behind. He tries to focus on the sensations around him, grounding himself. There is still a breeze, he can feel it on his cheeks and in his hair. The sun is warm from where it has climbed in the sky. His hands are still smarting a little from the splinters earlier.

His throat hurts. Was… was it him that screamed, and not the monster? He takes a deep breath, then another. He pays attention to the way his lungs fill and empty themselves, then fill again. It’s okay. He's okay. He's... alive. He collects the monster parts and the club. At least the wrapping on this club looks like it’s done right , he thinks.

To his left are some clay pots. He looks between the pots and the club in his hand, and smiles as an idea comes over him. Swinging wildly, he brings the club down on one of the pots and it smashes into tiny little pieces. Goddess, that feels good. He rears on the other pots and smashes those too, grinning as his tension is released, until a wooden clattering noise catches his attention. Stuffed in one of those pots had been a quiver with a few arrows in it. He snatches it up off the ground. Nice! This is mine now. A quiver of arrows isn’t much good without a bow to shoot them with, though, so he looks around to see if whoever had left these here had left a bow as well. Tucked in the corner is an old chest like the ones from the empty place. Maybe in there?

He’s right-- when he kicks the chest open there’s a small wooden bow sitting dusty at the bottom. It’s not ideal for combat, looks more like something a game hunter or a traveller might carry with them, but a cheap bow is better than none. He straps it to his back and moves on.

There are two more of those broken clawed shells just outside the entrance to the temple, and he startles upon seeing them, but this time he doesn't let himself be seized by the instinctual terror the sight of them assaults him with. Instead just runs in the other direction.

His feet pound against the hard stone ground as he runs down the steps away from the temple and vaults over a low wall lined by some hedges. He runs all the way down the hill, slowing somewhat, until he huffs and, this time at a much calmer pace, walks into the crumbling bare bones of a building. He's not sure what it used to be, but there’s another chest in there. Immediately he goes over to it-- he’s had good luck with the few chests he’s come across already and he doesn't see the harm in testing that luck again.

This chest had been left out in the open, and the metal latch on it is nearly rusted shut. He grunts as he tries to pry it open with his fingers, and when that didn't work, he tries using the handle of his club to lever it open. That doesn’t work either. He frowns at the thing, his mouth twisting in frustration and a healthy dose of impatience. He walks behind it and delivers a swift kick to the chest, sending it tumbling down the steps. It breaks on its hinges halfway down, and by the time it reaches the bottom the frail stone has completely broken open, the contents spilled out on the ground. He follows it and brushes the rubble away, intent on inspecting the contents and seeing if they’re worth the trouble. His jaw drops open when he actually sees what was in there.

More clothes! He pulls the pants out from the pile and holds them up-- these seem so much sturdier than the ones he’s got on right now! Better, thicker fabric, stronger stitching, actually the proper length-- he can hardly believe how good of a find this is. He slings the pants over his arm and checks out the rest of the clothes-- not that many, but there’s a pair of boots and socks too .

He grabs all of it and backs into a corner of the dilapidated building, looking around to ensure he's alone, though he hasn't seen any other people around yet other than that guy-- Oh yeah, that guy! -- and quickly starts removing the old clothes he has on.

The socks feel heavenly. The wool is a little stiff, could be soft with a quick wash, though they’ll work perfectly for now. He’s barely spent an hour in those poorly made boots, and already his feet are starting to blister. Then he pulls the new pants on. They’re a little snug in the thighs, but not so tight he doesn’t have a full range of movement, which is good. And the boots… oh, the boots. Real leather, soft and strong and supple, sturdy craftsmanship, proper padding in the soles, with just a little bit of height boost at the heel… wow. This is a greater treasure than any gem or fancy weapon he possibly could have found.

As he’s putting his belt and weapons back on, he checks the map on the slate, and realizes he’s much closer to that blip than he was before, but it wasn't the temple. Slate in hand, he climbs up onto a short wall and compares the map to the landscape in front of him. It should be right in front of him, whatever the blip represents… based on the distance, it looks like it’s that giant mound of boulders just a little ways off. Motivation in his task renewed, he runs nearly all the way there, moving right on past the small monster camp and other scattered red monsters on the way. He has a curiosity to be sated now, and he wonders what could be so significant about a bunch of boulders.

Turns out it’s not what’s significant about the boulders, but rather, what’s buried underneath them. It’s some kind of… it almost looks like a gazebo? Made of the same kind of stone material as in the place he woke up in, dusty and dull and half-covered by the rocks. Two things immediately stand out to him about it-- the pedestal in the center, and the tear-drop eye symbol at the top.

Link approaches the pedestal with some caution, very aware of the potentially-unstable boulders above him. As he gets closer it begins to glow orange, and he wonders if it has to do with the slate being near it. Slowly, he unclips the slate, and hovers around the pedestal, unsure of what to do. Upon further examination, he notices there’s a place to fit the slate in on the surface of the pedestal, like the one he first retrieved the device from. Maybe that’s the key?

So, a little unsure of himself still, he places the slate in the pedestal-- and it comes to life, twisting and glowing orange and slotting the slate into place by itself. Then there’s some kind of echoing, otherworldly sound, and some text appears on the slate’s screen; ‘ Sheikah tower activated.’

Wait, what?

‘Please watch for falling rocks.’

Wait, what ?

Then there’s a rumbling deep in the ground, and the earth is shaking, rocking almost violently. Link loses his balance and is thrown on his back-- he hits the back of his head on the stone. The rumbling continues as his vision swims and black creeps in from the edges, and he has a vague sensation of rising.

Then, almost as soon as it’s begun, the rumbling stops, and the shaking stops, and Link registers glowing blue, and blue sky beyond that, and-- holy f*ck! He pulls himself to his feet and looks around, heart racing at just how high up in the air he is. Vertigo shoots through him and it takes way too much willpower not to just fall right back down again. Tower, indeed. This thing is huge! And it was in the ground that whole time?!

The slate beeps, pulling his attention back to it. ‘Distilling local information .’ The long stone above the pedestal glows blue, and even brighter blue text rolls down it, something about downloading-- then a drop of something else blue drips down from the bottom of that same eye symbol and onto the slate, splashes and seems to sink in. He peers down at the slate, wondering what just happened, and sees that the map on the screen is no longer completely blank.

The pedestal rather politely semi-ejects the slate for him to take it back, and he does, promptly clipping it back to his belt. He turns to leave, but before he can take more than one step that voice is calling to him again.

Remember, ” she says, “ try, try to remember…

Something far in the distance catches his eye-- for a second he thinks it’s the sun setting, but the sun is still high in the sky, barely even afternoon yet. No, it’s something different. It’s… ah !

That light that called him out of the black, it’s there, shining from the castle far in the distance, bright and beckoning-- Link runs to the edge of the tower, drawn forward by the light.

You have been asleep for the last 100 years… ” before she can even fully finish her sentence and before Link can process it, another deep rumble comes up from the ground, but this time not under his own feet-- it’s far away. In the distance, the light from the castle shines brighter even as the earth around it shivers, a sinister black and purple smog that Link can see all the way from there, rising up in searching, swirling tendrils. Link shivers, too. “ The beast, ” she says. The light is coming from the castle but the voice is somehow speaking as if there were someone right at his ear. “ When the beast regains its true power this world will face its end. ” The smog takes shape, some kind of serpent, horned, eyes beady. The beast-- it unhinges its jaw, seems to look right at him even from so far away, it roars … his heart races. The light shines on.The smog serpent dissipates, but the foul smoke twists around the castle still. “ You must hurry, Link, before it’s too late…

Then the light fades and the voice does too, but not Link’s sense of dread, and now when he looks over the beautiful landscape of Hyrule there is something else simmering beneath it’s picturesqueness, something vile, and something in pain. He shudders, and turns away from the sight of the gruesome castle on the horizon.

The voice wants him to remember… but remember what? Who she is? Who he is? What that horrible nightmare incarnate was? What happened… what happened 100 years ago? He can’t. He tries, but he can’t, frowning as he tries to reach inside himself, rummaging around his frustratingly empty mind, but there’s nothing there.

The Nothing is still there, it followed him out of the ringing chamber.

He needs to find a way down from here. Only one of the openings in the top of the tower isn’t filled with rocks. He creeps over to the very edge and peers down-- there’s another, smaller, balcony-like platform right below, and he thinks he could make that jump. But it looks like he won’t have to. The tower seems to be lined with some sort of trellis, that looks strong enough for him to grip onto and use to climb down. So that’s what he does. He climbs down halfway and then jumps down the last few feet, landing squarely on the platform.

He’s still very far up, and there are a lot more platforms spiralling down the tower. He sighs. This is gonna take a while.

By the time Link gets to the bottom, he’s sure he’s never been so glad to have both feet on solid ground again. His arms and legs ache and he’s sure there are awful pit stains on his raggedy shirt. Before he can even stretch his aching muscles, though, a voice calls down to him from above. A man’s voice, this time, and much more tangible than the mysterious girl’s.“Ho!” That old man Link saw before when he first woke up glides down from seemingly nowhere, and lands in front of him with an agility that doesn’t quite match his elderly appearance. He folds away the wood-and-cloth contraption he’d used to glide down and speaks.

“My, my… it would seem we have quite the enigma, here. This tower and others just like it have erupted across the land, one after the other.”The old man seems to smirk under his puffy white beard. “It is almost as though… a long-dormant power has awoken quite suddenly.”

Link narrows his eyes. A long dormant power… like that monster at the castle, or maybe someone who has been asleep for one hundred years…? This man, as unassuming as he appears, knows something, and Link already does not trust him.

“If you do not mind me asking… did anything... odd, occur while you were atop that tower?”

Link just squints at the man and says nothing, suspicion buzzing at his nerves like courser bees under his skin. The old man is not deterred by Link’s stony silence. “You need not conceal the truth from me,” he says, “I saw the whole thing unfold from afar. Although I could not hear anything, I did see you react as if you heard something coming from the direction of the castle…” Openly frowning, now, Link wants to know what the hell this man’s business is, what he knows, and what he wants from him. He does not like this man. He’s not sure why, if it’s the knowing too much or something else about him that sets him off.

One tensing movement is enough for the old man to chuckle, as if he’s caught Link up in some sort of game. “Hit the nail on the head, did I? And did you happen to recognize this mysterious voice?”

“No,” Link mutters. Abruptly, he realizes it’s the first actual word he’s said out loud yet. It feels... odd. Like that sound wasn't supposed to come out of him, like that isn't what his voice is supposed to sound like. He holds his fist to his mouth and clears his throat, gently. “No.” this time, it’s more hushed, more airy. lighter. There, that feels better.

The good humour leaves the old man immediately. His hood lowers as his gaze cools, judging and dubious at the same time, and Link feels as though he was not wrong to have a bad feeling about him. “I see. Well, that is unfortunate,” he says. He turns slightly to the side, and points with his lantern-stick towards the horizon. Link turns as well to follow the line of his gaze. “I assume you caught sight of that atrocity enshrouding the castle. That… is the Calamity.

One hundred years ago, that vile entity brought the kingdom of Hyrule to ruin.”

The Calamity… The old man continues his speech, taking no note of Link’s puzzled and troubled frown.

“It appeared suddenly and destroyed everything in its path. So many innocent lives were lost in its wake. For a century, the very symbol of our kingdom, Hyrule Castle, has managed to contain that evil, but just barely. There it festers, building its strength for the moment it will unleash its blight upon the land once again. It would appear that moment is fast approaching…” The evil smog, the Calamity's malicious aura, continues to swirl around the castle. Link shudders-- he can feel its hellish power from there, he can hardly imagine how it would be for that power to cover all the land… The old man looks at Link once more, as Link keeps his gaze locked firmly on the castle and its plague. He can feel it, the old man’s eyes boring into the side of his skull, leaving no room to hide. There is a power in that gaze, that scares Link almost as much as the one lurking about the castle. The old man is not all he seems.

“I must ask you, courageous one… do you intend to make your way to the castle?”

Link does, but still he does not tell the old man so. The old man laughs. “You need not say a word. Your eyes reveal the determination within.”

My eyes, huh ? Link just levels a look at the old man from the corner of his eye.

“Here, on this isolated plateau, we are surrounded on all sides by steep cliffs, with no way down. If you were to try to jump off, well… no death could be more certain. Or more foolish.” This time, Link does not bother to conceal his dubious expression. Why is the old man telling him this? What does he want? “Of course,” And that smug glint is back. “If you had a paraglider like mine, that would be quite another story.”

Yeah, okay. This old man has been talking Link’s ear off for long enough, and Link has no more patience for his riddles or his games. He turns to face the old man and sticks his hand out. “Give it to me,” He demands.

The old man has the audacity to laugh again. “Oho! Certainly! Why not?” He makes no move to hand over the paraglider. “But there is no such thing as a free item in this world, you know.”

You have got to be kidding me . Link suppresses a growl. The world is going to end under an evil he can’t well imagine and this dusty old geezer is trying to, what, swindle him!? Why would he emphasize the evil of the Calamity, the need for urgency in purging it from the land, only to withhold from him an essential tool he will need to do so? And to be so smug about it, too.

“Let’s see now… How about I trade it for a bit of treasure that slumbers nearby?”

Enough with the riddles you fart , Link wants to say but doesn’t, willing to cooperate… for now. But if this old man continues to test him…

“Come, let me show you something.” The old man starts walking, and Link braces himself for a long, slow and boring hike… but the man stops nearby, at the top of a small mound in the ground, overlooking a monster camp, a small moat and beyond that, an orange glowing structure. Link comes to a halt beside him-- and that is when he realizes he barely comes up to the man’s nipples.“Do you see that structure there? The one shining with a strange light?” The old man says, pointing at it, and this time Link does not resist rolling his eyes. Of course he sees it, what else could there be as remarkable to look at before them? “It began glowing at the exact moment those towers rose up from the ground.” Another chuckle. “I would think such a place would house some sort of treasure, wouldn’t you? Treasure for the paraglider. A fair exchange, I believe.”

Whether the old man has plans to say anything else or not, Link’s got the message. He starts walking down the hill with purposeful steps, skirting around a small pond and avoiding that monster camp for now. Half-submerged in the moat, he spots two more of those deactivated death machines, but breathes easy knowing that they’re no threat broken down like that. He keeps walking, up past the broken stones that were once a building and up the rough terrain.Then the glowing structure is right there, a shut door at it’s front and another pedestal next to it. By now he knows well what to do, and taps the face of the slate to the pedestal. A circle on the platform at the entrance lights up blue, and he registers a new message on the slate’s screen: ‘ travel gate registered to map ’. ‘ Access granted.’ Then the door is groaning open, uneven bars separating and rotating inwards just as the rest of it changes from glowing orange to blue. The inside of it is… very small. Certainly no room for any kind of treasure. Link frowns, wondering what kind of trick that old man is trying to pull.

He wanders inside anyway, looking for some kind of hidden hatch the treasure might be concealed in. There’s another glowing circle on the ground with that eye symbol on it again, and a panel jutting up from it with one button on it.

Link presses the button.

Like an idiot. The circle makes a noise that startles Link, and moves --

And then before he can even think about getting out he’s sinking into the ground, light quickly fading as the entrance gets farther away from him, and he keeps sinking downwards. Then he’s completely submerged in darkness, still sinking, and he tries not to panic.

Notes:

Alternate dialogue--

Old man: hey
Link, panicking thinking he f*cked up activating the tower: iT wAs LiKe tHaT wHeN i gOt hErEeEeeEeE

Chapter 2: shrine time

Summary:

Link's patience with the old man runs out. He's getting off this plateau, one way or another.

Notes:

this is where i start taking liberties, because holy f*ckc this old man just talks forever and ever im sick of him and didn't want literally the whole chapter to be just his boring expositions

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Soon, but not soon enough, the sinking platform comes to a stop in a chamber bigger than Link had seen yet. The architecture is unlike any he’s ever seen-- that blue glow is everywhere , surrounding him even as he steps cautiously off the platform, craning his neck to look around. The blue light comes from the ceiling itself, the whole thing glowing on it’s own and lighting up the chamber. He hears energetically rippling water, but can’t see where the sound is coming from.

Another voice, mysterious and sourceless like the girl's but booming instead of soft, fills his head and the cavity of his chest and the chamber around him.“To you who sets foot in this shrine… I am Oman Au. In the name of the goddess Hylia, I offer this trial.

That’s all it says before fading again, leaving Link feeling like his ears should be ringing, but they’re not. He looks around some more and frowns. Trial? The goddess? It’s become clear the old man did not send him here for any real treasure. Judging by his suspicious amount of knowledge already, he surely knew what was really in here.

There's a pair of enormous metal planks on the ground before him, covering what he suspects is a hole in the ground that he has to pass through in order to get past that fence… but he knows he will not be able to move them on his own.Beyond the planks is a pedestal and stone like the one from the tower. It’s obvious what he needs to do there. He puts the slate in the pedestal and the thing and the stone lights up like the ones on the tower did. ‘ Sheikah slate authenticated. Distilling rune .’ The slate says. The teardrop falls onto the slate, absorbs in a show of solidarity between technology and magic, and the slate lights up with a screen he has not seen yet. ‘ Rune extracted .’ Magnesis... Link takes the slate back and looks between it and the planks on the ground.

It takes a bit of fiddling with the slate for him to figure out how to turn it on, and when he does figure it out he’s no less perplexed. Any metal object can be controlled and moved around using the magnesis feature on the slate, it would seem. He tests it on the metal planks-- and is surprised when it takes no effort at all to lift them this way. There’s barely any resistance from the slate, and he doesn’t even have to strain-- though maneuvering is still quite a challenge. In any case, he was right, and there is a hole in the ground, revealed when he moves the plank closest to him. He lets it drop a few feet away and hops down into the hole.Ah, so that’s where the water is.

He runs down the hallway and comes back up only to be faced with another obstacle-- a wall of stone blocks that he can’t climb. He does try to climb them, but there’s nowhere to get a grip on any of them, and he just slides back down to the ground. And the seams where the blocks are stacked together are too far apart and too shallow to serve as proper grips either.

Maybe if he can reach the designs engraved on the one metal block he could-- oh. The metal one.

Link backs up so he isn’t in the crash zone and uses magnesis to get a hold on the metal block, waits a beat… then starts swinging. The metal block goes flying back and forth, knocking stone away and more tumbling down around it, until the way is far from cleared but at least he can maneuver through the wreckage.

There’s a beeping sound coming from the other side of the last stone block. Link pauses and reaches for his club… there’s a small scuttling noise, and then a machine, some kind of baby version of those deadly shells of mechanical monsters outside, is coming at him around the block, way too fast and way too alive for Link’s comfort.

“Oh, f*ck!” Link yelps and starts whacking it on the head with his club. It dents the strange, ancient metal, but doesn’t do much more damage than that. Link retreats before it can answer with an attack of its own. He jumps up onto one of the blocks, well above its reach, and smirks down at the stupid little thing.Then its eye starts to light up and a distinct sound of powering up can be heard from within its inner mechanics, and Link pales.He isn’t able to dodge in time before the machine fires a laser at him.It hits him in the abdomen.Link doubles over-- winded. Just winded? Wait, what? He presses a hand to his stomach. His shirt is a little singed, but other than that it doesn’t even sting.

Link and the machine stare at each other. It seems almost proud of itself.

He jumps down and lands one more hit on the thing as he lands, and its lights go out as it shuts down and bursts apart into little pieces of machinery and shrapnel, almost self-destructing. Link sifts through the wreckage, nudging the blackened pieces of metal with his foot. He grabs a couple of screws and some bits and bobs and moves on.

He makes quick work of the rest of the puzzles, all involving use of magnesis in some way. Then he finds himself in the last part of the underground shrine.

It’s… like some kind of ancient throne, he thinks as he goes up the steps. There’s a figure in there, behind some kind of glowing blue shield with the eye symbol on it, and Link can’t tell if they’re alive or not. It’s hard to make out through the barrier, but their skin is blackened and wrinkled like a half-preserved corpse, and there’s no evidence of any guts behind those ribs that stick out so sharply. Their eyes are closed and the eye is tattooed on their forehead. Their hands, adorned with gold jewellery, form a triangle shape in front of their chest, framed by long locks of stark white hair that somehow remains.

It’s really creepy. Link wonders how long they were down here. Longer than he was in that other shrine, surely. He wonders about that eye symbol, though. So far he’s seen it almost everywhere, and he’s sure he knows it somehow, from before all this. It's strikingly familiar, that eye tattooed on the body's forehead. Frowning, Link brushes his fingers against his own forehead, feels something in his mind blink, but he's clearly not whole enough to recognize it.

Sheikah slate, sheikah tower… sheikah eye?

Sheikah corpse?

He raises one hand up carefully towards the shield, intending to run his fingers along the lines of the symbol, trying to stir up whatever memory he has of it, but as soon as the tip of his finger meets the shield it shatters into a billion little shards of pure light, drifting out and away and through him and fading out into nothing, so there is now nothing between him and the sheikah body.

It speaks.

It doesn’t speak from its body, dead and frozen and long disused, its mouth does not move, but their voice fills Link’s head like it did when he first entered the shrine. “ You have proven to possess the resolve of a true hero ,” it says. “ I am Oman Au, the creator of this trial. I am a humble monk, blessed with the sight of the goddess Hylia and dedicated to helping those who seek to defeat the Calamity. With your arrival, my duty is now fulfilled. In the name of the goddess Hylia, allow me to bestow this gift upon you… please accept this spirit orb.”

Then, from within its chest, floats a shining orb, glowing purple like crystal and like mist at once, the emblem of the goddess suspended within. It drifts towards him, becoming more physical as it spins slowly, until it is a token he could reach out and snatch from the air. Link doesn’t know if he’s supposed to grab it with his hands, not sure if he could-- but it keeps coming towards him, past his outstretched hands and right to the center of his chest. It glows the same blue as the tower, the shrine, and it swirls around until the thin strings of matter absorb into his slate like water, the sound of an item being placed inside, a chiming notification rings in the chamber around him.

May the Goddess smile upon you…”

The monk says nothing more before its form starts to fade away, crumbling particles drifting away like glowing green ash caught on a breeze that does not exist this far underground. Then it is gone, and Link is left completely alone in the shrine. He turns back.

As soon as Link steps out of the shrine and into the daylight-- noticing that the sun is much closer to the horizon than it was before-- he hears the old man call out to him again. He looks towards the ridge where Link left him, but the old man is no longer there. He hears fabric flapping in the wind behind him, and turns just in time to see the old man touch down with his paraglider from seemingly nowhere, again.The old man seems to be smirking when he says, “it seems you managed to get your hands on a spirit orb. Well done!”

Link spares no bluntness when he raises a suspicious and angry eyebrow at the old man. “How did you know?”

“Clairvoyance!” He says with gusto. “Oho, or perhaps just something similar.”

He is lying. Link knows he is. He does not know who… or what… the old man is, but he is not something so unassuming as a simple seer.

“As one gets older, it can become more difficult to see what is right before one’s own eyes… however, that which was once hidden from view can often be crystal clear. But perhaps that is not true for everyone! Oho ho! The appearance of those towers and the awakening of this shrine…” The old man points with his walking stick to Link’s belt, and, of course, the sheikah slate. “It is all connected to that sheikah slate you carry on your hip right there.”

The fact that the old man knows of the slate is interesting, but not surprising, and he has yet to tell Link anything he had not yet figured out himself, or could not figure out himself.

“Paraglider, please?” Link asks, and he has to admit, with no small amount of insolence.

The old man fixes him with a sudden fierce glare, thumping his stick on the ground and asserts, unbridled authority in his voice-- “I have yet to finish speaking!”Link fights a flinch at the outburst, but the old man continues speaking as if nothing happened.“Long ago, a highly advanced tribe known as the Sheikah inhabited these lands. The great power of their wisdom saved this kingdom time and time again. But their ancient technology disappeared long ago… or so it is said. It is interesting, however, to think… how something like that survived all this time, hidden away in a shrine.” He gestures again with the walking stick. “These shrines are tucked away in numerous places all across this land. On this particular plateau alone, I believe there are still three more. Bring me the treasure from each of those shrines… and I will give you my paraglider.”

Link tries really, really hard not to sigh petulantly. “So I need more, now?” His feeling of being completely done with the old man is surely displayed in the tone of his voice, but he doesn’t care if he earns his ire again. He wants this over with, he wants to move on-- he has more important things to do than run in circles, chasing riddles he wouldn't need the old man to solve if he did not purposefully keep the answers out of his reach.

“I said ‘treasure’, but I never said there would only be one treasure.” The old man says, and Link really really wants to punch him. “Whether it’s one treasure or four, what’s the difference for a young go-getter like yourself?”

Is he mocking me?!

“Since I’m feeling generous, I will also teach you a trick for finding shrines--”

“No thanks.” Link says. The old man’s shock is obvious, his eyes widening beneath his hood.

“What?”

“I said, no thanks.” His voice is still rough and raspy from disuse, but with every word it gets steadier. He keeps the soft, quiet tone. “I’m sure I can figure it out. I’ll come find you again when I’ve got all your orbs .”

The old man sputters in outrage, but Link has already turned and started to walk away. “You-- you little-- get back here! I am not done speaking!”

“No,” Link tosses over his shoulder.

“I command you to do as I say!”

That gets Link to pause in his steps. He is not sure why it works, but it does, at least until Link shakes himself of the strange urge to obey. He looks over his shoulder at the old man with another raise of his eyebrow, the flash of obedience already gone. “What makes you think you can give me orders?”

He doesn’t give the old man time to respond, though, before he is walking further away, out of earshot. He has nothing but the clothes on his back and the weight of the world on his shoulders, and he is done letting the old man waste his time.

Link starts by searching the lower areas of the plateau first, not bothering to go up into the mountains quite yet. Judging by the shape of the plateau on his shiny new map (which he loves) he can probably do a fairly thorough sweep if he goes in a spiral. It means quite a lot of walking, but he doesn’t mind that so much-- the sun is warm and the breeze is cool, and the grass is up to his knees in the fields he crosses, littered with patches of wildflowers and more useful herbs that he picks. He goes up the hill to avoid the monster camp, towards the temple, but turns again just shy of it, going back down to where he sees birch trees and a small structure that doesn’t quite match the ruins scattered about the rest of the plateau.

It’s a cabin-- where he assumes the old man lives, but he doesn’t seem to be home right now. It’s a pretty haphazard build, logs loosely stacked on top of a stone base and held together by tangles of rope. It’s not raining right now but if it were there are several spots where Link is sure the roof would be leaking.There isn’t even a door, Link notes with amusem*nt, but if he were the only person for leagues around then maybe privacy wouldn’t be a priority of his, either. The inside isn’t exactly luxurious-- there is, however, some food here and there, that Link doesn’t feel bad about taking. He doesn’t feel bad about reading the old man’s diary, either. There isn’t much of interest written in it, generic old man kind of musings, but the bit about the recipe catches his eye. Not really in a good way-- for a dish called, literally, spicy meat and seafood fry , it doesn’t make sense for someone to forget about one of the ingredients obviously listed in the title. Nearby on the table Link spies a raggedy quill resting in a stained pot of ink, and he adds an annotation in the margins of the page.

It’s fish.

Link looks over at the poor excuse of a bed and notices the article of clothing folded on it that had been mentioned in the diary, the warm doublet. Shameless, Link puts it on. It’s far too big for him, probably because it belongs to someone much larger than him, so he layers it on over the shirt he already has. He’s pleased to find that it really is quite warm, though the old man was certainly right to describe it as itchy. The dyed wool is rough against the skin of his stomach exposed where his regular shirt doesn’t quite reach.

On his way out he also grabs the woodcutter’s axe that had been laying around.

He chocks it up to luck that he spots another one of those shrines up on the rocks high above them he walks out. He takes a minute to assess the climb. It’s really high up… and Link is a good climber, but he doesn't think he’s that good. It’ll take some time, but he decides to go around.

There's a stone arch looming over the pathway that goes up into the mountains, and through it like a frame, Link spots another shrine glowing orange in the distance, higher and farther than the one he’d spotted earlier, that he’s making his way to now. He marks it on his map and turns at the archway, towards where he saw the first one.Immediately, he’s glad for the warm doublet, because as loose-fitting and scratchy as it is, it does still do an effective job at staving off the worst of the cold, that nips fiercely at his face and neck. He hikes up the path, wind whistling and no longer the gentle caress of a breeze it was earlier, until he comes to a rock face just about twice as tall as him, which he climbs over easily, even with the loose gloves that had been stuffed in one of the doublet’s sleeves.

As soon as he clears the rock face, monstrous screeching grabs his attention-- right next to him is a monster camp, and Link curses that he didn’t hear them earlier. They’re already charging at him before he even has his footing, and he barely grabs his shield and club before the three monsters are on him. They're less of a challenge now. Muscle memory kicks in, skills he doesn't remember honing emerging from the dark recesses of his mind the more and more he fights. Soon, the three monsters are fallen, and the black smoke clears on disturbed white snow littered with fangs and horns.

The sun is farther along in the sky than he would have liked it to be, by now. He’d wanted to be done with these shrines and the old man by nightfall today, but judging by how far he’s already travelled and how much farther he still has to go, that probably isn’t going to happen. He keeps moving. The snow slows him down, as does climbing down the cliff towards the shrine above the cabin. It lights up and opens like the other one did when he taps the slate to the pedestal, and when he steps onto the platform and pushes the button, he knows what to expect.

Stasis is a weird rune, that, like everything else about the slate, Link could never begin to explain or rationalize, so he, for the most part, just decides not to think about it too hard. He moves through the shrine quickly, picking up from the chests throughout a better shield, wooden with metal accents and painted blue, and a heavy sledgehammer. A second spirit orb settles in his slate, and as the ancient Sheikah body fades away, Link's mind still cycles rapidly through the million questions he has.

He spots the last shrine as he’s coming out of the stasis one. He makes note of it's place on his map and turns and goes in the other direction, back towards the snowy mountain. Instead of going up, towards the high shrine, he turns down, towards where he fought those bokoblins. They had a campfire there, and he'd guess there's about an hour left of daylight, but he doesn't know what's between him and that shrine, and he doesn't want to get stuck in the freezing cold snow overnight. Besides, his stomach is growling, his feet and legs are sore, and he simply wants to rest. The fire is still going when he reaches it, but smaller, and he stokes it with one of his sticks. He sets his shield in the snow and sits on it.

Link takes from the slate a seared steak he'd taken from the old man's hut and a handful of mushrooms and peppers. He holds the steak between his teeth, and uses another stick to construct a mushroom-and-pepper skewer that he props over the fire to roast while he tears into the steak. The meat is a little dry and well-done, but it's still meat, and Link ravenously tears off chunks with his teeth and fingers, eating quickly. He stains the fingers of his gloves, wipes his face with the backs of them and his sleeves when he's done. The skewer, when it finishes roasting, is far from a gourmet meal-- the peppers are good, but the mushrooms are dry, and he wishes he had some oil to brush them in before he'd cooked them.

The sun is nearly set, and Link settles in to try and sleep mostly upright as soon as dark casts over the plateau.

Link blinks awake as the sun comes up over the horizon, shining bright over Hyrule with the promise of a new day. The rays of light reflect off the snow and hurt Link’s eyes, and he squints as he sits up, shivering.The fire had died at some point during the night, leaving nothing but charred logs behind. Link’s boots are wet, and when he stands his legs are stiff, and his fingers and toes are cold-- but that’s better than not being able to feel them at all. He sighs as he stretches, trying to get his blood flowing. If he wants to ever spend the night in the cold and snow again, he’s going to have to be a lot better prepared.He checks the spot on his map where he saw that other shine up in the mountains. He can’t see it from where he’s standing, but he guesses it shouldn't take more than a couple of hours to get there, provided the terrain isn’t too difficult.

The terrain is very difficult . There’s a relatively clear path up the mountain, but the ease stops there-- it’s steep, so step that at times he has to use his hands to support his way up, and the snow is much deeper here, up to his knees in spots. The morning sun is blinding . He eats handfuls of clean white snow for water and crunchy apples from his slate as he walks. If Link thought his pants were wet before, they’re soaked now, boots full of snow and skin freezing cold. He’s miserable, he’s not even halfway there.

There’s a monster camp right below the shrine. He can hear it. His muscles are sore from tensing up against the cold, the wind is brutal this high up and his ears and whole face hurts. His legs are so cold that they’re practically burning. He could attempt to scale the rocks and go around them-- but they’ll likely have another campfire going he can warm himself by. So he brandishes his shield and club, and drags himself up the hill. He’s ready.

Halfway up he has to dodge huge snow boulders tumbling down the hill at him. He clears the top of the hill and spots the red monsters-- they spot him back and come running, caterwauling. One of them picks up a barrel. He braces himself--

An explosion sends him flying back down the hill, tumbling back and picking up snow as he rolls. By the time he’s at the bottom, everything hurts. His clothes are singed and he's pretty sure there's soot on his face, but he’s not burned.Link curses-- did that monster throw a bomb barrel ?!

He climbs back up and blinks-- the monsters are gone. That monster had just taken out itself and the others with a bomb barrel by accident.

Holy sh*t .

Link plunks down by the fire, exhausted. Unfortunately, the meat the monsters had had roasting didn’t survive the explosion either-- it lies blackened and torn in the snow a few meters away. Link groans and gets to his feet, and climbs up the last bit of way to the shrine. He passes a half-frozen pond on his way, that reflects the sun’s light in a much kinder way than the snow underfoot.

Where the other two shrines weren’t exactly warm or cool, lacking much in the way of temperature generally, the cryonis shrine feels distinctly cool. Figures. But partway through he finds a good spear, a real one rather than the stripped branches the monsters used for spears. He collects a third spirit orb.

When he gets out of the shrine, Link looks down at the hike before him and groans pitifully. He really doesn’t want to do that again… by the time he even gets back to that stone arch it’ll probably already be evening, and he still has another shrine to do… he sighs. Pulling up the map, Link zooms in, looking for a more direct path down. Accidentally, he taps the tower icon, and a little message pops up saying ‘teleport ?’Link pauses, looking at the new button in confusion. What… ?

He taps it.

Big mistake.

A blue haze takes over his vision as he feels every cell and particle of his body separate and fly away. He wants to scream but he can’t make a noise, as his consciousness stretches across an empty aether and everything is dark, and everything is nothing . It lasts both an eternity and less than a second-- he's pulled apart and then put back together again, the blue comes back and then dissipates as well as he feels solid ground under newly-reconstructed feet. Vertigo sweeps through him and he stumbles, gasping, nausea welling up in his stomach and creeping dangerously far up his throat. Every part of him feels tingly and it hurts, he shakes his arms frantically, trying to get the sensation off. As soon his vision focuses, Link realizes he’s standing on top of the sheikah tower. He blinks at the land stretched out before him, the view so different than it had been seconds ago. He shakes his head, looks down at the slate, and with trembling hands clips it back onto his belt.

Yeah, f*ck that. Next time, Link will just buck up and take the hike-- he’s never doing that again.

A chuckle behind him snatches Link’s attention. He whirls around to see none other than the old man standing there, smirking at him from the corner of his eye. Link just glowers and doesn’t engage him. He climbs down the tower as fast as he can-- cuts corners and takes further jumps. It’s an easier climb the second time.

The shrine he had seen had been located in some ruins south-ish of the tower. He walks there quickly, his pounding feet flattening the grass in his wake. He’s almost done. Almost free of this plateau, this sprawling prison.Even at his hastened pace it takes nearly half an hour to reach the ruins. He’s not sure what this building was meant to be before it was destroyed, but the crumbling walls and collapsed roofing forms a maze. He can just barely see the top of the shrine peeking out above the mossy stone walls, and he follows it like a beacon into the ruins.There are more of those dead clawed machines here. The way they’re tilted, claws gripping the crumbling stone, makes his heart thrum anxiously. But, so long as they stay deactivated, he’ll be fine. He keeps moving silently through the ruins-- he’s almost there.

Link climbs up onto one of the walls, balancing along the top. The deactivated death machines are everywhere. He lets out a shaky breath and moves swiftly along the wall, keeping his balance even as bits of rubble crumble under his feet.

It’s… bombs. The rune is bombs. The slate gives him infinity bombs. He dumps a wooden club in favour of a good quality claymore. An excited grin forms on his face as he uses the two kinds of infinite bombs to solve the puzzles. Infinite bombs!

He gets a fourth spirit orb.

The old man is waiting outside. “With this you have now acquired all of the spirit orbs from the shrines on this plateau.” He doesn’t even bother with hello, just dives right into whatever speech he had prepared for this. He doesn’t say anything about Link’s pilfered clothes. “Oho! Extraordinary! That means… it is finally time.”

Time to give me the paraglider?

“Link, it is finally time for me to tell you everything.” Ah, Link should have known better than to get his hopes up. Wait, did he ever tell this guy his name? “But first…” The old man turns away from him. “Imagine an X on your map, with the four shrine as the end points. Find the spot where those lines intersect. I shall wait for you there.” He turns again, as a blue glow starts as his feet and wraps up around his silhouette. It’s a different glow than the blue of the sheikah technology. Link stares as the old man turns transparent and starts to fade away. “Do you understand? Where the two lines cross… I will… wait there…”

And with those last echoed words he’s gone, nothing but empty space where he once was. Link swallows his shock and pulls up the slate’s map. Finally, he’s going to get some answers.

It’s not hard to figure out that the old man-- ghost?-- wants him to go to the temple. It’s the only place of real significance in the general area of the centre of the X shape made by the shrines. He makes his way there right away, easily dispatching the monsters he runs into on his way-- at one point he switches from a club, which is too damaged and worn down at this point to be of any more use, to the spear that he had gotten from one of the shrines.By the time he makes it up the hill to the temple, the sun has just begun to set.He’s spent two days on this plateau, and he doesn’t plan on spending one more. He’s leaving tonight, nightfall or not, paraglider or not.

Upon arriving at the decrepit temple, Link forgets momentarily about the old man, and instead walks slowly towards the statue of the Goddess, as if in a trance. The first time he thought he imagined it, but no… no, she is calling him to her, she has to be. He kneels in the moss, looking up into the statue’s unseeing stone eyes, it’s carved smile, and waits. He waits before her, looking up at her like a child, for something, anything. Something should be happening but instead there is the Nothing, gnawing at his mind, filling his head with fog. The sounds of the wilds around him fall away to it, and all he hears is a sort of shimmering, like the sound he thinks starlight makes, like a morning mist as it dissipates, cut by the rising sun’s light, not a whisper, certainly not a voice. He tries to understand, but feels lost. This is… this is wrong.

Link’s breath stutters, and he raises his cupped hands towards her, as if pleading for something, but he doesn’t know what. Goddesses, he doesn’t know anything ! Nothing happens still, and he pulls his hands to his chest, curling his shaking fingers into fists.

“Please…” Link whispers, his eyes falling to the cracked stone floor. “Please… give me guidance.”

The Nothing is winning. Within Link there is a cavity, a gap in his soul, an empty, startlingly cold space that should be filled with warmth , warmth like a passioned embrace, like the midday sun on his face, like the embers of the fire that kept him warm at night. And it has been replaced by ice and frost, a freezing feeling that Link fears may be anger . He stays like that, on his knees, unsure of what to do or how to stand, until the shout of the old man shatters the mist in his ears and Link jumps to his feet, startled, his heart racing. He turns, spotting the old man standing on the rickety roof.

“Ho! So you have come…” Not for you, not to you, Link thinks. But even he does not know what he has come for. “There isn't much time, Link. Say your prayer and come up to the roof, quickly.” The old man turns and walks out of view, his footsteps echoing high above. Link shakes his head, trying to clear the fog. He cannot let the Nothing consume him, but as he is he fears he is too vulnerable, if he faced it it would overcome him. So for now he will turn away, he will close his mind, and he will go get that paraglider if it is the last thing he does .

Link climbs to the roof of the temple via the rickety ladder on the outside. He resists the urge to sweat nervously as he picks across the creaking tiles of the roof, knowing it is far from stable, and resists the urge to look down, knowing it would not fare well for him if he fell. Before him he can see the old man waiting in the bell tower, glowing blue against the stunning red and gold sunset all around them. He stridesforward to meet him.

chasing dragons - ThatOneFunAnon, cruisercrusher (2)

Link is left reeling after the king fades away for good, practically swaying on his feet, hardly even aware of the paraglider in his hands. His mind feels… overloaded, stuffed too full of new information to process any of it, let alone all of it all at once.

The old man was the long-deceased king of Hyrule.

For some reason, that didn’t do much to endear him to Link.

Link was a champion. Is he still a champion? Can he still call himself so, with the ruins at his feet proof of his epic failure one hundred years ago?

The Calamity… had taken everything from them, laid waste to Hyrule one hundred years ago, but not all is lost. Link has returned and with him he brings determination, and more importantly, hope.

He centers himself, shakes the last few tremors from what the king had shown him away, and looks out over Hyrule again, the cursed castle in the distance. One hundred years… he has been gone for one hundred years. Yet it doesn’t feel that way-- for everything the king had told him, events that Link had been present for… he still doesn’t remember any of it. There’s a block in his mind, some kind of impenetrable wall, sturdy and steep, keeping him from the memories of his past life… or the memories are simply gone. He does not know which option he prefers. Which is more comforting or which is more frightening. Link studies the paraglider in his hands. Is he still that champion from the king’s vision of the past? Is he still that knight, still that hero?

Was he ever in the first place?

Link doesn’t know, from the very core of his being he does not know, but he has run out of time to dwell on it. These are questions he will find answers to in time. Now, he must travel to Kakariko village.

Unfurling the paraglider with a sharp sound of fabric and wood unfolding, Link steps forward to the edge of the bell tower, leaps -- and flies.

Notes:

wapow

Chapter 3: Link exercises poor judgement

Summary:

Free now to leave the plateau and with a set destination in mind, Link is all too eager to begin his journey-- regardless of the rapidly falling night. That leads to a harsh lesson in patience, and knowing one's limits.

Notes:

cw- blood and near-drowning experiences

Once again huge thanks to my sibling who is also my beta reader! Ur a gem love u uwu

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Link’s feet touch down on the ground far, far too soon. He’s gasping even as he folds the paraglider back up and stows it away-- the wind whipping at his face with nothing underfoot, so high up, a strain in his arms-- it was so exhilarating. He turns to look back at the temple from which he'd leapt, and startles to see how far he’d flown. It's is far enough now that it’s beginning to fade into the distance, silhouetted by the sun setting behind it. He turns again, finding himself just a few paces from the edge of the plateau.

He runs forward, unfurling the paraglider once again, so high on adrenaline and the taste of imminent freedom that he’s hardly even thinking about Calamity Ganon, or destiny, or anything like that-- he just feels like he can do anything. Link stops right as the toe of his boot hangs over the edge of the stone wall, braces himself to jump, paraglider at the ready, foolishly looks down, and-- hesitates.

The thick fog below is only just beginning to fade, and he can see a faint impression of the ground below… so, so far below. Link gulps and looks back to the horizon, the dueling peaks in the distance, and looks back down.

Link tightens his grip on the paraglider and sets his jaw. He has to jump. He’s a champion-- or at least he’s supposed to be-- he can’t afford to hesitate. He can’t afford fear.

I will not fear the unknown .

And with that conviction in mind, he jumps.

As he descends and the fog clears, so does the cold grip of fear that held him back, taken over by wonder. Elation sweeps through him as he soars forward, watching the grassy hills and ruins pass beneath. He laughs.

It’s the first time, within his memory, that he laughs.

High pitched and giddy, the shock of the sound pulls forward even more laughter. Even as it fades to breathy giggles as he lands, the wide grin on his face remains.

The tall grass rustles around him, silver in the light of the moon overhead, as he takes his first steps proper in the land of Hyrule. He looks around. The king had spoken as if it was ruined, but Link still sees the same beauty in the land around him that he did when he first ran out into the sun.

He’d touched down on a small hill, with no road in sight for him to follow, but he can still see dueling peaks ahead of him, a guiding beacon rising up from the horizon. Experimentally, Link takes out the slate and checks the map, but everything except for the plateau is still blank. He sighs, but he supposes he should have expected it. He’ll just have to find more of those towers, see if they will reveal more of the map. He already misses it.

But there's no time to dwell on that, either. He must get to Kakariko village if he's to advance in his quest, if he's to get any closer to the destiny laid out for him...

So reluctantly, he starts walking.

It probably isn’t wise to travel on foot through the night, but it isn’t wise to settle down for the night in the open like this either, with no campfire, not knowing what’s lurking just outside the edges of his periphery. So he walks. Braces himself for a long, long night of it.

After some time, he finds a road amongst more ruins. That’s when he spots the red monster-- a new one.It’s sleeping, he realizes as he creeps closer, cautious, and the sounds of its snores reaches his ears. It’s both very like and unlike the other monsters he’d seen, skin rough and bright red, and it looks like some kind of cousin-species. Except this monster is much bigger, twice his size, and its snout is long where the other monsters’ are flat.

He sneaks past it, footsteps slow and light on the cobblestone, knees bent and ready to run if he needs to, wary. He doesn’t want to have to fight this thing; he’s been awake since sunrise and he’s tired. But seeing this new monster here only enfirmed his resolve to not stop and rest out in the open tonight.

Link breathes a sigh of relief when it doesn’t wake up, and he moves on, dashing down the road until it’s far behind him.

Practically underfoot, the dirt shakes apart as something bone-white emerges from it, and Link staggers back. A skeletal facsimile of the monsters Link is familiar with bursts forth from the ground, screeching still somehow with no throat or lungs, and Link jumps at it, spear in hand.

Grotesque, and unsettling it is, to be faced with a monster’s reanimated bones, but Link shakes the revulsion that distracts him away quickly, swinging his spear in a wide arc. It knocks the skele-monsters skull right off it’s body, but it doesn’t stop moving. Its body grabs blindly at him while its skull bounces along the dirt, clearly trying to reunite with the rest of itself. Link isn’t letting that happen. He ducks away from the skeleton’s searching claws and stomps with all his might on the skull.

The thin bone on the top of the skull shatters and crumbles under his heel easily, breaking into pieces with a sickening yet satisfying hollow crunch . Its eye sockets empty of light and the bones of its body fall apart, dead again.

Most of it bursts away in smoke like its living counterparts would, but it leaves an arm behind. The arm continues to writhe on the ground, claws searching and grabbing at air… Link shudders, thoroughly creeped out. He leaves it there.

Link is starting to believe this night is going to be simply full of obstacles and delays, because he barely takes a few steps more before he spots another one of those shrines, glowing orange just off the side of the road.

Part of him is surprised and part of him isn’t. He hadn’t really considered the possibility of there being more of these shrines anywhere other than the plateau, but now that he’s faced with one it makes sense that there would be. He walks up to the pedestal and uses the slate to activate it, and the doors open, but he doesn’t go inside. He can come back later, he’s wasted enough time as it is.

The moon is directly overhead, centered in the sky. It’s midnight already.

The bridge he comes across is in mild disrepair, but standing strong still. On the other side and just a little further Link sees a glowing orange line of a sheikah tower, and he resolves to stop there on his way to Kakariko village. He would really like a map.

The bridge is long and fairly high up, and the view from it is beautiful. Link pauses halfway cross, his eye on Hyrule castle in the distance. He looks away after barely a moment. He can’t make himself look at it for too long-- the tangible evil swirling around it serves as an uncomfortable reminder of what he must do, and it fills him with dread.

Link moves on. On the other side of the bridge, there is a small, wall-less shelter and a lit campfire whose glow startles him. He drifts closer.

There is a man sleeping next to the fire, blissfully unaware or perhaps confident in his safety from the horrors that stalk the night around them. The sight of another person is both jarring and a relief to Link. A real, living person… the old man didn’t count, because he was actually a spirit the whole time, and also the king, and also irritating.

All of a sudden Link is made aware of his exhaustion. It manifests itself in a burning behind his eyes and leadened limbs, and the campfire is so, so tempting, that and this stranger’s clear sense of security, whether it is false or not.

But… Link resists the temptation. He will not rest yet. He forces himself to keep going.

As the tower gets closer in view, Link moves to walk along the edge of the riverbank. It’s a new moon, but what little light it does give off reflects on the rippling water, and Link walks along that line where the water meets the shore. The tower is on the other side of the river.

Link groans.

This is a bad idea , he thinks as he stores his gear and undresses hastily, glancing over his shoulder every other second. He thanks the Goddess for being able to store it all in the slate, and prays to the Goddess that the slate is waterproof.

This is a bad idea , Link thinks again as he steps into the water, bare except for his belt with the slate securely attached, and acutely aware of his vulnerability in this state.

The water is freezing cold, and moving fast, rushing around his ankles and trying to throw him off balance. Link tacks on an extra prayer to the Goddess: that he is as good a swimmer as he is a climber, or this is going to end very, very poorly.

He wades further in, cold water made even colder by the dark cover of night, and all the hair on his body stands up on end, and as the water passes up to his chest Link has to fight to keep his lungs from seizing in the icy shock of water. He kicks off from there, swimming with the current even if it will take him a little downstream, knowing that trying to fight it would be even more idiotic than this whole thing already is. By the time he reaches the other side, he’s panting and gasping for air, hair wet against the back of his neck and oh, that is probably not very good , but he is definitely not tired anymore. He shivers violently as he takes a few seconds to try and shake himself dry like a dog, not much for towels on hand, and takes his clothes from the slate.

He’s shaking so hard and his fingers are numb enough that he fumbles with the slate, accidentally presses the wrong buttons, and finds himself staring down at the screen with all the runes on it.

The bright blue of the cryonis rune seems to be laughing at him. He wastes nearly a minute just looking at it, gobsmacked and kicking himself. Faced with his stupidity, Link groans, and the exhaustion returns full-force. He furiously pulls his clothes back on, layering the loose warm doublet on as well in an attempt to stave off the chill clinging to his skin. He rubs his arms and clenches his teeth to keep them from chattering, and stomps nearly all the way to the tower.

He has to go up onto a hill and paraglide to the base of the tower, because it’s in the middle of the goddess-damn river, but from there it’s a pretty basic climb.

Link collapses, panting, when he finally reaches the top of the tower. His arms shake from cold and overexertion, and his muscles are screaming. There’s a sharp ache in his gut that rudely reminds him that all he’s had to eat today, or technically yesterday now because it’s well past midnight, was that apple just before the cryonis shrine.

If he’s going to survive out here, he’s going to have to stop forgetting to feed himself.

And water, too. He’s going to need a provision of water. He doesn’t think he’s had anything to drink since he woke up, and the dehydration is starting to invite a headache to slam against the backs of his eyes. His mouth is so dry his tongue is practically sandpaper, and he thinks he can taste blood at the back of his throat. He is so, so stupid.

When he catches his breath enough to sit up, the first thing he does is check what he has for food. His prospects are… not very good. All he has is some fruit and some spicy peppers, and some herbs that don’t do him much good with nothing to cook them into.

He takes out his last few apples-- they’re all he has that is still good raw, and he’s not so desperate for sustenance to make himself endure the texture of uncooked mushrooms. The apples are juicy, blessedly staving off some of his thirst even if they aren’t very filling. He eats all three, and is still hungry, but that is all he will have for now.

The map Link retrieves when he activates the tower reveals things both good and bad. Good: he has come a long way in a single night, an astonishingly long way. Bad: the road is winding, and either Kakariko village is still far enough to not appear on this section of this map or it is not labelled on the map, neither of which are good options for him.

At this point, Link’s decision to carry on with the leg of the journey is born almost completely out of spite. Up on this tower, he would be relatively safe from the monsters that he assumes could not climb very well, it would be easy to just lie down on the stone and take at least a short nap-- but Link does not do this. Spite, some inexplicable urge to be cruel to himself, the reason doesn’t really matter. Link unfurls the paraglider and jumps from the safe respite of the tower, aiming for the shore on the other side of the river, and the road that will, eventually, take him to Kakariko village.

Immediately, he regrets this decision. Link stumbles when his feet hit the ground, almost trips to his knees. He now finds himself in the gap separating the dueling peaks, and from now on, he will be leaving his landmark behind him.

The gap is a wind tunnel. In his still-damp hair, only the wispy ends really beginning to dry, it’s biting. He takes his hair out of its ponytail in hopes that it’ll dry faster, hunches his shoulders, and keeps walking.

It’s even darker between the peaks. The moon, that is starting to descend once again, is hidden behind it’s towering stone. Dark enough that he doesn’t notice the anormal rippling in the water, and his exhaustion has dulled his senses enough he can’t distinguish the distant croaking of nocturnal frogs from the throaty sounds of the aquatic monsters that have their eyes on him.

They have been watching him for several minutes now. But to Link, the attack comes out of nowhere. And tired and sluggish as he is, he can't defend himself.

Some kind of projectile hits him on the shoulder. Even through the layers of fabric it stings fiercely, and he stumbles. Another projectile slams into his chest. This one bowls him over, knocking the wind out of him when he lands harshly on his back. He vaguely notices his doublet is wet.

There’s a throaty, guttural noise echoed on itself, it’s a hiss and it’s a chirp and it's a screech. Link scrabbles backwards on the dirt road, fumbling for his spear.

He hears a splash and something heavy and clawed lands on him. Whatever creature it is makes that sound again, right in his ear. It scratches at him, tearing at his clothes and his arms when Link throws them up to protect his face. He jabs blindly with his spear and hits air. He struggles and jerks, kicking out, trying to dislodge the beast attacking him.

He succeeds in getting it off, but not in getting away. As soon as he tries to get to his feet, get himself in a less prone position for battle, the creature grabs his ankle in both its talons-- and a second one, making that same shrill battle cry, it grabs his other leg and together they drag him into the water.

Link makes the mistake of gasping. Immediately water rushes into his lungs and he chokes, struggling to regain control. But that’s hard when the monsters are still pulling him in every direction, twisting his limbs and dragging him deeper. He thrashes in their hold. He can’t breathe.

Searing pain races up his arm but Link can't scream-- blood flows and floats in the water, streaming out from around the sharp teeth embedded in his forearm. He can taste it. Blindly Link stabs at the space in the water just above where the pain is radiating from-- it’s a miracle he’s kept his hold on his weapon.

chasing dragons - ThatOneFunAnon, cruisercrusher (3)

He hits-- something , the tip of his spear penetrating something soft and squishy. He yanks his spear back as the monster wrenches its teeth out of his arm with a screech that reverberates strangely underwater.

Lungs burning and desperate, Link twists free of the other monster’s grip as the first one’s body floats away. He kicks up back to the shore, coughs up water when his head breaches the surface. The monster tries to grab his ankles again but Link doesn’t let it get him a second time.

Link pushes himself up onto his knees and twists, jabbing his spear into the dark sloshing water with all the force he can muster-- and hits his target dead on.

The monster gurgles and slackens, falling back into the water and slipping beneath the surface, dead, taking Link’s spear with him.

Link falls back onto the ground, out of breath, soaking wet once again, feeling-- and probably looking-- like a drowned rat. He rolls over onto his side and coughs out the water that had gone into his lungs.

What… the hell… were those things!?

Link probably sounds pathetic with the way he’s greedily sucking in whole lungfuls of air. His throat burns and his chest hurts, he thinks he might have swallowed some gross river water, and he can still taste his own blood in his mouth.

His arm is still bleeding, sluggishly, the fabric of his sleeves already soaked and stained red-- so dark it looks black in the night. And pain is still searing like fire licking at his skin. Link groans pitifully, clutching his wounded arm to his chest as he struggles to stand.

All he wants to do is lie down and be unconscious for a few hours-- maybe a few days-- but he doesn’t have that luxury. That ambush is proof that it’s not safe out here.

He should have stayed on the tower.

He’s just going to find some kind of outcropping, some kind of little hole or crevice he can stuff himself into for the rest of the night.

At first, Link thinks his eyes are adjusting to the dark, but when he spots a hint of colour in the sky between the duelling peaks, he realizes it’s actually just starting to get lighter out. He’s been walking all night .

Link’s dead on his feet by the time he gets to the worn bridge. It takes a lot longer to get to that point than it should. It’s almost dawn and the sky is light, and, met with the diverging paths, Link lifts his head weakly. There’s no signpost to tell him which way to go, and his map won’t help him here. He bites back a whimper, feeling frustration rise in him.

His arm hurts . In fact, everything hurts, and he’s bleeding from more than one place, other aggravated scratches leaving little red spots on his clothes. He’s a mess.

Something in his peripheral vision catches his eye. An inorganic structure, large and imposing, shaped vaguely like the head of a horse, rises high above the ground-- connected to some sort of squat building.

Link is so relieved to see it he could cry. Weary, he turns and picks his way across the unrefined wooden bridge, clutching his arm, his eye on the structure the whole time.

He’s vaguely aware that he’s limping.

When Link falls to the ground in a bleeding heap, he’s not conscious to remember it.

Notes:

Okay, a few things-- if I wrote about Link fighting every single monster you actually come across in the game, this fic would be literally nothing but Link fighting monsters. And I know there's another shrine where the lizalfos are, but if I wrote about every shrine in the game too then the fic would be nothing but Link doing shrines. So, when there's something new, I'll write about it, ie mentioning the moblin, and the fight scene with the lizalfos. Otherwise, unless it's plot relevant, for the sake of reducing redundancy and efficiency, I'm going to be ignoring a lot of the more menial stuff

Chapter 4: gordon ramsey who???

Summary:

Calm after the storm

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

The first thing Link feels when he wakes up, is vaguely smothered. He’s wrapped up in something soft and thick and warm, worn fabric tucked up around his shoulders. He feels like he’s lying on a cloud.

He hears whispers. Link shifts and groans, and the whispers stop. He cracks his eyes open, squinting at the sudden light. There’s a teal canopy above him. A stitched design like a horse’s face gazes unseeingly down at him.

Where am I ?

Link certainly has no recollection of how he got here… or who those children are.

Two identical tiny faces stare down at him in wonder from either side of the bed, inching closer until they're hovering right over him. They don’t say anything, so Link doesn’t say anything, but raises a questioning brow at them both.

Like a switch flipped, the children both spring backwards and squeal. They run away, small feet making sharp little pattering noises on the wood floor, giggling all the while, and then they’re out of sight, disappearing through an open entryway.

Link sits up, confusion overriding most of his other senses. He’s been tucked into a bed, under an old quilt, and all his clothes are neatly folded, dry, near the footboard, his belt and the sheikah slate piled on top. Well, not all of his clothes-- Link blushes-- he’s still got his underwear on.

How did I get here ?

He pushes the quilt down so it’s pooled around his waist, and notices the white bandages wrapped around his forearm. Link looks at it for a moment, its meaning not registering, until… suddenly, Link remembers last night-- how he’d walked through the night, the river, getting attacked, seeing the building, and then… nothing. I must have just collapsed right there in the middle of the damn road, Link thinks, and looks down at the bandages again, and someone must have found me. That’s embarrassing…

Feeling his face warm, Link brings a hand up to touch self-consciously at his forehead. His hands touch fabric, and he frowns, peeling away the cloth stuck to his forehead. It smells nice, like sweet herbs.

Link looks around, takes stock of his surroundings. He’s in a large round tent, with wood supports. The structure he saw last night. There’s a short row of canopied beds like the one he’s in to his right, though there’s no one sleeping in them. At the foot of the bed next to his, there are two men huddled together, talking, but Link can’t make out what they’re saying. His shield, bow and quiver are propped against the wall to his left. Self conscious, Link reaches for his clothes, and tugs his shirt on. He has to hop out of the bed to pull on his pants, so he goes in the opposite direction of where those men are talking, and yanks his pants up, securing them hastily with the belt and clipping the slate in its rightful place.

A voice from the other side of the tent has his head snapping to the side. “Hey, rise and shine, sleepyhead!”

Behind a curved counter is a dark skinned man in a funny hat. He’s smiling at Link, who flushes and shuffles over to the counter so the man doesn’t have to shout across the tent to him.

“Uhm, thank you,” Link mumbles, and the man huffs a laugh.

“What, for letting you stay in the soft bed for free? No problem, kid. Normally that would cost extra, but, seeing as how you were injured and all, figured we could cut you a deal.” A smirk plays beneath the man’s full moustache.

Link coughs, awkward, but grateful, suddenly acutely aware of the fact that he has literally no money. “Again, thank you. And, for dressing my wounds.”

“Oh, that wasn’t me,” the man says. “That was Sagessa-- she’s the one who found you too. She’s outside.” Then he sighs. “Seriously, kid, what were you thinking? Travelling alone at night, no horse, no provisions, no sword? That’s reckless, really reckless. You probably wouldn’t have died from your wound, but if one of us hadn’t found you then something a lot nastier would have. I swear, kids these days, no sense of caution…”

The man trails off, leaving Link feeling thoroughly admonished. He hangs his head in shame. Yeah, last night was… a series of moments that were not his proudest. He just nods, and steps away to grab his gear, and remake the bed, before stepping outside.

The bright afternoon sun assaults his eyes as soon as he leaves the tent. He squints, shielding his eyes from the sun’s aggressive rays. A look around proves he’s at some sort of stable, which explains the horse imagery everywhere. There’s an orange glowing shrine in a pond a little ways away. He takes a deep breath, letting the cool, fresh air fill his lungs, which feel far less battered than he thinks they should. In fact, Link feels great . Maybe it has to do with the general aura of calm, peace, and safety of the stable, like a beacon of serenity amidst the destruction wrought by Calamity Ganon.

“Hey, you! You’re finally awake!”

There’s a young woman sitting by a lit cooking pot off to the side, and Link goes to sit on the other rough wooden stool. “Are you Sagessa?”

The young woman looks to be about Link’s age, with olive skin and light brown hair that comes down to just past her jaw. She has kind eyes.

“Yeah, that’s me,” she says with a smile. “Welcome to Duelling Peaks stable! You gave us a real scare last night, you know.”

Link rubs the back of his neck shyly. “Sorry… thanks for patching me up, though. That was kind of you.”

Sagessa waves him off. “Oh, it was no trouble. I’m a healer-- or at least, training to be one. I’m actually self taught.” Now it’s her turn to look embarrassed. “I specialize in elixirs. Actually gave you a healing elixir last night, to make sure that bite didn’t get infected. Lizalfos bites can be really nasty... You should be fixed right up by now-- go ahead and unwrap those bandages.”

Slightly puzzled, Link does as she says, unwrapping the gauze from around his forearm. To his surprise, what had been a nasty, painful wound last night is now almost completely healed, only pink pockmarks of skin left as evidence, more scars to add to his gallery of them. “Lizalfos?”

“I’m pretty sure that’s what attacked you, at least. Between the bite and the scratches, and the fact that you had obviously been dunked in the river.”

“So that’s what they were…” Link looks thoughtfully towards the dueling peaks. He catches Sagessa’s confused look in the corner of his eye.

“You… don’t know… what Lizalfos are?”

Link frowns. “Well I do now .” He snaps, feeling defensive, insecure about the gap in his knowledge. Sagessa shrugs.

“Lizalfos are the scaly, amphibious monsters with the curved horns. There’s all kinds of them, like ones that spit fire or electricity at you-- those ones aren’t found around these parts, though.” Sagessa explains, picking up a nearby stick and aimlessly poking around in the dirt with it. She explains the different kinds of monsters around Hyrule patiently. There are all kinds of monsters around Hyrule, apparently, and all kinds of variants of those monsters. It all makes his head spin a little, to be honest. “This area is nice and quiet, but there are still monsters wandering around, and the area near Hyrule Castle is especially dangerous.”

Sparks fly from the fire under the cooking pot, carried on the breeze. For some reason, the woman’s words have his gaze fixed on them.

“If you’re going to be travelling, you should know a thing or two about them.” Sagessa concludes, finally looking back at Link. Link looks back at her.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. You can make elixirs by mixing bugs and stuff with monster parts. They can have pretty unique effects-- some can make you move faster, or make you resistant to extreme temperatures… it’s all alchemy. Here,” Sagessa digs around in her pack for a moment, before pulling out a glass bottle half-filled with a rich red liquid, too iridescent to be mistaken for blood. She hands it to him. “I use hasty elixirs a lot, but if you’re injury-prone, then this will probably fare you better. Leftovers from the healing elixir I used on you last night.”

Link accepts it gratefully with a nod. He tucks it on the ground by his feet, wary to use the slate’s unnatural tools around other people. He's about to say something when his stomach grumbles obnoxiously. He wraps both arms around his torso, trying to suppress the noise, face red and eyes wide. Sagessa laughs.

“Want some lunch?”

Link nods vigorously. Sagessa laughs again. “Let’s cook something, then. Got any ingredients on you?”

Link nods again, and Sagessa grins as she stands. “Great! I’ll be back in a second, you get your stuff ready and we’ll see what we can make.”

She walks around towards the back of the stable, and Link, as stealthily as he can, gets out his slate and retrieves some peppers, mushrooms and herbs. He settles them on his lap and puts the slate back at his hip, just as Sagessa comes back, a few cuckoo eggs and some wrapped goat butter in her arms.

“Everything at these stables is free for communal use,” she says as she sets the eggs down in the grass, then unwraps the butter and places the slightly lumpy block in the cooking pot. It immediately begins to melt and sizzle. “Oh, you have hot peppers, nice! Those are pretty rare.” She hands him a small knife, and a pot lid, overturned. “Get chopping, Lizal boy.”

Link gets chopping. He watches with heightened interest as Sagessa cracks the eggs into the pan, then grabs a large wooden spoon and starts scrambling them with the melted butter. She smiles a little sheepishly. “For all my skills with alchemy, I’ll have to confess I’m not that great a cook, so sorry if it tastes a little funny.”

“Want me to take over?” Link offers, and Sagessa looks at him.

“You can cook?”

Link shrugs. “I think I probably can.” He takes the spoon from Sagessa’s hand and passes her the improvised cutting board. He stirs the eggs, then leaves them while he crushes some of the herbs between his fingertips and sprinkles them into the pot. The motions come to him as easily as fighting does, which makes Link suspect he may have once trained as diligently in the kitchen as he did on the battlefield.

He can feel Sagessa’s eyes on him as he concentrates on the pot, and he resists the urge to squirm, but doesn’t call her on it, even as she hands him the chopped mushrooms and peppers and stares at him all the while.

She speaks up as he’s stirring the last ingredients in with the almost-done eggs. “You’re a pretty mysterious guy, you know?”

Link pauses in his stirring to shoot her a quizzical look, but Sagessa is looking away, pulling out two wide stoneware bowls that have seen better days from her bag, and two forks. She continues, “I mean, the way you talk, and… I noticed your scars. You have a lot of them… and I know it’s not really any of my business, but, well. I mean, you haven’t even told me your name.”

He… had forgotten. To introduce himself. Link resists the urge to smack his forehead. “Oh, uh, I’m Link.”

“Link,” Sagessa repeats. “Neat. So, Link, you some kind of warrior?”

Clamming up, Link looks back down at the pot, and resolutely begins to scoop the scrambled eggs into the bowls, silent.

“I see you’re a man of few words.” Sagessa chuckles. “It’s okay. I won’t pry. You’re entitled to your past.” She accepts the bowl Link hands her and trades him a fork. She doesn’t notice the bitter look that flashes across his face, there for only a second before disappearing again. He takes a bite of his eggs and doesn’t say anything else.

The man who gives directions said that Kakariko village is about an hour away on horseback, so Link needs a horse. He’s crouching in the tall grass in the field behind the stable, eyeing the wild horses milling about, occasionally bending down to nibble at the grass or tossing their manes in the breeze, flicking their tails. They’re all beautiful. Link watches them with an eye as admiring as it is critical, enraptured by their shiny coats even as he tries to discern which horse he wants to tame. Like the cooking, Link has no memory of taming horses, but he feels drawn to them, feels a connection to them even from a distance, and he is confident he will be able to tame any horse here.

One of the horses nearby has his attention in particular. The mare-- he’s fairly certain it’s a mare-- rears up on her hind legs, and the sun behind her shines around her fine black coat and highlights her fine white mane, transforming her into an elegant and awe-inspiring silhouette. As she returns her front hooves to the ground with grace, Link makes note of the strength she clearly possesses.

She’s a wild creature, fierce and beautiful. Link is sure in that moment, that he and this horse are meant for each other.

He stalks forward in the grass as silently as he can, approaching the horse with caution. He’s confident, but is careful not to be overconfident. A kick from even an average horse to the sternum could very well kill him.

He waits until he’s positioned right at her flank, wary of where she stomps at the grass, then in one swift movement, leaps up onto her back and gets a hold of her mane. Immediately the mare starts whinnying and bucking, trying to dislodge him, but Link just grips tighter with his thighs and reaches one hand down to pat soothingly at her neck, and makes reassuring noises in her ear.Just when he thinks he isn’t going to be able to hold on any more the horse starts to calm. Her frenzied movements slow to a stop as she accepts his presence on her back, and Link smiles. He gives her another pat, and steers her back towards the stable so he can tackle his next obstacle: registering the horse.

The whole system had been explained to him already and he understands it all fine-- Link’s only problem is that he doesn’t have any f*cking money. “If I get off here, do you promise not to run off?” Link asks the horse once they’ve stopped by a fence. The horse tosses him a look over her shoulder, and Link laughs.

He dismounts, landing lightly in the grass, and the horse shuffles in place a bit but doesn’t look like she’s going to bolt. Satisfied that he’s not going to come back to find his horse disappeared, Link wanders off, looking around the stable to try and see if there are any ways he can make an easy 20 rupees.

Sagessa had said that everything here is for communal use, and out of the cooking pots, the materials around, the bathroom out back, the beds and the horse boarding service, only the last two things require payment. She hadn’t said anything about ways to make money, though, so Link fears he may be up a creek until he spots a man with an enormous, strangely shaped backpack-contraption coming down the road towards the stable.

Link waits until the man is actually at the stable before going up to him. When he realizes Link is approaching him, the man’s face lights up entirely, eyes bright and smiling. Link gives him a wave, and the man, even hunched over under the weight of his huge bag, responds with great amounts of enthusiasm.

“Hey, I don’t believe I’ve made your acquaintance! The name’s Beedle, but you can call me-- actually, let’s just stick with Beedle. But even if you forget my face, you can remember me by my beetle-shaped backpack!” Beedle laughs. The other man’s cheer is disarming, even if he does seem like kind of a weirdo. “Despite these dangerous times, you’ll find me travelling all over Hyrule to fulfill your shopping needs. I stock must-have items for travellers and I always charge a fair price, or my name’s not Beedle! I also buy all sorts of things, if you’re in need of rupees. How can I help you today?”

Link nods along to Beedle’s sales pitch, and perks up a little when he mentions buying things as well. “All sorts of things, huh?”

Beedle gives him a thumbs up. “Yep! I’ll buy pretty much anything!”

Link pulls out his sheikah slate before really thinking better of it. “What can you give me for these monster parts?”

Beedle watches in surprise as Link pulls the handful of horns and teeth from seemingly thin air, and Link flushes when he realizes what he just did. “You're, uh… not prone to gossip, are you?”

Relief cuts through him when Beedle shakes his head. “Not particularly. Er-- that’s a real nifty device you’ve got, there.”

Link just shrugs, not wanting to drag out this leg of the conversation any further. He holds out his handful of monster bits a little more insistently. Beedle blinks.

“Right! Uh, let’s see here…” Beedle takes the horns and teeth in both his hands and counts them, mumbling under his breath as he does the math. “I can offer you… 47 rupees for these!”

That was actually quite a bit more than he was expecting. Link nods. Beedle puts the parts away, somewhere, Link’s not sure if he even has any room in that overstuffed pack of his, and gives Link the rupees.

“Anything else?” Beedle asks, and Link shakes his head, putting the slate away. The travelling merchant grins. “Okay, have a nice day!”

Link waves as he walks away and goes to retrieve his horse. She’s still waiting where he left her, good girl, and as a reward Link takes out one of the apples he had gotten from a crate along the side of the stable. He offers it to her, holding it just under her nose, and she sniffs it a little before taking it into her mouth, nuzzling Link’s hand as she eats the apple in a few swift crunches. Link smiles and pets her mane, then leads her over to the front of the stable.

“Hey!” The man behind the counter says when Link approaches with the horse. “You wanna register that horse?”

Link nods, and the man pulls a piece of paper out from under the counter, and taps the tip of a quill to its surface. “What should we put down as the name?”

That gives Link pause, as he hasn’t thought even a little about a name for the horse yet. He looks back at her, takes in her sleek black coat and her snowy-white mane. He walks around to stand in front of her, places both hands on her cheeks and stares up into her dark eyes, searching.

“Nyx.”

“Alright, and that’s 20 rupees for the registration fee,” The man looks expectantly at Link, who plunks a red rupee down on the counter. The man takes it and puts it away out of sight. “Paperwork’s all settled, then. You can bring Nyx here round back and the kids’ll help fit her with some gear.”

Link nods again, and does as instructed. Nyx fusses a little while getting the bridle all strapped on, and Link ends up doing pretty much all the work because the kids can’t reach anything, but their running commentary is at the very least entertaining. By the time he’s ready to go, it’s getting to be just past dinnertime.

chasing dragons - ThatOneFunAnon, cruisercrusher (4)

A man Link hasn’t talked to yet calls out to him as he waves goodbye to Sagessa and leads Nyx by the reins to the road.

“You’re gonna wanna be careful travelling tonight,” The man says when Link is halfway into the saddle, a slightly manic look in his eye. “Something is going to happen tonight. I can taste it.”

Link just looks at him in confusion and a little bit of alarm. He gives him a tense nod as he finishes climbing into the saddle, hoping he’s just imagining the red tinge to the man’s pupils.

The rest of his journey to Kakariko village is fairly unremarkable. It’s much easier and faster now that he has a horse, and there aren't any trials along the way, which is a pleasant contrast from his journey last night. However, as the clopping sound of Nyx’s hooves on the worn and mossy stone bridge fill his ears, accompanied by birds chirping in the distance, he thinks more on what that man had said to him as he left. Something is going to happen tonight… What does that mean ?Either way, Link doesn't plan on travelling through the night again. The sun hasn’t even started to set, and he’ll be at Kakariko village soon enough. Then he can talk to this Impa, and he will be one step closer to defeating Calamity Ganon, and finally bringing peace to Hyrule. His afternoon spent at the stable had been a nice respite, but he needs to focus on his task.

Focus eludes him when he spots a strange, forlorn looking creature standing on the side of the road. Curious, Link pulls on Nyx’s reins until she slows to a stop in front of the large creature. They don't react to his presence, and they don't look like any of the monsters Link has seen so far, or heard about. They don't seem to have any eyes, and a large leaf tacked on their face resembles a beard in shape. They seem to be part tree, and have a bag slung over their shoulder.

“Um, hello?”

The creature jolts when Link speaks to them. “Shalaka?! You! You can see me?!” They cry. Link looks at them with a puzzled twist to his mouth.

“No, I can’t see you.” He deadpans. The sarcasm goes right over the creature’s… canopy?

Sholoko ?!” It exclaims, so loudly it startles Nyx. Link soothes her as the creature continues to speak. “Then how are you talking to me, silly?” Link can’t argue with that one.“Shala-zah! Shala-ka!” The creature sings. “It’s been 100 years since anyone has been able to see me! I’m Hestu, and I need your help. Those monsters over there stole my beloved maracas. I think they’re still there on the other side of those rocks. I can’t use my powers without them. Shoko… so please… PLEASE get my maracas back from them!”

I swear, if this is a trap… Link looks suspiciously between Hestu and the rocks they had pointed to. With a sigh, he leads Nyx over to the shade of the tree and dismounts, trekking further up the hill towards the rocks.

He hears the monsters before he sees them, bokoblins from the sound of it. Knowing it would be unwise to just rush into a camp before having a visual, Link scampers up the side of the rock and crawls on his belly to the edge, so he can see what he’s getting into. Immediately upon spotting them, Link frowns-- they’re blue. Not the weak red bokos he was more familiar with. According to Sagessa, these ones are supposed to be stronger than their red counterparts.

It’s cause for concern. Link doesn’t really know quite what he’s up against. Sagessa had said they were stronger, but she couldn’t say how strong-- she wasn’t a fighter. He makes sure he has his claymore ready, and, still on his stomach above the monsters, unnoticed, draws the soldier’s bow he had taken from the temple’s bell tower.

He notches an arrow and squints one eye shut, watching carefully the monsters that are dancing around in circles. He settles on a target. Pulls the string back, ready to fire.

Aims for the head.

Takes a deep breath…

And lets the arrow fly.

The sharp tip of the arrow pierces the skull of one of the bokoblins with an audible thunk , with enough force to send it sprawling, dead. Link barely registers the smoke as he puts away his bow and leaps to his feet, using the other two bokoblins’ confusion to leap down, claymore gripped in both hands.Their confusion doesn’t last long. Link lands between the two bokoblins-- one armed with a simple club and the other with a sword-- the second one automatically registers with him as a bigger threat. If that thing gets even one good hit on him, he’d be in trouble. And Sagessa’s healing elixir can only do so much. He uses his claymore to block a strike from it, seeing in the corner of his eye the first one raising its club to strike.

He uses their weapons’ point of contact to shove one bokoblin backwards, then spins to meet the other's blow. He stops the club with the sharp blade of his claymore on its downward swing, and the soft wood sticks on his blade.

Link smirks when the bokoblin seems confused that it can’t pull it’s weapon back, and Link drags it out of its hands, flinging the club away into the grass.

Instinct, and an ear-grating battle cry from behind, tells Link to duck, and he ducks just as the other bokoblin’s sword goes swinging right where his head was. On his way back up he twists, slamming hard into the unarmed bokoblin with his shoulder and swinging his claymore at the other one. It dodges, but his intention hadn't been to hit it-- it was to put enough space between them.

While the first one tries to regain its footing Link strikes out with a vicious back kick at the second one, his foot hitting it right in the gut and sending it toppling to the ground. As soon as both his feet are back in the right stance Link lunges forward with his weapon at the other bokoblin.

He misses-- kind of. He’d been aiming for its heart, or at least where he thinks it’s heart is, but his blade buries itself deep in its shoulder instead. The bokoblin lets out a squeal that has Link gritting his teeth. He yanks his blade back out and the bokoblin stumbles, and in the same maneuver Link spins and plunges his claymore right into the second one’s chest. It makes the same squealing sound and starts to shrivel away in smoke. Link spins again and knocks the last Bokoblin’s sword out of his hand, switching to a single-handed grip and letting gravity do the work. With his now-free hand Link grabs the bokoblin’s floppy ear tightly in a fist, and yanks it, pulling the screeching monster in a circle to build momentum before launching it as hard as he can off the side of the cliff. It falls down, down, down… and then it’s over.

Link sighs as he sheathes his claymore once more, and picks through the grass for what the monsters left behind. There’s the usual horns and fangs, but something new, too-- guts.He wrinkles his nose in disgust even as he grabs them in his hands and stores them. Gross… but cool.He also collects the sword that bokoblin dropped-- he recognizes it, it’s a knight’s broadsword.

Must know it from my knight days, Link thinks as he swaps his claymore for the sword. Its weight on his back feels more natural than the ungainly claymore did. There’s also a soldier’s shield propped against the trunk of the tree, that none of the bokoblins had bothered to grab when the fight started.Link marches over to the lookout post and climbs up the ladder, kicking open the chest. Sure enough, inside are a pair of red maracas. He grabs them and jogs back down to where Hestu is waiting. As soon as Link is in sight, they perk up.

“SHALA-KALA! Those are… those are my maracas!” They start wiggling happily. “Please giiiiive them to meeeeeeeeeeee!”

Please doooon’t turn out to be eeeeeevil … Link thinks as he hands them over. Hestu takes them and wiggles even harder, singing in that gleeful way of theirs-- then they droop. “But wait! There’s something wrong with my maracas! The korok seeds inside are gone! How am I supposed to dance now? Shoko…”

Link feels bad for them. They just seem like such an innocent… creature, and they just look so sad.

“If I had just one korok seed, I could sing, dance, and use my powers to help you…” They then go on to explain their powers, and about the, quote-unquote, children of the forest, and their pranks, and the korok seeds… and Link finds himself promising to find the korok seeds and return them to Hestu, who absolutely lights up when Link says so.

With that strange-on-many-levels interaction behind him, Link gets back on Nyx and starts on the road to Kakariko village once again. He’s almost there, he knows, just a few more twists and turns on this mountain road and then he’ll be there. It’s not long before the ornamental arches of the village’s entrance come into view. Link passes under them with Nyx slowed to a walk, and, for the first time in his memory, sees Kakariko village.

Notes:

fyi in this fic, and this is purely headcanon, Link is about 19/20 because I look at him and his crackhead behaviour and I go "yeah, thats a college student right there"
He is also a horse girl but I hate horses irl so I hope I was able to do that aspect of his character justice
More liberties taken: npc dialogue babeyyy. what kind of story would this be if everyone said the same thing every time he talked to them? a boring one.
Sorry for the skyrim reference.

Chapter 5: local bisexual disaster embarrasses herself in front of cute hero, not clickbait

Summary:

Link finally arrives in Kakariko village, and meets Impa. The blood moon rises.

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

It’s like walking into a separate bubble of reality.

In the distance, Link can hear someone playing some sort of flute instrument, the calm and soothing music carried on the breeze. The whole village is set into a small valley, sheltered from the post-apocalyptic world on the other side of the mountains. It looks and feels like a safe place, untouched by the ravages of the Calamity. Link hops off Nyx and goes right up to the fence, looking down at the village.

That eye symbol is everywhere, and Link assumes he was right to guess it’s the symbol of the Sheikah people. He whistles for his horse to follow him as he turns towards the next arch. His pace quickens, alarmed, when he notices the old woman on the ground.

“Excuse me, miss-- are you alright?” Link crouches next to her, not quite hovering, and the woman looks up at him with the kind of smile only elderly women are capable of.

“Traveller! I’m sorry, but I seem to have twisted my ankle…” She says, “Hmm, let’s see here…” She brushes him off and stands on her own, hands folded calmly behind her back. The old woman is quite short, considerably shorter than Link, which is a feat, and is wearing robes and a hat of a style that must be unique to the Sheikah people. Link offers her a small smile and a tilt of his head.He’s about to ask if she knows where Impa is when she glances down, and her eyes flash with recognition.

“Say, traveller, where did you get that… object hanging from your waist?”

Link looks down at the slate attached to his belt, then back up to meet the old woman's eyes. “Well, you see…” Link begins, giving her an abridged version of the events of the first day he awoke. Strange to think that was only three days ago. The old woman strokes her chin, deep in thought.

“Yes, I see…” She nods, as if there is nothing shocking about any of this-- and maybe to her, there isn’t. “That Sheikah slate is a symbol. It means you are the hero of legend. Though there are few who know of such legends anymore… we Sheikah have been waiting for you for a very long time. Please… before all else, I must insist that you meet with our leader, Lady Impa.”

Link nods. “Yes, that is what I have come here to do.” He speaks formally. “Where is she?”

The old woman turns towards the village, and Link follows her gaze to the largest, most ornate house. “Lady Impa’s house is below Lantern Falls-- just over there.” She turns back to him with a smile. “In any case… it was an honour to meet you.”

He has to suppress a wince at that as he nods and leads Nyx further into the village. For some reason, the old woman’s expression of honour doesn’t sit well with him. He feels undeserving of it-- he’s been absent for 100 years while Calamity Ganon’s evil power laid waste to these people's homes. He leaves Nyx with a couple of apples underneath a tree with drooping branches, and walks towards Impa's house with a forced steady gait. He doesn't know what this Impa will say to him… or if, with his fractured mind, she will deem him inadequate.

There are two guards stationed at the steps leading up to the house, dressed just like the old woman, and they see him coming from a distance and tense immediately. Link, obviously an outsider, must stick out sorely.As he gets closer, one of them starts to shout, “You there! Who are you, and what business do you have with Lady Impa?” Link startles. The man pauses. “Is that… a Sheikah Slate? But that would mean you are… No, it’s not possible. Can it be?” Link hovers one hand over the slate attached to his hip and nods. Both guards relax, looking apologetic, and the other one speaks, “Please forgive us for behaving so rudely. Of course we have heard the legends from Lady Impa herself. Please, friend… Go ahead and step inside.”

The guards step out of the way and Link nods again to them both as he passes between them, making his way up the steps towards Impa’s home.

At the top of the steps, there is a girl calmy polishing the wood of the deck. Her hair is as stark white as the other people’s he’s seen here, and she’s dressed in the same style. She looks to be about Link’s age. She doesn’t notice him coming until he reaches the top of the steps. The girl looks up and practically jumps out of her skin, leaping to her feet and looking like she’s about to make a run for it. For a second, Link worries he's scared her-- before he spots the red steadily taking over her entire face.

She shrieks and covers her face with her hands. “ A man ?!” She peeks between her fingers. “Huh? Is that--?!” She lowers her hands completely, revealing the red tattoo on her forehead. “It’s… a Sheikah slate!”

So far, every sheikah Link has encountered seems more surprised to see the slate-- and him-- than the last. If this keeps up at this rate, Link fears Impa will have a heart attack and keel over.

“Could you be the hero m-my grandmother told me about? Li… Lin… Ummm…” She hides her face again, somehow blushing even harder than she was before. “Oh, it’s not that I forgot… I’m just bad with speaking. As for m-me, my name is Pa… Paaa… Paaay-- m-my name is Paya! Phew...” Paya looks away, face still blazing red. Just as she starts to calm down, Link smiles at her, and she shrieks again.

Paya looks away, obviously embarrassed. “I-- s-sorry…” She mumbles. “Anyway, my grandmother’s been w-waiting for your return ever s...since I was little. Plea… please hurry inside.”

She gestures to the door and hides behind her hands again. Link goes up to the double doors and pushes them open.

Impa is not shocked to see him in the slightest. She smiles under the wide brim of her hat, and says as if she had been expecting him at this very moment, “...So, you’re finally awake.” She looks up at him and smiles. “It has been quite a long time, Link. I am much older now, but… you remember me, don’t you?” Link says nothing, can think of nothing to say. He hadn’t anticipated that Impa would have known him from before… and a pang of regret goes through him. Impa notices his hesitation as he remains frozen in the doorway. “What is the matter?” She says. “You are looking at me as though I am a stranger to you. Those eyes, they lack the light of familiarity. It is, I, courageous one. Impa. Surely you must at least remember the name Impa?”

Still Link says nothing, and Impa’s eyes widen. “I see… so you have lost your memory. Well, it matters not. In fact, that may actually be a blessing in disguise for the time being.”Link frowns. How could losing his entire memory possibly be a blessing? “Dearest Link,” Impa sighs, “please come a bit closer.”

Link does as she says, stepping forward until he stands right in front of the platform Impa is sitting on.

“A hundred years ago…” She begins, and Link mentally prepares himself to hear the same sordid tale the king had told him already. “Yes… a hundred years ago, the kingdom of Hyrule was destroyed.”Now Link has to fight to keep his face neutral, and not show his frustration. He knows that, already! “After you fell, Princess Zelda’s final wish was to place you in a sacred slumber. And then… all alone… Alone she went to face Ganon. Before Princess Zelda went to nobly meet her fate, she entrusted me with some words she wished to say to you. I have been waiting 100 years to deliver the princess’ message. However!” Impa leans forward, “These words, which the princess risked her life to leave you… well, if you are to hear them… you must be prepared to risk your life as well. But I am afraid that burden may be too much to bear while you are still without your memories.”

A part of Link, upon hearing this, wants to shrivel up and die. This is exactly what he feared-- that Impa will deem him inadequate. He wants to speak up, to tell her she’s wrong-- he will not fail again, memories or no.

“I leave the choice to you,” Impa says. “When you feel you are ready to receive the princess’ message, return to me.”

Link steps forward. “I am ready now!” He says with as much conviction as he can muster, and Impa’s eyes widen dramatically again. Then, it passes, and Impa laughs.

“Not a memory to your name, yet you are as intent as ever to charge forward with only courage and justice on your side.” She smiles at him, like she expected this. Link wonders if this was a test. “You have not changed a bit. Once a hero, always a hero.”

Unfortunately Link does not feel the same-- he doesn’t think he will ever live up to the standard that these people have set for him, the expectation for him to be the same valiant knight that he was 100 years ago. But even still, Link is absolutely going to do his best, and whether he is whole or not, he will do whatever it takes to defeat Calamity Ganon once and for all.

The people of Hyrule deserve a better hero than him, but he is all they have, and he will not let them down again. He will not fail again.

“Very well. Since you have lost your memory, I will recount for you all that has happened…” Impa tells him the story of what happened not one hundred years ago, but ten thousand. She pulls out a large and worn tapestry full of ancient intricate markings that illustrate the story of the princess and hero from ten thousand years ago. It was probably once white, but yellowed with age, and the colours of the thread that detailed the tale have faded with time. Impa points along the tapestry as she speaks, and Link listens attentively.Then she tells him of how they had tried to follow in their ancestors’ footsteps 100 years ago, but ultimately failed. How they had underestimated its power.

“In order to avoid ever making that grave mistake again, the princess left you these words: you must free the divine beasts . That is what she said.”

That was a lot of buildup for literally five words, but Link doesn’t dwell on that. “Where are they?”

“Scattered across Hyrule, same as the four nations the divine beasts were entrusted to. Your Sheikah slate will guide you; travel to these corners of Hyrule and speak with the respective leaders there. They will be able to help you more than I.” She gestures for him to pass her the slate and he does, and she opens the map, putting down four blinking points in the far reaches of the blank areas on the map. She frowns. “It seems to me that your Sheikah slate is not yet complete. The device Princess Zelda left you is your guide and also your memory.” As she speaks, she swipes through pages on the slate, finding the corrupted areas. Then she passes it back to Link, and he clips it into place on his belt once again. “Now, let’s see… Purah, at the Hateno research lab will be able to help you.”

“Hateno?”

“...A village on the eastern ridge. It is a small village, one of the very few places that avoided suffering significant damages during the Great Calamity.” Impa gives him a grave look. “You are Princess Zelda’s only hope, and Hyrule’s, as well. You cannot turn back now. Follow your heart and seize your destiny!” She says as if Link does not already know that. As if Link had been considering running away and becoming a hermit in the mountains instead of completing this quest.

But Link doesn’t voice any of that. Instead he gives her an equally grave nod, turns, and walks out the door.

Night had fallen while he was talking to Impa, the sun already set and the sky dark. Kakariko village at night is far from dark, though, lanterns hung all around bathing the little valley village in a warm orange glow.

There are two things that Link is thinking about right now: food, and finding a place for Nyx and him to sleep. He doesn't plan on travelling through the night again. Food is the objective that has most of his focus at the moment. He still has some ingredients on hand but not really enough to make a proper dinner, and the stores would all be closed by now... he’ll just have to make the most of it for now. He’ll have to stock up again in the morning before he leaves, though. He goes and sits by the fire in front of Impa’s house, not really caring about grass stains, and takes out the stick he mostly uses for roasting things anyway. Using the last of his peppers and mushrooms, and some herbs, he puts together a skewer, and holds it over the fire to roast.After a couple of minutes he rotates the stick, holds it closer to the flames so the vegetables with char a little.

It doesn’t really turn out as good as Link had hoped-- the mushrooms are a little dry and tough-- but he eats it anyway. He’s very aware of the fact that people are watching him from their places around the village and through the windows of their homes. Word probably travels fast in a place like this, and Link is certain they’re whispering about him right now.

When he’s done eating, he gets up and brushes off his pants, and fetches Nyx. She’s still waiting for him under the tree, and Link smiles at her, giving her a couple of pats to show his appreciation.

He has to do some asking around, but eventually someone leads him to a small stable where travellers and merchants can board their steeds while they stay in the inn next to it. It’s currently empty, but looks cozy and well-maintained, so Link happily forks over the 20-rupee fee for a stall for Nyx.It's only as he’s leading her to her stall and taking off her gear for the night that he realizes that put him down to only seven rupees-- and he doesn’t need to ask to know that that is definitely not enough for the inn. He looks around. The man that led him here has already disappeared. He’s probably not supposed to do this, but…

Once Nyx is settled into the hay, lying down with her legs tucked in, Link follows suit, stacking his weapons and gear in the corner. He places another apple near her head for her to eat if she wants it, a treat to go along with the feed that came with the stall, and leans back against her warm tummy. He sighs, and wriggles to settle in further, crossing his arms over his chest and his legs at the knees. Nyx turns her head to nuzzle him, and Link smiles. He tilts his head back against the horse’s side and lets his eyes slip shut, planning on getting a proper night’s sleep and then leaving for Hateno as soon as he can in the morning.

Something awakens him again in the middle of the night. A stirring in the air-- Nyx must sense it too, because she shifts and whinnies nervously behind him. Link opens his eyes, and catches a glimpse of the night sky outside the stable. He jumps to his feet, disturbing the hay around him as he dashes forward and catches himself on the half wall of the stable, his whole upper body leaning out into the night, wanting to make sure he isn’t seeing things.

But it isn't his imagination. The moon rising high in the sky is not just full when the night before it was barely a sliver, but it’s also blood red, bleeding and staining the sky red around it. There are red embers and ash in place of stars, speeding across the sky on a wind Link can’t feel, reminding him of the malice swirling around Hyrule castle. He’s filled with dread and fear, not knowing what’s going on, when the moon reaches its peak and suddenly a stabbing pain rips its way into Link’s head. He gasps and clutches the sides of his head. As he does a light, cottony feeling pushes back against the darkness battering his mind, and the voice he now knows to be Zelda’s fills his head. Her voice cuts through the red haze taking over, she calls out his name.

chasing dragons - ThatOneFunAnon, cruisercrusher (5)

“Be on your guard, ” She says, “Ganon’s power grows… it rises to its peak under the hour of the blood moon. By its glow, the aimless spirits of the monsters slain in the name of the light return to flesh. Link… please be careful.”

As her voice fades so does the red haze and the smothering ash, but the pain in his head lingers, a dull ache throbbing behind his eyes. Link groans and rubs at his temples, and when he opens his eyes he sees that the moon has returned to normal.Dizzy and disoriented, Link stumbles back to where Nyx is lying in the hay and practically collapses, tucking himself into a ball against her tummy and squeezing his eyes shut.

He falls into a fitful sleep, tossing and turning the whole night through.

Notes:

I edited the last bit of dialogue between Impa and Link, because like link already knows what the divine beasts are anaht happened to them, Impa and the king both told him already. also, the stable is something I completely made up for plot sorry.

Chapter 6: The People of Kakariko

Summary:

Link spends the day in Kakariko village. He has mixed reviews.

Notes:

no warnings for this chapter! Again, liberties taken with npc interactions but that should be expected by now

ALSO WE"RE OFF HIATUS NOW BOYSSSSSSSSSSS EEYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY still no consistent update schedule tho sorry lol

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

When Link wakes up he’s sprawled in the hay, bits of it stuck in his hair and clothes, and Nyx is drinking from the water trough. Nearby are the sounds of children shrieking with laughter, and the sun is bright on his face.

Link makes a tired noise as he sits up, rubbing his face and brushing away bits of hay. His hair is a tangled mess, his clothes are rumpled, and he feels like garbage. What time is it…? As he drags himself fully to the land of wakefulness, Link reviews his plans for the day.His ultimate goal: reaching Hateno village before nightfall. But before he can accomplish that, he will need supplies, namely food, and some kind of water provision-- and a comb. Link winces as he pulls his hair out of its tie, feeling and hearing the dry strands tear and pull on his scalp. But in order to get those, he will need more rupees.

Link pulls himself to his feet and straightens his clothes as best he can, and absently thinks he could use a change of clothes, too, but it’s low on his priority list.

(A bath is slightly higher on his priority list.)

When he emerges from the stable as presentable as he can make himself, he notices is that he is not the only traveller in the village. He sees, with a wry twist of his mouth, that although there are more outsiders walking about, he is the only one followed by covetous eyes.

Maybe someone around here will have some odd jobs he can do for some rupees. Link sets off into the village at a leisurely pace, looking for people who seem like they might need some help, greeting nearly everyone he passes by in doing so. More than once someone calls him over, but it’s always because they'd like a closer look at the slate, or just because they’d like to shake the hero’s hand-- there is no doubt that as long as Link is in Kakariko village, he won't be anything other than ‘The Hero’ to anyone here.It grates on his mood, a little. He understands that in a small, sheltered village like this gossip must spread quickly, but surely the sheikah people have better things to occupy their time with than fawning over him.

He’s almost sullen by the time he reaches the pumpkin patch. It’s already past noon-- he’d slept in far later than he intended to-- and he hasn’t made any progress, and no one has really been of that much help. There is a man working in the patch, tending to the pumpkins, his back to Link. Link leans against the fence and props his hand in his chin, quite possibly actually pouting as he ignores the group of young women nearby trilling at him like courting birds.

After a moment of this, the pumpkin farmer notices his presence, and peers over his shoulder at the young man loitering by his patch.

Link and the man hold eye contact for a second, before the man suddenly leaps up and points a dramatic finger at Link.

“Halt, Yiga spy!” He shouts. Link startles, jerking upright from the fence. He’s reaching for the slate to prove to seemingly the one person in the whole village who doesn’t know who he is that he isn’t-- whatever it was he just called him, when the man’s accusatory expression gives way to one of laughter.

“Sorry,” the man waves him off, “you just looked so serious there I couldn’t help but tease you. I know you’re not really a Yiga spy.”

Link’s confused frown doesn’t fade, and the man keeps talking, figuring correctly that his confusion is due to the gap in his knowledge. “The yiga are a group that were once Sheikah, but turned traitors over a hundred years ago to instead pledge their loyalty to the Calamity.” The man’s expression turns serious once more. “They’re bandits and thieves and assassins, and they fight dirty. They’ve been more active now that the towers have risen, so you should be wary.”

He turns and bends down by the pumpkins once more, and Link’s frown deepens in thought. Yiga … the notion is familiar, but when he wracks his brain all he has to show for it is a flash of black and red in his mind’s eye.

There is much of the world Link still has yet to relearn, but knowing what he does, he can not fathom anyone ever pledging allegiance to the Calamity.

“Here,” Link is pulled from his thoughts when the man speaks again. He looks up to see that he has one of his pumpkins in his arms, and is offering it to Link. “As an apology for my little joke.”

Link accepts the pumpkin gratefully, immediately storing it in the slate. The man watches with curious interest, eyeing the crusted blood spots on his ripped clothes with a raised fluffy white eyebrow. “My name is Olkin, by the way,” he says. “Do you… want to do some laundry before you leave again, Hero?”

At Link’s blank stare, Olkin continues, “It’s just that you look-- and smell-- like you’ve been sleeping in a barn.”

Face flushing suddenly, Link looks down at himself and subconsciously touches his hair. He hadn’t realized other people would find it so obvious. A change of clothes and a bath are now both higher on his priority list. “Uh-- yes.”

Olkin laughs. “One of the guards, Dorian, you can probably use his laundry basin if you ask nicely. The man’s got two small kids, so he always has soap on hand.”

Link ducks his head in a hurried bow to Olkin and scurries down the hill to find Dorian.

The guard in question grants his request happily as soon as he asks. It probably has something to do with the hero worship that permeates this whole town-- Link doesn’t think that if he were some random stranger people would be giving him directions to their houses so he can do his laundry there for free. Link finds the house fairly easily-- it’s actually across from the pumpkin patch, nestled at the bottom of one of the steep cliffs surrounding the village. Around the back is, indeed, a washbasin, already filled with water, and soap. He quickly starts stripping off his clothes, glad that the basin is secreted away from public eye, and puts on his first pair of pants that he’s barely worn so he can wash his underwear too.

(He also splashes some of the soapy water on himself, letting it drain off his skin into the grass, making sure to wash his feet and his armpits and behind his ears. He washes his hair, too, and brushes it out with his fingers as best he can.)

It’s as he’s wringing the soapy water out from his hair, his clothes now only somewhat stained laid out on a log to dry, that he hears the muffled giggles behind him. When he looks over, he sees a small white bun poking out from behind a tree. He turns away, and the giggles start up again. This time he swings his head around quickly, and catches sight of the pint-sized watcher just as she ducks back behind the tree, giggling all the while. Slowly, Link stands up, his bare feet barely making any noise in the grass as he creeps forward.

“Boo!” Link jumps around the tree, fingers spread like claws, and the kid jumps, shrieking.

“Aahh! You found me!” The kid dissolves into peals of laughter. “Lets play that again!”

Link blinks, hands on his knees. “Uh, what are we playing?”

The kid plants her hands on her hips. “Hide and seek, obviously!” She announces. “Come on, let’s play!”

Link looks back over at his laundry, then glances around at the village beyond them, acutely aware of the gawkers. “I can’t go play right now, my clothes aren’t dry.”

“No!” The kid pouts. Without another word she turns on her heel and stomps up into the house, and Link isn’t sure what to make of that. No what? He hopes he didn’t upset her.But less than a few minutes later she comes back with a bundle of cream fabric in her tiny arms. “Here!” She thrusts it at him. “You can wear this! It’s my daddy’s but he won’t mind!”

He unfolds it, revealing it to be the outermost layer of traditional sheikah robes with wide sleeves and an open front, to be belted closed. He pulls it on. It’s way too big on him, the sleeves covering the palms of his hands, and the bottom falling around his mid-thighs, but the silky fabric is puffy and warm, by far the most luxurious garment he’s worn yet. Feeling sufficiently clothed, now, he smiles down at the kid. “What’s your name, kid?”

“I’m Cottla!” The kid chirps. “I’m five!”

“Hi Cottla,” Link says, “I’m Link. I’m a hundred and twenty.”

Cottla squints at him. “You don’t look a hundred and twenty,” she says unbelievingly. “Lady Impa is even older than that and you’re not wrinkly like her at all.”

“Lady Impa probably didn’t get as much beauty sleep as me,” Link laughs at his little inside joke with himself. Cottla clearly still doesn’t believe him.

“Okay, mister,” she says, “Can we play hide and seek now?”

“Sure,” Link smiles. “How do you play?”

Cottla looks at him like he’s suddenly grown a second head. “It’s… hide and seek… you don’t know how to play hide and seek?”

Link coughs awkwardly. Is that supposed to be common knowledge? “Uh… no?”

Sighing, Cottla pats his arm. “It’s okay, I can teach you. I can teach you all sorts of games!” She throws her arms out wide to symbolize just how many games she might teach him. And really Link doesn’t have much time to waste but… how could he say no?

“Alright,” he says, and Cottla jumps up and down in excitement, clapping her hands together.

“Yay!” She cheers. “Let’s play tag!”

“I thought we were playing hide and seek?” Link asks, pulling the robe tighter around himself, confused.

“I want to play tag now! Come on, you have to catch me!” Then she takes off running, giggling, and Link jogs after her at a slightly subdued pace, aware of his longer legs and, likely, superior athleticism than the five year old has. He chases her up the hill and off the path, until they reach a patch of tall grass and he closes the distance to tap her on the shoulder.

“I caught you!” He exaggerates panting for breath as if she’d really given him a hard chase.

“When you catch me you have to say tag! That’s why it’s called tag!”

“Okay, tag,” Link says, and Cottla cheers again.

“Yay!!!” She turns to the tall grass they’re standing in. “Okay, now let’s play cricket race!”

“How do you play that?” Link says as she bends down in the grass and starts feeling around with her little hands.

“Whoever catches the most crickets first wins!”

Well, that sounds easy enough. Link crouches too, looking around the ground for the crickets he can hear hidden in the grass. This place is just teeming with them.

A few minutes later, Cottla pipes up, “Okay! How many did you get? I have four!”

Link turns and shows her his entire handfuls of crickets, and Cottla’s eyes widen. “Whaa! You have so many! So cool, you’re really good at catching bugs mister Link!”

Link smiles. “What are we going to play next?”

Cottla thinks hard about it, scrunching her face up adorably as she tosses her crickets back into the grass. Link puts his in the slate. “Let’s make a magic potion!”

“A magic potion?”

“Yeah!” Cottla grins. “There’s a magic place in the forest where everything is magic and we can make a potion! Let’s go, it’s just past the shrine!”

She leads him away from the grass and past an orange glowing shrine, up the path and farther into the sparse forest. At the end of the path where Cottla is taking him he sees a shallow pond in a clearing, beams of sunlight reflecting off the water. Everywhere grows wildflowers, white and blue bell-shaped blooms underfoot. Floating leisurely about are tons of small, round, brightly glowing fairies, landing gently on the flowers before lifting up into the air again. In the center of the pond is what looks like a massive closed flower bud, with thick protective spikes like rose thorns. It seems to sway gently, almost pulsing, alive. At the base is a large mound of glowing mushrooms, forming a ramp-like shape. Link slows down as they get closer to it, looking around, his mouth slightly parted in awe.

“A giant lady lives in there!” Cottla says. Ah, the imagination of a child. It knows no bounds. “Let’s make a potion now!”

Link starts picking flowers, walking through the shallow water, letting it run over his bare feet as he collects them. Cottla is much more concerned with mud, and sticks, and leaves, and rocks, and worms, that he sees her sticking into her pockets with her muddy little hands. He finds some wild carrots growing at the base of a tree and is quick to store those, knowing just how valuable every bit of food he finds is. Right now he rinses one off in the water and munches on it as he collects more of what actually seem to be valuable materials.

At one point he hears Cottla giggling again, and looks over to see a fairy has landed on her head. Link smiles softly as she crosses her eyes trying to look up at it. She reaches up, presumably to try and pet it, and it floats lazily away out of her reach. To his surprise, it comes towards him, and he silently holds out his hand. It lands on his finger, so light it barely feels like anything at all, its wings fluttering slowly open and closed. Cottla creeps over, gazing wonderstruck at it.

chasing dragons - ThatOneFunAnon, cruisercrusher (6)

After a few moments rest, the fairy flies away again, and Link and Cottla watch it join the rest of the fairies in the air. “Wow…” Cottla breathes. Her innocence and enthusiasm is refreshing to Link, different from the adults of Kakariko village who see the slate, his destiny, before they see him. Cottla only sees him as her playmate.

Link turns again as she continues to watch the fairies.

At the base of another tree, he sees some other flowers, different from the ones that grow all around them, small in numbers but inarguably far more beautiful. With petals like lilies, so white they seem to glow, Link feels drawn towards them by something inexplicable. He reaches forward, but just as his fingers brush the soft petals, Cottla speaks from beside him,

“My daddy says we’re not allowed to pick those,” she says. “They're eh--endagered.”

Link withdraws his hand, still feeling that strange pull in his chest towards the flowers. He needs them, he thinks, though he doesn’t know what for-- they’re important.

“I think we have enough ingredience for the potion now,” Cottla says. They go off to the side in the clearing, and Cottla dumps her collection of rocks and leaves and mud and sticks and the occasional worm in the grass, and starts stirring it with a stick. Link sprinkles in some of his flower petals. “We need more water.” At Cottla’s instruction, Link cups his hands and splashes some water from the pond onto the mud pile-- sorry, magic potion. It gets gradually soupier and Cottla continues to stir it, until eventually,

“It’s ready!” Link has no idea what constitutes it as ready, but Cottla is the expert here, so he’ll take her word for it. “Here, taste it!”

She holds out the mud-covered stick, shoving the end in his face and nearly taking his eye out. “Go on, try it! I want to see if it gives you magic powers!”

For some reason, a wave of nostalgia hits him, and before he realizes he’s done it he takes the stick, his chest feeling oddly tight. He really doesn’t want to, but… gingerly, he sticks his tongue out, just barely tasting it, and tries not to let his face scrunch up in disgust.

“Well!?” Cottla looks on eagerly. “Did it work? Do you have magic powers??”

“Maybe,” Link makes a show of pondering it. Discreetly, he reaches towards the slate on his hip, blindly opening the inventory. “Oh, what’s this?” He reaches forward, palm empty, behind Cottla’s small pointed ear, then twists his hand, pulling it back to reveal a boko fang pinched between his fingers.

“Whoa!” Cottla gasps, taking the tooth from him with both hands when he offers it. “You really are magic!”

Link smiles as the child fawns over her new treasure, a different kind of inexplicable nostalgia seizing his lungs. He doesn’t remember where he learned how to do that trick, but it came naturally as if he’s done it a million times. And maybe he has. Cottla’s smiling face nudges at something buried deep where his memory is supposed to be, a phantom of a recollection, and Link tries to grasp that ghost before it’s gone, but the memory slips away before he can actually remember it, leaving that same empty fog in its wake.

“Here, I’ll trade!” Cottla pulls from her pocket a huge chunk of rock salt and plunks it in his hand. “Crunchy crunchables!”

Part of him wants to cry, a loss he doesn’t recognize as his own writhing within him, and he’s relieved when Cottla looks up at the sky, distracted. “I’m getting hungry,” she says, “I’m going to go have lunch. Bye mister Link, it was fun playing with you!”

“Yeah, you too,” he waves, throat closing in on itself, and she runs off, monster tooth clutched in her fist. Link sits back and scrubs roughly at his cheeks even though no tears have fallen.

Link wanders back down into the village, slate full of materials to sell and supplies of his own, carrots and different kinds of mushrooms and more herbs and a couple of radishes he found after Cottla left. He retrieves his now dried clothes, a little stiff from lying flat in the sun but blessedly clean, and Link sighs happily as he pulls them on, and then the warm sheikah robe on overtop his torn shirt. He goes down to the general store.

His jaw drops at the sight of the fire arrows they have on display, eyes fixated on them as he goes up to the counter to sell his stuff. By the time he’s done handing all the materials over, he has a whole whopping 140 rupees in total.

Link looks between his wallet and the fire arrows, a slight pout to his lips as he eyes the price tag. They’re really expensive… the shopkeeper notices his strife.

“You know, since you’re the hero and all… just this once, I’ll give you a discount on those. Half off.” She says, leaning forward on her elbows on the counter. Link looks up at her, eyes practically sparkling.

He buys a bundle of five fire arrows, a bundle of ten regular arrows, a handmade comb, a bar of soap wrapped in waxy paper, and an empty waterskin. It all punts him back down to only 25 rupees, but that’s still better than what he had before, which was practically nothing. He hopes he doesn’t have to rely on charity for his whole quest, though.

“Come back anytime and show me your archery skills ,” The shopkeeper purrs at him as he leaves, and Link waves awkwardly as he goes. He goes across the road to the grocer and buys a slab of butter, which puts him down even more to only 13 rupees. Oops lol. But it’s worth it for delicious butter.

It’s dinnertime. He wanders around the village until he finds a cooking pot, currently occupied by another small child. She leans over the pot that seems to be filled with some kind of soup, a ladle in her hand and a frown on her face.

“Hey, kid, do you need help?” Link says, and the kid looks up at him. She looks a lot like Cottla, but a couple years older. This is probably Dorian’s other kid.

“I’m trying to make dinner for my sister, creamy veggie soup, it’s nourishing and fortifying! Or so they say, anyhow it must be true. But…” The girl flops down onto a stool, looking sullen. “I just realized I don’t have any carrots! That’s one of the most important ingredients… and now the soup is going to be bad.”

Link sits down on the stool next to her, looking down into the pot. There’s some other veggies floating around in the bubbling cream broth, he spots potatoes, celery… “I have carrots you can use, if you want.”

“Really?!” The girl grins at him, any traces of oncoming tears immediately banished from her eyes. “Thank you! So much!! I just need one and I can get cooking!”

“Ah,” Link gets some carrots from the slate. “For the amount of soup you’re making, better to use two. Here,” He hands her the carrots. “Do you know how to chop them?”

“I can do it!” The girl says defensively, grabs the carrots and plunks them down on the cutting board next to her. Link watches closely as she slowly and carefully chops the carrots, around five minutes per carrot, and then pushes them into the soup.

Link also takes out some herbs and shows her how to crush them between her fingertips and sprinkle them into the soup for more flavour. He sits quietly as the kid stirs the soup and it starts to smell more and more delicious every minute. He learns her name is Koko, and she wants to learn how to be a really good cook like their mom.

After a while, when the sky is starting to turn orange, Dorian and Cottla come over and all four of them have a bowl.

“Yummy,” Cottla says around a mouthful, soup dribbling down her chin. Koko beams, proud of her achievement, and Dorian leans over to wipe his daughter’s face with a handkerchief. Link nods in agreement. The soup is pretty good, especially for a nine year old’s mostly-solo project, rich and creamy, the veggies cooked almost perfectly in the thick broth. Though the herbs he contributed definitely do enhance the flavour of it.

Thinking of how he needs to leave fairly soon if he wants to make it to Hateno on time, he quickly finishes his bowl and sets it aside as he stands. “Thank you for the meal,” he bows respectfully to Koko and her family. Dorian nods at him, and Link remembers, “Oh!” He starts to pull off his borrowed robe to give it back to Dorian, but the guard stops him with a gesture.

“You can keep it, kid,” the man says. “I think you’ll be needing it.”

Link smiles gratefully and settles the robe back on his shoulders, rolling the sleeves back up. Just as he’s about to turn to leave, Cottla jumps up and wraps her arms around his legs in a hug. “Bye mister Link! Come back and play with me again sometime, okay?”

“Sure,” Link pats her head and she lets him go.

He makes sure to fill up his waterskin before he redresses Nyx in her saddle and leads her out of the stable. The villagepeople all wave and say goodbye to him as he goes, and even though he wishes they wouldn’t pay him so much attention, a little internally at odds with his near-celebrity status here, he’s still courteous enough to wave back.

Once he’s past the village gate he nudges Nyx into a trot, waves to Hestu as he passes, and sets off down the road, the setting sun creeping towards the horizon as he picks up speed. Eventually the soft flute music one can hear in every part of Kakariko fades as more distance is put between him and the haven, and he’s accompanied only by the sounds of the crickets in the grass, frogs in the river, and birds in the trees, wind rustling the leaves and the grass.

Notes:

UwU...

Also when Cottla says that Impa is even older than that she's literally just telling lies. She thinks Impa is like three hundred years old

Chapter 7: if women are oppressed then why Symin?

Summary:

Little does he know, Link has come home.

Notes:

I think it should go without saying that Link is going to be put in a lot of stressful situations in this fic. slight warning for brief, vague panic-- we all know what's on the road to Hateno. Also, anyone who spots the subtle foreshadowing gets a prize.

Once again HUGE thanks to my little sibling for helping with this fic! It would not be what it is without you kiddo love you <3

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

He crosses Kakariko bridge and turns where the sign tells him to, taking the path leading away from the stable. Nyx seems to know to automatically follow the road, and that gives Link the opportunity to look around as he travels. He sees another tower in the distance, as the terrain becomes more fields on one side, the wide river stretching along his other side. They advance into a gallop, with the open empty road ahead of them, clear of distractions.

Clear of distractions… that’s wishful thinking. As they pass a tree, he hears a wet schlap . Instinctively he pulls on Nyx’s reins to stop and look behind him.

Two round, gelatinous blue orbs tumble down from the tree. One jiggles to a stop closer to the road, but one bounces and rolls down the grassy slope until it teeters off the edge into the river. Link watches the strange… things… with a dropped jaw, baffled at their mere existence. The one that’s still there has two spots that look like two round eyes perched on it’s wobbly top, that stay in place even as it rolls slowly towards him.

Link dismounts, walking over to it, curious. It has a few leaves stuck in its membrane, and Link watches the foliage dissolve in the creature’s body. He makes a small ‘huh’ noise as it gets closer. Then all of a sudden it surges forward with a totally random burst of energy, bumping into his leg and starting to try to absorb his boot into its jiggly mass, and Link jumps with a yelp. He shakes his leg, trying to get it off, but it's stuck on, and the suction feeling is too weird .

“Hyah!!” He swings his leg around in a powerful kick, sending the sentient (?) blob flying into the tree. It hits the trunk and bursts apart with another wet splat, leaving lumps of jelly-like substance behind in the grass. Cautiously, Link goes over and pokes at it, but it just wobbles. It’s… kind of funny. Link chuckles, poking it again, harder. It wobbles again, harder. Quickly, wanting not to waste any more time, he scoops it up and deposits the clump in the slate to play with more later, and goes over to where Nyx is waiting on the road. He sets off again, the setting sun behind him.

Some time later, they go around a bend, and clouds start to cover the sky. He looks up at them, hoping it doesn’t rain before he reaches the village.

A shadow appears in the corner of his eye, and Link looks back down only to be arrested by the sight of two guardian shells fallen on a large mound of earth, their legs sprawled, claws sunken into the dirt and suddenly Link imagines how it would feel to be pinned under one of these claws, having the life slowly crushed out of him, rammed into the dirt, bones breaking--

Nyx must have felt his grip on the reins tightening as fear grips him, because she slows, and Link’s eyes stay glued to the dead machines, heart beating a crater in his ribs as they pass them. Then Link forces himself to face forward again, keeping his gaze set ahead-- only to be met with the sight of the rest of the field.

It’s… a graveyard of guardians. Hundreds of darkened, lifeless mechanical shells, rusted and moss covered, litter the ground. Ruins and fallen trees among them, upturned earth like this battlefield settled days ago and not a century, guardians block even the road and Nyx maneuvers herself around them. Link shudders as they pass far too close to one for even a joke of comfort. The sheer number of them, this place, sends a sudden searing pain racing through his chest. Link gasps wetly and clutches his chest, fingers digging painfully into his sternum but he needs that. His lungs heave.

Fort Hateno.

The stone stronghold stretching between the two cliffs looms before him, as Nyx continues forward at a trot now. Link isn’t even guiding her anymore, all but only holding on. It’s as if she knows he needs to get the f*ck away from here.

They pass under the open gate and step into the shadow cast by the fort. The gate is propped wide open and so any sense of shelter or shielding from the fort is mostly an illusion, but on the other side of the mighty stone wall Link does suddenly feel much safer. The tension in his back and shoulders untightens just a little bit, and his heaving lungs start to calibrate again.

A movement in the corner of his eye and he jumps, jerking accidentally on Nyx’s reins and she stops on the road. There’s a person standing near a campfire just off the road, and the man waves at him.

“Hey, traveller,” the guy says, taking a couple of steps towards him. “You came to see Fort Hateno?”

Link just looks at him, his eyes wide like saucers-- he must look like he’s seen ghosts, but the man doesn’t comment on it.

“Yeah, pretty majestic wall, isn’t it?” The guy looks up at the half-wrecked fort. “Lotta history in this place, you know? You know about the battle that happened here 100 years ago?”

Yes -- Link thinks as he shakes his head-- no. I don’t, but I think my body does .

“Well, me neither!” The guy laughs. “Hah, it’s pretty much impossible to know the true story these days. As far as I know, no one from back then is still alive, and they told crazy stories to their kids and then their kids told even crazier stories to us. But one thing we do know for sure, there was this hero, right? One of the champions. And he gave his life here fighting these guardians. Some say he didn’t really die, though, he just got put in a deep sleep. Some say it was the princess that saved the day, people would talk about her harnessing ‘the sun itself’-- some people say it was the golden triumph forks, whatever that is-- and smited all the guardians on the field. Some say it was the goddess Hylia herself that saved everyone, but I don’t believe that. What do you think?”

Link just shrugs, still feeling like his jaw has been wired shut. The guy huffs another laugh. “Hah, me too, buddy. Guess we’ll never know for sure-- but hey, we can’t waste time stressing about unknowns, right?”

I will not fear the unknown’... Link nods slowly. He glances back over his shoulder at the sea of fallen guardians behind them. He takes a deep breath and turns his head back to face the road before him. “Yeah,” he whispers, “You’re right.”

He nudges Nyx’s sides with his heels until they’re galloping along the road through the trees. It’s darker here under the forest’s cover, the low sun not reaching here. The trees thin out once they pass a towering rock formation above the river, and then the beaten dirt road stretches upwards above the river, and the tower he saw earlier comes back into view, glowing bright orange against the dark night sky.

A couple of bokoblins jump out from behind a tree next to the road and try to chase him, but Nyx outpaces them easily and they get left behind.

The road pinches in between two short rockfaces into a miniature ravine, coming out to the sight of more ruins and some red moblins among them. He passes under the tower up on the hill next to him. He follows the sign at the fork in the road indicating the way to Hateno village, and speeds past more monsters. He leaves the tower behind, remembering last time he tried to travel late at night.

The road starts to break up into patches of cobbled path as the hill gets steeper. Link goes around a bend and there before him is the entrance to Hateno village. The gate is made of stone and clay, with a sign hanging from it with the village’s name. Two lanterns on either side of the road beckon weary travelers forth from the night. Beyond that, he sees the tops of chimneys and houses poking out from over the hill.

There’s a man armed with a farmer’s pitchfork standing in the middle of the road beneath the gate, feet spread in a fighting-ready stance, eyeing Link suspiciously as he draws nearer.

“Who-- who are you?!” The farmer barks once Link stops right in front of him. “I demand answers! If you’re up this late, you’re probably up to no good!’

“I’m a traveller,” Link simply says. The farmer-guard grunts, lowering his pitchfork and standing it on the ground, leaning on it a little.

“Well… you don’t look like a monster,” He says. “And I don’t think a bokoblin could make such a convincing disguise. Sorry for getting all worked up. You’re free to go. We’re just a waypoint on your winding road, huh?”

Link slows Nyx to a walk as he enters Hateno village. He passes gardens of flowers and produce, and old-looking buildings made of pale clay and stone sprawling over the hills, shops and homes and windmills. It’s a beautiful town. Small patches of wildflowers grow in the grass around the main road, and lilly pads in bloom dot the pond he passes. Apple trees shade the path, offering ripe red fruit. Link leans up to pluck one from the branches as he passes under it, bringing the apple to his lips and taking a bite. It’s crisp and juicy, and he doesn’t think he’s ever had an apple this good.

Despite the village of Hateno being much more open and sprawling than Kakariko, there’s a warm sense of safety to this place that the sheikah village didn’t have, despite this area lacking the insulating cliffs. Already he knows he likes it, a small smile tugging at his lips as he looks around.

It’s nighttime proper, now, though, so most people are inside their homes, candles lit in the windows, but he does pass by someone still sitting in the communal kitchen.

“Excuse me,” Link says softly as he brings Nyx closer. The person looks up. “Could you point me towards the ancient tech lab?”

The person gestures up the hill. “Just keep taking this road, then turn right and keep going. Then a left-- there are signs.” They explain, “Usually you could follow the blue lanterns up the hill, but we had heavy rain recently and they haven’t been re-lit. It’s right at the top of the hill though, on the edge of town.”

He smiles graciously at them to convey thanks, and they nod to him as he carries on.

He crosses a bridge and passes under another gate. Large, ornate, unlit stone lanterns line the path just like the villager said as he continues up as instructed, until there are no more houses or farms this way and the road turns winding until he reaches the top of the hill.

The lab was obviously once just a regular home, with a large silo-like tower attached to the side, that has long since had wooden sheikah architecture added on. There’s a mismatched front with a frog statue like the ones he saw in Kakariko above the door-- except this one is wearing round red glasses-- scaffolding and a rickety wooden staircase wind up the tower. On the roof of the lab is a massive ancient sheikah telescope pointed vaguely out at the rest of Hyrule, and in front of the lab is a strangely bulbous unlit furnace. Link can feel the eccentric energy radiating off from it, and he leaves Nyx under the tree to approach the front door slowly with somewhat cautious steps.

As he walks closer, his feet tap over a circle of sheikah stone inlaid in the ground, unlit. He raises a hand to knock on the door, even as he wonders if he should wait until morning to come calling-- Purah is probably asleep. He falters, thinks twice about it, and turns to walk away. It would be rude.

Actually, no, f*ck it. Link spins and throws the doors open, he’s here and they can deal with it.

The doors bang hard against the wall, and inside a man sitting in the center of the lab jumps out of his seat and shrieks, his sandwich flying from his hand onto the floor. His sudden movement bumps the table and it wobbles, the mug that had been sitting there toppling over onto the floor and breaking, spilling the milk tea everywhere and staining the papers already scattered all over the place.

One hand clutching his banged knee and the other grabbing a book from the copious piles of them and brandishes it above his head like a weapon. “D-don’t come any closer!” He yelps, “I-I’m warning you!”

Link looks around the lab, taking in the incredible mess and clutter. “Are you Purah?”

The sheikah scientist yelps again and throws the book at him upon hearing the name. It lands on the floor nearly a whole meter from his feet.

“She’ll kill you, you know!” The scientist warns him. “The last bandits that came in here--”

“Whoa, I’m not a bandit,” Link interrupts him, turning his hands palms-out. “I’m Link--”

“Link?” The scientist blinks.

A crashing noise sounds from upstairs, like the sound of a desk and everything that could be on it falling to the floor. “ LINK !?” A… young child? Bellows, and he looks off to the side just in time to see a short whirlwind of cream fabric and white hair come barrelling down the stairs. And. Keeps coming.

Wh-- ” Link tries to dodge the cannonball but a tiny fist collides with his stomach and he doubles over, wheezing.

“You’re late!” The girl shouts at him, and Link coughs as his insides unsquish.

“Miss Purah!” The fully grown scientist yelps, and Link blinks around the tears of pain.

“Purah?” He croaks and stands up a little straighter. “Impa... told me to find you...”

Purah is… a small child? The kid in question, Purah, glares up at him. Her hair sitting on top of her head is almost as big as her, and her round red glasses match the ones crookedly perched on the frog statue outside. She tilts her head at him, a pensive look on her face, that seems out of place on a child.

Well, I did sleep for a hundred years, Link rationalizes, Guess it’s not that outlandish for a kid to be a brilliant scientist .

“You don’t recognize me at all, do you?” Purah says slowly. Link shakes his head.

“Do we know each other?” He asks, and she seems to pause before squinting up at him.

“So you can speak…” she mutters, and steps up to him, reaching up to tap his forehead with a pencil. “Do you remember any of your dreams from your hundred year nap ?” She asks, pulling out a notebook. “Do you remember anything at all ?”

“Uh…” Link pauses. “No, I don’t remember. Not a thing.” He says frankly, then adds, “No dreams, either.”

“Hmm…” She purses her lips and mutters under her breath as she writes in the journal, “ after 100 years in the slumber of restoration, subject… has lost… all… memories . Voice… surprisingly… fruity . Noted!” She claps it shut and grins triumphantly. “Just as I hypothesized!”

What was that last bit ? Link thinks to himself, confused.

Purah notices his puzzled expression, and puts her hands on her hips with a sheepish smile that seems fake. “Oops, sorry, I have a bad habit of taking notes rather abruptly, I guess I’m just quirky like that.” She smirks. It’s weird, seeing a little kid smirk. Link frowns. Is this kid really a kid? “Soooo, do you have any questions for me?”

Link tilts his head. “Yeah,” he says, “Why are you a small child?”

Purah gasps at him, her eyes widening. “How rude !” Then she taps her chin, looking up in thought. The other scientist looks very, very tired. “Actually, is it rude if it’s true? Anyhow,” she shrugs. “I only look like a kid because of an experiment gone wrong-- don’t ask the details, we’ll be here all night. Really, I’m a hundred and twenty-two… anyways, back to the matter at hand! Here you are, after one hundred years! To visit lil’ ol’ me!”

She leans in conspiratorially. “But my dear little sister didn’t send you here just to say hi, didn’t she? No, I’ll bet you there’s something wrong with the slate.” She points to the sheikah slate on his hip. “Come on, let me see it.”

Link unclips it from his belt and hands it over when she reaches out a demanding grabby hand, and she takes it and swipes through it with practised ease, humming and hawing. “Yes… looks like some of the basic functions have gone offline. Yep, I can fix this no problem--” she looks up at him with a devious glint in her eye. “But I need you to run an errand for me, first.”

Link slumps, and Purah laughs. “Aw, don’t make that face! You didn’t think I would fix the slate for free did you?”

“I had hoped maybe you would…” Link sighs. Purah scoffs. “Can it at least wait until morning?”

Purah seems to consider him for a long moment, then sighs and nods. “Yeah, sure.” She says. “Symin will show you to a bed.”
“Thank you,” Link breathes, and Purah waves him off.

“Yeah yeah, better not get sappy on me-- we didn’t get along a hundred years ago and I didn’t plan on changing that now. Just go sleep, you look terrible .” She turns and jots down in her notebook, “ Sleep of restoration… does little favours… in the… looks department…

Link gives a light laugh at that, all air but a laugh nonetheless, and when she hears it Purah twists her head around to look at him in genuine surprise. But he doesn’t get time to ask what that’s about, because then he’s following Symin up the stairs and towards a bed.

“You can sleep here,” the scientist says, and Link immediately puts down his things and drops down onto the bed. Symin leaves, and Link lays his head down on the pillow, falling asleep almost immediately.

He’s shaken awake the next morning with sunlight streaming in the window and a hand on his shoulder, and immediately on instinct Link leaps up, his sword already halfway out of its sheath before he realizes it’s just Symin the sheikah scientist, springing back, startled.

“Ah,” Link says, putting his sword back, a little embarrassed. “So-- sorry,” He stops and clears his throat uncomfortably when he hears the low pitch of his own voice.

“It’s alright,” Symin chuckles. “Miss Purah is still asleep, but I can show you what we’ll need you to do so we can fix the slate, if you want.”

“Sure,” Link says around a yawn, slipping his shoes back on and reattaching his pouches. Symin brings him downstairs and outside, showing him the weird, bulbous thing right by the door to the lab. It kind of looks like an octorok head.

“This is one of our ancient furnaces,” Symin says, gesturing to it. “It powers the guidance stone in the lab-- as you can see it’s unlit. It rained really heavily a few days ago and put out the blue flame, and we haven’t gotten down to the other furnace to try and relight it yet.” He points down towards Hateno village. “The other, bigger one is way down the hill, under the sheep farm. We’ll need you to go down and collect some blue flame to relight the furnace.”

Link nods. Symin hands him a torch. “You can’t miss it,” he says, and Link takes it and sets off down the hill.

He finds the other furnace after a bit of a hike, led by the trail of old-looking, unlit lanterns, past a few farms with people tending the fields. He doesn't know what, but there's something peaceful and vaguely nostalgic about walking past the fields and farmers under the early morning sun... something that feels right. The furnace is practically wrapped in stone, but it’s hard to tell if the stone was put there or if it’s been dug out. This one definitely is bigger, and even more oddly shaped than the one by the lab. This one is lit up and glowing blue, like he assumes the other one is also supposed to be. He sticks the end of the torch in the blue flame until it catches, and he turns and goes back up the hill, lighting the lanterns on his way up. Along the way, a woman thanks him for lighting the lanterns, and he nods at her before continuing on.

He gets back up to the lab and lights the furnace, and as soon as he does it makes a noise and starts glowing, along with the circle of sheikah stone in front of the door. He puts the torch out and goes inside.

Purah is up and about when he opens the door, the sheikah slate in her hands. She looks up as he walks in. “Linky,” she says, and Link thinks the nickname is not supposed to be affectionate. “Thanks so much! Look, the guidance stone is already coming back online.” She gestures to the long, narrow stone pointing down from the ceiling that looks just like the ones at the top of the sheikah towers. “Yep, nothing mysterious about it, this is pure science!”

Link would beg to differ. But okay.

Purah hops off her stool and goes up to the stone and its pedestal, patting it affectionately. “Well then, let’s go ahead and restore those runes for you!” She reaches up and puts the slate in it’s slot and turns to him as the stone starts to glow brighter. “Give me a nice SNAP! Go on, no time to be shy about it!” She snaps her fingers at him, and he just blinks in confusion. Purah sniffs, unimpressed.

“Well, whatever.” She turns back to the guidance stone, and they watch as it loads the information down into the slate.

Runes restored . Repair complete .

Link takes the slate back when it’s ejected and examines it. There’s a functional pictograph feature now, and some pictos already saved to the album. “Well? Did it work? Lemme see!” Purah bats her hand in the air, and Link turns the slate to show her. She adjusts her glasses and squints. “Yep, all there-- that we know, at least. Okay, let’s test it-- take a picto of us!”

“Uh,” Link clumsily adjusts the slate and leans down to get them both in the frame, and quickly pushes the shutter button, taking the picto with a sharp clicking noise from the slate. Purah grabs it and looks at the picto. It’s blurry.

chasing dragons - ThatOneFunAnon, cruisercrusher (7)

“Well, I guess you became a knight for a reason,” She sighs, and looks through the album. “Ah, hold on, there are some old landscape pictos here. Princess Zelda made use of the pictograph feature often, this must be her work. Not bad, actually. Oh, yeah--” Purah looks up. “Since you were her appointed knight, you were probably there when these photos were taken. Maybe these could help jog your memory… try asking Impa about it, she knew the princess better than I did.”

Link nods, and takes the slate back.

“If you have any more questions, just come back and ask me, or Robbie at the tech lab in Akkala if you’re really desperate.”

Link nods again. “Is there, uh, is there anything else?” He asks, and Purah scoffs, shaking her head.

“Dunno if I’m gonna get used to that,” she mutters, then says, “Actually, yeah. If you see y--” she cuts herself off and pauses, looking at him pensively. Then she turns away and waves her hand dismissively. “Nevermind. Forget I said anything. Now get out of here, you nuisance.”

Link places the slate at its place on his hip and nods to her, deciding not to let his thoughts linger on what Purah decided not to tell him-- just another unknown. He waves goodbye to her and Symin both, then turns and leaves.

Notes:

straying further and further from canon npc dialogue..... how long until i just start making sh*t up
Also I love love love Purah so much can you tell lmfao can't wait to write about her in my age of calamity rewrite

Chapter 8: you can't spell 'Hateno village' without 'communist utopia'

Summary:

Link starts to catch up with his past-- but it still outpaces him.

Notes:

wheeeeeee i love hateno village we have added some more things to it for flavour, like a blacksmith and also Rice Guys its a fun time its fun i swear aaahhh

also theres a bit with deer hunting and we are not going with the 'animals magically poof into ready-to-eat meat' thing so if you are uncomfortable with that feel free to scroll past it it is not long and not explicit

enjoy uwu

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Unlike when he first arrived, when Link guides Nyx by the reins back down the hill into the village, it is bursting with life. None of the silent peace from last night, now it is bright and vibrant and loud with the people going about their daily lives, and Link finds it just as charming as the moonlit quiet.

He leads his horse down the road, passed by on either side by people. Villagers in the middle of chores, carrying baskets of laundry or produce, travellers with their wares strapped to the back of their donkeys, busy. Eventually he stops outside the inn, at the bottom of the steps there is a small stable and a man leaning back against one of the support beams, his arms crossed over his chest as he tracks the people passing by with his eyes. Link approaches with Nyx, and the guy looks up at him with a wary look.

“You saw me checking everyone out, right?” The guy says, and Link shrugs. “Yeah, I do it every day. Gotta keep the town safe and all that, you know? You look like the travelling type, I’m sure you get it.”

Link shrugs again.

“Name’s Manny, by the way. You checking in your horse?” He asks him, and Link nods, passing him the reins. He goes to reach for his wallet, but Manny is already bringing Nyx into a stall, telling him over his shoulder, “Real sturdy steed you got, here. You can come pick her up any time you like.”

Confused but nonetheless pleased, Link lowers his hand and nods in thanks to him. He walks over to the communal kitchen just across the road and sits on one of the many wooden stools. There are already a good few people gathered around the cooking pots, chatting excitedly. Link opens the sheikah slate and reviews his small collection of ingredients, his stomach growling lightly. He could really use some breakfast.

As he thinks that, cheers start to rise up from the people around him, and he looks up to see three big burly buff people, each carrying a truly massive pot. The cheers continue as the pots are placed on the ground in the communal kitchen, and Link sees that they are filled with rice. “Rice guys! Rice guys! Rice guys!” The people chant as they scoop the rice out into the cooking pots and tall storage pots at the back of the kitchens. It’s three siblings with a clear resemblance between them, two brothers and one sister, all with glorious, shiny hair and winning smiles. People thank them for the rice and tip them green rupees as the Rice Guys flex and pose before breaking out into laughter and making their exit with the now empty pots. Link blinks as the spectacle ends, and people actually start to cook with the rice.

“First time?” the villager on the stool next to his smiles good naturedly, a young man with brown buzzed hair and freckles. “That’s just the way we do things here in Hateno village. Come on, grab a bowl, the food is for everyone.”

“Thanks,” Link says softly, taking a stone carved bowl from a stack of them on a nearby shelf and some chopsticks from a cup next to it. Soon enough someone gestures for his bowl, and Link holds it out as the seasoned rice is scooped into his bowl along with two fried eggs. He digs in immediately, thoroughly enjoying the delicious, and more importantly, free, food. The guy sitting next to him finishes his meal quickly and stands to leave, turning to Link whose mouth is stuffed full of rice. “Well, those houses ain’t gonna build themselves,” he gives a two-fingered salute and walks away, leaving his seat empty, but it does not stay vacated for long.

Soon an elderly woman arrives at the kitchen and sits gingerly down on the stool, slowed by her old bones. Link smiles at her, and she returns it, pulling at the deep wrinkles in her cheeks, squinting at him a little. “Good morning, young lady,” the old woman says. “Are you a traveller?”

Link quickly swallows his mouthful, having paused his chewing at being called ‘young lady’-- if that has ever happened before, obviously he doesn’t know, but he doesn’t think it has. And yet, he is entirely unbothered by it, though he’s sure that back in the day, other knights who were more attached to their masculinity would have been upset. “Yes, ma’am,” he says as he wipes his mouth with a napkin, seeing no need to correct her, it’s harmless, after all.

“Well I’ll be,” the old woman pats the short table as someone places a bowl of rice in front of her, “I thought so, I haven’t seen your face before, and I’ve seen many in my years-- though maybe I have, I seem to have misplaced my glasses,” she laughs. “This is your first visit to our town, isn’t it?”

“Yes’m,” As Link nods and the woman keeps talking, he notices people around them start to avoid eye contact. “It’s very beautiful.”

“Hateno has grown to be quite a lively place. I suppose that's on account of things being so peaceful in general nowadays.”

“Nowadays?” Link prompts without thinking, and immediately wants to smack himself-- duh, the Calamity.

That he was supposed to stop.

“Oh, yes…” The old woman does not seem to notice his slip, folding her hands in her lap. “When I was a child, this whole region wasn’t in a state fit to be sown, much less harvested.” Link nods slowly as she looks off into the distance. “Hyrule castle and castle town had been destroyed, all the lovely folks there fell victim to… well, back in the bygone days, we called it the Calamity. Though I think the young’uns these days call it that, too. But words often fall meaningless when we try to describe tragic events of a certain magnitude…”

Link looks down at his mostly-empty bowl, his appetite fading.

“The destruction began there, in the core of Hyrule, then faster than anyone could run it spread across the whole land. Of course, that all happened long before my time, I was born during the age of burning fields. The first decade of my life was spent in a ring of flames and under a sky of smoke, but once I was old enough to really become aware of it, the flames turned to embers to ash to rich, fertile soil once more, and the crops were budding. We were self-sufficient. I’ve never ventured outside the gates of this very village, you know, but I’ve heard the castle and its city are breeding ground for the forces of the Calamity to this very day. Youngsters like you who like to travel could tell you about that in more detail, but they don’t know as much of the history. Those who are older than I would know more about it… but she’s likely passed by now.”

She finally stops talking for a moment to take a breath and a few bites of her food, sitting serenely on the stool like she’s said nothing of great impact at all. Link halfheartedly stirs his rice with his chopsticks. He notices that around them in the kitchen, a sober silence has fallen. It occurs to him that he is probably the only one alive in all of Hyrule who did not have to live through the effects of the Calamity, he is the only one alive today who did not have to face the consequences of his own failure.

Shame roils sharp in his gut like the smog serpent that circles Hyrule Castle.

He doesn’t realize he’s zoned out until the old woman lightly slaps his bicep. “Finish your plate dearie,” she tells him a scolding but good-natured tone. Link does, even though he’s really not hungry anymore. “Now Lassie, I do hope you don’t plan on moving on too quickly? There’s much to see in Hateno, you know, and much more to do.”

“I--”

“My joints have been giving me more and more grief these days,” she sighs. “I can’t be sure I’ll be able to collect my dear cuccoos’ eggs this morning… I’ll have to find someone young and agile who may be able to help me. Unfortunately, most of the young’uns of this town steer clear of my home, I simply don’t understand why they are so afraid of my sweet rooster, he is such a dearheart. Ah, the life of an old woman… your twilight years are always the loneliest, treasure your youth before it slips through your fingers. When you’re an old woman like me, you’ll be glad you took my advice.”

Link sets his empty dish down on his thighs and scratches at the back of his head. “Uh… I could help, if you’d like.”

The old woman beams a gummy grin at him. “Thank you so much, sweet pea,” she says, “let me just finish my breakfast here, and I’ll show you to the coop.”

Once she finishes eating, Link takes hers and his own bowl over to the washbasin and washes them quickly, then helps the old woman stand from her seat and they walk over to her house, over the bridge further into the village. Attached to the side of the home is a short fence encircling a cuccoo enclosure, where the hens peck leisurely at the ground for bugs-- any trace of grass or other plants have surely been long pecked away. The old woman hands him a wide basket propped against the fence, and points him to the coop in the corner with a smile.

“Just crawl in there and collect the eggs from the nesting boxes. I’ll fix us some tea.”

The old woman walks slowly towards the house, pulling herself up the steps to the door, and Link takes the basket and steps over the short fence into the pen. The pecking cuccoos do not react to his presence, and he picks his way over to the coop, squatting down to shuffle into the musty space. It’s dimly lit, but Link can still easily make out the nesting boxes stacked along either side of the coop, and he reaches into them as he shuffles along, piling the brown eggs into the padded basket. Some of the boxes still have hens roosting in them, and when he gently reaches under their feathery bellies to take the egg, it is still warm. As he goes, he hears a low, grating clucking noise that doesn’t seem to come from the few hens he sees, but he can’t place the source of it until he glances into a shadowy-er corner and, by chance, spots a pair of beady eyes glaring out at him. He pauses, and the clucking gets more agitated, a darkened mass starting to shuffle in the corner, puffing its feathers out. Then all of a sudden it lets out a screeching squawk, the rooster bursting from the corner in a flurry of feathers and beak and claws and flying at Link viciously. Link yelps and falls back, dropping the basket and scrambling back away from the attacking rooster, out of the coop and tripping over his own heels to fall, sprawling on his back on the pecked bare earth. The rooster squawks more and flies over him, obscuring his view of the clear blue sky with feathers. Then it settles beyond his head on the ground, and the sun fills his vision and burns his eyes out white as he feels a distinct swooping sensation, as if he is falling directly into the earth, falling down, down, down…

“Yeah, get him! Get him!”

Link fell back onto his side, trying to crawl away from the onslaught of pecking and scratching, shielding his face with his hands as his senses were overridden with the squawking of the cuccoo and the glare of the sun and the roaring laughter of a little girl. His arm stung and his eyes burned and this wasn’t funny anymore--

He heard a faint shout, a man’s deep voice scolding, and the attack stopped. A large, soft but calloused hand wrapped around under his arms, easily pulling his small frame to his feet. He saw a flash of white, sunlight reflected off a pair of specs, felt himself leaning against someone’s wide, round belly, as those hands inspected his torn sleeve.

“What do you say?”

He turned his head around and saw hints of a small, round face, and tangled dirty blond hair before the image faded more, washed out and blurred by the sun and his own weakened mind, and Link tried to grasp the image before it slipped away again, trying to cling to those slippery details but it was too late.

Link gasps as he returns to the present, blinking away the spots the sun burned into his dried-out eyeballs as he feels someone patting his face, an echo of a concerned voice finally reaching his ears.

“...okay? Dear, are you okay?” Link shakes his suddenly pounding head and sits up, digging the heels of his palms into his eyes until the sunspots burst. What did I just see? Was that… from before the Nothing?

He opens his eyes again to see the old woman and another villager he doesn’t recognize kneeling over him with matching looks of worry on their faces. “You alright, kid?” The man asks, and the old woman rubs his shoulder. “It looked like you fainted, for a moment there. What happened?”

Link tries to tell them he has no idea what just happened, but his voice gets caught in his throat, all that escapes is a distressed whine as he shakes his head again. He can feel his brain throb inside his skull.

“It’s alright, Lassie,” the old woman coos. She reaches into the coop and pulls out the basket of eggs he dropped. Miraculously, none of them broke. “Here, you did a good job, let's go in for tea. It’ll be good for your poor head, you must have hit it.”

The man with the wooden bow strapped to his back shakes his head. “That rooster of yours is going to get someone killed someday, Uma,” he tuts. The old woman, Uma, huffs.

“He didn’t mean it,” she says, leading Link out of the pen and into the house. The man just sighs behind them. In the corner of the pen, the rooster in question clucks and puffs out its chest.

Once inside, Uma walks over and places the full basket of eggs on the table, and takes the kettle off the fire. “Have a seat, dearie, the tea will only be a minute.”

Link drops into one of the chairs at the table, feeling weary. He closes his eyes for a minute and brushes his bangs to the side, pressing the tips of his fingers just slightly to his forehead. Who were those people? Uma sets a clay teacup down on the table in front of him, and Link holds the cup in both hands as he takes a small sip of the hot, fragrant beverage. Almost immediately it does start to soothe his headache, and Link sighs. Uma sits down across from him with her own drink, silent as opposed to being in story time mode, and they sit in silence, drinking their tea for a few minutes as Link starts to feel better. If only I could remember just one face…

“Are you feeling alright now, dear?” Uma eventually asks, and Link nods.

“Thank you…” Link whispers hoarsely. Uma nods with a smile.

“I won’t keep you any longer. Here,” she sets her cup down and stands with a small grunt, going over to a dresser pushed against the wall and opening one of the drawers. She takes something out that he can’t see in her closed fist, and when she comes back over and gestures for him to hold his hand out, she drops two gleaming rupees into his palm-- a purple and a silver one. Link gapes at the money in his hand, a total of one hundred and fifty rupees, and Uma smiles and pats his head. “Thank you for your help,” she says, “and I’m sorry for the trouble.”

“Th-- thank you so much…” Link can’t seem to unwiden his eyes as Uma sends him on his way, and he heads straight down the road to look at the noticeboard he saw when he first came in. Maybe there will be more opportunities for quick rupees before he heads out again. His eyes zero in on one of the newer ads posted, tacked onto the board over some of the other papers, seeking big game hunters.

Archery, now that is squarely in his comfort zone.

He treks up the hill to where the ad said to meet, seeing three hunters already gathered near a farmhouse, including the man from earlier in the cuccoo pen. They all have sturdy wooden bows strapped to their backs and full quivers, talking amongst themselves as Link approaches. The man from earlier looks up as he gets closer, and Link waves.

“Hey, son,” the man calls as Link walks up to them. “You feeling better?”

Link nods and takes his bow in hand. “Do you still need more hunters?” He asks, and one of the other men eyes him dubiously, taking in his messy, torn up clothes.

“You some kinda wanderer?” he asks Link, and Link just shrugs. The third man whistles at the sight of his soldier’s bow.

“I think it doesn’t matter, if you’re handy enough with that thing,” he says, and the first man chuckles.

“My name’s Dantz, by the way,” he shakes Link’s hand, “You?”

“Link,” Link says.

“These are my buddies, Montrey and Fidin. Normally the three of us are enough to keep the deer population in Retsam forest under control, but there’s just too many of them this year, they’re destroying the forest, avaricious little buggers. You do much hunting?”

“Yes,” Link doesn’t know if he’s lying or not, but he’s sure it’ll be fine. The bow in his hand feels like it belongs there, and slaying deer can’t be much different from slaying monsters, right? So they bring him along down the hill towards the thick, sprawling woods by the pond at the base of a mountain, quiet as they creep through the trees. They split up, each hunter going off deeper into the woods to cover as much ground as they can. After only a few minutes of creeping through the underbrush by himself, Link spots a group of fully grown deer grazing on the bushes some ways away. He climbs up the nearest tree to get a better look, and from his perch in the branches, knocks an arrow and carefully aims for the eye of the nearest buck.

He lets the arrow fly with barely a breath and before it even lands he leaps from the tree, drawing his bow once more midair and his focus zeroes in on the other deer, feeling almost like time slows down for him as he fires a second, third arrow, clean shots right into the eye of each of his targets before he lands, as the three deer he shot fall to the ground. The rest run off, startled, but Link does nothing about it, three should be plenty. He catches his breath and walks over to the three fallen deer, suddenly finding himself at a loss for what to do next.

Uh…

He takes out his slate and puts a pin on the empty map for the spot he’s standing in, then puts it away and hefts the first deer carcass over his shoulders with a grunt. Carrying it back to the edge of the forest is a slow and clumsy affair, but eventually he gets it there and tries to set it down as carefully as he can, just in time to see the other hunters emerging from the woods as well, carrying two carcasses between the three of them. They’re talking animatedly.

“I swear, a branch just randomly fell from a tree and startled it! I would have--” Montrey is in the middle of protesting, and Fidin snorts.

“You scared it away with your big stomping feet,” Dantz says, and his smile widens when he sees Link standing with his own catch at his feet. “Hey, good job, little man!”

“There’s another two back there,” Link points back into the forest, “I could only carry one at a time.”

“Tw…” Fidin blinks. “Kid, one is enough, you don’t need to go back and hunt more, the others you spotted would be long gone by now.”

Link shakes his head. “I already hunted them, I just have to go back and grab them.”

“Wh--” Montrey puffs out his chest. “So you’re saying you shot down three deer at once? That’s ridiculous.”

Link nods, and Dantz laughs. “Not everyone is as incompetent as you, Montrey,” he says, “Fidin, you start loading the cart up. Come on kid, show us where your haul is.”

So Link leads them back through the forest to where he left the other two deer, hoping nothing had come along to munch on the carcasses. But no, they’re there and intact, and Montrey can’t pretend not to be impressed as they carry them back out to the wagon. On the way back up to Dantz’ shed to break down and preserve all the different parts of the carcasses, the man in question jokes to Link, “I just might keep you around, kid, you’re too good to let go!” Link just smiles bashfully, looking up at where the sun crawls further along in the sky.

He watches intently as the three men efficiently gut the deer, skinning them and stripping the meat off the bones, putting the cleaned and dried bones into two large baskets that one would wear on their back. “Thanks for all your help, Link,” Dantz says. “Here you go, twenty for each deer.” He hands Link the rupees, and Link eagerly accepts them. “ And , if you bring the bones down to the dye shop and the blacksmith, I’ll throw in some tails for fishing lures.”

Link doesn’t have a fishing rod, but he nods and accepts both task and reward anyway. He hefts one basket up onto each shoulder and waves goodbye to the three hunters, walking back down into the busiest part of the village. He comes to the dye shop first, passing by the sign that reads ‘we live to dye’-- ha, that’s funny. The shop’s front wall is missing, leaving it somewhat open to the cool fall air, and inside Link can see a man turned away from the outside, working at some sort of chemical station, probably making dyes, with unnaturally bright red hair and no shirt on under his apron. There is a woman leaning against one of the front support beams at the entrance who greets him, eyeing the baskets of bones. Link shrugs one of the baskets off his shoulder and passes it to her, and she takes it with a smile.

He goes to the blacksmith, across the road and sitting on the corner between the main road and a narrower side street, the inside of which is also nearly entirely open to the outside. There’s two people working away at the forge and anvil inside, and Link looks around as he wanders in. The walls are made of rough stone, and the floor is dirty, it needs to be swept badly. There are tools hanging from hooks and propped against the wall, and embers fly freely about the hot, sweaty space. One of the blacksmiths notices him and puts away his tools, pushing his goggles up onto his forehead.

“Hey,” the man smiles, and Link feels a stirring of familiarity at the circles of soot on his face. “Bone delivery?”

Link wordlessly holds out the second basket, and the man takes it, putting it off to the side in a corner where no one will trip on it. “Thanks,” he says, and Link nods, walking out onto the road again. He checks his slate-- 223 rupees is a pretty solid amount, but Link already knows that rupees can run out fast. He looks up at the sky, at the sun that inches imperceptibly along towards the horizon. He can squeeze in maybe one more odd job before he really does have to leave.

He’s about to go check the board again, when someone calls out to him, “Hey, travelling handyman!” Link turns to see a tall woman in a long wool dress under a layered green over-dress, her brown hair pushed back with a matching green headband coming towards him. “You seem pretty nimble and, most importantly, small,” She says, gesturing to him. “You’re not afraid of heights, are ya?”

One hand gripping tightly to the rope slung around one of the small supports of the top of the chimney, a wooden baton held in the other, Link supports himself with his feet braced on the side of the tall structure as he artlessly jabs the stick into the keese nest blocking the chimney. It breaks apart in chunks, bits of debris falling down into the fireplace far below. The keese sleeping inside screech unhappily as the nest starts to come loose. Keese build their nests out of sticks and mud and grass and leaves and other junk they find on the ground, and they’re a pain in the ass to remove. Link supposes that’s why Mrs. Amira asked him to do it, leaving her husband the safer job of dispatching the keese when the nest falls. Almost-- got it--

“Hey mister!” A high, young voice interrupts him from the ground below. “Watcha doing up there!”

Link spares little more than a glance down at the little girl shouting up at him before turning back to his task. The arm holding him up is starting to strain, he wants to get this done quickly.

“Hey!” The little girl’s voice is suddenly much closer, and Link whips his head around, eyes nearly bulging out of his head, to see the tiny girl climbing up the ladder and pulling herself up onto the roof below him.

What are you doing up here --” Link’s hold on the rope slips a little in his shock, and he gasps as he grabs it again, pulling himself closer to the mess of a chimney.

“Mr. Traveller, do you know this one?” The little girl calls up to him over the sound of the screeching keese, then, right there in the middle of the roof, starts shimmying and waving her arms in a little dance, then finishes on a dramatic pose. “SHAKEEEEN!” Link just stares down at her as she proudly dusts off the knees of her dress. He keeps blindly stabbing the nest.

“Well? What do you think?”

Link turns back to his task. “That’s great, kid,” he says, and with one last solid thwack , the nest finally breaks loose and tumbles down towards the fireplace. Link shoves the stick under the straps holding his weapons to his back, and lets the rope slip from around the support, so he slides down the chimney back to the roof with his arms and legs wrapped around it in a bear hug. The little girl is waiting for him there, but before she says anything else Link scoops her up over his shoulder and quickly carries her back down the ladder to solid ground. “Don’t go climbing up random roofs with no one watching you,” he says as he puts her down, and she pouts.

“You were watching me,” she says, and Link sighs.

“No I was not, I meant a parent or something.” He starts walking back towards the front of the shop whose chimney he had been clearing, and the kid follows him.

“My daddy’s busy in the daytime,” she says, trotting along next to him. “He’s a farmer, he grows veggies and stuff.”

“That’s nice,” Link says as the faint screeching of disturbed keese from inside the shop fades to silence, meaning either the shopkeeper got the keese or they got him. The door opens, and the shopkeeper, apparently not having fallen victim to the keese, comes out with a pair of dirty glasses in his hand.

“Well, we know what happened to old woman Uma’s glasses,” he says. “I oughta get these back to her, she’s been wandering around practically blind for three months.” Link’s eyebrows raise. “Here,” the man gives him 20 rupees. “Sorry, we’re short on goods at the moment, or I’d throw some locally-grown produce or arrows or something in with it. All we have left in stock right now are, eh, truffles.” He chuckles, and Link waves him off.

“It’s alright, thank you.” He puts away the single red rupee. The kid is still standing by his hip, kicking the dirt. The shopkeeper goes back inside.

“Don’t you have some friends your own age to play with?” Link says as he starts to walk back towards the stable and the kid follows him.

“My friend is being weird and stupid,” the kid complains, and Link raises an eyebrow.

“That’s not very nice,” he says, and the kid sighs.

“Whatever,” she sighs, then turns on her heel. “Bye-bye mister traveller!” She says as she runs back off. Link shakes his head and keeps walking. As he arrives back at the stable, a sharp, cool wind blows through the town from the mountains, and Link shivers, pulling his borrowed sheikah robe tighter around himself. It’s a nice garment, but it doesn’t do much for his ears-- Link quickly rubs his hands together and rubs the tips of his chilled ears with his fingers. Maybe he should see if he can get a scarf, or some sort of hood, before he leaves again. The summer is on its very last legs, giving way quickly to fall. He retrieves Nyx from the stable-- her mane has been brushed, and she looks content-- and walks with her back down the road towards the shops. Across from the general store there is a tailor. He leaves Nyx by a fencepost and goes inside.

The inside of the tailor is brightly lit and cozy, lanterns hanging from the ceiling and mounted on the wall. There are shelves of meticulously folded clothes in different styles, colours and fabrics, and benches of shoes and boots. Mounted on the display mannequins in two rows of three are different complete outfit sets. On the other wall across from the shelves is a doorway leading to a storeroom full of fabrics and leathers, and standing next to a crate full of rolls of linen is a young woman, with her shoulders slightly hunched and watching Link as he looks around the store.

“Can I help you find anything?” the girl asks in a timid voice, and Link chews the inside of his cheek as he looks at the mannequins. One in particular catches his eye, a finely crafted adventurer’s set amongst the dresses and fancier outfits. Link approaches it, eyeing the hood and short cape on top of an incredibly nice rider’s tunic. The tunic set is made of a knitted turtleneck as the undermost layer, chainmail, and the intricately stitched outer tunic is an orangeish red colour, with a triangle pattern along the seams. The waist sash is a soft marine blue, and the leather armguards, gloves, and light chest armour looks sturdy and durable, as does the one pauldron. The hood is thick and stiff, and when Link looks closer he can see that the lining and the outside are different fabrics.

It’s divine.

“That set is perfect for a traveller,” the tailor pipes up from the corner. “The layers may look intricate, but it’s really not as elaborate as it seems, and it can keep you perfectly warm and dry well into the fall and even winter, in some areas. I also have it in other colours, but red is very in right now.”

Link squints at the clothing, then looks back towards the tailor. “How much for the tunic and hood?”

The girl’s eyes widen. “That would be-- uh, sorry, one second, it’s… yes, those together would be one hundred and eighty rupees.”

Link takes a deep breath and slowly releases it, looking back at the mannequin. That’s more than half his wallet right now… he’d be a fool to spend that much at once. But the clothes are really nice… it would be an investment… no, he can’t afford brand new clothes like this. The ones he has now aren’t exactly luxurious, but they’re better than nothing. He should just get the hood like he planned and leave it at that. He needs to save his other rupees for things like arrows, what little food he can’t forage, stable services and inns, a bedroll, arrows, medicine and elixirs, arrows --

I am a fool , Link thinks as the tailor uses a measuring tape to get his size, then goes over to the shelves to pick out the right tunic. “Which colour would you like?” she asks, opening a drawer of dyed fabric swatches. Link pokes his chin for a moment, looking them over. It’s not too late to change his mind… he could still back out…

He points to the green one.

“Very nice,” the tailor says as she pulls out the different layers of the tunic set in green in what Link suspects is the smallest size available, as well as the hood exactly like the one on display. “Since this is your first purchase over a hundred and fifty rupees, I’ll add a free basic sewing kit too.” She looks down at the floor as she brings the articles of clothing over to the counter, and Link follows, taking out the necessary rupees with a sigh.

“There’s a mirror in the fitting room if you’d like to, uh, try it on,” the tailor says once the transaction is complete, and Link picks up the folded bundles of fabric and nods.

chasing dragons - ThatOneFunAnon, cruisercrusher (8)

Link walks out of the store in his new clothes, no longer regretting this purchase at all. His old, ratty shirt and his sheikah robe have both been stored away in the slate, in favour of clothing that isn’t either at least a hundred years old or previously owned by a middle aged man. The tunic set fits snugly and comfortably, warm but not too hot for the afternoon, and he really likes the fingerless gloves and the tight vambraces to protect him from scrapes and tumbles. He leaves the hood down, content to have it just fastened around his neck for now. And, with the little sewing kit, he should be able to repair any wear and tear himself easily enough. Nyx is still waiting where he left her by the fence, and Link walks up to her with his arms held out. “Well, how do I look?” he asks the horse, and Nyx whinnies and tosses her mane.

“Yeah,” Link chuckles. “I think I look pretty good, too.”

He hoists himself up into the saddle and nudges her sides with his heels, prompting the horse to a casual walking pace. Link looks over his shoulder at the town as they leave, passing under the gate, and feels one more pang of someone else’s nostalgia as they carry on down the hill. He turns his gaze back to the road. “Let’s go, girl,” he says as he flicks the reins and they speed up. “I have more questions for Impa.”

Notes:

sure link might super die because now he cant afford arrows to shoot his enemies but at least he will look good doing so :)

also we very much hope you enjoyed our homebrew lore we have more coming but dw we're not gonna just overload u with headcanons but n e ways what do u think of original content memories teehee

Chapter 9: Impa's answers are as straight as she is

Summary:

There are more mysteries hidden beneath the calm of Kakariko village than meets the eye.

Notes:

trying to write Paya with an actual stutter, still workshopping it a bit tho so let us know if you have any recommendations or things that should be either removed or put in <3

sorbus this chapter is dedicated to you uwu /lh /hj /good luck with zelda 2 electric booglaoo

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Link regards the thorns enveloping the base of the tower and winding up the ancient structure, a frown etching itself onto his face. He wonders how they could have grown so quickly, if the towers only rose from the ground mere days ago. Slowly, he reaches a finger out to test the sharpness of the thorn nearest to him, then stops. The tip of it is a suspiciously deep red-purple, and the even the thornless spaces on the branches radiate an untrustworthy energy. Link turns on his heel towards the campfire the bokoblin he’d just killed had had going, where he had left Nyx to eat apples off the tree.

It has to be burned.

Link sits back on the grass, watching from a healthy few meters away as the flames eat away at the thorn branches, the fire spreading along the dry, brittle plant quickly as putrid purple smoke rises from the tall inferno creeping higher and higher along the tower. It reminds him of the way that monsters dissipate into purple mist when he kills them.

Eventually, the thorns give way to ash falling to the ground like dark snow, and Link climbs the tower. The climb itself is easy, but long and tiring, and he has to take many short breaks on the platforms that spiral up the structure. When he finally gets to the top, instead of heading immediately for the terminal, Link takes a moment to look out upon the view from the tower, appreciating the sprawling expanse of Hyrule stretching out beyond him. He can see Hateno village, so small from all the way up here, and beyond that, a mountain enshrouded in thick, mysterious fog. Beyond that, a mighty volcano, glowing rivulets of lava in the distance, and, closer than that, a waterfall.

He turns his head and his eyes light up as he spots the glimpse of ocean peeking out from behind mountaintops, the faint curve of the horizon nothing but endless blue. A drop of water falls from the sky and splashes on the edge of the tower in front of him, and Link retreats back under the cover of the tower to the terminal. He plugs the slate in and waits as it twists and activates the tower. A light sunshower drizzles from the sky.

When the tower gives him his slate back he takes a second to inspect the section of map he downloaded. It’s big, bigger than he thought it would be.

Lanayru mountain. Already labelled on his map and huge, Link glances up at it and the clouds that strangle the peak, and where before he felt awe and curiosity, now an odd sense of dread squeezes his chest at the thought of Lanayru mountain.

He turns away from it. He’s wasting time.

Can’t waste time stressing about unknowns.

Climbing back down and hopping up into Nyx’s saddle, they take off again back down the road from the tower, towards Kakariko village. The road back down the hill towards Fort Hateno feels quicker now that it is more familiar, and he looks around at the landscape in the bright afternoon sun as Nyx trots along the road. They slow to a walk when they enter the treeline of the forest under the cliffs, dappled sunlight streaming warm down through the small gaps in the leaves. Link notices as Nyx’s hooves kick up dirt on the road, that the leaves are starting to turn, hints of red and orange trickling along the edges of the leaves.

He can get a better look at the fort itself now, in daylight as opposed to when he first saw it as the sun was going down. He notices the mismatched scaffolding along the interior of the wall, reinforcing the damaged, crumbling stone structure with wood of varying ages. And, lined up along the base of the inside of the fort, rows and rows of hundred-year-old graves. Rusted weapons thrust into the dirt, carved logs and flat rocks propped up against the wall-- so many of them there are barely even gaps between the graves. Fresh flowers have been planted or draped over every single one.

Throat tight, Link’s head hangs as they pass under the gate. He feels shame.

Kicking his heels against Nyx’s flank, he urges her faster as they race across Blatchery plain, his gaze focused solely on the road ahead. He does not look at the legion of decayed guardians that line the path.

At the turn in the road onto Kakariko bridge, he hears a cry for help.

Alarm jumping up behind his ribs, he cracks Nyx’s reins and they dash across the bridge as the cries get clearer. Right at the other end, off the side of the road, hunched over her twisted ankle, is a young woman, with olive skin and light brown hair that comes down to just past her jaw. Her eyes are squeezed shut in pain. It’s the girl who healed him at the stable, Sagessa. Link jumps from the saddle before Nyx is even stopped, running towards the girl and kneeling in the grass in front of her.

“Are you alright?” Link gasps. “What happened?”

Sagessa peeks up at him, her brow knitted in a way that Link, for some reason, finds off-putting. Her shoulders shake, and it takes a moment for Link to realize, disconcerted, that she is laughing.

“You are naive… hero .” The distress vanishes from her face and is replaced with a twisted, snarling smirk. Link reels back just to narrowly miss having his head lopped off by a viciously sharp sickle that was not in her hand a second ago , and Sagessa jumps to her feet, any semblance of a hurt ankle long gone. She brings her hands together with a strange laugh and her body is concealed by a sudden burst of magenta smoke. Link grimaces and jumps to his feet, drawing his sword and shield as the smoke dissipates, revealing a masked figure clad tightly in red and black. On the mask is the same eye symbol that represents the sheikah-- only it’s upside down.

Yiga .

The Yiga assassin laughs again and charges at Link with a deadly swing of their sickle. Link sidesteps and parries with his sword, the clang of blade on blade ringing in his ears. He returns the slash but the Yiga jumps back before attacking again. Link grunts as he barely dodges in time, almost falling backwards into the grass. He rolls with the movement as the Yiga follows him. Knowing it’s a dirty move, he aims a slash at the Yiga’s legs anyway. This assassin is damn fast enough to nearly overwhelm him. Link jumps to his feet to block a hit with his shield, then another, and another, the curved blade scraping loudly against the wood, until he spots an opening. The Yiga swings their arm up high to land a strong blow to his shield, and Link ducks under the arc to slash at their side with the tip of his sword. His blade slices through the red material, drawing a thin line of crimson underneath.

The Yiga yelps and stumbles backwards, and Link tries to use the moment of off-balance to land another hit, but they recover quickly, catching Link’s blade with the curve of their sickle to twist it out of his hand. Link holds fast against the yanking motions of the Yiga, and the assassin laughs. “You’re rusty and outdated, Hero ,” they taunt him, “just like this old sword of yours!” They lift their leg and kick down onto the flat part of Link’s sword, and Link’s eyes widen in horror as it breaks in two, shards of metal flying into the air. Link drops the handle like it’s burning hot, flipping back away from the Yiga’s next blow. Now there is nothing between their sickle and his face but his shield, and the assassin is moving too fast for him to take another weapon from the slate.

Laughing again, the Yiga pauses and the eye on their mask flashes again as glowing symbols appear around them. Suddenly they vanish, and Link whips his head around. He hears a burst of fluttering papers-- above him! Link ducks and raises his shield above his head just as the assassin lands on his shield, the tip of their sickle piercing through his shield, the wood splintering, stopping just short of his eye. It sticks, the Yiga making a confused noise as they try to pull it out, their weight still all on Link’s shield arm.

chasing dragons - ThatOneFunAnon, cruisercrusher (9)

Link heaves upwards, throwing the Yiga off, and the sickle stays behind, sticking out of his shield. He throws it to the side, and the Yiga tries to make a dive for their weapon, but Link blocks them. The Yiga aims a hard elbow at Links head, he ducks and punches right under their ribs, landing a solid uppercut right on their diaphragm. They stumble back with a wheeze, and Link roundhouse kicks the side of their head, the hard edge of their mask momentarily digging into his foot.

They curse, grabbing the side of their mask. “ Tch. ” They pause. “Go! Bananas!” Link blinks as the Yiga assassin shouts out of nowhere, one hand clutching their hurt side as the eye on the mask flashes, and suddenly in their free hand is a bundle of bananas that they hurl right at Link’s face. Link squawks and tries to duck away as the flailing flying bananas smack him right in the nose. The Yiga seems to burst away into a cloud of magenta light, the particles swirling and flying away towards the horizon, leaving Link winded from the fight, and leaving their weapon behind, still stuck in Link’s shield.

As he catches his breath, Link kicks the two pieces of his broken sword away into the river, and bends down to pick up his shield. With a grunt of effort, he pulls the sickle from the wood and puts it and his shield away, looking over to the distant skyline where the Yiga disappeared with a frown.

He doubts that Sagessa was really a Yiga in disguise all along. She had plenty of opportunity to kill him back at the stable. But somehow, the idea that that Yiga had disguised themself as one of the few people in all of Hyrule Link already knows by coincidence is even more implausible. And that aside, how did they know he was the hero in the first place…?

Link’s blood turns to ice as he glances over his shoulder, calling Nyx back to him with a click of his tongue. A cruel chill runs down his spine.

They are watching him.

They have been watching him this whole time.

The whole rest of the way up the road to Kakariko village, he is looking over his shoulder.

He breathes a little easier once he passes under the archways of Kakariko village. The people outside perk up and wave to him as he passes by on his horse, and Link waves back halfheartedly, his focus on the big house in the heart of the village. He leads Nyx over to the short row of squat stone frog statues with the little trays in front. Paya is there, kneeling down with a basket of apples, placing an apple in each of the little trays. She doesn’t notice Link coming with Nyx. He stops the horse by the gate at the foot of the stairs and dismounts, walking over to Paya. He crouches down next to her to get a better look at the little statues, and Paya’s head spins as she notices him, jumping a foot in the air with a yelp.

“M-m-master Link!” Paya stammers, her face already bright red. “Wh-when did you arrive in the village?! Please don’t s-startle me like that again…”

Link snorts and shakes his head. “I won’t, if you stop calling me ‘master’ Link.”

Paya’s eyes widen and she shakes her head hard enough for her hair-loopies to swing side to side. She looks back at the frog statues, avoiding his gaze. “I-- that’s far too informal! I c-can’t do that.”

Link sighs and shrugs his shoulders. “Fine.” He clears his throat. “What are you doing?”

“Um,” Paya glances quickly between him and the frog statues, visibly chewing the inside of her cheek, and Link thinks it’s kind of cute. “I’m, um, I’m just c-cleaning up the guardian deities… and leaving some s-s-snacks out for the koroks.” She takes another apple from the basket and leaves it in one of the empty trays. Link’s eyebrows raise.

“Koroks?”

Paya looks at him from the corner of her eye. “Y-you can see them too, right?” She asks, her voice soft. “Here, once I’ve filled all the trays, they’ll s-start to come out.” Her eyes shift to something over Link’s shoulder just as he hears a crunching noise behind him. “Ah!”

Link looks back to see Nyx eating the apples that Paya had put down on the trays, and Link yelps, scrambling to his feet and trying to shoo Nyx away from the apples. “Nyx! Nyx no, those aren’t for you!”

The horse whinnies and backs away, and Link looks back at Paya with an apologetic expression, but to his surprise, instead of being upset at his troublemaking horse, she giggles softly behind her hand. Link coughs awkwardly, looking away and tugging on his hair. “Uh… sorry about that.”

“It’s okay,” Paya smiles, “I have extras. M-may I feed her one?”

What, and reward her bad behaviour? Link thinks. “Yeah,”

Paya stands up and brings the basket over, holding out an apple. Link watches closely as Nyx sniffs the apple in her hand, then takes it, crunching on it happily. Paya smiles a little wider, patting the horse’s snout. Link looks down at the grass.

They replace the apples Nyx had eaten and finish filling the rest of the trays, then take a step back. Link wonders how long it will take for the Koroks to come out. He wonders if they’ll all be as big as Hestu. Then, faintly, he hears laughter like little bell chimes, and multiple little teeny tree guys with leaf faces pop up out of nowhere and take the apples, scampering off out of sight in the blink of an eye.

Paya brushes bits of dirt off her knees. “Y-You’re here to see my grandmother, right?” She asks in a quiet voice. Link nods. “You sh-should go on up, then. She’s going to be going down for a n-nap, soon.”

Link nods again in thanks, and heads up the stairs towards the big house in front of the waterfalls. He pushes the doors open and steps inside, and from her seat, from under her wide hat, Impa smiles like she knew he was there the whole time. “Purah gave you more questions than she answered, didn’t she?” The elder asks before he can say anything, and he nods, approaching her with the slate in hand.

“She told me to show you these,” he opens the picto album and hands Impa the slate, watching carefully how her eyes shift as she looks through the hundred-year-old pictos on it. It’s impossible to discern what emotion she is feeling in response to seeing the landscapes princess Zelda took before the Calamity. “Yes…” she mutters, “yes, these pictos were without a doubt taken by Zelda. It’s true, Hyrule was beautiful one hundred years ago.”

It’s still there … Link thinks with a hint of salt, not understanding why people speak of Hyrule as if it is beyond healing. The Hyrule they have now is the only one Link knows, and he has not seen much of it, but he knows he loves it.

“Purah said that… those pictos might help me regain my memories…” Link says slowly. “And she said you knew the princess better than anyone.”

Impa seems to pause, looking down at the slate, her eyes and hands stilled. “These are Zelda’s memories,” she non-answers. “Purah has always known machines much more intimately than the human mind, but you should leave no stone unturned nonetheless.” She holds the slate back out to Link, and he takes it without looking at the pictos and places it back on his belt.

She continues, “Come back here once you have tried going to at least one of these locations… whether you remember or not. There is something I wish to give you.”

Link nods. “Is there anything else?”

A strange glint appears behind the old woman’s eyes. “Not yet,” she says. “Now, go. The Divine Beast of Zora’s domain awaits.”

Link turns and leaves.

“Paya,” Link jogs to catch up with the tall girl walking up the hill. She jumps slightly, turning towards him. “Paya, do you know any of these places?” He shows her the pictos on the slate, and Paya squints at the numerous landscapes.

“These m-m-must be from all over Hyrule…” she says. “Sorry, I only recognize that one-- that’s Lanayru Promenade. The rest… I can’t say for sure. Sorry.”

Link turns the slate back around and looks at the white stone gate in the picto she had landed on. “Where is Lanayru Promenade?”

Paya pales a little, self-consciously touching one of her hair loopies. “Directly east of h-here,” she says, “but it’s very dangerous. The road is in disrepair, and teeming with p-p-powerful monsters. And at the gate in that pictograph, a s-silver Lynel waits. No one should ever go there.” Her eyes widen, and red rises in her cheeks as she waves her hands. “I-- I mean--! N-not that I don’t think you could handle it! Of course, you’re the champion, I’m s-sure you’re a-- a mighty warrior, I just-- I mean, it’s-- uh, n-nevermind!”

She ducks her head and speed-walks past him back towards her house. “Ask Dorian about the other p-places, he’s well travelled!” She calls over her shoulder, and then she’s gone, dashing up the stairs, leaving Link blinking in confusion in the middle of the path. Some people are staring. He shrugs and walks towards Dorian’s house.

When he opens the door, Koko is sitting on the edge of the bed, swinging her legs back and forth and watching as Dorian chases Cottla around the house, a pair of pyjamas in his hand. Cottla giggles as she evades her bedtime. The small child gasps in excitement when she sees Link open the door, and runs over to hug his legs. “Mister Link!”

Link catches his balance as the door shuts behind him, reaching down to pat Cottla on the head. He looks up at Dorian. For a second, he almost thinks he sees something cautious and guarded behind Dorian’s eyes, but then it’s gone before Link can even process the notion. “Sorry to intrude…” he says, and Dorian shakes his head with a smile.

“It’s no trouble,” he says, walking over and using Cottla’s moment of distraction to scoop her up in the air and wrestle her pyjamas on over her head as she shrieks and laughs. “What can we do for you?” He asks casually as if he doesn’t have his arms full of squirming five-year-old. Link quickly glances at the children-- gives Koko a wave, which she returns somewhat sleepily-- then his hand drifts down to the slate at his hip.

“There were just some things I wanted to ask you,” he says quietly. “Paya told me you’re well-travelled.”

Dorian nods, and brings Cottla over to the bed. “Meet me outside, then,” he says, “I will join you as soon as I’ve got these two down for bed.”

Cottla blows a raspberry, and Koko snickers. Link smiles and goes back out the door.

He takes a seat on the steps leading up to the house, taking out the slate and looking at the old pictos again. He flips through them, examining the images, scrutinizing the details. He wonders-- hopes-- that he will be able to remember something just from looking at them, but no matter how hard he inspects each blade of grass, each cloud in the sky, each bit of rock, each crack in stone, it brings nothing to the surface of his mind. He sighs, just as the door opens behind him and Dorian comes down the stairs towards him.

“What did you want to ask me?” He says, and Link shows him the slate. “What’s this?”

“Pictographs taken a hundred years ago by Princess Zelda,” Link says, and Dorian’s eyes widen as he looks through them. “Do you know where these places are?”

Dorian hums in thought, taking another look at the photos. “Well, Hyrule has certainly changed much in the last century… any of the pictos with Hyrule Castle near in the background are almost definitely in Hyrule field. That’s… er, well, whatever that building was, it’s definitely gone now… oh , the birch trees, that must be Lake Kolomo, that’s north of the great plateau. This one’s easy enough, that’s Lanayru road-- I don’t know what those columns are, but it must be near Rito territory. That one’s easy, you don’t get that sunset anywhere other than Kara Kara town. And this one is probably either Death Mountain or the Gerudo highlands, based off the colour of that stone.” He takes a moment to look at the rest, then points to one of the few pictos with a gloomy, cloudy atmosphere. “This was taken northwest of Bridge Hylia, since you can see the Gerudo Highlands in the distance. This one…” he pauses on the picto of some bright, stone structure. “I don’t know where this one is, but whatever it is, it’s probably ruins now. That’s probably a Goddess Spring, I’d guess not Wisdom, judging by the lack of snow. And this last one… I have no idea, it could be literally any forest.” He hands Link back the slate. “Sorry, kid. Wish I could be more help.”

Link clips it back on his belt. “It’s fine,” he says. He looks up at the sky, at the setting sun, and frowns. “How long is the trip to Zora’s domain?”

Dorian looks at him. “From here? What, are you leaving tonight?”

Link nods. He feels like the time is slipping through his fingers like grains of sand, even though he has only been awake for a few days. To him, these last fews days have been a lifetime. Dorian sighs.

“It’s a lengthy trip. But, if you take the back road out of the village and go down the hill, instead of around Dueling peaks, then there will be a stable close by where you can rest and get more detailed directions. Travel quickly, I’ve heard there are bokos on horseback there. And, I shouldn’t have to tell you, but it is dangerous to travel at night. Are you sure about leaving now?”

He nods again.

Dorian gives a minute shake of his head. “Then you’d better get some rest, first. It’s dangerous to travel at night, but it’s even more dangerous to do it when you’re tired. There’s food and an extra bedroll in the house, you can help yourself to them.”

Link’s eyes widen. “Thank you…” it occurs to him he doesn’t have a bedroll, yet. And there are surely nights in the near future for him where he won’t have access to a bed. Dorian stands, and so does Link.

“I wish you safe travels, Hero.” Dorian turns to walk away.

“Wait,” Link says, and the man pauses in his steps. “On my way here, I fought with a Yiga assassin-- they were disguised as someone… someone I know. And I don’t think it was a coincidence.” Dorian looks at him over his shoulder, but the shadows of nighttime are creeping up on them, and Link can’t make out the expression on his face. “How can I know who is Yiga and who isn’t?”

Dorian seems to think on this for a moment. Then, “there is no way to know,” he says, turning fully around to face Link, looking at him with a serious look in his eyes. “But that must not stop you from having faith in the people you meet, from believing that people are good. Paranoia will do you no favours on your quest.”

With no words to respond to that, Link just stares as Dorian walks away, his head spinning.

He finds the bedroll and the food preserves in a cupboard in Dorian’s family’s house, creeping along the old floorboards quietly so he doesn’t wake the sleeping kids. He takes the bedroll and lays it out on the grass tucked away behind Dorian’s house. He takes off his weapons and his belts, leaving them with the slate in a heap next to his pillow. He’ll sleep for an hour, then he’ll leave Kakariko village.

The sun has set and the sky is dark when Link wakes, the only light now coming from the moon and the paper lanterns strung all around the village. He groggily rubs his eyes and puts his gear back on, packing the bedroll back up and munching on some dried fruit. He comes out from behind the house and whistles for Nyx, and she whinnies and runs up towards him. He pats her nose and fastens the bedroll to the back of her saddle, then swings up and grabs the reins. They take the back gate out of the village, and as soon as they pass under it, Link cracks the reins and they take off at a gallop.

Far in the distance, out of his line of sight, thunder rumbles as rain pours down over the mountains in merciless endless sheets.

Notes:

and thus concludes Heartbreaker Link 1, a dating sim coming soon to stores near you

Dorian.... whats up man. you good?

powpowpow pow

Chapter 10: click HERE to chat with hot fish in YOUR area NOW

Summary:

Link makes the trip to Zora's domain to tame the divine beast Vah Ruta. On the way there he is met by his greatest enemy-- crumbling infrastructure.

Notes:

also introducing BOTH Kass AND Sidon!! Very exciting!!

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

As Nyx’s hooves thunder on the grass galloping down the hill, the crescent moon shining above them, Link’s hood falls back and he feels the crisp, biting night air whip around his face, stinging his cheeks and nipping the tips of his ears. He looks up at the stars peeking through the rolling clouds up in the sky, and feels far more refreshed now that he’s got some wild air in his lungs. He doesn’t see any of those horseback bokos that Dorian mentioned, they must be settling down for the night already.

At their quick pace, it doesn’t take much longer before Link can see the stable in the distance. Identical to the one at dueling peaks, he can see from up the hill the lights from the lanterns and torches flickering against the dark of the night. He rounds the hill and tugs on Nyx’s reins to slow her to a casual trot as he circles around to the front of the stable. There’s no one really out and about, given the late hour, but even though they are dimmed, the lights inside are on. His ears perk up as a peculiar sound reaches them, almost floating on the air towards him from inside the stable, the sound of someone softly playing an accordion.

He dismounts, leading Nyx by the reins over to the animals’ stalls built against the side of the stable. There’s an attendant there, sitting on a stool and leaning back against a support beam, an unlit torch held loosely in his hand, who stands when he sees him approaching. “Staying the night?” He asks, and Link shakes his head.

“Just stopping for directions,” he says softly, and gives Nyx’s neck an affectionate pat. “Could you give her some feed?”

“Yeah, sure,” the attendant takes the reins and brings the horse over to the long trough full of grain, and Link walks into the stable.

Just inside the door Link spots the source of the music, an exceptionally tall bird-man with bright teal plumage and a pronounced beak, slowly and gently playing a large accordion held between his wide wings. A few children sit on the floor in front of him, quietly listening to the music, swaying sleepily. As Link enters, an older woman prompts the children to their feet and leads them over to the beds, sending the musician a warm, grateful look over her shoulder, that he returns. The kids weren’t the only ones listening, another stable worker and a traveller sit at the nearby round wooden table, nursing mostly-empty drinks. The stable worker watches the kids go to bed, an unrestrained look of wonder on his face. “I don’t think those three have ever all been asleep at the same time even once,” he says, scratching his stubble with a light chuckle. “You’re a miracle worker, Mr. Kass.”

The rito, Kass, smiles as the last notes of the song fade away into the night. “Just Kass is fine,” he says, “and it’s no miracle. That simply is the power of good music. My daughters always…” He trails off as he spots Link standing a few feet away. “Ah, greetings! Rare to see travellers coming in so late at night… how about a song?”

“Yeah, one more!” The traveller behind them raises their glass, and Link steps further into the stable, into the lamplight, and Kass’ eyes flick down to the sheikah slate on his belt, widening in surprise.

“Th-that there, on your hip! Is… no, no nevermind, I’m sorry.” He shakes his head as Link stiffens, the hylian’s hand drifting to half cover the slate from view. “It’s nothing. I didn’t mean to pry.”

“Uh, no worries.” Link shrugs. Kass looks back at the traveller.

“Any requests?”

“Can you play--” the traveller throws back the last dregs of their drink. “Can you play that one about the bandits and the ghost town?” They ask with wide, sparkling eyes.

Kass chuckles. “You’re as excitable as those children. Are you sure that one isn’t too… energetic, for this hour?”

“But it’s my favourite!”

“Alright, alright, I’ll just slow it down, then.” Kass looks at Link. “Why don’t you have a seat? Unless you have business to attend to, of course.” Link shakes his head and goes to sit at the last open stool at the table, tucked against the wall, as the bard starts to play once more.

Based on what Kass said, the music would probably ordinarily be played with fervour and spirit, but Kass plays it gently to not disturb those that have retired for the night, slow and low and almost a little sad-- Link would never guess that the song was meant to be played any other way. He starts to sing, his voice clear and smooth as he regales the adventure of a lone archer of long ago who saved a hidden village from an army of one thousand bandits. Several verses later, it is revealed that the only captive who remained in the whole secret village was a lone old woman.

Link opens his eyes as the song ends, leaning his elbows on the table as he and the rest of the audience-- the other two at the table, and the woman who had put those kids to bed who came back to listen at one point during the song-- applaud quietly. Kass bows gracefully before coming closer to the table, to put his accordion away in its case.

“That was beautiful,” Link says. “I’ve never heard anything like that before.”

Kass smiles at him. “Thank you very much, young one.” Link nods, but even as the bard busies himself with his instrument, Link can’t help but feel as though he is watching him closely. The stable worker turns to look at him.

“Should I set you up with a bed for the night?” He asks, and Link shakes his head.

“I’m just passing through,” he says. “I came here for directions to Zora’s domain.”

All four people around him pause, glancing between him and each other, and Link looks between them all with a confused expression. “Zora’s domain…” the traveller grimaces. “Sorry, pal, but you’re out of luck. No one’s allowed to travel there anymore.”

Link’s eyes widen. That is… not great news for him.

“I tried to go there, but I was turned away by zora soldiers at Inogo bridge. They asked me if I could fight, and when I said no, they said the road was closed and I ought to turn around and go back the way I came.” They shake their head. “There’s something weird going on up there. Something dangerous.”

The stable worker, a middle aged man, sips at his drink with a scowl. “The zora have been having skirmishes with the lizal in the area for as long as I can remember. There was a zora girl who worked here for a while, great kid, real diligent-- she had to move back to the domain last year, some sort of border crisis made trouble for her family.” He shakes his head. “And now they’ve closed the road. You’d be better off waiting for whatever storm they’re stirring to settle before going anywhere near there.”

Link frowns. “I need to get to Zora’s domain.” He says, and they can all see in his eyes he is leaving no room for argument. Kass seems to be studying him. Link doesn’t look at him.

“Alright,” the other traveller concedes, pulling out a large map of the area from the stuffed pack at their feet. They spread it out on the table and point their finger along the road leading north. “This way…”

Link races north, towards the dark, roiling cluster of storm clouds that flash and thunder in the distance past another orange glowing tower. He would like to detour to it to fill out his map more, but based on what those people were saying at the stable, this is time sensitive. He steers Nyx off the road to cut over the hill that the traveller pointed out, towards a wooden bridge-- not Inogo bridge that marks the border of official zora territory where that traveller had been turned away, he still has a ways to go.

That nap he took has served him well, he thinks as he slows Nyx down as they canter along a portion of the road that is more sand than path, so low to the water that it looks seconds from being swallowed by the river. The moon creeps further along in the sky, until it eventually disappears behind dark clouds. Link reaches up and pulls his hood back over his head as rain starts to come down on him, just intermittent drops at first but getting heavier the closer he gets. By the time he turns uphill onto a road that’s flanked on each side by pine trees, it’s a downpour. Over the sound of the pounding rain, Link thinks he can just barely hear people shouting. He squints through the rain, and sees on the road up ahead, a watchtower lit up pale blue.

As he gets closer he can make out a swarm of zora frantically running around and on the bridge, shouting to each other as they build a hasty dam against the side of the bridge. Link isn’t sure why they’re in such a rush-- yes, the river looks higher, faster and rougher than it probably should for the season, but it doesn’t seem in danger of flooding. Of course, Link isn’t a zora, so they probably know better.

One voice cuts clearly through the clamour of overlapping voices and pouring rain, shouting orders and encouragement in equal parts to the zora assembling the dam. “You’re almost there! Secure that log-- wait, Gruve, look out!” Link’s eyes widen as he sees the top of the dam start to fall apart, logs and rocks slipping towards the bridge. The zora scrambles out of the way, just as the log is suddenly stopped by two large, strong arms, attached to a bright red zora that towers over the others, his bright scales standing out clearly, blue and yellow spots glowing against the dreary darkness of the storm.

“Don’t give up now, keep going!” The tall zora shouts as the others re-secure the logs he’s holding in place. “We can do this, Hyrule depends on us!”

Link approaches the bridge slowly, and one of the soldiers in gleaming silver armour standing guard spots him. “Halt!” They call at him, and Link brings Nyx to a stop, hopping out of the saddle and walking up to where the soldier has held a hand out at him. “Many apologies, young hylian, but the road ahead is closed to travellers!” They shout to be heard over the pounding rain. Link opens his mouth to respond that yes, he knows, but any sound he might make is swallowed up by the rushing water and the same booming voice he just heard alike, belonging to the towering red zora.

“Wait!” the zora calls, dashing over to them, and up close, with his feet on the ground, Link realizes with a start that he could easily be twice his own height. Hot damn , Link thinks as he cranes his neck to meet his eyes. “This is no ordinary traveller!”

The zora sweeps his hands out in a wide, grand gesture, grinning hugely down at Link. “I can tell by the weapons on your back and the way you carry yourself you must be a fierce warrior amongst your kind! You are, aren’t you?”

chasing dragons - ThatOneFunAnon, cruisercrusher (10)

Link blinks once, twice, then nods silently. Somehow, the zora beams even brighter. “Excellent! I am Sidon, prince of the Zora. I am hoping you might have a moment to talk…”

Link’s eyes widen at the introduction. A prince?? Maybe that’s why he’s so huge … but before he can respond and before the prince can say anything else, the soldier glances up at him. “Your highness, are you sure…?” Prince Sidon gives them an assured nod.

“Absolutely positive.” He looks back down at Link. “As you can see here, we’re in quite a serious bind. Heavy rainfall has caused Zora’s domain to flood, and we can already hardly contain it. If it keeps up, soon the dams around our great reservoir will break, and the ensuing flood will destroy everything in its path!” He says this spiritedly, then suddenly sombers. “The cause of it all… is the divine beast Vah Ruta.”

Hands tightening to fists at his sides, Link gives a firm nod. This is exactly what he came here for. The prince gestures at him again, his fervour returning as quickly as it went. “We don’t know why, but for weeks now Vah Ruta has been rampaging in the reservoir, blasting a never-ending torrent of water high into the air, creating this storm. And I have been searching, humble traveller, for a man like you, for a skilled archer to help us tame the divine beast, and save the domain! Tell me, please, what is your name?”

“I am Link,” Link says, and the prince leans down to hear. His eyes widen.

“Link…” he repeats, touching his chin thoughtfully. “Oddly enough, I feel as though I have heard it somewhere before… well, nevermind that! In any case, it is a fine name! A strong name! Link,” the zora prince suddenly kneels before him (though it does little to balance out the height difference) raising his hands towards Link, palms out, in a pleading gesture. “I implore you, will you lend us your aid in our darkest hour?” Next to him, the soldier startles.

“Your highness--” they yelp, but the prince shakes his head.

“There is no room for pride here,” he says, “there is no time to think about appearances! Not when so much is at stake! For my people, for my father, if I must beg on my knees, then I shall!”

Link looks up at the prince, more than a little lost for words. He has no idea how to respond to… all that, so he gives another determined nod, and the prince’s face lights up in joy, bright enough that Link almost thinks for a second that the clouds have parted and let the sun shine down on them-- the fact that it’s the middle of the night aside. The prince stands, and Link turns back to his horse, but is stopped by a regretful sound from the tall zora. “Ah, I am sorry, my friend, but I doubt you will be able to bring your steed along the road,” he says. “It’s in disrepair due to the rain and the floods. I apologize.”

Link frowns, but he supposes it can’t be helped. He reaches up to pat Nyx’s snout, stroking her neck. “You’ll go wait for me at the stable, won’t you girl?” He whispers, looking deep into her eyes, knowing somehow on a deeper level that she understands what he is saying. He removes his pack and bedroll from her saddle, slinging it over his shoulder. “I won’t be gone long, I promise.”

Nyx huffs and tosses her mane, then turns around in place and takes off back down the road. Link looks back at the prince expectantly, and the prince opens his mouth to speak again, when suddenly they’re interrupted by another zora soldier rocketing down the river and leaping up over the dam onto the bridge. “Your highness, I bring news!” The scout yells, and Sidon turns towards her.

“I am not so naive enough to assume it is good news?” The prince says, and the scout shakes her head.

“I’m afraid not, sire,” she says, pointing upriver. “The Lizalfos have established a barricade between here and the city! They must have realized you were here… and they’re armed with shock arrows.”

The zora all look between each other and mutter nervously. Link hears whispers of ‘ what are we gonna do? ’ and ‘ are they planning on marching on the city? ’. Prince Sidon frowns deeply.

“This is the last thing we need right now…” he says under his breath, then speaks up to address the small crowd of zora. “Not to worry, everyone! We’ll make sure everyone gets home safely!” He turns to Link. “Apologies once more, Link,” he says, “but I am afraid we will require your services much sooner than we thought-- you may already know this, but us zora are frighteningly weak to electric attacks, just one shock arrow could very well kill someone even of my stature…”

Link unsheathes the sickle he got from that Yiga soldier, its curved blade glinting in the blue light from the watchtowers. “So you need me to go take out that barricade,” he says, “so you and your people can return to the domain safely.”

The prince blinks at his forwardness. “I-- yes, exactly. I’m sorry to ask this of you now--”

“You don’t need to apologize,” Link cuts him off-- it’s rude, he knows, especially with royalty, but he gets the feeling this is time sensitive and he doesn’t need prince Sidon to make another speech when he’s already agreed to help. He walks past him and the other zora, his boots splashing and kicking up rainwater. “I’ll see you at Zora’s Domain.”

The prince just stares, and Link takes off up the road.

Link shields his eyes against the rain as he powers up the road, trudging through the mud. He’s tried not to step in any deep puddles, but that effort has proved useless as his boots get soaked all the way through just from the rain. The uphill climb isn't too steep, and the way is lit by bright blue lanterns, but the river up here is nearly level with the road, disturbed water lapping up onto the grass, and the path is slippery. He takes a couple turns, following the lanterns, and up ahead where the road crosses onto the other side of the river, he can make out a lizalfos scout looking this way and that from the boulder-bridge. Link grips his sickle and shield and runs at it before it can notice him.

He practically throws himself at the large, green lizard-monster, and it croaks in surprise and raises its shield to block a blow from his sickle. It pushes him back and he skids on the wet grass, but quickly regains his footing and runs at it again. It’s much bigger than him, so he easily ducks under its shield this time and swings his weapon up in a wide sweeping strike to its unarmoured chest. It’s less scales and more flesh here, and the blade digs in deep, the lizal screeching and falling backwards into the river in a sudden burst of putrid purple smoke.

Link crosses the bridge and runs further up the road. He hears loud splashes behind him, and he turns to see the group of zora in the river, leaping over the bridge. Prince Sidon’s head and shoulders burst out from the water a scant few meters from him. “Link!” The prince shouts to him, “sorry to call to you from the river, but I wanted to thank you, and warn you as well! The road up ahead is almost entirely stone and gravel, and it becomes treacherously slick in these conditions! Be careful as you proceed! And please hurry! My fellow Zora are counting on you!”

Link nods at him, and leaves the zora behind in the water as he runs up ahead to clear the way. The prince wasn’t kidding-- almost immediately the road becomes far steeper, and at points Link even uses his hands to steady himself on the wet rocks as he climbs, beckoned forth by another lantern shining bright in the night.

At this point in the road, it’s high above the river, and here he can see old, broken down carts and abandoned traveller's weapons on the side of the road. He can’t tell how long they have been there, but his chest clenches uncomfortably as he passes them. Suddenly he hears a rough grumbling sound, and he shouts in surprise as he rolls out of the way of a boulder coming down the path towards him. It must have been displaced by the rain.

Link pants, catching his breath as he crouches there against the cliff, eyeing the road ahead cautiously. When he doesn’t hear any more loose rocks, he stands again and carries on.

Soon after that he comes across a sprawling Lizal camp, that they must have set up since the road has fallen into disuse due to Vah Ruta. It seems to be empty, though, Link still slows to a careful walk as he passes through it. Out of the corner of his eye he sees movement, and he whips around to see another lizal there, a horn in its hand, reaching to blow it. Link hisses and does the first thing that comes to mind-- he throws his weapon at its head. It falls back with a screech, and Link first snatches the horn from it before grabbing his sickle back and landing a killing blow, piercing the lizal’s neck with his blade. It gurgles and poofs away, leaving its horn and a talon behind. Link scoops them up and stores them in the slate.

Careful to avoid large, thick brambles that grow by his feet, the road takes him back down to the river, and perhaps this is just paranoia, but he almost thinks it looks higher than before. The rain has long soaked through each of his layers of clothing, and Link shivers. Far too close for comfort, lighting flashes and thunder roars.

“Link! Hey, Link!” Prince Sidon appears in the river again, once more just ahead of the rest of the zora. “Can you hear me!” He shouts, and Link nods. “We’re still a ways off, but we’re making good progress! Not much longer now, I’m sure, and thank you again! I’m sorry, but just up ahead there is a passage that tends to be infested by electric keese. I would have given you a shock resistant elixir, but I already gave my last one to a Hylian traveller a while ago after he agreed to help, but then he just took it and left!” The prince gives Link a big thumbs up from where he bobs in the current. “I believe in you, though! You can do it! Stay strong!”

He leaps high out of the water and arches back into a backflip and twists as he dives back in, and he and the other zora disappear underwater. Link turns and trudges towards the cave, taking out a traveller’s spear he picked up from the side of the road to pick off those keese.

He spots them hanging from the arched rock, bright glowing yellow, and as he gets closer they drop down and spread their wings, electricity crackling sharply around them. Link steps back as they flap towards him, and he quickly strikes out with the spear, and the keese fall to the ground and burst apart into smoke, leaving their wings and eyeballs in the grass. More come from up ahead, and Link tries to dispatch them as well, but one gets too close, and he lets out a choked shriek as electricity races up his arms and crackles along his chest, his muscles all seizing up as he drops his spear. It passes, and he stumbles back, gasping, grabbing the spear back off the ground and strikes down those keese too, gritting his teeth against the pain gripping his wrist and arm.

Up ahead he can make out a faint glow from the sky, and Link squints in confusion, wondering if somehow the moon managed to peek through the thick stormclouds, but no, it’s the cliffs themselves that glow blue into the night, gleaming and shining points of delicate blue stone almost reaching towards each other high over the river.

A howl on the wind carries down from the mountains behind him, and Link can’t be sure if it’s the wind playing tricks on his ears or not, but it whistles through the blue mountains, in long, piercing notes, almost like a melody. Link shakes his head and keeps going. It won’t do him any favours to imagine what might be lurking up in those mountains.

Below him, closer to the river, Link spots another lizal scout, and just beyond that, the barricade he’s been sent to dispatch. It’s built along the bridge, lit by luminous stone, hasty wooden forts set up along it and on either side. It’s crawling with lizal, that croak loudly in the night, their sharp, jagged metal weapons glinting and reflecting the yellow-green light emanating from the shock arrows they are armed with. Just beyond it, the river narrows significantly, flanked on all sides by high, glowing cliffs. Link ducks behind a large rock and squints at his targets. Including the scout, he can see maybe fifteen lizal soldiers from there. He frowns. This may be a taller order than he can fill…

Nonetheless, he must follow through. Not only is that party of zora counting on him now, but there is the bigger picture at play here, too. He arms his bow and takes aim at the scout. It’s hard to aim in the night and rain, but he focuses, takes a deep breath, wills his hands not to shake from the wet and cold, and fires.

The arrow hits the scout high in the chest, and it croaks and gurgles before stumbling back into the water with a splash, swallowed up by the moving river and the rain. Link waits a beat, practically holding his breath to see if any of the lizal at the barricade notice the sudden absence of their scout, but the shot seems to have gone unnoticed. He creeps closer, nocking another arrow, and aims for the lizalfos nearest him on the bridge. The arrow flies but he misses, and it lands in the wooden barricade with a thunk next to its head. The lizal jumps and chirps, then takes a horn from its belt and blows into it, a single, loud note wailing in the night. All the lizalfos jump to attention and grab their weapons, and Link hisses, crouching back behind his cover.

Suddenly the night is lit up green as the lizalfos fire their shock arrows into the river before them, assuming a zora attacker, and electricity races across the water for nearly the whole visible span of the river, carrying up into the air in arcs of deadly shocks on the raindrops falling from the sky. Link’s eyes widen dramatically as everything is lit for those few seconds as if lightning had just come down on their heads. Yeah, no wonder the prince wanted someone else to handle this .

He steadies himself and aims his bow again at the barricade, and this time his shot lands squarely in the eye of the lizal he missed before, knocking its body backwards onto the bridge. But this angle puts him at a disadvantage, and especially now that the lizalfos are on the defensive, Link won’t be able to hit any more from here.

Another shock arrow flies, this time landing on the riverbank, and Link yelps as he jumps just barely out of range of the electricity. Man, those things are brutal .

He creeps as stealthily as he can further along the bank, dashing behind trees and shrubs to get closer to the bridge. As waterlogged as they are, his dark hood and green tunic blend him in well with the surroundings, and he gets almost all the way to the bridge before he aims another arrow, almost sideways along the barricade. He takes out another two before the lizalfos notice where the attacks are coming from, and they look in his direction with their sharp reptilian eyes. Link manages to let loose one last arrow as they come towards him, hitting the nearest lizalfos in the leg and it screeches. He puts away his bow and draws his sickle and shield.

Link rushes to meet the charging lizalfos head on with a battle cry, thankful that his shield is wooden and therefore not conductive of electricity and he blocks and parries blows from the lizalfos. He ducks under their spears and cuts through their numbers as fast as he can, which is to say, not too fast. The lizal are quicker than him even on land, and they can see better in the dark than him, and the one-to-eleven numbers put him at a severe disadvantage. But the skills he has no memory of honing serve him well, and he takes out another three before he starts to get overwhelmed.

He ends up fighting two on either side of him, his attention divided and focus compromised-- it’s the middle of the night, and the nap he took was not substantial enough to prepare him for this , but he refuses to be cut down here. He defeats the two that tried to box him in, but a rough scrape from a jagged spearhead on his calf hinders him further, and he’s slower than he should be. He’s not as strong as he should be. He’s not--

A sharp crackle of electricity behind him raises the hairs on the back of his neck, the air and rain all around them practically cracking in anticipation and Link turns to see a lizalfos leaping at him through the air with a screech, a shock arrow gripped by the shaft in its hand. Link tenses to raise his shield and duck, but not fast enough, and the lizal--

Is suddenly pierced straight through the chest and pinned to the wooden barricade behind it by a long, sleek silver spear, its crescent-moon shaped tip tearing through even its cobbled together armour. The lizal bursts apart into smoke around the elegant weapon, and Link blinks, stunned, even as he continues to barely fend off the remaining five lizal.

“Up top!” A regal voice shouts, and the prince suddenly lands gracefully next to Link, a matching silver spear in his hand. He plucks the thrown weapon from the wood and grins at Link, whose eyes bulge all the way out of his head. “I thought you might require some assistance!”

“Your highness!” Link yelps, blocking another spear attack from a lizal with his shield, which is looking rougher and rougher. He lowers his shield and catches the spear in the curve of his sickle, twisting it away out of the monster’s hands and into the water. Unarmed, the lizal croaks in surprise, and Sidon pitches his spear over Link’s head to dispatch the monster. “What are you doing, it’s too dangerous for you here!”

“I could not in good conscience allow you to fight this battle alone, my friend!” The prince declares. “We Zora are not the type to simply sit back and let others fight our battles for us!”

The air lights up green again, and Link dashes around the absurdly tall prince’s legs to cut a shock arrow that was headed directly for the zora’s chest out of the air with his blade, gritting his teeth. “Stay behind me, then, your highness!”

Above him, Link hears a quick laugh, then a cough, and together the two of them easily pick off the last of the lizal soldiers, close calls with enchanted electricity aside. As the battle ends and the adrenaline fades, Link can suddenly feel each of his scrapes and bruises acutely, worst of all the sore, slightly scorched muscles in his arm and the rough cut in his calf. He hisses, taking some weight off it, and prince Sidon gasps. “You’re hurt!” he says, and Link shakes his head. “Yes, you are!”

“It’s to be expected,” Link grits out, setting his foot back down on the ground with a wince. He picks up a couple of lizal weapons and inspects their quality. “I’ll be fine. How much further to the domain?”

“It is… still some ways,” the prince looks like he wants to argue about it, but tactfully lets it go. He seems to hesitate for a second. “Would you… like for me to carry you? Your injury--”

“No. Thank you.” Link’s words are terse and clipped, and the prince blinks at the brusque dismissal. Link steps back and starts walking as the prince turns and calls to the other zora that the way is clear, now. Several splashes are heard as the zora swim up and leap onto the bridge. They jump into the water on the other side, but when Link hears footsteps behind him, he turns to look. The prince follows him onto the road, and Link narrows his eyes.

“At least allow me to accompany you the rest of the way,” the prince says, “to ensure you make it to the domain safely. I won’t be able to watch you from the water when the road is so high up, after all.”

He’s been watching me? Link thinks as he shrugs and continues to walk, trying to hide his limp. He looks around over his shoulders at the hills around them, then realizes he’s being stupid and shakes it off. They walk in silence for a few minutes, Link stewing in his stubbornness as they hike up the road. Prince Sidon, on the other hand, seems allergic to silence, as he talks, or, more accurately, yells over the rain at Link, who may as well be a stone wall, incessantly as they walk.

“Yes, it’s been raining quite a lot lately, it is, but I’ll have you know that actually the weather is quite nice this time of year, in fact, I think if you were to visit again after everything is all cleared up then you would find it quite nice I’m sure! You know the rain really has caused a lot of problems, even without the flooding though of course that is the most major problem, we’re experiencing a fair bit of food shortage lately. You’d think that with more water there would be more fish, but funnily enough, more water actually means LESS fish! I don’t understand it myself, I’m a prince, not an ecologist haha, but it’s true nonetheless. However, though this season would ordinarily offer bountiful fishing hauls, our nets have come up quite lacking. In this sort of scenario we would then write up a more enriched trade deal with Lurelin village, however, the rains have quite effectively halted any trade as well, we’ve gotten no travellers or visitors on holiday since the floods got bad, and there would be zero chance of bringing up a horse and cart, and even if we could float the supplies up the river is moving too fast for that, so we’re simply up a creek. Haha sorry, zora humour.

Oh, more mushrooms have been growing here, though, I suppose that could be a pro of this whole situation, if this area is far more damp than usual. Unfortunately that doesn’t help us much, as zora do not eat mushrooms. They are very good for hylians, though, we sell a few at the shops-- not right now of course, since, as I said, no trade and no travellers, but-- you’ve stopped? Oh you’re-- what is that called you’re… ah, yes! Foraging! Simply marvellous, hylian customs are quite fascinating. I heard about this ancient practise referred to as hunting-and-gathering, would you consider yourself more of a hunter or a gatherer? Or I suppose you could do both, if you had the skills, I have already seen you are a talented archer, do you like both? Although, really, while the practises have been around for ages I suppose that doesn’t mean they’ve fallen out of use. I imagine many hylians still hunt and gather these days. You pick those mushrooms so skilfully, my friend! And, we’re moving again, excellent, are you sure your leg is alright? You know I am happy to offer a hand of assistance should you need it! Not to worry, though, we have some very skilled physicians at the domain, they will certainly provide you with top notch care!

Ah, look, here is one of the Zora Monuments my father had commissioned! This one regales the tale of how, around one hundred years ago now, I was just a small child then, a vengeful guardian made its way into our domain-- why, the thing was nearly indestructible! But then my father, without a care for his own safety, marched in and simply picked the thing up and threw it down a gorge, smashing it to smithereens! He received a nasty scar in commemoration though… I do worry about him sometimes, he’s a very noble and kind king but sometimes I wonder if it’s possible for a person to be too noble. One of the elders that closely serves my father, Muzu, he actually also thinks my father does too many noble things at his own risk, it’s the only thing we’ve ever agreed on, I think. You know, he refers to gathering as ‘outdated’ and ‘distasteful’ but I disagree, I think it’s brilliant! Muzu says a lot of things that I disagree with, unfortunately, it causes quite a bit of discord in the throne room, but I’ve never not spoken my mind! My father raised me to always speak my mind, but sometimes I do think it would save him a few headaches if I just kept my mouth shut every now and then. Do you-- ah, we’re here!”

Link zones back in as they stop suddenly, all undercurrents of exhaustion snapping away. A long, grand, ornate bridge stretching out before them, glowing blue and adorned with elegant archways, it stretches as far as the eye can see-- because of the rain, that isn't that far.

Beyond that, huge and glowing faintly through the heavy rain, lies Zora’s Domain.

Notes:

Not shown: Nyx runs back to the stable and everyone there assumes Link is super dead

Also, "get behind me your highness" what is that going to do, Link? What will that accomplish? Literally all his vital points are completely above your head. What, you're going to shield him with your body? Your tiny little hylian body? smh. royal guard instincts win out tho

also also I'm sorry Link is mean to Sidon but also we're actually not sorry at all and this is a great turn of events in fact. it wont stay that way for long tho lol

ALSO ALSO ALSO come find us on tumblr @zelda-without-a-licence-plate !!!!!! we post art, redesigns and extra bonus lore there!!

Chapter 11: casts spell of ‘just friands’ on Link and Mipha

Summary:

Link and the prince arrive in the domain, and begin preparations to face the Divine Beast. Link receives a gift.

Notes:

HEYYYY WE HAVE A TUMBLR BLOG FOR CHASING DRAGONS AND THE CAR AND ANON VERSE (the cinematic universe that this fic takes place in, ie our version of canon) AND WE HAVE LOTS OF ART AND REDESIGNS AND BONUS LORE THERE AND SILLY FUN CONTENT FOR YALL GO CHECK IT OUT @zelda-without-a-licence-plate https://zelda-without-a-licence-plate.tumblr.com/ UWUWUWU (and get to know the cowriter of this fic bc they havent written any of the notes lmao)

sorry to miphlink shippers they got just friendsd super hard, this is because we like Mipha and we respect her and she has more juice now and their dynamic is just better platonic in our opinions, for the characterization of Mipha we have come up with. Also Link's whole life is already a dating sim and he needs at least one normal friend his own age!!

very much enjoyed writing this chapter, it's one of our favourites so far!! hope yall enjoy hehe

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

The prince leads Link across the long bridge, and Link forgets all about his aches and pains as he looks all around him, eyes wide and jaw slack in wonder. High, sheer cliffs completely surround them, smooth, glowing points of blue stone reaching up towards the sky, almost enveloping the area in a protective embrace. Up ahead and getting ever closer, the city of the domain itself beckons them forth from the dark dreary night, lit up all around, everything blue and shining, tall pillars and towers stretching up towards the clouds, winding walkways connecting them to each other and the city below. Prince Sidon puffs his chest out in pride at Link’s awe. A huge fish shaped monument towers over the domain, a truly awe-inspiring piece of art. The whole place seems unearthly and ethereal, like something out of a fantastical dream.

“Welcome to the pride and honour of my people, Zora’s Domain!” The prince sweeps his arms out wide as they reach the other side of the bridge and enter the city. There are few people out at this hour, the citizens all tucked away in their homes, but there are a few guards posted around, who eye Link with an indiscernible expression as they bow their heads towards the prince. “Now I will introduce you to the King,” the prince says, and starts walking faster through the city, meaning Link has to jog to keep up. They pass through the square, and Link slows down as his attention is caught by a grand statue poised above the fountain, a lavishly decorated Zora warrior frozen in stone mid-strike, posed as if about to land a killing blow with the large, ornate trident in her hands. Link stops as he examines the expression on the warrior’s face, noble and serene juxtaposed to the fierceness of their posture.

“Link, come! This way,” Link is shaken out of his trance by Sidon calling to him from the bottom of some stairs, and Link shakes the cotton from his head and runs to catch up. As they approach the throne room he starts to hear faint arguing from inside, that Link starts to pick up more clearly as they get closer.

“The underwater caves--”

“Could be crushed by crumbling infrastructure when the floods hit the upper levels! It’s not safe--”

“Then what would you propose--”

“Beyond the cliffs, in the Akkala region--”

“Absolutely not! How could we possibly evacuate all our citizens there on time, and besides, what would we eat --”

“Perhaps we could negotiate with the Oceanic Zora Empir--”

ARE YOU INSANE !?”

Prince Sidon makes a distressed noise and runs up the last few steps into the throne room, Link right on his heels, just as a third voice like booming thunder roars so loudly Link nearly tumbles all the way back down the stairs.

"SILENCE!"

Link’s jaw drops once more upon seeing the king, a massive, absolutely humongous whale zora sitting heavily upon the throne, towering completely over Link, the prince, and the two advisors who’d been arguing in the throne room. The top of his head nearly reaches the high vaulted ceiling. Wide windows between the pillars open the throne room up to the outside air, rain splashing in from outside. Along the edges of the large, circular room, rows of seats for citizens to watch the proceedings are stacked, the benches at the top noticeably larger than the ones at the bottom, but they are empty. Behind the throne, two more curved, elaborately carved pillars frame the throne, though the ends of them disappear behind the king’s back. The king shakes his head, frowning deeply, and continues to speak, not having noticed Link and the prince’s arrival.

"Enough. We Zora have lived here for even longer than our history books can record. We will not be driven from our home now."

He closes his eyes, his brow still furrowed in determination.

"There is no more time for hesitation. I will go up there and silence Vah Ruta myself."

Just ahead of him, prince Sidon gasps. “Father, no! You can’t!” He cries out, and all heads turn towards him. The king’s eyes widen at the sight of his son.

"Sidon, you’ve returned! My boy, I just received word of the Lizalfos barricade. I am glad you are safe."

The prince bows to his father, then gestures to Link, who gives a short wave hello. “Yes, father, and my search was worthwhile! There is no need for you to risk your life against Vah Ruta, father, for I have brought with me a great hylian warrior to aid us! In fact,” Prince Sidon flashes Link a smile, “it was thanks to Link here that we were able to return to the domain safely. It was him who defeated the barricade.”

"Hm?"

The king leans forward in his throne, squinting down at Link. “

"You have done well to come all the way here! I am King Dorephan, ruler of the Zora people. Hm… that object upon your waist, is that not a sheikah slate? Come closer, young one, so that I may get a good look at you."

Prince Sidon steps aside and motions for Link to step up onto a platform in front of the throne, and Link does, just as the prince goes to stand by his father’s side. Now sheltered from the pounding rain, he lowers his dripping hood, and looks up at King Dorephan. The king gasps once he sees his face.

"Yes… it is all too clear who you are. You are the Hylian Champion, Link!"

Link’s eyes widen and he steps back, never having predicted anyone here would recognize him. He feels everyone else in the room turn to look at him in surprise, a noise of angry shock escaping one of the advisors. Link glances around nervously, and the king frowns.

"That expression on your face… do not tell me you have forgotten me?"

“The Hylian Champion?” Prince Sidon repeats from his place next to the throne. “You can’t mean THE Link? THAT Champion?!” He looks at Link as if seeing a completely new person. “So that’s where I have heard your name before! What a fateful coincidence that we should cross paths!” The prince grins, but Link does not respond, just looking back up at King Dorephan, a dumbstruck look on his face.

The king shakes his head, his massive tail swaying from side to side.

"I cannot believe it. The Hylian Champion, Link, has appeared before us…"

”he smiles.

"We have met numerous times, I’ll have you know. Ahh… so many memories! My mind is overflowing with nostalgia, my young friend! I had…"

His expression turns from fond to softly relieved.

"I heard a terrible rumour you had fallen in battle, but it appears you have managed to survive. Extraordinary..."

Link nods, glancing off to the side. He clears his throat. “I was put in a… the shrine of resurrection. I only just awoke again days ago. I don’t understand it myself,” he says, “I… to be blunt, your majesty, I have completely lost all my memory.”

The king’s jaw drops, revealing sharp teeth, and he leans forward towards Link.

"Come again? You have lost your memory? But surely you must remember my precious daughter, Mipha, yes? You do, do you not?"

King Dorephan looks at him expectantly, and Link, with a stabbing of regret and half a notion to lie, slowly shakes his head. The king sits back, shock and sorrow clear on his face.

"I cannot believe it… you have truly forgotten my dear Mipha as well? Yet you were so close… and you do not remember her? Young hero…"

Link shifts uncomfortably. Prince Sidon says to the king, “Father… I do not believe discussing my sister is helping matters at the moment. Link seems confused.”

The king sighs mournfully.

"Yes, I suppose you’re right. Let us retire for the night. Link,"

he says,

"I am sure your journey here must have been challenging."

“Link is injured,” Prince Sidon pipes up, and Link fights an urge to turn and glare at him for telling on him, no matter how disastrously rude it would be. “He requires medical aid.”

"Of course! He will be tended to by a royal physician, as well as given access to the finest accommodations we can offer. Seggin, will you please fetch an attendant to show Link to a room?"

King Dorephan smiles widely down at Link.

"It is good to have you back in the domain, young Link."

Link bows, grateful for the warm reception even as thrown off balance as he is at the familiarity King Dorephan expresses. As… much , as prince Sidon is, he is thankful that he stopped his father from pushing the subject of this ‘Mipha’ that he was apparently once so close to any farther. Simply trying harder doesn’t make his memory return any better-- in fact, nothing has made his memory return at all. Pressing the matter only makes Link feel worse about it, and he’s sure the king would just feel the same.

After merely a moment the old advisor returns with a royal attendant in tow. She bows to the people in the room, then asks him to follow her. Link glances up at the king to be dismissed, and the king nods.

"We will discuss the matter of the divine beast in the morning,"

he says.

"Rest well, Champion."

Link steps down from the platform, and out of the corner of his eye he sees prince Sidon move to follow them.

"Sidon, please stay. We have more to talk about."

The prince stops and looks up at the king.

“Yes, father,” Link hears him say as he follows the attendant back out of the throne room and down the palace steps. He pulls his hood back up as they meet the rain again, and the attendant leads him through the domain to an inn. They go inside, and the zora behind the desk practically jumps up from where he was leaning on the guestbook. “Welcome to Seabed Inn!” He says. “How can I--”

The attendant leans across the desk to whisper something to him, and his eyes widen, darting over to look at Link. “Really?! I mean, yes, of course, right this way, Mister Link!” He steps out from behind the counter and takes a key off the wall behind him.

“I shall go fetch the physician,” the attendant says to Link as he lowers his hood again and wrings some of the water from his hair. “I will return shortly.” She leaves, and the innkeeper leads him down a hall to a room and unlocks the door, then hands him the key.

“Here you are, Mister Link,” he says, “our finest waterbed, courtesy of the Seabed Inn.”

Link looks around at the fancy room, and the huge, luxurious bed. There’s a large, intricately decorated mirror above a dresser against one wall, a wide window overlooking the domain, and even another doorway leading to a private bathroom. He feels wealthy just standing in the room. He looks back at the zora. “I can’t… this is too much.”

“Nonsense, Mister Link!” He waves him off with a smile. “Anything for the Champion! And besides, it’s not like we have any other visitors right now anyway,” he laughs.

All the more reason why … Link thinks, though he doesn’t protest any further, knowing he could never afford accommodations of this level out of his own pocket. He’ll accept the courtesy. Link is left alone, then, and he goes over to the bed, setting his pack down on the floor in a soggy heap. With a heavy sigh he sits down on the bed, his eyes widening in surprise as he bounces on the unexpectedly jiggly mattress. He does it again, and he laughs a little. Then he starts to peel off all his layers, all thoroughly soaked. He begins with his boots, frowning deeply at the rivulets of blood running down his leg to his ankle, staining his pants and his boot. There’s a tear in the leather near the top of the boot, as well as in the fabric of his pants, where the lizal’s spear had gotten him. He pokes at the wound and hisses as a sharp, burning pain races up his leg-- it’s worse than he thought. Hopefully it hasn’t gotten infected…

He removes his gear and his cape, his belts and the outer tunic, spreading them out on the floor and various surfaces to dry. He hangs his socks over the back of a chair, drapes his chainmail over a bedpost, and lays out his woollen turtleneck. He divests himself of his pants, deciding to wait to repair the tear until after they’ve been washed and dried, and, even though they are also wet (gross) leaves his underwear on for modesty’s sake, knowing he’s going to have company again soon.

In the washroom (which has running water that can be turned on and off-- phenomenal) he finds a towel and quickly starts to dry and comb out his hair, sitting down on the edge of the washtub to take the weight off his hurt leg.

A knock at the door, and the attendant returns with the physician in tow, an elderly zora who introduces himself as Kapson and looks over Link with a stern, inscrutable eye. The attendant bows out once more for the night, and Kapson tells Link to prop his leg up so he can get a good look at it. “Hrm… yes, this is going to require stitches. I’ll give you something for the pain, and then I will get started.” He says, and Link shakes his head.

“I don’t need--”

“Don’t be a martyr,” the physician snaps at him. “Take the damn medicine.”

Link shuts his mouth and takes it.

“You know,” the elderly Zora says as he stitches up Link’s leg, pulling on the thread maybe a little more roughly than Link thinks he has to, “I would know who you are even if I hadn’t been informed. I’m sure you figured out most of us Zora were there one hundred years ago, we remember what happened. You are remembered as the one who forced Lady Mipha to join his crusade against the darkness, only to be destroyed by Calamity Ganon.”

He emphasizes this with a particularly harsh poke of the needle, and Link winces. “The elderly here who knew and loved Lady Mipha still resent you. In their eyes, you carry perhaps even more blame for her death than Calamity Ganon.”

Link looks down at his hands, feeling sharp shame crawl up his throat and stick there like burrs. “ However ,” the physician continues, “I have not allowed my own grief to warp my memories, and I know that no one forced her hand; Mipha chose the path of a Champion herself, she chose that fate herself. I do not resent you.”

“I…” Link tries to speak, but his throat closes before he can get any words out. He doesn’t even know what to say. He doesn’t even know who Mipha is .

Kapson reaches back into his bag and pulls out some bandages, and a bottle of some kind of goopy salve. “What I mean to say is, while those who were children then remember you fondly, some even reverently, there will also be many who will be unkind to you. I ask that you do not hold that against the elders. Your face simply reminds them of our pain.”

He bandages Link’s leg and applies the salve to the burn on his wrist-- with a disclaimer that it might not do anything, since it’s meant for zora scales. Link wants to ask him about Mipha, what she was like and how did he know her, but he wouldn’t be so bold even if he could manage to speak now anyway.

Link opens the slate and takes out the half of a healing elixir he got from Sagessa, his mind briefly flashing back to the image of her face twisted in cruel laughter, a mask-- but Kapson stops him before he uncorks it. “You should wait to drink that until you are laying down for bed,” the physician says. Link nods and sets it aside.

A sharp knock on the door reaches their ears, and Kapson moves to go answer it. “Keep off your leg,” he says as Link goes to stand up. A second later he hears a loud, crisp zoran accent ring through the room, and is soon met by the sight of prince Sidon ducking (seriously ducking) into the room, hunched over dramatically to fit in the inn room sized for hylians. He carries a parcel in his arms.

“Link!” The prince grins, his voice bouncing off the walls and ringing loudly in Link’s ears, and Link groans. “It is good to see you on the mend, my friend! I promise I won’t keep you from rest much longer, as I am sure you are quite tired, I simply have a delivery to make and I will be out of your fin-- er, hair?”

Link sighs. It’s the middle of the night, how does he still have so much energy ? He drags a hand down his face, rubbing under his eyes. The prince holds out the parcel to him, and Link takes it in both hands-- it’s heavy-- noticing the tall zora’s demeanour suddenly sobering, watching Link’s hands with wide, searching eyes. Slowly, Link unwraps it, revealing carefully folded bright lavender and cream fabric, framed by dark gray scalemail, and pieces of bright, shining silver armour. “What…?” His voice comes out scratchy. Prince Sidon seems to tire of hunching over under the low roof, and simply sits down cross-legged on the floor, to Link’s surprise. The prince clears his throat, a small smile on his face Link would almost describe as nervous , if it wasn’t completely incongruous to every interaction he has had with the prince so far.

“Well… Mipha, my sister, made that armour for you, before the calamity. My father speaks the truth, you were very close; I don’t remember much, since I was so young then, but apparently there were rumours that the two of you… ahem , well, were even closer than you appeared.”

Oh . Link looks back down at the armour. Prince Sidon looks off to the side and idly tugs on the end of his tail. “However, it is unfinished. The Calamity struck before she completed the helm. But the greaves and the armour should be in perfect working order, despite being in storage in the silversmith’s for a century. According to Dento, it’s meant to make you swim better.”

“I… see,” Link leaves the armour folded up in the wrapping, not taking it out for now. He feels hesitant to touch it. “Er, thank you.”

The prince sighs, leaning back against the wall. The top of his head still nearly reaches the ceiling, even sitting. “I truly am glad you are here, Link,” he says, voice quieter. “As I am sure you heard, if we found no other solution, my father was planning to wrestle Vah Ruta into submission himself. We’ve all heard the tales, of course, of how that titanic machine was built to subdue Calamity Ganon… obviously I respect my father enormously, and his strength and skill in battle, but even he would stand no chance against the Divine Beast.” He pauses. “And then Vah Ruta would continue to rampage, and we would still have to abandon our ancestral home only we would be without a King, and… well…” The prince whispers, “I’m not ready to have no family left.”

Link watches him as neither say anything for a moment. Kapson chooses then to come back into the washroom and collect his tools, maneuvering carefully between them in the space made cramped by the prince’s presence. The physician bows to prince Sidon and then exits, leaving the two of them alone.

“Would you…” Link begins after a moment, speaking softly, “maybe, tell me about Mipha?”

Prince Sidon smiles sadly at him, and something about the look in his eyes makes Link look away. “You really don’t remember a thing?”

Link shakes his head.

“I don’t remember as much of her as I would like,” the prince says. “But she was kind, with a strong heart. She wanted to protect everybody, not just our own people, but everyone in Hyrule. She was a healer and a fighter in equal measure, and she would have been a fantastic queen.” He chuckles lightly. “You were her best friend. I was jealous of you, because whenever you came to the domain, you had all of her attention. I remember that much, at least.”

The prince’s words spark no recollection in his mind, but he still holds them there, letting them rest as Link slowly looks back up at him. He almost regrets asking, he almost wishes the prince would go back to being loud and boisterous and making unnecessarily long speeches, so that he wouldn’t have seen this side of him, the quiet pensive side, and so that he wouldn’t have to face… this.

“I’m sorry,” Link whispers. The prince shakes his head.

“Don’t be.” He stands (mostly), and says, “I shall see you in the morning, my friend. We have much to prepare if we are to take on the Divine Beast.”

Link nods, and the prince leaves. Now alone, he sets the armour aside and pushes himself up, mostly hopping along on one foot and balancing himself against the wall. He washes himself and combs out his hair, and gulps down the healing elixir to the very last drops before pushing aside the blissfully cool, silky covers and practically throwing himself onto the mattress. He bounces on the bed like he weighs nothing, and it pulls a smile from him despite his heavy heart and shoulders. He barely manages to pull the blankets back up before he falls completely asleep, dead to the world.

His feet kick desperately in the water, held suspended just above the bottom of the rocky pool. His shoulders are wet and cold exposed to the crisp domain air, his hair sticks to the back of his neck. His lungs feel compressed, restricted. He can’t see.

A voice. It barely reaches him, muffled, even though his head is not underwater. Something is gripping his arms, cool hands keeping him there, keeping him safe. He hears the voice again, but he can’t make out the words. He tries to look at the person in the water before him, but the wind blows and the image is suddenly disturbed, like a stone thrown into a still pool disturbing the surface, rippling harshly. He squints. He wants to get out of the water. He won’t. He promised.

That voice again. Link shakes his head. He tries to tread water better. He wants to get out. He won’t. He promised.

That voice again. The pool shakes, and the red blur in front of him ripples again. Sudden thunder splits his head open, and Link cries out. The tall crimson figure jolts and shudders, and melts away into the pool, turning everything red. The water turns thick and mucky and glows sick pink, and it burns him, and with no one to hold him up Link sinks like a stone. His lungs fill up with malice and he cries. He wants to get out of the water. He won’t. He promised.

Morning brings not sunlight. When Link opens his eyes, he wonders if perhaps it is still nighttime, but no, the sun is simply blocked behind the thick stormclouds that smother Zora’s domain. Rain beats hard against the window, rattling the glass, even harder than it did last night.

He gets out of bed and is pleased to see that his wounds are nearly all healed, thanks to that elixir, though he’s regretful he doesn’t have any left. He looks out the window. Even though rain probably wouldn’t impact the zora’s days, what’s a little more water after all, outside the streets are empty. The threat of Vah Ruta must be far more urgent than he first guessed.

Link casts a glance at the clothes he hung up last night. Even though they would surely be (at least mostly) dry by now, he hesitates to put them back on, since they would only weigh him down once they got inevitably soaked again. Slowly, he walks into the washroom where he left the armour prince Sidon brought him, still sitting half wrapped, untouched. Cautiously, almost as if the garment might bite him, he reaches out and lightly runs his fingers over the intricate, perfectly assembled silver armour.

Link steps out into the rain, shielding his eyes with his arm from the downpour. Even in the low, cloud-blocked light, the silver armour he wears practically gleams, the fabric shining and iridescent, a beacon against the gloom. It clanks lightly as he walks, but aside from his head, it keeps him perfectly dry against the pouring rain.

He traces his steps back towards the palace, looking high and low for any sign of any more zora, but the domain is a ghost down. Shops are closed, windows are shuttered, not a civilian in sight. All he sees is the occasional guard, who watch him pass by with wide, following eyes. Approaching the square, he hears an argument, one voice familiar and one not. Below the statue of the zora warrior, he spots prince Sidon engaged in a heated debate with one of the advisors from last night.

“...simply unacceptable…”

“...no other choice…”

“... young and naive…”

As Link approaches, he makes out more of their conversation.

“Muzu, I implore you to reconsider! Surely you understand that we must--”

“There is nothing we must do except consider the safety of our people! That hylian can do nothing for us and you are nothing but a young fool for trusting him! You know what he did--”

“My father trusts Link, do you think him to be a fool as well!?”

“I think the king has allowed his grief to blind him to the truth about that boy! He will bring ruin to the domain, and he must leave at once before he curses us even more than he already has!”

“You are the one who has been blinded, Muzu! The Domain’s ruin is already racing towards us and--”

Ahem .” Link decides he’s awkwardly eavesdropped enough, standing there completely unnoticed. The two zora look down at him, their eyes both widening dramatically as they take in what Link is wearing. The prince seems stunned into silence, but the advisor, Muzu, scoffs in derision as soon as his surprise passes.

“To think that Lady Mipha would devote so much time to crafting such a thing for you, hylian,” he spits. “Only for you to betray her. How dare you show your face here, carrying with you the shadows of disgrace to our domain… your disrespect disgusts me.” Muzu hisses, and the prince gives him an angry look.

“Muzu! You cannot speak to my guest like that!” Prince Sidon gasps. “Mipha would be outraged if she heard you addressing her dear companion in that way!”

Muzu looks up at the prince with a stern expression on his wide face. “You call him that, and yet this boy spits upon the memory of our dear princess! How can your father speak of the bond they shared when this hylian does not remember her at all! It is simply disgraceful!” He gestures up at the statue, and Link follows with his eyes up towards it. “I refuse to stoop so low as to…”

The advisor’s furious rant fades away as Link continues to look up at the statue, that same magnetic focus he felt last night pulling on his mind once more. A feeling like water stuck in his ears creeps up on him, a heavy weight descends on his shoulders as his eyes widen, and suddenly the ground falls out from under his feet.

“Here, let me see it,” Mipha said, holding out her hand, and Link showed her his wrist without complaint or argument. She started to remove his vambraces and his gloves, and he let out little more than a quiet hiss through his teeth as his injured wrist was jostled. The master sword weighed down heavily on his back, and Link shifted subtly, but Mipha’s sharp eye caught the movement. He stilled, but she didn’t say anything, only examining his bared wrist. She tsked at him.

chasing dragons - ThatOneFunAnon, cruisercrusher (11)

“By Nayru’s fins, look how swollen this is!” The princess prodded gently at the injury, and Link made another quiet noise of discomfort. “You really need to be more careful, Link. I always said it would be water that got the best of you one day.” She sighed, and picked up her trident lying on the rough sheikah stone next to her, waving it in graceful arcs through the air as the gems inlaid in the silver started to glow. Below them, from deep within Vah Ruta’s trunk, a faint gurgling reached their ears, and a small stream of water emerged from the spouts on the trunk next to them, guided by Mipha’s magic. The water wrapped around his wrist and started to glow as she healed him, a cold tingling sensation making its way up his arm. Link looked around them, at the cliffs surrounding lake Hylia and the long, grand bridge. A light rain still fell around them, little more than a sunshower, nothing compared to the rainstorm that raged over Faron woods, the dark clouds still hovering on the horizon. Far, far below them, the lake water lapped at Vah Ruta’s legs, and Link looked back up at Mipha before the vertigo could overtake him. He was never really afraid of heights… but some heights were simply too extreme. Mipha noticed, and she smirked lightly as the divine beast raised its trunk slightly higher, jostling them a little, and Link’s eyes widened, grabbing onto the stone under him. Mipha laughed, and Vah Ruta let out a gentle, playful rumble-- that was still deafening, of course.

Link cast a withering glare up at the taller zora, and her mirthful expression faded into a more wistful, pensive look. A gust of wind blew around them, pulling the clouds farther away, letting rays of sunlight beam down on them. The wind tossed Link’s hair around and caused the fins on the sides of Mipha’s head to flap slightly, the dangly bits of her royal headpiece clinking delicately.

“So…” the zora princess said, her humour gone, “so if this Calamity Ganon does, in fact, return… what can we really do? We just don’t seem to know much about what we’ll be up against. Of course, we have the divine beasts, and the guardians, but will it be enough to quell this ancient, cosmic horror? Certainly, it will be a dreadful battle…”

She finished healing him, and the glow faded, the water dissipating. “But, just know that, no matter what happens, no matter what we face, I will always protect you. If anything tries to do you harm…”

Link smiled. “You’ll slay them with all the ferocity of a thousand deadly ice dragons?” He whispered.

Mipha laughed, shaking her head. “Well, yes, but I was going to say I am always willing to heal your wounds. No matter how reckless you were being.” She turned serious once more. “I will be there for you.”

Link rotated his wrist experimentally, feeling not even a little twinge of pain. Mipha looked down, and Link ducked his head to look her in the eye. “And I, you,” he said softly. “Whenever you feel like giving up, I’ll be there to remind you that there is always hope.”

He held out his hand. “Promise. No giving up.”

Mipha gave a watery smile, and grasped his hand in hers. “No giving up. Promise.”

Link gasps as he’s thrown back into the present, stumbling back as the memories swirl around in his brain, a dark vortex threatening to swallow them back into the Nothing, but he fights to hold on to them, tucking them close in his chest and keeping them there, safe. He squeezes his eyes shut and imagines Mipha’s face, the exact shape of her tail, the exact colours of her scales, the exact way her jewelry glinted in the sun, the exact way she looked at him when he was being stupid and the exact way she gripped his arms when he was afraid of drowning. He takes the memories and sears them into his mind, so they will never slip away again.

“Link! Link, are you alright?” the prince shakes his shoulder, and he opens his eyes. Prince Sidon looks at him in worry, Muzu with derision. “You are quivering like a hatchling… are you unwell?”

Link shakes his head. “Mipha… I remember…” He whispers hoarsely. The prince’s eyes widen, and Muzu gives an outraged cry.

“Do not mistake me for a fool, hylian! There is no way you remembered her only just now, when it is most convenient. I can not possibly take you at your word! I ought to have the guards called on you for telling such blatant lies--”

“Enough!” Prince Sidon snaps, and both Link and Muzu startle. “We can not be wasting time just standing around here and arguing about nothing! Muzu, we need Link’s help whether you like it or not, and we will be going forward with my plan!”

Muzu turns away, scoffing. “It is a reckless, foolhardy plan.” He mutters, “you are just like your father.” The advisor stomps off, and prince Sidon sighs.

“Come, Link.” He says, beckoning him towards the front of the palace where the throne room is located. “Let’s go speak to my father.”

Link widens his stride to keep up with him. “What is your plan?” He asks, and the prince pauses, an awkward flash passing briefly across his expression.

“I… will tell you when we reach the throne room.”

I find that suspicious, but okay . Link follows the prince up to where the king waits for them. This time, there is only King Dorephan on his throne, and no audience. The king smiles when he spots him.

"Ah, Link, you look positively gallant in that armour! Mipha truly was a skilled craftsman."

Prince Sidon runs up to stand before his father, and Link smooths his hands down the front of the tight, form fitting armour, pleased. He does look good in it, it’s true.

"Shall we call in the Generals and form our plan of attack?"

“That won’t be necessary, father,” the prince says. “I already have a plan.” King Dorephan raises a brow at that, looking pleased.

"Oh? Then tell me, my boy, what is this plan of yours?"

Prince Sidon seems nervous for a second, shifting on his feet and clearing his throat before he begins. “Well, a while ago I found some research texts on the divine beast Vah Ruta that were left here by Princess Zelda, and according to her research, the four barrel generators located on its outer armour are what causes the endless water flow to pump out. They require a steady level of electricity to function, and if there is either too much or not enough, then they will shut down.”

King Dorephan blinks, and so does Link at the unexpected level of technological comprehension displayed by the prince, of all people. It certainly all went right over Link’s head.

"Marvellous,"

The king says,

"Where did you find this research?"

The prince tugs sheepishly on his cravat. “If I tell you, I fear you will be greatly upset with me...” he confesses, and the king narrows his eyes at him.

"Unless you are about to tell me you once travelled all the way to Hyrule Castle without telling me, then I am sure that will not be the case."

“Actually… the journals were locked in a drybox at the reservoir.”

The king leans forward in his throne, his eyes wide and suddenly furious.

Prince Sidon looks nervously from side to side, and Link looks between them with a scrutinizing eye. “It was before the rampage, it was perfectly safe!” He insists, which seems to do all of nothing to reassure the king.

"It has never been safe, you know it is forbidden for anyone to get that close to the divine beast!"

The prince shakes his head, and Link wonders if this is an argument they have had before. “This is why I didn’t tell you I had been going up there, father, I knew it would upset you!” The king’s jaw drops.

"Had b-- how many times have you gone up there!"

He demands. Prince Sidon shakes his head again, his tail swinging from side to side.

“I don’t know, I just--” he stammers, “I always found Vah Ruta quite fascinating and I was curious--” The King cuts him off, with a thunderous shout that makes Link’s eyes widen.

"Your sister was curious, too!"

The prince shrinks back.

"And that relic is what got your sister killed! Have you forgotten that!"

“Of course not! It’s not--”

"Next you’ll be telling me you want to board it!"

Choosing then to speak up, Link interjects, “Uh, actually…” He raises his hand, not sure if he’d be heard over the giant fish-people shouting-- literally far over his head.

King Dorephan looks down at him, that same sharp look in his eye, a look perfected over many, many years as both a father and king, that gives Link the urge to bow and apologize for things he hasn’t even thought of doing.

"What is it, Link?"

Link clears his throat. “Princess Zelda, she left me a message for when I woke up, that I must free all the divine beasts from the Calamity’s control in order to save Hyrule.” He adds, “she spoke to me.”

The king leans in, as if he didn’t hear Link right.

"What? She spoke to you?"

He asks.

Link nods. “From Hyrule Castle.”

King Dorephan sits back on his throne again, stroking his chin in thought.

"Is that so… I can not believe it… she is still alive, after all these years, just as you were!"

Nodding again, slowly, Link realizes all of a sudden that he actually does not know if the princess is still alive after one hundred years of suppressing Calamity Ganon… or if it was her spirit that guided him out of the black. Swallowing heavily at the dreadful, private realization that he may find nothing to save in Hyrule Castle but her soul, he quickly tucks the thought away in a dusty little corner of his mind where he will not dwell on it. He will try not to dwell on it.

A strange glint appears in the king’s eye.

"Then this could mean… perhaps…"

Prince Sidon’s eyes widen, and he takes a step forward before the king can continue. “Link, I had no idea you had such grand ambitions! Marvelous! I will ensure you are able to board the divine beast!” He gives Link his signature jaunty thumbs up and dashing, princely smile.

Putting his hands on his hips, Link turns to look at the prince. “How do you propose we do that?”

The prince waves his arms in the air as he speaks, as if Link should have figured this out already. “Really the only way to override the generators with electricity from the outside is with shock arrows . That is why I have been searching for a hylian to help us!” He looks back up at his father. “If Link can hit the generators with enough shock arrows, they will short out and he will be able to get aboard!”

King Dorephan nods, but still regards prince Sidon carefully.

"Hm… I sense there is still a part of this plan you are not telling me, my son."

He says.

Prince Sidon takes a breath, as if he is bracing himself. “Well… even the best hylian swimmer could not outpace Vah Ruta’s defenses,” he says slowly. “That is why, when facing off with the divine beast… Link will have to ride on my back.”

Suddenly King Dorephan stands, looming over his son and Link like a mountain.

"Do not be absurd!"

” He shouts, and the prince winces as Link covers his ears.

"I will not allow you to take that risk, going up against the divine beast! Not even to mention being in such close proximity to shock arrows!"

The prince lets out a shocked cry. “Father, just yesterday you were planning to fight Vah Ruta with your own fists if you had to!”

King Dorephan shakes his head.

"That is completely different! You are my only son, you could be killed!"

“I am much smaller, and I am the fastest swimmer in the domain!” Prince Sidon raises his voice, “If you went up against Vah Ruta then you WOULD be killed, with certainty!”

"You will not put yourself at risk like this, I forbid it!"

The prince makes another frustrated, upset noise. “Father, you don’t understand--!”

Link steps forward with an angry huff, knowing they aren’t going to get anywhere like this. They are wasting time. “Can everyone please BE QUIET!” The king and the prince both snap their heads around to look at him, shocked by his outburst, but Link doesn’t back down despite how earth-shatteringly rude that was. He continues, “with respect, your majesty, we don’t have time to fight about this. If prince Sidon believes he can take on this task, then I trust his judgment. But if we do not soothe Vah Ruta soon, then far many more lives will be at stake then just his or yours! I promise, he will return to you safely.” He looks up at the king with wide, serious eyes, imploring him to see this the way Link does.

King Dorephan looks down at him for a long, tense moment, his face darkening like the heavy stormclouds above.

"Absolutely not."

Prince Sidon wilts in near despair. “Father, please…”

"No."

The prince stares up at him, clenching his jaw like he is trying to keep his bottom lip from quivering, and says nothing more, turning on his heel with a huff and stomping out of the throne room, down the stairs into the rain. When Link looks back up at the king, all the hard anger and steel authority have vanished, and he just looks sad.

"You should go, Link. You have much to prepare."

The king says. For a second, Link considers debating with him, but he knows there is now nothing he can say to change his mind. If he must do this alone, then he will, just as he had planned from the beginning.

Link bows and leaves, following the prince’s path down the steps. Below the entrance to the palace, on a small balcony overlooking the center of the domain, he sees prince Sidon. Standing near the edge, silently looking out over the city. Link walks down and stands next to him, craning his neck to see his face. He wears, Link notices, the exact same regretful expression as his father.

Startling a little, the prince glances down at him, attempting to even out his expression, unsuccessfully. “I… am sorry you had to witness that, Link. My father and I have not fought like that in a long time… he won’t listen to reason when it comes to the divine beast and-- and my sister. I just don’t know what to do.”

Link scratches the back of his head. “We could... trick him?”

The prince heaves out a sigh. “I will not dishonour my father like that.”

That was sort of the only idea Link had for this particular dilemma, so instead of saying anything else he just reaches up and pats the prince on the arm, hoping that will at least provide him some comfort, if not a solution. Prince Sidon gives a watery smile, and lightly touches the back of Link’s hand.

After a few minutes of standing in the rain, Link hears heavy footsteps behind them, and he retracts his hand, turning to look. King Dorephan approaches them, casting a glance down at Link before looking at his son.

"Link, I would like a moment alone with Sidon, please."

Link doesn’t miss a beat and, in the name of efficiency, grabs the railing of the platform and vaults over, rolling as he lands in the square below. He hears surprised noises from the royals above him, and quickly ducks under the shadow of the balcony. It wouldn't hurt to listen in, of course. It’s good to be informed. Of course.

“I am sorry, father,” he hears the prince say, sounding tired. “I did not want to upset you so.”

The king responds in a gentle tone,“No, my son, it is I who is sorry. I have struggled to come to terms with Mipha’s absence. I have no desire to bury both my children in my lifetime, that is something I could not bear. I’m an old man, Sidon.

Link strains to hear the prince reply. “I am sorry, father…”

He quietly moves under the stairs, so that he can watch the conversation happening above as well. For further context. Of course.

King Dorephan kneels down, and places a hand on the prince’s shoulder.“Listen well, my son. I do not want you to do this. I am not ready to have no children left. However… I do trust you. You have my permission to face Vah Ruta with Link.

Prince Sidon looks up at the king with shining eyes. “I… Thank you, father. I promise, I will make this right.”

The king smiles. "I know you will. I love you dearly, my little guppy."

Prince Sidon laughs at the old nickname. “I love you too, father.”

They hug, the king’s huge arms practically swallowing the prince all the way up. Link watches only for a second before turning away, a smile on his face and a bittersweet pang in his chest.

Notes:

f*ck it. disney princesses your Sidon

also Dorephan good dad Q^Q (cries) also cries bc in the google doc we used a bigger font size for Dorephan and it was so cool and smart but it didnt translate over to ao3 at all :sob:

[MOD ANON HERE!!! bet ya didnt expect to really ever meet me hehehehe!! i got some super epic help and was taught how to increase font size in ao3! so i then went and edited all of doraphans text because thanks to previous coding experience i knew how to read the rest of the html. SURPRISE!!! i posted this one hehehe. all other notes are car, though. i couldnt figure out how to unbold it though lol. hope yall enjoyed this chapter and come check out the blog, car posts AWESOME art there! See ya! Anon out! (rest is car again)]

You'll probably notice, dear reader, the memory of Mipha and Link was changed quite a bit! This is mostly bc this version we feel presents their dynamic more accurately and is less one sided. Also, I am working on a rewrite for Age of Calamity, and we put all the memories in the timeline for that fic, but it was actually hard because when you think about it it is actually really hard to place all those memories in a proper timeline that actually makes sense in the context of each other. So it will make a lot more sense when you see this scene in the rewrite!! I am working on it already but I want it to be a proper prequel to this fic so I will be posting after this fic is done <3

ALSO CHECK THE BLOG TO SEE OUR VERSION OF THE ZORA ARMOUR

Chapter 12: out of the kiddy pool and into the frying pan

Summary:

After they prepare, Link and prince Sidon face off against the Divine Beast, Vah Ruta.

Notes:

YEAAAAHHHHHHH WOOOOOO YEAH BABEYYYYYY WOOOOOHOOOOOOOO YEEEAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHNOW WE'RE GETTING SOMEWHEREEEEEE

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Prince Sidon finds him back in the inn. He must have asked after him, because currently Link is tucked away in the inn’s kitchen, digging around for something to make for breakfast. There isn’t much in the cupboards or iceboxes, even though it’d usually be stocked to feed hylians, because the road has been closed and there has been no trade or travellers. All that remains are some buckets of grains, but Link can work with that.

The prince walks in, comically stooped over, to see Link stirring a small pot of barley, his attention divided between the fires as he also fries some mushrooms and onions, veggies and greens from the slate in an iron pan. Link looks over his shoulder as prince Sidon peers curiously at what he’s doing. He adds some butter to the barley, and some more sauce from a jar to the veggies.

“I’ve never seen hylian food be prepared before,” the prince says. “Fascinating!”

Link has to admit he mostly tunes out the prince’s stream of chatter as he finishes cooking and scoops all the food from the pans onto a large plate. “So, what’s our plan?” He asks as he shovels food into his mouth. “We need shock arrows, and I don’t have any of those.” The prince does a little awkward shuffle.

“Well… according to Laflat, one of the royal secretaries, the lynel that resides at the peak of Ploymus mountain possesses an abundance of shock arrows.”

“So I need to go kill the lynel and steal its shock arrows?” Link asks deadpan, and the prince’s eyes widen dramatically.

“Of course not!!” He says, waving his hands, “I could never ask you to do something so fatally dangerous! No, stealth will be the key there… but there is something else we must accomplish first.”

Link swallows his mouthful of food. “What?”

Prince Sidon grins. “You must learn how to swim up waterfalls, of course!” Link blinks at him.

“Come again?”

Oh, this isn’t so bad , Link thinks as he wades into the shallow pool prince Sidon brought him to, fed by small waterfalls only about twice Link’s height coming down from other shallow pools. At the deepest part of the pool Link has to just barely tread water to keep his head above the surface, and prince Sidon stands in the water only coming up to his waist. He gestures at the small waterfall next to him. “Alright, swim on up!”

Link looks at him. “Uhm… how?”

The prince pauses. “Well, you sort of just… you see, the trick is… you just… do it.”

They stare at each other for a second, before prince Sidon claps his hands and nudges Link towards the waterfall. “Right then, up you go!”

I guess it’s just like normal swimming, only vertical , Link thinks, paddling towards it. Might as well give it a shot . He tries, but all he gets for his effort is pushed back into the pool by the current and a mouthful of water.

The prince hums in thought as Link retreats back to the shallow end, standing up and coughing and spluttering. “Your form needs a lot of work… you need to use your torso more, and keep your hands pointed above your head. And keep your knees together!”

Link nods, wiping the water out of his eyes. He swims back over and tries again, this time struggling his way up against the flow of the waterfall almost to the top, before falling back down into the pool. The prince claps as Link reemerges and shakes his bangs out of his face.

“That was a lot better! You’re a natural!”

He’s definitely lying, but it’s cute that he’s trying to spare my feelings .

Link sighs. He closes his eyes, a vague flash of recollection coming to him as he feels the water lapping around him, pushing him gently back and forth. He wants to get out of the water. He won’t. He promised. He sucks in a breath and dives below the water, focusing on his form, swimming up to the short waterfall again. He tries to get some momentum this time, swimming upwards with his eyes screwed shut, feeling the water rushing down around him as he climbs. Suddenly he breaches the top of the waterflow and flops into the pool a level above, having successfully swam up the waterfall. Heart racing, he grabs the edge of the pool and pulls himself up, looking at prince Sidon. The prince cheers and claps, and a small smile grows on Link’s face.

“Great job!” The prince grins. “You’re getting the hang of it!”

Link jumps back down to the lower pool, going again. He swims up the waterfall another time, this time faster and with less struggle, though his landing is no more graceful than before. The prince continues to cheer him on.

“See if you can get some momentum into the air when you come out the top,” Prince Sidon tells him, and Link nods.

He starts from a little deeper in the water, and tries to put some more power in his kick, aiming straight up as opposed to forward at the top. The result is Link flopping backwards this time as opposed to forwards, landing shoulders-first back in the water below with a harsh splash. He coughs up water as he reemerges, but the prince nods at him encouragingly.

“That was good!” He says, “Don’t give up! Just try again!”

Link does, the swim up far easier this time after practise, and even manages to get about a foot of air as he emerges out the top of the waterfall.

“Fantastic work!” Prince Sidon claps as Link bobs in the higher pool, which puts him at about eye level with the large zora. “I think you’re ready to try something a little more advanced, now!”

Link nods, and offers the prince a thumbs up, that the zora happily returns as they climb out of the kiddy pool.

The roar of the enormous waterfall is practically deafening, drowning out the prince’s words and even Link’s own thoughts. He can’t even see the top of it, the huge wall of water crashing down from the heavens themselves. The prince smiles, and Link is pretty sure his stomach just actually turned inside out. Hylia hear my prayer, carry my plea above the sky and return with a song of salvation , Link recites in his mind desperately as the prince, who Link has determined must be completely mad, tugs him towards the churning foam.

“Uh, your highness,” Link croaks, “I think this is too--”

“Nonsense!” Prince Sidon cuts him off. “I have complete faith in you, Link!”

You shouldn't , Link thinks hysterically as the prince grabs his hand-- the prince’s hand engulfs his entire forearm-- and pulls him closer through the mist and foam.

“Come on, we’ll do it together!”

And then they’re rocketing upwards, and Link can barely even take a breath before the prince is practically throwing them up the waterfall. He would scream, but then the water would just go right into his lungs and he would definitely die as opposed to probably die, so he keeps his mouth and eyes shut.

Then after far too long of being buffeted against the unforgiving force of the waterfall, they’re suddenly not swimming anymore, they're flying, and the prince flips them both once high in the air before landing, miraculously , on their feet. Not dead.

“How do you feel, my friend?” The prince asks, finally letting go of his arm, and Link falls back to sit on the grass, patting the ground with both hands.

Oh, land ,” he whispers, “ sweet, solid land .”

The prince laughs heartily. “I think that’s enough lessons,” he says, then points up at the mountain behind Link. “Up at the peak there is Ploymus mountain, where the Lynel resides. If you go now to collect the shock arrows-- carefully, of course -- and I will meet you at the reservoir, we shall appease Vah Ruta before nightfall!”

Link stands, looking up at the prince. There is a smile on his face still, but Link can tell he is serious about this. He nods, and the prince steps back and leaps off the edge of the cliff, flipping back down into the waterfall below. Link watches him leave for merely a moment before turning, marching towards Ploymus mountain.

Carefully, Link creeps forwards in the rain as he reaches the plateau at the top of the mountain, looking carefully around for the lynel. He hasn’t seen one yet, but he can gather from what he’s been told that they’re fierce, deadly beasts. He has confidence in his skill in battle, but he doesn’t have a death wish. The wet grass swishes around his knees, the branches of the coniferous trees swaying in the wind of the storm, large boulders dotting the plateau. He doesn’t see the lynel.

Slowly coming out of his crouch, Link looks around. Scattered around the plateau, he can see the bright sharp yellow of shock arrows stuck in the ground, or in the trunks of trees. He walks towards the nearest one he sees, when suddenly a mighty roar thunders over the mountain, and from behind a tall rock, Link sees the lynel emerge. His heart simultaneously leaps up into his throat and falls out through his ass at the glimpse of the beast, its glowing red eyes searching the grass for prey. Link dive-rolls behind a boulder, crouching back against the stone and keeping still as possible as he holds his breath, hoping it didn’t just see him.

Even if he hadn’t already made up his mind not to face it, he certainly would have been sure now. That thing is huge ! Why is it so huge! And buff! What the f*ck!

After a minute, he hasn’t been stomped on or slashed to ribbons with the lynel’s sword, and Link relaxes just slightly, peeking out from behind the rock. It walks slowly, patrolling its territory with keen eyes. Link lets out a breath. He can do this.

Keeping one eye on the lynel at all times, Link creeps around the plateau, crouched in the tall grass and hidden behind shrubs, picking up shock arrows. He makes his way around the top of the mountain, proceeding slowly towards the peak. At a certain point higher up on the mountain, he relaxes a little more, standing up straight as the lynel gets farther away. He checks his quiver-- about fifteen shock arrows. Not a lot, but it should be enough.

As soon as he thinks it, he hears another roar, and looks over his shoulder to see the lynel coming towards him. Oh, no . It picks up speed, and Link runs, but the only way for him to go is further towards the peak of the mountain. He hears a crackle of electricity as his feet pound against the ground, praying not to slip on the wet stone as he retreats, and a shock arrow flies past his ear and lands in the grass several meters ahead of him, lightning crackling into the air and nearly singing his eyebrows off. Link yelps and stumbles back a step before taking off again. He can hear the lynel’s hooves thundering behind him, getting closer.

Link runs skidding up to the very edge, the stomping of the lynel racing towards him louder in his ears than the crashing clouds overhead. Below him, Vah Ruta trashes in the lake, blasting water up into the atmosphere and filling up the reservoir. The wind buffets him. There is nowhere to go. Behind him he hears the now-familiar crackling of a shock arrow, and he has run out of options.

He pulls out his paraglider and leaps , plunging towards the water so dizzyingly far below before he can even unfurl his paraglider as the shock arrows fire overhead. The slate held clenched between his teeth, he falls several more meters further than he’s really comfortable with before he manages to snap the glider open, the strong winds immediately picking up the sail and blowing him backwards towards the cliffs. He grunts and twists himself with the wind, trying to aim for a small plateau below jutting out from Ploymus mountain. He stumbles as his feet hit rock, and he catches himself before he shatters his knees on the mountain. Panting for breath, he lowers his already soaked glider and looks over his shoulder at Vah Ruta as lighting shoots through the air, up from the water in a powerful radius.

It fades, leaving the Divine Beast rumbling in the water, its eye wheel spinning, a pink glow emanating from it, cutting through the storm-imposed darkness to cast the reservoir in the Calamity’s evil aura.

He sets his jaw, looking at the divine beast with determination. He knows little of the world, but the path ahead of him is clear. Link readies his paraglider and leaps once more down the rocky cliff.

The wind and rain in his eyes, he thinks he sees prince Sidon turn, red against red. He makes it to the final slope and his feet meet the rock sooner than anticipated, he just barely manages to stow the paraglider before he trips and starts to tumble all the way down the hill to the grass.

Ow oogh ah oof ow — Link slides towards the water before he manages to catch himself and set himself upright on the slippery grass, cringing.

He runs up to the dock jutting out from the dam, where he can make out the tall form of prince Sidon running up to meet him. “Link! Link, are you alright!” He calls, and Link nods, shaking out his bruised limbs. “Nayru’s fins, did you see the radius those shock arrows had when they hit the water? I nearly got my gills fried off!” The prince shudders. “Link… please don’t miss.”

Link gives him a determined nod, and they start to walk quickly towards the end of the pier, to where the restless Vah Ruta waits for them.

“Did you gather enough shock arrows?” The prince asks him in a shout as they run forwards, and Link nods up at him. “Wonderful! You never cease to amaze, Link! Now, then, let us go and appease that Divine Beast as one!”

Though typically prince Sidon’s grand declarations tire Link, this time it brings a smile to his face as they reach the end of the pier and the prince leaps off the edge, twisting high in the air before landing gracefully in the churning waters, swaying side to side as he beckons Link forth. “Do you see those glowing, pink orbs high up there? I shall take you right up to the side of the Divine Beast, and from there you can swim up and take aim with the shock arrows! You can do it, I believe in you!”

He gives Link his signature grin and his dashing, princely pose, and, despite the dire circ*mstances, Link laughs as he jumps into the water. The lake is disturbed from Vah Ruta’s jerking, sick movements, and he gasps as he tries to keep his head above water and swim towards the prince.

This is definitely not the kiddy pool.

chasing dragons - ThatOneFunAnon, cruisercrusher (12)

Prince Sidon swims forward to him, grabbing him and placing Link on his back. Link immediately grabs hold of his shoulders, and the prince turns his head to ask, “Are you ready?”

Link leans forward to respond, “Of course. Are you?”

To that, the prince laughs. “What are you talking about, I was born for this! Now, let’s go!” With that, he takes off, racing towards Vah Ruta with Link clinging to his back. sh*t , Link thinks as the water splashes up around them, and he tries to keep his eyes trained on the Divine Beast ahead. That was not an empty boast, him being the fastest swimmer in the domain .

Vah Ruta trumpets angrily and rears back in the water, creating a wave that threatens to carry them off. Link holds his breath and holds on as the prince swims through it, ever approaching the Divine Beast. It fires some ice spikes at them, and Link grits his teeth as prince Sidon dodges them easily. “Ha! I am unstoppable in the water!” the prince says, and Link has to agree. “Ruta is responding to our presence! I’ll look for an opening-- watch out for those ice attacks!”

Link looks up to see cryonis-like ice blocks forming on Vah Ruta’s sides, and he tightens the grip he has on the prince’s waist with his thighs so he can take out the slate, lighting up the cryonis feature. He uses it to break the ice blocks midair as they come at them, the prince cheering him on as he still races through the water at top speed.

“There!” Suddenly the prince twists in the water towards the Divine Beast, coming right up under the waterfalls pouring out from its sides. “Now, Link!” He flips, launching Link up into the waterfall. Link holds his breath and steels himself, remembering the techniques Sidon taught him as he zooms up the waterfall and comes flying out the top, high into the air above Vah Ruta, above the glowing points of the barrel generators. He barely has enough time as he twists in the air to pull out his bow and aim a shock arrow at the nearest generator, electricity snapping through the air as he fires.

Don’t miss, Link.

It hits dead on, the generator lighting up neon green and frizting on and off, the stream of water below it that Link swam up sputtering out. He re-secures his bow just before he lands back in the water with a hard splash. He sinks deep into the lake with the momentum from the long fall, air bubbles bursting from his open mouth as he starts to kick up towards the surface. A pair of large red hands grasp his sides and pull him up.

“That was incredible, Link!” Prince Sidon cheers as he hoists Link onto his back again. “Come on, there’s no time to waste!”

And they’re off again, the prince swimming past Vah Ruta’s defences faster than Link can think. He does a full circle around the Divine Beast as Link once more uses the slate to fend off the blocks of ice that it fires at them, the prince swerving back and forth to dodge. “Again, Link! You can do it!” The prince shouts as he swims up to the second waterfall, throwing Link into the air just as he did before. It’s easier now, the adrenaline pumping in Link’s veins driving him forth with a sort of strength that might scare him if he could stop and actually think about it. But here he doesn’t think, he just acts, and soars high into the air and draws his bow at the next generator.

His aim is true, and this one changes from pink to green just as the other one did. Vah Ruta trumpets furiously, the sound nearly shaking the whole reservoir.

Suddenly the Divine Beast’s trunk twists and before Link can breathe he’s blasted out of the air by the jet of water Vah Ruta fires high, spinning wildly towards the lake. He can’t even scream before he hits the water, and everything goes black.

...nk… Link… open your eyes, Link !”

Link coughs and gasps hoarsely as he spits up water all over his front, heaving as a large hand pats frantically on his back.

“Oh, thank the golden goddesses!” Link hears a crisp, deep zoran accent sigh in relief as he peels his eyes open. He feels soggier than any human has a right to be.

“S… Sidon--” Link coughs again. “Sorry…”

The prince gives him a soft smile, helping him sit up more on the pier. “It’s perfectly alright, my friend,” he says. “Should we leave and regroup?”

“No,” Link croaks, pushing himself to his feet. His knees wobble once, then no more as he stands firm before the Divine Beast that continues to rage in the reservoir. “We have to finish this.” He walks towards the edge of the pier, and his hand brushes against the slate at his hip… only he feels not the grooves and edges of the sheikah slate, but the carved silver piece of armour that protects his thigh. He stills, his heart stopping as he slowly looks down…

The slate is gone.

The slate is gone ,” Link gasps, patting all around his belt as if that will make the device suddenly appear. Sidon comes up next to him, his brow furrowed as Link practically spins in a circle, looking for it, but the slate is nowhere to be seen. “It-- I must have dropped it when I fell, I--” Link stops, his eyes widening as he covers his mouth with both hands, just standing on the edge of the pier, looking out at the reservoir, completely still.

“I’m sure it’s somewhere,” Sidon says, “It… it probably fell into the lake, right? I’ll dive and look for it. Not to worry!” He pats Link’s shoulder, and wastes no time jumping off into the water, disappearing under the surface. Link kneels right at the edge, gripping the smooth blue stone as he watches the water. Minutes pass, and Link can feel his heart beating hard against his ribs. He needs that slate, that device is the key to his past, it’s his key to the present, how could he have lost it? How could he have been so careless?

After far too long of waiting, he sees a faint red blur below the water, and the prince bursts out right in front of him, a huge grin on his face. He holds his hand out to Link, and in it, dwarfed in Sidon’s huge palm, is the sheikah slate, the eye glowing faithfully. All of Link’s breath escapes him in a rush, and he reaches forward, taking the slate and turning it around, desperately looking for damage. He turns it on. It’s completely fine.

“Thank you,” he breathes, putting it back in place and double making sure the clip is secure. The prince nods, giving him a thumbs up.

“Of course! Now, shall we go face that Divine Beast once more?”

Link nods. “Once more.”

He gets on Sidon’s back again, holding on tight as the prince rockets off in the water towards Vah Ruta. He swims around to the other side of the Divine Beast, dodging an ice spike attack as it realizes they’ve come back for more. “We’re almost finished, Link!” Sidon shouts. “Only two more generators to go! You can do it!”

Link readies the slate as the Divine Beast forms more blocks of ice that it fires off, this time followed by a huge spiked ice ball that lands in the water and spins after them. Link twists his torso to try and break it, but the ice swerves too fast in the water, gaining on them before he can get it in his sights. Link growls, holding the slate tight in one hand and holding on to Sidon. “Sidon, dive!” He shouts, and takes a deep breath as immediately the prince dives below the water, underneath the spiked ice ball that continues to race on the surface. Link gasps as they reemerge, aiming cryonis at the ice now ahead of them, and breaks it apart into shards.

“Nice work!” The prince calls. He spots an opening, and races towards Vah Ruta’s legs again. “Now, Link! Go!” He comes up right under a waterfall, launching Link into the air, and Link grits his teeth and swims up, coming out the top and soaring into the air with the momentum.

I can’t let it hit me this time , he thinks as he nocks an arrow, sparks racing through the air as it flies towards the generator. Link doesn’t even look to see if it lands, just taking out another shock arrow as he falls back towards the reservoir, firing it almost straight up into the air. Don’t miss!

Time slows as he falls, watching the arrow arc through the air, streaks of green light cutting through the dark, rainy haze. He hits the water, and through the wavering surface he sees a flash of green light high above. Link watches the fireworks as he slowly sinks deeper, transfixed, until he’s pulled back up by the prince. “Li--”

The prince is cut off by Vah Ruta trumpeting lividly and rearing back on its hind legs in the water, crashing back down and creating a huge wave that sweeps them both away, Sidon holding him close to his chest so Link doesn’t get carried off as the wave pushes them to the very edge of the lake. They watch from afar as the Divine Beast stills, calming, each of the generators fritzed out and no longer pouring out water. Silence casts over the reservoir, Link and the prince looking at the Divine Beast and at each other, before a cloud-parting smile bursts out across Sidon’s face. “We did it! Link, you did it!” He cheers, shaking Link back and forth by his hold on his shoulders in the water, and Link laughs.

They did it.

“You wanted to board it, right?” Sidon asks, placing Link on his back again, and Link nods. The prince starts to swim towards Vah Ruta, at a more subdued pace now that it isn’t trying to turn them into sludge. “Excellent, let's go then! We’ll finish it together! I… always wanted to see what it looked like on the inside.”

Suddenly The Divine Beast starts to rise up from the water with a deep rumble that seems to come not from the machine, but from below it, the entrance to Vah Ruta lifting above them. “Quickly, Link, or we won’t make it-- hold your breath!” Sidon says, diving below the water to pick up speed as he rockets back up into the air. Link closes his eyes and braces for impact as they soar. He hits the stone platform at the entrance hard, the wind knocking out of him as he rolls.

“Wow,” Link gasps as he pushes himself back up, “that was an impressive jump, Sidon!”

He looks around. He’s alone on the platform. “Sidon?”

A splash. Link goes over to the edge and peers down at the lake. There, below him and getting farther away as Ruta continues to rise, is the prince, bobbing in the water and waving up at him. “Sorry, Link!” Sidon shouts up at him. “I could only manage to throw you onto the platform! But I know you can do it!”

“I don’t know what to do!” Link shouts back, his voice cracking and his throat scratching badly. He clears his throat, but his vocal cords can’t seem to manage any more than that.

“Zelda’s research mentioned…” Even with the incredible volume prince Sidon can reach, Link still can’t quite make out all that he says as Vah Ruta gets as high as it will go. He hears ‘guidance stone’, ‘terminal’, and ‘maintenance slate’. But hopefully that will be enough clues. The prince waves up at him once more, barely more than a red dot on the water, and then flips back and swims away. Link heaves himself up onto his feet with a sigh, turning back towards the Divine Beast, much more intimidatingly large up close than from far away. It seems to have calmed for now, no longer pumping an endless stream of water into the atmosphere, but the veins in between the plates of sheikah stone making up its shell still glow sickly pink-red. The Calamity still has its hold on it.

He takes a deep breath, and ventures inside.

Notes:

:D

it should be mentioned that either Sidon IS lying or he's just. not well versed in hylian swimming abilities, because the armour is supposed to magically make you able to swim up waterfalls automatically and Link is such a crap swimmer the sheer force of his ineptitude cancels it out. L.

ALSO WOOOOO VAH RUTA YEAHHHH WOOOOO we're really getting moving now!! we're a quarter done this fic now, and things are going to be picking up more as we keep going!! YEAAHHHHHHHHH

EDIT I FORGOT TO MENTION EARLIER BUT BE SURE TO CHECK OUT OUR BLOG ITS @zelda-without-a-licence-plate ON TUMBLRR WE POST ART AND REDESIGNS AND HOMEBREW LORE STUFF AND MEMES

Next up: osha complaint Vah Ruta (mostly) (well kind of) (at least a little bit)

Chapter 13: please accept... Mipha's netflix password

Summary:

After many osha violations and a harrowing battle, Link frees the Divine Beast Vah Ruta.

Notes:

WHEE HE HEE HOO sorry we glossed over the puzzles im sure you understand sjfhdsijg hope you enjoy!!!!

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Link walks into a large chamber that makes up most of the belly of the Divine Beast, looking around. The first thing he notices is the bits of malice muck splayed throughout the chamber and building up in the corners, and the second thing he notices is the top of what he thinks is an upside down guidance stone, submerged mostly in a pool of water, suspended by chains, next to a large metal crank. Link jogs up to it and takes out the sheikah slate, lighting up the magnesis rune and using it to turn the crank until the platform housing the terminal is level with the floor. He reaches over and taps the screen of his slate to the familiar-looking surface of the terminal, just like the ones on the outsides of shrines, but nothing happens. Puzzled, he tries again, but still, nothing happens. He makes a frustrated huffing noise, looking around the room again.

Guidance stone… terminals… maintenance slate .

There’s an open doorway on the other end of the room, like the one he entered in, and then lengthwise on either end are two closed off ones. He walks around. One closed door, at the bottom of a ramp, with a series of complicated locks and bars shut over the door. He walks down the ramp and presses a hand to the door. On the other side of it, if he closes his eyes and focuses, he can feel an intense evil aura, nearly suffocating in the way the dark energy pulses and pushes against the edges of his mind. It reminds him of the blood moon.

In order to free this Divine Beast from Calamity Ganon’s control, that is where he will need to go.

He checks the other doorway. This one is shut with just bars, that he can peer through, sealed to the floor with malice. Inside he sees a guidance stone, exactly like the ones on the towers, and in Purah’s lab. He might be able to squeeze through those bars, but he can’t touch all that malice.

It occurs to him that no one ever told him he can’t touch the malice. But he knows anyway.

Definitely do not touch it.

He backs up. Next to him, the water ripples, and he hears a gurgling noise. He looks down into the water, where the malice trails off, and sees a large, bulging, sick glowing yellow eye protruding from the purple goo, watching him. As soon as he spots it every hair on his body stands up on end, and he shudders violently. He takes a bomb from his slate and tosses it into the water, blowing up the eye. The malice muck bubbles and festers and bursts apart into tiny particles, leaving the bars free. Link steps up onto the bottom bar and nudges himself through one of the gaps between, coming out into a smaller, spherical room with the guidance stone in the center.

Link walks up to it and sees another slate already inserted in the guidance stone, this one much larger than his, and round. Thin veins of malice have creeped up the sides of the pedestal and crusted up in the cracks of the spot where the slate is interested, keeping it glued in there. Link frowns, inspecting the pedestal for some way to eject it. Finding none, he decides to resort to more crude methods that would surely make the scientists that built this thing very angry with him-- he takes out his sickle and chips away at the muck with the thin, sharp blade, prying the slate out the old fashioned way.

Eventually he manages to get it out, and find the power on button. It takes a couple tries, but soon enough the large, clunky slate sputters to life. It clearly needs maintenance, but it works kind of alright, showing him a map of each floor of Vah Ruta, as well as a page full of controls.

He climbs back out into the main room, his eye drifting back over to that terminal. Maintenance slate… He goes over to it, the clunky slate in hand, and taps the screen of it to the terminal.

Still nothing happens. Damn.

He turns it over, putting the back of the slate down on the pedestal.

That works, the terminal lighting up blue and a menu popping up on the slate’s screen.

Link sighs.

This one has a lot more different little stuff and buttons on it than his, and he taps through them, looking for something to open that door. After maybe a couple actual minutes of fiddling with it-- wasn’t Zelda the tech expert? Why couldn’t she be the main character -- he gets to the door controls, selects ‘open’. From the closed door he hears a series of clunking chunking noises, but nothing happens. Link winces, hoping he didn’t just break it. But no-- it’s just still locked. Checking the map, he sees points marking the other four control terminals, scattered around the divine beast.

Four locks.

Link sighs again, tucking the maintenance slate under his arm and marching off to go find the other terminals.

He finds the two rotating terminals fairly quickly and easily, disengaging the locks as they turn and jumping off before they flip him upside down. Outside, rain continues to fall, thunder rumbling every now and then, but it seems to be slowing down.

Going up a ramp from one of the raised platforms by the big wheels, he finds a terminal encased in cryonis ice, next to a huge ladder that seems to stretch all the way up to the roof. He breaks the ice with the rune on his own slate, and activates the terminal, finding the lock mechanism quickly and turning it off. Farther within the divine beast, he hears more rumbling and clunking.

Only one more to go. Link looks at the map. Looks at the ladder. He groans. f*ck, why does this place have to be so big , he bemoans as he pulls himself up the ladder. It has been a very physically intense day, and he just wants to go back to that fancy waterbed and be horizontal for a while. He reaches the top of the ladder, finding a hatch closed above him. Praying to the goddess that it won’t be sealed shut with malice, he pushes hard upwards on it, and, after a couple of shoves, it opens, delivering him a nice, cute little faceful of rain water.

Sputtering and shaking his head, he climbs onto the roof, finding the last terminal under a covered outcropping. He goes up to it and places the maintenance slate on the pedestal. This one seems more complicated than the others-- as the terminal activates, a notification pops up: ‘ communication terminal online’ . Against his better judgement, he taps on it, opening up a new menu. I don’t know what bluetooth is, show me the door functions! He sees a long row of tower icons, all but three unlit, under an error message. There’s a button that’s just labeled ‘signal’.

Link taps on it.

The slate’s screen turns blue and beeps continuously. Link begins to panic, thinking that may have just been very, very bad. Just as he starts to look for a way to undo that, the screen changes again, and he sees a moving image of a pair of eyes and red glasses only, and staticy, crackling noises.

“Uh… hello?” Link says, and he hears a screech.

Is that you, Linky!! ” The screen blurs again, and Link taps on it, confused.

“Is-- is someone in here?”

Link it’s me! ” The slate chirps again, and Link moves his face closer to it, squinting. The moving picture is blurry. “ Can you see me ?”

Link blinks. The voice is staticy and tinny. Is this the spirit of Vah Ruta trying to communicate with him? No, that’s dumb. Is it artificial intelligence? The image on the screen shifts, and Link can see the inside of a laboratory he was in not long ago, far from here. It tilts, and then he can see Purah, waving. Somehow.

Linky is my video working? Where are you? Wait, have you be-- een talking? Oh you’re on mute one sec-- okay say something now! ” The screen shakes and the sound cuts in and out partway through her sentence.

“What?”

The screen shakes again, this time going all fuzzy for a second. “ Linky you-- can yo-- ear me ?”

Link hits the side of the terminal. “No uh it’s getting crackly um-- I’m on a Divine Beast? Vah Ruta. How are you in the slate?”

The screen shakes again, except this time more physical as, on the other end, Purah seems to be hitting her screen before it stabilizes again, and the image gets clearer. “ You’re in the Divine Beast? That was fast!

“Yeah, Vah Ruta.” Link repeats, louder.

Purah shakes her head, her bun swinging back and forth as she adjusts her glasses. “ Okay Linky we-w-w-weee-- ee-- ” The connection crackles and fritzes for a few seconds, before the image of Purah freezes, and Link just stares at the picture for a second before it eventually catches up, the sound coming fast all at once. “ Moretowe-r s between us to g-- proper callgoing .”

Link hits the terminal again. “I’m in Vah Ruta right now, I’m on the roof.”

Purah sighs. She takes off her glasses and rubs her eyes. It’s such an adult motion to make, completely jarring on a kid’s body. “ Okay, look-- try to connect more towers if you’re in the area if y-- ca-- ne… time, okay ?”

Link squints, as if that will make him hear her better. “Towers? It says they’re offline.”

Purah nods this time. “ Yes, connect the towers.

“Purah I don’t know what I’m doing.” The screen glitches again. Behind him, the rain slows down. Is it lighter out?

Shut down t-- minal contro-- nit-- we cca-- work la ter t-- get it wor-r-r-rkin-- we on-- clear ingg-- mal--

“Purah? What was that?”

Did you get all that?

“No? Can you hear me?”

Every other word. Just sh-- ut down the beast and w-- take it from ther--

Link shakes his head. “Purah I don’t know where the off switch is.”

Okay, good luck Linky! Don’t die!

“Where is the off switch though?” Link blinks down at the slate as the screen goes blank. “Hello? Is it behind that big door? I don’t know how to open it. I think I broke it. Sorry. Purah?”

Nothing.

“Purah?”

The slate beeps and shows him the controls page again. Purah left. Link sighs.

After finally disengaging the last lock, Link picks his way back down the ladder to the lower level. He sees the door, opened, the room beyond completely dark. Before he approaches it, he goes back to the room where he found the maintenance slate, and places it gingerly back on the terminal that he damaged. Then he walks back out towards the source of the dark energy infecting the Divine Beast, water splashing around his feet as he goes. Sidestepping down the ramp, he cautiously makes his way inside.

Even in the dark he can still make out the high, vaulted ceiling, and the many closed windows where light would normally be let in. The main source of light comes from the large, bulbous control unit at the back of the room, that glows orange in pulsing waves. Immediately, Link can tell that is the exact place where the evil aura resides.

In the center of the room, gleaming from the orange light, Link sees a weapon that he recognizes. The same trident that Mipha had in his memory, the same one she wields in her immortalized stone form, the statue in the square of the domain. It stands, the pointed ends thrust deep into the stone floor, strikingly similar to the way it is carved in the statue. An uneasy wave of dread sweeps over him as he slowly approaches it.

Carefully, Link reaches out a hand to the staff of the trident, curling his fingers around the gleaming strengthened silver. Both hands gripping it tight, he pulls, but it remains embedded in the stone. He tries again, and this time he wrests it free, testing the balance of the trident in his hands.

It is a truly majestic, magnificent weapon. Gripping it tightly, Link wonders if Mipha held it in her last moments.

Trident in hand, Link approaches the control unit, the dark energy it exudes battering against his mental defenses. He fortifies himself and gets closer, until, just barely a foot from it, the orange glow suddenly becomes blinding, and the malice infecting it all spews out from the crevices into the air, past Link, sticking to itself in the air and molding together into a large, twisted, twitching form, glowing red. As its shape starts to solidify, Link feels a pounding pressure form behind his eyes, and he closes them, grabbing his head in his hands.

Freezing water splashed everywhere, conjured waves crashing against the edges of the sealed room as Mipha battled the waterblight. She spun through the air with her trident blindingly fast, little more than a red blur, but it's spear was faster. It cut across her shoulder, slashing deep through the skin and muscle. She screamed, but the sound was swallowed by the hellish screech from the terrible creature. Gasping for air, her gills fluttering, Mipha dashed behind the control unit, just as the ball and chain battered against the sheikah machinery, making deafening crashing noises. One hand still holding the Lightscale trident, she clutched at her furiously bleeding shoulder, her knees wobbling. She was losing blood too fast, trapped in here with this… thing -- her demise was racing towards her faster than she could meet it. There was nothing more she could do…

No. No giving up. She promised.

She took a deep, shaking breath and steeled herself, waving her glowing trident through the air, summoning a swirling funnel of water and diving into it.

In the center of the control room, the blight snarled and prowled through the air, searching for the Zora Champion with its single, glowing blue guardian eye. Above it, magic water whirled and splashed, and it turned just as Mipha descended upon it with every atom of furious strength and Champion’s power she could summon in her dying body, her trident held tight to strike a killing blow. It’s eye snapped in focus on her and screeched so loud and gratingly it made her ears bleed. Mipha gritted her teeth against the agony and struck true, launching her trident with the force of a tsunami. It cracked and split the mask of the blight, pinning it to the floor, blue viscous liquid leaking and spurting, malice gushing and squelching from the hole in its shoulder and side.

Mipha never hit the floor.

She released a wet, gurgling gasp as she realized the burning pain in her stomach was the blight’s spear piercing her right through, her hands going numb as she gripped the cool light of the guardian blade. The blight screeched and thrashed, and she refused to close her eyes.

Link gasps as he returns to the present, the malice ash moving faster in the air as the blight continues to form-- less than a second went by while he was shown the past. He clutches his stomach and looks down at the Lightscale trident in his hand. The gems inlaid in the silver glow faintly. Was that vision from Mipha?

Link…

Link whips his head around as he hears her voice ringing throughout the room, sounding like she was fighting hard to reach him. “ Link… aim for the eye .” Her spirit speaks to him with the same hard determination he sensed from her in his vision, before he feels her presence fade again.

The waterblights weapons form in its clawed, gnarled hands from nothing, a long, deadly spear and a ball and chain that looks like it could turn his bones to dust, the same glowing blue as its guardian eye. It convulses back and forth as it spins, hanging upside down in the air for a second before righting itself in jerking movements, screeching madly, and Link tightens his grip with both hands on Mipha’s trident, taking a battle stance in the face of the scourge of Divine Beast Vah Ruta.

chasing dragons - ThatOneFunAnon, cruisercrusher (13)

He doesn’t let it make the first move, running towards it with all the reckless courage he can summon, Lightscale trident gripped tight. It swings the big, clunky arm holding the spear around in a wide arc and Link plants the balls of his feet as it swings the long deadly blade towards him. He bends his legs and leaps up over the arc of the spear, rushing forward to land a flurry of blows.

Water splashes up around his legs as he runs, skidding up right under the blight and striking upwards, stabbing into the plague-given-form with the trident, malice bursting and popping forth from the wounds he inflicts on it as it screams at him.

It’s disgusting.

The blight twists and dives towards him, and Link just barely rolls out from under it in time, running out of its range as it sways and gurgles, readying its spiked ball-and-chain. Link yelps as it spins, and he flips out of the way of the blindingly fast, sweeping attack as droplets of water fly through the air with the malice’s ash. He lands and almost trips backwards, looking down at the floor in confusion-- he realizes that the arc of the deadly spiked weapon is outlined on the ground in streaks of ice, that crack and melt away back into the shallow puddle that covers the floor of the room. Link frowns. The ice didn’t last long… this time. That’s going to be problematic, isn’t it…

It moves to attack again, and Link hops away from it, leaping up on top of the control unit, stowing the Lightscale trident in favour of his bow, his quiver still full of shock arrows. The blight readies a launch of its spear and Link braces himself, letting an arrow fly before it can throw it and impale him. The arrow strikes right into its eye, arcs of lighting erupting out and electricity racing all along its dripping body as it screeches and seizes up, dropping its attack stance. Link gives it not a second to recover as he fires arrow after shock arrow at it, until the electricity builds up too widely and he has to jump down behind the control unit before he gets fried.

He takes a deep breath, taking out his slate and readying the bomb rune before running out from behind the control unit back into the open arena, only to gasp and roll out of the way as the blight's spear suddenly flies right past his face, nearly taking his ear off. His hair completely soaks, and he shivers, realizing it’s getting colder in there, frost creeping down the walls.

Link takes out a round bomb and launches it at the blight, but it smacks it away with the ball and chain, and the bomb bounces off the wall and rolls away, useless and completely out of range. Link hisses and puts the slate away on his belt as he takes the trident in hand again and sprints towards the blight. He swiftly dodges a downward attack from the ball-and-chain, reaching arms of ice bursting outwards over the water where it hits the ground. Link dashes up under the blight again, close enough to smell the sharp, coppery scent that drips off of it, too much iron to really be reminiscent of blood. He jabs up into its bubbling torso with the trident, and it screeches, falling to the floor, arms thrashing.

Spinning the Lightscale trident around he pins its spear arm to the floor, taking the sickle that has been left unused on his back and hacking down at its eye with the sharp blade. It roars and jerks, and his next hit with the sickle lands in its shoulder, the curved blade sticking. Link pulls on it but the sickle gets sucked into the malice of its body, corrosion eating away at the weapon like acid as it disappears and Link lets go, shuddering in revulsion. The blight throws his pin on it off, sending him flying through the ankle-high water into the corner. He grunts, pushing himself up, a blue glow next to him catching his eye.

The blight rights itself in the air, and Link jumps to his feet, turning the trident upside down and using it to scoop up the bomb that the blight blocked, launching it through the air towards it. He detonates it right in its face.

The whole Divine Beast quivers as the blight rages, and Link realizes the water level is rising. For the first time during this battle, Link feels a pang of fear as the freezing cold water laps at his thighs, his chest, and up to his neck as he starts to float, carrying him up as it continues to rise. He swims, not well, but he swims, thinking with an edge of panic that if it keeps him trapped in the water, it will kill him for sure.

He tries to swim back to the control unit, the very top of it just jutting up from the water, but the blight is between it and him. It brings its ball and chain crashing down, and Link is only just barely able to get out of the way in time, plunging backwards into the water. Air bubbles escape from between his lips and he looks up, his eyes widening. The surface of the water is freezing over, trapping him underneath. He swims up, but it freezes too fast. He grits his teeth against the seizing cold and stabs at the ice from below with the trident, chipping and cracking the sheet as his lungs start to burn. He sees the blight fly through the air above him, and finally, just as he feels his grip start to weaken, he manages to break the ice.

Link pulls himself up onto the cracked ice, dripping wet and gasping for air. He slides away, skidding on his side away from a thrust of its spear, trying to clamber to his feet on the slippery sheet of ice. It attacks him again and again, but each time Link skates just out of the way, sliding across the ice it made and picking up speed. He tries to run towards it, but it flies out of range.

It's toying with him. Unable to keep up with this game much longer, and without the patience to, Link snarls and spins on his heel, planting himself best he can and launching the Lightscale trident with all his might at the waterblight, piercing the eye of the monster from across the room and lodging deep in its head. It screams and Link covers his ears, watching through squinted eyes as it jerks and thrashes, the shaft of the trident spinning sticking out in the air. It bursts apart, spewing malice and muck and bright beams of purple light that splatters against the ice. Link shields himself with his arms as the light becomes blinding, and the ice cracks and breaks apart under his feet.

When he opens his eyes again, the water has flooded out from the room, and he can put his feet on the ground again. With a deep rumbling noise, the windows in the control room all open, pouring in streams of golden sunlight that reflects and sparkles on the shallow water, casting rippling rings of light all over the walls. It’s warm. The evil aura has disappeared, and Link looks around-- no more ash thickens the air, no more malice creeps along the walls. The control unit glows blue.

Vah Ruta is free.

Behind him, he hears a light ripple like a single drop falling in a pool of water, and he turns. There, semi-translucent and glowing blue, ghostfire reflecting off the water, stands Mipha’s spirit. Link can only look at her with wide eyes as she walks towards him, her feet barely making ripples on the water. The sun beams right through her, casting the most amazing half-shadow. She smiles.

It hurts.

“Hello, Link,” she says. Link swallows the lump in his throat.

“Mipha,” Link whispers. “I’m sorry…”

“Don’t be sorry,” the Zora Champion says. “Why don’t we sit together for a little while? It’s been a long time…” She comes to a stop right in front of him, and Link looks up at her smiling face. She sits, cross-legged on the floor, and Link drops down as well. “My family, are they well?” Is the first thing she asks. Link nods, and thinks for a moment.

“How big was Sidon when you last saw him?”

Mipha gestures at a point barely two feet off the floor, with a light confused frown.

“Well, he’s huge now. Twice my height at least. All grown up, I guess.”

Sighing, Mipha nods. “I wish I could have seen it happen… and my parents, how are they faring? They must miss me…”

Link blinks. Before he can ask, she zeroes in on the confusion on his face, and narrows her eyes at him.

“My mother and father, Link.”

“Uhm…” Link looks away. Briefly his mind flashes back to what Sidon said when he gave him the armour. I am not ready to have no family left … “I met King Dorephan. But I don’t know what happened to your mom. I’m sorry.”

Mipha looks down, and Link sighs. “I… don’t know what happened a hundred years ago. I only know I fell to the Calamity because I was told so. And I’ve lost my memory. The only thing I’ve remembered so far is you.”

“Oh, Link...” Mipha’s eyes widen. “So that is why you seem so different… there is a light in your eyes I have never seen before.” She looks him up and down, and the smile slowly returns to her face. “The armour suits you. I hope it will help you.”

Link touches his chest. “It has.”

Standing, Mipha says, “I have something else that will help you.” Link stands as well, and she holds her hands in front of her, forming a triangle with her fingers. “I mastered healing magic at a young age… but as I am now a spirit, such a skill would be wasted on me. That is why I would like you… to please accept this gesture of grace.”

A glow appears in her hands, a bright icy glow, that swirls and travels in a stream of light towards Link’s chest. It’s cold as he feels it sink into him, past his skin and ribs and wrapping itself around his very soul. Droplets of magic-guided water swirl up around him, lifting him into the air before he drops back down with a splash, and the light fades. Slowly, in wonder, Link places both hands on his chest where he can now feel the magic residing, next to his heart. He looks up at Mipha.

“I want you to know, Link,” her smile slips, “I never gave up. I kept my promise, and now you must keep yours. My spirit is now free of Calamity Ganon’s suffocation. Once it is purged from this land, I will finally be able to move on from this realm. I think…” She looks up out the windows of Vah Ruta, at the setting sun. “It is time for you to go, now.”

Link shakes his head. “I don’t want to,” he whispers. Mipha smiles sadly at him, then goes around him with little more than a cool brush of air, walking towards the main control unit of Vah Ruta.

“I know,” she says. “But Ruta and I will be ready to support you when the time comes. My story is over, Link. All that remains is my spirit. But your story is far from finished, and as your friend, I can’t let you cling to the past. Not when it will only hurt you.” She looks at him over her shoulder, and Link sees with alarm that there are tears in her eyes. “Now, please go, Link. I want you to tell my family… tell them I miss them so much. And I’m sorry I couldn’t keep my promise to them.”

She looks away once more. With a heavy heart, Link turns, and leaves the Divine Beast Vah Ruta.

Notes:

WAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH CRYING AND ROLLING AROUND ON THE FLOORRRRRR

side note: uncomfortably realistic discord vc was written by anon <3

EDIT I FORGOT AGAIN PLSS CHECK OUT OUR TUMBLR ITS @zelda-without-a-licence-plate we post art and redesigns and memes and homebrew lore and EVERYTHINGGGG go follow us!!

Chapter 14: Link confirmed Not Dead

Summary:

Zora’s domain sends him off to continue his journey with gratitude and gifts, and Link learns of something from his past that may be a missing piece of this puzzle.

Notes:

beep bop boop beep. Dorephan dad moments yeeyee

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Link walks up to the edge of the dam, pulling himself up to see over the railing as the setting sun shines over the Domain, the waters clear and sparkling, the luminous stone mountains reflecting the sunlight back on each other. He hears a rumbling behind him, and turns his head to look as Vah Ruta, now proudly glowing blue, sinks back into the reservoir with a solid clunk . He looks back down at the city of Zora’s Domain, noticing a bright rippling in the water, like a shimmering rainbow rising up from the depths below.

It’s the Zora, he realizes, hundreds of Zora all swimming up to the surface that no longer floods and rages, coming up to see the sun filling the sky, turning the clouds orange and pink, turning the water to a million shining crystals.

Link runs, skipping down steps to the city, watching rapturously as the citizens of the Domain stream up the waterfalls and fill the streets. As he gets closer he can hear the cheering, running across the bridge to the people celebrating. Over the heads of the crowd, he spots a tall red zora with a pronounced crest and royal regalia running towards him with a huge, blinding smile on his face. Sidon runs up to him and grabs him, lifting him up high into the air above the swarming crowd with a laugh. The prince cheers his name, the others chanting along with him. Link looks at all of them, at all of these people he has never seen before and he feels like his head is still underwater. He’s carried and corralled up through the streets towards the palace, up the stairs to the throne room, zora of all colours and traits surrounding him, until he’s deposited right on the raised platform in front of King Dorephan’s throne.

The king looks down at him, and Link notices he doesn’t share the same expression of uninhibited joy as the rest of his people. He’s more subdued, even a little somber, in contrast to the celebration around them. Link stands before him and realizes why he feels like while his body is here, he remains still at the reservoir.

It is because he and the king are connected by a thread of shared grief. A piece of both of them will always rest within Vah Ruta.

"Link,"

King Dorephan smiles.

"You have done well! We have all been awaiting your return."

With a large hand, he gestures out over the domain, at all the people gathered.

"The violent downpour has disappeared, as has the threat to our home! Thanks to you, Link, there is no longer any danger of a great flood laying waste to Hyrule, and we can start to recover from the isolation the storms have caused."

The cheers rise up again and die down when the King motions for silence.

"We are truly grateful. What you have done for us today… there are truly no words. From the depth of my heart, thank you."

He stands, reaching behind him for one of the curved pillars framing the throne. That’s when Link realizes it is not a pillar, but a massive silver greatsword, that the King draws, and Link’s eyes widen. Instincts bring him to one knee, his gaze dropping to the floor. Murmurs arise from the crowd, the Zora elders making exclamations of surprise and scandal. For the enormous size of the sword and the king that wields it, the touch of the blade to his shoulders is feather-light.

"I know you have a long journey ahead of you yet, but should you ever return to Zora’s Domain, you shall carry not the weight of defeat, but the honour of a proud knight. Rise, Sir Link, as a knight of Zora’s Domain."

Link rises, his chest feeling full. Sounds of celebration ring from the crowd throughout the throne room, and Link glances at Sidon, who watches him with a wide smile. King Dorephan puts the greatsword back, and sits. His eyes are misty. A weight on his back shifts, and Link starts, taking the Lightscale Trident. He holds it out in front of him, and the king looks down at him for a long moment. Wordlessly, Link raises it higher. Sidon looks at the trident with wide eyes. The king shakes his head.

"Keep it,"

he says.

"It will serve you better on your quest than it will mounted in memorial here."

Link looks up at him in shock, and his hands shake just barely as his grip on the shaft of the trident tightens.

King Dorephan smiles.

"Your bravery shall be remembered in our hearts and history for centuries to come, Link."

He then looks down at Sidon still standing by his side.

"As will yours, Sidon. As your father, I am so proud of you for saving us all. You have grown much recently. I know you will be a worthy heir when your time comes."

The prince looks up at his father with wide eyes, his mouth opening and closing. He looks down, his crest hiding his face, but when he speaks, he sounds choked up. “Father, I… thank you!”

The king laughs, and reaches down to pat Sidon on the head.

"The storms have stopped, and the Divine Beast is our ally once again! This calls for celebration!"

He raises his hands to the crowd, and the people cheer, streaming out of the throne room to go collect what they can to celebrate, until none are left in the room except for Link, Sidon, the King, and surprisingly, Muzu. The Zora elder remains standing there after the people have left around him, and he looks right at Link.

“I… misjudged you, Link,” the advisor says, his hands folded behind his back. “I must sincerely apologize. The fault is not yours, for the destruction Calamity Ganon wrought upon us. I can no longer assign you the blame for her death.” He lowers his eyes, and quietly says, “I wish you luck on your quest.”

With that, he turns and leaves, not waiting for Link to reply. Link watches him go, until his attention is caught by king Dorephan lightly clearing his throat.

"By the way, Link… I noticed when you arrived you are without your blade, the sword that seals the darkness,"

he says, and Sidon looks between him and his father. Link just tilts his head, though the name pokes at something buried beneath his lost memory, he cannot recall the sword that the king speaks of. Just as he is about to ask what he means, king Dorephan shakes his head.

"Never mind. I must be truthful, Link, though I was rejoiced to see you survived purging the Calamity from Vah Ruta… I was also saddened to see that Mipha did not return with you. A part of me had always hoped she was simply trapped within the Divine Beast, and had survived… but she truly has left us after all, hasn’t she."

Link shakes his head. “Her spirit was there.”

The king leans forward in his throne, and Sidon gasps.

"Her spirit? Did… did she say anything to you?"

“She said…” Link swallows. “She said she misses you, and… she’s sorry she couldn’t keep her promise to you.”

The king lowers his head, a deep, sad frown on his face.

"I see… my dear Mipha… there was nothing I could do to save her. But… she will never be alone. It is my duty as her father to watch over her, even now."

Link gently touches the place in his chest where he can feel Mipha’s magic resting. “She never left us. A part of her will always live on within us.”

The king and prince both look at him in surprise.

"I… appreciate you saying that. You’re right. You are a good man, Link."

King Dorephan smiles at him, and Link looks down. He still doesn’t know who he is. He doesn’t know who he was or who he will discover himself to be, but he hopes that the king is right.

“Thank you,” he whispers. Sidon steps up to him, shedding the somber air easily with a flash of a grin and a wide sweep of his arms.

“Come, my friend!” He says, “the domain rejoices! Let us go join the festivities!” He practically herds Link out of the throne room, and Link looks back over his shoulder at the king, who laughs as he’s led down the stairs to the streets full of people celebrating.

He gets completely swept up in it. There isn’t much to make a feast with, but that doesnt stop the Zora from trying. Drinks flow freely, but Link abstains and so does Sidon. Night falls but the celebrations continue, and Link takes a moment to slip away, down to the shrine in a slightly lower level of the city. The puzzle is easy once he figures out how to use the slate’s runes to guide the ball into the hole, opening the door for him to access the sheikah monk’s final resting place.

It’s silent within the shrine, except for when the monk gives him the spirit orb, the crest of the goddess Hylia glowing within the misty purple orb. It sinks into his chest and Link sighs.

He’s tired.

Carefully picking his way through the thinning crowd of zora all way taller than him, he makes his way back to the inn, hoping to get a full night of rest before he moves on in the morning. Link thinks of what the king said, about the sword that seals the darkness… when he tries to recall such a blade, he feels nothing but a phantom pain in his shoulders and hands.

Perhaps if he travels back to Kakariko village, Impa will be able to tell him more of it.

Link stops when he comes into view of the inn. He hadn’t seen Sidon back in the festivities after he went into the shrine until now, but here he is, hovering outside of the inn. The prince looks wistfully off into the distant night, perhaps at the square where the people still rejoice over the clear skies, or perhaps beyond that, thinking of the reservoir where the Divine Beast Vah Ruta waits to strike against the Calamity.

The prince doesn’t notice his approach, even with how bright Link’s armour is. As he gets closer, he hears the prince muttering to himself. His steps slow as he listens.

“Dear sister…” Sidon says quietly, “are you there, within Vah Ruta still? I sense even as a spirit, you are still supporting Link in his fight… and yet, it seems there is nothing more I can do…” the prince sighs. “I wish you were here to guide me. I miss you so terribly…”

Link comes up next to him, and the movement must finally catch his eye, because Sidon startles, looking down at Link with wide eyes. His cheeks take a slight blue tint-- he’s blushing. “Link!” Sidon clears his throat and adjusts his cravat. “You… you heard all that, didn’t you?”

Link waves his hand as if to say, somewhat . Sidon looks down. “Ah. I’m afraid you caught me in a moment of vulnerability. I’m sorry you had to see me in such a state of…”He trails off. Link tilts his head at him. Sidon looks away. “...weakness.”

Link follows his gaze to the horizon. “I don’t think vulnerability is the same as weakness,” he says. “And neither is grief. Neither is doubt.” Sidon looks back at him in surprise, and Link takes the Lightscale Trident from his back. “Mipha misses you, too. She told me she wished she could have seen you grow up.”

The prince says nothing to that, which surprises Link. He looks up at the zora. “Were you waiting for me here?”

Sidon’s eyes widen, and he coughs and looks away again. “It’s embarrassing…” he says. “I wanted to ask… well. The Lightscale Trident… I was wondering if I could… hold it. Just for a minute.”

Link smiles. He’d never expected to see the prince so bashful. “You have more of a right to it than I do,” he says, “you don’t have to ask.” He holds it out to the prince, and Sidon lets out a quiet, shaking breath as he carefully takes the silver weapon into his hands. It’s too small for him, but it still looks right in his hands as he takes in the intricate carving, holding it with care. Soon, Link suspects too soon but he says nothing, Sidon hands it back to him.

“Thank you,” he says. Link nods. “I assume you will be leaving us come morning?”

“Yes,” Link says.

Sidon makes his signature pose, grinning. “Very well, then! I shall escort you back down to Inogo bridge! I can take you down the river far quicker than it would take you to go down the road on foot, after all, and I am sure you still have much to do!”

“Yes,” Link repeats. “I do, thank you.” He turns towards the door to the inn. “Goodnight, Sidon. You really were great today, you know.”

As he opens the door, he hears the prince say, “You-- yes, goodnight, Link. See you in the morning.”

Link goes down the hall back to his fancy waterbed room on dragging, tired feet. He just manages to strip all his armour and put it away properly, washing himself and combing his hair before he collapses onto the bed, bouncing slightly on the cool mattress. The moon shines freely through the window, and Link buries his face in the silky pillow with a happy sigh.

He falls asleep, and does not dream that night.

In tune with the morning sun crawling into the sky from behind the mountains, Link wakes. His muscles are sore still from his trials of the day before, and he stretches, feeling his joints pop satisfyingly. He takes a moment to just lounge in the luxurious waterbed, stretching out his limbs to take up as much space on the mattress as possible before getting up. He considers his regular travelling clothes for a moment, before shimmying back into the zora armour. He picks up his pants and his torn boot, and quickly, if a little amateurly, stitches the tears closed before storing all his extra clothes still strewn around the room in the slate.

After double and triple checking he didn’t leave anything lying around, he checks out of the inn. The innkeeper waves him off with a smile, and Link steps outside onto the streets of Zora’s Domain. He takes a deep breath of the crisp, fresh air, a cool autumn breeze whistling through the Domain and making his ears twitch against the sudden chill. Adjusting his pack on his shoulder, Link sets out to look for the prince.

The city is completely different than when he first arrived, Zora walking the streets with places to be, standing around and talking, young children running around and laughing, he even spots a handful of teenage zora sitting on a balcony with their legs dangling in the air, passing something around that he can’t see.

At the central square, Link doesn’t see Sidon anywhere, but a royal attendant comes walking briskly up to him, a flat box in her hands. Link waves hello, and she bows her head at him.

“Sir Link,” she says, “the council asked me to deliver you this reward before you depart.”

She lifts the top of the box, revealing a giant silver rupee-- worth 1000 rupees. Link’s eyes widen, glancing up at the attendant, and she gently nudges the box towards him, prompting him to take it. It would be rude not to accept, of course, even though he didn’t come here with a reward in mind… he takes it. The attendant smiles.

“Do you know where the prince is?” Link asks, and the zora chuckles.

“Probably still in bed,” she says, “would you like me to fetch him for you?”

Link nods, and she bows her head once more before turning and going back up into the palace.

While he waits, Link walks up to the statue of Mipha. He looks up at her face carved in stone for a moment before sitting down at the base of the statue, propping his chin in his hands. He’s managed to remember her, at least, what her friendship meant to him-- and he has remembered for sure that their bond was solely platonic. But still, only one solid actual memory is… not a lot. He takes out the slate and looks at the princess’ pictures again. Would he really be able to remember more if he travels to these places?

He puts the slate away. Perhaps a more important question is, does he want to remember more? He thinks of the crushing phantom pain in his shoulder when king Dorephan spoke of ‘the sword that seals the darkness’.

“Ah, there you are, my friend!” A loud voice calls out to him, and Link looks up. Jogging towards him is prince Sidon, towering over him and everyone else. Link stands, and Sidon yawns, covering his mouth with his hand. “Ah! Sorry, sorry, I’m afraid I’m not much of a morning person,” he laughs. “Are you ready to go?”

Link nods, and they walk towards the bridge. Sidon sighs, looking ahead with a smile. “I can hardly believe you have only been here for a single day,” he says. “It feels as though those hours were weeks. Are you sure you don’t want to stay a little longer?”

Link shakes his head. “If I had waited any longer to come here, it might have been too late,” he says. “The Calamity still has control over the other three Divine Beasts. Who knows how many more people’s days are numbered?”

“Yes, of course,” the prince says. “Well, I do hope you will come back and visit as soon as you can! It’s a shame you are leaving without seeing the underwater half of the city, it’s truly a marvel.”

Looking up at him, Link gives a small smile. “That sounds nice,” he says, though in truth he has no idea when he will be able to come back to the Domain.

They reach the river, and Sidon dives gracefully into the water. It’s not moving as fast as it was when he travelled here, but still faster than Link would be comfortable swimming in by himself. He waves Link in, and Link climbs onto his back, holding on with his hands on the prince’s shoulders and his knees hugging his back, just as when they faced off against Vah Ruta together, only this time without the imminent danger.

Sidon takes off, speeding down the river, water splashing up into Link’s face. He tries to keep his eyes open to see the Zora’s territory fly past, beautiful in the clear daylight. For a second he thinks he spots movement up on the cliff, but they’re past it too fast to see what it was.

Too soon, they reach Inogo bridge, and it’s time to say goodbye. Link climbs up onto the riverbank next to the dam. He turns, looking down at Sidon still bobbing in the water. “I’m glad I met you, Sidon,” he says, and the prince’s eyes widen briefly, glancing down.

“I-- yes, you as well.” He shakes his head and gives Link his signature pose and grin. “I wish you the best of luck on your journey, my friend! I am so grateful for all you have done for us, you are my most treasured friend for all time! You’re amazing! I mentioned how grateful I am and how amazing you are, right?”

Link laughs. “You did,” he says, turning towards the road. “Goodbye.”

“Yes, goodbye! Safe travels!” Sidon waves his whole arm at him, and Link walks away down the road, towards the orange Sheikah tower.

It’s right above him, at the top of a steep, levelled cliff. He could probably find a way around, but there’s no need to. He gets a running jump start at the vertical stone, grabbing on and pulling himself up. It feels good to have the warm rock under his hands, even through the gloves. The zora armour is admittedly not suited to climbing, but he’s good enough of a climber to make up for it.

By the time he reaches the top, he’s out of breath, and his arms and thighs are sore, but it feels good, to be out of the water. There’s the old wreckage of what was probably a house, and he sits in the grass, leaning back against what’s left of a support beam, resting just for a little bit.

He hears a strange giggling, and he turns his head to see… something dancing around in the air, looking right at him with a creepy smile. Link startles and jumps to his feet just as it uses its glowing wand to throw magic ice at him. Link dodges, the ice freezing the grass where he was sitting, and quickly grabs a fire arrow from his inventory and firing it at the monster’s head. It vanishes with a yelp into mist, leaving the wand behind. Link sighs and puts his bow away, inspecting the wand it dropped. Link picks it up and turns it over in his hand. It’s cold to the touch, and sparkles.

Odd, Link realizes that monster was only the second instance of actual magic he’s encountered since waking up on the plateau. For some reason, that doesn’t seem right to him.

He has no idea when he’d ever use it, but he puts the ice wand in the slate anyways, and decides it’s time to climb that tower. He walks up to it and grabs the stone trellis, pulling himself up. Resting every now and then on the ledges, it doesn’t take too long for him to reach the top. He immediately puts the slate in the terminal, and lets the tower do its thing while he turns and takes in the view.

From here, he can see so far across Hyrule it almost makes him dizzy. The volcano is close by, glowing orange even in the daytime, and the sky is clear and beautiful. Link smiles.

The slate chimes when the map is finished downloading, and Link quickly looks at it. He notices something, nearby a place called Goponga Village. He perks up, he didn’t notice another village on his way to the domain, maybe he’ll pass through, it’s on his way back to the stable--

Link looks down at the wetlands, and sees nothing there.

He double checks. Maybe he just read the map wrong, and it’s somewhere else… but no.

Nothing there.

His heart sinks as he looks again down at the screen. He taps the name on the map twice, and a line appears to edit the map. Solemnly, he deletes the name ‘Goponga Village’, but before he can put the slate away, something pulls his gaze back down to the marsh below.

There may be nothing left, but a hundred years ago, that place was someone’s home.

He adds to the map, ‘Goponga Village Ruins’.

Putting his slate away with a sigh, Link takes out his paraglider and jumps from the edge of the tower towards the Wetlands stable. His arms still hurt from the long climb, but the winds are gentle as he paraglides down over the wetlands, and lands with a small splash right on the edge. The stable should be right over the hill…

The sun dries his hair and armour quickly as he walks over the hill to the stable, and by the time he reaches it, the zora armour is chafing badly. Link winces as he walks around the fence and goes up to the front counter to ask if his horse made it back okay.

“Woah!” The guy behind the counter says when he sees him. “Wow, hey! We thought you died!”

Link blinks. “Huh?”

Another stable worker pops out. “Is that the traveller? Yeah, it is you! When your horse came running back from the storm without you, we assumed you had fallen out of the saddle and drowned in the river.”

“O--oh,” Link says. “No, I’m okay.”

The stable worker laughs. “We can see that! Nice outfit, by the way. It’s uh, pretty.”

“I guess you want your horse back, right?” The guy behind the counter asks.

“Please,” Link says. “Is there somewhere I can change clothes?”

He’s directed inside while the other stable worker goes and gets Nyx, and he quickly takes off the dry and sticking Zora armour in the private stall and changes into the much softer, very comfortable riding gear. Inside the stable, he can hear people talking about how the rains in Lanayru have finally stopped. He smiles. Stepping back out, he sees the stable worker standing near the entrance with Nyx’s reins in hand, and Link takes them from him.

On the road back up to Kakariko Village he passes more travellers and merchants, who wave to him as he rides by. Link returns the wave and steers Nyx off the road up the slope, trotting towards Kakariko.

Notes:

and that wraps up Zora’s domain!! What did yall think owo
Also Sidon didn’t drink bc he only drinks whiteclaw. Which is something that exists in Zelda ig. Also also they were going to give Link the reward at the party but they couldnt find him djhfgjfks
[heyyy its me again!! mod anon!!!! this will likely be the last chapter i post in this fic with the html, but i hope y'all enjoyed my little notes hehe. i got 2 (two) whole notes!! N E ways if y'all wanna see more stuff in the car and anon verse as a hole there have a blog linkLed (feminism) in the first chapter! I've been working on some actual fics for the other games in the verse and will be posted soon, hopefully. the blog name is zelda-without-a-licence-plate ! we also have lore posts and sh*tposts hehe. we will ALSO have a chapter by chapter, continuously updated summary of whats happened in chasing dragons! That's all from me! Anon out!]

Car again pls leave lots of comments and kudos we love love love reading them QwQ and don't forget to follow us at @zelda-without-a-licence-plate on tumblr wheeee

Chapter 15: Everyone is gay for the great fairy

Summary:

Link often finds himself spending more time in Kakariko village than he intends. Questions remain answerless, and new mysteries are uncovered, only to be re-buried.

Notes:

WHEEEE WHEEEE WAHOO I WAS SO EXCITED FOR THIS CHAPTER DUDE IT HAS HUGSSSSS

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

The sun shines bright but it’s chilly in Kakariko village, and Link is glad for his layered tunics as he brings Nyx at a trot down the path towards Impa’s house. Standing guard at the stairs is Dorian, and the man smiles when he spots him coming. “Link,” he says as Link dismounts. “I didn’t expect you to be back again so soon. Was your trip to Zora’s domain successful?”

“It was,” he says. “Would you watch my horse?”

Dorian nods. “Sure.” Link passes him the reins, and walks up the long staircase towards the house. He feels nervous, like he’s not supposed to be here, but he pushes the doors open and walks in anyways. The light is dim inside the house, and Impa sits, as if she never moved, on that stack of pillows in front of the tapestry. A blue blanket sits folded up on her knees. He walks up to her, and she looks at him. Before he can explain why he has come, she speaks.

“You’re back,” she says. “That look in your eyes… what have you remembered?”

Taken aback by how easily she can tell, Link blinks. “I-- Vah Ruta has been freed from the Calamity’s control,” he says. “And some of my memories of Mipha returned.”

Impa nods, the metal ornamentations hanging from her hat swinging. “That’s good,” she says, though Link has a feeling that it was not what she was hoping to hear. “And what happened, in your memories?”

Link glances off to the side. “It was just us, sitting on the Divine Beast and talking. She healed my injured wrist. Nothing else.”

The elder sighs. “I see.” Disappointment flashes across her eyes, and Link wonders what she had wanted it to be, if she expected his memory to be of the princess. “Even so, if your memories of the champions have begun to return, then more must be to follow. For the rest of your journey, opportunities to return here will not be so frequent… I suppose I must give you this now.”

She unfolds the blanket in her lap, revealing it to actually be a tunic, that she holds out to him. Hesitantly, he takes it. The fabric is sky blue, and in several places he can see that it has been torn and stitched back together. There is a history woven into this tunic. On the front, white stitching makes the shape of a sword.

“That is the champion’s garb you wore one hundred years ago,” Impa says, and his fingers tighten involuntarily around the tunic. “Blue is a colour of honour in Hyrule. It is what unified you and the other four champions in your quest. By request of the princess, I have been keeping this safe for you. Handle it with care.”

Link looks up at her, lowering the tunic in his hands. “Is this what you meant by ‘not yet’ the last time we spoke?”

Impa narrows her eyes. “Truthfully… no. Those pictos in your slate, they tell Zelda’s story. Within that old story is a hidden secret, a secret that belongs to the gods, to which you and the princess hold the key… and no one else.”

Speechless, Link looks back down at the tunic, at the sword stitched into the chest. Impa continues.

“Even after a hundred years of prayer, of research and meditation, the answer eludes me. But knowing you, you may be able to find the truth within the truth.”

Shaking his head, Link asks, “How?” He understands, now, why Impa speaks in riddles. She can not give him answers she does not have.

The elder points at the slate. “Walk the path you walked one hundred years ago. Seek out the princess’ story. Learn what really happened. Then… I will show you how it all ended.”

The end… “The sword that seals the darkness,” he mutters, and Impa’s eyes widen. “I came here to ask you about the sword that seals the darkness.”

Impa looks at him for a long moment, saying nothing. Link returns her gaze, steady. “The Master Sword,” she eventually says. “A blade of legend, wielded by heroes past, blessed by the Golden Goddesses… an ancient weapon that chooses its champion. One hundred years ago, it was you, Link, who pulled the Master Sword from its place of waiting. The same place where it waits for you once more.”

Link’s head swims.

“However, I can not tell you where it is. You may argue, but you are not ready. You must arm yourself with the truth before you may seek out the Master Sword.”

A pressure builds up behind his eyes. Link closes them as a headache forms. He doesn’t want to hear any more. “I will,” he says quietly. “Thank you.”

“No, Link,” Impa says. “I must thank you .”

When their eyes meet again, Link sees her for the first time not as a figment of the past, out of touch with Hyrule, nor as someone who expects more from him than he can give, but someone like him . Someone plucked from a different time and left adrift in a new world, trying to collect their missing pieces.

The old champion’s tunic in hand, Link leaves Impa’s home, stepping out into the sunlight.

At the bottom of the stairs, Nyx is trying to take a bite out of Dorian’s hat. The guard is trying to push the horse’s face away, while Nyx keeps trying to get it, and Link hurries his descent down the stairs while trying to smother a chuckle. “Stop that!” He scolds the horse as he grabs her reins and pulls her away from Dorian, whose hat looks slightly mangled and sits askew on his head. “Sorry,” he says. Dorian waves him off.

“Have you finished your business in Kakariko already?” The man asks, and Link looks out at the village. He has, but despite the sense of urgency that drove him from the Domain that morning, he doesn’t really want to leave yet.

“No,” he says. Dorian nods.

After leaving Nyx in the stable, Link goes into the clothing shop, just to see what they have. He sees mostly the same kinds of clothes he’s seen people wearing around in the village, and thinks for a second that if he buys an overtunic that’s actually in his size, he can give Dorian’s back. But even as the thought occurs to him, he knows he’s not going to. There’s a comfort in the warm, oversized coat that he can’t quite name.

What catches his eye the most is a set of specialized stealth gear. Sleek, sturdy fabric that clings tightly to the mannequin, light armour on the shoulders and buckles over the chest that frame the large sheikah eye printed on the front. It comes with a scarf and a mask that covers the nose and mouth, and wrappings for the arms.

“Hey, you’re the hero, right?” The girl behind the counter calls to him as she walks around the counter onto the floor. “You’re interested in that stealth set, right? What do you think? It would look great on you, I’m sure!”

“It’s nice,” Link says, and the shopkeeper nods vigorously.

“Let’s make a deal,” she says, “just for you, since you’re the hero, I’ll sell you the complete set for just a thousand rupees!”

Link’s eyes almost bug out of his head. That’s a lot , and as nice as this is, does he really need a stealth suit? When will he even wear it? He doesn’t need to buy th--

Setting down the giant silver rupee he literally just got this morning on the counter, Link sighs. Claree the shopkeeper hands him the bundle of new clothing with a wide smile. “Are you interested in some finely carved wooden hairpins?” She asks, gesturing to a little display of them next to her on the counter. “They make great gifts, if there’s a girl you’d like to impress! A local girl maybe, who is pretty shy but very sweet? This particular style looks very nice on taller girls!”

Link looks at the display. They’re nice, but I really shouldn’t spend any more money…

He shakes his head.

Walking out of the clothing shop with significantly less money than before, Link checks what he has in the slate on his way over to the other stores. He doesn’t know how long he’ll be on the road next, but judging by how far the other points Impa put on his map are, it’s going to be a while. He’ll need to be able to feed himself better. But he also needs to stock up on more arrows… and he no longer has the rupees to do both.

Damn it.

A voice calling out to him snaps him out of his thoughts. “Hey, hero!” Link looks up, and sees the shopkeep standing in the doorway to her general store. She waves him over with a smile on her face, and Link comes closer. “I have a proposition for you,” the shopkeep grins, glancing him up and down. Link tilts his head.

“You’re a skilled archer, aren’t you?” She asks, and Link nods. Her smile widens. “I’d love to see. How about this? If you can light enough torches using only fire arrows, from far enough away, I’ll fill your quiver.”

Link looks at the unlit torches around the pond she points to. “I can do that,” he says. The shopkeep claps her hands.

“Perfect!”

She sets him up at the base of the steps to Impa’s house. There are four torches, and he has to light them all from longer and longer distances. A few people have gathered to watch. Link glances at Dorian still standing guard, and the man chuckles under his breath as he shakes his head. Link readies his bow, aiming carefully at the first torch. It’s not that he thinks he might miss, he’s just very aware that if he does miss the result will be very, very bad.

He releases the first arrow and embers float up into the air as it perfectly ignites the torch. The people watching cheer, and Link walks backwards a few steps as he knocks the next arrow. Once again it lands true, and he backs up further, now most of the way up the stairs. He squints as he aims at the third torch. Just as he starts to release the string, the wind shifts, and Link inhales sharply as he adjusts his aim before the arrow flies. It grazes the torch and hits the rock behind it, falling into the water, but still the flame caught and the torch is lit.

Last one. Now standing at the top of the stairs with his back to the doors, Link pauses. From inside the house, he can hear muffled yelling.

He fires the last arrow, but before he can see if it hit the target or not a solid force slams into him from behind, and he gets a facefull of the wooden deck as he goes sprawling. There’s a shriek behind him, and Link groans, pushing himself up and rubbing his bruised nose.

“I AM SO SORRY!!” Paya screams. “Let me h-help you--” She bends down to help him up, but jerks her arms back right before touching him, her hands flailing. “U-uhm!”

Link breathes a laugh as he stands up, looking up at the taller girl. There’s a covered basket on her arm. “It’s okay,” he says, even wincing and rubbing his shoulder. He puts his bow away. “It was an accident.”

“Is everything alright out there?” Impa calls from inside the house.

Paya turns to yell, “Everything is f- fine , grandmother!” She slams the door shut, and looks back down at Link, her face reddening. A second passes, then without another word Paya dashes past him and scurries down the steps. Link descends after her.

“Pa--” Link says to the girl’s retreating back before he’s cut off by the shopkeep running up to him, fanning herself unsubtly.

“That was amazing, mr. hero!” She says, holding out a thick bundle of arrows. “Here, as promised! Feel free to stop by the shop anytime you need more.”

“Uh-huh,” Link nods absentmindedly. He glances over at the row of frog statues, but Paya isn’t there. He looks around, and spots her up the road, heading towards the hill. He runs to catch up to her, bundle of arrows tucked under his arm.

“Paya,” he says, and she startles at him appearing at her side seemingly out of thin air. “Are you okay?”

Paya’s eyes widen. “W-w-what do you m-mean?”

Link shrugs. “I thought I heard shouting. Were you and Impa fighting?”

“Uh…” Paya sighs. “Yes, w-we were.” Link just looks at her. Glancing to the side, she continues, “Our v-village’s guardian s-spirit has been dorm-m-mant for a long time. I raised enough rupees to restore her, a-a-at least a little bit, but…” she shakes her head. “S-s-since it’s outside of the village, g-grandmother f-forbade me from going.”

They reach the incline leading up the hill to the shrine. Link remembers the giant plant and the glowing mushrooms where he and Cottla played. “You’re not allowed to leave Kakariko?”

Paya stops and looks at him. “No one is. I-it’s not s-safe.”

“Well,” Link looks up at the hill. “If I’m with you, surely it’ll be fine.”

Paya coughs and looks away. “O-o-okay,” she says, her voice jumping up an octave. For the rest of the walk up, neither says anything.

They reach what Link now knows to be the dormant fairy fountain, sitting still except for the way the tall, glowing mushrooms sway slightly in the breeze. Paya walks up onto the mushroom platform, and Link follows. She sets the basket down and removes the cloth covering it, revealing a heap of rupees, mostly small blue and green ones. “G-great fairy Cotera,” she starts, glancing down at Link and back up. “We b-bring this of-ffering…”

A deep hum echoes from within the bud, and it trembles. “ Sweet children… ” a low, melodic voice calls, lethargically. “ Sweet, sweet children… it’s been so long…

Paya clasps her hands together. “P-please accept this ap-p-pology from the people of Kakariko. We p-pray for your s-strength and protection…”

Link looks up at Paya and copies her pose. The seam in the green bud parts, and a large, finely manicured hand pokes out, reaching for the basket of rupees. “ So kind…” The fingers of the hand sweep through them, and they dissipate into fine sparkles as the hand retreats back into the bud. It starts to tremble and swell, purple sparkling pores leaking from the seams and the top as it slowly curls open, a bright light rising from inside. Link and Paya shield their eyes, and when they look back up, the fountain has restored itself to a beautiful spring. The fuschia flower petals spread up and out and frame the fountain like a throne, gold embellishments line the inside. More fairies than before flit lazily through the air, and all around the fountain hop small glowing frogs, pink and blue and yellow. In the center of it all a giant woman stretches and shakes water out of her hair, looking up at the sky with a smile on her glamorous face. She’s dressed in strings of shining scales, and gold jewelry adorns her neck, wrists and fingers. Link can feel his eyes widening to the size of saucers, and if he were to tear his gaze away for a moment to look up at Paya, he would see her in the same state.

“Aahhhh,” the fairy rests her elbow on the edge of her pool. “The fresh breeze, the sunlight… it’s all simply divine. I thought for sure I would wither away to nothing… thanks to you children, I’ve returned to my former glory.”

Paya bows hurriedly, and Link does the same a beat after. “G-g-great f-fairy Cotera--!” Paya says in a rush, “We are hon-n-noured t-to--”

“Relax, sweet girl,” Cotera smiles, patting her on the head with the tip of her finger, and Paya stammers wordlessly. “A good turn deserves another. I can help you both, with the power that has been returned to me… yes, a small token. Tell me kind children, what is it you desire?”

She looks first at Paya, whose face by now has gone completely red, and she looks down, wringing her hands together. “I s-simply wish for p-peace and good fortune for m-my village--” she’s cut off by a laugh from the great fairy.

“That’s very cute and noble of you,” Cotera chitters, “but what do you really want?”

“U-u-um--” Paya squeaks, glancing at Link, and Cotera chuckles.

“Ah, here’s something,” the great fairy reaches into the fountain and pulls out her closed hand, opening her fingers to reveal a small, silver hairpin, shaped like fairy wings, similar to the ones tucked behind her ear. She gently puts it in Paya’s hair, who stands completely still with wide eyes. “There. What a lovely girl,” she says, then looks down at Link. “And you, little traveller? What would you like?”

Link shrugs.

“You know what? I actually have the perfect thing,” she reaches again into the fountain. This time she pulls out a very small pendant. It’s a small, round but thick piece of glass, with a thin seam running down the middle. Stamped onto the glass is an image of a fairy, and when Link holds it up in the light, a little rainbow shines through. “It’s a good luck charm,” Cotera says, and Link puts it around its neck, tucking the pendant into his tunic. “It was given to me a long time ago by a friend even smaller than you!”

“Thank you very much,” Link says softly, giving a slight bow. The great fairy looks at him for a moment, almost scrutinizing. She leans her elbows on the edge of the fountain.

“You have a long road ahead of you,” she says. “It’s in your eyes. Please, little traveller, if you happen upon the springs of my three sisters, will you help them as well? I’m quite worried for them.”

Link nods. Cotera smiles. “Come by and visit any time you like,” she purrs to the both of them, then disappears back into the fountain with a flourish. The mushrooms glow, the fairies float in the air, and the frogs hop around with musical little croaks.

“Um--” Paya says, grabbing her empty basket and turning to Link. “Th-thank you for coming with me, M-Master Link!” She bows, and Link shakes his head with a smile.

“Of course, Master Paya,” he returns the bow. Paya wheezes and spins on her heel, speed walking away from the fairy fountain. Link watches her go, figuring chasing after her would only embarrass her more. He picks some of the flowers and vegetables that have already magically grown back since he was last here, then goes back down to the village.

First he brings Nyx to the stable, then he goes into the grocer to buy some more food for the road with his remaining rupees. The old woman who runs the shop looks happy to see him when he walks in. “Ah, young hero,” she says, walking over to him as he picks up a carrot. “Have you been watching Dorian’s children again today?”

Grabbing another carrot, Link shakes his head. The old woman hums thoughtfully. “I see. I was wondering if Koko was maybe playing with you and Cottla today.” She sighs, glancing out the window at the outdoor kitchen and dining area connected to the shop. It’s empty, no small child in sight. “It’s odd, she loves cooking so much and practises every chance she gets, but I suppose she’s playing somewhere else. It’s too bad, though, because I was going to surprise her with this,” She goes over to the counter and gestures to a collection of ingredients, including a whole pumpkin. Link walks up and looks at the spread.

“Meat stuffed pumpkin?”

The old woman smiles. “Yes, she said she wanted to try it. She seemed so excited… I wonder what changed her mind?”

“Hm,” Link purses his lips, eyeing all the ingredients. “I could look for her?”

“That would be lovely,” says the old woman. “Is there anything else I can help you find?” She gestures to the two carrots still in his hands, and Link chuckles.

After buying some more vegetables, some cuccoo stock, some eggs, and some more herbs, as well as a wooden bowl and spoon, practically draining his wallet, Link leaves the store and sets out to look for Koko.

First he checks their house, which is empty. He checks the stable, which is not empty, but still no Koko. He finds Cottla trying to catch frogs in one of the ponds, but when asked, she doesn’t know where her sister is. In the pumpkin patch, he finds a broken pumpkin on the ground next to the fence, the guts and seeds spilling onto the grass. Hmm

As he wanders around the village, Link really hopes she didn’t get carried off by bokoblins, or maybe a really big bird. Eventually he finds a path he hasn’t been down before, a narrow straight cutting through the cliff. Strings of lanterns and prayers hang over the path. It takes him to a clearing right on the cliff’s edge, high above the lake below. There’s a single, old tree, and collected on one side of the grassy clearing, many carved rocks. Tombstones.

Sitting at the base of the tree, Koko is crying into her sleeves.

Link runs over and sits down beside her, worry spiking in his chest. “Koko?” he asks quietly. “What’s the matter?”

Koko sniffles, lifting her head. Tears are streaming down her round little cheeks. “Mister Link…” she wipes her nose on her glove. “I’m a bad kid.”

“What?” Link’s eyes widen and his heart sinks. “No you’re not, why would you say that?”

“B-because…” Koko says, “I wanted to make meat-stuff pumpkin, so I went and got one, but,” she sniffles, “it was too heavy! And I dropped it and it broke, so the p-pumpkin is ruined and I didn’t wanna get yelled at… so I hid.”

“Aw, Koko…” Link sighs, putting an arm around Koko’s shoulders. “It’s okay. You’re not a bad kid, I promise. If you’re honest about what happened, I’m sure Olkin won’t be mad you broke his pumpkin. He has lots, doesn’t he?”

Koko hiccups. “I guess so…”

Link smiles. “So, what do you say? Let’s go get a new pumpkin, and you can make meat-stuffed pumpkin just like you wanted.”

The kid nods, but makes no move to get up. “Okay… it’s daddy’s favourite, so I wanna make it good. Like how my mommy used to do it.”

Ah -- Link makes a face. Right. They’re in the graveyard. “O-oh. Did… your mom cook a lot?”

Nodding, Koko looks down. “She was a really good cook, she made food for everybody and it made everyone really happy. I wanna make everyone happy by making them yummy food, too.”

“That sounds really nice,” Link says. “I bet you make her proud.” Koko whimpers, and Link gives her small shoulders a comforting squeeze. “Which grave is your moms? Maybe we can leave something nice.”

Koko scrubs at her cheeks. “She’s not buried here,” she mutters. “I just come to be alone.”

“Oh.”

“Daddy says she’s lost, but she’ll come find us eventually. But I know he’s lying. He’s not good at lying.”

“O-oh.”

Koko crosses her arms over her knees. “I don’t like it here. It’s lonely,” she says, voice muffled by her sleeves. She squints, tears starting to form again in her eyes. “I want… I wanna go home.” She starts to cry again, and Link, out of words, just leans down and wraps his arms around her in a tight hug. She leans into it, and they sit like that for a while, until she’s ready.

They pick up all the ingredients from the shop and lay them all out in the outdoor kitchen. Link commandeers the knife, and cuts the top off the pumpkin so Koko can prepare it. While she’s cleaning and rubbing the inside with the garlic, Link quickly washes and cuts the meat, putting it in one of the cooking pots to sear before doing the same to the vegetables, so they can make the stew.

It takes a while, mostly because while Koko is talented she is not very efficient, but she does well with Link’s help. While they wait for it to be done baking, Link asks Koko about her mom’s best recipes, and the kid excitedly lists off which ones she’s most excited to try. Her ideas range from simple, like fried bananas, to very complicated, like egg pudding. They finish it right on time for dinner, Koko beaming brightly as they set the finished product down on the table. She’s so happy, Link would never guess just from looking at her that an hour and a half ago she was crying her eyes out in the graveyard. Dorian soon arrives with Cottla on his shoulders and plunks the small child down into a seat, exaggeratingly rubbing his hands together in excitement over the meat-stuffed pumpkin. “Wow you two, this looks delicious!” The man says, and Link thinks about what Koko said under the tree.

It is delicious, though. Just the first bite has Link feeling like his inner eye has been blown open, and the kids laugh at how fast he shovels his food in after that.

“Yummy…” Cottla sighs as she lies her cheek down on the table. The sun is going down-- earlier and earlier with autumn casting itself across Hyrule-- and it’s time for bed. Dorian chuckles as he wipes both his children’s faces with a napkin… and Link thinks about what Koko said under the tree.

While Dorian shepherds his children off for bed, Link starts washing the dishes. He manages to get most of them done before Dorian comes back, with a thick book and lantern in hand that he sets down on the table before helping Link with the dishes.

Link looks curiously at the book when they’re done, and Dorian sits down at the table, opening the cover. “I felt bad I couldn’t help you much with all the locations in your pictos,” he says, and Link sits down next to him. “I thought we could try and figure out more about where they are.”

It’s a book of flora from all over Hyrule. Link takes out the slate and opens up the picto album. They go to the one that Dorian hadn’t been able to identify before, the last one of Zelda’s album. They squint at the plants and trees.

“Ferns, oak and maple trees… it’s hard to tell, but I think those might be…” Dorian flips through the book. “I think violets. So that would make this somewhere in central Hyrule as well, maybe more eastward?”

Link nods. “Uh, I was wondering… about something Koko said earlier today.” Dorian pauses, looking sideways at him. “She said she was homesick? I guess it was just confusing, I thought Kakariko village was the only place Sheikah lived.”

“There were more before the Calamity. Deya was a majority-Sheikah settlement as well. But now all that remain aside from here are sparse caravans.” He looks off into the distance, stroking his beard in thought. “We were originally part of a Sheikah caravan near the Gerudo valley, but when Cottla was two my wife and I decided it wasn’t safe enough in the wilds to raise children.” Dorian sighs. “Unfortunately, Relyu, my wife, didn’t survive the journey here.”

“Oh.” Link says, “I’m sorry.”

Dorian shakes his head. “It’s in the past, now,” he says, “Nothing to do but move forward, right?” Link nods, and Dorian looks at him. He pokes Link’s ear, and Link squirms. “You’re Sheikah, aren’t you?”

Link gives him a puzzled look.

“Or at least partly,” Dorian continues. “Did you have a Sheikah parent? Your ears, the shape of your eyes-- you must have, I’d stake my life on it.”

Looking away, Link shrugs. “I, uh… I don’t remember.” Out of his line of sight, Dorian says nothing, only takes one breath in and out.

“So it’s true, then,” the man says after a moment’s pause. “You really don’t remember a thing? I’d heard rumours, but…”

Link shakes his head, hunching his shoulders. He puts one elbow on the table, rubs the back of his neck. Hides. “Well, I remember-- I remember some things, but… it’s barely anything, and it only comes in flashes and-- and I don’t remember my family.”

Dorian sighs. Link startles as a large, strong arm curls around his shoulders, giving a comforting squeeze. His coat is soft and pillowy, and his shoulder underneath is sturdy. Link shakes, and for the barest of seconds, he’s sitting somewhere else, with someone else. The feeling flies by before Link can even try to grasp it. He turns, hiding his face in Dorian’s coat, as the man rubs his trembling shoulders. “Aw, kid…” the man says, and Link’s hands curl to fists in his lap, but he does not cry.

He does not cry.

Notes:

im not crying youre criyng >:'(

Next up: travelling to the Gerudo region!

ALSO ALSO ALSO DO NOT FORGET TO FOLLOW OUR TUMBLR BLOG @zelda-without-a-licence-plate !!!!!!

Chapter 16: filler episode

Summary:

Link travels, remembers, and fails to remember. He meets someone he was meant to meet before.

Notes:

this chapter is shorter than usual sorry, mostly just to get him from one place to another-- but there is good stuff here!! there's substance!! there's JOKES!!!!! yahoooooo

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Early enough in the morning that the first rays of sun barely peek over the hills, Link leaves Kakariko village. He takes the south road through the pillars of Levia. The point on his map marking the Death Mountain Divine Beast is closer, but he would have to directly retrace his steps from yesterday and so even though he knows it’s farther, he wants to see more things he hasn’t seen yet.

So he takes the road to the Gerudo Desert.

The road beneath the Great Plateau cuts off into the empty parts of his map, but he remembers seeing it stretch both ways, so if that road doesn’t take him to the valley, then surely it will connect to one that will.

Link rides Nyx out over the bridge and lifts a hand to shield his eyes as the sun climbs into the sky, beaming over the fields and mountains, lighting the clouds up pink and shining over Dueling Peaks. He doesn’t stop at the stable, but as he passes by he tries to spot Sagessa. He doesn’t see her there.

The wind blows the clouds across the horizon and the sun follows Link as he travels. He reaches the edge of his map by the afternoon, in the ruins at the foot of the Great Plateau.

Just up ahead, something catches his eye that has him accidentally yanking roughly on Nyx’s reins. Just off the road, an expanse of birch trees. Quickly, just to make sure, Link grabs the slate and checks the pictos-- yes, this is the place. He steers Nyx off the road, guiding her forward at a slow trot. He looks around him, looks back at the picto, looks around. Coming up to the edge of the lake, he dismounts and leaves Nyx to drink and walks further into the trees.

The landscape is different, but unmistakable. That rock is now covered in moss where in the picto it’s bare, and new saplings grow in the grass. Link turns. And of course, that building is in ruins now.

He’s not sure what to do, here. Slate in hand, Link sighs, walking in a slow circle before ultimately just sitting down in the grass, resting his chin in his palm. He rubs his forehead, trying to concentrate on remembering. Try, try to remember.

At the lake, Nyx whinnies and splashes in the water, tossing her mane. Link looks up at the sky, the sun in his eyes, and everything goes white.

Link held both horse’s reins as he guided Epona and the royal horse of the day to the water to drink, while Zelda indulged in her scientific nature by taking samples of the bark of the trees around them. She had steered off the road all of a sudden with no explanation, muttering under her breath, and Link simply followed and did not question, because that was his job. The princess continued to mutter to herself as she came back over with strips of bark that she placed carefully in her horse’s pack, as well as more vials of dirt and some leaves. Link didn’t know what any of it was for.

“We’ll take just a quick rest before continuing on to Rhydesalt city,” she said as she fiddled with the packs, taking out a small notebook and pen. “From Daruk’s letters, my best guess would be that his Divine Beast is simply stuck on autopilot. There’s still a great deal we don’t know about the Divine Beasts, however, I am motivated by the fact that they were built by people. That means we can certainly figure out how they work, and how to use them to our advantage.”

The princess turned back towards the copse of trees, then paused mid-step. “They are, after all… our best chance at defeating the Calamity.” A moment passed where she stood there, not looking at him, and he looked at her, not saying anything. “Tell me the truth,” she says, quieter than she was just seconds ago. “How proficient are you right now, wielding that sword on your back?”

Link stilled at her words, even the breeze not touching him as he said nothing, only watching. The princess continued, “Legends say that an ancient voice resonates inside it. Can you hear it yet… Hero?”

As she turned to look at him, the edges of his vision blurred,

And Link stumbles back, catching himself in the grass, looking up at the blue sky. His breath rattles around in his chest as he leans forward, closing his eyes and trying to go back. The Master Sword… a voice? What was his answer? Did he answer her?

Could he hear it?

He can’t remember.

Nyx walks at a subdued pace along the road, Link not really bothering to urge her on faster. He sits in the saddle, his mind elsewhere, left behind at lake Kolomo. He passes a lone tree by the road, and a rustling in the branches pulls his attention back to the present. Link tugs on the reins and Nyx stops. For a second nothing happens, then there’s another minute movement in the leaves. All at once Nyx rears back with a whinny, Link draws his bow as he’s thrown from the saddle, two arrows fly from the tree past his nose, and Link returns fire from the air. A streak of red and black flings itself from the tree, Link lands with a roll, the two arrows embed themselves in the road and his lands with a solid thunk in the trunk of the tree.

“You’re quick, Hero,” a grating voice sneers as the Yiga assassin lands delicately on the road, their bow drawn. “But not quick enough!” In a flash they fire another two arrows at once, and Link rolls out of the way right before they can just graze his ear. He fires another arrow of his own at the assassin, the arrowhead cutting across the back of their hand. They yelp, dropping their bow, and Link advances on them, whipping out a sharp forked boomerang he took from a Lizalfos in Zora’s Domain.

“I’m plenty quick,” he snaps at the assassin, pointing the bladed boomerang at their chest. They scramble backwards with another yelp, but Link doesn’t let up. “How long have you been following me,” he demands with a quiet hiss.

The assassin shakes their head. “I wasn’t following you!” They wave their hands back and forth frantically. “I was taking a nap! If I was following you, then you would already be dead, false hero .”

Link pokes them with the boomerang, the jagged edge snagging on the fabric of their stealth suit. “Doubtful,” he glares. “What do the Yiga want with me-- tell me the truth .”

The panic in the assassin’s posture vanishes, and they chuckle. “Oh, poor little meow meow,” they say mockingly, “you don’t deserve the truth.”

The eye on their mask flashes purple, and Link’s eyes widen, but they’ve already disappeared in a burst of magenta light before he can do or say anything else. With a snarled curse, Link throws his weapon down, frustration and anger pulsing hot in his chest. He hears hoofsteps on the road behind him, and hot air on the top of his head as Nyx nuzzles his hair. Link sighs, and pushes himself to his feet.

Just up ahead, past the fork in the road, is a stable. The sun creeps behind the high cliffs on either side of him, casting long, dark shadows. He has come a long way in just one day, but there is still a long way to go. He takes Nyx’s reins and heads for the stable.

A dog comes running up to him as Link arrives, orange and red leaves from the trees drifting on the breeze around them. The dog pants happily and circles around Link’s legs as he walks, and Link gives the animal a tired smile. He fishes out a piece of dried meat and tosses it to the dog, who jumps up to catch the treat in its mouth with an excited yip .

He boards Nyx and pays for a bed for one night, then goes back outside to sit by the cooking pot. There are a few people about, but no one is using it, so Link makes stew. While he scoops out helpings into people’s bowls, he asks a very tired-looking man in the stable uniform with sharp cheekbones for directions to the Gerudo desert. He’s told it was back at the fork in the road where he came from, only he would have to go southwest instead of north. From there, there’s only one road through the valley.

Link checks on Nyx once more to make sure she’s comfortable and then goes to bed early, closing the curtain around the bed and pulling the blankets up to his chin just as the sky darkens.

In the morning, Link is the first one in the stable to wake up. He yawns and stretches, adjusting the large warm doublet that he’d taken to wearing as pyjamas so that the collar isn’t falling off his shoulder. He goes outside to the well for some water, looking around as he pulls the bucket up. The glare of the morning sun is bright, but he can make out another traveller on the road, coming from the same direction he did yesterday. Link squints. Something about the traveller’s silhouette is familiar…

The man comes closer, and Link’s eyes widen. The patched cloak covering the top half of his face, the proud white beard spilling out voluminously over his chest, the walking stick with the lantern… Link drops the bucket, water spilling over the ground.

King Rhoam Bospheramus Hyrule!?

The disguised spirit stops just meters away, also frozen looking right at him. Link glares, and the wind lifts the hood just slightly, showing him a glimpse of the man’s eyes. His glare fades, confusing seeping in. There’s something off about him…

Then the man points right at him, shouting, “That’s my doublet!”

Link startles, staring blankly as the spirit (?) marches up to him. He doesn’t understand, this man looks and sounds like the dead king he met when he awoke, and yet-- he’s completely different, his aura is different and he carries himself differently-- and also he just yelled at him. Link points to himself in place of asking the two thousand questions he has, and the not-spirit (?) shakes his head, pulling the hood of his cloak back.

“I thought it was bokoblins that took it, but no, of course it was you . Two days, I was gone for two days and you disappear right out from under my nose!” He seethes. “You little monster!”

Link blinks. “Sorry,” he coughs, “are you… not King Rhoam Bospheramus Hyrule?”

The man stops, looking at him now with equal confusion. “Pardon me?”

“...and once I’d done all four shrines, he revealed himself as the spirit of the king from one hundred years ago,” Link tells the definitely-not-spirit man as he draws the bucket up from the well a second time, what happened after he woke up in the shrine of resurrection. The man nods along with his story, sighing and pinching the bridge of his nose. “I swear to Farore, he looked just like you.”

“And it would have absolutely killed you to wait until morning to leave the plateau?”

Link looks up at him and shrugs.

“Whose house did you think you took that doublet from?”

Link shrugs again. “King Rhoam’s?”

“It was my house,” the man says. Link cups some of the frigid water in his hands and drinks. It spills down his chin and over the front of the doublet. “My name is Hoshi Kubo. My family have been the keepers of the Temple of Time for many, many generations… and it was my life’s purpose to watch over your place of rest, so I could guide you when you finally awoke.”

“Oh,” Link lowers his hands. “Uh. Sorry.” He looks down, and picks at the hem of the oversized wool doublet. “Do you want your tunic back?”

Hoshi looks at the bloodstains and tears in the fabric, hesitating. “...No, you can keep it.” He looks around. “Where’s your companion?”

Link blinks, collecting another handful of water. “Companion?” He splashes the water over his head, cleaning his face. “Like a boyfriend? I don’t even have a girlfriend.”

Shaking his head, Hoshi sighs. “Nevermind. It will catch up to you eventually.” He says with a sage nod, “I wish you good fortune on your journey, Hero. Should you find yourself desiring a respite from your trials, you may always return to the Great Plateau. Peace will find you there.”

“Thank you,” Link nods, then pauses. “Wait, how… did you leave the plateau? Was the paraglider yours, too? Sorry about that…”

Hoshi gives him a confused look. “I rigged a pulley system on the wall just east of my house,” he says. “What paraglider?”

“N… nevermind,” Link says. “Um… it was good to meet you, Mister Kubo. I’m sorry it took this long for our paths to cross.”

“As am I,” Hoshi bows. “But it would have happened eventually. It was my destiny to guide you; though perhaps it was not upon your awakening that my guidance was needed. The future is ever changing.”

Link tilts his head. “Then maybe, there will be another time when I will need you?”

Pulling his hood back over his head, Hoshi hums in thought. “Maybe.”

Link fetches Nyx from the stable after eating breakfast and putting his travelling clothes back on, and sets off back towards the fork in the road. Up ahead, tall flat expanses of orange rock stretch up towards the sky, and emerging from the peaks is an orange glowing tower. He makes that tower his focal point as he and his horse race along the road towards the valley. Slowing down when they reach a long, rickety suspension bridge, Link holds tightly onto Nyx’s reins and does not look down at the deep, fast moving river so so far below. The bridge creaks and groans under the horse’s hooves. Link does not look down.

In the middle of the bridge, a hulking beast with rough blue skin sleeps-- a hinox. So far, Link has only seen them from a distance, and this fearsome fellow is very much in his way. It grumbles and scratches in its sleep, and Link’s nose scrunches as he gets closer and the foul odour reaches him. That thing could crush him and his horse under its fist.

No, thank you , Link snaps the reins and Nyx whinnies as they race past. By the time the hinox wakes up, they’ve reached the end of the bridge.

But the hinox was not the last of their obstacles. Just up ahead on the road are two bokoblins on horseback, and they will not be so easily evaded. One blue, and one…

The silver skin of the new bokoblin Link has not seen before gleams unnaturally under the morning sun, its stripes more rough and leathery, less real than its counterpart. Even from a distance Link can see the malicious glint in its red, glowing eyes, looking around with a frightening intent and focus completely different from the curious glances of the blue bokoblin. I have a bad feeling about this

Link quickly switches out his forked boomerang for the Lightscale trident. The bokoblins notice him and squeal as he rushes them. The silver has a flimsy bow in hand and fires an arrow at him that narrowly misses, nearly catching the fabric on his shoulder, and the blue swings its club around in the air with a screech. Still going top speed towards the menacing roadblocks, Nyx rears up and kicks the blue bokoblin off its horse, and it tumbles to the ground with a cry. Link jabs at the silver monster with the trident, the overly long reach of the gleaming weapon working to his advantage as he knocks the bow out of the monster’s grip.

It doesn’t like that. The silver jerks its horse towards him and Link veers out of the way, swinging the trident around like how he saw the blue bokoblin do, catching the silver on the head, but the blow isn't enough to knock it to the ground. They run in circles around each other, Link jabbing at the monster when it's in range and the silver trying to swipe at him with its claws.

After a frustratingly long back-and-forth, Link finally manages to knock the monster to the ground and jumps down from his saddle after it, burying the trident in its chest. It screeches, clawing at him still, but it doesn’t die, and Link recoils in horror as purple and black muck starts oozing out of the wound. He stabs it again, and again, and again and only then does it start to wither, disappearing in a burst of acrid indigo smoke.

Link catches his breath. He’s sweaty. Climbing back into the saddle, Link squints up at the clear, bright blue sky and the red peaks. It’s hot, the air dry, where just across the river it was chilly and windy.

Before him looms the Gerudo Valley.

Notes:

oooooOOOOooOoOoOoOOOOoooohhhhhh

Did you guys enjoy Anon's oc Hoshi? he is very cool and we love him very much :) (he MAKES SENSEEEEE) stay tuned for more Hoshi content (eventually)

don't forget to come follow us on tumblr @zelda-without-a-licence-plate WHEEEEE

Chapter 17: Link rolls a nat 20 on friendship

Summary:

Link meets a variety of people in the Gerudo Canyon.

Notes:

WHEEEEEEEEEEEEE EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

A dusty wind whistles between the high cliffs, blowing dirt into Link’s face. He pulls his hood up, looking up at the clear sliver of sky as he rides into the canyon. Above his head he can see old scaffolding built against the sides of the cliffs, running along the entire canyon from where he can see. Up ahead there’s an old lantern, nestled against a large boulder, and a man standing next to an unlit campfire. Link wasn’t going to give him much more than a nod as he passed, but the guy jumps out into the road in front of him, and Link jerks on Nyx’s reins to stop her before they hit him.

“Hey, hey!” The guy says with a smile that seems too wide to Link. “I sure wasn’t expecting to meet anyone out here-- maybe this is just the upturn in luck I needed!”

Link tilts his head at him.

“Yeah, so yeah, I’m a traveller like you, see?” The guy gestures to Link, then to himself, then around him. “I was attacked by monsters in this very canyon… that’s when my partner, that is to say my horse, ran off. And hey, I’ve been stranded here ever since…” He shakes his head, and looks up at Link with a glint in his eye. Link unconsciously tightens his hold on Nyx’s reins. He doesn’t like the… energy, coming off of this man. “All I need is a horse to continue my travels… a horse… hey, I know this is asking a lot! But could I buy that horse for, oh… three hundred rupees?”

Link scoffs venomously. “I refuse,” he says, voice hard. “She’s not for sale.” The traveller raises an eyebrow at him.

“Heyyyy,” he starts to say, but Link pulls Nyx’s reins and takes off past him, and he has to jump out of the way. The nerve of that guy , Link grumbles as he rides. I wouldn’t trust him with my horse as far as I could throw my horse .

He’s caught up enough in his thoughts that he almost doesn’t hear the shouting and screeching. He stops, looking around-- it sounded close, really close, but there’s no--

Another shout, and Link looks up. The scaffolding…

He dismounts and dashes up the nearby ramp up the side of the cliff, drawing his forked boomerang. Right away there’s a blue bokoblin blocking his way, and it grunts as it swings its spiked club at him. Link leans out of the way of the swipe and in two fast slashes from his boomerang the boko is falling, disappearing into smoke. He races further up, but still doesn’t see any people being attacked. He’s certain he heard--

Another boko stands in the way. He perfectly parries its attack and knocks it back off the scaffolding, high up enough that it dies when it hits the ground. Link takes the sharp turn up further, to where more long rickety boards stretch across the canyon. On the other side, he finally spots the source of the commotion; a traveller crouched on the very edge of the ramp, cornered by two screeching bokoblins.

In a flash Link draws the bow he took from that Yiga scout, aiming and firing two arrows at once that lodge themselves in the back of one of the boko’s heads, killing it instantly. The other jumps and looks over at him with a squeal, readying its own bow, but it misses by a long shot and Link dispatches it as he advances across the frail bridge.

The traveller starts to slowly stand up as Link comes jogging up to her. Her pigtails swing as she looks around, dusting off her pink coat and quickly, surreptitiously scrubbing tear tracks from her round brown cheeks. “Wait… am I… saved?” She asks. Link puts his bow away on his back. “Phew, thank you so much… that was so scary, but at least I’m safe now-- no thanks to Sesami! As soon as the monsters showed up, he ran away as fast as he could and left us for dead. Who does that! Especially to a girl!”

“Us?”

“Yes--” the girl looks around. “My friends and I got attacked and separated… Oliff helped me get away, but I don’t know where he is now…” She looks down with a worried expression. Link scans the scaffolding and cliffs, but doesn’t see anyone else.

“How many were you?” He asks, and the girl swallows.

“Five,” she says. “They must still be in trouble… will you help me find them, please?”

“Of course,” Link nods, glancing down at the road below, then around the cliffs again. He takes his forked boomerang back out, and the traveller glances down at the jagged gleaming blade.

“Thank you so much,” the girl beams, clasping her hands in front of her as they take off at a hurried pace along the creaking wooden planks. “My name is Canolo, by the way! What’s yours?”

“Link,” he says over his shoulder.

They encounter another four blue bokos, all armed with sharp spears that have Link’s shield arm sore already, Canolo trying to shield herself behind him as best she can despite being taller, before they spot anyone else. Canolo gives a cry when they see it-- another traveller, just barely fending off another two bokoblins with his shield raised.

Link rushes forward, and one of the bokoblins turns on his arrival, swiping at him with its weapon. Link backflips out of the way of the attack and catches the spiked club in the inner cut of his boomerang and disarms the monster. Careful to keep his balance on the unstable ramp, he does a spin attack that sends both the monsters flying.

The traveller lowers his shield, looking at Link with wide eyes and a slack jaw. Canolo maneuvers around Link, running to her friend with a smile on her face. “Oliff!” She exclaims, “you’re okay!”

“Canolo! I’m so glad you’re safe,” says Oliff. He has sleek dark hair pulled back in a ponytail, a thin moustache, and a style of dress Link recalls seeing in Hateno village. Dark kohl is smudged all around his eyes, streaking his tanned face. The traveller then looks over her head at Link, a hint of pink appearing in his cheeks, Link notices. “I’ve… never seen anyone fight like that! Wonderful-- I, I mean… I’m a decent fighter myself, but I was just caught off guard. Thank you.”

Link nods, and Oliff looks back at Canolo. “Are you alright? What happened?”

“More monsters showed up after you led the first ones away,” Canolo says. She punches him on the shoulder. “That was so stupid! If Link hadn’t come, you would have been killed!”

“Yes,” Oliff sighs, turning to Link. “I hate to think what would’ve happened had you not shown up. By the goddesses, I’m grateful.”

Link looks across the canyon. “More of your friends are probably still in danger,” he says, shielding his eyes from the sun with his hand. “We should keep moving.”

The three of them cross over again. Two more bokoblins next to some barrels and boxes block their way, and despite the uncomfortable heat and sweat collecting in his tunic, Link charges ahead. Oliff tries to help fight them off, but Link still does most of the heavy hitting. Dispatching these monsters is getting easier and easier the more he fights, and settles into the muscle memory.

There’s more scaffolding straight ahead dotted with monsters, and a ladder leading straight up. They split up, Link heading in the direction of the monsters, and Canolo and Oliff taking the ladder. He kills another two bokoblins along the planks, and his bangs are starting to stick to his forehead with sweat. He has to admit, this is a lot more physical exertion than he would really prefer to be doing in this heat.

The scaffolding comes to an end with a covered platform. Three bokoblins jump, squealing, around a few large wooden crates. Link runs forward, and by the time the monsters have noticed an attacker coming from behind Link has already slashed across the back of their necks with his sharp boomerang. They burst into smoke, and as Link is collecting their dropped parts, a third traveller peeks out from behind the crates.

“Huh?” They look around, spotting Link, who takes a long drink from his waterskin. “The monsters… did you get rid of them?”

Link nods, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, and the traveller scoots back out into the open. Their brown hair swishes around their square jaw. “That’s incredible! You’re incredible! I’m Palme, by the way.” They shake their head with a grin. “Wow, three at once! You might even be braver than Sesami!”

“Uh,” Link looks at them, “Sesami left Canolo to die…”

“What?” Palme blinks. “He-- what? But he said he’d mastered the martial arts! Was that… a lie?” Link shrugs. “Wait, you know Canolo? Where is she, is she okay?”

Link points back where he came from. “Canolo and Oliff are over there,” he starts to turn back. “We should hurry, there are bokoblins everywhere.”

“Yes sir, mysterious hero!” Palme mock-salutes, and Link’s steps falter just barely as they head back to the ladder.

There had been a mild concern in Link’s mind about not being able to find the other two again, but as soon as they go up to the next level they’re right there, fending off another blue bokoblin. Together Canolo and Oliff manage to push it off the scaffolding, sending the monster tumbling to the road below with a screech.

“You guys are okay!” Palme cheers, and their two friends turn around with excited smiles. The three of them hug, clustered on the narrow walkway. “Has anyone seen Flaxel?”

“She must be further up.”

Link scooches around the friendship blob to take up the front again, and they continue upwards. For several minutes as they climb higher and higher, the canyon is ominously quiet. They come to one last ladder, and, suspicious, Link turns to the group and gestures for them to be quiet, and to stay there. He climbs the ladder slowly, just barely peeking over onto the next level. Empty…

Below him, he hears a shout, and turns his head to see a cluster of monsters advancing on them out of nowhere. Link hisses and jumps up to the top of the ladder, grabbing his bow-- the walkway is too narrow to get around the travellers. “Stay back!” He barks at the group, and the three of them huddle against the ladder.

Link shoots two arrows into the wood at the advancing monsters’ feet, a warning shot, then when it stops he takes the first one down in one headshot. He draws another arrow and aims for the next monster, when a hard squeal behind him startles him. He spins around. Another two bokoblins had snuck up behind him-- somehow -- and swipe at him with their claws. He grabs one by the shoulders and sweeps its legs out from under it, sending it flying off the side of the scaffolding, but there’s still another one right on top of him and more advancing from below. A glance behind shows Oliff is fending the monsters back with his shortsword, but they’re not giving up.

Damn it. Link dodges a two-armed grab from the bokoblin and leaps off of the platform, jumping over the heads of the travellers and just barely landing in front of the advancing monsters with enough balance to whip out his bladed boomerang and attack.

Sweat drips into his eyes as he pushes the bokos back, cutting them down as fast as he can manage. Just as he fells the last one he hears a screech and twists, remembering the boko left at the top of the ladder. But all he sees is dissipating smoke, and a woman standing on the level above them, sword in hand. Her sturdy travelling clothes are in oranges and browns, matching the rusty colour of her hair cut choppily close to her skull. She has an air of regality about her, despite her plain style.

“Flaxel!” The travellers cheer, climbing the ladder up to their friend. She smiles as she sheathes her sword, accepting the group hug that engulfs her.

On the walkway behind them, Link sees another boko come running. He takes out his bow and quick-shots an arrow at its head, knocking it off the scaffolding just before it reaches the group. They part, and make room for Link to climb up the ladder after them.

“That was amazing, Link!” Canolo cheers as Link pants for breath, wiping the sweat from his face.

“Flaxel, this is Link. He saved all of us,” Oliff says, and Link waves to the fourth traveller, who gives him a nod and a smile.

“Thanks, pal,” she says. “This whole ordeal could’ve been the end of us-- wait, where’s Sesami?”

“Sesami ditched,” Palme scowls, and Flaxel scoffs.

“Seriously! That coward… when I see him again, you can bet I’ll give him a piece of my mind. A piece of my fist, too!”

“What were you all doing up here, anyways?” Link asks, and Oliff points to the sheikah tower poking up from the mountain right next to them.

“We wanted to see that thing,” he says. “It just appeared in the distance one day while we were in Palace City, so we thought we’d check it out on our way out of the desert.”

“Oh,” Link says. “That’s where I was going, too.”

The whole group lights up. “That’s great! We can all go together!” Palme starts to walk towards the plateau the scaffolding brought them to. “Come on, not much farther now!”

He didn’t technically agree to this, but as the group heads out onto the plateau he follows anyway. There, you know, might be more monsters up there.

There aren’t any, an appreciated reprieve from the last half hour of near-constant combat. The travellers chatter as they trek up towards the next, higher plateau, and Link listens but doesn’t add anything. Eventually, when the sun is lower in the sky, approaching evening, they reach more scaffolding that will take them up to the highest level, and stop to rest for a minute.

Link takes the opportunity to shed some of his layers, unlacing his leather armour and stashing it, the outer tunic and the chainmail in the slate, leaving his sweat-stained turtleneck. He sighs in relief as the breeze brushes against his neck, cooling him. He takes another long drink from his waterskin, almost draining it, and looks out over the highlands that smother the horizon, and the sun that lights them up orange. A stirring of familiarity nudges his mind, and he takes the slate back out, opening up the picto album. Where… ah, there ! He finds the picto he was looking for and holds the slate up, matching the line of the mountain to the one in front of him, the bright sunset in the picto dying the background orange.

He lowers the slate and looks around again, a new purpose to his searching eye.

“It’s amazing up here !” Link hears a familiar voice say, and he looks over at the group a little ways off-- none of them had said it. He looks away, and the mountains spin, and then he’s no longer in the present.

Princess Zelda ran faster than advisable along the scaffolding, running her hand along the rough, carved out stone and looking at all the tools the Gerudo and Sheikah had used to excavate Vah Naboris. She was still so high off their victory in the desert that she seemed to have forgotten, for the moment, that she hated Link. “I mean, such a huge, magnificent beast as Naboris was hidden away in these mountains and we had no idea -- just imagine how much more of our history is hidden right under our feet! There could even be--” she spun around to look back at him, her arms spread out wide, and cut herself off with a yelp as she accidentally smacked the back of her hand hard right into the rockface next to her. Whatever she was going to say next was never said as she pulled her hand close to her chest, wincing. “Ow, ow, owww…”

Link shakes his head, looking next to him where, in his mind, the princess was just standing. He holds the slate tighter, closes his eyes and concentrates.

The princess pouted as Link dabbed a cool salve on her bruised knuckles and wrapped them in a bandage from his pouch. She chattered still about the Divine Beast, about how it was a miracle all the moving parts were still in good condition after having been underground so long, only interrupting herself with a hiss when he pulled the bandages too tight. He wasn’t entirely paying attention, only looking up in surprise when she asked him what he thought about it all.

“Hey, Link. Ready to keep going?”

Link twists his head, and the travellers are looking at him expectantly. Flaxel nods towards the tower, and he wordlessly follows.

“Aw, man,” Canolo laments when they reach the base of the tower, only to find it rising from the middle of a pond of uncrossable muck. “Well, it looks cool up close… I really did want to see the top, though.”

The group stands around the edge of the gross, bubbling pond, sharing disappointed sighs. “The view must be crazy up there…” Flaxel says.

Link looks around them, noticing the large, metal weight blocks gathered around the plateau, and the semi-stable stone pillars emerging from the muck. “Hold on,” he says slowly, walking towards the crates and taking the slate in hand. While the group of friends watches with gasps of surprise and wonder, he uses the magnesis rune to move the weight blocks into the pond, creating a metal bridge just barely breaching the surface of the muck. He hops along the makeshift bridge up to one of the pillars, and tosses a remote bomb into the pond, detonating it when it should be just far enough to not catch him in the blast.

The pillar shivers and tilts, then falls over, knocking into the other two, creating an almost-ramp leading right up to the tower. He turns to the group and waves them over, and after a second of just staring at him in shock, the four of them scramble across the bridge towards him with not nearly as much caution as Link thinks they should have, and well, there’s something that’s familiar .

“How did you do that!” Palme exclaims when they reach him, and Link holds up the slate.

“Ancient Sheikah technology,” he says, “it was a gift.”

“That is truly impressive,” Flaxel says. “You’re quite an asset, Link.” Link looks down and gives a bashful shrug.

It takes some more careful climbing because the angle of the pillars is a little steep, but soon the five of them come right up to the tower.

“Wow, this… this thing is really tall,” Oliff sweats a little as they all crane their necks to look at it. Canolo reaches out to feel the solid, trellis-like makeup of the tower.

“I guess it’s just like climbing a really tall… weirdly shaped ladder?” She says, and Link nods.

“We’ll take it slow,” Flaxel says. “One person climbs to each platform at a time, wait until everyone is there to keep going.”

Canolo nods and pulls herself up, picking her way up towards the first platform. Once she’s standing on it and waving down to them with an excited smile, Palme is the next to go up, then Flaxel. Link looks to Oliff, who fidgets. “I don’t know… maybe one of us should stay on the ground. You know, in case, uh… in case…”

“Are you afraid of heights?” Link asks deadpan, and Oliff jumps.

“No!” He denies. “I mean-- this is-- this is a reasonable height to be afraid of!”

“It’s okay,” Link offers him a light smile. “I don't like heights, either. The towers are very sturdy. I’ve climbed four already.” Oliff’s eyes widen.

“Who the hell are you!?”

Link doesn’t answer that question. “Besides, I’ll be right behind you. You’ll be fine.” Oliff gulps and looks back up at the tower.

“Okay…” he says, still nervous, and grabs the first handhold. He puts his foot on one of the gaps, then puts it back on the pillar, then tries again. He looks back at Link, who nods, and up at his friends, who wave him up with encouraging smiles. Oliff climbs.

It’s a long, gruelling climb. Link could make it to the top a lot faster than the rest if he wanted to, but he takes up the rear anyway, watching the others pick their way up ahead of him. So everyone is already looking out at the view with wide eyes and slack jaws when he pulls himself up and walks up to the terminal. He inserts the slate, and the rest of them jump in surprise as the tower makes noise, changing from orange to blue.

“Wow!” Palme runs over next to Link, watching the map download onto the slate, looking up at the guidance stone. “What does that say?”

“It says it’s downloading,” Link says. The other three huddle around to see the area’s map appear on the slate. The edges of the region curve in a strange, sharp angle, branches of roads emerging from the gateway at the end of the canyon into the desert, ending abruptly about halfway to the edge of the map. The desert looks massive.

The view is breathtaking, though. It’s the highest tower Link has climbed yet, and Hyrule stretches beyond the horizon from all angles. The sun sinks out of view, above it a tall tapestry of orange, pink, yellow, violet, indigo, and a deep inky black dotted by the bright white stars that emerge in the fading light.

It’s a lot colder up here than it is down on the road, especially now that night is coming. He can see his breath in little white puffs, the others too. Quickly, he takes his extra clothes from the slate and starts layering them back on, as well as his cloak and the scarf that came with his stealth suit.

“Should we make camp up here?” Palme asks, and Oliff visibly hesitates, but both Canolo and Flaxel nod.

“A night under the stars is only better when you’re this close to them,” Canolo smiles, looking up. Flaxel removes her pack from her shoulders and starts unpacking their supplies for the night, setting out one campfire’s worth of wood and some firestarter.

Oliff builds the fire, Canolo spreads out blankets, and Link lets Palme get a closer look at the sheikah slate while he assembles skewers for everyone.

It’s… nice. It’s nice. Link realizes he likes sensing the presence of others around him like this, he likes the constant stream of chatter in the background, even if he doesn’t really contribute. He likes making food for lots of people.

But when everyone has finished eating and starts laying out their bedrolls, Link doesn’t do the same. “I have to go,” he says with regret, and the travelling friends give him disappointed looks.

“Aw, really?” Canolo asks. “Why?”

“You know, we could use another member in our group,” Flaxel adds. “If you want to stick around. Especially since we’re definitely kicking out Sesami.”

Link shakes his head. “Sorry,” he says, and he means it. “I actually left my horse by the road when I found you. I don’t want to leave her down there all night. Besides…” He trails off, and doesn’t finish. He unfurls his paraglider.

Oliff gives him a look of understanding. “That’s okay,” he says. “Maybe… we might see you again on the road someday.”

Link nods. Palme starts to wave goodbye, and the others do the same. “Bye, Link,” they say, “thank you so much!”

To the sound of their calls of farewell, Link sails down from the tower back towards the road. He lands clumsily on the lowest level of scaffolding, his arms killing him -- he needs to train more. The warm glow of the campfire still sits in his chest as he walks back down to the road and whistles for Nyx, but that feeling fades when the echo of his whistle is met with silence. No whinny, no hoofsteps… nothing.

Ice creeps into his lungs and Link tries not to freak out-- maybe she just didn’t hear him. He whistles again, looking up and down the road for his mare’s stark white mane in the dark night.

Still nothing.

He starts to run, up and down the road, all around where he left her, he could have sworn he left her right here ! But there’s no sign of her, and another whistle simply fades into the night, unanswered.

Link’s breath quickens until he’s gasping, his fingers going numb with panic.

Nyx is gone.

Notes:

wow that was a lot!!! Very much enjoyed writing that group of npcs me and Anon have dubbed 'the dnd group'-- hence the title of the chapter. We also refer to them as 'gays going to brunch look like this'. there is much love for them in our hearts and we hope there is in yours, too :)

ALSO WHAT ABOUT THAT CLIFFAHNGER HUH HEHEHEHEHEHEHE

once again don't forget to follow us on tumblr @zelda-without-a-licence-plate !!! We have tons of extra stuff over there its awesome :3

Chapter 18: it's a horse! STOMP STOMP

Summary:

Link travels into the Gerudo desert. He has not come far, yet.

Notes:

GERUDO TIME

IMPORTANT READ THIS:
We've made a lot of really intense changes to the Gerudo region and the entire plot surrounding it for this fic. The culture is expanded, the clothing is different, Kara Kara bazaar is now Kara Kara town and Gerudo town is now called Palace City, pretty much everything is different. I've linked some sketches of background Gerudo that match our versions within in the fic, that will take you to our blog @zelda-without-a-licence-plate. We have more redesigns posted there that I recommend taking a look at, so you know what to visualize for this part of the fic. No fetishistic orientalist fantasy costumes here, no sir!

Also: Link enters his flop era. someone help him

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

The half moon shines brightly in the cloudless sky above him as Link walks, dragging his feet along the dusty, winding road. His heart beats a dent into his ribs, and his lungs feel like he’s filled them with gravel. When he retraced his steps back along the road, he noticed the camp where that traveller had been was emptied, and Link had let out a vicious snarl. That bastard had to have taken Nyx.

Praying that he was going in the right direction, Link races along the canyon road back towards the desert. It took hours to hike all the way up to the tower, so who knows where they could be-- no, no. No good to drive himself crazy with hypotheticals. Just. Just find Nyx .

The sky is just starting to get lighter when Link comes into view of a stable. He can feel the dark bags under his eyes, and his feet are leaded, but he rushes forward. Just ahead in the dim sunrise, he can see a restless dark horse with a bright mane… and two people. Link runs, just in time to hear their conversation.

“No I swear she’s usually calm,” says the traveller Link met yesterday. He’s talking to another traveller, a man with dark skin, a moustache and small eyes. “We just, uh, there were some stalkoblins that spooked her, yeah? So how’s three hundred rupees?”

Link goes blind with fury.

“I don’t kno-- HOLY sh*t!!” The other man jumps back with a shriek as Link slams into the traveller with full force, knocking him to the ground. Nyx whinnies and rears up when her reins are let go of, and the scummy traveller tries to push Link off but Link just snarls at him, knocking the man back into the ground. There’s yelling, and people start to run out of the stable behind them, but Link doesn’t notice. He just hits the horse thief, and hits him, and hits him until the pain in his hands starts to pull him out of the fog.

Link stops with a jolt, looking down at the man he had pinned. There’s dirt on his face, his nose is broken and bleeding, and his eyes are wide and fearful. Hands grab Link by the shoulders and drag him off the man, clouds of dust blooming from the ground as he’s pulled away. One of the stable workers grabs Nyx’s reins and tries to calm her down, but she keeps kicking. Link tries to get up, to get to her, but he’s held in place.

“That’s m-- my-- that--” Link tries to speak, but it’s like there’s something in his mouth blocking the words, pinning his tongue, closing his throat. “He st--”

“What is going on out here?” A smooth voice cuts through the clamour, and Link cranes his neck back to see Kass, the rito bard he met at the Wetlands stable. Kass spots him, and his eyes widen, quickly walking over. “What are you doing! Let him go,” the tall macaw says, but the people gripping Link’s biceps don’t loosen their hold.

“This man just attacked somebody,” a stable worker says, “out of nowhere!”

Someone is helping the traveller up, handing him a cloth for his bleeding nose. He sneers at Link.

“H-- he st--” Link wheezes, and Kass kneels next to him.

“What is it, young one?” He asks him quietly, and Link swallows heavily.

“That m… man stole… my horse--” He rasps, and Kass looks sharply at the man with the bloodied face. “That’s my h, my horse… that’s my girl.”

“Let him up,” Kass repeats, and this time the people listen. As soon as he’s let go Link scrambles up, stumbling over to Nyx, who finally stops whinnying and tossing her head. The stable worker lets go of her reins and backs up, and Link reaches up to pet her nose, shushing her. The horse calms, finally, and Link leans in to press his face against her strong neck. “That’s his horse, alright.”

He hears muffled murmurs around him, as the people turn on the guy who was trying to sell a stolen horse, but he ignores them, just wrapping his arms around Nyx’s neck and petting her mane. She snuffles and nuzzles his hair.

“Are you okay, traveller?” Kass asks him, and Link nods, pulling his face away from the horse’s neck to glance up at the bard.

“Thank you,” he whispers hoarsely. Kass gives him a smile.

“It’s good to see you well,” the bright blue rito says. “Was your trip to Zora’s Domain… successful?”

Scrubbing streaks of dust from his cheek, Link nods. Weird pause… he remembers their first meeting, and Kass recognizing the slate-- what does this man know about him? “I’m going into the desert, next.”

“Naturally,” Kass says. “Urgent matters?”

Link looks out at the gate, the small piece of blue sky visible between the cliffs on either side of the road. “Maybe.”

“Then I don’t suppose you have time to hear a song before you go?” Kass asks him, and Link considers, glancing back at the desert.

“I have time for a song,” he says.

Kass fetches his accordion, and people start to gather around as he plays the first notes. The song starts with long, droning chords, Kass’ voice high and quiet as he describes the far reaches of the desert and a beast that lied in wait beneath the sand. The music turns tense, the small audience drawn in and holding their breath. Even though there are a good few people behind him listening as well, Link feels as though Kass is playing this song just for him.

A harsh, jolting note startles him as Kass sings, the Molduking awakening from its slumber and rampaging through a village, the villagepeople fleeing towards a passage into the highlands. They cried and prayed, and soon, the brave hero came riding across the dunes on a massive steed to face the Molduking. The song’s pace quickens as the hero rode in circles around the beast, slashing at it with his gleaming blade, but was unable to pierce its thick scales. The villagepeople cried out to him, but the Molduking followed the sound of their voice, chasing them into the passage. The great beast was mindless in it’s rampage, wedging itself into the canyon. It roared, and the hero rode across its back and leapt from its head, launching a beam of light from his sword, slicing the body of the Molduking in half. Kass sings vigorously of the hero’s victory, earning the passage its name: the Champion’s Gate.

Link claps enthusiastically along with everyone else as the song ends, an inspired smile on his face. Kass puts away his accordion, walking back up to Link. “That was a song about the hero of ten thousand years ago,” he says, and Link glances up at him out of the corner of his eye. “A small part of his great quest.”

“He must have been very noble,” Link says. He starts to climb into Nyx’s saddle when a stable worker calls out to him.

“Wait, traveller!” They shout, and both Link and Kass look over. “Are you going into the desert?”

Link nods.

“Right, so,” the stable worker jogs over, an awkward look on their face. “You can’t really bring your horse into the desert. I mean, technically you can, but, I don’t know if you heard… well, Kara Kara town is full to the brim with refugees right now, and our stable there is completely full. So if you want to bring your horse, there would be nowhere to board it. You can leave it here, though!”

Jumping back down to the ground, Link gives them a hard, questioning look. “Refugees?”

The stable worker nods. “Yeah… bad news if you wanted to visit Temple City-- it’s, uh. Gone.”

Walking down the ramp under the ancient gateway into the Gerudo Desert, Link looks out at the endless dunes as he takes his first steps on the sand. His feet sink in as he walks, shielding his eyes from the sun. Even though it’s morning, the sun already is blinding, no mountains or plateaus to hide it in the early hours.

The desert is endless, stretching out beyond the limits of Link’s imagination from every point he can see. Far, far ahead of him, a wavering, dark blot sits, the checkpoint halfway to Palace City, Kara Kara town.

The sun climbs higher in the sky and the air gets hotter and hotter, and soon Link is sweating, shifting uncomfortably as he walks. When the town is closer but still not close enough, Link sits down on the hot sand on the side of the path, pulling out the Sheikah slate. He takes a long drink from his waterskin, thankful that he remembered to refill it at the stable, and starts peeling off the layers of his tunics. The desert wind is just as hot and stifling as the sand it blows around, but maybe it will bring some relief on his heated skin anyways.

His rider’s garb stored in the slate, Link takes out the old, worn shirt he’d gotten from the shrine of resurrection, and drapes the thin cotton over his head. Knowing he’s getting sand in his pants, Link spends another minute just sitting there, sipping his water and wiping sweat from his brow.

Deciding he’s taken long enough of a break, Link puts his slate and waterskin away, pushing himself back to his feet. He looks at the town in the distance, the sandstorm blowing all the way up to the clouds next to it, restless. He has a lot more walking to do, and not a lot of time. He’d hate to get caught in those ravenous dust clouds.

Link’s feet are aching, his skin itching and painfully hot to the touch, his shoulders and arms red. He’s dripping sweat, and his head feels both heavy and light… he ran out of water an hour ago. Trying not to sway as he walks, Link pulls himself forward. He’s almost there, swaying palm trees beckoning him towards the outskirts of the trading town. Just as he raises his foot to take another step, he stumbles and falls in the sand, just barely catching himself before he gets a mouthful. The ground is trembling-- he hears screams erupt in the town, looks up with hazy eyes-- is the sky falling?

No, it’s not the clouds coming down to meet the earth, the sandstorm is parting, a looming creature the size of a mountain emerges from the dust, coming towards them. That is what is making the ground shake.

Link rubs his eyes, trying to stand, but it’s like an earthquake and he can’t keep his feet under him. Somewhere, there’s a deep shout, and Link is in the air, strong arms lifting him from the ground and pulling him into the town. He’s set down, and Link stumbles, looking back up at the sandstorm.

It’s not a creature… Link’s stomach plummets.

That’s the Divine Beast Vah Naboris.

It comes closer, the clanking of its machinery reverberating through the air like mighty claps of thunder, and the people’s screams crescendo. Then it turns, just shy of the edge of town, and stomps away, back into the empty desert from where it came. Link can still feel the thumping of its massive stone hooves rattling his skull, the echoes filling the cavity of his chest, until the Divine Beast has fully retreated back into the sandstorm, out of sight of the town.

Link sways, landing on his hands and knees in the sand with a groan. “Hey,” an accented voice calls from somewhere above his head. There’s a shift in the sand, and someone crouches next to him, enclosing him in their shadow cast by the setting sun. “How long were you out in the desert? Are you okay?”

“Fine,” Link says, his voice breaking from thirst. He squeezes his eyes shut in hopes of banishing the floating spots in his vision, and bats the person’s hands away as he stands. “I’m fine.” Just within the border of the town, through the crowd shuffling in the dying panic, he glimpses an oasis, a glimmering pond of fresh water gently rippling. Link ignores the concerned shout and pushes his way through the crowd, slipping between rushing bodies and ducking under elbows until he reaches the water.

With a great sigh, Link drops to his knees, reaching into the blessedly cool water and splashing handfuls of it over his face, neck and hair. There are others crouched around the edge of the oasis, but they pay him no mind, in fact, Link may as well be invisible to the swarms of people that pass by. He takes off his boots and dips his feet into the water, only just barely having the sense to roll up the bottoms of his pants. A relieved gust of air escapes him as the water laps around his ankles, and Link leans forward, a smile on his face. The glass of the charm necklace the great fairy gave him cools to match the water’s temperature, a small balm against his heated chest. Link cups water in his hands and swallows mouthfuls of it.

Link looks up at the sunset painting the sky orange, the fading rays making the edges of the sandstone buildings appear to glow. In the back of his mind, a switch is flipped, and Link grabs his slate, opening the picto album.

You don’t get that sunset anywhere other than Kara Kara town .’

Aside from the fact that there are far more people, one could assume Link had only just taken this picto now-- it looks exactly the same. Link closes his eyes, focusing his mind. This place is unchanged… I have been here before. I have been here before. Remember… He imagines no time has passed, he imagines as hard as he can that he is still the champion, the Calamity still slumbers, he is as unchanged as this oasis, and the princess is nearby… for a second, he feels weightless, then a bright golden light flashes in his mind, and it is no longer sunset.

Princess Zelda ran, her heels throwing sand into the air as she sprinted as hard as she could. Fearful gasps and pants escaped her, the sound of her terror echoing across the dunes. She looked back over her shoulder at her pursuer, the streak of red and black dashing towards her, faster than she could ever hope to flee. Her heart dropped into her stomach, into her feet, and she tripped, just as more yiga assassins appeared before her with dark laughter.

The assassin chasing her slowed to a leisurely amble as she scrambled in the sand. She couldn’t see his face, but from the slant of his shoulders, she knew he was smirking down at her, mocking, toying with her. Tears filled her eyes, the bright blue sky blurring as the yiga stepped in front of the sun. With a low chuckle, he raised his deadly sickle, the blade glinting in the sun. Zelda cried out, curling in on herself as if that could do anything to lessen the death blow--

A slash of a blade and a ripping of fabric and flesh rang in her ear and Zelda flinched, but she felt nothing… gasping, she looked up to see the limp form of the assassin crumpling to the ground. A blue blur whipped around her, and Link was there, standing resolutely between her and the other two yiga. They backed away from the knight as he brandished the Master Sword, lowering their weapons and fleeing as he swung the blade of evil’s bane. Zelda’s chest heaved as she fought to catch her breath, staring up at her guard. There was a streak of red dripping from the tip of the Master Sword, and a matching spray blemishing Link’s cheek.

Behind her, the assassin laid still in the wet, red-dyed sand.

Link falls back into the present with a jerk, his legs kicking and splashing water. His hands tremble. He…

He…

The truth thrashes and screams and claws its way to the forefront of his mind. He killed somebody. Link clenches his hands into fists, digging them into his lap to try and stop them from shaking. The princess had been in danger, and he had killed.

Link shivers. Seeing himself from outside his own body, watching himself take a life through another’s eyes… he felt it, in the vision, he felt when his past self had jumped in and Zelda knew she was safe, but now, back in reality, Link’s pulse is like a rabbit’s. Like he had taken Zelda’s fear from her and brought it with him into this moment.

The sun has crawled out of view, behind the buildings bordering Kara Kara town, casting the oasis in shadow. The desert heat leeches out of the air to follow the sun, sucking out all the warmth from the sand and stone, leaving Link still shivering even as his heart rate steadies. There are less people out now than there were in the day, but the streets are still busy. Some hylians, mostly Gerudo; tall, brown skinned women wrapped in bright desert linens, their flowing robes and shawls protecting them from the encroaching freezing night. Link takes his old shirt from his head, and pulls it on.

He’s turned away at the inn, given an apologetic shake of the head by the Gerudo innkeeper when she tells him they have no beds to spare. It’s the same at the stable, just like he was told-- it would seem there is not an empty bed in the whole town.

Refugees… Link looks out at all the people still milling around in the streets, as vagrant as him. All the people who’d fled Temple City, left without homes, and not enough hope to go around. It’s not hard to guess what it was that wiped an entire city off the map so quickly. If Link holds his breath, he almost thinks he can still feel the vibrations from Vah Naboris tromping across the dunes.

As night falls, Link finds an alleyway in which a few people have built a campfire, the warmth of the flames calling out to him. He approaches. “May I share your fire?” He asks them.

The older of the two Gerudo women looks at him, then down at the younger with a questioning look. The younger whispers something to her in an unfamiliar tongue, then nods at Link. “Yes,” she says, “of course.”

“Thank you,” he breathes, practically collapsing onto the dusty ground, leaning his head back against the wall. He sighs, closing his eyes.

“Have you come far?” He distantly hears the young woman ask.

Link thinks he replies “Not yet,” but it could have been just a fleeting thought that didn’t make it past his lips before he succumbed to his exhaustion.

Notes:

WHEE thoughts?? My thoughts are that Link is stupid :) but I like him

also dude i think about that memory every waking moment i. he literally killed somebody he killed that yiga dead. i mean he did like have to to save zelda i just. he took a persons life man and im super super stoked to explore him grappling with that in the age of calamity rewrite

Chapter 19: aloe vera Acquired

Summary:

Link wanders around Kara kara town, badly sunburned and at a loss for his next steps. luckily, he meets someone willing to lend a helping hand. Luck may be the only thing keeping Link alive, at this point. Stupid little meow meow

Notes:

IMPORTANT READ THIS

Further notes on our changes to the gerudo region: almost everything to do with this area in the game is written and designed in a very racist fetishistic and orientalist way, and the whole thing with Vilia in the game is literally transmisogyny 101, so obviously we've completely overhauled it. (there's a post on our blog about the transmisogyny involved, pls take the time to read it) I do love our version of Vilia tho she's so iconic and I hope yall love her too you better love her or i will be mad >:(

Also!!! very brief and minor alcohol mention. its just wine and it's totally normal

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Link peels his eyes open as the sun says good morning, his eyelashes crusty and his mouth dry. He shifts, groaning uncomfortably, and bites down a gasp of pain when even slight movement sets his skin on fire. The backs of his hands and his forearms are bright red, and his face and torso surely can’t be faring any better. Hissing, Link hauls himself to his feet, and walks out onto the street. The sun burns his eyes, far too bright in the white sky.

Even in the early hours, Kara Kara town is already bustling, merchants shouting out their wares and people talking amongst themselves as they go about their business. For now, Link just lets himself get swept along in the rushing river of people as he looks for breakfast.

After exchanging ten rupees for a bowl of spiced rice from a vendor, Link picks his way over to one of the only benches with space to sit. Occupying the other half is a hylian merchant, a broad man with thinning brown hair. He sits hunched over, grumbling to himself. Link could practically see the steam coming out of his ears. He doesn’t plan on making conversation with him, but when he accidentally makes eye contact with him, the man launches into a full tirade unprompted.

“I mean, how unbelievably rude is it, to turn a merchant away, who’s crossed the desert to come sell my wares in Palace City, just because I’m a man!” He huffs, crossing his arms. Link just looks at him with a mouthful of rice. “I have valuable goods, I’m the leader of a trading group for crying out loud, you don’t get credentials better than mine, and the guards still forbade me from entering the city, all because I’m a man! Unbelievable, just unbelievable.”

Link takes another bite of rice. “Did… the guards say it was because you’re a man?”

“What else could it have been,” the merchant grumbles, a swift non-answer. “Wish someone told me before I made the trip that men aren’t allowed in.”

Link knows he shouldn’t keep engaging this guy, he doesn’t like the energy surrounding him, all the bitter aggression, but it’s such a strange thing to hear he can’t help it. “That can’t possibly be true,” he mutters. The merchant gives him a leering look, leaning in. His breath is hot and foul, and Link recoils.

“Believe it, kid,” the man says. “The Gerudo are a race of all women, see, so only ladies are allowed into the Capitol-- why else would all the men get turned away at the gate? Man, you wouldn’t believe the stories I’ve heard, friend, about what it’s like in there. Beautiful, tall foxy ladies as far as the eye can see? Sounds Like paradise to me.” He gives a lecherous chuckle, and Link stands abruptly, nearly elbowing the man in the face on his way up.

“I am not your friend,” he says quietly, darkly, and the merchant looks surprised. “You are dishonourable and vile, and we have nothing more to say to each other.” He casts a hard look down at the man over his shoulder, and begins to walk away.

Mere steps away, he hears the man derisively mutter, “f*cking sissy .” Link freezes in place, a harsh shiver rattling up his spine, the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. Behind him, a mean chuckle, and Link wrenches his feet forward, walking away urgently.

His rice finished, he stows his bowl and picks his way back towards the oasis through the crowds. His head is pounding, he’s surely dehydrated. Link groans, rubbing his eyes. As he passes through the throngs, his ears pick up on chatter from more hylian men, complaining about the same thing that merchant was. He frowns. It can’t possibly be true that men aren’t allowed into Palace city… right?

Link comes to the oasis and kneels on the bank, splashing more water onto the back of his neck and sighing. He takes out his waterskin and dips it in the cool water to let it fill back up, but no sooner than the leather breaks the water’s surface is he interrupted by a voice behind him.

“You know, you really shouldn’t drink that.”

Link turns-- the twisting motion pulls at his burned skin and it hurts so so so bad-- to see a Gerudo guard standing above him, the sun glinting off her armour and the tip of her spear. Even if he were not crouched, she would tower over him, probably not as much as Sidon had, but nearly. Link squints up at her.

“Huh?”

“You shouldn’t drink the pond water, traveller,” she says, in thick vowels and clipped ‘r’s. “It’s full of bad germs. There are clean water dispensaries all around town, you know. Just because the line is long doesn’t mean you have to drink germy water.”

“Oh,” Link says awkwardly. “Thank you.” It’s just one thing after another in this desert to make him look foolish, it would seem. This guard probably sees him with his reddened skin and raggy clothes as a stupid, wandering baby. He shakes his waterskin dry and stands. His eyes come level with the guard’s ribs. “Uh…” he begins, “is it true that… men aren’t allowed into Palace city?

To his utter humiliation, the guard laughs. “Of course it’s not true!” She places a hand on her hip, still giggling. “What would the logic behind that even be-- what a ridiculous rumour. No, security is just strict there, and we turn away outsiders who come here to fetishize us.”

Link sighs, nodding. “That makes sense.”

“Yes,” the guard continues. “However, you have to have noticed the region has been in a bit of a crisis lately. Security in Palace city is a higher priority than ever, and they’re limiting the flow of people into the city to pretty much only refugees at this point. Unless you had a very good reason, you probably wouldn’t be able to get in either way. Best to wait until things have settled down again before you make the trip, if you want my advice. Which… you look like you need advice.”

“I see…” Link frowns. “Thank you.”

He walks away, deep in thought. He does have an excellent reason for wanting to enter the city, but he doubts anyone would believe him if he said so. Link has a feeling he would be laughed away from the gate if he told the guards he was the Hylian Champion from one hundred years ago and came to solve their Divine Beast problem-- they’d probably think the sun got to him. And then what? He can’t just wait for things to ‘settle down’, nothing will settle until Vah Naboris is free from the Calamity’s control.

After some more walking, Link finds one of the water stations the guard spoke of, and gets in line. As the line slowly shuffles forward inch by inch, he overhears a hushed conversation between the two men behind him.

It was him, it had to be!”

“I don’t believe you one bit .”

No, I really saw the guy who sneaks into Palace city, he’s real !”

Sneaks in … Link taps his chin. Breaking the law is definitely not a good first impression to make, but if the gate will be as tightly shut as the guard said, he may have no other choice… he turns around to face the two men.

“Who did you see?”

The two men look at each other, then down at him. The line moves forward, and they lean in conspiratorially. “You’ve heard the rumours, right?” The first man says. “About the guy who comes and goes from the Capitol as he pleases, even though he’s a man?”

Link’s mouth pinches. “Sure,” he says. Great, more of these kinds of guys… he doesn’t want to associate with them, but if they can give him a hint, then…

“They’re total bullsh*t,” says the second man. “It’s impossible to fool the guards.”

“No way,” the first man insists. The line moves forward. “I literally saw him, it had to be him! I saw him climbing onto the roof of the inn, just like the rumours said!” He smirks at Link. “They say he’ll help you get into the city… for a price, of course.”

Ew ,” Link mutters, turning back around. Still… the inn, huh? He gets his waterskin filled with clean, safe drinking water, and heads towards the inn. Worth a shot .

Link pulls himself onto the roof of the inn, sweating like nobody’s business, to be met with the sight of a woman sitting casually on a wide woven blanket, a whole picnic spread out in front of her. She eyes him as he starts to push himself to his feet, then feels awkward about it and instead stays kneeling by the ladder. She watches him calmly, as if she is the most untouchable thing in all of Hyrule. She’s draped in fine purple and maroon cloths, a silky aubergine scarf draped loosely over her head to protect from the sun. Her hair is long, flowing over one shoulder, dyed bright red as Link assumes is fashionable here, and the roots she shows are dark gray-brown. She leans back on one hand, plucking a ripe grape from a stem of them with the other.

“Uh…” Link opens and closes his mouth, not knowing what to say. A smirk plays on her sun-aged face. She eats the grape.

He had expected to find a man up here. He did not find a man. The gaping maw of his empty memory pokes at him, and he feels embarrassed and misled. He feels stupid.

“You seem lost, little vae ,” the brown-skinned hylian woman says once her mouth is not full.

“Uh…” Link repeats, clearing his throat. “Uhm, sorry, I think there’s been a mistake-- I heard there was… a man up here, who could help me get into Palace city.”

The woman’s eyes narrow. “Who told you that?” She asks evenly.

Link shakes his head. “Uh, some, some guy, I think—“ he shakes his head again, words failing him. The woman hums and nods.

“Yes, you have been led here by a trail of crumbs of lies and misconceptions.” She makes a sweeping gesture with her hand at the roof they are on, her delicate gold bracelets clinking and glittering in the sun. “As you can see, there are no men up here.”

Link shifts awkwardly. “So…”

“You don’t know much, do you?” The woman asks, spreading some soft cheese on a cracker. Link can’t help but eye the spread of high quality fruits, breads, and cheeses that surely were imported from outside of the desert, flanked by covered dishes that must be protecting more of her meal from the blowing sand. He shakes his head, because he may as well know nothing.

“I—“ he takes a second to wipe some beads of sweat from his brow. He misses the cool, balming waters of the domain. “I just need to get into the city.”

The woman hums. “And why?”

Link glances out at the wide stretch of desert, Vah Naboris stomping in the distance. “I… can’t really say,” he says. “ Can you help me?”

She eyes him for a long moment, taking in his sweat-stained clothes, his burned skin. “Here,” she says, leaning forward with her pensive expression breaking into a kind smile, “break bread with me. What is your name, young vae ? Come closer, I won't bite.”

Link shuffles closer, and tentatively reaches for a slice of dried fruit loaf, glancing at the woman for permission with his hand hovering in the hair. She nods with a small smile, and he takes it, taking an eager bite from the soft, moist cake, the bits of dried fruit sweet on his tongue. “My name is Link,” he says with his mouth still half-full. “And I’m not that young.”

The woman considers this for a moment, regarding him with a piercing, amused eye. “Perhaps,” she says, “I do see a wisdom beyond your years in your eyes. And yet you carry yourself like a newborn deer taking its first steps into the world. Eager and unsure all at once.”

Link blinks at her, and she laughs. “Don’t look at me like that, I’m no Seer, I simply have an eye for people. Would you like some wine? You are old enough to have wine, aren’t you? It will help you cool down, I promise.”

Link has never had wine before. He’s stopped adding the ‘at least, he doesn’t think so’ addendum to thoughts of that nature, because he’s decided that even if he has, if he doesn’t remember it then it doesn’t count. And his tongue feels like he’s been eating sand. He nods. He kind of can’t take his eyes off her and he really hopes he’s not being odd. She pours out a second cup of wine from the elegant pitcher next to her and offers it to him. He takes a sip. Link shivers as the chilled wine goes down his throat, a cooling sensation spreading through his body. He takes another, longer sip, even as he makes a face at the tart taste. “What is your name?” He asks the woman.

“Vilia,” she replies. “Where are you from, Link?”

Link shrugs. “I’m not really from anywhere, I guess,” he says quietly. “I’m sorry if you wanted stories. I don’t… have any I can share.” Vilia nods.

“I was the same, when I first came here.” She says. “Some of us simply have no pasts, only futures. And what a bright future it is.”

Forlornly, Link wishes that were true. He wishes he could be like her, and shed the weight of his past like little more than the elegant silk she’s draped in.

Vilia senses his mood darken, and smiles at him. “Here, let’s finish this meal together, and then I will help you.”

Link nods, eagerly reaching for another slice of fruit loaf.

Once they both climb down off the ladder, Vilia turns to Link and pulls her scarf from her head, draping it over Link’s head and shoulders. He looks up at her, and she smiles. “Don’t want you passing out on us,” she says. “You already look pretty cooked.”

“O-oh,” Link says, touching the light, billowy fabric. It feels very nice. “Thank you.”

She leads him through the crowded streets, and he follows her without question, holding on to the back of her shawl to not get lost in the sea of bodies. Vilia radiates a sense of calm and safety, that Link would happily wander after through the night like a dancing lantern. Soon they come to a stop at a low, old sandstone building. Vilia pushes aside the curtain covering the doorway and ushers him inside. Every wall and surface inside is hidden by swaths of fabrics, displayed desert-style clothing, long sweeping shawls and capes, wide pants and loose, long tunics, dresses, scarves, and sandboots. Bright colours, bold patterns, and intricate embroidery fill the room. There’s a Gerudo woman adjusting a display of fancy belts, who looks up and smiles when she sees them.

She comes over to greet them, but Link is so busy looking at all the clothes with wide, enraptured eyes that he forgets to say hello. Vilia and the tailor start speaking to each other like old friends in a language Link understands none of, except for one word that he recognizes, vae -- what Vilia called him earlier. He startles when his chaperone settles her hands on his shoulders, aggravating his burns through his shirt. “What do you have in their size?” Vilia asks the tailor, who looks him up and down. She hums, then motions for Vilia to follow her further into the store. Before he trails after her, a tall polished mirror grabs his attention, and Link wanders over to it. Staring at his reflection, Link adjusts the fine scarf on his head, loosely wrapping the ends over his shoulders. He touches his hair, brushing his bangs to the side and smoothing down the hair framing his face. His whole face is frighteningly red, and he carefully pokes at the tight, hurting skin on his cheeks. f*cking ouch .

“Link,” Vilia calls, “come try these on.”

Link walks over to see her holding out a stack of folded fabrics, violet and gray and orange. He takes them, and walks into the small changing stall that the tailor holds open for him. On the other side of the closed curtain, Vilia and the tailor continue to speak in the unfamiliar language as he unfolds the clothes he was handed. Link takes off the scarf and his sandy clothes, leaving them on the bench that to him is more a table. First he pulls on the light gray tunic, with purple hems around the neck and sleeves. It goes down to his mid-thighs, the sleeves ending just barely past his wrists, and the light fabric swishes a little around his legs when he turns. Link spends a few seconds turning in front of the mirror, watching the way the tunic moves, a small smile on his face.

Next, the pants. He holds them out in front of him, eyeing the wide violet garment. He pulls them on over the tunic, but they’re way too big around the waist. Link stands there, holding the pants up, uncertain. He should probably speak up and ask for help, but embarrassment keeps him from doing so. He grips the fabric of the pants tighter, turning away from the mirror.

“How does it look, Link?” Vilia asks from the other side of the curtain, and Link chews his lip. He says nothing. A beat, and Vilia speaks again. “May I come in?”

“Mhm…”

The curtain shifts, and Vilia slips into the stall. “Ah, I see,” she says. “Let me show you how to tie them.” She takes a thin red sash from the pile of clothes and pinches the hem of the pants. Link lets go and looks at the floor as Vilia reaches around him to tie the pants close around his hips. A lump forms in his throat that he tries to swallow.

“Thank you,” he whispers. Vilia looks down at him kindly. Link avoids her gaze, and though she smiles, she says nothing. She takes the orange shawl, a single connected piece of fabric with a light pattern, and drapes it over his torso, adjusting it so it hangs off one shoulder.

“There,” she says softly, “We’ll get you a pair of sandboots, and a windscarf, and then you’ll be all ready for the desert.”

“I, uh…” Link mumbles, “I don’t think I can afford this.”

Vilia fixes his bangs and smooths down the hair in front of his ears with light touches. Link lets her. “Don’t you worry your cute little head about that,” she says. “I’ll take care of everything.”

The tailor actually ends up giving them the clothes for free. “The least I can do for my favourite customer,” she says, to Vilia’s humble smile. Link follows the older woman back out through the streets, far more comfortable in his new clothes than he was before. The next place she takes him is an apothecary, a smaller shop full of glass jars and copper pots of various alchemical materials, dried plants strung along the walls. The elderly Gerudo woman behind the counter looks up from her small mortar and pestle when they walk in, and gasps in horror when she sees Link’s face.

Tarheema !” She exclaims, rushing towards them. “What an awful burn! Vilia, this must be the poorest little stray you’ve ever brought here.” The alchemist, apparently another friend of Vilia’s, examines his face and hands. “There’s more burn than this, isn’t there?”

“Lots more,” Link admits, embarrassed.

“I would have brought them sooner,” Vilia says. “But they needed adequate gear first.

“Tch. How is your head?” The alchemist touches her hand to his forehead and retracts it just as quickly, hissing. “Do you feel dizzy? Nauseous?”

Link shakes his head. “The sunburns hurt,”

“Of course they do,” the alchemist mutters. “Tch. Lucky vehvi . You should be thanking Din you didn’t get sunsickness.”

‘Thanks, Din .’

“Here,” she shuffles back behind the counter and rifles around on a crowded shelf, the tinking and tapping of glass and wood on each other filling the space. She turns back around with two bottles of red elixir and a jar of viscous, clear gel. “Take these for the pain,” the alchemist sets the elixirs on the counter, then the jar. “And apply this liberally to the burns. They should be healed in two days.”

“Thank you, Timar,” Vilia says. She takes the medicine and nestles it in her basket alongside her dishes.

“And,” Timar pulls a small wooden box from under the counter. “Your order is ready as well, Vilia. You came at a good time.”

“Oh, thank you,” Vilia takes the box and passes it to Link. “Will you hold this, please?” In Link’s hands, he can hear inside the clinking of lots of small vials. She gives Timar a silver rupee, and nudges Link back towards the door. Link waves to the alchemist, the old woman shakes her head at him.

Back on the crowded streets, Link scurries to keep up with Vilia and her long legs. She walks very, very fast. “Where next?”

“Do you have lodgings?”

Sheepishly, Link shakes his head.

“Then we’re going home.”

Vilia leads him a fair distance through the town, away from the busy center where the streets are narrower and quieter, large sandstone homes nestled together and built on top of each other. They come to one of the homes, with a lantern by the door and a potted plant hanging on the wall, and Vilia opens the door, stepping aside to gesture Link inside.

Inside Vilia’s house is spacious and lush, more plants filling corners and shelves around the home. Elegant, intricate tapestries adorn the walls, as well as a collection of flyers that Link can’t read from the door. The furniture is expensive-looking, the cushions and blankets plush. There are fine vases and small sculptures, and a bowl of fruit on the table in the open kitchen further in. It’s cool inside, and Link breathes a sigh of relief as Vilia closes the door.

“Here we are,” Vilia says, going into the kitchen and setting down her basket. Link puts down the box. “Now let’s treat your burns. Come this way.”

She shows him into the bathroom, a separate room all in blue and white tile as opposed to the warm sandstone of the main room. Like in Zora’s domain, clean water pours from a tap into the tub when Vilia turns a knob. “A cool bath will help you feel better,” she says. “You can use any of the soaps and oils in here you like. Afterwards you should take the medicine.” She sets it down on the counter in front of the mirror and turns back to him. “I’ll give you some privacy, now. Feel free to call if you need anything.”

“Um,” right before she passes him to leave, Link pinches her sleeve, looking down. “This all is… you are being very… kind to me. A stranger. And I, haven’t…” he trails off, and Vilia gives him a soft, sad look.

“You haven’t earned it?” She asks. “Is that what you were going to say?”

Link chews the inside of his cheek. He nods. Vilia sighs.

“No one needs to earn kindness,” she says. “No one needs to earn respect, or dignity. And besides,” Vilia taps his chin, and he looks up at her. She smiles. “We may not know each other, but you are not a stranger to me. When you first saw me, was I a stranger to you?”

Link feels like she’s peeled back the skin of his chest, cut open and exposed. Like she’s reached into his heart and taken his soul in hand, and in her palm he sees the emotions he’s never had words for. She is right, they don’t know each other, but they are not strangers. His chest hurts.

chasing dragons - ThatOneFunAnon, cruisercrusher (14)

“I don’t understand it,” he whispers.

“That’s okay,” Vilia says gently. “It will make sense someday. I promise.”

Link nods, his throat tight. Vilia leaves the room, and Link strips off his new clothes and steps into the cool bath.

He spends more time in the bath than he means to, but the cool, fragrant water soothing his burned skin was just addicting. After taking the medicine and rubbing nearly half the jar into his skin, Link redresses and wanders back into the main room. He doesn’t see Vilia, but his eyes feel heavy and every touch and brush of his clothes against his skin isn’t just pure pain anymore, so he drifts over to one of the very nice looking couches and sits down. He leans back against the embroidered cushions with a sigh, tilting his head back. ‘I’ll just close my eyes for a minute’ , he thinks. ‘ Just for a minute…

When Link opens his eyes again, the room is darker than before. He’d shifted at some point onto his side, and his legs have been covered by a blanket. He grunts in confusion and sits up, rubbing his eyes. Kicking the blanket off, Link stands up, hearing shuffling through an open doorway.

Through the arched doorway he finds Vilia in a smaller room filled with fabric and gorgeous garments hung up lovingly, perched on a stool next to a dress form that is literally dripping with pearls. The older woman is very focused on painstakingly attaching the countless pearls to the bodice on the form, strings of them hanging from her fingers and a thin sewing needle pinched in her mouth, but she looks up when Link makes a noise of awe.

“Oh, you’re awake,” Vilia takes the needle out of her mouth. “Ha, I’m sorry, I’m afraid I won’t be a very good host this evening, I really need to finish this dress for my show tomorrow night. I can’t say if there will be any dinner, my husband won’t be home until much later, but you’re welcome to anything you find in the kitchen. Please, help yourself.”

“Show?” Link goes further into the room and leans back against a table. Vilia goes back to her task.

“I’m a dancer,” she says with a proud smile. “I do shows all over Parapa, but mostly I perform in Entasvar, Palace City. I sew all my own costumes, and people come from all over to see me dance.”

“That’s amazing.”

Vilia preens as she hangs another string of pearls from the waist of the garment. “It’s taken me years to collect enough pearls to finally make this costume, and people are very excited for it.”

“Wow…” Link breathes.

“Sorry, but I’m going to have to focus now,” Vilia says. “This is very intricate work.”

“Of course,” Link stands up and leaves the room. He goes into the kitchen to poke around. There’s plenty of fresh ingredients, but not much that’s ready to eat aside from fruit and breads. And he doesn’t want to just… eat all of Vilia’s fruit and bread.

Against the glass windows at the front of the house, wind and sand is blowing. Link leans his elbow on the counter and props his chin on his hand. He’s glad not to be out in the unforgiving desert elements a second night in a row. Vilia really saved his ass, huh?

Link looks back at the kitchen cupboards. If Vilia is busy, and her husband is working… ‘I think I know how to start paying them back the major favours Vilia has done me ,’ he thinks.

Almost an hour later, when the sun has almost set, the kitchen’s filled with the savoury, rich smells wafting from the pot of creamy tomato radish soup Link is stirring over the fire. All the cookbooks were in gerudo, but Link did see an illustration of a soup with radishes that he thought looked good, so he’s basically just improvised everything based on that one picture-- but it’s turning out really, really good so far.

As he’s squeezing in some more lemon juice, the front door opens, sand blowing onto the floor as a short, heavyset man in a stable uniform walks in. “Gods above and below,” he says, turning to close the door behind him. “That’s some sandstorm blowing in! They’re trying to find any shelter for everyone they can, the stable was completely packed when I left. Dinner smells great, hon--” he takes a few more steps inside and looks up at Link, cutting himself off mid-word with a blank, confused look. “Hey, you’re not my wife?”

“Hi,” Link waves awkwardly as the man comes into the kitchen. “I didn’t break into your house to just make soup. Vilia brought me here.”

“Yeah, that makes sense,” the man chuckles, leaning back against the counter and pulling off his windscarf. “I’m Vilia’s husband, name’s Reynold. What’s your name, kid?”

“Link,” Link says. “I’m, um. Making soup. It’ll be ready soon.”

“Great,” Reynold grins. “I’m going to go say hello to Vilia. Great to meet you, Link.” He walks into Vilia’s sewing room, and Link hears faint sweet greetings between them. He covers the soup and leaves it to simmer and thicken a little more, and picks up a knife and some of the fruit he found. He peels and slices the melon and voltfruit, and cuts open the pomerovi. He assembles a bowl of the sliced fruit, mostly cubed but with some pieces cut into hearts, to match the white hearty radish in the soup. He places the wedges of pomerovi around the edges of the bowl, so that the juicy seeds can be pulled off and eaten easily. Finished with that, Link takes the lid off the soup and gives it another stir, just as Vilia and Reynold walk into the kitchen. Reynold, Link notices, is much shorter than his wife. He’s glad to finally have someone closer to his eye level around.

“Oh, this looks amazing,” Vilia says, looking at the pot of soup and bowl of fruit. She takes a piece of melon and pops it in her mouth. “You didn’t have to do all this,”

“I was happy to,” Link says, feeling bashful. “It’s, um, ready now.”

Vilia takes down some bowls, and they dish out the soup and sit around the kitchen table, placing the fruit bowl in the middle for them to share. “This is delicious,” Reynold enthuses between spoonfuls. “We should keep you around, I think you have a magic touch in the kitchen, Link!”

Link laughs. While he waits for his soup to cool, he takes a pomerovi wedge and carefully picks off the small red seeds. As he chews them, the sweet-tart juices bursting across his tongue, he wipes his fingers on a napkin, but the red juices stain his hands. Reynold and Vilia talk about their days, and Link listens, the soup warming his belly.

They can’t keep him around. But it would be nice to pretend, just for tonight.

Notes:

we kept some elements of the original plotline for this area in the rumours that Link hears because we want to express how stupid it is explicitly in the text. Basically how it works in our version, is to enter Palace city, you either have to be from there or work there, have an invitation, or pass a vibe check from the guards. Since it was originally a war fortress, the Gerudo take pride in the city of Entasvar, home of the royal palace, being the safest place in the world.
Unless, of course, it gets stomped on by Vah Naboris. Hopefully Link makes it in time!!

Edit: whoops there are some things we forgot to put here lol
1- Parapa is what we’re calling the Gerudo’s region of ‘hyrule’ its a reference to the NES games. We think it’s really weird that the Gerudo and Zora both have their own distinct monarchies and governments yet for some reason are considered part of Hyrule, which has its own monarchy that is seemingly in charge of everyone else.... very off putting and we don’t like it. So in our version the Gerudo and the Zora have their own separate kingdoms/countries, called Parapa and Zora’s Domain respectively.
2- Entasvar is the actual Gerudo name for the capital city, which is called Palace city in hyrulean common language. It’s named after the keeper of victory, one of the seven heroines. We have a post about it on our blog def check it out it’s very cool
3- on the Gerudo used in the chapter:
Vehvi (canon) = child or baby, in this instance meaning child
Tarheema (made up) = invoking the keeper of mercy, another one of the seven heroines, Tarheem. Basically “oh mercy”
Vae (made up) = in between or neither man/woman. Vae is what Vilia refers to Link with, as well as using gender neutral pronouns, which Link manages to be completely oblivious to and just lets happen without asking why or bothering to ‘correct’ her. Stupid meow meow be a good drag daughter and drink your trans juice
4- yes Vilia and Reynold are t4t and yes the box the alchemist gave Vilia is her and Reynolds hrt bc they have that in Parapa. Pogchamp fantasy hormone supplements

Also, pomerovi is what we came up with for fantasy pomegranates :) its just a normal pomegranate :)

Do you guys like our version of Vilia where she's rich and famous lol and also her husband Reynold who is great and I will be posting art of them soon hehe. Be sure to check out our blog @zelda-without-a-licence-plate for our redesigns and lore!!

Chapter 20: civil servants with swords voted #1 obstacle in Link's quest

Summary:

Link arrives in Palace city. he is not good at this

Notes:

YEAAAAHHHHH f*ck YEAAAAHHHHHHH man i have been so so excited for this chapter for so damn long it is so so good good stuff got some very very funny and some very very drama... epic poggers pogchamp

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Link makes a confused grunt as he’s shaken awake, the warm and soft cushions and blankets beckoning him back to sleep. “Wake up, Link,” Vilia says, “Didn’t you say you wanted to leave early?”

Nngh ,” Link reluctantly peels his eyes open. He uncurls from under the blanket on the sofa he’d slept on, stretching widely. Vilia smiles and adjusts her houserobe. Behind her, Reynold putters around, already dressed.

“Reynold can take you to the gate,” she says. “Sorry, I’d accompany you myself, but I still have to finish my dress.”

“S’okay,” Link rubs his eyes.

“Is there anywhere specific in the city you need to go? I could send you with directions, or maybe a note.”

Link considers for a moment, whether he should tell Vilia the truth. Maybe… no, it would be too complicated. After this is done with, maybe then. He shakes his head. “Though… you’re sure they’ll let me in?”

“Of course,” Vilia nods. “At the gate, the guards will just ask you some basic questions, like where you’re travelling from, and when they ask you why you’ve come, just tell them you seek sanctuary within the city. You’ve got nothing to worry about.”

“Okay…”

“Better get ready fast, kid,” Reynold calls from the kitchen. “I’ve got to get to the stable.”

Link washes his face and hands quickly, applies more of the cool gel and eats some fruit and sweet meat. His burns feel much better now, no longer bright abrasive red, but settling into a rich tan. When he comes out of the bathroom, pulling his shawl on over his shoulders and trying to get his windscarf to stay on his head, Reynold is waiting by the door, Vilia standing next to him sipping a mug of tea. “I’m coming, I’m coming,” Link mutters. Vilia sets her mug down and fixes his windscarf for him, so the band is secure around his forehead and the fabric frames his face evenly.

“I’ll come find you tonight,” Vilia says, “if your mysterious business is complete, I can bring you backstage at the club where I dance.”

“That would be nice,” Link says softly, knowing he’ll surely be too busy.

“Alright, let’s head out,” Reynold opens the door, and with a last wave to Vilia, they leave.

The man leads him through the town towards the stable on the north end. The stable is crowded, travellers and refugees in tight groups around and inside the familiar tent, horses and donkeys filling the stalls, as well as… weird, furry tusked creatures. “You ever ride a sandseal before, kid?”

Reynold shows him how to secure the rope to the sandseal’s bridle and the sled, and how to secure his feet, and puts the reins in his hands. “It’s just like riding a horse,” the man explains as he gets on his own sled, “except for the fact that it’s pretty much nothing like riding a horse.”

“Gre--” Link is cut off by his own yelp as Reynold raises his hand and smacks the rump of the sandseal, sending it rocketing off into the desert and pulling Link along behind it. Behind him, over the noise of the sandseal and the sled flying over the sand, he hears the man laughing as he comes up behind him, with much more control over his own seal. After a few moments of flailing, Link manages to get the hang of it, tugging and cracking the reins to steer and control the seal’s speed.

Rising over the horizon like a mighty mountain, Link finally gets his first view of Palace city, still so far away but still sitting enormous and grand right where the earth meets the sky. Stretching up towards the clouds, over the huge wall around the city, he can see the palace, huge streams of water cascading down from the bowl-shaped stone above it. Link’s eyes widen in awe. He’s never seen a place so big , and they’re not even halfway to the wall.

He’s so enraptured by the sight of Parapa’s capital that he almost doesn’t notice the hissing, shifting sand rapidly approaching them. Two yellow-and-green Lizalfos jump out of the sand in front of them, and Reynold shouts, yanking his sandseal to a sliding stop. Link leans to the side, cutting a sharp turn around the Lizal and circling back towards them in a wide arc. He hooks the reins into his elbow and quickly grabs the slate he’d hidden under his sash, taking out the duplex bow and his arrows just as the Lizal start to round on Reynold.

As the sandseal races back towards them, Link nocks two arrows and barely takes-- barely has-- the time to aim before the arrows are whistling through the air and landing squarely in the backs of the Lizal’s skulls, sending them sprawling in the sand with weak dying gurgles. They burst into smoke and leftover bits, and Reynold looks at Link with a slack jaw.

“We were almost done for,” He says as Link collects the leftover parts and straps his bow and arrows to his back, and the slate to his hip, in case there are more. “That was-- where did you learn to shoot like that!”

Link looks at him and shrugs.

After that, they travel without any more disruptions, soon coming up to the gate as the sun inches further into the sky. The wall around Palace city is tall and fortified, with soldiers armed with spears walking atop it and more stationed within watchtowers along the edge. There’s a long line of people gathered at the gate, refugees and travellers and merchants, all shuffling and grumbling under the sun. Link dismounts from his sandsled and unties it, passing it to Reynold who puts it on his back and takes the reins of Link’s seal. “Here you are, kid. I need to get to work, now. You’ll be fine from here, yeah?”

Wordlessly, Link looks back at the line, and up at Reynold.

“Yeah, you’ll be alright,” the man laughs, patting his shoulder. “Make sure to visit, okay?”

Link nods, and Reynold takes off back towards Kara Kara town.

The line moves slowly. Some people must go in, but most of them Link sees storm back past him, grumbling, turned away at the gate. Link tugs the end of his shawl nervously. The sun creeps higher, the line inches forward, and with every step and every second spent waiting, Link’s anxiety rises. By the time he’s next, he’s sweating profusely, not just because of the heat.

The merchant in front of him is refused entry, and the man curses as he stomps away. Then one of the guards motions him forward, and Link steps up, looking up at the very, very tall guards. One of them leans against the wall with a clipboard in hand, her spear propped next to her. The other stands at attention in the middle of the gate.

“Sav’otta, traveller!” The guard at attention says. “Is this your first time visiting the great city of Entasvar?”

Link clears his throat, glancing down at the sand and back up at the guard’s face. He has to crane his neck almost all the way up. “Uh, yeah-- I mean, yes.” He stumbles over his words and winces. The leaning guard flips a paper on her clipboard, disinterested. She waves forward a different traveller behind him.

“... And where do you hail from?” The guard speaking to Link pauses for a second before asking, immediately picking up on Link’s nerves. Inwardly, Link curses, mad that for some reason he’s never able to just be normal when he needs to be.

“I came here from Kakariko village,” Link points over his shoulder, as if that would mean anything, “but before that Zora’s domain.”

The guard with the clipboard looks up at that, leaving the other traveller there to join their conversation. “Zora’s domain? That’s very far,” she says.

Link coughs. “I-- uh, yes. It is… far.”

“Were you born in Kakariko village,” the first guard asks him, “or are you a resident there?”

“Uh…” Link was not expecting to be asked where he lives. He didn’t have an answer prepared for this. “Nno.”

“Where is your residence, then?”

“I’m uh,” Link flushes, embarrassed, looking away. He doesn’t know how to answer this. “I don’t…”

The second guard interjects. “You’re a vagrant?” Link nods. “That’s fine, we see more than a few of those regularly. So long as you have papers proving your birthplace, it’s no problem.”

“Oh.” Link shakes his head. He loses the nerve to look the guards in the eye. “I don’t, uh… have those, either?”

The first guard frowns. “No papers at all? No address, no birth certificate, no identification? Not even from a stable?”

“No…”

Just then the second guard flips another paper on her clipboard, looking Link over. She leans towards the first guard and whispers something in her ear. The guard’s frown tightens. “I see you carry a bow. May I take a closer look at it?”

“Hm?” Link blinks. “Oh, yeah, of course.” He takes the bow from his back and passes it to them, who examines it closely. They whisper to the other guard, looking down at her clipboard again. Link’s stomach tightens uncomfortably fast with nerves, and he remembers in a flash where he got that bow. “That’s not-- that’s not really mine,” he tries to explain quickly. “From a Yiga scout. I took it. I bested them and they left their bow when they fled so I took it. Wouldn’t want to waste a perfectly good bow, right?”

The guards don’t react. Link thinks that’s probably bad. He’s doing a really bad job at this, isn’t he.

“What’s that?” The first guard points to the slate, and some of Link’s nerves settle. Right , the slate, the slate that proves he’s the hero! Of course! This will clear things up , he thinks.

“This is a Sheikah slate,” he says, unclipping it from his sash and holding it out. “It’s ancient Sheikah technology. See, there’s the eye right on it.”

The guard with the clipboard reaches her hand out, presumably to take a closer look, and Link hands it to her. She holds it upside down, tucking her clipboard and Link’s bow under her arm. The first guard brandishes their spear at Link.

“Alright,” they say, “you’re coming with us. Put your hands up, palms out.”

Link looks up at them in shock. “ Ehh??

He’s patted down for more weapons and his hands are tied in front of him, before being led inside the wall, flanked by the guards as he’s pushed towards some stairs leading down. It’s cool and dim within the fortress, and the cooling sweat on the back of his neck makes him shiver. He’s brought down the stairs and down another long hall, then another hall, until they reach a wider corridor lined with cells on either side. “This is--” Link clears his throat, “There’s got to be some mistake here,” he says. “I’m not, I’m not Yiga or whatever you think I am, I’m--”

“Hey, you said it, not me,” chuckles the first guard, pushing him into an open cell. Link glares at them.

“I’m not!”

“You’re the worst Yiga spy I’ve ever seen,” says the second guard as she closes the cell door behind him. “Even worse than the guy who got trapped in the curtains trying to get in the palace window.”

“I’m not Yiga,” Link insists, leaning his forehead on the bars, and the guard raises an eyebrow at him.

“Really.” She snorts. “Okay, I'll bite. What are you, then?”

Link sighs. “Promise you won’t laugh,” He peers up at them through his bangs.

The guards exchange a look. “Sure,” says the first guard. “We won’t laugh.”

“I’m…” Link sighs again. “I’m actually the Hylian champion, from before the Calamity. I’ve been in stasis for one hundred years, and I’ve come to free your Divine Beast from the Calamity’s control.” He raises his head. “My name is Link .”

The two guards both just look at him for a moment, completely blank, before bursting into laughter, their chortles and guffaws echoing off the bare stone walls. Link glares at them.

“You said you wouldn’t laugh!”

“Ha!” The first one cackles. “Well, you may not be the smartest banana in the bunch, but you’re definitely the most creative liar!”

The other shrieks with laughter. “Ha! Banana! Good one!”

Link doesn’t get it. “I'm telling the truth,” he says, his voice flat and hard. The first guard snorts and wipes a tear from her eye.

“Haha, sure you are. Man, thanks, I really needed that.”

“Now, you get nice and cozy in this cell while the general decides what to do with you.” And with that, they walk away, leaving Link in the cold, dim cell. He slumps against the bars, groaning. On the other side of the wall, there’s a scoff, and Link startles.

“Really,” drones a voice from the cell next to his. “ This is who they sent to rescue me?”

Link walks to the back of his cell and slumps down on the cushion in the corner, putting his head in his hands. “What?”

“It was only because of my distraction they were even able to get away with the thunder helm,” says the voice with an exasperated noise. “And this is the thanks I get? Some idiot?”

‘Even worse than the guy who got trapped in the curtains trying to get in the palace window’ Link remembers. So this is a Yiga. “I was telling the truth. I’m not Yiga.” He leans his head back, staring up at the ceiling. “I’m your enemy.”

A beat of silence passes, then the Yiga bursts into laughter. “That’s worse!” They guffaw. “Ha! Getting caught as a Yiga at the gate would be stupid, but getting arrested as the hero is even more stupid!”

Link groans, sliding further down the wall. This is… a really, really bad turn of events. What the hell is he going to do now?

There’s no window in the cell, so it’s impossible to know how much time passes, but it’s enough time that the incessant obnoxious gabbing and teasing from the Yiga in the other cell has pushed him to the brink of insanity. Link sits hunched over his knees, covering his ears and rocking minutely back and forth, both overstimulated by the Yiga’s constant talking and understimulated by the lack of literally anything else. With a frustrated growl Link pushes himself to his feet and paces the cell, trying to stretch out his stiff limbs. He pauses, standing in the middle of the cell, his ears twitching. “Shh!” He shushes the Yiga mid sentence, who gives an affronted scoff but nonetheless finally falls silent. Yes, there-- down the hall, faint footsteps. And reflected on the stone wall, torchlight. Link runs up to the bars and presses his face into the gap, trying to peer through at who’s coming.

A different gerudo guard than the ones before comes into view, along with someone who Link assumes is a gerudo civilian, and another armoured figure who is the tallest human Link has ever seen. The guard has two plates of food in hand, and continues walking to the next cell while the extremely tall soldier and the civilian stop in front of Link. (“Yummy, dinner,” says the yiga in the other cell, and Link hears the guard sigh.) The civilian looks like an academic, with a pair of specs perched on her nose and elaborately draped cloths wrapped around her shoulders, torso and legs. Piled up in her arms are a bunch of scrolls and papers. Looking up at the taller soldier, her armour more elaborate and decorated than the other guard’s, Link knows immediately this must be the general. The guard comes back, and slides the second plate into his cell. Link glances down at it. It’s a plate of rice and falafel, with a scoop of sweet potato and an orange. He looks back up at the general, not touching it.

The general pulls out two objects Link recognizes immediately; his slate, and a Yiga’s mask. “These two pieces of technology are remarkably similar,” she says in a deep, authoritative voice. “But just different enough.”

“It’s definitely not Yiga technology,” the scholar pipes up, adjusting her glasses, “Which is far more advanced than this. And there are records of the princess of Hyrule carrying such a device.”

“But that was a hundred years ago.” The general waves the slate. “It could have been stolen. This,” she places the slate on top of the scholar’s pile of documents. “Is Malholla, tenured professor of history at the university of Entasvar, an expert on the events leading up to the Calamity one hundred years ago.”

“Your claim to be the Hylian Champion is an interesting one.” Malholla says, fingering through the loose papers in her arms. “We have no records of what the champion Link looked like, aside from one loose sketch in one of Lady Urbosa’s personal sketchbooks.” She peers at Link. “No one knows what happened after the Divine Beasts fell, what happened to the princess or the hero. It is assumed they both perished. Yet you have the princess’ slate, and stored within, the champion’s tunic… if it is a replica, it is not a very well cared for replica.”

“The professor believes, against all odds,” the general says with a note of derision, “that there is a chance you are who you say you are.”

“I would like to ask you some questions, if that’s alright,” Malholla says, rifling through her papers and adjusting her glasses again. “To attempt to verify your claim.”

Link sighs, looking down. “I am the champion, I am not lying,” he says quietly. “But… I can’t answer your questions. I’ve lost my memory.”

The general snorts. “That’s convenient,”

The champion’s tunic … Link thinks, the garment that he has not touched or looked at since it was given to him by… “Impa,” he says. “Send a letter to Impa in Kakariko village. She was there a hundred years ago, she knows the truth.”

“Lady Impa?” The professor mutters as she flips through her notes. “Accounts say she was in Hyrule castle when the Calamity struck. There couldn’t have been any survivors.”

“She survived,” Link says, looking the academic in the eye. “I promise, Nayru may judge me if I lie. Just…” he shakes his head. “I’ve freed the Divine Beast of Zora’s Domain already, they too faced imminent disaster just as your kingdom does now. There isn’t much time.”

The three gerudo look at him for a long moment, before the general says, “We will send word to Kakariko, but if we send an envoy all the way across the ruinland only for you to be deceiving us, Yiga , there will be consequences .”

She turns and walks away, professor Malholla sparing him one last searching glance before following after her. The guard remains, smirking at him. “To be honest,” they say, “I think if you are lying, and you are Yiga, this would be a really funny prank. The whole barracks have heard about this by now, just saying.”

Link bonks his head on the cell bars with a groan. The guard chuckles, lights a lamp down the hall, and leaves. In the other cell, the Yiga speaks up again.

“You need to chill out, man,” they say. Link pulls his windscarf over his face. “Turn that frown upside down or whatever. I can feel your tense aura from here, yeesh.”

“Please shut up,” Link sighs, and takes his plate-- now cold-- and brings it to the back of his cell. He’s going to be stuck here for a while, huh?

Link’s days, which had been before so filled with movement, with wind and sunlight and hours on horseback, have transformed into a haze of dim sandstone, a long, timeless stretch of fog that fills his brain. The hours, indistinguishable days and nights, with no company but the obnoxious Yiga, whose name Link has learned is named Rystel, Rystel Aresh, and the relentless thoughts within his own head.

Spending this much time with a Yiga in the cell next to his has made Link unable to think of much more than the blood on his hands. He’d done well putting thoughts of his vision out of mind thus far, distracted by a busy day that had given way to a quick, dreamless and heavy sleep, but now…

He had taken a life. He had seen himself kill that assassin, peered into the past through Zelda’s eyes and witnessed it, yet he still cannot really remember doing it. There must be more, he thinks, what happened before, after? But no matter how hard he tries, no matter how deep within his mind he digs, he finds no answers.

It would be easier if he had something in front of him, in his hands, something that could tether him to that time, give him some kind of bridge to cross to the memories. But the slate is gone, locked away somewhere in the palace, and with it the key to his past.

So instead Link spends his time attempting to quiet his mind. He has no weapons but can easily imagine the weight of one in his hand, a sword, a spear, a claymore, strips down to just the loose pants Vilia was so kind to get him and moves through the drills on muscle memory. He stretches, kicks and punches the air in front of him as if there were a training dummy there, does push ups and sit ups and other exercises until he has to stop and wipe the sweat from his face and chest. He drinks the water the guards bring him. As he goes through the motions again and again, passing hour after hour after hour, he hears a ringing in his head, an echo of clanging metal and people shouting, when he closes his eyes he sees flashes of blue and white banners, clanking silver armour, a round blue wooden shield with metal accents.

When he’s trained to exhaustion, he meditates. He sits cross-legged on the cushion and rests his hands on his knees, closing his eyes and evening his breath. He clears his mind until he can hear the hum of the earth, focusing on a little piece of him that lives between his mind and his soul, pouring energy into it until he can sense the Yiga in the other cell, the guards around the corner. Opening further he latches on to the echoing feeling the hundreds and hundreds of footsteps above him leave in his mind. He meditates until he can sense all of Palace city, every beating heart, every restless hand, moving together as one sprawling web of souls breathing above him.

When it feels like the weight of the city has come crashing down on him, Link opens his eyes with a deep gasp, like he’d been held underwater and just barely surfaced in time for air. Their fear had spread like a mold, across the intricate web of souls Link had touched his mind to, seeping into the earth, filling his lungs with it instead of air. Pressing a hand to his chest to feel his speeding heart, Link waits for his sharp and stuttering heartbeat to calm. The aftertaste of the city’s dread does not subside for several minutes.

In the cell in front of him is a new plate of food that has been sitting there long enough to grow completely cold, next to it a cup of tepid water that was not there before. Link shivers, pulling his tunics back on. As he touches the fabric, he thinks of Vilia, and if she knows where he’s gone, if she’s worried about him. He both hopes so and hopes not.

When he has meditated to exhaustion, Link prays. Like many things, he has no memory of learning how to do this, but he knows intimately how. He sits with his legs folded under him, cupping his hands together in front of him as if he were holding water. He imagines the water, cool and dripping between his fingers, and prays.

He hasn’t prayed since that very first day, when he happened upon the statue of Hylia in the ruined temple. But when he does it now it feels… more real, despite there being no Goddess Statue watching him. Despite Rystel trying to distract him.

It feels bigger. It feels stronger. The words float to the surface of his mind from the dark depths of his subconscious, words that he must have recited over and over again Before for them to come to him so clearly when nearly nothing else has at all.

O goddess Hylia, guardian of time and soul, grant me my peace and safe passage, over land, sea, skies and heavens… O goddess Hylia, smile upon my time, my years and ages, may they play sweetly as strings upon your harp… see my soul in grace, see me, see the earth and my world, to shelter forever beneath your radiant wings. O goddess Hylia, bestow your blessings unto me .

For a second when he opens his, he thinks he sees a faint golden glow, but it is only the lamp of the guard coming to bring them dinner.

The more he thinks about it, the more Link can concede arresting him was honestly a fairly reasonable course of action on the Gerudo’s part. What else would you do with a man carrying an assassin’s weapon with no proof that he is who he says he is? Hopefully, Impa will be able to clear his name soon.

Link keeps track of the days by counting the meals he is brought. Water, thin flatbread and a bowl of cold lentil soup mark his mornings. Some hours later water and dried meats are brought to his cell, and in the evenings, water, and rice usually topped with some vegetable, once it was meat. This is how Link knows that the first break in the routine comes four days after his arrest.

He’s roused from a slightly uncomfortable nap that will absolutely leave a crick in his neck by the sound of running footsteps, hundreds of pairs of feet thundering across the levels above him. Link scrubs the crust from his eyes and sits up, just as everything starts to tremble.

“Hey, what’s going on!” Shouts Rystel on the other side of the wall. Their cells shake like leaves in a storm barely clinging to the branch, dust and small bits of debris raining down on them from the ceiling. Link grabs the wall, his fingertips sliding uselessly with no grip on the sandstone. “Hey, hello! Somebody! What’s happening!” The Yiga continues to shout. Link can hear yelling, more running. Screams.

This is not an earthquake .

Just when it didn’t seem possible, the earth shakes harder, and more dust falls on them. To Link’s horror a spiderweb crack forms along the ceiling, dark, terrifyingly wide gaps split apart right above them, where the bars of Link’s cell meet the ceiling. Oh, gods, Link thinks. No one is coming for us, are they? Getting to his feet, holding his arms out for balance, Link stumbles over to the bars under the cracks, grabbing and pulling on them. They wobble. Throwing his whole weight back Link yanks on the bar as hard as he can, and the metal rod comes loose from the ceiling, releasing even more dust onto Link’s head-- covering his windscarf and making him cough-- creating a gap just barely wide enough for him to squeeze through.

The exit is to his right. Link turns left, looking into Rystel’s cell and seeing his jailmate for the first time. The yiga is pressed to the bars of their cell, their brown hair messy and full of dust, their olive skin pale and ashen and their eyes wide with fear. They look young.

Rystel’s eyes widen further when Link appears in front of them, jumping back. “What are you doing--” They’re cut off by a deep rumble above them, and they shrink, looking up. Link does not look up, wordlessly focused on the bars of Rystel’s cell. He grabs them and yanks and pulls, but they’re not loosened like Link’s were and don’t budge.

Growling, Link turns away. “Wait!” Rystel shouts, and Link goes back into his own cell, grabbing the bar he’d pulled out and gripping it in both hands above his head like a javelin and driving into the wall between their cells. The cracks snake further across the ceiling, down along the wall, and Link jabs the end of the bar into one of those cracks, breaking the wall open chunk by chunk until a hole starts to form.

He almost loses his balance once as the shaking of the ground gets more intense, and he hears deep, reverberating crashes like thunder echoing in the ground around them, and a massive, distorted cry, the same rumbling noise of fury that Vah Ruta had made.

As soon as he’s made a hole in the wall large enough to pull Rystel through he throws the bar down and reaches through to them. For a second they don’t move, just standing there and staring at them, until Link shakes his arm at them. “Let’s go!” He barks, the first thing he’s said since the commotion started. They jump, grab his hand, and he pulls them through the hole into his cell.

“I thought we were enemies,” they say as they crawl through. Link looks them in the eyes as he grabs their wrist.

“I wouldn’t be much of a hero if I cared about that at a time like this,” he mutters.

Together they squeeze out of the cell and run towards the exit. Just as they turn the corner up the stairs they both smash into a guard running down the stairs.

Tabak !” The guard yells, jumping. “What are you-- you know what I don’t even blame you let’s go!” She grabs both Link and Rystel by the arm and pushes them back up the stairs. The three of them run through the trembling fort wall, all around them now the much louder sounds of more people fleeing and shouting, out of the city. When they break out into the desert sun the sudden light is bright enough to make Link’s vision swim, the first taste of daylight he’s had in half a week. All around them people are rushing, civilians and merchants carrying wares and belongings and crying children, and guards trying to keep them all in order. The guard that came for them keeps a tight grip on the two prisoner’s shoulders so they don’t slip away in the crowd. Link twists his head, craning his neck to look behind them.

Right there, far too close to the city, Naboris stomps in it’s rhythmic, unstoppable thudd, thudd, thudd , the sandstorm blowing furiously around it. It’s so massive Link thinks its accordioned neck could touch the sky.

Then, miraculously, it starts to turn, moving away from the city right before it would have completely destroyed the wall. As it slowly makes its way back out into the desert, cries of relief and thanks to the goddesses rise up in the crowd around them, and the tension leaves Link’s shoulders. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees a tear slip down Rystel’s cheek. Link looks away.

The guards start trying to corral all the evacuees back into the city, and people start shuffling back through the gates, almost lethargic compared to the frantic urgency with which they fled. Right before they’re led back into the fort, Link stops, pulling the guard to a halt. “Wait,” he says, and the guard looks down at him. “Just… one second. Just one more second.”

The air out here is far from refreshing, hot and dry and sandy, but the breeze tickles his neck and Link closes his eyes and takes a deep breath anyways. He fills his lungs once with the outside air, holds it in for one, two counts, then slowly exhales. “Okay,” he says. “Thank you.”

“You’re kind of weird,” the guard says as she leads him and Rystel back inside. This time they’re led into the north half of the wall, away from the damage.

Notes:

bet you weren't expecting any of that to happen HAHA

*adds Rystel to the ever growing list of people who have a crush on link* though to be fair to Rystel if that happened to me I would 100% get a crush on Link too. anyways his name is actually an anagram if you can guess what it is (and you are not my gf) you can win a prize. also wanna mention that we r very much trying to drive home the point that the Yiga are PEOPLEEEEEEEE

also will be posting a redesign for Buliara and a design for professor Malholla at some point keep an eye out for that on our tumblr blog, @zelda-without-a-licence-plate !!!!

GERUDO TRANSLATIONS:
Tabak-- a swear word :)

Chapter 21: the 'h' in hero stands for 'hips don't lie'

Summary:

Finally, Link is getting somewhere.

Notes:

IMPORTANT READ THIS
a few notes on the Gerudo language, we shifted some things around and added a couple more words and will be putting the translations HERE so you have the context before the chapter
All translations including canon, in order of appearance:
Sav'aaq -- hello
Riju -- royal child
Rijuhn -- The Heir
Rhageja -- priest/ess
Magahmi -- parent

The character Riju's first name is actually canonically Makeela, it says so in her diary. We decided to make Riju mean the gerudo equiv. of prince/ess, so when people say 'Makeela Riju' it's like saying 'Princess Zelda' or 'Prince Sidon'. Like with Sidon, Link will refer to Makeela as either 'Makeela Riju' or 'the riju' (the princess) until they get more familiar.
ALSO YAYYYY MAKEELA TIME YAYYYY

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Shuffling on the bed in his new cell, Link pulls his windscarf down over his eyes as he rolls over and tries to sleep. The adrenaline has long since faded, but sleep eludes him. It doesn’t help that it’s the afternoon, and on the other side of the cell Rystel is doing his very best to twist himself into a pretzel. Link hadn’t asked, but Rystel had volunteered the information anyways that he was doing ‘Yiga yoga’. “You should try it sometime,” he’d said, “I can feel your out-of-whack aura from here.”

Link had just rolled over and ignored him.

After the mess earlier that day, the guards had put the two of them in one cell. That probably doesn’t help his ‘I’m not a yiga I swear’ prospects, but there’s not really anything to do about it until Impa’s response anyways. Link shifts on the hard mattress.

“You’re not going to kill me in my sleep, are you?” He drones. Behind him, he hears Rystel snort.

“I can’t, you saved my life,” he says like it’s obvious. Which, okay, yeah. “Besides, we’re not trying to assassinate you, Mister Hero.”

Link frowns, turning over to look at him. He’s twisted around over himself, holding himself up on his forearms with his legs crossed over his head. “No? Then why have the Yiga Clan been tracking me? You have since I awoke in the shrine, I’ll bet.”

Rystel gets an awkward look on his face. “Haha, oh, you noticed that?”

Link sits up. “ Yes , I noticed that . If the Yiga Clan doesn’t want me dead, then why have you been trying to kill me?”

“Oh, that’s not what I said.” Rystel snickers. “We’re not trying to assassinate you . The boss just wants you for, you know, your classic blood ritual soul sacrifice kind of thing… no biggie.” He says with a tone of levity that has Link gaping at him. What?

What ?”

Rystel shrugs, a truly remarkable act considering he looks like he’s broken his spine in at least six places. “I don’t know what for. I’m just a footsoldier, they don’t tell me those kinds of details.”

Link heaves a sigh. “Great…” he mumbles, flopping back down onto his cot and turning back over. He covers his eyes and tries to sleep.

The next day at dinnertime, the guard only brings one plate of food. She puts it down on Rystel’s side of the cell. “You,” she gestures to Link, taking out a key and opening the cell. “Come with me. The Council wants to speak with you.”

“Oooh,” Rystel sing-songs, “someone’s in trouble~”

Link shoots him a withering glare over his shoulder as he walks out of the cell, tucking his windscarf into his belt.

“Let’s go,” the guard shuts the cell behind him and turns, leading him away and up back through the fort. They walk for what feels like ages, through the long stretches within the city’s wall, past marching guards who all glance down at him as they go by. Link looks up at the guard, quickening his pace to keep up with her.

“They know I was telling the truth now, right?” Link says. “I knew Impa would vouch for me.” The guard sighs.

“Yes, yes, you’re The Hero,” she says, “Now, come on. The council is waiting.”

They arrive at a final set of stairs and she ushers him up outside into the city’s centre, and Link’s eyes widen and his jaw drops as he looks around. The tall buildings around them create a perfect frame of the evening sky, circling protectively around the main square of the city. It’s a long, wide stretch of road, with rows of palm trees swaying and long, narrow waterways rippling underfoot. Lining each side of the road are shops in permanent buildings, stalls and tents, restaurants and inns and bars. The entire road is full of people, shouting their wares to the crowds, people gathered around in groups talking and laughing and shouting to hear each other, people running to and fro with places to be. A group of children playing a game around lines of chalk on the ancient, ancient brick. The most dazzling to Link is the vibrancy of it all, the warm golden lanterns and the bright, bold fabric wrapped around the people’s bodies, draped from the tents for shade, pinned up from doorways and hanging from people’s windows, flowing lightly in the breeze. Every colour imaginable and some Link had never conceived of before. Glinting gold and silver and jewels dangling from people’s wrists, ears, necks. The guard pulls him through the crowd, up towards the palace, grabbing his shoulder, not because she doesn’t trust him not to run off, probably, but so that he doesn’t get lost. Link is already a small person, he can freely admit, but clearly the average height amongst the Gerudo is much, much higher than Hylians. Much higher. As they pass through the market, Link catches glimpses through the gaps between people’s shoulders and elbows of fancy bags strung along a rope, fine fabrics and delicate clothes, arrows and weapons, and delicious smelling food.

The guard tugs him along as Link makes a mental list of the spots in the market he’ll have to come back to once Vah Naboris is taken care of, and the crowd thins out just enough for Link to finally see the palace. At the top of a grand, tall staircase with longer ramps on either side, sits the old, massive stone structure, tall archways and windows lining the outer wall, ornately carved detailing around every opening, bright pale pieces of stoneglass inlaid in the walls, lanterns and banners adorned with the Gerudo flag hanging down from high above. Above them, looking out over the city, is a wide balcony, with hanging plants and vines drooping from over the wall. It’s amazing. There are a lot more guards here, several stationed in the arches and more visible through the windows. Soldiers patrol back and forth in front of the steps, more standing at attention at the bases of the ramps. They part to let Link and his guard escort through, and the sun beats down on them hard as they climb the innumerable steps. As much as he tried to exercise from within his cell, it clearly wasn’t enough, because by the time they reach the top Link is trying very hard to catch his breath.

One of the guards at the front entrance glances down at him as they approach. “This is the one, huh?” She asks, a wobbly smile on her face like she’s trying to bite it down, and the guard standing next to her nudges her with their elbow.

“Sht! Don’t laugh,” they say, snickering themselves. Link gives them a medium glare as they go inside.

It’s a testament to the safety of the whole city that the main entrance of the palace is one large, open archway, as opposed to a door or gate to open and close. The fact that his subconscious finds this trust the royal family must have of their citizens remarkable makes him wonder what it was like in Hyrule one hundred years ago.

Inside is the throne room, cool and shaded. There are more soldiers around the draped and decorated pillars, but no one sits on the throne. Link is led past it, further into the palace, down a hall and into another room.

This room has no windows, lit only by the lamps high along the walls, around a long table covered in papers and maps. Sat around the table are the general who spoke to Link before, and three other people in very dignified, formal robes. They’re visibly older than the general is, and carry wisdom in their shoulders. Link knows instantly that these are very, very important people.

And yet… he can tell none of them is the chief.

The general stands from her seat as Link approaches the table. On top of the maps sits the Yiga mask, some papers that don’t match the others scattered around, and his slate. His fingers itch to reach out and grab it. It’s been odd not to have its weight on his belt.

“Link, Champion,” the general greets him, her voice strong in the quiet, small room. Link jumps a bit at the formal address. Those so far who have known him to be the champion have spoken to him familiarly. “Welcome. I apologize for the misunderstanding, and hope there will be good will between us from here.”

Link nods at her, trying to match the formality but probably just looking too stiff. “It’s fine,” he says. “I wouldn’t have trusted me, either.”

“Introductions are in order,” says the general. “I am Buliara, High General to the crown. Before you are Mashek, Vuraq, and Liab, Ministers and Advisors to the crown.”

“And we know who you are, of course, now that we have this letter,” says minister Vuraq, sat in the middle. She pushes the foreign papers and slate over to the nearest empty seat and gestures to it. “Please, Champion, have a seat. There is… much to discuss.”

Link sits, taking the slate and quickly scanning the papers. The table is very tall, and he adjusts so he’s sitting with his knees folded under him for a little height boost. On top, a letter from Impa explaining his situation and quest in efficient, plain language, and tucked underneath, a family tree, the names all too small to read at only a glance. He looks around the table, at the guard leaving behind him. “Where… is the Chief?” He asks. The ministers and general Buliara exchange somewhat tense glances.

“There is no Chief,” says Liab regretfully. “Chief Yotah… passed away mere years ago, and the heir is not of age yet. The four of us together administrate the kingdom, and will until she is crowned.”

“Oh,” Link looks between them. “I’m… sorry for your loss.”

“Thank you,” says Mashek, the oldest of the three ministers, with a soft hint of surprise. “Now, about Vah Naboris…”

Link nods. “I’ve already tamed Vah Ruta, the Divine Beast of the Zora. There should be a way to neutralize Vah Naboris from the outside, so I can get inside and… purge the Calamity from it.” On the table is a large, rudimentary sketch of Vah Naboris. Link pinches the edge of the paper and pulls it towards himself. “For Vah Ruta, I overcharged the power generators on it’s back with shock arrows to temporarily shut it down. Is there anything like that for this one?” He gestures to the sketch. Buliara rubs her chin in thought.

“The feet would be its weak point,” she says. “Some of my soldiers reported that hitting the feet with bomb arrows stalled it’s movements slightly. If we could get close enough and land enough blows, that may suffice.”

“Bomb arrows?” Link frowns. “We can’t destroy it.”

“You’re right, we can’t destroy it,” Buliara says. “Trust me, Champion, no amount of bomb arrows would be able to actually scratch that behemoth’s shell. I don’t know what it’s made of, but it must be damn near indestructible.”

“Then-- respectfully, of course-- if you have the resources, and you know how to do it, then why hasn’t the Divine Beast been neutralized already?”

Minister Vuraq shakes her head, pushing her glasses up. “It is not that simple. Anyone who tries to advance on Vah Naboris would be instantly wiped out by its lightning attack. We need the Thunder Helm.”

Link looks quickly up at her. “It was stolen by the Yiga clan, wasn’t it?”

“Yes,” Mashek nods gravely. “And not only that, it can only be used by…”

Buliara stands from her chair, her eyes trained on the door. “We have an audience,” she interjects, then a small smile forms on her face. “ Sav’aaq, riju .”

Link turns around in his seat to look at the door behind him. Peaking around the corner is a young girl, with wide brown eyes and curly dark brown hair, wearing a wide gold necklace, simple dark blue, green, and violet robes, and a gold tiara. At Buliara’s acknowledgement of her presence, the girl steps fully into the room, a determined set to her brow.

“Champion Link,” says Vuraq. “This is Makeela rijuhn , heir to the throne of Parapa.” Quickly, Link stands up and bows to the girl. She’s obviously very young, but of course, being gerudo, she’s nearly a foot taller than Link.

“It’s an honour to meet you, your highness,” he says, and the heir gives him a mere nod before addressing the ministers and Buliara.

“I want to help,” she says, her voice steady and lightly accented. “I deserve to be a part of this conversation.”

The administrators share an awkward look. Buliara sighs. “ Riju , we have discussed this. This situation is just too big for you to handle at your age.”

The riju crosses her arms. “But that doesn’t even matter,” she says, “Because the only one who can even use the Thunder Helm is me . There’s no other choice.” Another awkward look. Link looks around the room, trying to act as invisible as he can. Clearly there is some ongoing drama involved here that Link would rather not be involved with. The riju continues, “It’s not fair that I cannot be involved in the discussion of this crisis when we all know it will have to be me who faces Vah Naboris in the end!”

While the ministers look away, cringing slightly, Buliara steps towards her, placing a gentle hand on her shoulder. Makeela riju huffs, her brow furrowed. “Riju,” Buliara says softly, completely different from the authoritative tone Link has heard her use so far, “I understand your frustration. We are only trying to protect you…”

“Then stop treating me like a baby !” Makeela riju nearly shouts, and Link turns fully around, feeling extremely awkward to be witnessing this.

“Riju please ,” Buliara stresses. “May we discuss this later? There is much to prepare and the Thunder Helm is still in the hands of the Yiga.” She turns to Link with a weary expression. “We know where their base is , but we have no intel on the inside and cannot send any of our soldiers in.”

“It is very frustrating,” Liab adds. “Just like your position in all of this, Makeela riju, there is no easy solution.”

“Yes there is,” the riju says immediately like it’s obvious, and they all look at her. She gestures to Link with her chin. “One has just delivered itself right to our door. Send the Champion, if he is as good as the legends say.”

Minister Mashek balks. “We can not just--”

“I’ll do it,” Link says, and it’s his turn to have all eyes in the room snap to him. “I’ll take the Thunder Helm back for you. Makeela riju is right. Let me prove I can help you.”

The ministers and general share long, considering looks. The riju looks very smug. “It would be extremely dangerous,” Buliara eventually says, crossing her arms. “We don’t know what you would be walking into. We do not know how big their base is, or where they have hidden the Helm. If you were to be caught, you would be killed instantly.”

Link considers this, frowning down at the table and poking his chin in thought. His eyes drift to the mask, Rystel’s mask. “Not if they think I’m one of them,” he says slowly, picking up the mask. “Not if I go in disguise.”

The plan is formulated quickly. At dawn Link will dress himself in the uniform the guards confiscated from Rystel and infiltrate the Yiga base. Two days ago when Naboris came far too close to the city, a member of the Palace City Guard was captured by the Yiga Clan and taken prisoner, so Link will have to locate and release her on top of retrieving the Thunder Helm, and then get out in one piece.

“Um, not to be rude,” Link says as they’re wrapping up, Buliara rolling up her tactical maps. “But I didn’t get dinner.”

Liab laughs. “Of course, apologies Champion. Buliara, there is room in the barracks for him to eat and sleep, isn’t there?”

“It’s the only place in the city where there is room,” the general grumbles.

“We would offer you a room in the palace,” Vuraq adds, “of course, we wouldn’t want you to feel like we are not honoured to have you here. I don’t… really understand how you are here, but you fought alongside the legendary Urbosa. That means something.”

Link chuckles awkwardly. “I don’t understand it either,” he says.

“It is only because the spare rooms in the Palace are already occupied by the Rhageja and acolytes of the Temple of Din. You will probably encounter them while you are here.”

“Really, it’s fine,” Link waves his hand. “Don’t worry about it. You could make me sleep outside and I wouldn’t complain.”

“That would be highly disrespectful,” Mashek looks scandalised, and Makeela riju, who had been lingering behind the door, snickers behind her hand.

“I can show you to the kitchens, Champion Link,” the riju says, and Link nods his thanks.

“May I take these?” He asks the ministers, his hands hovering over Impa’s letter and the papers she sent. Liab nods, and he swipes the papers off the table, folding them and tucking them into his sash to read later. He follows Makeela riju out of the room to the kitchens.

He walks to her left and a pace behind as she leads him through the cool halls of the palace. They walk in silence for a few minutes, before the riju slows to a stop at a window. Link glances out at the view of the palace gardens. Very lush, very nice. Makeela riju sighs, and Link looks up at her.

“That was the first time since my magahmi passed that anyone has said the words ‘Makeela is right’,” she says, “Thank you. They never listen .”

“Well…” Link taps the windowsill. “You are right. I’m sorry. It’s hard to feel like you don’t have any choices.”

The riju sighs again, leaning her shoulder on the wall. She casts one more long look out at the sun setting along the distant desert horizon, then looks down at Link, her expression unreadable. “Did you choose to be the champion?”

Link looks away, watching the sun sink, tall clouds of dust billowing over the dunes beyond the city wall. Watches the leaves of the fruit trees and vines of the palace gardens swaying in the wind as he thinks.

“Yes.”

After dinner, which mostly consisted of Link eating everything he was allowed to down in the palace kitchens, which ended up being a lot because it was all very delicious, one of the guards shows him to the barracks. A sense of deja vu washes over him as he enters the large hall. The guard escorting him explains that the soldier’s barracks are the only place they can’t put civilians, and that’s pretty much the only reason there’s room for him there. It’s full of soldiers and guards, of course, and he can feel them all watching him as he’s shown around the bunks. He resists the urge to squirm uncomfortably, making himself look calm and unreadable.

“Is there anything else you need to do to prepare?” The guard asks him. “Or anything else you would like to see?”

Link thinks for a moment. “There is something…” he says. “This may sound odd, but it really is important-- do you know where Vilia performs?”

The club the guard brings him to is-- and, really, Link should have predicted this-- completely full. The bouncer tells them the shows are completely sold out for the next week with an apologetic tone. Link explains that he’s not really here to see the show, but Vilia helped him when he first arrived in the desert and he just wants to talk to her and thank her. Luckily, he’s believed, and is let inside. Loud, jaunty music plays, and every so often cheers erupt. He can’t see over the crowd to the stage-- it’s standing room only, but a bartender comes over and leads him around the crowd toward the back of the bar. The bartender is a little older than him, with straight hair cut in a sharp line around her jaw, and slightly shorter then most other gerudo Link has seen.

In the backstage dressing room, the noise is muffled, and there are lamps and lanterns strewn all across the room so the space is brightly lit, especially around the large mirror. Clothes and costumes and jewellery are strewn over every surface, including a large pair of fans made with the dyed feathers of some very big bird. On the vanity there’s a fancy glass half-full of brightly coloured liquor. “You can wait in here,” the bartender says. “The show’s only just started, do you want me to get you a drink in the meantime?”

Link checks his wallet. “Would I have to pay for it?”

The bartender smirks. “Yes.”

“Then no, thank you,” Link says, finding a stool and sitting down. The bartender laughs.

“Fair enough,” she says. “I’m Greta, by the way. Let me know if you need anything.”

“Thank you.”

Greta smiles at him as she ducks back out through the curtain, probably in a hurry to return to her position at the busy bar.

Left alone now in the dressing room, Link looks around, his eyes sticking on all the beautiful clothes everywhere. He abstains from rifling through the costumes, tempting as the glittering beads and shining fabrics are, and instead stays sitting where he is, no matter how badly he’s itching to get his grubby little hands all over the jewels and gems piled in front of him. Through the walls, he hears the crowd’s cheering surge. Tapping his knee, Link rocks back and forth slightly on the stool, before taking out the slate. He turns it on, the beeping noise it makes as the screen lights up a comfort, and looks through the items he has in there. Still tucked into his sash are the letters from Impa, and Link removes the folded papers. He considers them, wondering what Impa may have written about him, wonders if he really wants to know. Wonders what the names inscribed on the family tree he glimpsed are.

Call it cowardice, but Link stores the papers in the slate for another day. As he swipes through the screens, he comes to the picto album, displaying all of Zelda’s pictures, and the one blurry one he took of him and Purah. He’d almost forgotten that had happened. Link’s hands tighten around the slate. He thinks back, recollecting as many details as he can of everything that’s happened to him since he woke up in the shrine. He worries his new memories may not be safe, that they might slip away from his mind unnoticed to join the memories of his other life in the void.

Opening up the pictograph rune, Link raises the slate and holds it steady as he looks around the room through the screen. The image moves in and out of focus, and Link squints in concentration, snapping a picto of the glittering jewellery on the table.

It looks nice. Link smiles. He should use this rune more often, he thinks. In case he has trouble remembering again.

Eventually the music crescendos and fades, and the cheers become deafening even from the other room, and Link perks up, putting the slate away and standing. Now he’s not sure what to do. He hears laughter and footsteps outside the curtain. What if Vilia would be angry when she sees him? He did disappear for a week, after all. Maybe he shouldn’t have come here. How is he going to explain himself? Maybe he should have waited, maybe he should have just stayed away forever--

Vilia moves the curtain aside, stepping into the dressing room only to stop short. Her hair is half in an elaborate updo but starting to fall out of it, she’s covered in little more than a casually-thrown-on-robe, a thin sheen of sweat and a pair of fancy sandals. In her arms is a large bouquet of flowers, that falls to the floor as her whole body slackens in shock at seeing Link there, her eyes as wide as the moon.

“Link!”

Link can only get halfway through a small wave before Vilia strides across the room and sweeps him up into a hug, grabbing him and holding him tight. Link wheezes as his face is smushed into her shoulder, and tilts his head up towards the ceiling. “Hi,” he says, his arms stuck to his sides. Vilia gives him one last squeeze before letting him go, holding him out at arms’ length.

“Oh, thank the gods you’re alright,” she says. “I was so worried! I didn’t hear from you for days, and then that scare with Naboris-- I tried to tell myself surely you were safe, Entasvar is the safest place in the world, but I still feared the worst.”

Link bites the inside of his cheek in embarrassment, looking down at his boots. Vilia grabs a second chair from the corner and drags it over, sitting down on the cushioned stool Link was just occupying. “Sit, sit,” she gestures towards the chair, “Where have you been? I was asking around everywhere if anyone had seen you, but there was no trace of you.”

“It’s… embarrassing,” Link cringes. Vilia just looks at him earnestly, listening intently. Link sighs, picking up the sheikah slate. “I was, uh, arrested at the gate, because I had this,” he shows it to her, and Vilia looks at it in puzzlement. “They thought I was a Yiga spy. Honestly it wasn’t an unreasonable conclusion, I also had a Yiga weapon on me… but anyways, I wasn’t able to prove my real identity until today. So… yeah. That’s where I’ve been.”

“Goodness,” Vilia says. She reaches over and pats his shoulder. “Link, you are… such an enigma. I know we really only just met, so you don’t have to, but I can tell that there’s something bigger going on… you can tell me. If you want to.”

Link sighs, putting the slate down in his lap. “It’s… I don’t know.”

“Reynold told me how you took down two electric lizal in seconds,” Vilia says slowly. “He said it was… beyond skill. I know Hyrule doesn’t have warriors like that anymore-- at least I thought I knew.”

“No, it’s true,” Link says. “If this era of Hyrule has made warriors, I am not one of them. I’m from another time, from before the Calamity.”

“You… travelled through time?” Vilia looks at him confused, and Link shakes his head.

“I was in a sort of stasis,” he tries to explain. “When the Calamity hit, I-- was put in an ancient Sheikah chamber designed to pull soldiers away from the veil of death. And when I awoke, less than a month ago, a hundred years had passed, I had no memory of anything, but I was tasked with ridding the land of the Calamity. That’s why I’m here, to free Vah Naboris from its control.” He glances up at Vilia, who looks at him with a dumbfounded expression, then back down at the glowing eye on the Sheikah slate. “I know it makes no sense. It’s okay if you don’t believe me.”

Vilia hums pensively. “I’m… having a hard time wrapping my head around it,” she says slowly, “but it does explain the secrecy. It explains why you said you’re not from anywhere.” Link looks up at her, and her eyes turn sad. “You have no memories?”

Link shrugs. “I’ve regained a… small handful. But it’s hardly anything compared to the years’ worth of empty space in my mind.”

“I’m sorry,” Vilia says. “This must be a heavy task.”

“I can bear it,” Link says. “Can I ask, why did you help me so readily when you knew nothing about me? When it was obvious I was hiding something?”

Vilia just smiles. “I didn’t think much of it. It was a little odd, sure, but everyone is entitled to their secrets. Especially when-- well, I assumed you were like me. Someone who left their old life behind to live as someone new here, where it’s accepted, where it’s normal. Sometimes the past is painful. Many of my friends hardly talk about their life before. Neither do I.” The twist of her mouth turns wry. “I was born a man, but I always knew I was meant to be a woman. I was around your age when I left my home and began my beautiful transformation.”

The next breath Link releases is a shaky one. “Oh… so that’s what you meant by…” He trails off. Vilia nods. “Well, that’s… I guess you can see now that that’s not really the case, for me. That’s not… uh…”

For a moment, Vilia just looks at him, then she laughs, not a mean laugh, but that sort of airy, elegant laugh she made when they first met. “I’m sure,” she says in a way that makes Link think she means the opposite, “I can see that there is already enough turmoil in your life that maybe this sort of self-reflection is perhaps currently not for the best. But if you ever do want to talk about it, even if you do end up deciding this is not your way, you’ll know where to find me.”

Link looks away. “I mean-- I just don’t know. I feel like… there are important parts of myself still locked away with my memories. I think I won’t fully know who I am now until I learn who I was back then.”

“And that’s perfectly fine,” Vilia says, patting him on the shoulder again. “I may not really understand what you are going through-- this whole ‘warrior from the distant past’ thing-- but that doesn’t mean I won’t support you however I can. Even if it’s small things, compared to the scale of what you’re facing. I care about you, Link. I would like to see you well.”

A small smile forms on Link’s face. “We just met,” he says. Vilia chuckles and squeezes his shoulder.

“I get attached easily.” She pokes his cheek, and Link ducks away. “Your sunburn has healed nicely. You’ll fit right in with a tan like that,” she laughs. “It makes me want to dress you up like a little doll. I have a pair of earrings that would look very nice on you, I think…”

With some of the pressure lifted, the two of them sit in the dressing room and talk and laugh for a good hour more. Link shows her more of the slate, and how it can take pictos, a technology thought to be lost to time. He tries to take one of them, but it also looks blurry. She laughs again, and takes the slate from his hand. With her longer arms she gets a better angle and her steady sewist’s fingers take a clearer picto, of the two of them smiling together, the bright lamps and light reflecting off gold and silver filling the background. Then it gets late, and Link needs to return to the palace, and Vilia needs to change clothes for the next show. She sends him off with another tight hug and a smile, and on the walk back to the barracks, the world feels a little lighter on his shoulders than it did before.

Arriving back in the barracks, Link sits on the bunk he was given and pulls the curtain closed, setting the slate in his lap. Swiping carefully through the screens, he arrives at the part where his clothes are stored, and the bright blue of the champion’s tunic he has not touched stands out against the dark screen. He takes it out of the slate and lets the battered blue fabric splay across his legs before he can second guess it. Feeling the soft wool between his fingers, Link finally takes the time to really study the garment.

There’s a slight tatter and fray along almost every hem. The repairing stitches are mostly concentrated on the right side. Link is right-handed. Most of his scars are on the right side of his body.

What stands out to him most is the center of the chest. There are faint spots of stains that couldn’t be banished even with a hundred years of scrubbing, circling a patch of fabric that’s not quite the same shade of blue as the rest, and white embroidery outlining the elusive sword done in a different hand than the rest. Turning the tunic inside out, he can see the loose threads and stitches, the seam where the old fabric meets new. It looks like it was sewn back together by someone who was not an expert sewist, but still cared deeply about repairing this garment.

There was a hole, a giant hole right in the chest.

Link raises his hand and his fingers brush against the fabric covering his chest, where there is a large, mottled old burn, cut in two halves by a wide, perfectly straight line of unmarred flesh at a mostly-horizontal angle.

When he lowers his hands, his fingers are trembling.

He takes a deep breath, carefully folding the tunic into a neat square in his lap, so the patched sword is facing upwards. This is something he wore a hundred years ago, something he fought in. A recalled flash of blue and red bursts across his vision. This is something he killed in.

Link straightens his back and closes his eyes, running his hands over the worn fabric, concentrating on the history stitched into the tunic. Tries to coax that history to somewhere in his mind where he can see it. Witness it anew.

He feels the sun on his face, and the dry wind in his hair.

“Because you know that all life is sacred, including that of your enemy,” a woman’s voice rang in his head as Link shielded his eyes from the glaring sun, craning his neck back to look up. The statues of the seven heroines were so tall it was dizzying, standing in the center of their partial ring, their heads narrowed to points as high as the peaks of the mountains surrounding them. His feet shifted in the loose, moving sands, frustratingly inefficient as he tried to keep up with Urbosa’s long strides, her sandboots practically gliding over the sand with practised grace.

“Why have you brought me here,” Link asked when they came to a stop. His voice was rough and quiet, nearly swallowed up by the whistling, dusty wind. The Gerudo Champion kept her back turned to him, only looking up at the monumental statue before them. She didn’t react to his words, and Link thought maybe she didn’t hear. He was about to clear his throat to try again, to speak louder and clearer despite the frustration that always came with it, when the tall woman raised her hands to the heroines. Link watched and listened carefully, in silence.

“Before us,” Urbosa began, her voice strong and clear, “is Enteshar, the guardian of victory. The deity for which our capital city is named. She represents both a blessing and a burden.” She pointed to the two heroines on either side of Enteshar. “At her side stand Tarheem, and Khaheem. Do you know what they Keep?”

She turned, looking down at Link, the sun behind her casting her long shadow over him. Link shook his head.

“Mercy,” Urbosa gestured to one, then the other. “And vengeance. Two paths the warrior may take in the wake of victory.”

With her flat hand, she drew a line down the center of her face and chest. Link imagined the same line drawn down the statue of Enteshar behind her. The mighty stone was like a projection of the champion against the sheer cliff, the line of her shoulders the same. Urbosa was as solid and steady as the ancient carving of the heroine. “Enteshar is a mirror, and Tarheem and Khaheem are the reflection on either side. There is equal capacity for honour and shame in both.” She gave him a piercing look. “Do you understand?”

Link dragged his eyes over the three statues out of the seven, their stone surfaces scrubbed smooth by centuries upon centuries of desert winds and blowing sands, the details of their figures lost in the grains. He moved his hand, allowing the bright sun to sear his eyes, the light reflecting off the heroines and floating in spots across his vision. He did understand. “It’s up to me,”

The corners of Urbosa’s mouth twitched up, her expression pleased. “Self-pity is not the same as honouring your fallen foe. The choice is yours, whether your act was one of shame or honour. No one’s choice but yours. Make it.”

Link set his shoulders back, looking her in the eye. “I choose honour.”

Urbosa smiled fully. “I knew you would,” she said, stepping towards Link and putting a hand on his shoulder. “Now live that choice.”

As sunrise breaks out over the dunes, Link treks across the desert accompanied by two soldiers. He’s swapped his desert gear for the form-fitting, red and gray garb that was confiscated from Rystel.

“Just what are you planning,” Rystel had said through the bars when Link had walked up to the cell, his Yiga stealth suit in hand.

“None of your snappy comments now, Yiga,” Buliara said. “Fortunately, you two are the same size. Tell him how to put it on.”

“There’s a lot of buckles and I can’t figure out what any of them attach to,” Link added. “The general is already sick of me.”

Rystel snorted, shaking his head, his bangs hanging down his face. “It involves a lot of shimmying,” he said. “Especially if you want to squeeze into it. The ‘h’ in hero stands for hourglass, I guess.”

Link flushed, and Buliara pinched the bridge of her nose. “Be quiet, fool,” she hissed, “and do as you’re told.”

The humour left Rystel’s face, and his eyes narrowed. “I am not a fool,” he said, voice low. “We are not fools. We protect our own.” He turned away from the bars, sitting cross-legged facing the back wall. He said nothing more, no matter how much Buliara barked at him.

Link had managed to figure it out eventually-- after, admittedly, a lot of shimmying. The hardest adjustment was figuring out how to see through the mask. It is very advanced technology; it’s like the world is being projected to him on the sheikah slate’s screen in real time, like he was walking around looking through the pictograph, only it fills his vision. Wavering lines, pieces of text in a language he can’t understand, and symbols flit across the inside of the mask over the sun-glowing Parapa landscape. In his disguise with the duplex bow he already had strapped to his back, Link races along the sands with a sandseal behind the two guards. They veer off away from the entrance to Karusa valley, into a grove full of tall stone pillars before dismounting.

“This is as far as we can accompany you without being spotted,” one of the soldiers, Leena, says.

“We’ll wait for you here until sundown,” Kotta adds, tying up the reins of the three sandseals. “But no later. Take as much time as you need, but if you wait too long we cannot escort you back to the city.”

“That’s fine,” Link adjusts some of the seams that still won’t sit quite right, and holds out the slate. He’s hesitant to let go of it again so soon, but… “There’s no way for me to conceal this in these clothes. Will you keep it safe for me, please?”

Leena accepts the slate and tucks it into her belt. “Of course,” she says, nodding to him. “Best of luck, Champion.”

His feet sinking in the shifting sands, Link makes his way up the steep slope of Karusa valley towards the Yiga’s base. His heartbeat thuds uncomfortably hard in his chest as he gets closer. Thin streams of sand fall from the cliffs arching up over the valley, and a familiar sight catches his eye-- strung between the sheer walls of rock, ropes from which hang wood-carved prayers and wards, like he’d seen in Kakariko village. There are many of the same frog statues, except they have a cloth covering their faces, adorned with the upside-down Yiga eye, the rows getting longer and more frequent the narrower the pass gets, until he spots the entrance to the base.

He can feel eyes on him, but the disguise must be working, because he hasn’t been attacked yet. The entrance to the base is an open archway carved into the mountain, looming high over Link’s short frame like a maw. Before him, within this base, is an entire group dedicated to his capture and demise. There’s no telling what might be waiting for him inside.

He thinks of what he remembered last night.

Mercy, or vengeance.

Shame, or honour.

Notes:

Hee hee hoo hoo

Rystel i love youuu

Also in case you didn't pick up on the clues yes Vilia is a fantasy burlesque dancer, I thought it would be cool.

We did add another Urbosa memory that also is directly related to the age of calamity rewrite, very cool stuff going on there

Would love to hear ya'll's thoughts on the chapter!! Esp about Makeela, Vilia, Link's gender confusion, Buliara (my wife) anything really we love comments hehe

For more lore, art and memes, be sure to check out our tumblr blog, @zelda-without-a-licence-plate !!! we've got lots of cool stuff over there

Next up, Yiga chapter >:) (Anon is very excited for this one in particular hehe)

Chapter 22: it's me boy, the ps5 speaking to you inside your brain

Summary:

Link infiltrates the Yiga's hideout.

He steals someone's jacket.

Notes:

highly anticipated yiga chapter!!!! huzzah folks we really like this one and hope you do too hehe
we took a lot of care and time for this chapter but also Anon really really wants to leave the desert which is fair which is fair we are actually almost done this arc >:)

EDIT: So for the Yiga, we've assigned most of the background Yiga one out of a few very Common Names as a fun little bit-- though one of those names that we used was Mohammed, and it's been brought to our attention that anyone irl who is named that is pretty much certainly Muslim, and it's a very significant name within Islam. So we just wanted to take a sec to say that the Yiga as a whole are not meant to be Muslim-coded, and we're not having Muslim characters practising magic and stuff like that. Sorry if it took anyone by surprise, we're going to be more aware about the real world things we're tossing into our story in the future rather than just sprinkling things in willy nilly

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

The open archway leads into a circular room that’s dizzyingly tall for how narrow it is. Carved against the wall is a circle of statues that Link recognizes-- they perfectly match the one he’d seen in the guard’s barracks in Palace city, only less weathered-- and there are banners with the Yiga symbol tied around their faces, covering their eyes. The heroines? Quickly, Link counts them; one, two, three, four, five, six, seven… eight ?

Between each statue is a staircase, the tops all hidden by long red banners, and in the center of the room an altar, lit by torches. Link glances at the top of it. There’s a half-eaten sandwich next to a duplex bow someone left there.

Link notices one of the banners blowing slightly forward, as if there was a draft pushing it out. He walks up the steps and peeks around the fabric. There’s more stairs leading up behind it. Link looks around the room-- the other banners are still. Dead ends.

His heart beating so loud in his own ears it’s distracting, Link goes up the stairs into the hideout proper. It’s unnervingly silent, even in this stealthsuit his footsteps echo faintly off the stone walls. It’s also very cool inside, given they’re within the mountain. Link shivers, wishing he had a coat or something on over the suit.

The stairs turn to the right, the narrow-tall tunnel opening up into the caverns proper. Across a short wooden bridge, on the other side of a dimly lit platform, Link spots a cell, with a person inside. Jogging across, looking all around, seeing no one else, Link comes up to the wooden bars and peers inside.

Inside the cell-- which appears to double as a coat closet-- a Gerudo soldier sits casually on a cushioned seat, munching on a bowl of assorted nuts and fiddling with a small rectangular Yiga device. And she has hair like Link hasn’t ever seen-- cropped close to her skull, and dyed bright electric green.

“Barta?” Link whispers.

She looks up. “Oh, a guard, finally. Could you bring me another ale?”

Link gives her a blank look under his mask. He shakes his head. “Uh-- I’m not a guard. I was sent from Palace city-- I’m here to break you out.”

Barta blinks at him. “You--? Hold on, no way you’re an Entasvar soldier-- you’re too small. Who are you?”

“An ally,” Link says. Barta looks at him for a second, and her eyes widen.

“Ohh, you’re the--”

“Yes.”

“So you really are the--”

“Yeah.”

She starts to chuckle, and Link frowns. “Hey,” he says, “What are you laughing about-- you’re sitting right next to the exit unguarded and I don’t see you trying to break yourself out.”

Barta stifles her laughs. “I got caught fair and square.” She shrugs. “And it’s nice in here. Did you know the Yiga haven’t had to take a prisoner in over a hundred years? Also, fried bananas are delicious. That’s how they get you, I guess.”

Link sighs. “Do you know where they might be keeping the Thunder Helm?”

Popping some more nuts in her mouth, Barta shakes her head. “I don’t know where, but their leader is probably keeping it close.”

“Right,” Link steps away from the closet-cell, looking out into the rest of the vast hideout. “I’ll find it and come back for you, okay?”

Barta nods. “Good luck,” she says, and Link walks away.

Down the stairs from the platform Link can see more Yiga walking around, some with lanterns in hand and looking around, on patrol, and some who clearly have places to be. He notes, with a hint of jealousy, that most of them are wearing coats, sweaters or ponchos over their suits. He also notes that pretty much all of them have their masks on, something that works in his favour-- he won’t seem out of place for keeping his face covered. Taking a deep breath, repeating the mantra in his head to be normal, for the love of Hylia be normal , he steps forward, further into the hideout.

He tries to project an air that he knows where he is going even though he does not know where he is going. This part of the base is spartan and empty, sheer stone walls with no furniture, just long rows of protection deities and clusters of wards strung from wall to wall. Footsteps echo, and so do the low words exchanged between Yiga who stop to chat with each other. If their leader is keeping the Thunder Helm close, it must be deeper within the base , Link thinks. He goes down some more steps, and stiffens when he hears a sharp voice call out.

“You, scout!” A tall and broad Yiga dressed in a way Link hasn’t seen before marches up to him, wearing a hood and extra armour over her embellished stealthsuit. “What is your report?”

“Ah…” Link freezes up, then wants to smack himself-- of course, he’s equipped with a bow, the ones that the Yiga scouts have, naturally he would be assumed a scout. “It’s uh… all clear, sir.”

“Hm…” his new boss (?) taps the bottom of her mask. “No sign of Aresh?”

Link shakes his head. The Yiga hums again.

“I’ll inform the Blademaster,” she says, then pauses, looking Link up and down. “I don’t recognize you, are you a new recruit?”

Link nods, and the Yiga laughs, her shoulders jumping up and down as she rests her hands on her hips. “Well, no wonder you seemed so nervous! Sorry for just charging up on you like that, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Takna Kahl, the Spymaster. And you are?”

“My name is--” Link sweats. “L-- uh, Lee.”

“Of course,” The Spymaster chuckles, “there are a million Lees. And your last name?”

For a second Link just looks up at her. “...Lee.”

At that the Spymaster lets out a loud, hearty laugh, and claps Link on the shoulder. “Alright, alright,” she says, removing her hand when Link tenses. “I have some spare time, have you been given a proper tour of the base yet?”

Link shakes his head. This is perfect , he thinks. If he could get the Spymaster to lead him deeper inside, then slip off by himself, he should be able to find his way right to the Thunder Helm. He’s led through another few dim stone-carved rooms, and tries to keep track of how many turns they make. The Spymaster mostly carries the conversation. “So, Lee Lee, are you a recruit from the road, or are you from the village?”

“Uh, the road,” Link says quickly, because he doesn’t know what ‘the village’ is. A Yiga village? The Spymaster hums and nods.

“That’s good,” she says, “It’s good to have new faces around here, or should I say, new masks, heheh. This all must be very different from what you’re used to, huh?”

Link looks around. “It’s all new to me.”

“Don’t worry, you’ll adjust. Come on, this way is the mess hall; it’s not mealtime, but it’s always pretty busy anyways. Here we are,” they come out into a massive room, with a ceiling so high it’s obscured in shadow, that’s loud and bustling, a sea of red suits and white masks. Link’s heart speeds up at the sight, remembering that this is a hideout full of people set on hunting him down. He remembers what Rystel told him-- they don’t want to assassinate me, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want me dead . On the edge of his vision on the mask’s inner screen, Link sees his own vitals spike.

“So you’d have been briefed on the basics already, on how the top banana is Master Kohga and we all follow him and everything, but as mighty and powerful and honourable as he is, Master Kohga can’t do everything himself.” Link is led through the mess, between tables that are either half or not quite half full with people sitting and talking, passing papers between each other, or busy doing something on devices much more similar to the Sheikah slate while sipping tea. More of these Yiga have their masks off, propped up on top of their heads, hanging around their necks, partially on and only covering half their face, or set beside them on the tables. Link looks at their faces as little as possible.

“That’s what the seven masters are for. Well, really it’s six, but don’t ask about that, it’s a sore subject and we’re not supposed to talk about it. As the Spymaster, I’m in charge of gathering intel, which scouts like you help me collect and organize. I’m one of the two Yiga Generals.”

Link winces. If there was anyone here who could easily recognize him, it would be this lady.

“There’s also the Blademaster, who directs the footsoldiers. He’s an alright guy, but a real stickler for the rules. If you ever meet him, make sure to bow a lot. Then there’s the Techmaster and the Arcanemaster. Those are the four sectors that operate out of this military base, the other two and their divisions-- the Recordmaster and Dwellingmaster, are based in the village, so you’re unlikely to meet them any time soon.”

Link nods along, his mind racing.

“I feel bad for the Arcanemaster,” the Spymaster chuckles as they walk over to a less-occupied table. “It’s an important job, of course, but there isn’t a lot going on in that department right now. There’s maybe four total researchers and I hear they spend their days playing Yiga’s Dreamland .”

They sit down, and Link fights a shiver. It’s slightly warmer in there due to the amount of people, but not that much. One seat down and across from him, there’s a Yiga hunched over several stacks of papers, flipping through them and occasionally scribbling down notes. There’s an empty mug next to him, and a tea stain on the sleeve of his coat. “Here’s someone you’ll get to know,” the Spymaster says, and the Yiga looks up. They keep their mask on. “Mohammed F., inventory clerk from the armoury. Mohammed, this is Lee, a new recruit.”

Mohammed looks over at Link. Link waves. Mohammed stares for a second (or so Link assumes, he can’t see through the mask) before giving a slightly jerky nod and looking back down at his papers, slightly more hunched than before.

“I’m going to go get some tea,” the Spymaster slaps her hands on her knees. “I’m exhausted, we’ve been working day and night trying to find that slippery hero. Do you want some, Lee?”

Link shakes his head stiffly. The Spymaster turns to Mohammed. “Would you like me to get you a new mug?” She asks. Mohammed raises his head.

“Sure,” says the clerk quietly. The Spymaster stands and walks away, taking Mohammed’s cup with her. Link lets out a sigh, relaxing only somewhat. When she’s gone, Link leans over the table towards the clerk, folding his arms on the stone surface.

“Um,” he begins, speaking only just loud enough to be heard over the din of the mess hall. Mohammed looks at him. “If it’s no trouble… may I borrow a spare sheet of paper and a pen, if you have one?”

Half a second passes, and Mohammed looks back down, clearing his throat. “Sure, yeah,” he mutters, pushing a piece of paper and a brush across the table at him, and placing his ink well in between them. Link takes the items with a nod, and sets about hurriedly taking note of everything the Spymaster has told him so far.

His penmanship is awful.

While he writes, a full-body shiver wracks his frame and Mohammed looks up at him again. “Are you cold?” The clerk asks, and Link nods, breathing a laugh.

“It’s really freezing in here,” he says. “I wish I had a coat.”

“You can borrow mine,” Mohammed says in a rush, and Link blinks at him. Before he can say that’s okay you don’t have to , the Yiga is already shrugging off his coat and bundling it up to pass over the table. “Here.”

It would be too awkward to decline it now, so Link takes the coat and puts it on. Immediately he feels warmer. It really is a very nice coat, nice thick wool dyed deep crimson. Link knows he should give it back before he leaves, but he kind of doesn’t want to.

“Can I ask a question?” Link says, tapping the end of the brush on the edge of the table. Mohammed nods. “So, I’m new here… what’s the deal with, uh, the hero? Why are we looking for him?”

Mohammed sighs. “Right, the False Hero. Only the Masters know,” he says. “Some nasty business a hundred years ago. I know there’s some ritual involved, something about soul magic. But the Masters are sworn to secrecy and Master Kohga is… eccentric. In a fun way! But also a weird way.”

Link nods. “Right.” He frowns under his mask. Looks like he won’t be getting any more information on that… “Why… is he called the False Hero?”

“Because he’s not really the hero.”

“Oh…” Link’s stomach turns. “...why?”

Because I failed. I failed .

Mohammed shrugs. “ I wasn’t there a century ago,” he says. “Only Master Kohga was. But don’t ask him about it, you’ll make him sad.”

Link jolts in his chair and quickly jots down: Master Kohga over a hundred years old??

Just as he finishes that second question mark, the Spymaster returns with two steaming mugs of tea. She glances between Link and Mohammed, and chuckles as she sits down. “Glad to see you’re making friends , Lee.”

A staticky crackling noise fills the mess hall, and everyone looks up, on guard. “ It’s ME, everyone! The TOP BANANA speaking to you inside your BRAIN!” A slightly fried voice echoes throughout the hall, and the whole room lets out a sigh of relief. “Haha, just kidding. BIG thanks to the nice folks from the Tech Sector who set up this brand new comm system in the base, so I can talk to all of you at once right from my office! But only me, no one else is allowed to use it, got that? Unless it’s for something really really funny. So anyways, shoutout to Mohammed B, Lee D, Mohamed K, Mohammed K-H, Mohammed L, Mohammed R, Lee T, Lee V, Bryant Brian and Saorise for putting this together, you guys rock! Anyways, there’s a deal on special orders that qualify as ‘Baked Goods’ in the mess hall today, so that's nice, also we retrieved a big pile of dropped sickles so if you’re one of the losers who’s missing a sickle come see if it’s here, and lastly, Yiga Pong tournaments are suspended for a few months because the reigning champion Kevin had their baby and will be on parental leave for a while, good on you Kevin for beating everyone while heavily pregnant! Okay that’s all the announcements, bye. How do I turn this off. Mohammed is it off? Is it– oh wait it's not. Hookay lemme just– nope! That's my Yigaboy charge cord. Hmmm… OH WAIT, one last thing, normally my office is open to anyone who wants to come crying about their personal drama, but not today I will not be in there I will be nap-- "

It shuts off abruptly, and the mess hall returns to its prior level of noise as people discuss what they just heard. The Spymaster says something joking to Mohammed but Link isn’t paying attention, entirely focused on Master Kohga has an office and it is empty .

He shakes his paper to make sure the ink is dry before folding it up and looking around. “Where is, uh… the bathroom?”

The Spymaster points to the doorway opposite where they came in. “Just around the corner, you can’t miss it,” she says. Link nods and stands from his seat, scurrying across the room as inconspicuously as possible. He turns the corner and speeds past the bathroom. After going down another long hall, Link stops the first Yiga holding a slate that he sees. “‘Scuse me,” he says, “I’m new. Can you tell me where Master Kohga’s office is?”

The Yiga just looks at him. “Didn’t you hear? He’s not there.”

Link blanks for a second before holding up the paper with his notes on it, without thinking, and says, “I just need to drop something off.”

Miraculously, the Yiga nods, and points down the hall. “Take three right turns and a left,” they say. “It’s near the back of the base.”

“Thanks,” Link says distractedly, already taking off in the direction they were pointing. Hylia’s light is shining on me , he thinks. That was a good one, that was really good, go Link !

There’s no one around when he comes to the door to the office, only faint noises of movement from other rooms. Link looks quickly to either side before pushing the door open and slipping inside.

It’s a horrible mess. The room is a fairly decent size, but it feels claustrophobic from the amount of papers, junk and random treasures piled up everywhere. Link takes a deep breath in, then out, scanning the room. How is he going to find anything in here…? First he goes over to the giant mound of stuff that probably has a desk under it, and starts rifling through the papers and trinkets as carefully as he can to not really displace any of it.

Most of it he can’t decipher, the language of the messily scrawled notes unfamiliar to him, and he’s unsure what the origin or purpose of most of the objects scattered around are, save for the occasional raw rare ore or fancy jewels. After a minute of searching and finding no helm, Link steps back and sighs. He tilts his head back to rub the side of his neck-- and sees the helm sitting up on a shelf.

It has to be it, the six jewelled ‘eyes’ on the face, the ring on the back with the lightning symbols, the painted, shining gold that he’s seen all over Palace City-- and the fact that it’s the only thing in there that hasn’t collected dust yet.

His heart pounding excitedly, Link does a wall jump up and grabs onto the shelf, pulling himself up to snatch the Thunder Helm by the ring and yank it down. He falls back to the floor with a quiet thump and a slight scattering of papers, and turns back to the door.

Almost out, something in his peripheral catches his attention, a large sheet of paper on the ground with large intricate circles traced on it. Curiously, Link walks over and picks it up, turning it this way and that, trying to make sense of it. The circles and symbols must have something to do with the ritual Master Kohga is planning with his soul… it’s far too… purposeful not to be. He can’t make heads or tails of what it means, but something about the runes seems familiar to him, in an uneasy way.

Through the door, Link hears footsteps and voices approaching, and he tenses. They get closer, and uncertain if they're going to come in here but unwilling to take chances, Link glances around for another exit. Up near the ceiling he spots a small almost-platform and a narrow opening. Shoving the paper into the top of his boot, crumpling it in the process, and looping his wrist through the ring of the helm, Link scrambles up the wall, only slipping once before he makes it to the platform just as the door to the office creaks open. He crawls into the opening, discovering a tunnel with wires running through that goes further into the wall. He pulls himself forward into the tunnel on his elbows, hoping that it won’t take him to a dead end.

He crawls through the narrow passage for several minutes, taking several turns until he starts to feel a breeze. After another turn he sees a light, and speeds up towards it. Coming to the end of the tunnel, Link drops down in some kind of engine room, with large open windows high on the wall letting in sunlight. He dusts himself off, looking around-- the engines are noisy, but the room is empty. With excitement fluttering in his chest and tingling in his fingertips, he darts through the room to the back door that must lead outside-- I’ll stash the helm outside the base, get Barta and then we’ll circle back around for it , he thinks as he shoulders the door open and runs outside. Just as he steps out into the wide, round area within the sheer cliffs, beams of sunlight shining orange through the paper lanterns strung from cliff to cliff and his sense of triumph peaks, an alarm blares from within the base.

I’m already out, Link runs faster. They can’t catch me now --

Smoke and purple light explodes right in his face, and Link stumbles back, pinwheeling his arms for balance as he avoids collision with the Yiga who’d appeared right in front of him. Danger bells ring in his mind as the Yiga advances on him, pushing him further back, his silhouette highlighted by the sun behind him. Link is sure he’s never seen him before, but he recognizes him instantly--

Master Kohga .

It might be the fact that Link loses his balance and falls backwards as Kohga approaches, but the top Banana of the Yiga clan seems to get bigger as he lets out a menacing snarl.

“You!” Kohga shouts, and Link scrambles back, getting to his feet. “You little-- who the hell are you! And don’t say Lee, OR Mohammed!”

Link straightens his back and stares down Kohga, both their masks a blank wall hiding their true faces from each other. Link tightens his hold on the Thunder Helm. Kohga watches him, the Yiga’s fists curling and clenching at his sides, waiting for an answer. The wind whistles through the clearing.

“I am not one of you,” he says. “I am returning the Thunder Helm to its rightful owners. Now let me pass.”

Kohga growls and stomps his foot. “No way am I letting you do that! I stole that thing fair and square, and it’s mine!” He points at Link and strikes a pose. “You think you stand a chance against me, meddler? I’m going to kill you to death !”

It’s not an illusion, this time Kohga really does get bigger. Link tries to make a break for it and run around him, but the Chief of the Yiga clan stomps his foot on the ground and it erupts under Link’s feet, sending him flying forward, the Thunder Helm falling from his hands and tumbling away. Link rolls with the impact and gets back on his feet. He turns to face Kohga. Looks like he’s not going to be able to run from this one.

Just when Link thinks this might be a fair fight, the giant Yiga leader moves his hands and starts to hover in the air, coming towards him. Link backs up, reaching for a weapon, and this is when he realizes he only has a bow.

Oh, this is not going to be good .

With an echoing poof Kohga summons two giant spiked metal balls emblazoned with a glowing inverted eye. Link jumps, grabbing two arrows from his quiver. They start to rotate, and Link readies the arrows, hoping to get a hit in before being crushed under one of those things.

He fires just as one of the balls is moving over Kohga’s head. The arrows hit the yiga leader square in the mask, but it’s reinforced enough that they just bounce off. It distracts him, and the balls fall out of the air, one of them smacking him on the head on his way down. “OW! You little worm, that stung!”

Link readies another two arrows. Kohga gets his bearings and swings his arm, creating a shimmering blue barrier between them that comes flying at Link. Not sure what would happen if it hit him but unwilling to find out, he jumps out of the way, rolling as it passes. He lands on some wooden slats, throws his hand out to balance on the ground to stand back up, but his hand hits air. Link’s eyes widen behind the mask as he realizes he is inches from a giant hole in the ground, no telling how deep it is.

He hears Kohga grumbling behind him and gets to his feet, rolling back away from the hole. Link turns and rapid-fires more arrows at the Yiga leader, which he deflects with only his hands, smacking them out of the air like Link is tossing toothpicks at him. Kohga’s mask flashes blue, and Link hears a familiar cracking above him. His gut tells him to get out of the way before he can look up, and he jumps back as a giant cryonis ice spike smashes into the ground right in front of him. Then another, and more that he dodges while keeping one eye on Kohga and half an eye on that hole.

The ice dissipates into cold dust and shards as Kohga comes charging through it. Link barely dodges, time slowing down as the perfect chance is presented to Link to land a blow but no weapon to do it with. There are runes in this mask just like the slate-- Link wishes he knew how to activate them.

Link notches another two arrows and Kohga makes more quick, intricate hand movements. Before he releases the string Link hears poofs surrounding him and the fluttering of paper. Circling around him are now eight Kohgas. Link’s eyes dart around but there’s no tell which is the real one and which are an illusion. He spins, drawing and firing arrows as fast as he can at each of the copies, each one poofing away in clouds of smoke. Soon there’s only one left-- Kohga grumbles and stomps the ground.

Link shoots an arrow that Kohga dodges, flipping out of the way and doing a spin in the air. He doesn’t quite stick the landing-- Link hears a faint crack as Kohga hunches over, shouting.

He’s halfway through readying another two arrows-- which he’s steadily running out of-- when Kohga arches back and then swings his head forward, his arms bracing. The only warning Link gets is a brief high-pitched noise that pricks the underside of his memory, and he’s sprinting to the side as a huge red beam of energy blasts from Kohga’s mask. It’s nearly as big as Link and melts the stone it hits, nearly searing his heels as Link sprints just ahead of it, running wide around the hole.

Link runs until the blast fizzles out, coming back around on the other side of the Yiga leader. Kohga makes a confused noise as he looks for him, and Link shouts and leaps forward, tackling Kohga’s legs out from under him and sending them both sprawling in the dirt.

“You little--!” Kohga rounds on him and pushes him, and Link ducks and knees him in the leg-- as high as he can reach, but in his distraction Kohga is shrinking back down to regular size. Back and forth they duck dodge and launch blows at each other with their knees, fists, elbows. Link has a sinking suspicion he never got that much hand-to-hand training, and Kohga clearly has a lot of experience. Kohga’s fist makes contact with his side and Link coughs, backing away, trying to get a hit back but he’s forced further backwards until he’s nearly pressed to the wall.

Kohga raises his leg and Link can’t duck in time before he’s dealt a hard kick to the side of his head. His vision swims as he rears to the side, feeling his brain rattling around in his skull. In a split second of out-of-body delirium, Link thinks, wouldn’t it be crazy if that hit just put all my memories back ?

An elbow flying up to his face pulls Link back just as it collides with the bottom of his mask, pushing it up off his face and sending it tumbling to the ground.

Link wheezes as the breeze touches his face, and he feels more than sees Kohga freeze.

You .” Kohga whispers, his hands going slack at his sides, and Link looks up at the blank mask. The inverted eye stares back down at him.

“Yeah,” Link grunts as his vision finally stops swimming. “Me.”

Kohga takes a half step back, his shoulders slanting. Link spares only a brief moment to wonder what encounter they had a century ago before he charges forward, grabbing Kohga around the middle and pushing him back trying to knock him down. Kohga yells in surprise, gripping Link’s shoulders and trying to shove him off. They grapple back and forth, pushing hard against each other and trying to knock the other down until Link loses his balance. He falls to the ground and rolls out before Kohga can pin him, but he’s grabbed by the ankle before he can run and pulled back down.

This has been the most frustrating fight Link has ever endured. Both gain nearly no ground, just pushing and pulling until this time Link does get pinned. Stuck to the ground with Kohga’s knee on his stomach and arm on his throat, Link’s head hangs over the edge of the giant hole. He can feel the updraft blowing up from deep beneath the earth.

“This is the end for you, pretender,” Kohga pauses. “Look, no hard feelings, okay? I just need your soul. To fix it.”

“Fix-- what?” Link coughs out.

“This mess .” Kohga leans further over him, and a flash of now or never fires through Link. He brings his knee up hard , dislodging Kohga over him and uses his legs to push him off, forward--

Kohga yells as he goes diving head-first into the hole.

Link gasps for breath as his rolls over, scooting away from the edge and peeking over the side. Kohga’s voice echoes and fades until it stops, but he never hears him hit the bottom.

He can still hear the commotion inside the base, though. Link sighs and gives himself one more second to catch his breath before standing. He looks around for the thunder helm, spotting it lying on the ground exactly where it fell, only a short ways from the mask. He picks it up, and grabs the mask, looking to the snowy plateaus and back at the base, considering his options. Barta is still in there.

He turns the mask on and fiddles with it for several moments, trying to guess which buttons do what. Come on, come on… there’s gotta be a --

With a flash he manages to store the helm inside the mask, and he secures it back over his face with a grin. Making sure everything is in place and brushing some of the dirt off, fixing his coat, Link runs back into the base.

The chaos inside makes his stress peak even though he knows his disguise is perfect. Everyone is running everywhere, crowding the halls and almost creating a tidal wave of people in the mess. Link spots someone who must be one of the generals, shouting orders to the people gathered around them as everyone hurries back and forth, meeting up in teams. Link pushes through the crowds, keeping his head down, heading through the maze back towards the front entrance.

This part of the base is empty, practically abandoned as everyone surges deeper into the hideout. Link runs up the steps and comes to a screeching halt in front of Barta’s cell--

It’s empty. Opened from the inside-- Link assumes-hopes-prays that Barta broke herself out in the confusion, because he can’t stick around here much longer if he wants to slip away unnoticed.

Link’s feet sink in the sand, slowing him down as he reaches the mouth of Karusa valley. Back in the desert proper, he checks behind him to see that no one is following him. His escape was successful, enough. With a mighty sigh, he slumps over, leaning against the warm rockface as he catches his breath. He presses a hand to his bruised side and winces as aggravated muscles in his back and shoulders are engaged without their consent. He pulls off the mask, pushing back the cap of the suit. Even the warm desert wind is a relief to his sweaty hair.

Pushing himself back up with a grunt, he trudges towards the grotto where he left the other Gerudo soldiers, where hopefully Barta will also be. Luckily, as soon as he rounds the first pillar, he spots the three of them coming towards him. Barta waves to him, and they meet in the middle in the shade of one of the pillars. “You made it!” Barta says. “I was sure they’d caught you back there.”

“I’m slippery,” Link responds as he materializes the Thunder Helm from the mask. “Here,” he holds it out. “Not a scratch on it.”

The three guards’ eyes widen as they come up close to a sacred royal artifact they very well may have never been in the same room as before. Leena takes it reverently in her hands, holding it on either side of the face.

“You really did it,” Kotta says, “This is amazing. Thank you.”

Link stands proudly. He can’t undo what happened one hundred years ago, but with every good thing he does now, everything feels a little more balanced. Leena hands his slate back, and as the ancient material is returned to his hand, Link remembers something. Looking up, rising above the red-brown stone plateaus, an orange Sheikah tower between here and the Yiga hideout waits for him. “You all can go back to the city without me,” he says. “I have one more thing to do.”

The sun peaks while Link climbs the endless spiral that circles the tower, which rises up from unseen depths. Frustratingly, there are no platforms on the tower except for right up near the top, so he trudges up the long, long incline, picking off the monsters he encounters as he climbs. His thighs start to burn only halfway up.

At the top is a tall set of scaffolding and two pulley systems. After some head-scratching when he realizes the ladders don’t go all the way up, Link manages to rig the pulleys using magnesis on the weight blocks to bring him up to the highest platform. From the edge of the covered platform, Link’s long ears twitch as he picks up just the faintest of faint hints of music drifting down on the breeze.

Readying his paraglider, Link takes a running leap off the ledge towards the nearest tower platform. The wind buffets him as he sails through the air, currents blowing up from the chasm the tower emerges from, lifting him higher. He latches onto the side of the tower just beneath the platform, and pulls himself up with his paraglider hanging from his elbow looped through a strap. From there it’s a climb he’s used to, the accordion music getting louder as he gets higher. There’s a sharp chill up here, making his ears cold and his breath fog up, and making him glad for his brand new coat.

Just as suspected, when he reaches the top of the tower, Kass is there, standing tall on the very edge and playing his accordion as he looks out over the desert. Link’s first step on the ancient stone makes a tok that catches the bard’s attention, and the blue rito stops playing and turns to see who has joined him at such a high peak.

“Ah, traveller,” Kass says with smiling eyes. He hops down from his perch. “I wasn’t expecting to find anyone so high up. But naturally, you would make it to such a point. Say, that’s an interesting costume you’ve got on.”

“I’ve had kind of a weird morning,” Link says. He places the slate in the tower’s pedestal. “I didn’t expect to see anyone else up here, either.”

Kass chuckles. “Where else could I find such a magnificent view of this vast, rich kingdom?” He sweeps his wing out over the distant desert horizon. “I often find such roosts in pursuit of the muse.”

The light drops from the tower’s guidance stone and absorbs into the slate, filling out Link’s map. Link notices Kass peering at it. “What do you know about me?”

“Much and little,” Kass says, and Link tilts his head at him. “I know you have a long road ahead of you, and a great quest. I do not, however, know your name.”

Link freezes halfway through reaching for the slate. He… forgot. To introduce himself. Link has met this man three times now and he has not introduced himself. Oh, gods.

“Link, is my name,” he puts the slate back on his belt. “And how do you know the rest?”

Kass turns back around, casting a sly look over his shoulder at Link. “I’ve heard many stories, of course.” He resumes his playing. “Now, haven’t you somewhere to be?”

Link walks up to stand next to him at the edge of the tower. He looks out over the desert, the city in the distance, even farther, the great sandcloud that conceals Naboris…

Snapping his paraglider open, Link leaps from the tower and sails back towards the desert, carried on the biting highland winds.

Notes:

if anyone has any questions about our Yiga lore please PLEASE feel free to ask us questions we loveeee answering questions and it would be super fun to get some asks on our blog @zela-without-a-licence-plate :3 (there's a lot more we would love to go in depth about but couldn't really fit everything into the chapter so yea lol)
outtake--
Takna the Spymaster, checking Lee's file for dietary restrictions: wait, Lee Lee... supposed to be arriving today... but he's coming from the village! not the road!! SOUND THE ALARM

Chapter 23: loz: friendship is magic

Summary:

Returning with the Thunder Helm, Link and Riju decide to take matters into their own hands. With surprise support, they face Vah Naboris together.

Notes:

VERY VERY EXCITED FOR THIS CHAPTER YEAHHHH NABORIS TIME BABEYYYYYYY
also finally more heavily featuring my favourite character :) you will see :)
Chapter count might get tweaked around a bit as we go, we have it mostly planned out but sometimes things take more or less time in chapters than we anticipate and we have to splice and split or combine things-- like Naboris. You'll see what we mean.
n e ways YEAHHHH NABORIS TIME WOOOOOO

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Link is lucky his sand seal waited in the grove where it was left, otherwise he would be facing an hours-long trek across the desert (again) instead of a much more forgiving ride back to the city. As he comes up on the west gate, it’s early evening, long shadows stretching across the sands. One of the guards at the gate tells him that the council is waiting for him at the palace and that he must go there immediately, so he does. It’s quite a trek from the city’s wall to the center where the palace is. Entasvar is bigger than anything Link can imagine. The ancient city has expanded much in the centuries since it was built. The street level is distinctly higher in the outer areas nearest the city wall, but slopes down steadily in the older areas, especially around and within an ancient, weathered, smaller wall which circles the inner center of the city, and is covered all along in mosaic art, painted murals, and bold graffiti-- some faded, some new.

Within the palace is as cool and quiet as ever. Link turns in the throne room towards the hall where he remembers the council meeting room being, but he’s intercepted by a certain young heir.

“Champion,” Makeela riju says, stepping in front of him, blocking his way into the hall. “I’ve been waiting for you.”

“Riju,” Link nods respectfully. “The mission was a success. Leena, Kotta and Barta should have arrived ahead of me with the Thunder Helm.”

The riju smiles. “Yes. Before the soldiers even arrived at the palace I could sense the power of the heirloom. You have done a great thing for us, Champion. I am ever grateful.” She walks past him into the throne room. “There’s something I would like to discuss with you. Come this way.”

She leads him away from the meeting room, and Link follows despite his puzzlement. They go to a part of the palace Link hasn’t seen yet, the upper floors. After a minute, Makeela riju begins to speak again. “I am, as you have no doubt noticed, still a child.” She sighs, stopping near a large closed doorway. Link steps forward so he can see her face. “The people look at me with nothing but warmth in their eyes, but even this brings me some pain, I must admit… I try so hard to be worthy of their love, to prove I will be a worthy Chief… and to prove to myself that I am worthy, too.” She pushes open one of the double doors. She walks inside, and Link trails after her. These must be her chambers, the large plush bed in the center and nearly every other surface swamped by sand seal plushies. Everything in the room is elegant, expensive and elaborately woven fabrics and delicately carved furniture, and gold embellishments and finery glint throughout the whole space. On an ornate pedestal near one of the tall bookshelves the Thunder Helm sits. Makeela riju walks up to it, and delicately brushes her hand along the fine golden face. “When my family heirloom was stolen, I felt as though a shadow had fallen over me… but now that it’s back, the burden has lightened.” She turns to him. “I truly cannot thank you enough. Your arrival in the midst of all this must be the work of Lady Urbosa.”

Link looks at the Thunder Helm as the riju picks it up. Within his mind, he feels something like paper unfolding. She walks over towards a heavy set of curtains, pushing them aside to reveal a wide balcony that overlooks the palace gardens. Outside, the evening breeze tugs gently at their hair. The sun is low in the sky, casting the entire kingdom in fiery orange and scarlet. Link runs his hand along the smooth stone of the balcony, closing his eyes.

The emptiness of the Divine Beast was unsettling, the only noises that reached Link’s straining ears being his own footsteps and the rumbling machinery of the ancient mechanical titan. The belly of Vah Naboris felt bigger when he was the only soul inside. It felt wrong to walk across the rough stone paths and not be surrounded by bustling scientists and Parapan soldiers.

He was glad Naboris was still. The feeling of its feet moving under him, lifting and falling and lifting and falling across the dunes, made his stomach turn. The vibrations, the noise like the thunder its Champion mastered… the sheer destructive power encased in these semi-sentient structures was just… too much to Link. It felt like far more power than People were ever meant to possess. The triforce, the most ultimate power of any realm they could touch, was created by the Gods for mortals. A sacred gift.

And yet the Divine Beasts were built by none but mortal hands. Would ever there come a day when the golden triforce was cast aside, dismissed as trivial and small in the face of what they could create themselves?

Who needed gods, anyway?

With every new ancient mystery unravelled, they stumbled closer to a level of hubris Link dreaded to imagine. But of course, he kept these thoughts to himself. Princess Zelda and the Champions were far too enraptured by the ancient technology, and anyone else in the castle, except for his mother, would label him a traitor for such doubts.

Outside, the howling wind drowned out his morbid thoughts. He glanced left and right for Urbosa-- determinedly not looking down . Up ahead, he saw lamplight reflected on the stone. As he walked towards it, he faintly heard Urbosa speaking.

“... have to tell you, about your mother and I.” Link froze in place as he caught the tail end of Urbosa’s sentence. Whatever the Champion was about to say, Link knew he was never meant to hear it. He stayed hidden. A moment passed, and neither Urbosa nor the princess said anything. Link strained his ears.

“Alright,” he barely made out Urbosa’s whisper over the whistling, freezing winds. “Some other time, then.”

Link’s next steps were careful. He came in view of them before he was noticed. The two were seated atop some blankets and pillows, that would likely be referred to by the engineers later as a ‘tripping hazard’. Urbosa leaned her weight back on one hand, her other draped over the princess’ shoulders. Princess Zelda leaned fully against the Champion, her head tucked under Urbosa’s chin. Link could just see the princess’ back move with her breaths. Even from there, he could tell she was fast asleep.

He moved closer, and Urbosa finally looked up at him. For a mere second her eyes looked misty, but then it faded, and Link thought it must have simply been the moonlight. “Ah, well you certainly got here fast,” she said. Her summons had been delivered less than an hour ago. She shrugged with her free shoulder, her thick cloak shifting. “I should’ve expected as much from the princess’ own appointed knight.”

Link stepped right up next to them, glancing down at the sleeping princess before turning his gaze out to the vast silver sands. Urbosa sighed. “She was working hard on Naboris all day today, preparing for tomorrow’s battle. Still as the sands, now…” From the corner of his eye, Link watched Urbosa brush a stray curl from the princess’ face, before looking up at him with a smirk. “So? Spill it, boy. Have the two of you been finally getting along?”

Link just held her gaze, knowing he didn’t really have to answer. Urbosa chuckled. “It’s okay, I know. Your silence speaks volumes,” she said sarcastically. “I heard you were nipping at her heels all evening and she didn’t even snap at you once. She didn’t even send you away until I arrived, even surrounded by the Sheikah engineers and my soldiers. After what happened this morning, I certainly don’t blame her…”

At the reminder of the Yiga attack, Link stiffened, and Urbosa sighed. “Why don’t you sit for a while? Let’s enjoy the quiet while it lasts.”

The Champion waved to the cushion on her other side, and Link obliged, sitting cross-legged with his back straight at a casual, but socially acceptable, distance for their stations. Urbosa chuckled again, but he wasn’t sure what at.

“The desert is peaceful at night,” Link said quietly. “It’s… calm.”

Urbosa nodded. “The desert is full of life, far more than the eye can see. But under the moonlight, all is still.” She brushed princess Zelda’s hair back again. The princess slept on, oblivious to their quiet conversation. “I wish I could be the same. I am always restless at night. Zelda… takes after me, in that respect. I hear stories of her up all night studying, driving herself to tears over her prayers and recitations. She works so hard… and has nothing to show for it.”

She turned her head and looked at Link, sadness in her eyes. It was not just the moonlight before, Link realizes. “You’ve proven you can protect her, you guard her life with your own… but I ask you to promise to have her back in more ways than one. What she needs most is not just a guard, but a friend .”

Link froze, pinned wide eyed by Urbosa’s gaze. He gave a jerky nod, and Urbosa smiled. As she looked back out over her kingdom, something shuttered, a wall she had briefly let down rising back up. “The night’s chill deepens. We should all return to the palace…” Her smile morphed into a devious smirk, and before Link could question what she was about to do, she snapped her fingers, and a mighty bolt of lightning struck the sand before them, the force of the exploding energy shaking the entire Divine Beast nauseatingly. Link squeezed his eyes shut and grabbed whatever was closest-- which, embarrassingly, was Urbosa’s armoured bicep-- and princess Zelda jerked awake, jumping to her knees with an aborted shriek.

“Urbosa?!” She looked around frantically. “What was that! Did you feel that!” Her eyes passed right over Link, who was letting go of Urbosa’s armour like it’d burned him, then did a double take, looking at him in shock. “Wait, what-- how did you-- when did you get here?? How long was I asleep?”

Urbosa threw her head back and laughed. Link and the princess shared looks, him frazzled, her bewildered, and their combined confusion just made Urbosa laugh harder.

“Um. How do I look?”

Link blinks his eyes open to see Makeela riju with the helm on, facing him with her arms out. Link considers it, the way the helm sits low and slightly crooked on her head. “It’s,” he pauses, “kind of big.”

The Thunder Helm slips further, and the riju adjusts it with a sigh. “You don’t say,” she says, taking the helm off after a few seconds of fiddling with it. She flops backwards onto a cushioned seat against the wall, holding the helm in her lap. “I… listened in on the council while they were waiting for you. They’re still going in circles trying to find a way to keep me out of danger. They want to move on Vah Naboris at first light tomorrow.”

Link sits next to her. Makeela riju looks down at the helm. “But I fear we don’t have that much time. The threat the Divine Beast poses only grows. Kara Kareh is surely the next to fall… I can’t let that happen. As the heir, and as a Gerudo, I must stop Naboris before it wipes out my people.”

“...What’s your plan?” Link asks her, and she looks down at him, a sneaky smile growing on her face.

Link hurries back down to the barracks, where he changes back into the desert gear Vilia bought him, attaching his leather armour over his tunic but under the shawl, and borrows a full quiver of bomb arrows from the armoury. He sneaks back up through the castle, trying to slip through the halls unnoticed but also not look too much like he is sneaking. He almost makes it out of the palace unhindered when, turning a corner, Link nearly smacks into someone.

Ni’enid --” “Sorry--!”

They both take a step back. Link steps to the side and the person does the same. Link steps to the other side and so do they. “Uh--” “Ah, um--”

Link stops and actually looks at the person blocking his path. He hasn’t met them before, but he can tell they’re Important. They wear several layers of fine robes, delicate fabrics covered in ornate embroidery, all in reds, golds and oranges. They wear glittery gold jewelry in nearly every place a person could, strands of rubies and topaz practically hanging off their tall, round figure. Displayed over their chest is the emblem of Din. They clear their throat, and Link looks up at their face. “Excuse me,” they say, “if you could please…”

“Oh!” Link moves to the side and motions for them to pass. “Of course, uh…”

The fancy person catches his hesitation and turns back to him with a smile. “I am Tamirsra, a rhageja ; a keeper of the temple of Din. There isn’t a proper word for it in any other language, but I have heard some hylians simply call us ‘the holy folk’.”

Link’s eyes widen. One of the councillors had mentioned the rhageja . “It’s an honour to meet you. My name is Link--”

“The champion,” Tamirsra finishes for him. “It is an honour to meet you, as well.” They tilt their head at him. “I believe the council is looking for you.”

Trying not to wince, Link nods along. “Yeah, I’m, on my way to meet them now.” He forces a casual tone, shifting so that his quiver full of bomb arrows is hidden fully behind him. “What, uh, what about you? On your way to do, uh, holy stuff?”

Tamirsra chuckles. “Not traditionally. I’m going to go stand in the wind towers. Feeling the cold night wind surrounding and buffeting me… there’s a power in the element of wind, all-encompassing. The wind travels, connecting us all to each other and bigger parts of our world, realms we cannot reach ourselves… it is holy to me.”

Link looks up at them, unsure how to respond. “I… totally agree,” he says slowly. “I should go. The, uh, council is waiting for me.”

Tamirsra gives a sage nod. “Yes, of course,” they say, a glint appearing in their eye. “I wish you swift winds, Champion. And good luck.”

Link takes off down the hall, now checking around every corner and staying strategically just out of sight of the guards. He got lucky that time, but he doesn’t want to risk being caught by anyone else, who might want to escort him to the meeting chamber directly. Or ask why he has a full quiver of bomb arrows and where he got them and did he ask before taking them.

He hears marching footsteps down the hall, coming towards him, and behind him.

He jumps out the nearest open window. Ducking through the gardens, Link manages to not be seen, and by the time he climbs up over the wall and sprints to the sand seal rental place, he figures he’s slipped away from the palace entirely undetected.

The wind whistling and the sound of the sand shifting as Link’s sandsled flies over the dunes fills his ears, bringing a sense of peace and calm under the fiery red sky. He pulls on the reins of his sandseal, a laugh escaping his lips as he swerves back and forth towards the outpost he was to meet the riju at. He picks up speed, racing across the desert. He doesn’t know how he felt about it a hundred years ago, but now he finds comfort in knowing he isn’t much more significant to this vast biome than any other grain of sand.

He’s really started to get the hang of sandseal surfing, weaving around obstacles and grinning as he catches air going over a dune. Apparently this is Parapa’s most popular sport, and he can totally see why. There’s the same sort of freedom that comes with riding horses, but also something different in the way he leans his weight and twists his hips to maneuver on the sled.

The outpost comes into view quickly, and beyond that, Vah Naboris kicking up its mountain-high cloud of dust. Link comes to a sliding stop with a wave of sand thrown over the threshold of the outpost, his heart beating fast, his blood pumping hard with anticipation. He feels good about this.

He ties up the sandseal next to the other, much bigger and gruffer-looking sandseal with the little bow on its head, and goes straight for the ladder, pulling himself up towards the lookout platform. There, standing tall and dressed in sturdy desert gear of her own as opposed to her royal finery, is Makeela riju. Her hair is braided and pinned to the back of her head, and protected by a sandscarf similar to Link’s own. The Thunder Helm rests on the low wall of the lookout post next to her. Link notices she’s padded the inside with fabric so it won’t slip on her head. The wind and sand blows, and Makeela turns towards him. “What a sight…” the riju says with a tense smile, looking back out at the mechanical titan traversing the desert. “Divine Beast Vah Naboris is pretty intimidating, isn’t he?”

Link walks up next to her. “He is… by far, the most majestic of the Divine Beasts.”

Makeela glances down at him. “You said you’d tamed Vah Ruta of Zora’s Domain, already. Have you seen the other two?”

“No,” Link says. “But I still know.” Don’t tell Revali I said that, he thinks with a chuckle that quickly dies in his throat as he realizes what just passed through his mind. He tries to reach back, but the moment is gone…

Still, Link reassures himself. Whatever that meant, for a moment, my mind was one with the one locked beneath the nothing. It must mean his mind is slowly getting stronger… maybe the more he remembers? It’s only a matter of time before I dig deep enough .

“Well,” Makeela pulls in a breath and releases it slowly. “Are you ready?”

“Of course,” Link nods, at the same time that someone behind him says, “Ready, riju !”

Link and Makeela both startle, looking back at the ladder. Climbing up onto the platform is a soldier that Link recognizes. In full armour and ready for battle, before them stands Barta, the guard who had been captured by the Yiga.

“I followed you here,” Barta explains without having to be asked. “I thought, if the hero is stealing bomb arrows and sneaking out of the city, it must be for something good.” She looks around with a smirk. “And now here we are.”

Link’s face reddens, and Makeela gives him a sour look. Barta saunters over to them, shielding her eyes from the setting sun as she looks at Vah Naboris. “So? What is your plan, riju ?”

Makeela picks up the Thunder Helm. “The plan is simple. I will take the lead, using the Thunder Helm to create a barrier against Naboris’ lightning attack, allowing Link to bombard the feet with bomb arrows. It should be enough to subdue it… it will have to be.”

Barta nods, deep in thought. “Okay,” she says. “Okay. I’m in.”

Link and Makeela blink up at her. “You’re what?”

“I’m in,” Barta repeats. “It’s what Buliara General has been planning all along, is it not?” She chuckles, “the only difference is the General is unwilling to send you into battle, riju .”

Makeela exhales. “Yes,” she says, starting to smile. “Yes. And you are willing to be led in battle by a child?”

“You are the heir of Parapa, the rijuhn ,” Barta says like that’s all that matters. “I trust you with my life. With all life.”

The wind howls. The sun meets the horizon, the fading light glinting off the gold of the Thunder Helm. Makeela sighs. “Heh. Who would have thought that, just before such a momentous battle, hearing such a simple and confident pledge of support would be what puts me at ease?” She tucks the Thunder Helm under her arm and looks at Naboris, and back at them with a grin. “Alright, let’s do this! Are we ready?”

“Yeah we are!” Barta punches the air excitedly, and Link imitates the gesture. Barta laughs and claps his shoulder. “Let’s kill this thing!”

Link and Makeela’s eyes widen simultaneously. “We don’t want to kill it --”

“It is an expression, yeah?” Barta looks down at Link. “It is a trader’s tongue expression. Did I get it wrong?”

“How should I know?” Link shrugs, and Makeela laughs, walking past them to the ladder.

“What are you waiting for? Are we going to kill this thing or not?”

They stand at the ready with their sandseals a short distance from the outpost. Makeela pets her blue sandseal as she adjusts the animal’s bridle. Link is busy adjusting his clothes under his harness so they don’t bunch as much when Barta taps him on the shoulder. “You have that on upside down,” she says. Link just looks at her.

“What?”

“Upside down. Not the right way.” She points to the harness around her hips, connected seamlessly to her armour and belts. “It should be like this.”

Oh my gods ,” Link mutters, hurriedly fixing his harness with flaming cheeks. He’s been wearing it wrong the whole time and no one told him? Horrible. Awful. Terrible.

A clearing throat gets their attention. Makeela stands with her back to them. “Could you give me a bit of room, just for a moment?” She looks over her shoulder at them, the Thunder Helm ready in her hands. Link and Barta both take two steps back (Barta’s steps take her back farther than Link). “Uh, a little more.” They shuffle back further.

She puts the helm on and raises her arms to the sky, as if she were to embrace the rising moon. “My name is Makeela, descendant of the ancient Parapan royal line and future leader of the Gerudo people!” She shouts to the darkening sky as the wind blows around her. “With the power of this sacred heirloom, forged when oceans and deserts were one, I shall calm the Divine Beast Vah Naboris. Ancestors! Answer my call! Aid me in this task! Let your love and fury light my bones and through this helm grant me the power of lightning!”

Lightning splits the air above them and surges into the face of the Thunder Helm with an ear-splitting crack . No warning, no build up. Link and Barta are flung backwards into the sand. The sand seals flatten themselves to the ground. Makeela stands tall and untouched, the power absorbed by the helm and surging around her in smaller sparks and crackles. She curls her arms in and spreads them out, forming a sparkling, glowing green-blue shield that envelops all three of them. Link and Barta get back on their feet with matching looks of awe.

“Oh wow!” Makeela giggles, reverently touching the fine gold of the helm. “I can feel the helm’s power coursing through me!”

Barta nods. “That was magnificent, riju !” Link gives Makeela a thumbs up. From under the helm, they can see her grin.

“Alright, let’s move!” Makeela mounts her sand seal, and Link and Barta follow suit. Ahead they can see the giant sandstorm, and Vah Naboris inside, lit by flashes of lighting. As they take off, their sleds throwing up sand behind them, Link hears the riju quietly say, “Lady Urbosa, please grant us your protection…”

The three of them race towards the Divine Beast, maneuvering to stay inside the barrier created by Makeela. Up close the ground shakes enough to nearly throw them from their sleds, and the sheer vertigo Link gets from looking up at Naboris from this angle is frightening. While Ruta had also been mountainous in size, it had been mostly submerged in the reservoir. With the way Naboris towers so high above them, it looks like its face could pierce the highest realm. If Link had lived ten thousand years ago and seen it for the first time then, he would have believed the Sheikah had built a God.

Naboris shifts its course and angles towards them, lifting a leg higher than just to step. It starts to glow, and the three of them swerve out of the way right as it brings its foot down with a mighty crash, the force of the stomp practically liquefying the sand beneath it and sending it crashing up in a massive wave. Each foot is easily the size of a hinox, and would crush them to paste if they got caught under one.

A ringing noise shakes the dunes as purple energy gathers between Naboris’ two humps, the atmosphere charging with dangerous energy. Link and Barta double back to get under Makeela’s shield. Just as they duck under it a lightning strike strong enough to turn a talus to rubble comes down over their heads. The blocked blow still rocks them and nearly throws them to the ground. Makeela gasps, and Link spares her a glance before advancing again. She holds strong, her mouth a determined line. Link pushes his sandseal forward, and Barta follows.

The air still sizzles with electric heat as they swerve and circle around the ancient goliath’s moving feet, firing their bomb arrows through the thick clouds of dust at its hind legs. Just like Buliara said, they barely even scratch it, but with every booming explosion its movements falter a little more.

Link barely hears the buildup to the next lightning strike over Naboris and the bomb arrows. It’s not until Barta’s shout reaches him-- “ Fall back! ”-- that the ringing registers in his ears.

He skids around and speeds around under one of Naboris’ feet to reach the shield in time, the flat bottom looming right above him and coming down fast behind him, sand and dirt blasted into the air stings his back even through the clothes. He’s barely passed through the barrier when the lightning hits, and his body hair stands on end.

Naboris stops marching, planting its rear legs and with a deep, scraping rumble, starts to rear up, lifting its front legs into the air. It releases a mighty roar at its peak, loud enough to make the highlands tremble, then comes crashing down with incredible force. They crouch low on their sleds, the ground quaking violently. Link’s thighs tense and he wobbles forward.

The next second he’s swallowing sand as the rim of his sled catches the dune and the jolt travels up his legs and spine, his board ripped out from under him. His feet slip right out of the straps at the pull, and he’s pulled along by his startled sandseal, dragged spinning and tumbling downhill. Everything is sand. There is no more sky, only sand. He thinks he hears his companions shout to him over the fuzz and the roar of Naboris, but it’s lost in the chaos.

He hears the sheer of a sled next to him, and sandseals barking. His sandseal stops abruptly but he keeps rolling until he collides with its back, letting out a final, weak oof .

“Link!” Makeela calls his name, one hand on his seals’ forehead. The shield buzzes green and strong around them, and just over the dune Naboris rumbles, coming towards them. “Are you hurt?”

Link spits out a mouthful of sand, gagging at the disgusting rough texture coating his mouth. He thinks some got up his nose. “My pride is a little bruised,” he coughs, standing and checking his harness. Still secure.

Barta pulls up next to them, Link’s lost sled under her arm. “We need to move,” she says urgently. The ever-present trembling gets stronger as Naboris comes closer, enraged.

Link rushes to re-secure his feet to his sled, and the second he’s ready they charge in, Makeela leading them to face the Divine Beast head on.

Vah Naboris marches on, its front feet glowing, its movements choppy and rough. It won’t take much more to bring it down, and it knows.

“Now!” Link shouts, and he and Barta race forward, bombarding the Divine Beast with their bomb arrows. It builds up another charge, and they cluster under the shield. This time it doesn’t just blast them with one lightning strike-- all around them smaller forks of lightning strike the ground like rain, the attack lasting too many seconds.

Everything happens so fast, it feels like it takes a lifetime.

When the lightning clears, Makeela makes a choked noise, and Link sees her teeth grind. The shield flickers the barest amount.

“One more!” Link shouts, and Barta nods.

“Let’s go!”

They press on and aim their bows, firing bomb after bomb after bomb until Vah Naboris finally starts to sieze up, stone mechanisms grumbling and groaning. It stumbles and falls, slowly coming down to meet the earth as all the lights in its body go out. Link, Barta and Makeela put distance between themselves and it, taking cover behind some rocks. It doesn’t do much good, the force of its massive body hitting the ground sends out a shockwave and a surge of wind and sand that sweeps over and envelops them. Link pulls the fabric of his sandscarf over his face and squints his eyes shut until the shaking subsides.

Eventually the world stills, and they peek out at the fallen Divine Beast Vah Naboris. The dust it kicked up clears, and the desert is illuminated by the bright full moon rising over the highlands, silhouetting the darkened Divine Beast as a massive black shape against the star-filled sky.

Even lying on its belly, its head bowed towards the sand, the thing is enormous. Link lets out a breath of awe as the three of them dismount and approach the beast. Barta whistles.

“We did it…” Makeela breathes in disbelief. She pulls off the thunder helm, looking up at Naboris and them with wide eyes. A grin spreads across her face. “We did it! We did it !”

“Yeah we did! We did!” Barta cheers, and Link beams at them both. The excitement and relief overtakes Makeela and she starts jumping up and down and shrieking with amazed laughter. She grabs one of Link’s hands and they start jumping together, giddy with success.

They did it, they really did it !

Link feels the ground vibrate underfoot, and Barta makes a noise of alarm just as he looks back at the Divine Beast. The pink lights are flickering back on. Naboris is powering back up. The three run towards it, feet kicking up sand as its legs start to shift.

Barta reaches the entrance to the Beast first, pulling herself up onto the rising platform. Link gets there just a second later. Jumping up, he barely grips the ledge as Naboris starts rumbling, and it rises. The ground disappears from beneath Link's feet like it just stopped existing, and Naboris’ torso shifts forward and down to step up. Link swings wildly from side to side, his sweaty fingers slipping on the ancient stone. Barta yells and grabs his wrist, keeping them there as they go up, and up, and up. His stomach swoops and his heart stops, but looking up and meeting Barta’s eyes, they hold each other there-- Link realizes that even though they barely know each other, he knows if she’s hanging on, he will not fall.

Barta reaches her second hand down, and he just holds tight as she yanks him up onto the platform.

Makeela stays on the ground below them, waving her arms at them as Link and Barta poke their heads off the side. “Good luck!” She yells up at them. “I will go back to the outpost to watch and wait!”

They salute her, and she takes up the reins of her sandseal and peels away as Naboris once again rises to its full height.

Notes:

SOME NOTES
1- Naboris is he/him'd because I think of it as a boy cat that is owned by a house of lesbians (aka Urbosa). this makes sense to me if it doesnt make sense to you. sorry

2- This is our first referencing (i think) in the fic 'Trader's Tongue' which is the common language shared between the varying kingdoms and no-mans-lands of the golden continent (what-the-game-calls-hyrule and a bit beyond). A little detail that I liked was Barta referring to Buliara as "Buliara General" instead of General Buliara, because trader's tongue is obv not her first language and she will often say the words in common but with some gerudo sentence structure. her tone is quite casual, but her grammar and word choice is often formal, because she learned from a book rather than growing up w the language. hehe :)

3- I think this is maybe my favourite memory we have written so far, mostly thanks to Anon-- it directly connects to a fic I've already written that is in this series, 'but it's such a sad story' its about Urbosa and Zelda and I super recommend reading it if you haven't already heehoo

4- MOST IMPORTANT NOTE SO FAR: stream my chemical romance's new single The Foundations of Decay NOW DO IT RIGHT NOW

5- I was kidding about that being the most important note it is important to MEEE but really this is the most important one to THE FIC-- we are getting really really close to a HUGE EXCITING milestone in this fic and we are pumped as hell hehe>:3

once again kudos and comments give us LIFEE also if you have any questions about anything or even just want to yell at us PLEASE come to our TUMBLR BLOG zelda-without-a-licence-plate WE LOVE ENGAGEMENT AND WE LOVE YOU READERSSSSSSS

Chapter 24: Link and Barta's bodacious battle against the bogus Blight

Summary:

Link and Barta explore inside Vah Naboris, do some emergency maintenance work, and get their asses kicked super hard.

Notes:

WHATS UP EVERYONE THOUGHT YOU'D SEEN THE LAST OF US??????? WE LIVEDDDDDDDD
genuinely very very sorry about the extended hiatus, can hardly believe it's been almost a whole year since we updated this fic aaaahhhhh. We got hyperfixated on other stuff sorry :((( We've got a really great chapter here that will hopefully make up for the wait!! it's definitely one of my favourites so far :) Y'all should be thankful to me because Anon wanted to wait until the exact one year had passed since we posted the last chapter but now that we finally finished this one I wanted to post it asap. The one year would have been in another like three months. YOURE WELCOME

warnings for inside: canon typical violence epic battle style. And at the end there's some painkiller use but like. its normal and healthy intended use.

Also I love you Barta she is my best friend and I hope that by the end of this chapter she is your best friend too. And next chapter, a new character that we have been very excited to add since the very beginning!!! Did you guys pick up on the little bits of foreshadowing as to who it might be? :)

Enjoy!!

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Vah Naboris starts to walk again as Link and Barta stand on the entrance ramp, brushing the dirt from their clothes. The whole belly moves up and down with its steps, and it takes a few seconds for them to adjust to the swaying and keep their footing. Link makes the mistake of looking down, and the swooping height makes nausea climb up his throat. He gulps, adjusting his collar, and goes inside. Barta follows.

The Divine Beast is loud, the grind of the moving stone parts echoing in the cavernous chamber of the belly. Something in the machinery is making ch-ch-chunk ch-ch-chunk noises, cut with whining clicking. Link’s eyes dart around, quickly taking in every little detail of the chamber, while Barta slowly scans their surroundings.

“This thing is magnificent,” Barta says, speaking loudly over the rumbling motors. “I could never have imagined a machine so powerful, so alive! For as long as I can remember it has slept, as still as a mountain. And now…” She reaches out and touches the arch of the doorway they stand in, running her fingers along the ancient stone. Her smile fades. “Would it sound foolish if I say it seems like it is in pain?”

Link shakes his head, stepping further inside. “No. The Divine Beasts were taken over by the Calamity, forced to destroy the people they were built to protect, their Champions killed inside them.” It’s blunt, but true. He looks back at Barta. “Thank you for your help. I have to purge the Calamity from Naboris. If you want, you can borrow my paraglider to get down.”

Barta scoffs, giving him a crooked smile. “I am not doing that. I have the chance to explore the Divine Beast that Champion Urbosa mastered. I am not leaving.”

“It’s not easy,” Link warns. “There’s a monster in here, the one that killed Urbosa. It’s…” Link doesn’t have the words he needs to describe how much of a gruesome, alien nightmare the Waterblight was, how terrible he knows the scourge of Naboris will be. But Barta’s confidence doesn’t waver.

“I am a formidable warrior,” she says, thumping her fist against her chestplate and grinning. “You will see there is no one else you should have fighting by your side in all of Parapa. Together, we will avenge Champion Urbosa and redeem Vah Naboris.” She looks at him. “What must be done?”

Before Link can answer, the Divine Beast gives a violent shudder, groaning as it makes a sharp turn. His eyes widen, looking at Barta as they hold their arms out for balance.

“What is it doing?” Barta shouts, and Link runs back to the ramp. The desert glows silver under the full moon. Naboris is veering back onto its circuit around the desert, and Kara Kareh, its yellow lights a beacon in the distance, is back in its path.

“It’s heading for the town again!” Link looks around the center chamber. “We have to shut it down! Look for the maintenance slate terminal!”

“The what? I don’t understand those words!”

“Big upside down long glowy thing!” Link cranes his neck, scanning the ramps and platforms, running further along the bottom of the belly, Barta following. “Blue!”

“There!” Barta points up and behind them. “Is that it?”

It is. They sprint up the zig-zagging ramps towards the slate chamber above the entrance. There are two railing heights along the ramps, one Gerudo sized, the other for the Sheikah engineers. Barta uses the shorter one as a step to vault herself up, skipping a level. Link marvels at how cool the move is while simultaneously seething in jealousy because his legs aren’t long enough to pull it off.

When Link reaches the terminal, Barta is already scraping sand out of the seam where the slate is inserted in the pedestal with the dagger from her belt. Link smacks the side of the terminal, as if that would make it go faster, his heart thundering in time with Naboris’ footfalls. They pry the neglected slate out and power it on. It shows a map of the Divine Beast, five other terminals aside from the main one marked by glowing points on different levels. Link grabs the slate, holding it out in front of them as he moves back towards the main chamber.

“The leg controls are across from us,” he says. Barta points at the map.

“It says the main terminal is closer and controls everything,” she points out the marked spot in the middle of the belly, that they can see from there, large and glowing orange. Link’s brow furrows.

“Don’t you feel the evil radiating from it? That’s where the Blight is waiting. If we get too close, it’ll attack.”

Barta grimaces. “Understood.”

They slide down the railings back to the bottom of the chamber, running towards the motor control terminal. Link checks their position on his own slate-- Naboris’ gargantuan legs are carrying them straight towards Kara Kareh fast. His stomach plummets at the thought of them being so close only to fail, for the town to be flattened and for the Gerudo people to be driven further from their homes. They weave around the bottom level, keeping their distance from the main terminal.

Barta, with her longer legs, peels ahead of Link easily and reaches the terminal first. She artlessly jams the maintenance slate into the terminal and starts jabbing at the screen, fighting with the controls. Link runs to her side, peering at the screen. It displays a highlighted diagram of the Divine Beast’s legs, with all their segmented parts separately selectable, and more control panels along the side. “There must be some kind of--” a word in Zelda’s voice flashes through Link’s mind, “emergency brake. An emergency brake .” Barta swipes through the control panels.

Naboris jolts as Barta whoops, causing Link to stumble to the hard floor as the ancient stone behemoth lurches to a stop. As soon as the noise of the Divine Beast becomes less deafening, he makes out faint screams from outside. Link leaps back to his feet as soon as the floor stops trembling and runs outside, Barta hot on his heels. Together they lean out over the balcony wall, looking down at the blinking lights of the town below.

Naboris had stopped just shy of Kara Kareh, one leg poised over the final dune at the edge of the town-- any closer and the earthquake-level tremors would have begun to destroy houses, before they were crushed and powdered until they were indiscernible from the sands under the Divine Beast’s feet. From way up high they can see people running about with lanterns far below on the ground. Link and Barta both sag with relief as Naboris stays frozen, glowing red in the blue desert night.

Stepping away from the edge, Link sighs, “Let’s see if we can move Naboris away from the town.”

Back at the terminal, after much fussing and many error codes, they determine that with the Calamity still in control of the Divine Beast, they would not be able to pilot it away to a safer part of the desert-- but as long as the emergency brake override is on, it would not move from this position, looming over Kara Kareh.

“Then we will have to hurry and drive the Calamity from Vah Naboris,” Barta says, already turning and marching towards the center of the barrel. Link grabs the back of her sash, halting her in her tracks-- but not before getting dragged over the floor on his heels for a couple seconds.

“Wait,” he says. “Do you hear that?”

Now that it isn’t so deafening inside the Divine Beast, most of the noise coming from all the moving parts in the legs underneath them, they can make out more of that cracking and whining, hissing and popping. Link frowns as he flexes his ears, listening. Barta tilts her head towards the noise. Unlike the moving motors, it’s coming from above them.

“It sounds like more machine,” Barta says. “Is it not normal?”

“No, it-- it didn’t sound like that before.” The knowledge doesn’t come with an accompanying flashback, it just comes. “I know what we have to do. On the maintenance slate, is there a terminal marked ‘communications’?”

Link is really, seriously considering just packing it in and giving up on being the champion. No, actually, he’s thinking about it really hard. The silver sand dunes sway nauseatingly at the feet of Naboris, so far down the slopes look like the crowded wrinkles of an ageing face. The full moon crawls large across the sky, and the winds slam against them as they drag themselves up the endless ladder towards Naboris’ head. There was supposed to be an elevator inside the neck, but the entire shaft was filled with thick, gunky malice, so they were taking the ladder up the back of the neck instead. The ladder is made up of long segmented metal sections, slotted together at each vertebrae, able to shift with the movement of the Divine Beast. At least Naboris is still now, and, at least, and for this Link actually sends thanks up to Hylia-- there’s a cage framing the ladder at their backs, somewhat keeping them from plummeting to their deaths. The metal rungs are cold under Link’s fingers, but he grips tight and pulls himself up towards the top.

They reach Naboris’ head, venturing inside. The many eyes on the face reveal themselves to be windows overlooking the desert. In the center of the room is another maintenance terminal. They quickly insert the slate and power it up. From here, they can’t hear the odd noises.

More of the Sheikah towers are listed as online than the last time Link did this. When they find the map page, they make a clear line from there to Hateno. Link finds the marker for Hateno lab and starts a call, glad he knows what he’s doing this time. “Watch this,” he mutters to Barta as they wait for the signal to go through, “this is pretty cool.”

The call connects with an echo-y bloop noise, and Purah’s young-looking face fills the screen.

What the hell do you want, Link ?” She demands in her squeaky voice, and Barta rears back in surprise.

“There is a tiny girl inside the slate!” She exclaims. Purah blinks over Link’s shoulder at his surprise companion.

“Purah--” Link tries, but he’s interrupted by Purah barking at him.

Do you know what time it is !”

“Well, you’re awake, aren’t you?”

Purah glowers back, putting her face right up to the screen. “ Yeah, well I’m busy, so make this quick. What’s going on ?”

“Vah Naboris is making a noise?” Link tries to explain. “It’s a new noise, and I don’t know what it means, but I’m pretty sure it sounds bad?”

Purah squints. “ What kind of noise ?”

“It’s like--” Link scratches the back of his head. “It sounds like, ‘ kchkchkkrcjk, wssss-puhpuhpuh’ --”

“No, no,” Barta cuts him off, “It is more like, ‘ rr-chnkrr-chnk, tss-popopop ’--”

“‘ Whchlkcrklrk ,’”

Jrrhjrrhjrhhr ,”

Holy Hylia !” Purah cuts them off with a shout. “ No more of that! Stop! Enough! Oh my Gods! Use your words like adults, please!”

“It’s a crackling and then a hissing and popping noise,” Link says. Purah’s eyes narrow, and she looks to the side and fiddles with something.

That does ring a bell ,” she says. “ I have copies of the intensive notes Princess Zelda took during her study of Vah Naboris a hundred years ago, give me a minute to look through them .” She disappears from the screen, and Link turns to Barta.

“She means she needs time to find them,” he says. Barta blinks.

“Who is that?” She asks. Link tries to give a brief explanation of who Purah is, what she does and how Link knows her, but he must not do a very good job because Barta’s confused expression doesn’t fade. Eventually Purah rushes back into view, her eyes wide behind skewed glasses with a handful of crumpled, faded paper in hand.

SO !” She yells, making her voice come through crackly and slightly distorted. “ You guys need to hurry your asses because Vah Naboris might be about to explode ?”

Link pales. “Explode!?” He cries, and Barta grabs the side of the terminal.

I’m pretty sure the sound you’re describing is due to a disruption along Naboris’ electric pathways… that means power is building up in places it shouldn’t be and isn’t reaching places it should be. So the generators are straining to compensate. They had this problem back in the day too, it looks like, something about sand buildup. You guys won’t have the equipment or time to search Naboris’ internal pathways to find the blockage, but you should be able to recalibrate the generators for a temporary fix until I can get out there and look at it, okay ?”

Link nods. “Should we do that before or aft--”

I’m sending you Zelda’s notes. I’m warning you, the UI is a nightmare, but I guess whoever made it way back when was working harder and not smarter to get the beast running to begin with. But whatever, go fix it now !”

Link feels a familiar frustration tickling his brain, “Purah, what is you-eye–”

Don’t get exploded. Bye!

With that she disconnects the call, sending them back to the contact screen. The terminal chimes, and a small blue scroll appears in the corner of the maintenance slate’s screen. Link taps on it, revealing several pages of Zelda’s notes transcribed in the slate’s blue text. It’s a lot of dense technological jargon, but for all their sakes, Link hopes they’ll be able to decipher it.

They locate the engine rooms on the map, one in each hump. From the top of the ladder, Link looks out at Vah Naboris. He’s just able to make out the faint green and purple glow through the windows in the humps. Barta’s shout from below on the ladder for him to hurry up is almost swallowed by the biting desert wind.

Link and Barta stand in the threshold of Naboris’ forward hump, their eyes wide and mouths open in equal parts fear and awe. The searing electric green of the wild crackling flares bouncing between the two halves of the generator reflect off every surface, casting odd, shivering shadows as the gathered masses of electricity and lashing discharging power writhe in place, barely contained. The generator is massive, two parts attached to the floor and ceiling of the hump exchanging power between each other. Small moving platforms are attached to either side of the tall dome, rising and lowering in sync, leading to higher levels along the generator. Link’s chest tightens. He’d never made it so close to Ruta’s power source. He’d known, before, that the Divine Beasts were more than just machines, but this is like looking directly at the beating heart of Vah Naboris. The electricity does more than just flow, it dances. He can feel Naboris humming under his feet, and it feels like life.

“I have never seen anything so magnificent,” Barta breathes. “But how in the world are we going to fix it?”

“Uhm,” Link checks the notes they had been forwarded. “I think the control terminal is between the two generators. Let’s go check it out.”

The machinery in the control room between the humps is still loud but not as overwhelmingly powerful. Pipes and rails lit green connect from either wall to the wide, boxy control terminal under the windows. They insert the maintenance slate, and alternate between checking every single thing they’re able to do at the terminal and scanning the notes for keywords jumping out at them.

A few minutes later, Barta pipes up from in front of the slate while Link sticks his head in the machinery, peering around the terminal for things to fiddle with. “I think this maybe is it,” she says, and Link jogs over. She’s pointing to a screen indicating uneven power levels with three spinning dials. “Calibrate. Your small friend said that, right?”

“Yeah,” Link tries tapping one of the moving circles, but it just flashes red before continuing to spin. He tries again. It doesn’t work. Barta starts tapping as well, to no avail. After a few embarrassing minutes of frustratedly poking the slate, they figure out how to time it so the green bars on the nodes are even when they stop the dials, and that works. When all three are in place, a green pop-up flashes on the screen announcing an ‘emergency discharge’, and Naboris starts to rumble. Link and Barta brace themselves. Giant arcs of green lightning crackle between the humps and snake down the legs, fizzling out as they hit the sand, as the Divine Beast grounds itself and releases the excess energy. The power distribution levels still look bad, but not nearly as urgently alarming as they were. The pair both let out a relieved sigh.

“Now… we kill the Blight?” Barta looks down at him, and Link lowers his eyes to the floor, where he can sense the Calamity humming sinisterly below their feet. The feeling is more powerful here than it was in Ruta, almost invasive, but Link doesn’t know if that means he’s stronger this time, or the Blight. He peers up at Barta.

“You can still walk away,” he says, and Barta shakes her head.

“I told you before I would not leave,” she smirks. “You think I would go back on my word? Do you find me dishonourable, Champion?”

“Uh… no. Not at all.” Link adjusts his weapons on his back. “I know we’ve only just met, but I’m glad you’re here. I trust you.”

“And I you,” Barta grins, thumping her armour again. “The bonds we forge in battle tonight shall last us a lifetime.”

Link lifts his arm, and Barta readily knocks her metal bracer against his leather one. “To a long friendship,” he says.

“May it be as long as Vah Naboris’ neck,” Barta adds, and Link laughs.

The main terminal emits a pulsing orange glow in the perfect center of Naboris’ barrel belly, swirling tendrils of malice circling the strange mechanical bulbs. The menacing energy becomes overwhelming the closer they get to it-- darkness prodding at the flimsy barriers in his mind, pain bursting sharp behind his eyes. As they approach, Link feels Barta stand on guard at his side, readying her spear as the terminal flashes and further malice leaks from the cracks. The blight starts to take shape in the air, and Link knows he must steel himself for the oncoming brutal fight, but he simply sways in place. His vision fills with white as searing pain splits his skull open, and he gasps as the floor disappears from under his feet.

Urbosa stumbled, trying to keep her balance on the gyroscopic center platform as the three sections of Vah Naboris’ belly spun out of sync and out of control. Everything around her was moving dizzyingly fast, even though she was standing still, it felt like she was hurtling through the air, like she’d been thrown from Naboris’ head. Her Divine Beast wobbled and swayed, his legs as unsteady as hers. Her breath rattled around her injured chest as she panted hard, searching for the demonic entity that fought to wrest control of Naboris from her. It zapped around the room faster than light, leaving in its wake streaks of burning-bright pink.

Her blade was the only thing standing between her and certain demise, her shield already lost amongst the moving ancient stone. The scimitar of the seven, a weapon she had forged and enchanted herself, blessed by each of the heroines, hummed with atmospheric power as she tightened her grip. Blood dripped slick and heavy from a gash on her head into her eyes and wet her hair. It was in her mouth and in her lungs. Her armour, a once gleaming symbol of her pride as a Gerudo warrior, was now dusty and battered.

‘I’m in trouble…’

Her senses zeroed in on the light brush of wind on the back of her neck, and she spun to meet the Blight. It swung its sword in a vicious downward strike. Urbosa caught its blade in the curve of her own, was pushed downwards by its force, but she did not collapse, though every part of her body was screaming at her to lay down and accept her fate.

She would not. Urbosa summoned all her strength to force the blight back, the air around her turning to static as she raised her hand. It was time to end this.

With a snap of her fingers Naboris’ belly was engulfed in lightning, bolts and bursts of pure electric energy exploding in fireworks and forked strikes blasting against the walls, expanding and filling the space, the world around her dissolving into one green flash. She felt lighter, lifted on the gusts created by the surge of power. The Blight disappeared into the storm and there she stood tall, the eye.

Urbosa’s satisfaction disintegrated as rapidly as it had risen. The Blight was not obliterated by her attack-- it charged at her right through it, the lightning sinking into its twisted and bubbling pink and black form, imbuing it and its weapons with Urbosa’s own power. She could do nothing as it descended upon her, throwing her from the platform and crashing into the spinning floor. Her body was thrown about as she convulsed, wracked by agonising waves of lightning, her own magic turned against her. It was like every part of her was set ablaze down to her spirit, her heart thrashing beneath her breast against the relentless electric force.

As the lightning fizzled and faded Urbosa caught the edge of a pillar and braced herself against it. ‘What a humiliating end…’ she thought bitterly. She cast a weary and weakening glance over her shoulder at the scourge that had defeated her, and saw the way it twitched and convulsed in a way it hadn’t before. It struggled not to collapse under the weight of her power. Urbosa smirked. It had cursed itself. It would not be able to sustain what it had taken.

Her smirk disappeared as she was wrought by a new flash of lightning. All illusion of victory was swallowed up by a rising sandstorm of pure despair. The Blight had crafted its own demise but that did not make Urbosa victorious. She was still defeated, she was still dying.

She cast her tearful eyes up to the sky that was hidden from her, the dunes and mountains of her beautiful country she was isolated from in this ancient mechanical ally that had been turned into a torture machine. She could feel her strength leaving her even as she wasted more trying to cling to life. She wasn’t ready… no amount of wisdom or philosophy could remedy her base, mortal fear of death. She was not ready, her spirit would forever be weighed down by the guilt of failing her people, failing Zelda… she would never forgive herself for leaving her daughter behind.

As her final breath travelled up through her throat in preparation to leave her body, Urbosa prayed. She prayed not to her ancestors, not to her lost love, nor any god or spirit or heroine she had ever prayed to before.

She prayed to Enhesam. The banished Eighth Heroine.

The guardian of defeat.

Link is slammed back into the present as his body is slammed into a wall of ancient stone, held against a pillar with Barta’s hand splayed across his chest. “What was that, Champion!” Barta gasps, peeking around their cover at the Blight Link had yet to see. “You froze!”

“I’m sorry,” Link takes his weapon in hand, a forked lizal boomerang. “I should have mentioned. I get visions.”

Barta’s eyebrows nearly flew off her face. “You are a seer!?”

“No--!” Link presses further into their hiding space as balls of lightning graze past them. “We don’t have time for this. We fight.”

“Here,” Barta covers Link’s weapon hand with her own, drawing the long dagger from her belt. “This will serve you better than that wild weapon.”

Link stows the boomerang, taking the dagger. To him, the Gerudo-made knife is more akin to a shortsword. It's better balanced and sturdier than the unrefined metal of the lizal weapon. Link nods his thanks. Barta readies her spear, and in sync they step out on either side of their cover, finally facing their enemy.

The most startling thing about the Thunderblight, scourge of Divine Beast Vah Naboris, is how small it is compared to the one Link fought before. Its greasy red mane hangs long and shaggy down either side of its masked face, eerily similar to human hair. Its arms end in a sword and shield that glow bright green, same as the electricity that crackles along its twitching, convulsing body.

They see it, and then they don’t.

The Blight moves impossibly fast around them, zigzagging in trails of lightning and dripping malice. Link senses the dark energy move behind them before any of his physical senses catches it, and he spins, already drawing up his shield as the Blight appears. Its blade bounces off the battered shield, cracking it further, but the treated wood protects him from the electric charge. While the Blight recoils Barta rolls on her shoulder around it, repeatedly jabbing up hard into its back with a fast hit combo, ending on a strong attack that sends it spinning through the air away from them with a screech.

The two warriors share an understanding look, and that’s all the communication they need to form a plan. They throw themselves fully into the battle. Link parries its attacks and Barta jumps behind it, tearing up its back and sending wet slopping chunks of malice falling to the floor. They build a rhythm together, fighting side by side like they have done so all their lives. Had Link been alone he likely would have faced the same fate as Urbosa.

They don’t outmaneuver it every time. Sometimes the Blight feints, rounds them or dodges, sometimes Link has to duck, sometimes it recovers before either of them can hit it. They get scratches and bruises, but the first big hit they both take comes several minutes into the fight.

Instead of slashing at Link with its sword the Blight spins, lashing out and releasing a radial blast of lighting that throws him backwards. Link loses sight of Barta as he skids, seizing up as the lightning courses through his body. His jaw tightens against the shocks so hard he’s sure his teeth will crack and he can’t scream as for a few brutal seconds his entire body is consumed by the burning pain. When the electricity fizzles out of Link he slumps against the ground, the roughness of the stone overwhelming against his tender cheek, but he feels like all his energy has been sapped from him, a grating gasp ripping its way out of his lungs as his shield and weapon slip from his grasp. He can’t move.

The Blight tries to charge again, but just as its form starts to blur out of view Barta swings her spear into its path, the blade colliding with its acidic body. It cuts deep into it, the Blight’s speed only slicing itself further, but the opposing momentum also causes the shaft of the spear to splinter and crack. The Blight screeches and thrashes, the spear breaking off in its shoulder. It rams its shield into her, sending her flying away from Link.

Link regains control of himself through a combination of adrenaline, determination and sheer audacity. The Blight zooms towards him again and he sees a golden glint out the corner of his eye. Still splayed on his back he reaches above his head and his fingers close around a smooth metal curve. He pulls the shield down over him just as the Blight descends, blocking its attack and repelling it away. A flash of light bursts between the Blight and his shield and it bounces away from him with a pitchy shriek-- only Link is not holding his shield.

He pushes himself up on shaking arms and looks down at the large glimmering relic-- a round gold-plated shield laved in chipped green and maroon paint, gold overlay forming a sun’s rays and the Gerudo crest, framing gleaming gems. There’s an image of this shield buried somewhere in his memory, a wavering remnant of recollection, broken and obscured like something spotted from the very edge of the desert horizon. Urbosa wielded this shield, named it the Daybreaker. It’s scuffed, old and dirty, but its power has withstood the last century. She had a sword, too, Link remembers, a royal blade she used to channel her magic. It was called--

Lightning bursts from behind the Blight and it arches and screams, chunks of malice splattering against the ground. It falls from the air and slumps on the floor at Link’s feet.

The Scimitar of the Seven.

Barta stands tall, a fresh bruise colouring her cheek, a small cut on her brow dripping a thin line of blood down her face. Her chest heaves, glowing with a wide, toothy grin, and Urbosa’s scimitar clutched in her hand. Sparks of atmospheric power crackle up and down the scratched blade, and its hilt pulses with barely-restrained light, like flashes of lightning in the distant sky-- far away, but getting closer. The enchanting runes etched on the side glow and sputter, small arcs of lightning snapping out and back in, looking for somewhere to go.

Unstable, like Naboris had been. A bomb waiting to go off.

The Blight slinks away from them, jolting in the air as its mockery of life force pours from its abominable form. Barta reaches down to him, and Link grasps her hand, letting her pull him to his feet. They exchange a single nod, and launch back into the fight. Link with the Daybreaker and Barta behind him with the Scimitar, they beat the Blight back, cornering it.

It jitters and crackles, phasing in and out of sight as it tries to dash away, but it's boxed in. Link and Barta creep forward, ready to land what they believe will be the final blow.

The Blight twitches, throwing its head back, its mane fanning out in the air as it wails. Three smoky swirling bundles of malice erupt from its body, sailing over the warriors’ heads. They expand outward and take the form of the Thunderblight. The copies surround them, frail but outnumbering them. The tide turns against them once more.

Even though each of the four blights have only a fraction of its true strength, they spend too much time dodging the relentless blows and keeping from getting surrounded to be able to do any real damage to their assailants. They don’t move as fast split, but they’re still faster than their eyes can track. Link is barely able to block the flurry of blows, and Barta, without a shield of her own, crouches in the meagre cover Link provides. The Blights slash and swing wildly, draining Link’s strength. They’re only kept at bay by the repelling enchantment on the Daybreaker, which cushions the force and bounces their attacks further back than Link could on his own.

Lightning arcs between the blights as power feeds and bounces through them. It’s nothing but misfortune that places Barta in its path.

She gasps as the electricity seeps into her armour and grips her whole body. She jerks and seizes for a second before crumpling to the ground-- a small shock, but enough to sap her already depleted energy. Without her solidity at his back for Link to brace against, he loses his balance. He trips over Barta’s prone form, falling heavily and gracelessly. Unable to brace himself in time his head knocks hard on the floor. The impact is like a clap of thunder in his skull, obliterating his brain and leaving aftershocks of powerful throbs of pain in its wake. Link chokes on his next breath and nausea surges in his belly, his vision blurring, his ears full of threaded grass.

The Blights freeze, limp and hovering in the air-- the weakened monstrosity has stretched itself too thin. For a few agonising moments their arena is quiet. The low rumblings of Naboris’ inner workings, the Blights’ buzzing, and Barta’s ragged wheezing melding into one fuzzy noise that barely competes with Link’s blood rushing in his ears.

Some deity out there has offered them a shred of grace. Link wonders who it might be, spending a split second outside of his body that stretches into what feels like an hour as his last shred of sanity ponders. He knows on a level deeper than knowledge that Hylia is his matron Goddess, knew it from the moment he saw her statue in the temple of time-- of course he acknowledges and reveres the Golden Three, but Hylia is the one he dedicated his life to back when he was still a whole person, in the Before. But although his loyalty to Hylia is unshakeable, his trust in her is fractured. She did not save him or any others a hundred years ago, and the vast desert is not her domain. There are others that watch over this place and its people. Hazily, Link recalls what Urbosa told him of Din’s generals so long ago-- of Tarheem, Mercy.

Mercy is fleeting. Link returns to himself like a rush of spilling sand, knowing they only have seconds before they are both killed. He grits his teeth and reaches deep inside himself, past his mind where he normally rifles, to the place where an old friend deposited her gift. He brushes against that cool balm and drags it up to the surface. He may not know whose grace granted them this time, but he knows whose grace grants them this second chance.

The healing magic flows through him and Barta, soft blue light like mist pouring from his chest and between their fingertips as he reaches for Barta still pinned beneath him. They have to get up. They have mere seconds before the Blights finish them off, they have to get up .

It’s not as powerful as if Mipha herself had healed them, but it’s enough for them to rise. The pair hold on to each other as they push themselves up, a guttural noise erupting from Barta as her strength is replenished and the burst of adrenaline brings them to their feet.

The blights stumble back into motion, amassing back into one. Link sets his shoulders and readies the shield. The air hums with anticipation, thick with petrichor. The Blight does not reform seamlessly, it creates a mismatched mass of malice and lightning, somehow making itself into even more of an abomination than it was before. The writhing mass charges at them and this time Link is ready, knocks it back with the Daybreaker and leaves it vulnerable. Barta releases a war cry and raises the scimitar high, gripping it in both hands as she lunges. The remnant of Urbosa’s power sings, the runes flash, and the blade whistles the same way Link’s remote bombs do before--

Barta plunges the blade into the Blight, running it through, and the monstrosity explodes . Its back bubbles and expands, green lightning and purple demonic energy ripping it apart from the inside. Like the exit wound was from a cannonball and not a sword. It thrashes as it’s annihilated by its stolen power, and Barta lets go of the scimitar.

She and Link barely turn and start to run before the second explosion disintegrates the Blight and erupts like a giant firework, enveloping Naboris’ entire belly, the force of it sending them both flying. The Blight’s shrieks blend with the ringing in their ears as everything turns to white.

Naboris’ barrel belly is still but the room spins. Barta groans as she lifts her head. Just as her eyeballs start to recover from that blast she’s newly blinded by a green-blue glow above her. She hisses and squints. Her vision eventually stops swimming, and the glowing blur takes shape-- the spirit of Champion Urbosa standing over her, a smile on her face.

The only rational explanation for the sight before her that Barta’s rattled brain can conjure is that she is dead and in the warrior afterlife.

Her head falls back against something soft. She squeezes her eyes shut and groans in Gerudo, “ Oh, I f*cked up .”

The apparition of Urbosa chuckles. She crouches down, her ghostly tattered cape sweeping over Barta’s knees. “ No, Champion, you were exceptional .”

Barta stares emptily up at her for a long moment. “... I’m alive ?” She finally asks. It occurs to her that the afterlife for honourable warriors probably wouldn’t involve this amount of excruciating pain in her joints-- but if she’d ended up somewhere worse, then surely the revered Champion Urbosa wouldn’t also be there.

Urbosa’s smile widens. “ Yes .”

Barta blinks. “...... are you alive ?”

The spirit throws her head back and laughs. “ No ,” she grins, standing upright, pale tendrils of ghostly fire swirling around her feet. “ Now stand, Champion. You are squishing our friend .”

Link groans pathetically from underneath her, and Barta only just realizes he was the soft thing she landed on. She curses under her breath and staggers up, half-rolling onto her knees and bracing herself on the floor. Link wheezes and squirms, and Urbosa’s laugh rings through the Divine Beast that now glows blue.

Urbosa leads them to the balcony from Link’s memory, looking out over the silver sands of her homeland. The full moon frames and shines through her, and she casts half a shimmering shadow.

“I really never thought I’d see your face again, Link,” the fallen champion says, turning to face them with a wistful smile. “But what a lovely sight it is. Your arrival has shown me hope in a place where I thought there was none left. And you,” she looks at Barta. “You are a beacon of light in the form of a Gerudo. I am proud to see how well our people have persevered. How strong we still stand.”

Barta’s eyes widen, and she bows her head. “You honour me deeply, Urbosa Champion,” she says, her voice cracking. She continues in Gerudo, “ I fight in your honour and live so your memory may thrive .” As she raises her gaze Urbosa makes the same gesture of respect, a mirroring action that declares them equals. Barta’s eyes widen impossibly further. Urbosa looks to Link again.

“I can feel Mipha’s magic nestled deep within you,” she says. “What a smart girl, to pass her power on to you. I wish I could give you mine in that way, but it is not as simple. My element, Thunder, was dangerous even for me to harness. To imbue one with no mage training, especially one as small as you are, would be a death sentence. And we can’t have that, can we?” She reaches her hands out to them. “My blade and shield, please, Champions?”

Barta holds out the scimitar, and Link lifts the Daybreaker. Urbosa closes her eyes, a look of deep concentration settling on her face, as her fingers hover just above the fine metals. Static fills the air around them and the whistle that comes before a great burst of power lifts their hair and the hems of their clothes. Link feels light on his feet for a second as Urbosa channels her spirit, her magic, her power, through her incorporeal fingertips into the sword and shield.

She shouts, and lightning blooms from the scimitar and Daybreaker, but it doesn’t hurt them-- it passes right through, lighting the blue desert green for a single moment before fading into the gentlest of glows. The kind of power that says safety and not danger.

“They are perfectly balanced,” Urbosa says, opening her eyes. “They will serve you well.”

“Thank you,” Link whispers. Urbosa’s gaze softens.

“You both are swaying like palm fronds in the breeze,” she chuckles. “I can see how weary you are. You fought valiantly, you deserve rest. Go, lay in the waiting arms of those you have saved tonight. Naboris and I can take it from here.”

Barta bows deeply, as if to one-up Urbosa’s earlier show of respect, and Urbosa bites her cheek like she’s done something hilarious but she knows she shouldn’t laugh. “ Sarqscil , honourable and great Champion Urbosa,” Barta says to the floor, and shuffles away without lifting out of the bow. She has an obvious limp. Link turns to follow her, but is stopped by a cool, ethereal touch on his shoulder.

“Link,” Urbosa says quietly, her light air from moments ago completely disappeared. “I need you to be honest with me. I do not know how you are still alive, and I really don’t care. I’m just glad that you are. I never thought to hope for this until you came here, but now I cannot help it, I can sense her in you as well. I must ask… does Zelda also live? What became of my little bird?”

Link looks up at her, the moonlight streaming through her open, fragile face. In life, Urbosa had been so strong, so resilient. She was aware of the difference between her and the younger champions, between her and Link-- the years of courage, wisdom and power she had amassed before he had even been born. She never asked Link for anything, allowed others to rely on her and was never the one who relied.

Link truly does not know whether Zelda is still alive. He does not know how much of her is still in Hyrule Castle, if her body is there or only her spirit, like the Champions.

In this moment, his uncertainty couldn’t matter less.

“Yes,” he says. “Zelda is alive. She’s holding back the Calamity in Hyrule Castle, and when it is defeated, she will be free again.”

Urbosa closes her eyes, releasing a ghostly breath soaked in relief. “She is so strong,” she whispers, like it saddens her to say. “She always has been. When this is all over, take care of her for me, won’t you, Link?” she says softly. “And take care of yourself, too. You’re different than you were before. Stronger.”

Link shakes his head. “I’m weak, I’m a fraction of what I was before.”

“No,” Urbosa says. She taps his forehead. “Your Eye of Truth. That is what you Sheikah call the third eye, yes? It’s open now. It didn’t use to be.”

“Oh,” Link blinks in surprise. He recalls the Sheikah eye symbol tattooed on Paya and Impa’s foreheads… the eye of truth. So that’s what that is, that little piece inside him, residing in the space between his body and soul. He wonders why it had closed in his old life, and what was different about him now that allowed it to open.

“Now go,” Urbosa urges him away. “Revel in your victory tonight. I am alright here. Sarqscil , Link, and sav’orr .”

Link bows, and this time she does laugh out loud. The sound, echoing through the whole Divine Beast, makes Link smile as he hobbles down to the entrance where Barta is waiting.

Now that the adrenaline is finally wearing off, Link can feel every scrape, bruise, and ache acutely. Barta is leaning against the arch of the exit at Naboris’ back, her eyes closed and head tilted back against the stone. She looks exhausted. Link must look the same.

They wait, bracing themselves against the wall as Naboris moves, back in control of its rightful pilot. The Divine Beast steps backwards away from the town, its movements more graceful than they had been while puppetted by the Calamity. Once it's far back enough, the massive machine lowers to its knees with a gentle rumble that rolls across the dunes like a heavy quilt, allowing Link and Barta to disembark. Their knees buckle as their feet meet the shifting sand, and they lean on each other for support. Link is thankful enough to be back on solid ground that he’s tempted to just lie down and let himself sink into the sand. They stumble around the kneeling giant to see Kara Kareh, with all its lights on and rippling waves of people moving. They hear shouts, cheers-- commotion. Naboris bows its head towards the town, the blue light from its face gentle.

Like the magic-infused scimitar and shield on Link and Barta’s backs; power to protect over power to destroy.

“Link,” Barta rasps, grinning down at him. “I just realized. We are heroes.”

A dense swarm of people comes running towards them from the edge of town, fronted by a handful of Gerudo soldiers. Outstretched arms catch and steady them, what feels like a million hands guiding the two along through the crowd, taking their weight off their weary feet. Link, so small compared to all those that surround them, loses sight of the sky above, instead only sees the blue-lit smiles of the people holding him up.

Link and Barta saved them all, and now they will do the same. Link sighs, not a breath of fatigue, but release. He trusts every one of the hands that envelops him. He closes his eyes, and the world falls away.

Link is nudged awake by a pale pink-gold beam of light caressing his face. His eyes open slowly and are met with the sight of a smooth sandstone ceiling. He feels light, floaty, like the dawn that breaks through the gap in the curtains covering the wide window. The curtains are thin, lifted by a kind breeze drifting inside. The room brightens slowly, sunbeams reflecting off the pale tiled floor. Link looks around. He’s lying in a simple bed low to the floor, under soft, plain sheets. On the wall above his head is a row of dried herbs that fill the room with a pleasant fresh scent. It reminds Link of dewey mornings in a lush forest. Pushed against the foot of the bed is a cushioned trunk, and next to him is some sort of tall stand propping up an upside down bottle. Opposite from him is an open doorway to a bathroom next to a cabinet that houses medicine in the form of herbs, elixirs and pastes, all tucked away behind a lock. The unlocked shelves house bandages, new sheets, plain, simple robes, and an oddly shaped tin dish. There’s a small table with a pitcher of water, and chairs are strewn about the room, one by the bed, one by the window, and one by the cabinet.

To his right there is another bed, between them a tall curtain pushed open against the wall. Lying in the bed, dressed in a pale backwards robe that matches the much smaller one Link has, except Link’s has a more pink tone, is Barta.

Her eyes are closed, and salve has been smeared over the bruise mottling her cheek and jaw. A bandage has been pasted along her hairline, and a hint of bandages wrapped around her shoulder peeks out from under the robe. There’s something sticking out of the corner of her mouth, attached to a small brace resting on her chin, that feeds along and attaches to the opening of the upside down bottle next to her bed. If Link focuses, he can feel a pad stuck to the inside of his cheek attached to the same contraption. He pokes it with his tongue, and it secretes a salty, tangy liquid-- some kind of elixir. He’s half-aware of similar wrappings and treatments along his own body, though it feels like there’s a layer of wool between him and his skin, making everything fuzzy and distant. It’s quite pleasant.

Barta’s chest rises and falls in gentle, steady motions as if she were asleep, but her eyes peel open, looking straight above her. “Link… are you awake?” She whispers, her voice hoarse, slightly distorted by the cord stuck between her lips.

“Yes.”

Barta turns her head to meet his gaze. Her pupils are huge and her eyes glassy, her mind cradled by the same soft, fluffy feeling as Link’s, an effect of the medicine they’d been given.

“You said you have visions, but you are not a seer?”

Link blinks slowly at her, the words trickling in his ears.

“Yeah…” He murmurs. “I… don’t know how to describe them. I can… see people’s memories, the past. I don’t control what I see… or when, they just… come. I never learned how to… seek out the visions.”

Barta is silent as she absorbs his words. Her eyes drift along the wall, her brow twitching inward just barely.

“How,” Link says around the cord, “did you do that with the scimitar?”

Barta looks blearily back at him. “Do which?”

“The explosion. The final blow.”

“Oh,” Barta sighs. “That was not me. It did that by itself.”

“No, it couldn’t have,” Link shakes his head minutely. “It was magic… magic needs intent.”

“Could not have been mine,” Barta mutters. “I am not like you, I can not use magic.”

Link looks at her for a long moment. “Yes you could,” he says thoughtfully. “Anyone could, at least a little bit. I know that much.”

Barta scoffs. “No. No one could. No one is like you. Not anymore.”

Link frowns. “What do you mean?”

“There is no more magic,” Barta spits. On the surface is her anger, and below that, a deep sorrow, a longing. “No magic for a hundred years. Seers and mages are only real in fairytales anymore.”

Link is unmoored, adrift. The floating feeling in his body no longer pleasant, more like being trapped underwater and not knowing the way up. He can’t make the words make sense. He doesn’t know what magic used to be like, but he knows that what Barta said is wrong. It must be. Magic is a part of the world, as much as earth and rain are.

“It’s… gone?”

“Snuffed out on the day of the Calamity. Like… birds falling out of the sky, dead, so they say. I am sorry if you did not know until now. We are in an age without magic.”

Link can say nothing else, ice crystallizing in his veins. He looks away from Barta, and Barta looks away from him. An age without magic.

When the Calamity is finally sealed away, will the magic come back?

Link doesn’t know.

It feels too dangerous to hope.

Notes:

OKAY THOUGHTS??? SPARE THOUGHTS ANYONE WE WANNA KNOW UR THOUGHTS

Gerudo language used in the chapter:
Sarqscil-- thank you (emphasized, formal) (in the game normal thank you is sarqso, we added the cil bc that is a modifying suffix which basically means more of the thing you are saying)
Sav'orr-- sleep well/goodnight

some notes:
- Link's wooden shield only blocks the electricity because it was treated while being crafted. wood by itself is technically an insulator, but natural wood often has other things in it like moisture and stuff that DOES conduct electricity which is why you are not supposed to stand under trees during lightning storms or poke electrically charged things with sticks.
- Barta's 'oh i f*cked up' 'am i dead (no) im alive? (yes) are you alive? (NO)' bit is so funny to me genuinely one of my favourite parts of the whole fic so far
- yeah no more magic :( sowwy :(
- did Urbosa make you sad. I HOPE SHE DID I HOPE YOU ARE SAD NOW I HOPE IT HURTSSSSS
- next chapter is full of joy and happiness tho :)
- but also literally i dont get how the champions know what happened to link like they were separated and then died. why would any of them actually expect Link to show up hylians dont live a hundred years

Chapter 25: WHO LET THE DOGS OUT

Summary:

Link and Barta recover from their fight and hit the town before they say goodbye. Link makes a new old friend, and finally, FINALLY leaves the desert.

Notes:

WOWWWW HIIII THIS TOOK FOREVER TO WRITE SORRYYYYY HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH. Worth it though!! This chapter has one of the things that we have been THE MOST excited for literally since we started this fic. Thanks for being so patient!!

NOTES:
- there is NO ANIMAL DEATH IN THIS FIC DO NOT BE ALARMED. Monster death yeah but no animals dont worry. you'll see
- there is alcohol consumption but it's like. normal and for fun and safe and healthy. Link finally gets to party. good times

ENJOY THE CHAPTER!!!!

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

As soon as they’re well enough to be let out of the hospital-- and as soon as she’s not grounded so hard for sneaking off and running into danger-- the first thing Makeela does is throw Link and Barta a grand feast to celebrate their victory against part of the Calamity and reclaiming of Vah Naboris.

Link feels like he’s in a dream… not his own dream, but maybe someone else’s. His imagination wouldn’t ever conjure anything as fantastical and rich as this, even in slumber. The sky above them is violet and gold, the clouds set ablaze by the setting sun, and framed by the high palace walls, which drape the festival courtyard in soft indigo shadow. The breeze is sweet from the fruit and blooms hanging from the trees, and rich with the scents of the bountiful feast spread out on the long tables. The whole mouthwatering array is so tempting it takes all Link’s discipline to not start devouring it, so much so that he barely hears Makeela’s speech.

As the guests of honour, he and Barta are the only two already seated. The council members stand nearby as Makeela addresses the rest of the guests, a massive gathering of people that fills the wide space in the center of the courtyard. Barta is similarly distracted, shifting restlessly in her seat as her eyes pick through the thick throng of Parapans before them. Instead of her armour, she’s in casual clothing in bold, strong colours, adorned in gold embroidery. Thin, fluttering fringe hangs from the hem of the wide scarf tossed over her shoulder and tucked into the sashes and belts around her hips.

Link, too, has been given clothes fit for the occasion. Old garments pulled from the back of Makeela’s closet that she’s outgrown, they’re the finest cloth that has ever touched Link’s skin. Shimmering fabric of pale blue and white like the coldest sunrise makes up the short-sleeved top, the neckline cased in gold and decorated with small cut diamonds that rest against his collarbone. He, too, has a wide length of fabric draped over his shoulders, a heavy deep purple thing, with gold thread making swirling, looping patterns that catch the light every time Link moves. The scarf flows around his waist, but the shirt is tucked into his belt and the top of his pants, comparatively plain dark blue linen, the only decoration being rings of embroidery around the calves and ankles. Unlike the desert pants Vilia got him, these are straight cut, tighter around his hips and thighs than they were designed to be-- Link may be the height of a Gerudo child but he still has adult proportions. Around his wrists are a pair of delicate gold cuffs, on each of which long, swooping strokes of white paint form a wide-blossomed flower. Lovely, fine, delicate, shimmering -- being adorned in all these things fills Link with a light, sparkly feeling, like being covered in beautiful things makes him that, too.

Makeela finishes her speech and the crowd erupts into sweeping applause and cheer. With a grin, the riju takes her seat at the very center of the head table, on the other side of Barta from Link, and everyone else follows suit. General Buliara sits at the riju’s side, the rest of the council filling that half of the table. Every seat in the courtyard is filled, soldiers and officials and commoners all sat side by side. Excited chatter rises, and Link reaches for his first helping (of many) of steamed safflina rice. His noble quest to heap as much food onto his plate as he possibly can is interrupted by a gleaming graceful movement to his left, and a choked noise from Barta at his right. He looks up to see Vilia sliding into the chair next to him, a serene look on her face. Her dress is elegant and ornate, violet and fuchsia silks, decorated generously in diamonds and gold which match the jewels dangling from her ears and glittering on her rings. Given her poise and the way she holds her head high, she could easily be taken for a queen.

“Link,” she greets him as she settles in, the rest of the row on that side quickly filling up. “You look radiant.” Link preens, and Vilia goes on, leaning in with a conspiratorial smile. “I’ve been bragging to everyone that I knew The Hero before anyone else did.”

Barta wheezes, looking at Vilia over Link’s head with bulging eyes. Vilia reaches around to extend her manicured hand towards Barta, who gently accepts it with trembling fingers, like the woman is made of glass. Link leans back, watching the exchange with an amused smile. The clues had all been there, but it hadn’t occurred to Link that Vilia is properly famous.

“You must be Barta the warrior,” Vilia says. “I heard you and Link fought together. I’m glad you were there-- Link is too reckless.”

Link makes an offended scoff, and a loud laugh bursts from Barta, who immediately flushes and wiggles in embarrassment-- Link wouldn’t have pegged her to be shy.

Vilia looks back down at Link. “I'm very proud of you,” she whispers. Link inhales sharply, his eyes watering for a single, dangerous second. Her words, said so quietly, are to Link like a boom of thunder-- they rock him, shake him like Naboris’ steps make the ground tremble. The feeling is so much bigger than the words themselves.

“Thank you,” Link whispers even more faintly, looking down. Vilia smiles and pets his hair once, and the feast begins.

Link eats his fill and then some, sampling each dish in the lavish spread, half of which he doesn’t know the names of or even recognize, but he hardly minds because it’s all so delicious. The sky darkens and the lanterns are lit. Everyone is loud and laughing, and Link settles comfortably in the cradle of raucous joy. When meals are finished, people start filtering into the wide open space for dancing as energetic, jaunty music starts to play. The young ones are taken home and stronger drinks are brought out, and the moment the moon crests the horizon is when the feast becomes a party .

Barta drags Link out of his seat to join the dancers and revellers. Vilia laughs and claps her hands as she watches them sweep into the moving crowd. Everyone they come near cheers and toasts them, the heroes of Parapa, tamers of Ancient Beast Vah Naboris. Link has never danced, doesn’t know how, so he just jumps up and down, bouncing on his toes and shaking his arms. He laughs, and Barta laughs, and for a little bit Link forgets about the tremendous weight of his destiny, and the abyssal void of his past.

He’d abstained from alcohol during the parades at Zora’s domain. He had no memory of drinking and didn’t know what it would be like, but with encouragement from Barta and Vilia, Link decides to try a sip of Noble Pursuit. Then he tries another sip, then the rest of the drink, and then refills his glass and tries another. It’s cool and fruity and delicious and he barely tastes the alcohol in it. The ice is soothing on his lips and tongue but a warm feeling spreads from his chest throughout his body down to his fingers. He feels like fairy dust, light and glittery, and the world spins so fast and everything is funny. Barta cackles and tells him his face is redder than the inside of a hydromelon, and Link wheeze-laughs until he has to sit down on the ground. Barta picks him up and spins him around and Link shrieks, feeling like his head is about to come flying off his shoulders and the stars are so bright and Link thinks he might be in love with them.

“The world ‘sso beautiful!” Link shouts when Barta puts him down, her hands heavy on his shoulders. Link leans forward, his face stuck in a permanent, dazzling grin. His voice is hoarse as he continues, “An’ you an’ everyone is so beautiful on th’inside!”

“Vai, you are so drunk!” Barta hollers gleefully. Link giggles.

“No I’m not!” He tilts his head back and beams. He plants his feet wider because Barta is getting heavier. “I jus’-- I jus’ think the world has so many beautiful!”

“You know who is beautiful!” Barta shouts in his face. “Tali!”

“Who?” Link laughs.

“Tali!” Barta shakes his shoulders, and Link’s head swings back and forth like his spine is made of chuchu jelly. He starts giggling again, and Barta shakes him harder, matching his back and forth swaying with enthusiastic bobs of her head, until they’re both holding on to each other and rocking in place, laughing so hard their guts seize up and they both stumble and pitch to the side, emptying the contents of their stomachs onto the cobblestone. The spectacle makes the people around them hoot and holler, and Link groans.

He vaguely registers a familiar hand rubbing his back and voice in his ear. He blinks and somehow teleports onto a street. He blinks again and is lying down as a wet cloth magically drags itself over his face. Then the cloth and everything else vanishes because Link is asleep.

If Link could remember anything he said last night he would declare his past self from about nine hours ago a complete idiot and that the world does not in fact have so many beautiful and is actually a terrible, cruel, dark and miserable place and it should all burn. But he doesn’t remember so the thought doesn’t occur to him-- actually absolutely nothing occurs to him as he wakes up beyond the very small and furious hinox laying total waste to the inside of his head.

Link groans in despair, rolling away from the evil, sinister sunlight pouring in the open window and flopping onto his belly. He buries his face in the divinely soft pillow under his head, and grunts in confusion when his arm collides with something warm and firm. Someone else makes a gruff, sleep-heavy noise, and the heavy, solid weight next to him comes to life.

As Barta struggles against the tangle of her scarf, the inside of Link’s brain catches up with the rest of his body, and he crawls into full consciousness. The hinox in his head gets meaner, his entire skull pulsing in pain, and nausea slams into his gut like the swing of a moblin’s club. His entire body convulses and he gags, clapping a hand over his mouth to try not to hurl his insides all over the bed-- Barta’s bed.

“If you can’t make it to a drain then please try to aim for a potted plant or something,” Barta rasps, finally freeing herself from her silky prison and flinging the scarf away. They’re both still in their party clothes, now crumpled and smelling faintly of sweat and sweet booze. She flops back down onto the bed, jostling Link, who tries to drag himself away with a choked hrrk noise. “ Tarheema , I feel like we lost to the Thunderblight again.”

Link takes deep breaths through his nose, squeezing his eyes shut. “We didn’t lose to the Thunderblight,” he whispers, his voice hoarse and crackly. Had he been shouting last night? “We killed it.”

Mmh ,” Barta tilts one shoulder. “We lost a little bit.” She looks over and watches him slide off the mattress onto the floor, pressing his cheek to the cool stone with a sigh. “Are you going to be sick?”

Link keeps taking deep breaths until he doesn’t feel like his stomach is going to turn into goo and ooze out his belly button. “No,” he huffs. “No, I’m good.”

Barta peers over the edge down at him. Her mouth stretches into a sly, wide smile. “Hey…” she says, “Do you know what we need?”

Link looks blearily up at her. “What?”

“The greasiest, sloppiest, messiest, carbiest, breadiest, oiliest, friediest street food we can get our hands on!” Barta throws her arms out to present the bustling city center around them, grinning hugely. Link looks around at the wide, long square, full of people and bright colours and bold sounds.

“Oh, is that why we had to walk in silence for ten minutes?”

“Come on,” Barta pulls him by the wrist into the crowd. They didn’t bother to change, still dressed up. She drags him towards long rows of stalls surrounded by clamouring, hungry people, from which delicious aromas waft. They elbow their way through and come up to the high counter, which Link can only just barely peek over. Barta orders for them in Gerudo, and Link lights up the slate. He takes out the reward he’d gotten from the council for freeing Naboris-- Barta had gotten the same reward as well-- a giant gold 3000-value rupee, and plunks it on the counter. The cook taking their order’s eyes widen dramatically.

“Can you make change for this?” Link asks. Barta repeats the question in Gerudo and Link makes a chopping motion on the rupee. The cook looks down at the enormous gold rupee, looks at them, and nods.

Yi ,” they say, taking the rupee and then methodically pouring out into Link’s hands a seemingly endless amount of red and yellow rupees until it all adds up to 2,990-value. (Throughout this process Link notes they look familiar, and realizes they were also at the party last night.) Link tries to get it all in the slate quickly because there is a large line behind them-- it’s almost exactly midday and Anan Square is busy. A few minutes later they’re handed a large basket of steaming, triangular fried pastries that Link finds himself actually recognizing-- samosas. Link takes one, still slick from the oil and just barely cooled enough to touch, and takes a large bite. The spiced potato, onion and meat sings in his mouth, warming his face and his memory.

He doesn’t remember in the same seizing, full-sensed way he usually does, but in a smoother, quicker way that he imagines it must feel like for everyone else to suddenly remember something that happened long ago, a memory that didn’t die, was just dormant. He remembers being in this city a hundred years ago, released from his guard duties for the night and brought along by some palace guards to a bar. He remembers feeling awkward and small and tight in his skin, declining drinking and dancing, standing in a corner, the floor sticky underfoot, because there was nowhere to sit. He couldn’t let loose and feel the same merriment as the other soldiers because he didn’t know how, but unlike back in what was once his home in Castle Town, the others didn’t judge or jeer him for his statue-like demeanour. Later in the night, when all Link could think about was how warm it was, how loud it was, how sore his feet and back were, how loud it was , the guard who invited him along came over with a couple of samosas balanced on a grease-stained napkin and offered him one. It was delicious and sharing that meal with that near-stranger whose name he never learned was the best part of the night.

Link and Barta find a shady spot off the side of the road and devour the whole basket. The crunchy fried treats fill them up near-instantly and succeed in soaking up their hangovers, leaving them feeling whole and satiated. Barta sings the samosas’ praises as they eat, and Link looks around, curiously eyeing the incredible amount of different shops and stalls.

Now that this task here is done-- the thought that, with two Divine Beasts tamed and only two more to go, he’s halfway to completing his quest, is a heavy, frightening one for reasons he can’t discern, and it’s hard to swallow-- he ought to be moving on as soon as he can. He’s healed enough to travel again and so there is no reason for him to not immediately set out, besides, he misses his horse. He managed to leave Zora’s Domain easily enough, feeling only the slightest bit wistful with the shining blue and silver city at his back, but this place is different.

He doesn’t want to wake up tomorrow and be somewhere else, he wants to stay. Stay and wear these dazzling clothes, and drink and dance with the first person he’s felt camaraderie with since his centurial slumber, maybe even ever. He wants to train with the palace soldiers and get better at spearwork, earn the respect of General Buliara. He wants to offer Riju comfort and support, he wants to cook and eat dinner with Vilia and her husband, watch her dance, and let her dress him up like a doll. Life is vibrant here and he wants to soak it all up, stain himself with every colour of dye here deeply enough that it doesn’t fade in the long, empty nights in the wild ruins of Hyrule.

With the fate of all the people of more stretches of lands than Link can fathom at stake, though, what he wants matters very, very little.

So by sunset tonight Link will leave. By sunset, he will pass through the desert gate and put the nation of Parapa behind him. He will focus on his quest, his real purpose, on relieving princess Zelda of her incredible burden. Focus on re-becoming the hero he was meant to be a century ago, because that is his destiny and it’s the most real thing he knows. He’ll put all thoughts of himself and his wants aside.

But the sun is still high in the sky and he has a little more time to be selfish.

Barta notices his intent scanning gaze as she sucks oil from her fingers. “Do you want to go shopping?”

Link turns his wide, gleaming eyes up to her. “Yes.”

They jump from stall to stall, just looking at all the things people are selling. Link’s eye catches on lots of the small crafted items, wares that can’t be described as anything other than trinkets . It’s incredible to him that people can make such little statuettes and figurines out of glass , of all things. He picks up a palm-sized glass flower, its petals spread wide and flat, with pink dye somehow suspended within the deceptively heavy sculpture, and admires how the sunlight refracts through it. A nearby stall has similar glass pieces, but rather than sculptures it's all cut panes of coloured glass welded together by veins of metal. They’re supposed to hang on windows, apparently-- Link is disappointed he doesn’t have a window to hang one on.

They go into clothing boutiques, and Link’s fingers itch to feel every fabric he passes by. It’s overwhelmingly tempting, but he doesn’t buy any garments-- for one, none of the adult clothes are in his size and since he’s still stuffed into Makeela’s old pants, he doesn’t feel like looking in the children’s sections. Second, he has a feeling Vilia would be disappointed if he went clothes shopping without her.

Some vendors lounge on the ground outside with their wares-- pottery, arrows, art, shoes, all sorts of things-- spread out on blankets in front of them that people crouch down to see. Some walk around with large packs, like Beedle. The sun outside is hot on their faces, but the wind towers and waterways help cool the city down. Inside the shops are cooler, and quieter than the square.

He stocks up on arrows and supplies for his journey, splurges a little on bomb arrows. He gets dried meats and fruits in bulk, buys from a mobile apothecary a bottle of small, chalky tablets that apparently clean the inside of one’s mouth. Link resists any more extravagant spending than that-- until they reach a jeweller near the palace.

Inside is dim, with small lights that shine on the most intricately carved pieces of jewellery Link’s ever seen, circlets and tiaras and rings and earrings and necklaces and cuffs and bracelets and brooches nestled carefully on plush cushions. They glimmer and shine, and Link is entranced. Barta, who only wears small, simple gold rings in her ears and nose like most Gerudo, isn’t as interested, and instead wanders to the back of the shop to chat with one of the workers. Link approaches a glass case separate from the other displays, inside of which lay a small collection of circlets and earrings. His hands hover over the glass, and his gaze is pulled to the piece in the center. Diamonds framed by swirling gold tendrils, twined and blooming, with feather-like gold leaves branching out and curling in. It’s so brilliant under the light it almost seems to glow on its own. It doesn’t match anything he’s seen anyone here wear, and instead stirs something in his mind.

It looks like a crown. No one specific memory surfaces, more like simple knowledge of the past. The tattered early years of his life offer that crown, perched on regal black coils of hair. A cane that clicked on the cold stone floors of Hyrule Castle. A deep blue gown with billowy white sleeves, a kind, familiar smile, eyes that Princess Zelda grew into. Praise and pride of the Queen of Hyrule.

Link picks up light, tapping footsteps. He turns his head to see who he assumes is the jeweller, a shorter gerudo with gold ornaments shaped like the bones of a fan in her red hair. “These are our rare and antique pieces,” she says, excited but quiet, like she’s telling him an amazing secret she’s been just dying to share. “Some were crafted over a hundred years ago, and some were made more recently, but using preserved gems that were once enchanted, and still hold some of their old power. All one of a kind.”

Link looks back down at the jewels. “Enchanted?”

“Simple spells,” the jeweller elaborates. “That keep you warm when it’s cold, or cool when it’s hot. It’s like… magical residue. Complex enchantments faded long ago.”

He points to the diamond circlet. “What did this one do?”

The jeweller scratches her cheek with a sheepish smile. “I’m honestly not that sure,” she admits. “The translation is odd. Something to do with light, I believe, emits it or perhaps leads you to it? Roughly, ‘your light is strongest in the deepest darkness’. But apparently in this case the word used for ‘light’ can also mean ‘truth’. It’s mostly for display, to be honest. This , though,” she takes out a small key and unlocks the case, delicately lifting the top. She reaches inside for the ruby circlet-- a large round ruby on a strong silver-plated base, on a sturdy braided leather cord, with turquoise beads woven in. “Would suit you very well. Especially if you are travelling north, oh Champion brave .”

“How do you know I’m going north?”

“I big birdie told me,” she leads him to a mirror, steering him with her hands on his shoulders. Standing behind him she places the circlet on his head, adjusting the cord at the back so it doesn’t slide down his face. The base of the ruby rests on his brow, and the jeweller adjusts his bangs so they don’t get in the way. Link lets her, taking in his reflection. The ruby brings out the red undertones of his brown eyes, but it also matches beyond colour-- the circlet’s design is a balance of wild and tamed, and it looks like it belongs on him. The jeweller catches his eye in the mirror, and smiles.

Barta smirks at his side and Link resolutely avoids her gaze as he nearly drains his rupees on two circlets, the ruby and sapphire one, the latter’s twisting silver body reminding him of the delicate arches of Zora’s Domain. Apparently he’s been given a generous Champion Discount-- just imagining the real price makes him wheeze pitifully. He can’t bring himself to regret the purchase, though, as he walks out of the shop with both circlets piled on his head to be silly. He fiddles with them, happily tracing the lines of metal and leather, while Barta tips her head back, looking up at the sky. Some time has passed, and it won’t be long until the afternoon is over and the skies turn from blue to gold.

chasing dragons - ThatOneFunAnon, cruisercrusher (15)

“You know what we should do?”

Link looks up at Barta.

“There’s enough sun left. We should take a couple of sand seals out to Arbiter’s Grounds.”

Link doesn’t know that place, but the name prickles something dreadful and wary in his bones.

“It’s an ancient ruins site south of here, said to predate the Zora city, I heard. Archaeologists from the museum want to excavate and study it, but electric Lizalfos kept camping out there.”

“You want to go clear out the Lizalfos?”

“No, no the Lizalfos actually are not a problem anymore.”

Link tilts his head. “Why?”

Barta grins. “A molduga gobbled them all up.”

Molduga-- Link recalls Kass’ song of the ancient hero, and the languid gossip traded between guards outside his cell while they waited for word from Impa. “A dune beast?”

“Molduga usually live much deeper in the desert, but some were corrupted by the Calamity and wander here. What do you say? Shall we go slay the mightiest beast of Parapa?”

“Well,” Link huffs, the corner of his mouth twitching up. “We are heroes.”

Barta is waiting for him at the south gate, at the back of the palace. Link told her to go on ahead, when they were in the barracks for proper gear-- he had something to take care of before they set out onto the dune sea. He walks through the quiet, cool halls of the palace, his lended clothes folded in hand, back in his desert gear and leather armour. As much as he enjoyed the fine costume, he’s also glad to have the weight back on, of his belts and equipment, the sheikah slate bouncing lightly against his leg as he walks. He passes the occasional guard who nod to him as they walk by, venturing deeper into the palace.

He doesn’t see Makeela in her room when he peers through the open door. Link hesitates, looking around but not seeing anyone. He quickly tiptoes inside, dropping the clothes on the nearest table and darting back out into the hall. He continues forward only a few paces before his ears twitch, picking up faint noise from another room further ahead. Link approaches the other door. There’s a slight gap which he puts his eye to, revealing something unexpected-- a nursery.

Makeela sits on a large cushion in the middle of the floor, a book open in her lap. Belly-down on the carpet in front of her is a baby, not quite a year old, happily scooting around in pursuit of a shiny toy that Makeela occasionally moves around every time the baby gets close to it. Link pushes the door further open, and the riju looks up as he steps inside.

“There you are, Champion,” Makeela smiles, closing her book. “I heard you became wild at the feast after sundown.”

Link scratches the back of his head, cheeks pinking in embarrassment as he lowers himself to the floor near her. “It seems a lot of people heard that,” he sighs, then looks at the baby who finally caught up with the toy in Makeela’s distraction. They immediately grab it with their tiny, squishy little fingers and put it in their mouth, babbling excitedly. “Who is this?”

“Lumashek, my baby sibling.” She looks at Link out the side of her eye and smirks. “You know, it is incredibly disrespectful not to bow when meeting royalty.”

“Oh!” Link places his palms on the ground and leans down to press his forehead to the floor in front of the baby. “My deepest apologies, Lumashek riju . I swear undying fealty to your rule.”

Ahna ,” Lumashek babbles, letting go of the toy and swiping at Link’s hair. “ Janna !”

Link straightens before the baby can get a real handful, and Makeela grins and reaches forward, scooping them up under the arms. “ Iyi , jahna ! Sav’cil !” She praises them excitedly, bouncing them around in her lap. Lumashek shrieks and giggles.

Makeela looks back at Link, absentmindedly taking her sibling’s hands and moving their arms around in a little dance. “You’re here to say goodbye, aren’t you? You are dressed for travel.”

“Yes,” Link says. “Barta and I are going to hunt a Molduga, and we will likely not see each other again before I leave Parapa.”

Makeela raises her eyebrows. “That sounds interesting,” she says. “Do not go putting yourself straight back into the hospital when you’ve only just got out.”

“I won’t,” Link gives a quick smile but quickly sobers, looking down. “I also wanted to say… I am glad we met. And I believe you will be a great Chief when the time comes.”

The playful air around Makeela evaporates, and she looks harder at him. “You are being very serious,” she says, a hint of nervousness in her voice.

“I don’t know how long this goodbye will be,” Link explains softly. “I want to make sure you remember that-- that I believe in you-- in case I don’t come back for a long time.”

Makeela’s eyes narrow. “You mean, in case you don’t come back again at all.”

Link swallows, his temple throbbing for a second, and he feels like he’s had this conversation before. “I… yes, or that, too.” Makeela’s expression tightens, and she curls slightly around her baby sibling, who coos. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to--”

“It’s fine,” Makeela says. “It’s just… for some reason, even though I knew you would leave, I didn’t realize that meant you would be gone . That was stupid of me. You won’t be the first person to go and stay gone.”

Link looks at her for a long moment. “I’m sorry,” he eventually says. “I would like very much to return someday. I will do my best to make sure I can.”

Makeela considers this, her eyes trailing along the wall and her bushy brow furrowing. “Okay,” she says. “I trust you. You already know that. Do not make me regret it.”

“Of course,” Link bows his head. “I know better than to not heed a royal order.”

Makeela huffs a single silent laugh. “Yes. If you die out there, I shall have to have you executed for disobeying me.”

Link chuckles. “That sounds like a grim fate.” He stands, and bows properly. “Until we meet again, Makeela Rijuhn .”

She gives a small smile in return. “Goodbye, Champion Link.”

Link finds Barta waiting at the south gate as agreed, the reins of two sandseals in her hand as she chats with the guards.

“Are you well, Link?” She asks when he arrives at her side. Link gives his eyes one last hard scrub to chase away any remaining redness.

Hn ,” Link nods. “Let’s go.”

They kit up on the sandseals and take off into the deeper desert, towards the ancient site of Arbiter’s Grounds. According to Barta, hunting a molduga is not too different from how they subdued Vah Naboris-- circling it on sandseals and wearing it down with bomb arrows. The hide of a molduga is incredibly tough, and it’s what the Gerudo use to make their leather armour, so the bomb arrows don’t do as much fire-blasting damage to the dune beast as the force of the explosion itself.

“We will push it out of the sand,” Barta shouts to him over the wind as they ride, “And cut its soft belly while it’s vulnerable!”

In the south desert, the dunes are taller and steeper. The guards’ trained sandseals are faster than the wild ones and the ones from the stables, and they catch air when they clear the tops of the sandy slopes. As they cross dune after dune, Link keeps expecting to see their destination climbing up from the horizon. When they finally do spot it, for some reason he’s surprised at how small it looks; the circle of mostly-broken arches is wide and sprawling, but short, only hints of worn down pillars rising higher. There appear to be more lying in the sand, fallen down long ago, only three remain standing. It’s barely an obstruction on the horizon.

Certainly not as much as the moving dune is.

“There it is!” Barta points to the mound of sand and draws her bow. Link follows suit.

They barely slow down as they close in on it, careening in wide arcs around the ruins, using the grounds’ arches to measure their distance. Barta had warned him already not to slow down to aim, or the beast would catch up. So it’s instinct and energy that guides Link’s arrows, as the molduga rams continuously into the parts of the ancient structure hidden under the sand. They weave through the arches, but the molduga appears fixated on Link, shaking the fragile barriers it hits in its attempts to swallow him whole.

Their bomb arrows send clouds of sand and dirt flying into the air as they round the molduga. Barta rides next to Link to yell, “This might be the stupidest molduga in the whole desert! We need to lure it away from the ruins or the archaeologists will have our heads!”

Link nods, and they swerve, swinging in close to the beast before rearing back south, trying to draw it deeper into the desert. A shadow moving on the sands catches Link’s eye and he instinctively slows down to see. It’s obscured by swirling clouds of dust, and Link squints. It’s coming towards them, kicking up its own sandstorm as it charges-- not just in their general direction, but at Link . Barta slams to a stop next to him, her eyes on the same shadow closing in.

The dust clears, revealing an animal, a creature, a monster? A great huge dog races towards them, its head low in determination. The sand beneath them rumbles as the molduga closes in, and the two warriors snap their sandseals back into motion, splitting into opposite directions. The molduga follows Link as predicted, but so does the dog.

“Here puppy! Come here! Over here!” Barta calls, but she is either unheard or ignored. The canine beast is single minded on his target, his eyes never straying from Link’s path.

“Go! Get out of here, you dumb dog!” Link shouts over his shoulder. The molduga sweeps around and heads for the dog instead, and Link yanks on the sandseal’s reins, bringing it to a sliding stop in panic.

“OH, SHI--”

The molduga slams into the dog, launching it spinning high into the air. A howl pierces the air as the poor beast flies, and on the apex of its arc the molduga leaps out of the sand after it, its bizarre flat mouth opening wide and snapping shut around the airborne animal. Link’s jaw drops, and the massive creature arcs and tumbles back down to land, only instead of burrowing into the sand it crashes into one of the ancient arches, breaking the top and getting stuck inside. It makes a --frankly pathetic-- drawn out, nasally squeal, like a hog. It wriggles and thrashes on its back, its tiny legs waving in the air, unable to turn itself over.

“The dog!” Link leaps off his sled and runs towards it.

“The ruins!” Barta follows. She hops next to the molduga, jumping in and out of range of its swinging tail and jabs its side with her spear. Link scales the crumbling ruins it's pinned between and attacks its soft belly from above. Malice smoke leaks out of its mouth and purple-stained eyes, until it curls up like a bug as it dies. Indigo and void-black splotches spread on its body like mold and it vanishes. Link and Barta turn their heads and hold their breath until the smoke clears.

Left behind on the ground is a small pile of molduga guts-- and the dog, somehow--!? Link gasps and jumps down, and Barta swears in surprise. The strange animal stands stiff and ramrod straight, its piercing cyan eyes wide in a genuinely traumatized-looking expression as it practically vibrates in place. Its uniquely patterned coat of fur is slicked and matted with slime from the molduga’s insides. It braces its massive paws on the sand. The two warriors shield their faces just in time before it starts to shake, sending gut-goo spraying everywhere as Barta screams in disgust. When it finishes, Link lowers his hands and inches closer to the unusual creature. At the same time, Barta backs away, but Link is curious where she is wary.

It’s not a dog, but a wolf, and an absolutely massive one, its brow reaching Link’s chin, with shoulders wider than his. It has peculiar markings on its face, and uncanny human-like eyes. The fur that branches from the back of its head and sweeps over its shoulders is more dense and coarse than the rest of its cream and grey coat-- dark grey that looks green in full-blown sunlight. It has a broad stone cuff around its front paw with fancy engravings, and small indigo hoops pierced in its ears. The wolf tilts its head and its impossible eyes meet Link’s. A shiver courses through him, a single cloud passes over the sun and lays shadow over them, and in that brief moment, Link recognizes the creature, a spider-silk thread of connection only visible through what he now knows to be his eye of truth.

More than that, the wolf recognizes him .

Barta cringes away. “That… is not a normal animal,” she says.

The cloud evaporates, basking the wolf in bright sun again. After shaking, its fur is all spiked up, clumped with dirt and sand. It tilts its head the other way, broad shoulders relaxing and red tongue poking out as it starts to pant. Link splays his hands on the fluffy fur on the sides of its face, rubbing his thumbs along the base of its perky ears, and coos, “Aw, sweet puppy!”

“You’re insane,” Barta deadpans. The wolf tilts his head up, and Link scritches under his chin. He nudges forward and bumps his nose into Link’s collar, and Link laughs, utterly charmed.

“I’m going to give him a bath,” Link declares, scooping up the molduga guts and putting them in the slate. “He looks like he could use some pampering.”

“He looks like he could use an exorcist ,” Barta mutters, but still follows.

The wolf keeps pace with them on their sandseals easily, tearing across the desert back towards Entasvar.

At the gate, the guards practically rub their eyes in disbelief, gawking at the two warriors and their new animal companion. They look to Barta over Link’s head, sending her a silent plea for help, and Barta minutely shakes her head. “That’s… you can’t bring that-- you can’t bring that in here,” One of them says, and Link blinks up at her.

“Why not?”

Beee cause…” the other guard hesitates. “Y-you don’t have a permit! Yeah, it’s a really big-- uh, animal, and you need a permit to have one that large within city limits.” The first guard nods, the second guard starts nodding as well. They nod at each other and at Link and Barta.

Link looks down at the wolf and sighs. That’s fair, even though he is standing very politely it is remarkably massive. “Well, alright,” he picks the reins back up and clicks his tongue for the dog to follow. “Kara-Kara isn’t too far. Barta, do you still want to come?”

Barta squints between Link and the dog, holding her breath for a second before letting it out as a sigh. “Let’s go,” she flops back onto her sled, and Link smiles.

Leaving their sandseals stowed at the Kara Kareh stable, Link leads the wolf down the streets and alleys with Barta taking up the rear. People jump out of their way, eyeing the wolf nervously, but Link is proud of how well behaved and calm he is even when around lots of people.

When Link knocks on the door at Vilia’s house, she swings it open with half a greeting before cutting herself off with a yelp and yanking it mostly closed again. “Link!” She gasps, horrified. “What is that thing!”

“A puppy,” Link says undauntedly. “We need to give it a bath.”

“Yes, you do! Outside . Wait here. Outside!” She slams the door shut, and Link and Barta stare at it for a couple minutes before it opens again fully, revealing Vilia and Reynold. Vilia’s thrown on a light walking robe, and Reynold has a large bottle in hand.

“Oh. Yes, I see what you mean,” Reynold says to his wife, and holds out the bottle to Link. “Sandseal shampoo.”

Link takes it. Vilia breezes past them, giving the wolf a wide berth, so not even her billowing scarf brushes its mucky fur. “The pond will do. This way.”

Her stride is so quick that even Barta hustles to keep up with her. They reach the large pond in the center of town, surrounded by streams of people congregated around the cooling water. The blend of locals and visitors watch in mixed apprehension and curiosity as they lead the giant monster-wolf to the edge of the bank.

“Okay,” Link points to the water. “Get in, puppy!”

The wolf does not get in. He slowly approaches, sniffing at the water’s surface. Link looks expectantly at the wolf, and Vilia watches with a raised brow from well outside the splash zone. “This is taking too long,” Barta announces, and visibly steels herself before leaning down and grabbing the wolf around its middle and heaving it into the air with a grunt. The wolf yelps, and Barta tips them both straight into the pond with a massive splash, soaking Link as well. The wolf resurfaces and shakes its head, yapping excitedly and splashing. Barta plants her feet in the shallow water and squares up with the wolf, sopping wet still in her armour. Link laughs, only pausing to pass Vilia the slate before running into the water after them, also fully clothed, with the bottle of soap.

It’s half bath and half play. Link pours the shampoo out and lathers it into the wolf’s thick fur while Barta wrestles with the beast, the Gerudo soldier having the legitimate size and strength to make it a fair match. He may look untamed, but Wolfy is no wild animal-- he understands that they’re playing, mouthing excitedly but doesn’t bite or swipe as they tussle in the water.

The crowd condenses around the shore, mostly Temple city refugees watching the spectacle with interest. They cheer and chant, and Link doesn’t understand their words, but at one point Barta turns to the audience and shouts,

“Stop cheering for the dog!”

They cheer louder. Laughter and encouraging whistles fill the air. Vilia holds the slate up with a smile.

After the bottle has been emptied and all the grime rinsed from the wolf’s fur they drag themselves out of the pond, heavy with water. Wolfy stances and shakes himself dry, and everyone in the front row shrieks and recoils from the spray. When Link lowers his shielding hands, his cheeks sore from how wide he’s smiling, he spots a familiar face in the crowd. The soldier he met when he first arrived in Kara Kareh steps forward, a smirk on her face.

“Champion,” she says, “You see now why not to drink from that pond?”

Link looks over his shoulder at the floating film of molduga gutslime, mud and fur giving off a pungent fishy smell… for some reason. Link cringes.

Now that the show is over and Wolfy is clean, the crowd thins and disperses. Vilia stands off to the side chatting with someone she knows, while Link and Barta sit and towel off the wolf, taking a quieter moment to let themselves dry in the sun.

“Tch… it’s skinny for a creature this size,” Barta mutters as she scrubs Wolfy’s haunches with a cloth, messing up his dense fur. “You’re going to spoil it and it’s only going to get bigger, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” Link says, completely seriously, and Barta huffs.

Link is not a fool. He’s aware of how strange and otherworldly this animal is, knows it’s likely some sort of spirit-creature. And he doesn’t know what it wants, but it came to him, and must have done so for a reason. It pants, head bobbing contentedly with its tongue slightly lolling out. Link can tell, he can feel , that this creature is good .

“Link,” Barta speaks again, and Link looks at her. Wolfy’s ears also twitch in her direction. “I have been wanting to say something today.”

“Mm?”

Barta watches her hands. “I… am sorry. Ni’enid. It is not fair that you know so little of our world, haven’t the knowledge of history the rest of us take for granted. I want to tell you a story of something that is said to have happened during the Calamity. Have you heard of the Seer of Secrets?”

Link shakes his head.

Barta takes a breath and begins. “No person has been able to use magic since the Calamity. Fairies fled into cracks in the earth, wise ones lost their sight, and the few sorcerers gathered in the valley with their conjured forces were wiped out as their power vanished. But there was one… a seer, supposedly, but those who claimed to have met her eyes said she was much more. She came from nowhere and spoke bold courage, knowing safe passages through the impassable. She helped people flee through thickets and bogs that reeked death, guided the Watarara west of Hyrule’s borders, across the great gouge. And when asked how she could still use her Sight, she just laughed and didn’t really answer. It was like she had done it all before-- people believed she was older than the Divine Beasts, older than any ruin on the goldland, older than the land itself.”

That reminds Link of something he knows. The same way he knows not to swing his sword idly when he walks, irrelevant that he was never a magic user-- never, ever use magic without a conduit. A warning from soft hands gripping his small arms and light gleaming from golden jewellery. To dance on that line, to trip and cross it, is to submit yourself to the Greatest Curse, forfeiting your connection to the rest of the world, separated from time and the gift of mortality.

“A cursed wizard?"

Barta shrugs. “Perhaps. No one knows if she really exists or not, or if people just… believed she does to justify the unexplainable. If she was, is, real, a cursed wizard, she may have been building her power since the Mother Calamity. So they say. I wasn’t there, obviously. This is just what I heard.”

The wolf between them has gone quiet and still.

“The Mother Calamity… ten thousand years ago?”

“No,” Barta corrects. “This was the evil that birthed all evil. Ages before the age of myth. Gods have lived and died in the time since this great annihilation. It is technically a theory. There are no remaining records from this time, only faded warnings on crumbled walls in a language no one speaks anymore. Not even the Zora know for sure, and they’re said to remember everything.”

Link ponders for a moment. “Who claimed to meet the Seer of Secrets? You said the…”

“The Watarara,” Barta supplies. “Of the northern Rito. But there are no more of them.” She narrows her eyes. “You aren’t thinking of seeking out this Seer, are you?”

“Seeking the Seer of Secrets?” Link chuffs unconvincingly. “No, of course not.”

“Because that would be dangerous. You could get cursed and go mad or turn into a frog or something. And she only maybe exists and only maybe knows every secret of every realm. So you should not, ever, at all, look for the Seer of Secrets.”

Link nods.

“But if you did ,” Barta raises her eyebrows, “You’d tell me all about it?”

Link laughs. “Of course,” he winks, “ If I did.”

Only once the wolf is fully cleaned and dried is Vilia willing to actually venture near. She hands Link back the slate with a smirk-- it’s on, open to the picto album. Link finds new pictos in there, of him and Barta and the wolf in the water. The flying droplets from their splashing and playing captured frozen in time, as are the grins on their faces, bright and open with their laughter. There’s another few that Vilia took of herself, the slate flipped to put her in frame, with the three of them blurred out over her shoulder. Link laughs as his eyes trace the perfectly captured images of these moments.

“Thank you,” he says, for more than just keeping the slate dry for him. The palm trees sway and their cast shadows move, allowing the sun to glint off the gently rippling waters. It’s lowered significantly-- Link realizes with a pang that if he is to reach the Canyon Stable and reunite with his horse before nightfall, he will have to set out now .

At the edge of town the setting sun is harsher and the wind stronger. Gusts from the highlands travel south and buffet the outskirts of Kara Kareh. Link’s hair and windscarf blow around his face, Vilia’s skirts whip in the air and she holds her light headscarf in place. Standing nearby are Reynold and Barta, watching the two.

Link stands stiffly, unsure what to do with his body as they say goodbye. Vilia notices his hesitation and smiles, drawing him into a hug. Link allows her to pull him in and sighs against her shoulder, training morose eyes on the sand under their feet.

“You’ll come and visit as much as you can, won’t you?”

“As much as I can,” Link repeats. Vilia pulls back and holds him at arm’s length by the shoulders. She squeezes them with a pensive look.

“Make sure you eat well on your travels, okay? You’re too bony. And you have the extra water I gave you?”

“In the slate.”

“Okay,” Vilia hugs him again quickly. She whispers in his ear, “You are special, Link. I knew the moment I saw you. I can’t wait to see you blossom into a mighty, gorgeous hero.”

“Thank you,” Link whispers back. When they pull away again, Link looks into her eyes, and feels something, finds something in a nebulous, shifting tapestry of time. “You are going to be an excellent mother.”

The edges of her smile waver, and her eyes shine wetly. She hugs him a third time, tighter than before, and Link chuckles. “ Okay ,” she repeats. “Okay. Goodbye, now.”

She doesn’t let go, though, instead giving him one last squeeze before finally releasing him. Her eyes are misty as she steps back to Reynold’s side, delicately patting the corners of her eyes with a cloth. Reynold’s hand goes around her waist, and he waves to Link, who returns the gesture.

When he kits up his sandseal for the last time, Barta does the same. When he looks at her in question, she grins. “We will ride together to the edge of the desert,” she says. Link nods. He, too, would like to put off their goodbye as long as possible. As they mount their sleds and Link looks back at Vilia and her husband over his shoulder, a sense of deja-vu washes over him. He felt it leaving Zora’s Domain, as well, but the feeling is familiar beyond that--

The feeling is that of leaving behind people that he owes his life to. Empty shapes burn in his memory, like fire eating away at a painting, shrouding lost figures from his past. He doesn’t want that to happen here, too.

The edges of their sleds send sand spraying into the air behind them as Link and Barta ride, side by side, weaving around each other and the wolf, and racing towards the desert gate. It comes upon them far too soon, the cracked and ancient gate encircling them in its shadow as they slide to a stop at the very border between sand and stone. The wolf watches, sitting at the base of the ramp out of the desert, thumping his tail impatiently on the ground, as Link and Barta dismount and face each other.

Unlike everyone else Link has said goodbye to, Barta’s face holds no sorrow. She smiles down at him, standing tall and proud as she salutes him, her fist on her chest. Link does the same, and they reach out and knock their armoured forearms together.

“Fare well, Champion Link,” Barta says.

Link smirks. “And you, Champion Barta.”

There is a thread connecting them, immaterial but very real. It pulls tighter as Link and his new wolf companion climb the weathered ramp. For the first time in what feels like a much longer time than it really must have been, Link takes a step outside of the desert of Parapa, shaded once more by the mighty Gerudo canyon.

Notes:

HAHAHA DID YOU SEE THAT COMING!!!??!??!!? We're finally not clickbaiting by having wolf link be mentioned in the fic summary heart emoji!
Times that wolfy JUST missed Link:
-If Link had stayed the night on the plateau instead of leaving as soon as he got the paraglider Wolfy would have caught up with him (wolf Link was the companion Hoshi mentioned back in filler episode LOL)
-Actually literally any location he went to prior to Zora's domain if he had stayed One extra night
-If Link had taken the road away from the domain instead of getting a ride from Sidon he would have caught him. They literally passed him. (He was the movement on the cliff. LOL)
-If Link hadn't gotten arrested. Because of that Wolfy had to do a complete circle around the entire desert. RIP
As you can see, Wolf Link was pretty fed up by the time he actually caught up with Link LOL. Where did wolf link come from exactly, you ask, from where is he catching up from? :) well.... you'll just have to read and find out hehe

FURTHER NOTES ON THE CHAPTER:
- We know Wolfy's eyes in game are dark blue not cyan it's because of our Twilight Princess lore stuff plans
- Yes Barta has a crush on sandseal racing champion Tali and yes now everyone knows about it. also. Champion Barta :)
-the samosa memory is going to be called back to in the age of calamity rewrite prequel
- hehe Zelda's mom hints
- Anon has been MAULING AND KILLING AND BITING for us to GET ON THAT GD HORSE AND GET OUT OF THE DESERT and now we are finally FREEEEE
- 'to the edge of the desert' is actually a Gerudo saying/metaphor for eternity, since the desert is said to be endless. They know that's logically, geographically impossible, but that's the mythology of it.
- Vilia gave link an extra 18 canteens of drinking water

ALSO ALOS check out our tumblr blog zelda-without-a-licence-plate !!!! I've actually been keeping it up and posting a bunch of new art on there!!!!! Go look!!!! Go ask questions if you want!!! Pleaseeeeeeeee

Chapter 26: dont_talk_to_strangers_DIO.mp3

Summary:

On his travels, Link happens upon an eerie mask that his new wolf companion is extremely hostile towards. Link doesn't think it's that bad, though.

Things go very, very wrong, very, very quickly.

Notes:

HI READ THIS ITS IMPORTANT PLEASE. there's a good chunk of this chapter that leans pretty heavy into lowkey psychedelic horror and unreality, so if you struggle with that please proceed with caution! The unreality does not target the reader, just Link, but it's still trippy. If you want to skip that section, then stop reading around when Link encounters the stable worker with the carriage and pick up again at "it feels like if a stranger was knocking at the door", about ten or so paragraphs from the end of the chapter.

Now that that's done, YAYYYYYYYY so f*cking excited to post this chapter, Anon did such an awesome job outlining and planning it and I had an awesome time writing it out, I'm very proud of how it turned out and it's some of my best writing to date I think ngl.
ALSO!!!!!!! This chapter is titled after a song as I'm sure you've noticed. It's Don't Talk To Strangers by Dio, it is an awesome awesome song and I very much recommend listening to it while you read the chapter, or at least just listen to it afterwards while thinking about the chapter. If this fic was an animated series, this chapter would be the finale episode of season 1, and that song would play over the end credits. Slay. Anyways, enjoy!

This one is for you, Majora's Mask fans!

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Link buries his face in Nyx’s white mane, his hands cupping her broad jaw as he takes in the familiar, comforting scent of hay and horsiness. She snuffles and tosses her head, nuzzling his shoulder, and Link laughs lightly. “I missed you too, girl,” he says. He clicks his tongue for Wolfy to come over-- his appearance startles the people at the stable, and they keep their distance. “Wolfy, this is Nyx the horse. Nyx, this is Wolfy the… wolf.”

The two animals regard each other. Nyx’s ears twist as she appraises the wolf, who sniffs her and gives a wide dog-smile.

Link swings himself up into the saddle. “Heading out tonight, traveller?” A stable worker calls out. Link looks back at him and nods. He has all his supplies, a bedroll, plenty of food and water. His plan is to ride until true nightfall, and hopefully be out of the canyon before making camp. He nudges Nyx into a trot, and Wolfy keeps pace next to them as they ride.

Just before the grotto with a monster camp, near the widening mouth of the canyon, is a tall thick-trunked tree, that Link reaches by the time the moon has risen above the cliffs. He sets out his bedroll and makes sure to clear any extra grass before making a small campfire. As he preps a meat skewer, Wolfy circles and settles down next to him, while Nyx tucks her side against the tree and gets comfortable. Link watches the moon climb as he eats, then tucks himself into the bedroll Dorian gifted him. Wolfy curls up against his back, a dense, warm solid weight that has Link sighing contentedly. Despite having slept in late that morning, he falls asleep easily.

Link wakes in tandem with the rising sun, groaning and stretching. His bedroll is no Stable Soft Bed, or even as nice as Vilia’s couch, but it’s better than the hard ground. Link arches his back until something pops satisfyingly.

He offers Nyx some feed out of the slate, and notices from the corner of his eye Wolfy padding towards them. The beast’s mouth and jowls are covered in blood and small bits of viscera, and he licks his chops, pleased.

Link blinks at the animal. “Well… I see you’ve had breakfast,” he says slowly. “What… did you eat?”

Wolfy doesn’t answer, obviously, because he can’t talk.

“If I ask you to go wash your face in a puddle or something,” he continues, “Will you do it?”

Wolfy blinks at him, his fur ruffling slightly in the canyon wind, then turns and pads away, seeking a puddle-- hopefully. Link quickly scarfs down his own light breakfast, then cleans his mouth, and drinks some water to wash away the sleep-dryness. He completes the rest of his morning routine perfunctorily, and changes into his regular traveller’s tunic and leather boots, stowing away his desert gear. By the time he’s putting a foot in Nyx’s stirrup, Wolfy comes trotting back, his face clean and dripping water.

He kicks Nyx into a run. The air whistles in his ears as they race out of the canyon, past the monster camps and horseback boko patrol. Wolfy barks and snaps, nearly vibrating with the desire to attack the blue monsters, but Link whistles and keeps him on track. Still, they nearly bowl over the two bokoblins, the one which looked like it was teaching the other how to mount its horse screeching angrily at Link as they pass.

The noise wakes up the hinox on the bridge. It stands, its broad shoulders and titanic square frame blocking the rising sun. Link instinctively pulls Nyx’s reins to slow, but then remembers the bokoblins at his back, and quickly regains speed. The hinox makes no move to attack as they gallop under its legs, only turning in slow, lumberous movements to simply watch . Link stares back over his shoulder as they put it behind them. Link would have sworn it was blue before, but its rough, thick hide is now silver. It was blue before. He remembers it being blue . He doesn’t know if the monster changed or if a new one took its place. He expects it to give chase, to shatter the bridge under its dense weight as it pumps its arms and runs after them, but it does not. It’s unsettling, the way it just stands still, watching his retreating form with its single, orange-tinted eye, slightly slitted pupil dilating.

Even after rounding the corner and putting it out of sight, he feels watched, the imprint of its unnatural eye staying in his mind like a sunspot.

He passes the stable, making good and steady time along the road north. He doesn’t need to ask anyone the way-- the winterous mountain range in the faint distance is guide enough.

Through narrow hill passages and grassy plains they ride. Around the bend, black smoke curls. Alarmed, he pushes Nyx to dash, but there’s no battle and no one to save, just the charred ruins of a blackened covered cart on the side of the road, and across from it, a man in a singed stable uniform sitting with his head in his ashy hands.

Link jumps down from the saddle and his animals skid to a halt further on the path. He notices the man trembling slightly as he approaches. Link reaches a hand out, but the man jerks away, and something clatters out of his lap onto the ground. Link takes his hand back, frowning. “Are you okay?” He asks, trying to see if he’s hurt anywhere. “Can I do anything to help?”

The man keeps his hands pressed to his eyes, shrinking back. He kicks the wooden thing and it spins towards Link with a scraping noise. “Take it,” The man grits out. “Take it away .”

“Um,” Link hesitates. “Do you--”

“It’s not safe here!”

For a hair’s-breadth of a second the man’s fingers part, and Link glimpses one of his eyes, huge and round and bloodshot, almost repulsively so. Link recoils. His face is hidden again so quickly that Link isn’t sure if he saw right. Link looks down at his feet, at the object he’s been so brusquely bestowed. He turns it over to reveal the chipped-painted face of an eerie mask, purple and red with bulging round orange eyes and yellow spines. It’s deeply unsettling just to look at, surrounded by a foreboding aura.

The man says nothing more and doesn’t respond to anything else Link says, shrunken in on himself and shivering. So Link sets some rations and one of his extra water flasks down next to him, telling him softly that the next stable is nearby, southbound down the road. It’s not easy for Link to just walk away, but the man wants to be left alone and so he does. When he reaches the next stable on his path he’ll tell someone there what happened, so that at least Link won’t be the only one who knows the man was out there.

Back in the saddle with Nyx at a steady trot, following the road without needing to be led, Link considers the mask. There’s more to the ominous energy it radiates than just its poison-bright face. It looks like something a farmer would use to keep crows away from his crops. Maybe it was enchanted once as a warding item, and some of the offensive magic still lingers. Wolfy definitely doesn’t like it, he keeps his distance and his eyes on the object, his hackles raised and teeth bared in a low, ongoing growl. Link chuckles at his animosity. It definitely looks creepy, but it’s not that bad now that he’s getting used to it. He makes a spooky noise and waves it at Wolfy, whose fur stands on end. He puts it on and waves his arms around, and Wolfy jolts, barking loudly.

Link laughs as he takes it off, and the wolf relaxes slightly. He puts it on, and Wolfy freaks out again. Is it mean to tease his new animal friend like this? Probably, yes. Will Link stop?

No.

The third tortuous round of peekaboo is interrupted by a loud rustling in the long grass bracketing the road. A lone red bokoblin wanders out, wooden club in hand. Link pulls Nyx to a stop and readies his weapon, but when the bokoblin looks at him it doesn’t attack. It snonks in confusion and hops away, tilting its head at Link. Link watches it. Wolfy ends the staring contest with loud snaps of his jaw and lunges at the bokoblin which screeches and runs back off into the plains.

Link follows its retreating form with his eyes, slowly removing the mask. Either the monster didn’t recognize him as human with it on, or whatever warding spell was on it is still strong enough to affect the red bokoblin.

After that he sets the mask aside, but keeps it close. At nightfall, when Link lays his bedroll out on the grass under cover of a brown-leafed tree just off the road, he also sets the mask, with its glowing eyes, down next to his pillow. Wolfy doesn’t sleep against his back, instead curling up several paces away in the open field.

In the morning, Link wakes up with a headache. He tries to squint it away as he downs a full flask of water, but the stubborn, dull pang behind his eyes persists. He feels dizzy when he pulls himself into the saddle. Wolfy is still sulking, trailing behind as they canter up the road. Every jolting step rattles Link’s head, and he winces, trying to breathe through it and hoping the ache will pass. The mask bounces against his leg where it's clipped to the saddle.

It’s not until they’re fully within some nondescript forest and Nyx is picking her way through scraggly brush that Link realizes they’ve somehow lost the road. He sighs and gingerly dismounts. He must have taken a wrong turn by accident, he doesn’t even remember when the road ended underfoot, and when he looks back, there’s no sign of it. The forest is broad and dense all around, no sign of anything other than more trees in every direction.

He attempts that trick he discovered while meditating in the Parapan prison, through his eye of truth-- and, on that thought, it occurs to him that he should ask Impa about it next time he’s in Kakariko, or maybe Paya. He remembers being able to sense all the people in the city, all the alive things . Forests are alive, so he hopes to find the edge of the woods beyond his sight. He closes his eyes and breathes in.

It’s instantly overwhelming. It’s a feeling that passes over his physical senses and directly assaults his mind, like his brain is swelling at the same time that a rope is tightening around it, squeezing. All at once, in his heartbeat appears every tree, every bush and berry, every flower and sprout and piece of moss, and all their roots. Every bird, every squirrel, every worm, every termite and beetle and butterfly and every ant. He feels the loss when an over-ripe apple breaks from its branch and falls, soft, to the ground. He feels the energy return when it is eaten by a rabbit. And, more powerful than it all, pulsing like an agonising burn blister, the mask.

Putting the mask on is like pouring cool water over the painful red blemish.

Link savours the balming feeling as everything else goes quiet, except for the mask’s gentle humming, and Wolfy’s agitated snarl. Link knows Wolfy doesn’t like the mask, and he doesn’t want to antagonize the animal or anything, but he decides to keep it on anyway despite feeling a little bad, hoping Wolfy will understand the mask makes him feel better. When he spreads his Eye of Truth out this way, it doesn’t hurt-- the mask is a sort of filter, a safeguard. It’s a comfort. He takes Nyx’s reins and pulls her along through the trees.

Link pushes through dry brush and crunching fallen leaves underfoot. Soon, hunger starts to gnaw at his stomach, and he eats rations and stored food from his slate, but nothing fills him. Fall is the season of decay, so there’s not much to forage for, but he manages to shoot down a few medium-sized birds for meat that he can roast over a campfire when night falls.

He’s so hungry though that he’s tempted to bite into them still raw and feathered.

Wolfy weaves ahead and sniffs the air a few times. He tries to nudge Link in a certain direction every now and then, but he waves the animal off, he knows what he’s looking for.

He just can’t find the right clearing… it’s getting too dark.

It was around here somewhere, he could have sworn.

His head is killing him, no matter how much water he drinks.

Link feels Wolfy nosing at his shoulder again and rounds on him. “Ugh! Can you leave me alone for one second!” He snaps. Wolfy backs up and growls lowly at him, and Link’s hand tightens on Nyx’s reins. “Shut up!”

As soon as he says it Link recoils on himself, his gut tightening in debilitating remorse. His friend is trying to help, he shouldn’t have said that, that was mean . He turns away, embarrassed tears pricking his eyes behind the mask, which makes the whole thing worse. He doesn’t think he’s cried since… he hasn’t cried once. He hasn’t cried at all, ever, a single time in his entire memory.

He still doesn’t, and won’t. The tears don’t fall, they just burn.

It’s just-- he’s confused, and tired, and hungry, and his head hurts, and he can’t find a good place to make camp. He lets go of Nyx’s reins. “You two keep looking,” he tells his two companions. Nyx trots off into the trees, and Wolfy trails after her, his ears twisting. Link keeps walking. Every time he looks over his shoulder he sees them in the distance, through the trees, like they’re circling him. Eventually he gives up on trying to find the campsite, there aren’t any clearings around and he remembers it was definitely in a big clearing, with taller trees. There was a specific constellation he could see in the gaps of the canopy, and he can’t find that constellation from here.

He crosses his arms and slumps back against a random tree, sliding down until he’s slouched over amongst the roots. Nothing makes sense. He closes his eyes and wills himself to fall asleep.

It is here for you .

Something nudges his shoulder, pushes the mask out of place. Link opens his eyes and snarls at the intruder. The wolf stares back at him, vibrant cyan meeting bulging glowing red. Link pushes the wolf’s face away and stands, stumbling as his vision swims and the ground sways under him. The wolf noses him again and Link draws away from the burning touch. Every sensation, every whisper of wind on his face, his hair touching his neck, the drag of his clothes over his skin, is overwhelming, torturous. Link blocks it all out and focuses only on the protection of the mask, hiding from everything behind the enchanted wooden shield. With another wordless snarl he pulls himself up into the tree, sidling along the one larger branch.

You want to be left alone.

He wants to be left alone.

Scraping claws on bark assaults his ears. The wolf is pursuing him up the tree. Its eyes pierce the vivid black night like two haunted ice-tipped arrowheads. The purple-orange shield around Link’s mind says danger . Link makes a frustrated noise as the wolf inches towards him, jumping down from the tree and slipping away into the shadowy thickets.

As Link’s mind is steeped in orange and red and purple and green, the world around him turns gray. Fresh dew beads on the brown leaves as Link trudges relentlessly onwards. He can feel the wolf watching him. He keeps seeing the black horse through the gaps in the trees, like he’s circling it. The dew dries, and crisp wind bullies its way through the forest. Link wishes it would blow harder and rip all the leaves off the trees, so he could see the sky, and find that constellation he needs. But it also makes him angry, because it doesn’t make sense-- the leaves shouldn’t be brown, they should be green, and the apples shouldn’t be rotting and falling, they should be little more than teeny tiny flower buds, and the breeze shouldn’t be sharp, it should be soft and swirly, pulling the mist in fun patterns for him to play in, and where is the mist, and what was he just thinking about, and where is he, and when did it get so dark again?

It is dark because it is the time of waiting .

He waits.

The world is frightening and I am protecting you from it .

He is protected.

You are so grateful .

He is grateful.

I need more .

He is starving.

Through the expanse of trees in the distance, a tiny blue light hops into view. Different from the threatening, harsh teal of the wolf’s eyes, it’s a soft, inviting pale shade, the colour made when the full moon shines on deep, dark water. Gentle and timid.

Prey.

That light beckons him forth, and he walks, pushing steadily through the trees, entirely fixated. The forest thins and recedes, revealing grass silver in the pre-dawn and rising slopes of beige rock. He is no longer ensnared in the forest, and the soft little glowing critter hops about, its white face turned to the moon. It is right there, and it is so magical, and he is starving .

He breaks into a sprint, tearing across the grass, his arms pumping wildly as he runs . The critter startles and flees. He gives chase. In desperation he is faster, stronger than he has ever been, it grips his skull with feral claws and commands him onwards. Flocks of huge black crows caw and take flight as he nears, their flapping, ebony-feathered wings encompassing the sky for scant seconds before they disappear. He cares not for them, solely focused on his prey, the vulnerable blue creature that mists in and out of sight as it scampers up the mountain. Saliva pools in his mouth and his stomach screeches in empty agony. He thinks of nothing but his hunt.

So otherwise blind, his loving shield has to warn him of the threat on his heels.

Flee. Flee. It is here for you. It wants to stop you. You must not let it catch you. It wants to eat you the way you must eat. It wants to take you away from me.

He must not let the wolf catch him.

He crests a smaller peak among the taller peaks of the rest of the mountain. He can’t hear the wolf running behind him but he knows it is there because he was told. Blue overtakes him and he trips, tumbles down unforgiving rock. He lands in a shallow pond with a shrieking great splash, surrounded by lily pads that are each like a cold hand pressing down on him, pinning him under the black-silver water. He thrashes, hair clinging to his ceramic eyes and wails as he sees the eyes watching him from above, looking down on him and judging him, the beady little eyes on the white heart-shaped faces of all these infernal little creatures, he snarls, they are his prey.

The glowing creatures scatter. He escapes the suffocating hold of the hands in the pond and rises, more water crashing about with his every move.

Before him is a monster, the god of the small blue things, tall with many eyes, strong where the little prey are weak, noble, and utterly beautiful. It turns away from him.

You are the weak one. You must escape .

He needs to escape. Pink blossom petals cling to his sopping skin and clothes as he throws himself away from the monster, nearly on all fours as he careens back down the mountain. He passes through clusters of skeletal, ash-white trees and walking-bone figures that he can’t tell whether they are human or monster or which is what, all watching him, surrounding him. He scrapes to a stop at the edge of a sheer drop off several times as high as he is tall.

Eye-to-eye with a giant stalnox, the walking-bone monster stands upright and solid, still, unlike him, his whole body heaving with his frantic attempt to breathe, every thick pull of air grating his throat. The skeletal monster’s eye is orange, its pupil slitted. It moves, lifting a hand, reaching for him, to touch him. There are deafening waterfalls in his ears, the sound of his blood moving too fast through his body, a crescendo, cresting as the bone of the stalnox’s finger hovers in front of him. He lifts his own hand, like a delayed mirror, a puppet. The ringing, screaming choir in his veins cries ever louder in joy. Just as he is about to touch, about to become more,

It

All stops

Snuffed out

Into utter silence as

He is slammed into from the side, a celestial force that eclipses him entirely and bodily obliterates him. The impact sends him neither falling nor flying, floating somewhere in between, drifting, simply passing through space as everything he may touch all ceases to be real. He is disconnected from the physical, careening like a feather through the earth, through clouds and stars. He is numb, paralyzed, deafened, vulnerable. It is so much deeper than the Nothing, so much more, and the lone fact that it is so vastly more frightening than that other feeling which he so believed would be the most terrifying thing he ever experienced causes it all to silently implode, collapse in on itself, shatter into a blinding sea of stardust.

He drowns in it and so returns to himself at the exact moment he crashes into reality, his shoulder cracking hard against a tree-- and it is a tree, tall and sturdy of rough bark, but the last orange-tinted thought Link has before that blindfold slips away is that he’s shocked it’s not the moon.

It feels like if a stranger was knocking on the door, and Link is the wall. He lies on his back, in wet grass that tickles his cheeks and his neck, his arms and legs splayed out and prone. His body feels so heavy and yet it still floats for a few sweet seconds. He should be in agony, but rain falls on him in gentle drops that caress the skin of his tender palms and roll between his fingers. It soothes him. He blinks tiredly at the hazy sky, white and pink behind wispy gray clouds, encircled in a ring of autumn treetops, a clearing, a safe little bubble. He knows sunset fireflies aren’t blue, but in his fragile mind it’s all he can think to explain the light floating in calm, swirling waves around him. He has been tormented by blue of different shades these past… he doesn’t know if it was hours, or a nightmare beginning and ending in the span of a single laboured breath. This blue, though, this blue… it’s a clear river on a sunny day, it’s sapphires and luminous stone caves, it’s a twinkling, fragile and precious laughter. It fades along with the rain, and Link’s next inhale is free and full. His body no longer feels like a crude arrangement of broken twigs and cracked stone. He tilts his head back, feels the weight of the mask on his face, no more than empty wood. Something cold touches the crown of his head, lapping water of a rippling pond that kisses his hair.

Link pushes himself up on one elbow, half-rolling over to look at his reflection in the water. He’s met with the sight of the mask, its chipped and faded paint dull. It only perches on his face, but even like this, it somehow stays, rather than falling like it should. Breathing heavily, Link pushes himself to kneel in the edge of the pond, bringing his hands up to dig his fingers under the edges of the mask.

It fights him as he slowly peels it off, clinging to him like a tick, and it takes every scrap of strength he was sure had left him to get the cursed thing off. When it finally separates and meets the water with a splash, face down, a dead thing that won’t die, water trickles in through the holes on its face, and it doesn’t float, but it doesn’t quite sink either. A treacherous paradox in every way, an illusion, a trap. The mask below him blocks his view of his own face. He moves it, and the rippling water makes it wispy, less tangible, but Link sees his face, his flushed red cheeks, his tangled wet hair, mysterious pink petals still stuck to him. He sees only one eye, golden and bright and open wide-- but when he gasps and blinks, the reflection returns to normal, his searching met only with his own, brown eyes, bloodshot and huge.

That golden eye… Link is sure he saw, even if only for a moment, his own Eye of Truth. It is open as Urbosa said, and he doesn’t know why that is when it was apparently sealed shut Before, but the why doesn’t change the dangerous truth he’s discovered. This third eye is vulnerable. It’s delicate, and fragile.

It would be safer to force it closed again, but that would also be unwise, Link thinks in conversation with his reflection. He’s just tasted fear beyond anything he could have ever conceived, but that doesn’t mean he can just curl up and hide, now, even if it’s just one part of himself. He can’t afford that-- the champion, the hero, is not allowed that.

There’s potential in his eye of truth that could be fostered. A power that might be the key to victory which he didn’t he didn’t have a century ago. He won’t be ruled by fear and he won’t close his eye of truth again. He’ll just have to be more vigilant, and guard this weak point carefully until he is able to make it a strength.

Dry fallen leaves crunch and rustle behind him as heavy paws pad through the clearing. Link sighs and rubs his eyes as Wolfy snuffles and noses his hair. He reaches back and scritches the wolf’s neck, his fingers sinking into his thick fur.

“Sorry, Wolfy,” Link’s voice is as hoarse and raspy as it was on that first day on the great plateau. “You knew this mask was bad news and I should have listened. Thanks for saving my reckless ass. I know I didn’t make it easy. You’re a good boy.” Wolfy whurf s and wags his tail. Link smiles. He runs his palms along the tops of his thighs, focusing on the texture of the fabric of his pants. The sun is rising. He’s dead tired.

“We should make camp and rest for a few hours,” Link hums. He looks around the clearing he’d landed in. Honestly, he’s a little sick of forests already. “Not here, though.”

He sticks his fingers in his mouth and whistles, the shrill noise echoing through the trees and sending a small flock of starlings evacuating their hidden perches. He waits a few seconds, but nothing happens, Nyx doesn’t appear. Link whistles again, still no sign of the horse. Wolfy sits back on his haunches next to him and sniffs the air, points his nose at the sky and howls. Not just any howl, though, like the kind that sometimes drifts down from mountains at nighttime, but a tune. Short and sweet and melodic, he howls it twice before going in a circle and sitting back down.

Link hears a distant whinny in the thicker part of the forest, and Nyx soon bursts into the clearing. She canters towards them and rears up when she’s near, tossing her mane, before settling back down. Link laughs in wonder and relief.

“Good boy,” he praises Wolfy, then heaves himself to his feet, stumbling on wobbly knees. He pets Nyx’s nose, cooing softly. “There you are, girl. Knew you weren’t far.”

Link holds one of the straps of her saddle for balance and leans over, scooping the mask out of the water. Wolfy raises his hackles, but Link shushes him. “I know, I know,” he says, shaking the water off and digging through the pack strapped to Nyx’s saddle. “I can’t just leave it lying around for some other poor traveller to find, alright? That man said to take it far away, so that’s what we’ll do, find a way to dispose of it safely.” He pulls out some rope and ties knots looping around the mask, and stuffs it into a spare sack. He doesn’t want to put it in the sheikah slate-- which is miraculously still on his belt, because the last thing he wants to do right now is retrace his fuzzy steps in search of it-- whatever spell, or curse, was put on the mask is clearly still very strong, despite one hundred years without magic. He doesn’t know if it will affect the slate and he doesn’t want to risk Purah’s wrath by finding out. Instead, he attaches the sack firmly to his gear, double checking it won’t come loose during travel.

“Okay,” Link breathes. It takes him three tries, as dizzy as he is, to mount Nyx properly. “Lead the way, Wolfy.”

Notes:

to sum up if you skipped this part of the chapter, Link succumbs to the Majora's Mask pretty quickly, his thoughts and memories blending with those of a previous wearer (skullkid). He gets dizzy, impossibly endlessly hungry, headachey and frustrated and snappish. He gets super lost in a forest. Wolf Link tries to get the Mask off him but the mask tells him to flee from wolfy so Link does. He spots a blupee and sees it as prey, becoming like a beast, possessed and puppeted, and chases it up Satori mountain. We call this segment 'horrortori'. he meets the lord of the mountain and runs from it. He almost does SOMETHING weird and definitely bad with a Stalnox that is reaching out for him but then Wolfy catches up with him and slams into him so hard Link sees the cosmos and basically teleports through the very fabric of reality itself away from the mountain and back into the forest at the base, landing by a pond. at least, that's what it feels like. Link is really not sure.

ANYWAYS. YAYHAHAHAHOOHEEHA. thoughts? commints? :3 we would loveeee to hear what ppl thought of this chapter this one had an INCREDIBLE vice grip on our BRAINS.. i'm obsessed tbh.

as always pls be sure to check out our tumblr blog, zelda-without-a-licence-plate ! We post a lot of very cool art and lore and stuff on there as well as very funny art and lore :)

Chapter 27: *airdrops you a divine intervention*

Summary:

Link takes a nap, meets an unexpected old friend, gets some much needed TLC, immediately cancels out all that TLC on a nasty nasty fall, unlocks a get-rich-quick buff, and wonders why the Tabantha region has so many deeply terrifyingly rickety bridges.

Notes:

WHEEEE WHEE YAHOOO WHEE new chapter! new game plot area unlocked! new OUR plot thing!! YAYYYYY but also genuinely this is the first time in like two years that we've once again reached a new plot area very cool very cool very exciting!!!

a lot of stuff happens in this chapter hehe we've got LORE we've got a MEMORY we've got a GREAT FAIRY we've got GENDER we've got TOWER we've got ZELDA FORESHADOWING we've got HORSES we've got REFERENCES TO OTHER GAMES we've got it all babeyyyyyy

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Link takes a moment to really appreciate having two reliable animal companions to travel with, thinking to himself about how much harder this would be if he were alone and on foot. He braces his weight on the horn of Nyx’s saddle and closes his eyes, feeling his exhaustion weighing down every part of him. He’s sore all over and it’s taking all his willpower just to stay upright on his horse while Wolfy guides them steadily through the winding woods, and Nyx follows his lead without Link having to steer her.

When they break out onto the plain, the grass is dewey and the sky is still pale gold from the growing sunrise. Across the field, empty save for a few wandering wild horses, Link sees a smattering of pillars from some ruin on a hill-- ruins mean shelter. They cross the field, and Link pulls Nyx to a stop just as they crest the hill. Over the top of the ruins rises a large statue of a horse rearing up, starkly silhouetted against the amber sky, and the sight strikes a chord in Link, leaving him feeling a little revived.

Entering the ruins properly leads Link to realize they are actually a small park, and also not really ruins. The grass is a little overgrown and the stone is mossy, but nothing is in disrepair. That horse statue stands tall, proud, oxidized bronze gleaming. It’s a peaceful, comforting place. Link lays out his bedroll right at the base of the statue, laying down while Wolfy stands guard. He falls asleep in seconds.

A few hours later Link wakes up to the midday sun beaming down on his back, warming him like a lizard on a rock. It’s pleasant enough he might drift off again, if not for the agitated snorting and whinnying coming from below. Groggily he pushes himself up, squinting over his shoulder to the lower level of the park. Down there is a fountain which still works despite age and neglect, where Nyx is getting into a tussle with another horse over the drinking water. “Nyx,” Link groans, rising to his feet. “ Share .”

At first glance, Link thinks the other horse belongs to some traveller and was separated, because it has gear on. But as Link rubs sleep from his eyes and gets closer, he sees that the gear is completely dilapidated. The metal ornaments are rusted and falling apart, the saddle practically disintegrated, the straps hanging off its body. Its coat appears gray, its mane brown, but it’s really just covered in a fine layer of dirt and grime. Along its flank is a long heat scar, old and healed, one that reminds him of the similar but much deeper scar he has on the side of his thigh.

He thinks of guardians, glowing eyes, shrill beeping, and powerful lazers.

Link shoos Nyx away from the horse she’s bullying with chastising clicks of his tongue. Wolfy watches from the wall above them, perched on his haunches. Nyx tosses her head and trots to the other side of the fountain, doing the horse equivalent of pouting. Link turns to face the new, strange horse-- and startles. It’s come right up to him, looking him directly in the eye and snuffling his hair. Link gives a surprised laugh. It’s not a wild horse, but Link wouldn’t expect even a trained horse to be so friendly with a stranger. He pushes the horse’s nose away when it licks his bangs. “That’s not straw,” he chuckles, petting the horse’s face.

And then he remembers.

Zelda toppled from her horse’s back to the ground with a thudd and a frustrated noise through gritted teeth. The horse continued to hop around the open field, prancing in circles while Zelda sat up and dusted herself off. She buried her face in her hands and groaned, and Link walked Epona up next to her.

“Are you alright?” Link asked quietly. Zelda let out a muffled shriek into her hands, and threw her head back towards the sky.

“This is supposed to be easy!” She cried up at the clouds.

“Riding the horse?”

“It’s supposed to come naturally, it’s supposed to be intuitive!” Zelda continued to rant as she got to her feet. “Why can’t I do this?”

“You’ve never had an easy time riding horses,” Link pointed out. “Why would it be different now?”

“Because this is my horse !” The princess waved her arms in the horse’s direction. The horse sniffed a butterfly that was flying around his head. “My fated companion! Our souls and lives are connected across lifetimes-- even if the followers of Malanya hadn’t confirmed it, I know this is the one, I can feel it! I thought…” She trailed off, deflating, sitting back down in the grass. Link hopped down from Epona’s saddle and crouched next to the princess. Zelda gave a deep sigh and lied back, staring up at the clear blue sky with a tired, resigned flat expression. After a minute of her not saying anything, Link also lied down on his back next to her, his hands folded on his stomach. They laid in silence, watching the fluffy white clouds float by while their horses grazed. Zelda’s horse followed the butterfly around until it almost accidentally tripped itself, then rode with the stumble and sat heavily down in the grass with a chuff.

“What if… I can never do it?” Zelda eventually said, quiet and hesitant.

Link slowly breathed in, and out, taking in the fresh scent of grass and summer wildflowers. “You will,” he said. “You just--”

“Link,” Zelda snapped, “I swear if you tell me to ‘just believe in myself’ I will awaken my powers this instant just to vaporize you .”

He huffed a silent laugh, apparent most in the subtle shake of his shoulders. He knew she was sick of hearing that particular platitude. “No,” he said, a small, indulgent rare smile on his face, “I was going to say, you have to trust yourself.”

For a second, Zelda just blinked up at the sky. “I feel like that’s the same thing,” she said. Link shook his head.

“It’s not. And, trust the rest of us too, okay?”

Zelda turned her head to look at him. “I have a feeling we’re not talking about the horse,” she said. Link looked at her, face serious.

“No, we’re still talking about the horse.”

Zelda chuckled. She looked back up at the clouds, and so did Link. Her smile quickly faded, and the uncertainty returned. “All of the things that do come easily to me are never the things that are supposed to,” she said. “My royal studies, which I’ve been neglecting, and my sealing power, now this…” she started to pick at the grass under her fingers. “Sometimes I wonder… is-- is there something wrong with me? Am I just-- broken?”

Link waited a long moment before responding. “I don’t think you’re broken,” he whispered. There was something else he wanted to say, but didn’t-- wasn’t brave enough to. “Besides, I’ll help you. You’ll get the hang of it.”

Then they really were talking about the horse again. Zelda groaned. “All this practise is making my rear sore,” she complained. Link sat up, stretching.

“It’s not just the practical technique,” he said. “You have to get in tune with your horse. Understand how he’s feeling, let him understand how you’re feeling…”

Zelda squinted at him. “I’m still not convinced you can’t actually talk to horses,” she said suspiciously. Link smirked and stood. He offered his hand to help her up, and Zelda sighed again, clapping her hand to his and letting him tug her to her feet.

“I’ll show you,” he said. As they dusted themselves off, their horses trotted back over. The white horse came right up to Zelda and bowed his head towards her, nuzzling her face and snuffling against her ear. Zelda giggled, squirming away from the ticklish affection, and patted the horse’s cheek.

“Oh,” Link gasps as the present returns, “we’ve met before.” The white gelding nuffles and nuzzles Link’s hand. “Xerxes.”

Even after the full-seizing memory ends, more flashes of the past flit around in Link’s mind. He’d helped Zelda learn how to bond with Xerxes, and had spent a lot of time with the two of them training up the horse to a royal standard, even after returning to the castle. Zelda had initially been hesitant to have her horse outfitted with the full royal gear, wondering if he should have to earn it first. Then, with a flustered expression, explained to Link that she’d realized that was silly, because he was a horse and wouldn’t know the difference, and she didn’t know what she was thinking, as Link showed her how to properly equip Xerxes with all that gilded gear. Link had then hotly scolded her for her assumption, because horses are actually very sensitive to changes around them and Xerxes absolutely would know the difference. Then, Zelda had just as hotly fired back that what she meant was that he wouldn’t have known the significance, obviously he would be able to tell that the gear was different. Neither pointed out that Xerxes actually likely would not have noticed because Xerxes was kind of not a very smart horse. The sheer density of recollection was near-dizzying.

The royal symbols were now ruined, no better than rags and garbage weighing the horse down. Link would never have recognized it if he hadn’t remembered what it looked like when it was shiny and new. He removes the gear and discards it-- useless, it doesn’t mean anything, anymore. As the weight is taken off Xerxes’ shoulders, a similar one is lifted from Link’s mind. If Zelda’s soul-bound companion was here, alive, all this time, then that finally confirms that Zelda is truly alive, too. What has been in Hyrule Castle holding the calamity back for a century is herself, whole, not a spirited fragment like Link feared.

With that question answered, a new one forms in the back of his mind. He glances over at Nyx drinking from the fountain, and thinks of a different mare, the one in those memories, with a soft brown coat and strong legs. If Zelda’s soul companion is here… then what happened to his?

Is that one of the missing pieces making up this empty crater inside him, keeping him from feeling complete?

That’s not a query he has any way of answering now, so Link dutifully sets it aside, putting it away on a mental shelf to be revisited only when the time comes. For now, he needs to do something about his health, and Xerxes’. They could both badly use some rest and care. He collects his things and mounts Nyx’s saddle. Wolfy doesn’t need to be told, understanding immediately what’s happening and gets into position to herd the new old horse along, but it’s barely necessary. Clearly, Xerxes’ memory is a lot more intact than Link’s, and follows his commands perfectly, keeping up with their sedate pace along the road. As they walk, Link leans over and brushes his fingers along the long scar marring his pelt. “You’ve been through a lot, huh?” He quietly says to the horse. “Alone for a long time… it’s okay, though. You and Zelda will be together again.”

Upon reaching a creaky wooden bridge, a new sound has Link’s ears pricking up. Over the rustling of grass and crowing of migrating birds overhead, he hears faint music. Familiar, smooth and rich in tone, coming from an instrument both humble and captivating, it gets clearer the further they cross, until about halfway over when Link can see the blue-feathered figure atop a stony perch.

Kass surely must have spotted him at around the same moment, but doesn’t pause his playing until Link and his equine and canine travelling party come to a stop under his perch.

“Hello, o Link the mysterious,” Kass greets him from above with a teasing glint in his eye. “You look tired.”

“Is there a stable near?” Link asks rather than responding properly. Kass silently considers him for a moment, before gesturing with his wing towards the horizon.

“Follow this road until it splits, then turn west. Tabantha stable is at the precipice of the great canyon, not more than an hour or two’s ride from here, I’d say.” He looks like he wants to ask about whatever it is he sees on Link’s face, but tactfully, and to Link’s gratitude, he doesn’t pry. He also doesn’t comment on his animal entourage. “Next time we meet, I shall have a song written specially for you.”

Link gives a weary smile. “I look forward to hearing it,” he says, and with a flick of Nyx’s reins, they’re off again. Kass resumes playing, his accordion carrying far over the plains, the song still following them long after the bard is out of sight. They pass by some wetlands dotted with unusual, flat-topped trees. They reach the stable as Kass said, finding it on the nearer side of a precarious looking suspension bridge over the canyon, and surrounded by more of the unique trees.

He registers Xerxes and boards both steeds. The stable staff seem too intimidated by Wolfy to ask if Link plans on paying for the creature’s lodging, too. Once the horses are brought into their stalls, Link wanders into the tent structure straight towards his own booked bed, barely taking the time to remove his boots and outer layers before crawling under the quilts. He pulls the curtains around the bed shut, creating a blanket of shadow that soothes his tired eyes. Wolfy pokes his nose through the seam and climbs up onto the bed with him as Link lies down. “I sure hope you wiped your paws,” Link raises an eyebrow at him. Wolfy snuffles and pads in a tight, careful circle, the bedframe creaking under his weight, before setting down right on top of Link. “Oh, that’s actually really nice,” Link mumbles, sighing into the pillow. Maybe most people wouldn’t feel comforted by such a heavy pressure on top of them, but Link is about as far from caring as he is from being awake.

Link manages to sleep for the rest of the day and all through the night. He didn’t even get the soft bed, but waking up just before sunrise the next day, he feels like he’s just slept on the most luxurious bed in the world. He supposes nearly succumbing to some sort of ancient demon (?) would do that to a person. When gets up and puts himself together, the other travellers are still asleep, but the stable workers are also getting ready for the day. Link gives the people he passes subdued but friendly nods as he steps outside. Wolfy is sitting just outside the goat pen, languidly scanning the stable’s surroundings and just appreciating the clear, dewey morning. The irony makes Link chuckle as he heads for the stalls.

He tries not to concern himself with keeping a rushed timeline, instead focusing on actually getting his strength back so he doesn’t just immediately burn out again, especially with another Divine Beast taming in his near future. It’s made easier by giving Xerxes all his attention, spending pretty much the full day on the horse’s care. He cleans his hooves and washes him thoroughly, taking care in detangling and trimming his tail and mane. Nyx starts to make her displeasure at being left out known by the time Link is almost done putting Xerxes’ mane in a neat, close braid along his spine. He feeds her an apple in consolation and braids her mane, too, so she doesn’t feel too jealous, giving her multiple braids that hang down along the side of her neck. By evening, Xerxes is in much better shape, his coat white and sleek once more. Even the burn scar looks better, and his eyes are a little brighter. Link stretches in the setting sun, eats dinner, plays fetch with Wolfy, and goes to bed early, as soon as the sky is dark.

On his second day at the stable, Link decides to backtrack, making the trip on foot along the road eastward, looking for the orange-glowing Sheikah tower he passed on the way there. He crosses the wetlands, takes some pictos on the slate of the odd trees against the morning sun and some interesting tall yellow flowers. He also tries taking a picto of himself, but it feels awkward to do, and when he checks the resulting image it just feels weird to look at his own stiff face. He doesn’t know why he gets that uncomfortable, swirly bad feeling, but he deletes the picto anyways.

Frustratingly, the tower is sticking up from the middle of a lake and surrounded by electric lizal and wizzrobes. He spends more time than he wanted to over-cautiously picking the monsters off from afar with his bow, and then remembers at the last second before he jumps in the water that he can use cryonis to reach the tower without having to swim. Despite all that, climbing to the top and activating it is extremely satisfying, and it feels good to fill in another large portion of the slate’s map. The new map section doesn’t encapsulate the rito territory, it would seem, but still, the road ahead is looking clearer and clearer.

In the distance, Vah Medoh continues to circle the sky without cease.

When Link returns to the stable he completes the shrine nearby, and spends the rest of the afternoon sort of just… hanging out. He takes both Nyx and Xerxes out for some exercise, pets the goats, and plays with the three young children whose parents work at the stable. He experiments with which patches of grass are nicest to lay down in, and stretches out and lounges in the sun like the lazy cat that sleeps on the counter when it’s not knocking papers to the floor. He sorts through the materials on his slate and cooks some stew to share. He takes more pictos, of Wolfy with the goats, and of the horses, and he thinks he might be getting better at it.

At nightfall, when he goes to bed and Wolfy curls up on his legs again, Link feels content and warm, despite the temperatures dropping outside.

Come sunrise, Link pays a flat fee to have Xerxes boarded at this stable indefinitely-- until he comes back to collect him, whenever that may be. He says goodbye to the white horse and promises him he’ll be in good hands, and with that he gears Nyx up, puts his leather armour on over all the layers of his travelling clothes, dons his warm hood, and sets out for Rito territory. Stonespire, according to the stable woman who told him more about the area, was the name of the northern Rito settlement, an unmistakable landmark. It would still be some time before it’s in sight, she said, but once it was, it would be a beacon like no other.

Well… other than the Divine Beast that rules the northern skies, that is.

In Nyx’s saddle with Wolfy padding alongside them, Link travels for hours along the road as directed. They weave around mountains and cliffs, take the described detour to avoid some flying guardians-- Link shivers at the thought. He has yet to face even a stationary active guardian, let alone one that crawls, and he doesn’t want to even imagine one that flies. The further they go the more crisp the air becomes, the more biting the wind, and he sees fewer colour-changing deciduous trees and more evergreens. By the time they come to the foot of a steep hill with another Sheikah tower at the top, Link decides it’s more than time to take a break. He hops out of the saddle and stretches deeply, arching his back with a groan, arms pushed straight up over his head, feeling the strain deep in his shoulders and hips. He twists side to side, rotates his neck, sticks his elbows out and pushes his shoulder blades together. He bends down and grabs his ankles, stretches out his calves. He drinks some water, eats a snack, while Nyx munches on an apple, and Link tosses Wolfy some dried meat strips.

Just off the road are patches of an overgrown stone staircase peeking out from the dirt slope. On either side of the upwards path are once-white columns that look ancient , distinctly different from the other ruins Link’s seen thus far. Similar ruins are scattered around the area. The path leads up the hill straight towards the tower. Link wonders if these structures were built when the tower was, or if they’re possibly even older. He mounts Nyx again and steers off the road.

Going up the winding, steep path, Link sees signs of monsters, but no monsters. Not just abandoned camps, there are torches still lit, and half-made bone weapons lying around. Next to him, Wolfy slinks along, growling at hidden shadows. Link feels watched, but not in danger… oddly enough. Most of the way to the top, he has to stop and dismount Nyx, because the rest of the path ahead looks-- unsafe.

Huge blotches of malice ooze in uneven, pulsing piles spilling down the hill. It’s been scraped off the path, judging by the dark gouges and burn marks left behind on the charred, dead dirt. Link orders the two animals to stay where they are as he continues on with careful steps. He’s never seen this much malice in one place before, not even inside the Divine Beasts. Solid protrusions twice, three times his height stretch up from the blotches like ribs. He can feel the sinister heat radiating off it, and the way it stretches and shrinks to a breath-like rhythm is eerie. It’s almost as if its reaching towards his ankles with intent, and he can’t even tell himself he’s just paranoid for thinking that because he doesn’t know the extent to which this matter is connected to the calamity.

The monsters that were in the process of occupying this hill hadn’t finished clearing the malice. Disappointment and premature exhaustion fills Link as he crests the top only to see the entire bottom of the sheikah tower engulfed in malice, the evil goop clinging to the structure and creeping up it. There are a few larger stone pillars tilted towards the tower, but they’re not close enough for Link to reach the lattice even if he jumped from the top of one. But there can’t be no way to access the tower, surely…

Link’s looking for something to maybe magnesis into a bridge when he hears it, the dark echoing gurgling preceding the violent shivers he gets from being watched by an eye of calamity. Whipping his head around, he almost doesn’t spot it from where it’s nestled in a tangled web of malice strands. “Stop spying on me,” Link hisses, and one well-aimed arrow is all it takes to take care of that little problem. But it makes another. As the eye shrivels up and disappears, it takes a large clump of malice with it.

A load-bearing clump, apparently. The pillar above Link trembles and groans, and he has to rush out of the way as it tips over. It ends in his favour, though; the top knocks into the sheikah tower and stays propped there, giving Link a convenient bridge. He spares a thought to the fact that honestly, if the great fairy Cotera hadn’t given him the little good luck charm still hanging around his neck, he probably would have died from his own foolishness by now.

Unfortunately as soon as he thinks it, his good luck temporarily runs out. Crawling up the pillar, about a third of the way from the top, his foot slips, and then he over-corrects, his hands flailing out in vain for a better hold as he slides off. His mouth and eyes fly wide open and he sucks in a breath but doesn’t have time to cry out before he lands hard in the thick, deep pool of malice.

It’s agony. Instant, soul-soaking agony. He can’t even scream as it engulfs him entirely, filling his mouth and nose and covering his eyes and it burns . It burns for what feels like an eternity but really it’s the barest of fractions of seconds before something in him writhes and reaches , and pulls and that alone is its own torture. Pure white explodes across his vision and mind as all the malice is completely obliterated by a huge blast of golden light. It feels like it obliterates him, too, his body vaporized to nothing while he floats in the white.

Zelda…?”

And then it all fades to black.

Link is shaken awake again by a hand on his shoulder and a cold, wet nose nudging his cheek. He grunts and presses his eyes further shut, turning his face away. “Oh thank Hylia, you’re alive!” A voice says from above him, and Link peels his eyes open.

Crouched over him is a man in traveller’s gear, his large dark eyes round with worry, his bushy moustache twitching with concern. Link pushes himself to a sitting position, holding his pounding head and looking around groggily. All the malice that had been covering the peak of the hill is completely gone, the ground under them isn’t even marred. The man explains to him that he was coming up this hill a few minutes ago when Link’s wolf came tearing down the path. At first he’d tried to run away, terrified for his life, but then the wolf herded him up the hill and led him to Link, who was just sprawled on the ground, not visibly hurt but totally unconscious. Disoriented still, Link pats himself down, but there’s no sign he’d even touched the malice at all, he’s not even singed. Aside from his utterly diabolical headache, he’s completely fine.

Link cranes his neck to look for Hyrule castle in the distance. Falling into that malice should have been certain death, but he didn’t even have to use Mipha’s Grace. Zelda must have just saved him long-distance style, it’s the only reasonable explanation for the straight up holy phenomenon he just experienced.

“Were you trying to climb that tower?” The guy, who introduces himself as Toren, asks. “I heard you could see the great fairy fountain from up on this ridge, but it’s still too hidden… you’d need to be even higher up, I bet. Hence,” he nods up at the tower.

Link gets to his feet, looking up at the ancient, orange-glowing structure. He didn’t know there was a great fairy fountain around here, but after that ordeal, he thinks a small blessing is exactly what he needs. “Yeah,” he says, his voice coming out hoarse and scratchy, and embarrassed he clears his throat before pitching it softer, “I can take a look, sure.”

With the malice gone, scaling the tower isn’t any harder than usual. At the top he activates the tower and fills up his map some more, which now includes Stonespire, but not the mountain range beyond. From up that high he can finally see the Rito territory clearly-- it’s aptly named, that stone sure can spire-- as well as the enormous airborne Divine Beast circling it. He gets a good view of the massive divide, the great gouge, that spans most of Hyrule’s western border, and the towering sheer cliff on the other side. From there it looks like an empty, grassy plain, but Link wonders if there’s people over there, too. He thinks of the story Barta told him about the Rito who crossed the gouge with the help of that mysterious seer, and what might have happened to them.

It takes him a minute to spot the closed up fairy fountain. It’s hidden well, tucked away in a little conclave on another ridge slightly to the south. He only notices it thanks to the small patch of glowing mushroom-stairs in front of the bulb. Link paraglides down and tells Toren where he saw the fountain. The traveller’s face lights up in excitement. They agree to go to the fountain together; Link doesn’t mind backtracking a little for something like this, there’s plenty of daylight left to ride with. Climbing back into the saddle, Link discovers his back and head are actually really sore from that fall. He grimaces and drinks some water, and resolves to get his hands on some more healing elixirs as soon as possible. On the short ride to the fountain, Toren talks excitedly about Great Fairies, telling Link that he’s brought his life savings on this trip to awaken one. The Great Fairies have been dormant for decades, after all, and if there was ever a time people needed them, it’s now.

The bulb they find is just like the one outside Kakariko village. While Toren offers the rupees, Link clasps his hands together like how Paya did back then, but he can’t remember the prayer she recited.

Oh, my… ” a melodious voice echoes from the bulb, “ What have we here… ?”

A large, manicured hand pokes out and smears its fingertips across the offering of rupees, dissipating the little ores into sparkly mist. The hand retracts. “ Ah… yes… that hits the spot… !” The bulb starts to quiver and shake, purple glitter pouring out from the top as it peels open, pink and orange light shining so brilliantly from within the two travellers have to look away.

The light and purple mist fade, revealing the spring fully bloomed, and, sitting inside smiling down at them, the great fairy. She resembles Cotera, having instead pale pink scales, same shade as her hair, styled into a large fluffy afro dotted with glimmering white gemstones. Her figure is plump like her sister’s, though her skin is brown, and her face slightly different. She leans on one elbow, resting her chin on her hand as she examines them. All around the fountain, mighty thistles had sprouted, and amongst the greenery little pink fairies float indolently alongside large, pink ladybugs with glowing, jewel-like shells.

“Well, aren’t I lucky,” the great fairy coos. “I didn’t think anyone would find me up here. My name is Kaysa… to whom do I owe the pleasure?”

Toren bashfully introduces himself, then Link. Kaysa looks them both up and down and purrs. “Hm… you definitely are pleasant to look at. Does your offering also include your cute and handsome selves?”

“Well-- ahh--” Toren starts to stammer, and Link’s eyes widen as he tries to figure out how to best and quickly explain that he’s sorry but he can’t do that because of the whole epic quest thing, but both their floundering is interrupted by a hearty laugh from Kaysa.

“I’m kidding, of course,” she grins with a lofty wave, “But you humans certainly are cute when you blush. Now, a good turn deserves another. Tell me, travellers, what is it you need?”

Toren is the first to speak, which Link appreciates because just like last time, he has no idea what he should ask for. “W-well, you see, my lady,” the moustached traveller begins, wringing his hands, “I’m a beekeeper back home. Recently, my hives were badly afflicted by parasites… so, um, I humbly ask, for… for a blessing that will protect my bees.”

“Ah,” Kaysa leans slightly closer, making even more apparent how big she is compared to them. “How cute! I will be happy to grant such a blessing.” she kisses the tip of her finger and gently taps Toren’s forehead. Her fingernail is bigger than his entire head. A little cloud of sparkles blooms from the point of contact, and he absently rubs the spot she’d touched as the great fairy draws away. “There. Now all beehives that you watch over from now on will be protected from mean nasties .”

“Th-thank you…!” Toren bows deeply and shuffles back to the edge of the mushroom platform. Kaysa turns to Link, and her brow quirks in intrigue.

“What’s this?” She peers closer at Link, leaning down and making a ‘come hither’ motion with her finger. From under his clothes the little glass charm from Cotera is drawn out, floating in the air in front of his chin by Kaysa’s magic, tugging slightly on the cord around his neck. “I see you’ve already visited one of my sisters… this is a very special blessing indeed. One moment, I have just the thing that will match this perfectly .” She sweeps her eyes over the various rings decorating her fingers, letting out a pleased little ah when she finds what she’s looking for. She slips the thin, delicate ring from her pinky finger, and using her long, pink-coated nail, plucks something from the short row of tiny little gems.

Link can’t make out what it is until Kaysa attaches it to the cord, next to Cotera’s gift. It’s a matching little charm-- a round piece of glass with the same subtle seam down the middle, only this one is light pink, and the symbol stamped on the glass is a rupee rather than a fairy. “That will help you to sniff out hidden treasures. You’ll have an easier time keeping your wallet full.”

Giving a sheepish smile, Link cups the new charm in his palm. ‘Riches’ is probably the most trite wish the great fairy hears, like, ever, but she was the one who offered it and it’s not like Link isn’t grateful. He tucks the necklace back under his tunic and also bows to Kaysa.

“Pretty little traveller,” Kaysa says to him as she leans back in her fountain. Red heat rises again to Link’s cheeks. “I can feel that two of my sisters are still in hiding, desperately weakened by the Calamity… if you happen upon their springs, will you set them free as well?”

Link nods, and Kaysa’s smile turns sweet. “Thank you,” she says, to both him and Toren. “Come back and visit any time you like, alright? Buh-bye, now!” And with that she twirls away back into the hidden depths of her fountain, leaving the two travellers with the fairies and ladybugs.

Whow ,” Toren breathes, a huge grin on his face when Link looks back at him. “That was amazing! I can’t wait to tell everyone about it-- I’m going to hurry home now! Thank you, mysterious traveller, for helping me! I will forever remember your kindness!” He takes Link’s hands in both of his and bows just as low as he did for the great fairy, but quickly, hurried by his excitement. Just as fast, he lets go and turns away from the spring, dashing back towards the road. As he vanishes from sight, Link fully processes his words, and embarrassedly realizes that, once again…

He forgot to introduce himself.

With his new small blessing tucked safely away, Link returns to Nyx and Wolfy and they once more set upon the road north. The rest of the trip takes them further into the highland ridges, through small copses of evergreens and leafy trees that have lost all their green. Nyx’s hooves kick fallen, dry leaves up into the air as they trot along with sweeping swishing noises. They cross the world’s ricketiest bridge, along which Link spends all his self discipline on not looking down for any reason whatsoever while his heart threatens to beat out of his chest. Its somehow even worse than the Great Tabantha Bridge, which had also not been pleasant to cross.

At the top of a high ridge is a short, naturally formed tunnel. The opposite mouth of it perfectly frames Stonespire as it comes into view, the tall rocky pillar decorated by the many finely crafted abodes of the Rito spiralling up and down the unique formation of stone. There are a few shorter ones around it and on the other little islands reaching up from the low lake, connected to the main one via swaying suspension bridges and lone-strung ropes, on which he can see the vaguest, smallest silhouettes of rito perched.

At the bottom of the steep hill that Link comes out onto is another stable, surrounded by tall trees. The sky is a perfect shade of violet, the sun just dipping into its setting course, and the air is crisp and fresh. It’s serene, and beautiful, and perfect. Link takes a deep breath, a smile growing on his face.

The peace is shattered by a mighty screech from above. Link cringes and covers his ears. In the near distance, Stonespire and the stable below erupt in a panicked flutter. Nyx rears back, and Wolfy’s hackles raise. From around the mountain, Vah Medoh turns into sight.

Notes:

notes!!
- a gelding is a male horse that has been neutered, ie not a mustang. apparently geldings actually tend to grow up larger than horses that have not been neutered, which is kind of neat
- i love the game tiwlight princess we love the game legend of zelda: twilight princess
- the bit with Link falling in the malice is something that I have been sooo soo excited and eager to write basically since we first ever actually outlined this fic, we've had that part planned for everrrrrrrrr yay!!!! so much stuff is really really paying off and there is still yet more to come woo!!
- the "great gouge" is a reference to our zelda 1&2 stuff that we've got cooking. none of it has been posted yet but BOY IS IT COOKING
- what do ppl think of the great fairy charm stuff? we kinda feel like the upgrading clothes with materials is something that kind of only makes sense in a video game and doesn't translate as well to written form so i like this little charm necklace thing we have going on
- Toren is the guy at one of the stables who gives you the great fairy quest where he gives you 500 rupees, his life savings, to go awaken a great fairy. we made him a beekeeper he keeps bees now
- on animal companions!! yeah the royal horse is literally zelda's horse not a horse descendant. Xerxes (and if you get that reference you get a million cookies and hugs and kisses and salutes you brothers forever) is still around and kicking because ZELDA is still around and kicking-- their souls and lives are connected and one's animal companion will stay alive for as long as their human will. ppl's animal companions also reincarnate alongside them because it goes all the way back to skyloft era and ppl and their loftwings. for example, all the different Eponas are reincarnations of sksw Link's loftwing just like how all those Links are reincarnations of sksw Link. Does that make sense??? we keep forgetting that the whole soul bound animal companion thing is something we made up and the reincarnated loftwing eponas is just a theory

next up: RITO VILLAGE AKA STONESPIRE!! KASS!! TEBA!! VAH MEDOH!! WOOOOOOO GET HYPE GET HYPE GET HYPE

as always shoutout for out tumblr blog @zelda-without-a-licence-plate check it out check it outttt dont forget to like and subscribe yah yah

Chapter 28: 'rito meat' is not what it sounds like

Summary:

Link finally arrives in Stonespire village.

Notes:

LINK FINALLY ARRIVES IN STONESPIRE VILLAGE!!!!!!!11!!!11111!1!111!!!! which again is just what we're calling Rito village btw. also, this chapter is a little bit shorter than usual but it's because due to pacing reasons, we decided to split this chapter into two shorter ones instead of one really giant one.

We've got some really cool stuff waiting for y'all in stonespire and we are super excited to be in this new region woo!! imo some of the coolest homebrew lore that we've come up with is for the rito actually, though to be fair i can say that about most of our lore. lol. but one thing we do want to do is bring back the Din worship element the rito have that's implied in Wind Waker, which is i think it's worth mentioning, the only other game they actually appear in. anyways enjoy the chapter!!!!

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Link thought encountering two Divine Beasts would mean he’d be ready to face the ones to come, but no. Even seeing Vah Medoh in the distance before couldn’t have prepared him for being under it now. The Divine Beasts are all so unique that each one completely redefines the concept of majesty. The great avian machine circles over Stonespire, letting loose another sky-splitting cry. Its mighty wingspan casts a shadow over the lake and its powerful motors, even from so high up, whip up turbulent winds that whirl around the valley. The setting sun haloes it, and it appears darker than the others. The purple glow of the malice puppeting it is only visible in pulses and spurts in gaps in the distant machinery, and in the spraying sparks and flashes of light that look like shooting stars. Other than that, it’s a dreadful silhouette prowling the sky. Trailing behind it are streaks of dark purple smog, billowing out from its ‘beak’ and the spaces between its wings and its body, only adding to its unique foreboding presence.

The ground-level panic continues as Medoh gives off an echoing rumble that Link feels vibrating in his teeth, until the Divine Beast curls back around towards the snowy peaks to the immediate north. He sees the rito flying from pillar to pillar, a flurry of feathers and fearful distant squawks, but they keep their flight paths tight to the structures. Only when it becomes clear the danger has passed do they settle. The whole valley is tenser than it was just moments before. The perfect serenity of the pictoresque autumnal scene is broken by the reminder of the threat of destruction that looms over their heads.

Link’s heart races, breathless from the brief but powerful shot of adrenaline. He nudges Nyx back into motion and they speed down the steep hill towards the stable, where the commotion is still dying down. It seems that with each Divine Beast he comes to tame the danger gets more and more urgent. Link doesn’t have any details yet on how exactly Vah Medoh poses a threat to the Rito in its possessed state, but the fear he just witnessed is undeniable. There will be no time to waste.

Based on the view from above, Link thought this stable was just more sprawling than the others he’s seen, but as he reaches the bottom of the hill he realizes the stable is flanked by a small market on one side, and a logging mill on the other. The market is no more than a handful of wooden stalls occupied by merchants-- some travelling, some local-- and their wares. He passes one vendor selling sacks of grain, a brightly-feathered rito woman selling a whole host of textile goods, and other sellers of products and resources that must be hard to come by in the Tabantha region. As he steers Nyx through towards the stable, Link spots a familiar teal plumage he hadn’t expected to see again so soon. Off to the side, a tall gray-and-brown rito merchant stands huffily, while Kass appears to be in the midst of a heated debate with none other than Beedle. Link dismounts, leaving both his animal companions by the counter.

“No, I’m just saying,” Beedle says in his nasally tone as Link approaches. “I get that there’s some cultural difference and all but I just think it’s wrong to--”

“You have no idea what you’re even talking about,” Kass interjects, and Link doesn’t think he’s ever heard the man sound so cross. “Do you ever think before you speak!”

“I’m just saying!” Beedle repeats. “It just seems wrong-- so maybe I was mistaken and it’s not literal cannibalism--”

“Farore help me,”

“But in my defence! The name is misleading, anyone who hears ‘Rito Meat’ would think--”

“No one thinks that!”

“Even if it’s just poultry, that’s still basically cannibalism! I’d have thought eating birds would be off-limits to rito--”

“You are clearly not listening to what I am saying--!”

“Rito are birds! Birds can’t eat other birds-- hrrk!”

Link’s eyes widen as Kass grabs Beedle’s spindly shoulders in his wide feathered hands and shakes the merchant back and forth. “Do you even hear yourself!?” Kass demands, sputtering in bewildered outrage, “In what world-- Rito are not b-- you-- what is wrong with your brain?! Is it cannibalism when a mammal eats another mammal! Or when a Zora eats a minnow? Listen-- listen to me! Apologize like I told you and then go find some secluded burrow to stew in your own imbecility until Nayru blesses you with some common sense and don’t bother anyone!”

“That’s enough, Kass,” the other rito sighs, and Kass finally lets Beedle go, leaving the hylian merchant stumbling backwards dizzily. Beedle looks at the rito merchant, his face pale.

“So--” Beedle swallows, “sorry, sir… for c-calling you a cannibal…”

“Just scram,” the rito snaps, and Beedle scurries away. Kass turns with his eyes pinched shut and wraps his hands around his beak, clamping down on his muffled frustrated scream.

It also has him facing Link directly, who was just watching with his mouth hanging open, so when his eyes open again Kass startles hard. “Link!”

The two just stand there staring at each other in shocked silence for a minute before Kass, apparently having decided to act like none of that even happened, clears his throat and reaches into his bag. “There’s something I was asked to deliver to you next time I saw you,” he says, all too nonchalantly. “I’m glad I caught you here now, I was given this only a day ago. Here,” he pulls out a paper folded thrice and hands it to Link. Written on the outside in delicate strokes of black ink is Link’s name. “It’s a letter.”

Link doesn’t try to hide his puzzlement. For Kass to have received and delivered the letter in only two days, it must be from someone nearby. But, of course, Link does not yet know anyone in the area. Where could it possibly have come from? He unfolds the letter.

Kakariko, apparently. The letter is from Kakariko. Evidently, Link underestimated how fast Kass can fly. Which makes sense when he thinks about it, given the rito bard seems to always be ahead of him by a good few leaps and bounds, no matter where he goes.

The main body of the letter is from Impa, of course. It reads:

Link,

I am writing you this letter because it has been many weeks since you departed from here, and in that time the only news we received of your travels came in the form of Gerudo soldiers, a sight that has not visited our village in a hundred years, informing us of your mishap at Entasvar City. Otherwise, word spreads slowly across Hyrule. I have just recently heard that Divine Beast Vah Naboris has stopped its rampage.

Good.

That means the next Divine Beast you will tame is Vah Medoh, assuming this letter reaches you as quickly as our mutual friend promises. I must warn you, in case you still do not remember, that on that fateful day, Vah Medoh, seized by the Calamity, sowed destruction far more extreme than any other Divine Beast.

I hope that you are well. Kass told us you were in rough shape when he saw you last. You must strengthen both your mind and body if you are to bring an end to the Calamity. I hope your memories are returning at a swift, but not overwhelming, pace. I hope sending your family tree was an aid, not an ailment. Many here in the village pray for your fortitude, and your happiness. If ever you grow weary of your journey, you may draw on their prayers to empower your resolve.

Worry not about responding to this letter. I do not expect word or sight of you any time soon.

That is far from all I have to say, but it is all I am able to say in such brief correspondence. However, a few others have messages for you that they wished to put in their own words. You will find them also enclosed.

May Hylia’s light guide your path.

Impa

Link blindly finds his way over to the wall of the stable as he reads, his mind racing. A poet, Impa is not, but he appreciates the honesty of her written voice. He already knows what she expects of him, grandly verbose declarations of faith and fate aren’t needed. Knowing the people of Kakariko are dedicating prayers to his health does make him feel better, more than if they were praying only for his victory. He’s also reminded that he’s yet to actually look at his family tree from Kakariko.

I’ll have time for that later,’ he thinks. Wolfy nuzzles his side, and Link absently pats his head as he looks at the other pages included with the letter. The first extra page is filled with dark lines of charcoal, pressed boldly and confidently into the paper by young hands (and leaving dark smears and smudges on the back of Impa’s letter). The crude but enthusiastic drawing is by Koko and Cottla, showing the two of them together with Link, with big smiles on all their faces. He can tell for sure mainly because big blocky handwriting underneath the drawing says ‘Us and Link having fun, by Koko and Cottla’. It makes him smile almost as wide as the stick figure depiction of him is.

Attached is a note from Dorian, saying that he and his children hope Link is alright, and that the kids especially miss him a lot and wish they could play together again soon, and also Koko wants him to help her make dinner again because he is, quote, ‘a way better cook than daddy is’. Though Impa said the opposite, Dorian wrote that if Link ever has the opportunity, he should try and send a response, as hearing directly from him would ‘set all their minds at ease’ and Koko and Cottla want to hear stories of his adventures, where he’s been and where he’s going next.

The last page is a message from Paya. It’s short and to-the-point… almost too to-the-point, as if she’d made multiple drafts editing down what may have originally been a rambling letter.

Dear Link,

Grandmother told me she was writing to you, and that I may include my own message as well, if I wished. I am not sure what to say. There are many words in my head but so few that I can put to paper. You told me before there’s no need to call you ‘Master’ Link. I don’t think I could do that when speaking to you in person, but I hope fulfilling that request in writing will please you. I hope this letter will please you.

I have many hopes, whenever I think of you. I hope that this world is being kind to you and that your journey is light of hardship. I hope the immense breadth of your duty leaves room for joy. More hopes still, that I don’t know how to give shape as words. Not among these hopes, though, is whether you will truly succeed in defeating the Calamity and rescuing Princess Zelda. It is not a matter of hope because there is no doubt. I believe in you in the most pure and loyal way a mortal being can.

I hope that you think of me from time to time on your travels, and have not forgotten about me.

Your dedicated friend servant friend,

Paya

The smile tugging on Link’s lips feels different now. Fondness swells inside him and his face feels warm despite the frosty air. Carefully, he folds the entire letter back up and stows it in his slate for safekeeping. Kakariko village is just one soft refuge on an ever-growing list of places he wants to return to. Just like every other place on that list, he has no idea when he’ll have the chance.

After boarding Nyx at the stable, and paying extra for Wolfy, instead of heading straight to Stonespire Link allows himself a minute to investigate the logging mill. Attached to the mill is a modest cabin with a sign over the door: Tabantha Papery. Intrigued, Link goes inside. The interior walls are lined with shelves stacked with packages of paper. At the back is a sturdy wooden desk, lower to the ground than what’s typical, and seated behind it is a very busy looking hylian woman, in a variation of the stable union uniform. She looks up from where she’s scribbling in a logbook as Link approaches. She has a large forehead and short, stocky limbs, and when he’s close enough to see over the desk Link notices her chair has wheels on the sides. Aside from Impa, shrunken with age, Link realizes with a start he has yet to meet an adult human on his travels that is actually shorter than he is. Her posture is authoritative, her face weathered by middle age. She gives him a bland, expectant look.

“Hi,” Link lifts his hand in a wave. He looks around; the stocks of paper all look fairly large, meant to be sold to travelling merchants in bulk. “Do you sell letter paper?”

The woman puts her quill down and rolls away from the desk. “Eh,” she says, wheeling her way over to a cabinet next to a closed door, behind the desk. “Sure, if you want, but there’s not much point in writing letters you can’t send anywhere. Unless, of course, the person you’re writing to has a stable address and you’re okay with your letter getting delivered slower than the mountains grow.”

Right, Link thinks, there isn’t any postal system in Hyrule. Or at least, not anymore. For some reason, getting those letters from Kakariko, and the mention of his still oh-so mysterious family tree, awakened some sort of instinctual itch in him to write a letter back. A nagging feeling at the back of his mind telling him to hurry up and reply before he starts to feel guilty. Most of all, writing a letter would have given him a chance to ask Impa (or maybe Paya) about his eye of truth sooner than an in-person visit. Maybe he could ask Kass to deliver it…

“We don’t sell a lot of paper to individuals,” the woman continues, opening up the cabinet. “I recommend a journal instead. Local paper, local leather, you won’t find a better quality journal anywhere else.” She pulls out one of said journals and wheels back over, thumping it down on the desk between them. “And, if your heart’s really set on it, you can remove pages to write letters on, too.”

Link looks down at the journal. There’s something kind of intimidating about it, but what exactly, he can’t figure out. The woman looks up at him, waiting for his response.

He buys the journal.

Bitter, brutal winds blow in from the north, buffeting and battering Link as he picks his way across the bridges to Stonespire proper. The sun is almost completely set, the lake below pitch-black. Link shivers, partly from unease and mostly from the cold, his travellers’ gear no longer enough to keep him warm this late in the season, this far north. The next time he reaches solid ground, he takes from the slate the ruby circlet he got in Palace city and puts it on, pulling his hood back up quickly to try and shield his ears from the biting wind. The dimmed magic in the circlet brings him some relief, warms some of the tightness out of his frost-stiffened limbs, but that’s pretty much it. At least there’s solace in the fact that the Rito seem to be the only people in all of Hyrule who know how to build a proper bridge that doesn’t feel like it’s going to fall apart under his feet. It might rattle and creak, but it doesn’t wobble or sway or tilt.

He’d tried asking the first huntsman he saw patrolling the entrance about where to go to speak to the village’s leader, but he couldn’t tell him, not because he didn’t know the way to the elder’s roost, but because he could only remember the flight directions. Not exactly helpful for a ‘groundwalker’ like Link, as the guard called him. He was advised to ask someone else further along-- “but not Mazli, because he’s not very helpful.” The winding walkways and criss-crossing bridges all around the tall spires look even more complex from directly below. The second huntsman he sees, standing guard right outside the entrance to the village proper, beats Link to a greeting.

“Evening, traveller!” The huntsman waves him closer, the flexible corners of his beak lifted in a welcoming smile. “You’re a rare sight this time of year, eh? My name’s Mazli, is there anything I can do for you?”

Oh. “I’d like to speak to the village elder,” Link says. Mazli’s eyes widen.

“Really,” the rito inspects him more closely. “Hm. I’m afraid Stonespire isn’t in much of a welcoming mood right now, what with… well, you’ve surely seen the Divine Beast prowling the skies above.” Mazli cranes his neck to look up at the sky. In the darkness of the overcast night, Medoh is all but invisible, appearing outlined in magenta only in dim blinks. “It used to be a divine protector of our people, so they say… it’s no mighty dragon spirit, if you ask me, but I guess it would be a lot more awe-inspiring if it wasn’t trying to kill us.”

Link’s brows raise in alarm. “Is it?”

“When it first started moving around a couple months ago, some of our warriors tried to investigate but they couldn’t even get close. Medoh turned hostile and it’s been shooting down anything or anyone trying to take flight since…” The rito frowns. “‘Trying’ to kill us isn’t what I should have said, sorry. It’s grim to share with a traveller, but-- quite a few people have actually died already.”

Link’s chest fills with ice.

After asking a second time, Mazli gives Link the directions to elder Kaneli’s roost. Link takes off into the village and marches up the center spire. The rito watch him pass with surprised glances and double takes, some jumping out of his way. Given his stature and quiet disposition Link’s not typically much of a crowd-parter, but something in the speed and power of his strides must give off an impression of unstoppable force. The wind knocks his hood off his head, but Link doesn’t pause to fix it. His hands clench into fists at his sides. A couple months, Mazli said. Guilt, self-directed anger gnaws at him like hunger. He thinks of all the times he’s been held back, lost time, wasted time. It’s taken him far too long to reach this point. A couple of months.

The Calamity grows stronger. Link hasn’t heard Zelda’s voice since the first Blood Moon.

Link power-walks all the way up to highest level of the village, storms past the spear-armed huntsmen there heedless of their noises of alarm, throws apart the heavy curtains over the doorway and blows into the elder’s roost like the furious north wind itself. He snaps out of it when the old owl-faced rito startles awake, and the guards rush in behind him, each grabbing him by either arm. The guards are yelling at him, trying to pull him out of the roost, and Link struggles as much as he dares, his hands held up in surrender-- he’s not looking to enrich his criminal record with a second arrest. “Sorry, sorry!” Link gasps over the warriors’ shouting, while the elder, Kaneli, peers at Link curiously, gingerly descending from his perch. “I’m not a threat,” Link insists, extremely aware of the plethora of weapons strapped to his person. “I ha-- wait! I have to speak with the elder, it’s urgent!”

“Hooh…” Kaneli motions with one massive wing for the warriors to put Link down, and they reluctantly let him go. Link huffs and brushes himself off, while the elder picks up a cane made from a gnarled, knotted tree branch. As Link’s fingers brush the Sheikah slate, instinctively checking it’s in its correct place after the tussle, Kaneli’s eyes follow the movement.

“Sorry about the disturbance,” one of the warriors says, but Kaneli tuts good-naturedly.

“It was about time for me to wake up anyways,” Kaneli says, not looking away from Link. His voice reminds Link of tall, ancient trees creaking as they bend just barely in powerful winds. “Now, an urgent matter to discuss, eh? About Vah Medoh, I presume it is…”

The two warriors exchange a glance and a whisper, and step out of the roost. The curtain rustles shut behind them, leaving Link and elder Kaneli to speak alone. Link stands up a little straighter, hoping to display determination on his face. He’s not sure how exactly Kaneli must have known, but, what else could be more urgent? And, there’s something in the way Kaneli glances again at the slate. Link nods. Kaneli gives a low hoot of approval. “Your name, young one?”

“Link.”

“Link…” Kaneli eases into a rocking chair, giving Link an assessing look. “A fool I would be, to outright deny a fiery-eyed stranger arriving in our darkest hour to offer aid… but, my child, a fool I would be, to sanction a stranger facing certain death for us. Many of our finest warriors have attempted to face the Divine Beast. Many have been killed… more have been hurt, and only one rito managed to survive his encounter unscathed. Vah Medoh is powerful and prideful as her master was, and will not be brought to heel. I fail to see how a groundwalker might claim victory where the north’s greatest masters of flight were defeated.”

Link lifts his chin defiantly. “I have tamed two Divine Beasts already.” Kaneli’s eyes widen in shock, and Link continues, “Though I didn’t do it alone, of course, I subdued Divine Beasts Vah Naboris and Vah Ruta, and freed them from the Calamity’s control. As long as I can get on board, I can do the same for Vah Medoh.”

Kaneli leans back, regarding Link now with new faith. His feathered fingers stroke his impressive, braided beard. “I see… I had heard the Zora to the east quelled their Divine Beast tribulations just before all was lost… I’ve prayed for such fortune to visit us as well. It seems Din heard my call, for here you are.” He chuckles. “Alright, Link. I need no further convincing. Please, rest, make good of what our humble village has to offer. Once you are prepared, seek out the warrior Teba. If anyone can get you on board Vah Medoh, it will be him.”

Link nods his thanks. “Before sunset tomorrow,” he vows, “Vah Medoh will be set free, and the Rito as well.”

“My!” Kaneli hoots, delighted. “What conviction, and a dash of dramatic flair as well! Young Link, you truly are a descendant of the champions. Go now, and may you ride fair winds.”

Notes:

if you thought Elder Kaneli was a little more yoda-core than you remember him being in game shhhhhhh go to sleep shhh its ok shhhhh

normal flying type Kass has type advantage over dark bug type Beedle. (he's not dark type bc of the threatening to mug you for your bugs btw it's because he's a price gouging capitalist)

anyways thoughts on tha chapter :3 ???? i really enjoyed making Kaneli more Cool and Serious than the game has him be bc he's kind of silly which i DO also enjoy but i just love making everything epic and dramatic sorry.

Next chapter: TEBA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Chapter 29: if you’re Wile E Coyote, and I’m the roadrunner, then who’s piloting Vah Medoh!?

Summary:

Link prepares for the attack on Vah Medoh, remembers Revali, and meets Teba.

Notes:

UGH SOOOO EXCITED FOR THIS CHAPTER YOU GUYS WE ARE SOOOO EXCITED!!!!! Teba chapter hehehehe I really really enjoyed finally getting to write him, he's such a cool character but also a really funny character and a pretty rare archetype for legend of zelda imo. Hope you enjoy!!! We're real damn close to our third divine beast now, hehehehehehe >:)

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

The warriors are gone when Link steps out of the roost, but a few paces down the walkway now stands a rito woman, her soft lilac feathers raised from stress. She must have been waiting for him, her eyes trained on the curtain, because as soon as he emerges she jolts and rushes towards him. Slight tremors in her hands suggest she’s been losing sleep, and her eyes are intense as she towers over Link.

“I’m sorry,” she says, “I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation… or I suppose I could have, but I didn’t. Is it true? You intend to stop Medoh, with Teba’s help?”

Link nods, and her eyes lower. “I was afraid so… But if the elder trusts you, then so do I. My name is Saki, Teba is my husband. If you want his help, you will have to catch up with him; he’s already planning on fighting Medoh again. I tried to convince him not to, but he wouldn’t listen… once he’s made his mind up about something, there’s no reasoning with him. He has a true Rito’s pride, after all… and a true warrior’s heart. Kaneli is right, you will need his help. But…”

Link waits for her to go on, and she gives a heavy sigh. “It was a miracle he made it back unscathed the first time, and I’m afraid we don’t have miracles to spare. The truth is, I wish I could forbid him from fighting Medoh, and forbid you from seeking him out, but I understand the reason for his determination. Medoh must be stopped. So I will tell you where my husband went, only if you do one thing for me.”

“Of course.”

Saki demands, her gaze fierce, “Tell him that if he does anything foolish and gets himself killed, I’ll never forgive him. I need my husband, our children need their father-- not a martyr.”

Link meets her eyes, and says softly, “I will.” Saki deflates, the brittle tension leaving her all at once.

“Thank you,” she exhales. “Come, I will show you the way.”

She leads him a few levels down away from the clusters of roosts towards the middle of the spire. They pass several rito on the narrow walkways, but the large, open platform that they arrive at is deserted. Painted on the wood of the landing is the same symbol woven onto Link’s paraglider. The landing extends from the central pillar further into the open air than the rest of the structures around it, and the wind is harsher. The ruby circlet only does so much, and Link tries to rub some warmth back into his fingers.

“This is Revali’s Landing,” Saki says over the wind as Link follows her towards the outer railing. “From here you can see…”

Link doesn’t hear her.

Even at the cresting point of spring rolling into summer, Stonespire was brutally cold. Fine snow from the earlier storm still dusted the rest of the rito settlement, imprinted by uncountable bird tracks and likely to melt away before sunset, but the main landing was clear and empty. The thin layer of snow had already been blown away by the roaring winds created by Vah Medoh during Revali’s earlier dramatic display. The sky was only just beginning to clear, blue appearing behind grey clouds in patches. Link looked around for the willful hunter he was sent after. He could have sworn he saw blue feathers flash by just a moment ago…

A powerful gust picked up. Beyond the edge of the landing, Revali came swirling up through the center of the whirlwind. He dispelled the summoned gale as he landed on the railing in front of Link, the tips of his wings just barely brushing the wood. The rito rose to his full height, towering over Link, and tilted his head to the side to look down at him with eyes that Link was beginning to think always looked that intense, regardless of if he was in a dead-man’s draw.

“Impressive, I know,” Revali smirked. “Between my unique feats of aerial magic and my natural prodigal command of Vah Medoh, I can achieve a greater mastery of the sky than any other Rito in history.” He was boasting, but Link had no doubts that he was right. He stood, silent, impassive, and still, as Revali hopped down from the railing and started slowly circling him. “And what do you think about all this, o noble knight? Do you believe in fate? Do you believe in anything at all other than your kingdom’s little flag? Or did I just imagine that fire in your eyes while we fought?”

Link didn’t answer. It was obvious Revali was trying to get a rise out of him. He would be disappointed to learn it was impossible. Revali seemed like the kind of person who felt very strongly about everything, always-- practically Link’s opposite-- and Link thought that was probably why the archer seemed to hate him so much despite having only just met. That, and the fact that he was the personal guard of Princess Zelda, and Revali was clearly opposed to the monarchy. Maybe he thought that made Link hate him back, but Link didn’t. He didn’t even disagree.

It didn’t seem like Revali actually expected Link to answer him, the way he kept talking without pause. He leaned down, getting right in Link’s face with a challenge in his eyes and voice, proposing a rematch. To see what was really better, Hylian or Rito bowmanship. Link was never drawn to competition, though. He still said nothing. Before Revali could back off or go in for another jab, the wind picked up again, tugging at their hair and scarves and feathers, and the clouds fully dispersed. Sunlight landed on Link’s face, getting in his eyes, and he blinked in the sudden brightness. When he opened his eyes again Revali had moved away, looking at Link with a perturbed expression. Link brushed his hair out of his face, and finally opened his mouth to relay the princess’ message…

“Champion descendant… champion descendant!” Link comes to with Saki waving her hands in his face, alarmed. Link blinks hard, feeling dizzy. On the walkway behind him, people are watching and whispering. Link shakes his head, rubbing his arms.

“Sorry about that,” he mutters, embarrassed. “You can just, uh, forget that happened.”

“Forget it--!” Saki squawks. “You were unresponsive for over a minute! I thought you were seizing! Are you sure you should be going after Medoh--?”

“It’s fine,” Link waves off her concern even though he himself feels a little uneasy learning how long he was actually in the memory for. Usually they only last a few seconds real-time. He’s not sure if this is a good sign. “I’m not, uh, it was just a vision. I’m fine. Sorry, do you mind repeating the directions?”

Saki does, but still gives him an uneasy side-eye. Link thanks her quietly, and scurries away from the nosy crowd.

Link shivers as he walks through the village, hugging his torso. It’s only going to keep getting colder, and he can’t fight like this. He’ll need proper gear, and he’d like to see if there’s anywhere that sells bomb arrows. Making it down to the market level, Link learns something interesting and unique about Stonespire: almost everything is open all day and night. Evidently, there are enough nocturnal Rito that while the village isn’t as bustling as during the day, it’s still far from quiet.

He finds a place that rents out expedition gear for humans going into Hebra, but… it’s really expensive. He wouldn’t be able to afford it even if he’d been a more responsible spender this whole time. He could just about manage the rental price, but… there’s an even higher fee for bringing the equipment back damaged, and, well. Link doesn’t have a great track record there.

While he’s wandering out looking for a better bargain, he’s startled by a spot of warmth blooming out of nowhere against his chest. Link stops, fishing out his fairy charm necklace. In his palm, the light pink one pulses with subtle heat like a heartbeat. He looks around, trying to remember exactly what it was Kaysa said this charm would do. Something about his wallet? He spins in a circle, watching the charm like a compass. Walking forward when it gets warmer leads him to ducking through the curtain of an antique store. Link examines his surroundings, letting the necklace lay over his tunic. The shop is cluttered and crowded, but cozy, and warmer than outside. Link blows on his fingers as he steps further in.

“Good moonrise,” the shopkeep with amber-coloured feathers greets him. “Looking for anything specific, or just browsing?”

Link approaches the counter. “I’m actually… I need cold-gear. Something durable, but doesn’t restrict my movement too much.”

The shopkeep blinks slowly at him. “For… what, for, like, combat?”

“Aerial combat, probably.”

“Oh!” The clerk perks up. “You’ll need a paraglider too, then, eh?”

“I already have one.”

“Really?” The rito looks excited now. “Can I see?”

An unexpected, but harmless, request. Link double-checks he has enough space before opening his paraglider, showing it to the shopkeep. “Din’s tailfeathers!” They gasp. “I know that paraglider, it’s one of a kind! An actual, historical artifact! Where did you get it!”

Link looks in surprise between them and the paraglider. “An old man extorted me in exchange for it. Why, what’s so special about it?”

The clerk gawps at him. “I am positive that that is the paraglider Master Revali had commissioned for the Hylian champion! The design plans are archived, I’ve seen them, and it matches exactly.” They pause, “I mean, I guess it could be a replica, but, sorry, do you mind if I…?” They reach forward and brush a feathery finger across the canvas, feeling the stitching. “No, this is local craftsmanship, the very best. I’m sure this is the original. Incredible how it’s held up so long…”

“I kind of owe this thing my life, honestly,” Link says, thinking back to all the jams he’s managed to escape with it, and all the time-and-life-saving shortcuts it’s opened to him. He puts the paraglider back. “So, cold weather clothes? Do you have anything like that?”

“I think so,” the clerk shows Link to another room at the back of the shop, even more packed with stuff. “I’ll be honest, I inherited this shop and some of these vintage pieces have been here longer than me, so I don’t know about everything that might be lurking back here. Feel free to take a look around, don’t be afraid to dig, that’s how you find buried treasure after all! There’s a curtain in the corner if you want to try something on.”

Hidden treasures! Link recalls what Kaysa told him with a start. The charm helps him find hidden treasures. As the rito goes back to the front counter, Link picks up the charm necklace again and starts making his way through the room. He does, admittedly, get a little distracted by all the interesting, unique or eye catching things he sees, especially the fur garments, but he does keep his actual goal in mind. It takes a considerable amount of willpower, but he does. After doing almost one full lap and squeezing through several tight gaps in the stacks of things, the charm gets warmer again. It becomes almost burning hot when he bangs his knee on an old trunk and nearly trips over it.

Link drops the searing charm and investigates the trunk. Lifting the heavy, creaky lid uncovers a huge amount of clothes stuffed inside. Link takes the shopkeeper’s advice, and starts digging-- though he has no idea how he’s going to fit all the stuff back inside afterwards.

Somewhere in the middle of the trunk, he pulls out pieces of a matching set that have him slowing down, humming thoughtfully as he examines the outfit. The first thing about it that catches his eye is that it’s made for a human, which is the first main criteria Link needs to fill, and that it’s in a small size, which is the close second. For better or for worse, it’s a snowsuit of some fashion, thick and soft and fully lined, made out of wool and fur and insulated with plush feathers. There’s a flexible leather corset-like piece around the torso, going over only one shoulder, and more layers of fabric pinned on top of that. There’s even gloves, long, padded leather wristcuffs, and snowboots. There’s a hood, lined with soft, fluffy fur. It’s not likely to stay on his head during a fight, but digging around at the bottom of the trunk, he finds a handful of accessories meant to be braided into one’s hair, that hum with the same kind of warm residual magic as his ruby circlet, only stronger. That will more than make up the difference.

He gathers up the unwieldy armful of garment and shuffles over to the changing curtain. The set is roomy enough to pull on over his regular pants and the turtleneck piece of his traveler’s tunic, while still not getting too tight to move around in, or to cut off blood flow. The hood’s fur trim comfortably tickles his neck, and the whole thing feels like a big warm hug. The hairpieces Link leaves for now, though he does take note that the little feather clip that goes behind his ear reminds him of the barrette Paya got from the great fairy Cotera. He does some experimental stretches, twisting his torso from side to side and lifting his arms over his head, and smiles.

Oh, yes,’ he thinks, ‘this will do nicely.’

“How much for this set?” Link asks as he approaches the counter, catching the clerk’s attention again.

“Aww!” They coo at the sight of him. “That’s a traditionally-styled bridesmaid’s ensemble! It looks so good on you!”

Link glances down at the outfit, flushing. “Um, thanks,” he mumbles. “But how much is it?”

The cost is still nothing to sneeze at, but it’s still not nearly as much of a blow as the expedition gear would have been. The rito clerk helps Link braid the once-enchanted ribbons into his hair, and he heads out into the cold night once more. On his way through the village he stocks up on arrows, and splurges on some elixirs at the general store.

Saki instructed him to take the other bridge out of the village than the one he took in, from the northwest branch (what the rito call the different foundational pillars Stonespire is built on) that leads straight towards Dronoc’s pass. The whole time Link marches towards it he spends justifying his haste to himself-- or rather, the manifestation of his common sense that looks and sounds a lot like Impa. Yes, he knows he should rest, he should make sure he’s at full strength before rushing headlong into danger. He’s learned that lesson already, that mistakes made out of impatience will cost him more than waiting and preparing properly.

His window of opportunity is closing, though. This time, the hours spent on a night of sleep really could be the difference between victory, and even more deaths, and Teba is already a few bird-hops ahead of him.

Link pauses at the bridge to eat as many protein-and-energy packed provisions from his slate as he can scarf down in just a few minutes, which is a fair amount. He drinks water. He picks out an elixir of endurance from the shop and chugs it, then makes sure he has the healing elixirs close at hand. He’s as ready as he can afford to be.

He holds on to the rope as he crosses the bridge carefully. It’s not in danger of falling apart under his feet, but it’s longer, skinnier, and wobblier than the east-facing bridge. It’s just base-level functional, and likely doesn’t get as much daily use as the main bridge. The wind is stronger, and on the other side of the lake, Link can see snow already piled up, winter closing in.

Halfway across, Link stops, a non-winter-related chill running up his spine, the hair on the back of his neck standing on end. A second later, the distinct otherworldly whoosh and poof of teleportation echoes in Link’s ears, and the bridge sags. Link jumps into high alert, equipping the lightscale trident as his eyes dart all around. Ahead, the bridge is clear, and behind, also clear-- but still it wobbles with movement other than his. The wind whistles. The wood creaks. Link shifts his feet on the swaying bridge, his stance battle-ready but light, Mipha’s trident held out in a guard position in front of him. He slowly walks backwards, towards the pass.

The bridge bounces once, twice, and on the third, Link realizes. He spins just as the yiga swings herself up from underneath and lands on the bridge between Link and Dronoc’s pass, causing it to shake violently. Link can immediately tell from the extra pieces of armour on her cold-stealthstuit and the absolute organ-rearranger of a weapon in her hand that this is a soldier, not just a scout.

“Thought you could run forever, little roadrunner?” The yiga taunts him over the howling wind. “Well, you ran right into my trap!”

All Link has time to do is think, ‘what’s a roadrunner?’ before the yiga lunges at him. He knocks her weapon aside with the trident but she leaps back out of range before he can return the attack. Because of the trident’s reach and the narrowness of the bridge, she can’t get around its point to close in on him. He jabs forward, but the yiga soldier is as light on her feet as Link is. Link watches as if in slow motion, unable to pull his weapon back in time, as the yiga dodges and jumps up. Her weight forces the tip of the trident down as she uses it like a springboard and flips over Link’s head. Link barely turns in time, sweeping the trident up to meet her spiked blade on the downswing, catching the circular weapon between the prongs of the trident. Link attempts a disarming move, shoving the weapon down, but the yiga doesn’t let go, instead following the movement into a crouch.

She kicks out at Link’s legs, sweeping him off his feet and knocking him onto his back. He pulls the trident with him, crossing the shaft protectively over his body. The yiga’s weapon is still caught on his and she gets yanked forward along with it, sending her toppling off balance on top of him. They wrestle for a moment, her trying to get unstuck while keeping him pinned down, him trying not to get beheaded.

That’s when Link realizes the yiga is also not actually trying to behead him, and he recalls what Rystel told him back in their shared prison cell, about how the Yiga weren’t trying to assassinate him-- no, they need to capture him alive.

Which means neither of them are fighting to kill.

Link manages to get his legs leveraged and kicks upwards, throwing the yiga off him in the same way he dislodged Master Kohga back then. The bridge tilts dangerously and she catches herself on the ropes. Link stows the lighstcale trident with a flash of slate-blue and rolls with the angle, grabbing the ropes and sliding his body smoothly between them, over the side of the bridge. The yiga curses and scrambles after him, but she doesn’t catch him in time, leaving her on the bridge while Link dangles over the distant lake. His weight causes the bridge to tip almost ninety degrees, and the yiga has to once again grab the ropes on the other side in order to not fall.

She can’t attack him without risking him falling to his watery, freezing death, and she can’t try and grab him without risking either falling herself, or him biting her fingers off. They both know it. Link smirks up at her, and she snarls wordlessly. On the outside, Link is smug, but inside he’s just screaming at himself to not look down.

The yiga poofs away, appearing again at the end of the bridge. She sits cross-legged in the snow, propping her chin in one hand and tapping the fingers of her other on her knee. Like Link will have to pull himself up eventually, so all she needs to do is wait.

Link glares at her, and she makes a teasing gesture, wiggling her head back and forth like she’s blowing a raspberry. Link lets go of the ropes with one hand, and the yiga jumps up in alarm. He reaches for the ropes again, and she settles, this time visibly frustrated and a lot more impatient.

The impasse lasts too long for comfort. Link had been hoping the soldier would give up and leave, but she’s proving too stubborn for that. His shoulders start to strain, and Link has to admit to himself that he didn’t really think this far ahead when he pulled this move. The wind buffets him and the bridge sways, and Link feels kind of nauseous. This is the worst game of chicken he’s ever played. As he starts trying to hook his elbows around the ropes for a better hold, movement in the distance draws his eye. Some ways away from them, on the outer side of the lake, a cloud of snow blooming up into the air draws nearer. It gives Link a sense of deja vu, and he squints, trying to make out the dark shape within the white.

The yiga is too focused on Link to notice. The snow-dust-cloud hugs the curve and hurtles towards the yiga at top speed. Link grins and whistles. The yiga turns her head, only becoming aware of the threat once Wolfy is practically right on top of her. Her shrill scream is cut off as soon as it begins as the giant wolf tackles her into the snow. Link heaves himself back up onto the bridge to see her teleporting away before Wolfy can lunge again. Wolfy sits and waits dutifully for Link to pick his way across to him on shaking legs. He only feels settled once his feet are back on solid ground.

“Good boy,” Link breathes, scratching Wolfy’s cheeks, his fingers digging deep into his companion’s thick fur. “That’s two I owe you now, huh boy?”

Wolfy whuffs happily, leaning into the scritches before padding away to the disturbed snow, nosing at something obscured in it. Link brushes the snow away, revealing the yiga’s weapon, dropped when Wolfy bowled her over. Link picks it up, testing the feel of it in his hand, swinging it back and forth a couple times. He gives a low, impressed whistle, and stashes the weapon on his back along with the daybreaker.

Around the path up to the flight range are signs of another, previous scuffle. An arrow or two are embedded in the nearby tree trunks, there are horses wandering around, and a bone-spiked bat sticks up out of the snow at their hooves.

The path leads into a hollow part of the mountainside, framed by tall, jagged stone on all sides except where the path cuts in. High above on the cliff, tattered old banners float in the wind, and nestled against the sheer rock is a roost like the ones in the village, only completely open, and from within, the warm orange glow of a campfire and strung-up lanterns beckons. Even in pure night, it’s brighter than Link is used to, the moon and stars’ light reflecting off the snow and back into the sky. Up ahead in the roost, he spots movement. Wolfy waits at the edge of the flight range. Link jogs up through the fresh snow and pulls his way up the rito equivalent of a ladder-- the spokes rotating up around a central pole rather than set between two-- to see a rito man sitting with his back to Link, re-stringing and testing his bow.

Even seated, Link can tell he’s very tall, with mostly white, and gray and brown feathers, the white on the back of his head and bottom of his neck fluffy and spiky. Over his shoulder, Link sees the hint of a large, pronounced hooked beak. He notices Link approach, glancing back at him. His large, dark feather-brows give him a severe expression, even when his face is calm. “Hm?” Teba says, barely reacting to Link’s arrival. He pulls the string of his large, heavy-looking bow all the way taught and then slowly returns it to rest as he speaks. “I don’t know you. And I’m actually pretty busy here. You should probably go.” His voice is gruff and gravelly, cool and dismissive.

Link walks up beside him. Like this, they’re nearly eye-level. “I can help you.” Even at Link’s most serious, Teba doesn’t look up from his bow.

“Help me? With what, exactly?”

“Vah Medoh.”

Teba pauses then, and actually properly looks at Link. He lays his bow across his lap. “Let me get this straight--” he practically barks, “you want to help me bring down Vah Medoh? You, some random hylian? I’m not buying it. What’s your name, stranger?”

Link fights hard not to seem cowed by Teba’s harsh tone. “I’m Link,” he mutters, thinking for a moment it’s good Teba asked, or he might have once again forgotten to introduce himself. He really needs to break that habit.

“Link, huh? Well, Link, I’m Teba. But you already knew that. I’m guessing the Elder asked you to come talk some sense into me. Am I right?”

“Kind of. Saki told me where to find you. She also asked me to give you a message.”

Teba looked away, a deep sigh escaping him like it was pushed out by the new heaviness appearing across his broad shoulders. “Yeah? Well, let’s hear it.”

“She said…” Link’s voice wavered uncertainly. “That if you do anything stupid and get yourself killed, she’ll never forgive you, and your family needs you alive, not martyred.”

Teba looks down at his bow for a moment with a furrowed brow, silently contemplating the words. “Look-- you seem like an alright girl, but I need to make one thing clear: I’m not going anywhere. I can’t rest until my people are safe. There’s only one way I’m going back to Stonespire, and that’s once Divine Beast Vah Medoh falls from the sky.” A shiver runs up Link’s spine at those words, something his heart remembers that his mind doesn’t. Teba looks back at him, a vengeful fire in his eyes. “If I have to kill Medoh… then so be it.”

Link can’t even derail the conversation to correct Teba about the girl thing-- though to be fair, he is technically wearing women’s clothes, which he’s mostly not thinking about right now. He has to match Teba’s intensity if the man is going to take him seriously, and an ‘um, actually…’ isn’t going to do that. “Then let’s take down Vah Medoh.”

“You’re not kidding, are you?” Teba’s brows jump all the way up. “Ha! Well, far be it for me to talk you down from the ledge.” (Why’d you have to say it like that, Link thinks with a wince.) “But, it’s as the Elder said: the only way to stop Vah Medoh is to get inside her.” (Why’d you have to say it like that! Link thinks with a slightly redder wince.) “But there’s no way we can actually set foot aboard Medoh.”

“Can’t we?”

“Not only are you wingless, but you’re brainless, too? Let me fill you in-- the vessel is armed with powerful cannons that will blast you out of the sky before you can even get close. Not only that, but she’s surrounded by an impenetrable shield, too. If, if! You somehow manage to get past those, then there’s still the fact that the only people able to enter the Divine Beasts are the five champions of old. Unfortunately for us, and everyone else, they all died a hundred years ago.”

Link puts his hands on his hips, narrowing his eyes at Teba. “Well, we’re here now, aren’t we?” He says, when Teba looks surprised, “If you really thought it was impossible, you wouldn’t be here. So tell me your plan, and let’s do it.”

Teba chuckles, rising to his feet. He towers over Link. “One step at a time,” he says. “We can’t afford to approach Medoh recklessly. I’ll have to test you first before I agree to taking you into the sky with me. You look pretty light, I figure I could carry you up, but I can’t do that and shoot. So you’ll need a paraglider, too.”

Link pulls out his paraglider, and Teba’s eyes widen. “One step ahead, huh? Let me see that,” he extends a wing, and Link hands him the paraglider to inspect. “Is this… no, nevermind. You’re lucky, this glider is designed for aerial archery. You’ll be able to fire a bow mid-air without having to always be on my back.”

“It is?” Link takes the paraglider back. Teba makes an incredulous noise.

“How did you not--? See those straps attached to the handles, and these extra joints here on the frame? Put your arms through those, and you can snap the paraglider open and closed easily with a bow in hand.”

That would have been nice to know for Vah Ruta, Link thinks.

Link equips the paraglider-- properly-- and Teba nods in consideration. “Alright. Let’s see what you’re capable of. See those targets out there in the ravine? If you can hit ten targets, in one minute, from the air, then I’ll let you come with me. Sound fair?”

“Ten?”

“That’s how quick you’ll have to be. It’s not just about your accuracy, it’s about your reflexes.”

“Okay then,” Link says, unfazed. “Let’s do it.” Teba clicks his beak.

“co*cky kid…” he mutters. It’s not so much that Link is co*cky as there’s no alternative to success. No one can afford for him to fail, so he won’t.

That’s always been the case.

His resolve wavers slightly with his toes at the edge of the platform-- only slightly! The ravine is steep, the stone sheer and dark with ice and cold. Strong updrafts whirl up from the bottom and tug at his hair and the fur trim of his coat. Ten targets, in one minute. No room for error, even though this is Link’s first time trying to use the paraglider and a bow simultaneously. If he doesn’t get it on the first try, he’s doubtful Teba will give him another chance. There’ll be no room for error up there against Medoh, either.

Link forces himself to keep his eyes open as he takes a deep breath and a running leap off the ledge. The paraglider unfurls and the updrafts boost him up higher. Steering without holding onto the glider is weird, but he angles his shoulders towards the nearest line of targets and aims for the closest one. He hardly pauses to see if the arrow landed before notching another one and firing. His heart pounds as his focus narrows, until the only thing he really sees is the bright blue beacons of the targets.

When Teba’s call of “that’s time!” pierces the noisy wind and cuts into Link’s awareness, he honestly has no idea how many targets he hit. Link stows his bow and grabs the handles to veer back towards the platform, landing on shaky legs. So much adrenaline is pumping through Link’s veins his tongue has pins and needles and his lungs feel rattly. He leans back against the railing, pressing a hand against his sternum, trying to settle his breathing and savour the feeling of something solid beneath his feet. Teba steps up to the edge of the platform, his keen eagle’s eyes darting from target to target as he counts the landed arrows.

“Eleven.” Teba and Link both let out a breath, Link relieved, Teba impressed. “You’re… hell, ‘skilled’ isn’t a strong enough word. It was as if time stopped with every arrow you let fly. When you showed up I thought someone was playing a trick on me, but I’ve got to give it to you-- you’re the real deal, Link.”

“I sure hope so,” Link huffs. Teba rewards his sass with a smirk. He nods for Link to follow him into the open roost.

“Link… I feel I’ve heard the name somewhere before… hm. Well, anyways. This is a bow I’ve modified… should fit you fine, I think.” He picks up a mid-sized Rito-style bow and measures it against Link’s height. “Here, test that out, let me know how it feels.”

The bow is just about the right size for Link. It’s obviously much smaller than Teba’s own bow, making Link wonder what he modified this one for. It’s sturdy but nicely flexible, the string strong and durable. He can feel the power in the draw when he pulls the string taut, and slowly guides it back.

“Really good,” Link says. Teba proudly puffs up a little.

“Good,” Teba echoes, satisfied. “Sit down, eat, and we’ll go over the plan.”

Suspended above the dancing campfire is a covered iron pot of something hearty and fragrant. Link sits on one of the woven mats around the firepit while Teba sorts through some equipment. In the quiet lapse, Link settles the paraglider on his lap, re-examining it. He’d never really thought to be curious about it before, but now it turns out the item is rare even for what it is. Teba seemed to recognize it, and based on what that shopkeep said, it’s likely that there’s an entire history between Link and this paraglider that he doesn’t know about. He looks at the intricate, expert weaving of the canvas, the Rito emblem proudly displayed, that same emblem painted on Revali’s Landing, the same one stitched on the champion’s scarf in Link’s memory…

Link closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, focusing on the scent of fresh snow and the savoury stew wafting around the little roost, the cold wind whistling through the gaps. He recalls the stomach-dropping adrenaline of shooting mid-air, of riding the updrafts, and…

“No, no-- absolutely not! I won’t stand for this!”

Revali paced back and forth in the cramped roost of the flight range, his talons clacking on the wood. It was the height of summer, and even the base of Hebra was mild and balmy. Link shook sweat out of his tunic, trying not to let on how wildly his heart was pounding or how he was struggling to breathe evenly. He ignored Revali’s ranting. In the corner, both their practise bows were discarded, broken.

“This-- this injustice! It’s just not right, in fact, it’s absolutely abhorrent! I demand a rematch!”

Link sighed, the most of a reaction Revali ever got out of him. “You just had your rematch.”

Revali whirled to face him with a flurry of agitated feathers and loose fletchings. “That didn’t count!” He screeched. Normally, Link thought Revali’s reaction to some things was a little overdramatic, but this time, it was understandable. “It wasn’t a fair match! Faulty and subpar equipment nullifies the final score! We will do a rematch, and this time, we’ll do it properly!”

“Why is it so important to you? You won.” Link massaged his tender shoulder, feeling the tears in the fabric and the stinging, scratched flesh underneath. Beneath that, the dull throb of a dislocated joint unceremoniously shoved back into place. He knows Revali only had a split second to act, but Link still would have appreciated it if the other champion hadn’t grabbed him on his already injured side. Revali’s beak dropped all the way open, as if Link said something completely outrageous. Honestly, Link was just tired.

“Do you think me unsportsmanlike!” Revali waved his arms in the air. “No one in their right mind would consider this outcome legitimate. Why aren’t you more upset! You nearly died because of that stupid paraglider, and because I was too careless to-- damn it! If I hadn’t caught you in time, you would have died! What is the matter with you!”

Link huffed. Of course this was a matter of Revali’s pride. He didn’t really beat Link if the reason he won so easily was because of an accident on the range. And, of course, the fact that such an accident occurred on his flight range in the first place. Even if the paraglider hadn't malfunctioned, Link was sure Revali would have beaten him anyways, he was always going to and surely they both knew it, but to Revali, it wasn’t about that, it was about proving it.

Link didn’t know enough about paragliders to know the one he borrowed for this was too big, and Revali didn’t realize Link wasn’t strapped in properly. Link still wasn’t sure exactly what happened, it was all a blur and blinding flash of sunlight. One moment he was trying to turn, and the updraft got stronger than he anticipated, and-- Link barely contained his shiver. He couldn’t even process it in the moment, that he was falling. Looking up at the bright sun, all Link knew in that split second of time was the shock of pain exploding throughout his body from his shoulder, and the way the blood completely drained from his face. He still felt a little nauseous, and wished Revali would stop harping on it as the rito champion ranted on and on. Link wasn’t angry. He just didn’t want to think about it.

Somewhere at the bottom of the ravine, the paraglider lay in a broken heap of canvas and splintered wood.

“Hey, Link! Are you paying attention?”

Link shakes his head, blinking rapidly to try and clear the cobweb of the memory. Like deja-vu, Teba stands all huffy above him. “Take the damn stew,” Teba barks, holding the bowl right in Link’s face. Link takes it. “What, you some kind of picky eater?”

“No,” Link mumbles, still a little dazed. “Sorry, just… lost in thought.”

Teba grumpily sits down with his own meal. “Well, cut it out. Now’s the time to focus, not be off in la-la-land. I need you with me if we’re going to face down Medoh together.”

“Sorry,” Link repeats, setting the paraglider aside and digging into the stew. It’s rabbit. It’s spicy. It’s good. Link decides not to tell Teba about the whole memories-and-visions thing. The no-nonsense warrior might see it as a liability. As he thinks it, Link frowns. It is a liability. It almost got him killed on Vah Naboris. The memories are getting not only more frequent, but more detailed, and more intense. He has to learn to control it, or one of these days, it’ll happen at the wrong time, when no one is there to watch his back, and that’ll be the end. “So,” he says between mouthfuls, “the plan?”

“Normal arrows won’t put a dent in those cannons,” Teba begins. “It needs to be bomb arrows. There’s enough stashed here for us to split, but they’re a precious commodity, so don’t expect this kind of freebie again. Also, this should go without saying, but it’s damn cold up there, enough for even me to feel it. You think you’ll be warm enough in that?”

Link shrugs, taking another bite. “I’ll have to be.”

Teba deems this an acceptable answer, and continues. “Last time we went up there, I noticed that the energy shield around Vah Medoh is rooted from the same places the cannons are mounted. There are four cannons total. A direct hit on the connector made it flicker for a second in that spot. My theory is, damage the base of the cannons enough, and that’ll shake loose whatever it is that’s projecting the shield. We’ll have to be precise, though. Attacking the mouth of the cannon won’t do jack sh*t but piss her off.”

Link nods along.

“I’ll draw Medoh’s fire. Wings will always be more maneuverable than a paraglider, I’ll have better odds at dodging her attacks. That’ll give you a chance to close in and really wail on those cannons. If you need to fall back or need support, signal to me and I’ll be there.” Teba pauses to shovel stew into his beak. “Once the barrier falls, we’ll be able to land. Then, we can talk next steps. That make sense?”

“Yes,” Link finishes his stew. “It’s not too different from the strategy we used to take down Vah Naboris. Though…” Teba looks at him in surprise, but Link just continues, “I should warn you, I don’t know how much you know-- on board Vah Medoh, there will be… a monster. A Blight, a manifestation of the Calamity, and the source of its control over the Divine Beast. We’ll have to fight and kill it. I don’t know exactly what we’ll be up against this time, but I do know it’ll be a hard fight.”

“Okay,” Teba pinches his brow. “We do not have time for all the questions I want to follow that up with, so I’ll stick to the practical-- what more can you tell me about these… Blights? Attack patterns, weak points, resistances?”

Link hums in thought. “It’ll be fast. The first one I fought was huge, the other was a lot smaller, but they were both fast. It’ll be strong. It’s not… made of flesh, but pure malice. Have you seen it?”

Teba nods slowly. “From a distance,”

“Hacking away at it enough will do enough damage to eventually kill it. They can hover, they’re armed with unique weapons… prioritize ranged attacks, keep distance… it might have elemental abilities, but I’m not sure yet if that’s a pattern. I’ve fought two and they were very different. It’s like each Blight was created specifically to destroy the champion it targeted.”

“They were what killed the champions?”

Link just gives him a solemn look.

Teba takes a second to let that sink in. “Anything else I should know?”

“Uh…” Link thinks for a moment, “I think… they’re weaker to explosions than they are to slashing or piercing damage. The last one, we blew it up from the inside.”

“With what, bomb arrows?”

Link shakes his head. “A sword.”

“A sword?” Teba looks like he’s wondering if he heard Link right.

“Yeah, well, the sword was explosive,” Link says, as if that clarifies anything. “They’re unconventional enemies, so sometimes you have to fight them in an unconventional way.”

Teba stares hard at Link for a second, then shakes his head and chuckles. “‘Unconventional’-- sounds like another way of saying crazy stunts. Heh. You know, my daughter’s a bit of a daredevil like that, too.”

Why’d he say it like that?’ Link frowns. Is it the girl confusion thing? Is he trying to imply Link is someone’s daughter? Whose? It occurs to Link that maybe he should correct Teba about that, but at this point it would just be awkward, so…

Teba continues, oblivious to Link’s dilemma in his fond recollection,

“One time, back when she still needed me to supervise her on hunting trips, she got stuck in close quarters with a Great-Horned Rhinoceros-- couldn’t’a taken off in time to dodge its charge, so you know what she did?” He doesn’t wait for Link to respond. “She threw a bomb arrow at it. Yeah, threw. It did the trick, but she came out of it with her brow-feathers all singed. It was stupid and reckless, of course, and Saki grounded us both, but I’d take a lightly-singed daughter over a gored one any day.” He smiles, which Link thinks looks kind of weird on his face after just seeing him frown so much. The wistfulness passes quickly, and Teba sets his bowl aside, stony-serious once more. “Let me ask you something… I know why I’m doing this. But why are you doing this? Why risk your life to bring down Medoh?”

Link’s brow furrows as he looks into the campfire. “Because… what else can I do? Just give up and let everyone be killed? It’s up to me to destroy the Calamity, so I’m going to. I never even considered anything else.”

Even without looking, Link can feel Teba’s heavy, searching gaze bore into him. The warrior sighs. “You’re crazy, kid. I respect that,” he says, and Link glances back at him. “My daughter, Rye… she’s almost done growing, so I’m working on a great-hunter’s for her, the bow she’ll use as an adult. That one I gave you, it’s a prototype of sorts. I think she’d look up to you, you know-- Din knows she needs more strong young women amongst her role models. So, if things start to go south up there, fall back. Don’t be cute and don’t be dumb. Don’t die. The last thing the world needs is more dead heroes.”

“You, too,” Link mutters, “I wouldn’t be much of a hero to your kids if I get their dad killed.”

“Yeah.” Teba stands, looking out over the horizon, at Stonespire in the distance. “It’ll be sunrise soon. You ready?”

Link stands as well, walking out onto the platform. His eyes are drawn to Vah Medoh circling in the paling sky, like a massive dark stormcloud. Like a phantom.

“I’m ready. Let’s go.”

Notes:

heheheheheheh >:) exciting.......

notes for this chapter, in no particular order:
- I cut out Teba's line about getting a warm meal to prepare for the fight because we're not using that particular game mechanic BUT I did accidentally end up referencing it with the stew, so we edited it to be a spicy stew to lean into it while reviewing the chapter
- not only do the yiga have early video games they also have cartoons. that yiga soldier knew the reference she was making but unintentionally foreshadowed her own slapstick-flavoured failure by implying she was the coyote. we think this is absolutely hilarious
- two memories in one chapter oooh hehe. the first one we tweaked a fair amount from the game's version to sprinkle in details from our prequel rewrite, but unfortunately that will not be getting posted for quite some time rip
- didn't mention it specifically but I like to imagine Link actually still has the ruby circlet on along with the snowquill headgear and is stacking the effects
- THE SNOWBOOTS SHOULD GIVE WARMTH PROTECTION AND THE SNOWQUILL BOOTS SHOULD COUNT AS SNOWBOOTS. OKAY. DAMN. also link is getting The snowboots here because we erased bozai from existence. deleted him from the timeline. good riddance
- Yea we gave Teba another kid hehe :) it just felt right we've had that oc sitting in our back pocket for like everrrrrrr. we will be meeting Rye in person later as well and I like her a lot she's fun :)
- link is never gonna get around to correcting Teba about the girl thing btw

chasing dragons - ThatOneFunAnon, cruisercrusher (2024)
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