Ocarina of Time audiobook- Chapter 8: Journey to Hyrule Castle

Chapter 8
Journey to Hyrule Castle Link just wanted to go home. Weeks ago, the chance to adventure into the
wide and unknown expanse of Hyrule would have filled him with wonder. Even though home could be boring sometimes,
he knew he was safe. At home, his biggest worry was a bully named
Mido and his not-terribly-bright lackeys. Mido didn’t seem like a big deal compared
to what Link had encountered since venturing out of the forest. Did the Great Deku Tree make a mistake? Had he been so close to death that he’d been
unable to think straight? It was possible, Link thought. Perhaps he was never meant to leave the forest. But then… No. Saria had known he would leave, and so had
Kaepora. The mizzle that persisted through the small
hours of the night dampened his mood. He sat in the doorway of the stables, his
arms sore after an hour of helping move boxes into Talon’s cart. He hadn’t slept much, and despite Talon’s
suggestion, he did not want to rest. His hand still stung from being burned, despite
the salve Ciara had given him, and his thoughts kept drifting to the previous night. The boxes Link had been carrying were laden
with bottles of milk and enchanted red ice. Navi told him that only mage fire could make
it melt, and it helped keep the bottles of milk cold. They were also quite heavy, and Link only
managed to load three boxes onto the cart. On his fourth run, he tripped straight over
a chicken. Both crate and boy went crashing to the earth,
bottles tumbling from the box with a loud crash, splashing milk across the ground. The chicken hobbled off to its coop, clucking
angrily all the while. Talon came rushing over, as did Tingle the
cat. The latter was only interested in quickly
lapping up the milk before it soaked into the ground. Talon shooed the animal away, earning a sulky
glare from the feline in the process, and seemed more concerned with Link than the broken
goods. Link was fine, but Talon’s assurances that
it was all just an accident, and not a big deal, left him feeling like a clumsy idiot. Talon sent him to sit down and have a rest,
leaving him to the company of Navi and one of the rancher’s friendlier hounds, the same
one that kept drooling on his face in the middle of the night. Nosy was a young, spritely dog with a white
patch of fur upon his muzzle. Having given up on trying to convince Link
to throw a stick, and growing bored of chewing on Link’s boots, he was now sitting with his
head resting on Link’s lap, staring with doleful puppy eyes. Getting the hint, Link yielded to the dog’s
request and idly scratched its ears. Nosy rolled his eyes, grunting with doggy
contentment. Link watched Malon and Talon as they made
their final preparations to depart. Talon was harnessing a horse, yawning loudly
as he did so. Judging from Ingo’s gruff tones, Talon had
somehow tangled the horse in its harness. Malon quickly came over and offered to fix
the problem, leaving the two adults to keep grumbling. Nobody was in a particularly good mood, not
even Malon, which was to be expected. “C’mon, Link,” Talon called as he finished
checking the tack. “Climb on the back, and we’ll be off.” “Sorry, Nosy,” Link said apologetically. He stopped scratching the dog and got up. Nosey lay down in the straw, tail wagging,
and rolled onto his back in a gesture of “Can you scratch my belly?” Link almost obliged but Talon called him,
‘Hurry up! We can’t stand around here all day getting
nothing done.” Link could have sworn he saw Ingo pause and
raise an eyebrow, the wagon’s cargo briefly forgotten. Talon, none the wiser, was already walking
off towards one of the storehouses. Ingo followed after him, whistling a command
to Nosy. The dog took off, trotting towards the farmhand. Link trudged wearily over to the cart and
clambered onto it. Navi landed on top of one of the boxes, her
eyes inadvertently drifting to the blackened ruins. Link didn’t follow her gaze. He wanted to block out the memory of what
had happened. With the heavy smell of smoke still wafting
from the wreckage, that was no easy task. They had spent a short time sifting through
the ruins, trying to see if they could salvage anything. The farmhands had helped Talon do this, insisting
that Link and Malon didn’t need to join them. There had been little left to find, save an
odd toy critter that belonged to Malon. Link’s first impression was of a small pillow
with a leaf-like embroidery fashioned to resemble a face. Malon called it a Korok. Somehow, it had survived the inferno unscathed,
unlike most of the trinkets they found. Malon was walking towards him, wearing a large
cloak over her dress to keep out the winter chill. The woolen wrappings were too large for her
and dragged along the ground. She held a bundle in her hands, offering it
to Link. It turned out to be another cloak. “Here,” she said. “Da’ says you will catch a cold if you don’t
wear something warmer.” “Thanks,” Link replied, throwing the woolen
garment around his shoulders. It was warm, snug, and very heavy. How did anybody move in one of these things? Malon climbed up beside him. Each lost within their own thoughts, they
just sat for a while, the silence almost stifling. Link was glad when the crunch of earth announced
Talon’s arrival. “Well, I think we’re ready. Or as ready as we can be,” Talon’s eyes drifted
to the ruined farmhouse and then back to the two children. “If we get moving fast enough, we’ll be able
to have a hot meal at the other end. How’s that sound?” he grinned but the smile
never quite reached his eyes. “You said that last time,” Malon complained
sourly. “We ended up with cold stew.” “Well…” Talon’s grin faded slightly. “We’ll see what we can do this time.” The rest of their small party arrived, forming
a tight gathering around the wagon. Talon spoke a command to his horse, and with
a lurch, the wagon trundled out of the gates. Link sat in silence, watching the walls of
Lon Lon grow smaller. Soon the cart rounded a hill and both town
and ranch vanished from sight. As the morning mist cleared, they revealed
the verdant meadows of Hyrule Field beneath a cold winter sky. The frost that still clung to the grass glimmered
in the dawn light. Five soldiers rode beside the cart like an
honor guard, dressed in full armor with a helm that covered their faces. Ciara also joined their somber group. She rode at the head of the party, preferring
a small amount of solitude. They were nearly a third of the way to Kakariko
when Malon finally spoke. “Father says he’s taking me to Ordon after
he finishes his deliveries tomorrow,” Malon said. “I’m going to stay with my cousins for a while.” “Is he going to stay with you?” Navi asked, seizing the opportunity to make
conversation. “I hope so,” Malon said, staring away from
Link. “My cousins are kind of annoying.” The heavy silence returned, and it seemed
half an eternity before Malon spoke again. She drew a deep breath, fiddling idly with
her hair. The fact that it looked so dishevelled, when
she usually kept her hair neat, was not surprising. “Thanks for saving me,” Malon mumbled, blushing
at her own words. “You were really brave, fairy boy… I woke when I heard someone turning the door
handle. I thought maybe it was you or dad… but,
I never thought-” Her voice faltered, and she looked away. “There was someone else in the house?” Navi finished for her. Malon gave the barest nod, still looking away
and not uttering a single word in reply. “I was scared too.” Link admitted. Feeling uncomfortable, he decided to change
the subject. “Is Epona going with you? To where your cousins live?” “No. She’s staying on the ranch. Benard and Gavin will take good care of her.” Malon said. “They like Epona. Ingo only hates her because she kicks him
every time he gets close enough. Most of the horses don’t like him.” “I wonder why?” Navi muttered sarcastically. Link gave her a look, but before she could
respond, the wagon came to a sudden halt. Talon’s horse- Swift- moved a few steps, snorting
and whinnying as she did so. Even from where he was, Link could sense the
animal was afraid. “What’s going on?” Malon asked. “Wait here,” Talon called over his shoulder. “I’m just going to check something.” “Check what?” Navi asked, zipping up into the air to get
a better look. Gerudo? Link thought apprehensively. Knowing it wouldn’t help Malon, he tried not
to let his fear show. Nothing threatening emerged from the surrounding
hills. Nobody else shared the road, and there had
been no outcry from the guards. So what was wrong? “The guards spotted something, that’s all,”
Navi shouted as she scoped out their surroundings. For the first time, Link could hear voices
raised in consternation. It sounded like the guards were having an
argument. Link considered clambering on top of the crates
to have a look but then decided that was a bad idea. Instead, he jumped off the wagon. “What are you doing?” Malon shouted. “Da’ said to wait!” “I’m not going far!” he called over his shoulder. He rounded the front of the cart. The first thing he noticed was that Talon’s
black mare was gazing ahead with wary eyes. The cause of her concern seemed to be the
guards who’d clustered around something. Malon clambered into the front of the cart,
glanced ahead at the guards, and then turned her attention to Swift. Talon, who was halfway towards the guards,
called out, “What is it?” “A deer,” one guard called back. “Not much left of it.” “Poor thing, ” Talon said with dismay. “Must’ve met foul of a bear.” “This doesn’t look like the work of a bear,”
another man said, stepping sideways to make room for Talon. “Look here.” He gestured at the ground. “I might not be a tracker, but I can tell
those aren’t bear pawprints.” Link tried to catch a glimpse of the deer,
but there were too many people crowded around it. He wandered towards the group, noticing Ciara
standing in their midst. He finally caught sight of the deer and suddenly
wished he’d stayed where he was. Just as the guard had said, there was not
much left to see. Nothing but congealed blood, bone, and bloodied
fur. Bile rose in his throat, and Link turned away
from the horrific sight. He couldn’t get the disturbing picture out
of his mind and wherever he looked there were signs of a struggle. Specks of blood splattered the flattened grass,
and not far away, hoofprints marked where the deer’s flight had ended in blood and pain. There were paw prints too, far too large for
an average farm dog, and oddly shaped for a wolf. “Wolfos,” Navi muttered with a grimace. Link looked around at the guards. One of them appeared to have reached the same
conclusion, but his companions were not so easily convinced. “It was definitely a wolfos,” Ciara affirmed. “Gods.” One of the guards swore. “Never heard of them beasts travelling this
far south of the mountains before. First the raids, then a bloody Gerudo attacks
Lon Lon. Now more wolfos? This isn’t normal, it’s witchcraft I tell
you… err… meaning no offence, my lady.” That last comment was directed at Ciara. “The king has to do something soon, or people
will be in an uproar,” said another guard. “I’m sure he will.” The faintest trace of worry betrayed Ciara’s
stoic countenance. Link looked around, half expecting a wolfos
to come charging out of the grass and attack. He could almost feel the beast’s hot breath
against the nape of his neck, and the sudden agony as its jaws clenched shut on him. He’d die… just like the deer whose bloodied
remains lay scattered in the grass. Close as he was, Link noticed the stench of
blood that hung in the air, and it was little wonder Swift was afraid. “Link! I thought I told you to stay where you were.” Link whirled around. Talon was standing behind him, worry written
across his face. “It’s alright, boy,” he said, offering Link
a gentle pat on the back. “C’mon, let’s get you back in the wagon.” “Are we going to be attacked by wolfos?” Link blurted out, voicing his uncertainty. He didn’t feel courageous; this sort of thing
just wasn’t supposed to happen to a Kokiri. Talon regarded him for a moment, his expression
grim. He traded a glance with Navi and sighed. “I should’a made sure you didn’t see that,”
he said quietly, sounding annoyed with himself. “Wasn’t a pretty sight, poor thing.” He glanced back at the deer and then gently
added, “We have some of the finest soldiers in Hyrule and a Sheikah with us. They’ll keep us safe, you’ll see.” With a hearty grin, he clapped Link on the
shoulder and steered him back towards the cart. “Come lad, on you get.” “You okay?” Navi asked him quietly as they reached the
wagon. “Fine,” Link muttered, joining Malon on her
perch. She looked about ready to say something, but
her worried eyes conveyed her pity. Link wasn’t fine. and judging by her pained
expression, Navi knew he wasn’t. ~ 0 ~ As Talon had promised, there were no further
signs of any wolfos. Despite this, Link couldn’t help but notice
how the guards now spread out and seemed far less casual than before. There was less laughter and most of the conversation
seemed muted. He didn’t remember taking out his slingshot,
but for the longest time, he sat with with the weapon in hand, idly turning it over and
over as he gazed at the countryside. “Would you put that away,” Navi hissed after
a time, landing on his shoulder and giving the slightest nod towards Malon, who was casting
glances at the slingshot and chewing her lip. Link put the weapon away, and the trio- Navi
included- fell into another forlorn silence. Afternoon finally came, and they stopped by
the bridge across the Zora River’s wide exapanse, deciding to let the horses rest. For Talon, this meant a good opportunity to
take a nap. Link took this chance to clamber down the
stony bank and rinse his grimy face. He noticed a few children were fishing nearby. Some of the younger ones were splashing each
other with water, laughing themselves giddy with glee, or chasing their attackers and
screaming with delight as they ran. I wish it were like that for me, Link thought
with a pang. Not a care in the world. Navi directed his attention to a shack that
stood perched a little further up the river’s edge. There was a sign nailed to a nearby post:
Fisherman’s Shack. Zora are advised to take care when swimming
near the river’s edge. “How’s a Zora going to read that if they live
underwater?” Link wondered when Navi read it. “Beats me,” Navi answered. At Malon’s suggestion, they decided to head
inside. The interior of the shop reeked of gutted
fish. The fisherman didn’t seem to notice as he
handed Malon a bucket of squirming bait and then passed Link two fishing rods. Sickened by the horrible odor of dead fish,
Link was glad to lead the way out of the shack. As they climbed down the shop’s front steps,
Link could hear the man whistling merrily. “I don’t think he can smell,” Link muttered
to himself as he made his way along the bank. They found their own spot by the shallows,
and the calmer atmosphere soon began to melt away Link’s somber mood. Malon seemed more cheerful herself and was
soon humming away quietly. It didn’t take long for Link to attract some
attention. After a little while, the younger children
who’d been focused on their water fight, all younger than Link, judging by their height,
were all ogling at him and Navi. They looked away every time Link peeked at
them and whispered fervently amongst themselves. “Honesty,” Navi said, peering out from under
his cap and looking unamused. “You could probably try eating some of the
fish bait if you want to get rid of them in a hurry.” Malon scrunched her face in revulsion. “Eww… that’s disgusting!” Link looked down at the bucket of wriggling
bait and couldn’t help but agree with Malon. The Kokiri lived off the land, and while they
were seldom fussy, most of them weren’t that gross. Link had eaten grubs once after Mido told
him he had to or else he was a wimp. “Sorry. Ruin your appetite?” Navi asked. Link shook his head. He was not feeling that hungry anyway. He looked up the hill towards Talon’s cart. Ciara stood near the wagon, silent and still. Though the hood of her cloak was up, Link
knew the woman was watching them closely. “She’s scary, isn’t she?” Malon asked as she noticed too. “A little,” Link agreed. “Her eyes are creepy.” “I heard Sheikah can kill you just by looking
at you,” Malon said. “Yeah right,” Link replied, shooting her a
look of total disbelief. Malon did have some strange ideas, or maybe
it was just something to do with Hylians. Not being careful, Link almost threaded his
finger on the fishing hook. “Ouch!” He jerked his hand back. Then, fumbling with unsteady fingers, he finally
threaded one of the wriggling worms onto the barb. He cast the line, smiling in satisfaction
when he heard a faint plop. “See, I told you it was easy,” Malon said
cheerily. That was when something yanked on Link’s fishing
line. Hard. “Oooh, you caught something!” Malon squealed with delight. “Quick. Reel it in!” Whatever it was, it yanked even harder, ripping
the rod from Link’s hands. He flung himself after it, snatching at the
rod with both hands. As he did, a milk-white humanoid creature
emerged from the water, and Link nearly scrambled back up the bank in shock. It wasn’t a fish at all. It almost looked like one, with water glistening
off the fins that jutted out from its arms and legs, and the cartilage over the back
of its head that was shaped like a fish tail. Is that a Zora? Link wondered, having never seen one before. It looked rather angry, its black eyes narrowed
and its face contorted into a scowl. Opps. Realizing he’d accidentally snared it on his
hook, Link jumped to his feet and scrambled up the rocky bank. Malon followed him until they reached the
top and then, gasping for breath, they tumbled into the grass. When they did, Malon burst out laughing. “You- you caught a Zora,” she sat up and pointed
at the Zora who was still shaking a fist at them. Unable to keep himself from joining in, Link
laughed as well. It felt so good to laugh, even though he was
in painful stitches. Ciara shook her head with exasperation and
shuffled off down towards the Zora. The other kids on the bank had long since
scooted away, and meanwhile the owner of the fishing shack was telling the Zora off. As he did so, he jabbed a finger at a sign
on the front of his cabin. Then he stormed off, tugging his hat as he
did so. By the time Link finished laughing, he was
almost certain he’d cracked a rib. That was when he noticed Ciara standing over
him, the tiniest hint of a smile breaking through her Sheikan mask. Link quickly composed himself, stood up, and
offered an apologetic smile. “Err… w-we weren’t doing anything wrong,”
he stammered nervously. “We just-” “You may wish to return these,” Ciara said,
holding out two fishing rods. “And do try to stay out of trouble.” “I don’t look for trouble,” Link said. “It just finds me.” “Hmm…” Ciara mused, sounding like she didn’t believe
him. “So I’ve noticed. We need to move soon, so I suggest you hurry… Unless you would prefer to walk?” “No thanks,” Link said quickly. “Then hurry up, and you girl-” Malon squeaked,
startled as Ciara addressed her. “Yes, mistress Ciara?” she asked nervously. “Do try and wake your father up quickly,”
Ciara said with an air of amusement. “What-” Malon glanced back at the wagon. “Oh.” Talon was indeed asleep. Somehow, he’d slept through the entire commotion. The guards appeared not to have taken any
interest either. Most of them were sitting in a circle around
a small fire while several of their comrades watched the surrounding hills. Once they returned the rods, the fisherman
grumbling all the while about Zora thinking they own the joint- which they technically
did- and an annoying young Zora who’d once stolen his hat as a joke, Link and Malon found
Talon still asleep. Malon shouted, shook him, and even slapped
him- much to Link’s surprise- but his snores continued unabated. Not giving up just yet, Malon retrieved a
bucket from the cart and stormed off down to the river. She quickly returned, water slopping out of
her bucket, and stomped over to the wagon. Link almost grinned, realising what she was
about to do, but Navi didn’t look like she approved. Just as it seemed like Talon was going to
be sopping wet, he stirred and yawned. Realizing that Malon was standing next to
him with a pail of water, and knowing just what she intended, he jumped to his feet. “Aright, alright, I’m up,” he said sleepily. “Just give me a sec.” “He’s harder to wake up than you,” Navi muttered. Link ignored her and quickly trotted back
to the wagon once more. ~ 0 ~ After the encounter with the Zora, the somber
mood that clung to their journey evaporated like the mist on a spring morning. Link found the rest of the journey to Kakariko
more enjoyable. They crossed the wide stone bridge, which
offered a view of the nearby docks on one side, where tiny boats bobbed up and down
in the river current. On the other side, the river followed the
contours of the land, weaving between grassy plains and forested hills. Link watched the passing travelers and the
animals grazing in the nearby pastures with a rapt interest that Malon didn’t share. He pointed out the peddlers and wagons that
carried a curious array of shiny trinkets that Link had never seen before. Curious to know what they were, he pestered
Navi and Malon with an endless barrage of questions. Malon got bored rather quickly and decided
to have a snooze. Navi was a little more obliging and even seemed
determined to keep him occupied for a while. It was night time when they finally arrived
at the outskirts of Kakariko. They didn’t stay in the town itself, though
Talon did not say why. Instead, the wagon came to a halt outside
a small farm off the main road that belonged to Ciara. Wanting to keep Link away from prying eyes,
she decided it would be a good place to stop for the night. Link felt bad for this, even when Talon reassured
him it was not a big deal. Dinner was a simple meal of lukewarm soup. Malon complained bitterly until Talon promised
her something nice for lunch the next day. Once their bowls were empty and cleaned, the
two children were ushered off to bed. “Why’s somebody after you so badly?” Malon asked when they curled up in their beds. The question left Link feeling distinctly
uncomfortable. A part of him just wanted to sink under the
sheets and not come out. She probably wouldn’t believe him if he mentioned
that he was being hunted by a powerful sorcerer. She didn’t know as much as Talon or Ciara
did, and he was forbidden to tell her any of it. Navi glanced at him from the bedpost and shook
her head. “I don’t know,” he lied. The words left him with a bitter aftertaste,
like bile on his tongue, but he did his best to ignore it. Talon spared him an awkward silence when he
opened the door. “You two alright?” he asked, when he noticed
that both of them were quiet, despite being wide awake. “We’re fine, papa,” Malon said. “Good to hear,” Talon replied. “Got an early start tomorrow. You both best get some sleep. Afraid it’s cramped quarters, so we’re all
sharing a room.” Link groaned quietly as Talon strode over
to the remaining bed and sat down. With a tired yawn, the man kicked his shoes
off and then lay down. It seemed like only a few heartbeats later
that his loud snores filled the room, loud enough to wake even the dead. I don’t think I’m going to get a lot of sleep,
Link thought glumly. He didn’t think any of them would. Except Talon. ~ 0 ~ Before the first tendrils of light crept across
the winter skies, Link dragged himself out of bed with no small amount of grumbling about
being tired and prepared to leave with the others. Talon was last up as everyone else swallowed
a breakfast of warm porridge mixed with fruit. When they left the warm confines of Ciara’s
home, the frigid winter wind seemed to snatch the warmth from Link’s bones. He sat shivering on the back of the wagon,
wrapped in a cloak and blanket, trying to get some extra sleep as the wagon rattled
its way down the road. Every bump in the road jostled him, and tired
as he was, sleep evaded him. By dawn, they were traveling back over the
Zora River. The hours went by and then, as the sun rose
to its zenith, they finally arrived at Castletown. Navi roused him from his fitful slumber. Rubbing sleep from his eyes, Link stretched
and peered over the stacked crates. The road ahead ended at what Link thought
was a long stone pier that reached halfway across the river where it met a drawbridge. At the far end of this bridge was the immense
archway of the gatehouse, with brightly coloured flags adorning it. The wall stood as tall as many of the trees
in the forest, its broad length interrupted at regular intervals by even taller guard
towers. Squinting, Link was sure he could see guards
patrolling the wall. As Link took all this in, his fatigue vanished
at once, and he simply gawked, enraptured by what he was seeing. He leaned further out the cart, trying to
snatch a glimpse of the city itself. A stern word from Talon quickly sent Link
sinking back into his seat. As the cart rattled across the drawbridge,
Link couldn’t quite puzzle out why it looked so familiar. He didn’t stay fixated on that oddity for
long. Soon they were over the bridge and on their
way into the town. Two guards stood by the gate, looking rather
bored. One was muttering to himself, stopping as
he recognized Talon to whom he smiled and gave a nod. “Mornin’,” Talon greeted him. Link wished he had a few more eyes. An array of brick, stone and wood closed in
on him from both sides. Colorful flags draped the walls of many buildings. Elaborate signs hung from shop awnings, beckoning
potential customers inside. Link couldn’t hear himself, or even the familiar
rumbling of the cart, amidst the clamor of musicians and people talking or shouting. “It’s huge!” he said in astonishment. They approached a plaza adorned by an elaborate
structure of carved stone with water cascading down its sides and into the basin below. “That’s a fountain,” Navi said when Link asked. She was bombarded by dozens of questions as
Link tried to take in the dizzying plethora of sights, sounds, and smells. Stalls lined the edges of the square, and
Link caught a whiff of freshly baked bread amidst countless other smells. The scent of fresh fish, herbs, and other
goods pervaded the air. Link wanted to check out everything and wished
Navi would stop saying no. “What about that?” he asked, pointing to a
building from which drifted the pleasant sound of music. “I think that’s a tavern, Link,” Navi said. “What’s a tavern?” “Somewhere you’re not allowed.” “Why?” “Because it’s where grown-ups go.” At a look from Link, she added, “Hylian grow-ups.” The tavern was soon behind them, and Link
busied himself with checking out what else there was to see. Hawkers cried their wares, including some
shiny trinkets that Link wanted to examine. Link’s ears soon picked up the soft trill
of a flute as its melody pealed through the square. Finally, the cart stopped. Seeing a stall that was selling some delicious
looking sweets. Link clambered to the edge of the. He stared longingly at the trays filled with
stuffed pastries, rolls topped with honey, and buns smeared with sugary cream. They looked far more delicious than the porridge
he’d eaten that morning. “Where do you think you’re going?” Navi asked, her stern tone making him all
too aware that he wasn’t meant to leave the cart. Link groaned, wishing Navi would at least
try to share his excitement, and then resigned himself to just looking around. It wasn’t long until Talon returned, presenting
him and Malon with a freshly baked pie to make up for yesterday’s deliciously cold soup. When Link received the pie, and the wagon
was once again moving slowly through the crowd, he bit into his meal. relishing the delicious taste of the hot gravy
and spicy meat. Link quickly consumed the rest in record time,
leaving nothing but scattered crumbs behind. He licked the grease off his fingers smiling
as he finished. “Do you ever eat slowly?” Malon asked when she saw this. Link didn’t answer, for his attention was
focused on something else. The path to Hyrule Castle lay before them. It was a broad street that meandered between
tightly clustered buildings, rising up the hill towards the enormous keep that loomed
above all. The tall walls that wreathed the royal residence
made Link think that sneaking inside would be nearly impossible. All too soon the wagon slowed to a halt outside
an inn named ‘The Silver Mare.’ A tall gentleman with balding hair, and wearing
an apron with a white horse embroidered on it, greeted them. “Talon,” he called cheerily. “Was about sure you weren’t turning up. What took you so long? Your brother’s been here looking for you.” “Sorry, Galad,” Talon said as he swung down
from the wagon seat. “Ran into a spot of trouble on the ranch.” Galad and Ciara shared a glance as the woman
strode over to greet him. “Damn wolves getting to your herd again?” Galad asked Talon sympathetically. “Belon told me something had happened, but
he wouldn’t say what.” “I’ll tell you later,” Talon said with a subtle
gesture towards Malon. “Care to help me unload some of this?” He gestured a thumb towards the cart. No sooner had he done so than two young men
emerged from the shadows of the inn. “Oi’ shove over, kid!” one called, and Link
almost glared. He jumped off the wagon, Malon following suit,
and the men began unloading some of the boxes from the cart. “So, this is the young lad I’ve heard about?” Link froze as he felt Galad’s eyes on him. “Well, no use standing there, boy. Say your goodbyes and come on inside. You must be freezing.” He gave a nod to Talon and went back inside
the inn. Link stared after him. How did that man even know who he was? “Go on, Link, Ciara will see to your needs
from here,” Talon said. He gave Link a hearty pat on the shoulder
and then spoke with gentle seriousness. “And.. if you need somewhere to stay, once
things are settled down and all, I could always use an extra hand on the ranch… you’d be
more than welcome.” “I… thank you,” was all Link could manage. “Remember that lad. We’ll be back soon enough. C’mon Malon. Time to go.” Talon turned towards the cart, leaving Malon
beside Link. To Link’s shock, she hugged him, and he returned
the gesture. Awkwardly. “I’ll miss you, fairy boy.” “You too, Malon,” Link mumbled, feeling a
little embarrassed. “That’s the last of them, Talon sir,” called
out of the youths carrying another box over to the inn. Link was surprised they’d managed to unload
six boxes so quickly. “Well, best be off. Malon, let’s go!” Talon said, stopping as he looked over his
shoulder. Malon met Link’s eyes for a moment, and then
returned to her seat on the cart. “Come. Let’s get you inside.” Link almost jumped, turning to find the Sheikah
healer just behind him. “Aren’t we going to the castle?” Link asked, eager to explore it. “It’s best if you wait here. I’ll bring someone to meet you. Don’t worry, Galad’s a good man. He’ll take care of you.” Ciara ushered Link into the inn. Galad gave Ciars a cheery greeting from behind
a counter as she gave him a few rupees and then directed Link upstairs. The Sheikah left, promising to return soon,
leaving Link and Navi waiting in the confines of his room. As the day wore on, the afternoon shadows
grew, and the sun disappeared behind the castle’s tall towers. Ciara didn’t return. ~ 0 ~ Having finally caught up on some much needed
sleep, Link found himself restlessly pacing up and down the room, once again idly playing
with his slingshot. He peered out at the bustling city streets,
but there was no sign of the Sheikah. Another woman came in with a tray of food,
and when Link asked her where Ciara was, she just shook her head and offered him a smile
before leaving. Trying not to worry, Link scoffed down the
peppery stew and kept waiting. Soon his stomach was twisting itself in knots,
anxiety making him wish he hadn’t eaten so fast. “What if she doesn’t come back?” Link asked eventually, pacing for the umpteenth
time. “She will,” Navi said, casting a distracted
glance out the window. Link wondered if Talon and Malon would still
be in the market. Maybe they could help him find Ciara, or even
get into the castle. Hadn’t Talon been off to see his brother? That, Link thought, might be his way in. Deciding to find them, Link made his way downstairs. Galad quickly spotted him and steered him
back upstairs. “She’ll be back soon. Don’t you go worrying yourself,” he said reassuringly,
ushering Link back into the room. Not to be dissuaded so easily, Link waited
until he heard the man’s footsteps descend the stairs. Once they faded, he walked over to the table
and hauled it over to the window. It was a difficult task. The table scraped and bumped with each shove
and Link hoped nobody downstairs could hear it. Finally, with the table against the windowsill,
he opened the shutters and peered outside. Navi protested loudly, but he ignored her. Clambering out onto the tiled roof was the
easy part. “Ahh… Link. We really should wait.” Navi said as they looked up and down the street. “This is a bad idea.” “Navi,” Link turned to her, determined. “Ciara would have come back by now. Something’s happened to her, and how do we
know we won’t just be found again?” Navi went silent, and Link knew she agreed
with him. There was a reason the Sheikah hadn’t come
back. He didn’t want to wait at the inn until Ganondorf’s
people found him, and he knew they’d cause trouble in the inn. A lot of people would get hurt. Link slowly made his way along the roof, careful
to make sure none of the tiles were loose before he stepped on them. He didn’t think it was that different from
climbing a tree; you still had to consider each movement carefully to avoid tumbling
into the air. He tried not to think about that; the mere
thought of what would happen if he wasn’t careful made his stomach thicken with nausea. Swallowing his fear, he considered his options. There weren’t many. The stones looked far too smooth to climb,
not at all like a gnarled tree trunk. Jumping onto the balcony of the inn’s second
story was just asking to be caught. There was another balcony that wrapped around
the building next to the inn. An alley ran through the narrow space between
the two buildings, but it wasn’t far to jump. He could make it. “Link, why don’t I like that look?” Navi asked. Link was smiling, almost mischievously, as
he made up his mind and peered over the edge. Knowing that Navi would not approve, but certain
it was completely safe, he didn’t say anything. He just jumped and felt an exhilarating rush
as he landed feet first on the balcony. He rounded the corner of the porch and came
to the front door of someone’s house. At least, he thought it was a house; there
wasn’t a sign to announce the building’s trade. He peered over the edge of the balcony to
stare in fascination at the street below. Then Navi flew in front of his face, scowling,
both hands firmly on her hips. “You and I need to have a good talk about
being careful,” she said, anger brimming in each word. “I was careful,” Link said. She shot him a doubtful look. “No, you weren’t. Just…” she sighed, “Just wait for me next
time.” “Okay,” Link said absently. He moved away from the balcony railing in
case any of the inn’s patrons or staff noticed him. It occurred to him then that he hadn’t given
much thought on what to do after he’d left the inn. Find Ciara, he thought. Or get into the castle. That was going to be tricky. How was he supposed to find his way around
this city? Would Talon be able to help him, or would
he just send Link back to the inn? Maybe finding Malon wasn’t such a great idea. He knew staying at the inn would just lead
to Ganondorf finding him yet again. Link was so busy thinking, he didn’t notice
the door beside him open. Not until it nearly knocked him over. “What are you doing?” an angry voice bellowed
from behind. Link jumped back from the door, accidentally
upsetting a flower pot beside him. He cringed as it toppled over with a tinkering
crash. Opps. The rather large woman standing in the doorway
glared at Link, then her eyes went to the broken pot, and then back to Link, who managed
a sheepish grin. Without a word, Link took off at a run. He could hear the woman shouting angrily as
he bounded down the stairs and off into the street. Once he was sure he wasn’t being pursued,
Link slipped into an alley and tucked himself in behind a barrel. Navi joined him, still scowling. “I tell you to be careful, and then you go
breaking things. Honestly, Link. You might not get away so easily next time.” “I didn’t mean to break the pot,” Link protested. “She startled me.” “I know… just…” Navi drew a breath and let it out, the fury
melting away. “You don’t know much about this place, and
there are still people looking for us. A city is not a place that you can fool around
in or play to your heart’s content. It isn’t safe. Your sword and the stone might make you a
target for anyone wanting a few spare rupees. You have to be careful, okay?” Link wasn’t entirely sure he understood, but
he nodded anyway. “Okay,” he agreed, meeting her eyes. “Good. In that case, we better get moving. The faster we get to the castle the better.” They left the alleyway and Link slipped into
the crowd of people. Navi decided to lead them on an indirect route
towards the castle. This way, there was less chance of being spotted
than if they took the main thoroughfare to the gates. Despite this idea, the side streets seemed
no less crowded than the main road, and wandering through the crowd of tall Hylians was proving
to be a daunting experience. They moved so fast and never took much care
to avoid walking straight into him. More than once someone bumped into Link and
nearly sent him toppling onto the cobblestones. Most cursed or yelled at him for being in
their way. Link didn’t hang around to listen to their
angry tirades and hastened on his way. Why is everyone in such a hurry? he wondered. Are they all this cranky? With the odd exception, it was like being
surrounded by dozens of grumpy Ingos. Link swallowed the nervous lump that rose
in his chest and pressed on, not allowing himself to be intimidated by the forest of
people, despite their size. As they continued along the narrow avenue,
Link noticed that some of the children playing along the edges of the street were eyeing
him with suspicion, even hatred. Once, three boys followed him, and there was
something in the way they looked at him that frightened Link. He’d been beaten by Mido’s friends more than
once, and he recognized the threat in their eyes. He knew he stood a good chance against them,
but after what had happened to Mido, he didn’t want a fight. Heeding Navi’s warning, Link hastened his
pace and quickly tried to lose them. He detoured, noticing that Navi was angrily
cursing herself for letting him escape the inn. Their detour led Link into a less wealthy
part of town. It smelled horrible and several wagons were
collecting what looked like dung. As Link decided to head back for the main
road, sure he was no longer being pursued, a beggar grabbed him, his dirty fingernails
digging into Link’s arm. The state of the gentleman’s clothing, the
smell of it, and the sight of his decayed teeth, made his grin truly terrifying. Never had he seen something so wretched and
destitute. By reflex, Link’s free hand snatched at his
sword, and then it was the beggar’s turn to step away, letting go of Link’s arm. Torn between apologizing for nearly drawing
his sword and the need to flee, Link fled, unable to form the words. After that, Link was nearly ready to head
back to the inn, despite the danger involved. For all he and Navi knew, Ganondorf’s spies
might already know he was staying there. Navi offered to fly back and offer the beggar
a rupee but Link didn’t want to be parted from her. He sat by a stall selling fruit, letting himself
recover. The stall owner must have thought he was lost,
for she took pity on him and gave him an apple. Link took it, considered going back to give
it to the beggar, but then he spotted one of the children he’d seen earlier lurking
in the shadows. Eager to avoid confronting them, Link abandoned
the thought and made his way back to the main road. Ahead, he saw a building with an insignia
of two swords painted onto its rather worn sign. Navi read the insignia for him. Death Mountain Smithies- It’s Dangerous to
go alone, take these! Another shop front featured a pile of cages,
each with a squawking chicken. They did not look too happy with their accommodation
nor were they particularly friendly. The sign in front of them read- Highly Aggressive
Hylian Cuccoos. The perfect solution for any farmer looking
to remove foxes or wolves from their land. Navi scoffed when she finished reading it. “Yeah, like anyone will believe that.” At one street corner, Link spotted a shop
with a picture of two masks, each wearing a broad and beaming smile. The sign at the front of this store read,
“Happy Mask Man’s Shop- Magical Masks to suit all your needs.” This gave Link an idea. “I wonder if they sell masks that can make
you invisible?” he asked. Navi frowned doubtfully, but he continued
on anyway, “It might help us get into the castle.” “I have never heard of any masks that can
do that,” she said. She paused, pursed her lips, and then added,
“Except one.” Link looked up at her questioningly, and Navi
continued. “Remember how I told you I was there when
the Great Deku Tree was cursed?” Link nodded. “You think it made the Desert Man invisible?”
he asked. “That or it made him impervious to the wards
protecting the forest… or both,” Navi said thoughtfully. BANG! The shop door burst open, almost tearing off
its hinges as it crashed straight into Link. The blow stunned him, and for a moment, he
barely realized he’d just slammed into the cobblestones. “Damn it!” a woman yelled. “What is it with you people and not watching
where you’re going?” Breathing through the pain, Link looked up
and his insides froze. Standing at around twice his height with olive
skin, red hair, and white clothes was a Gerudo. He scrambled upright, almost heedless of the
pain throbbing through his head. He reached for his sword and the woman snorted. “Do yourself a favor, kid,” she said, sounding
amused. “Don’t even try.” Knowing it was useless, and having failed
miserably last time he’d tried to take on one of her kind, Link moved his hand away
from his sword. The smile on the Gerudo’s face was positively
terrifying. He took a step back, swallowing nervously. The woman rolled her eyes. “You do realize that If I was going to hurt
you, I wouldn’t be standing here staring at you?” Link backed away a little more, wondering
if he could quickly slip into the crowd and run before the Gerudo had a chance to pursue
him. As light as he was on his feet, he didn’t
think he could outrun her. Then she said the words he’d been hoping he
wouldn’t hear. She was staring at him, an odd curiosity flickering
in her eyes. “You’re that forest boy, aren’t you?” she
asked slowly, looking him up and down. “The one that went missing a while back?” She knows who I am, Link thought, gulping. He was ready to run. It was possible the crowd on the street behind
them would slow her down. Or was that a futile thing to hope, and she’d
haul him all the way back to her king? He vowed not to tell her anything. “I don’t know how you arrive here, but I won’t
tell anyone that I saw you. A few days ago, I might have, but-” the Gerudo
paused, all trace of her smile gone. She looked troubled. Then, she shook her head. “Never mind, I doubt a boy like you would
understand. I’m not sure I do yet. A lot is going on, and this town is not safe… Sheikah murdered in broad daylight. I’m telling you, kid, this place is the pits. Do yourself a favor and get as far away from
here as you can. Give that stone you carry to the Sheikah. They should never have burdened you with it,
let alone make you bring it here. You can do that, can’t you?” “I… I can,” Link squeaked. “Good. If you go the docks on the other side of the
city, you might be able to find a barge going up north.” Without another word, she darted off, leaving
Link and Navi staring after her. Boy and fairy glanced at each other, neither
voicing what the other suspected: The Sheikah meant to guide them to Hyrule Castle was dead,
and this Gerudo knew far more than she should. “We’re on our own,” Link mumbled. Not for the first time since arriving at Castletown,
he felt alone and afraid. Everything about the city seemed unnatural
and strange. He wanted to find Malon and Talon, he wanted
to go back to the woods. He wanted to find somewhere that was familiar. There was a comfort in familiar things, but
as Link stared up at the faces staring down at him, he found none of that. He was surrounded by people, lost in a forest
of stone and totally alone. “We can’t give up now, Link. Come on, let’s see if we can find something
in here.” Navi encouraged him. “I’m sure we can still find a way to get into
the castle ourselves.” Feeling a little numb, Link nodded and walked
through the door of the mask shop. He entered a spacious room, bedecked with
a nauseating display of bright colors and oddly fashioned masks. Ribbons draped the walls, and a rug of royal
blue covered the floor. It was the masks that really got Link’s attention. There were masks of animals, masks with broad
smiles (Link thought these were creepy), and masks with their faces twisted into a feral
snarl. There were others that Link couldn’t even
begin to contemplate what they represented, and some that seemed to whisper to him. “What is this place?” he wondered aloud. It looked weird. All these grinning masks made his spine tingle
and the hairs on his neck stand on end. It was as if their eyeless slits were somehow
watching him, scrutinizing his every move. As if in answer to Link’s thoughts, a high
pitched voice broke out in song, startling him so much that he actually jumped. Link located the source in a heartbeat- a
mask, its face decorated with a lavish smile. “What is that?” Link asked as the merry singing continued
in what he assumed was total gibberish. “A talking mask,” Navi said, sounding very
unamused. “How annoying.” “What’s it doing?” “Singing a Hylian carol.” “Oh, don’t mind that.” A voice called cheerily from behind them. “That’s just his way of saying hello. That there is one of my finest creations,
and quite handy when you’re in the back of the… well, I haven’t seen you around here
before have I?” Link spun around to see a man standing behind
the counter. Having heard no footsteps, or the creak of
an opening door, Link was almost convinced he’d simply appeared out of thin air. This gentleman was a lanky fellow dressed
in blue robes, his pointy ears poking out beneath his neatly combed red hair. He was hunched over slightly, but despite
his ailment, his smile spread from ear to ear and he clapped his hands together in apparent
delight. “Uhh… hi,” Link said, feeling greatly unnerved
by the elaborate gesture. The mask by the door finally stopped singing. Link breathed a quiet sigh of relief and was
pretty sure Navi did as well. Still trying to take in the array of masks
lining the shelves, he approached the counter, not quite able to shake the sense that every
one of those masks was watching him. A tome, lying flat on the countertop, caught
his attention. Though he couldn’t read the words, he glimpsed
a picture of a heart-shaped mask. The shopkeeper quickly snapped the tome shut,
and Link almost jumped at the force of it. “I didn’t see anything,” he said, voice straining
from nerves. “Honest.” “One cannot help the curiosities of such a
young mind, but a boy like you must be careful,” the man chided him. Great, Link thought. He sounds just like Navi. The similarity ended there. The man’s smile widened again, and he gestured
with an elaborate bow. “Well, in that case… ah, where are my manners? Welcome my dear friends,” he said, opening
his arms wide. “Welcome to the Happy Mask Shop! It’s always so delightful to see a new face. We sell the finest masks from all of Hyrule
and beyond. Masks bound to give you everlasting happiness!” This guy was seriously weird. Some of the masks, the few that weren’t grinning,
looked more like they were intended to frighten someone to death and bring everlasting sleep
rather than happiness. No wonder that Gerudo had been so eager to
get out of the shop. “Umm…” Link managed, swallowing before he tried again. “Your sign says you sell magical masks?” “Indeed I do.” The man beamed. “We have a lot of masks. Hmm… Let me think.” He tapped a finger on his chin and glanced
sideways at Link, looking him up and down like a tailor fitting a patron. “Ahh… yes. Some of these would go nicely with your costume.” He waved a hand at the masks on one side of
the shelf behind him. Amongst the dozen or more on the shelves,
Link spotted a yellow fox-faced mask. There was another which seemed to be a rather
demented looking smiling skull and a third was a bright yellow hat with floppy bunny
ears. “How about this one?” the man gestured at
the bunny-ears mask. “It would fit perfectly with your costume,
and I dare say you would look splendid.” Link blushed, and Navi burst out laughing. “No?” the Mask Man asked when Link wrinkled
his nose in disgust. “No thanks,” Link said. He shot Navi a death glare that quickly stifled
her mirth. “And I’m not wearing a costume; I’m a Kokiri.” “Of course you are,” the man said dismissively,
clearly not convinced. “Not to worry. I do like a tricky customer from time to time,
but fear not, you won’t come away disappointed.” He clapped his hands again. “Do any of the other masks take your fancy?” “We are not from around here,” Navi said. “We are from the woods near the edge of Faron
Province.” The man’s small eyes spotted Navi. As if he only was noticing her for the first
time, he squinted and frowned. “A boy and a fairy. How intriguing… very intriguing indeed,”
he mused softly. Before smiling, and chuckling as if he’d just
told an elaborate joke. “Forgive me, forgive me. I thought you must have been a child with
a pet fairy.” Navi stared daggers at the word “pet”. “I’m after a mask that makes you invisible.” Link said loudly, his face going red. “Please? I really need one.” “Invisible?” all trace of the man’s smile
vanished. “No, my dear boy, I’m afraid I don’t have
anything like that.” His eyes fell upon the scars across Link’s
face, and he grimaced. “I was sent a shipment of invisible masks,
but it seems they never arrived, for when they did, the box was empty.” A flicker of annoyance passed over the man’s
face. “I am terribly sorry, boy. I can’t help you, but If you change your mind-”
he gestured towards the group of kids masks. “No, thanks.” Link left without another word. He didn’t like the strange blue-robed Hylian
and decided he’d rather be as far away from him as he could. As they walked out of the shop, Navi gave
a snort of laughter. “What?” Link asked as he shut the door. “Oh, I was just thinking how cute you would
look in that bunny hat, what with that green-” “Hey!” Link protested, blushing furiously at the
idea. He nearly bumped into someone as he stepped
into the crowd, was tempted to return their angry frown, and then asked Navi to guide
him. Still aware of what happened to Ciara, Link
and Navi kept in the thick of the crowd and hoped nobody would spot them easily. Link feared the Gerudo might go back on her
word and send someone after him. The sooner he was away from the mask shop
and the inn the better; nobody would know where to find him. As he got closer to the castle, the crowd
thinned out, and Link spotted something large and orange next to a stall that sold armor. He took it for a six-foot-tall orange boulder
until he noticed it had arms and legs as well as a pair of eyes. “Uhh… Navi. What is that?” he asked. The creature’s mouth moved as he spoke to
a Hylian beside him. The man was about the same size as Talon,
and even then, he barely came up to the giant’s shoulders. “That’s a Goron. They’re the ones who made your sword,” Navi
replied. “What?” Link asked, confused. “Kaepora retrieved it after they brought it
part way.” Link thought his sword would have looked like
a butter knife in the Goron’s hand. A very sharp butter knife. “Come on, Link,” Navi said at length. “We should keep going.” Link left the stall and reached the gates
stood ahead. They were open wide, but even as Link thought
about it, there was no way he was getting in there. Soldiers in uniform stood guard and more watched
from the wall. There were at least twenty, and their hard
stares didn’t look friendly. No getting in that way, Link thought. “You want me to try flying in?” Navi suggested. “I don’t know the person Ciara was going to
meet, but I could try to find either them or Zelda.” He didn’t like the idea of waiting on his
own while Navi went hunting for Zelda. What if she couldn’t find him again or worse
a Gerudo showed up and grabbed him? That very thought made him look around at
the thickening throng, but none of them resembled a Gerudo. “Let’s have a poke around first,” he said. Just as he spoke, he felt a hand in his pocket. He spun, saw a boy pull his hand away, and
realized they were holding Saria’s ocarina. Caught, the boy started to run. Caution forgotten, Link charged after him. “Give that back!” he cried, all rationality
giving way to a wave of seething hot anger. The boy entered an alley, and Link was only
a few steps inside before he realized his error. Suddenly, where there had been one child,
there were five surrounding him. They were taller than he was and they looked
mean. One glance and Link knew they were not well
off; dirt stained their clothes, they wore no shoes, and their hair was unkempt. He was reminded of the beggar he’d seen earlier. “You look like you’ve got some interesting
stuff on you,” the tallest boy said smugly. “Think we might just take a look-” His eyes turned to the boy with Link’s ocarina,
who was busy tussling with one of his companions as they tried to take the instrument from
him. The others stopped their argument when they
felt their leader’s eyes on them… at least, Link assumed he was the one in charge. “Hey, what you got there?” The tall boy stared at the thief holding Link’s
ocarina. “It’s just an ocarina…” the thief replied. Link watched the boy turn it over in his hands,
resisting the urge to fight and rip it free. “Think I might just keep it.” His grin was mocking. “Might fetch me a few rupees.” “It’s mine!” Link said fiercely. That drew their attention back to him, and
the tall one scowled. “You watch your tone.” He stepped forward. Link swallowed, and without moving, he tried
to open his awareness to his surroundings. There were two ways out, both blocked. One led deeper into the warren of alleys,
where Link was certain he’d encounter more trouble, the other led back into the crowded
streets. A third option, climbing the walls on either
side of him, seemed impossible; the stones were too smooth, with no nooks or handholds. “How about we search him?” one kid suggested. “Bet that swords worth a bit. Wonder what he’s got in his satchel too.” The boy in front of Link made a move as if
to push him, and Link stepped back, nearly bumping into the two other kids behind him. He knew he couldn’t go any further back. He’d have to fight… even if his instincts
were screaming that this was wrong. “Careful,” one of the others cautioned. “I bet he can use that thing.” “Pfft…” the eldest laughed. “Look at him! He’s barely old enough to be a squire.” “I reckon he’s a girl,” another piped up. “Look, he’s even wearing a skirt.” Link felt the heat rise in his face as laughter
rippled around him. Fury rose in him, and without thinking, he
drew his sword. The effect was instant. The mocking laughter ceased and there was
a moment of tense silence. “I can use it.” Link said, trying not to let his fear show. The tallest boy’s eyes turned from fear to
outrage. “Are you threatening me?” he asked, drawing
a knife from his belt. Link didn’t say anything, his eyes fixed on
Saria’s ocarina. One boy made a loud, “Oooooh.” “Shut up!” his friend hissed, then he turned
his gaze on Link. “Don’t be stupid, boy. Give us your pretty sword, and whatever else
in those pockets of yours and you might still have some teeth left after we’re finished
with you.” The others balled their fists, and their leader
held up his knife. Link’s mouth was suddenly very dry, and his
sword hand was trembling unsteadily. “Oi! City guard! Stop right there!” a voice boomed. Several of the boys swore, as did their leader. “Run!” somebody cried. Seizing the momentary distraction, Link lunged
at the boy holding Saria’s ocarina. He had no intention of causing harm, but the
feint worked. “Here take your stupid ocarina!” the thief
threw Saria’s instrument, and Link’s breath caught in his throat as it fell. He wasn’t close enough to catch it in time,
even as he reached out to snatch it into the safety of his hand. Thoughts of Saria’s ocarina, shattered and
broken, flashed through his mind, but before he could reach it, a blur of light shot past
him. Navi grabbed the ocarina by the mouthpiece,
nearly knocking herself out of the air. Turning swiftly, she dropped it in Link’s
palm, and then swiftly spun around, hollering, “Pick on someone your own size next time you
rotten cowards!” Link looked up and saw the guard rush past
him, five of his companions in tow. Then, as his pounding heart slowed, and the
heavy thuds of steel boots faded into the distance, Link stood there, feeling tears
come to his eyes. Trembling and overwhelmed, he clutched the
ocarina, holding it close. He’d come so close to losing it and the emerald. Again. It made him feel weak, powerless. “Link, they’re gone now. I managed to get the guards attention. When he saw you, he got help… Oh…” Navi’s words came in a hurried rush and then
faltered. “It’ okay. The ocarina’s safe… we’re nearly there.” “I promised Saria I’d keep it safe,” Link
mumbled, turning his eyes to the instrument, a hot rush of tears blurring his vision. Stupid, he thought, blinking and feeling ashamed. I hate crying. He should’ve been able to fight back, even
knowing it would have ended with blood spilled. Navi fluttered to his shoulder. “They’re gone now… I’m sorry I couldn’t warn you faster.” Link sniffled. “I hate it here. Everyone’s so mean… or weird.” “You alright, kid?” Link looked up, startled when he realized
that one of the guards was looking down at him. “Did they take anything from you?” he asked more softly. “No.” Link shook his head. “I got it back.” “Glad to hear it.” There was a gentleness to the man’s tone that
calmed Link, much like Talon’s. “Are you lost? Where are your parents?” “I’m not lost.” Link was glad that he managed to sound more
confident. “I…” suddenly unsure of whether or not to
tell the truth, he stepped back. All that armor and the man’s spear made for
an intimidating sight. “I… I’m okay… thank you.” The man looked confused by Link’s reaction. His eyes went to Navi, and his confusion only
seemed to intensify. Without another word, Link bolted. He left the main road, far more cautious now,
his steps carrying him down a side street which ended in a muddy lane. This one seemed empty, save for a dog sniffing
in a gutter. Ignoring the hound, Link kept his sword drawn. It felt strangely comforting. He’d just have to hope the guards wouldn’t
notice; having his sword drawn would probably grab their attention. It also meant that nobody else bothered him. There were some trees here that had grown
close to the castle’s wall, their lower branches pruned to stubs. The largest tree grew right over the wall
itself, and most of its canopy was still intact. Normally, the tree would have been difficult
to climb, if not impossible. For a boy who’d grown up in a tree house,
it was an easy challenge. “Link, I’m not sure that is such a good idea,”
Navi said when Link pointed this out to her. “It’s not that high,” Link assured her. “I’ve climbed higher in the forest.” “And almost killed yourself according to Fora.” “Did not,” Link retorted, earning a skeptical
frown from Navi. “We have to get the stone to the princess,
and we don’t have a Sheikah to help us anymore.” Navi muttered something under her breath,
but Link ignored her. A house near the tree blocked it from view
from the main road. Nobody would see Link climbing until he was
a good way up. He was hoping no one would see him at all. He looked up, trying to find the easiest way
up and started climbing. He grabbed onto the cracks and knots in the
wood, heaving himself up and making sure he was steady before finding another hold. Navi guided him to the stubs of the branches
that had once formed the lower canopy. It was a slow climb, even though it was not
that high. Finally, after what felt like an eternity,
Link reached the branch by the wall. He pulled himself up onto it and then, gripping
the branch with arms and legs, he slowly slid across on his belly like a tree lizard. He looked out at the wall and saw there was
nobody nearby; most of the guards seemed interested in the gate. Stairs led down from the wall not far from
him. He could sneak in that way. The branch was too thin nearest to the wall
and probably wouldn’t take his weight, so after some quick thinking, he jumped onto
the rampart. “Yes, we did it!” Link said with small laugh, earning a loud
“Shhh!” from Navi. Scanning the wall to make sure nobody was
coming, Link turned to take in his vantage point. He could make out the sea of buildings that
formed Castletown’s Southern District, with roads threading their way between the tall
structures, people moving along them like columns of marching ants. Colourful awnings draped the edges of the
market. From here, Link could also see flags atop
some of the houses. There one bearing the symbol of a bear, another
the head of a wolf surrounded by a wreath, and a third green banner bore a tree. Another displayed the sigil of a red lion
upon a sea of blue. Hadn’t he seen that flying from the Castle
gates as well?! To the east of the southern square, an enormous
temple rose high above the surrounding buildings, a grand edifice of marble and steepled towers. A single tower at the rear featured a white
dome that gleamed in the afternoon sun. To a small degree, it reminded him of the
Forest Temple in the Lost Woods. “What is that?” Link asked, pointing towards the temple. “That’s the Temple of Time,” Navi explained. Looking nervous, she added, “We shouldn’t
stand here. Let’s-” she stopped abruptly. “Oh no.” A gasp startled Link, and he looked left to
where the stairs met the wall. He caught sight of a young girl and a boy,
both looking shocked to see him, their eyes went wide. Link stepped back, and as he did, the solid
stone beneath him gave way to nothingness. Before Link could even comprehend his error,
he was falling.

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