Thursday, August 19, 2010

Chapter 14: The Royal Messenger

Link didn’t scream for long, but a corner in his mind was surprised that he actually did scream, for Link rarely screamed, even when he confronted Gohma for the first time. So why did he scream this time? Maybe it was because this Gohma was even more hideous than the first one. It was corpulent and bulky and waved about like a distorted mist. Its hideous facial features were gnarled and twisted beyond reason and proportion, and two monstrous-looking clawed hands writhed in anticipation for prey…

"I say, is something the matter, my dear boy? And who is this Gohma?"

The friendly voice made Link stop and behold whatever he was doing. After he had screamed, he had tried to back away on his hands and feet but only found a solid wall behind him. The voice had sounded the exact moment he had touched the wall. Surprised and confused, Link took a few moments to use his hands to rub his eyes. He discovered his vision was still blurry and continued to brush his eyes until he felt comfortable with them. He then turned to face the "Gohma"…and nearly gasped in surprised at what he really saw.

To his relief – and, sadly, his embarrassment – the thing standing before him was far from Gohma. But it was quite far from being a human as well. It stood just a little over Link’s own height but possessed a rounded plumpness that outclassed Link’s figure easily. The creature’s light brown skin decorated with large rock-like scales on its back made it appear like a living slab of stone carved straight from Death Mountain’s surface.

Link would’ve been afraid of the strange creature had he not seen the beast’s face. Shaped like an augmented dewdrop, the head possessed two interesting features. The first was its enormous mouth, which stretched across the face like a thick, rectified wrinkle. The kind of teeth found within this mouth Link could only guess, yet somehow the mouth seemed to display a smile of warmth and comfort that Link couldn’t help smile back at.

The second feature was the beast’s eyes. They looked like two round pieces of the stained glass windows Link had seen back at Hyrule Castle, yet these two "pieces of glass" possess an obvious fervor and kindness that seemed to tell Link something: "Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you." With the combination of the creature’s smile and eyes, Link finally calmed down and waited for the friendly voice to speak again.

To Link’s amazement, it was the beast that spoke with the voice. "Ah, so you’ve calmed down. That’s good. Was something wrong, my dear boy? And who is this Gohma you mentioned earlier?"

Trying to cope and take everything in at once, Link hesitated for a moment before answering, "I…i…it’s nothing. Really. I’m perfectly fine, thank you. I’m…just…a little dizzy, that’s all…" Just then, Link remembered his nightmare situation over the ravine and quickly blurted out, "Hey, where am I, anyway?"

The creature smiled at Link’s question before answering, "I see you’ve remembered your little ordeal by the gorge. Things have gone a little fast for you, haven’t they? I’d explain them to you, but I’m not good at that sort of thing. Are you strong enough to walk?"

Link looked at his legs and stretched them out, testing their muscles to see how much strength was left within them. Deciding to take a chance, Link lifted himself off the floor and stood up. He immediately felt stiffness coarse through his body, but he knew he could walk if he had to. He turned to the creature and nodded.

"Good. Then follow me. Kaepora Gaebora will be pleased to know you’re all right, Link."

Link nearly jumped in surprise. "Kaepora’s here? How is that…hey, wait. Tell me, is there also a pink fairy called Navi with Kaepora?"

The beast gave Link a blank stare before answering, "Sorry, I didn’t see any fairy with the old Owl when he came in. You’ll have to ask him when we meet him. But seeing as we’re on the subject of names, I might as well give you mine. I’m Malatite, pleased to meet you. Now, come on, we need to get going."

As Malatite turned to go, Link decided to ask something. "Just tell me one thing, please, Malatite. What exactly are you? And where in the world am I?"

Malatite turned his chubby head with a smile to face Link before he answered, "I was wondering when you were going to ask that again. I’m a Gororn, my dear boy, and you are in magnificent Goron City inside Death Mountain!"

Goron City wasn’t exactly magnificent as Malatite had called it, but it was still a spectacle for Link to behold. As indicated, the city wasn’t on the mountain’s surface, but under it; and its arrangement was far from that of a typical town, like Kokiri Village and Hyrule Castle New City. Instead of a single plain, Goron City consisted of an enormous cavern with dozens of rings racing around the wall, each one independent of all the others.

Because he was seemingly on the top "floor" of the cavern, Link could see that each ring was like a street, and each street possessed tunnels that were either homes or probably staircases to another level. Link also noticed that as the rings went lower and lower, they grew smaller and smaller until a ground space a little smaller than Hyrule Marker Square remained at the bottom.

One thing Link noticed was that each "road" had several strange looking boulders dotting its surface everywhere. Upon closer inspection, however, Link realized that they weren’t boulders at all; they were Gorons, all rolled into balls and cleverly disguised by the rocky designs on their backs. Puzzled by what they were doing, Link turned to Malatite for answers.

"What are they doing?" he asked, pointing at all the immobile Gorons.

"They’re sleeping, what else?" Malatite answered.

Wondering if he had been asleep longer than he had thought, Link questioned, "How high is Din’s Eye at the moment?"

"Malatite pondered for a moment before replying, "Nayru’s Gold is beginning to set over the horizon, but there is still quite a bit of daylight left. Why do you ask? Are you scared you slept for a long time?"

"Well, yes, that’s right," Link uttered before pointing again at the Gorons, "but why is everyone asleep so early?"

With that question, Malatite laughed. "Asleep so early? My dear boy, we Gorons sleep all the time! Practically any time of day is when we sleep; except, of course, when we work, play, eat…"

Abruptly, Malatite stopped speaking and his laughter died as well. He had apparently said something that he for some reason didn’t want to talk about, although Link didn’t see what. But instead of asking, Link remained quiet and allowed Malatite to regain his original persona. The Goron took a few moments to accomplish this before he finally continued.

"Anyway, I’ll take you to Kaepora Gaebora now. He’s just across there, waiting at the Sacred Stone altar." He then pointed across the enormous cavern roughly in the direction of its center.

Link squinted to see what Malatite was pointing at, but although brightly lit torched illuminated everywhere along the cavern wall, the inner section where the Goron indicated was almost pitch black. But then Link noticed something he didn’t notice earlier. A thick, sturdy-looking rope was attached to the edge of the floor he was standing on and disappeared into the dark center of the cavern. He looked around the ring and noticed several more ropes performing the exact same task.

The Sacred Stone altar Malatite mentioned was probably affixed to the end of all these ropes, right in the middle of the cavern in the murkiness.

Staring at the rope for a moment and unsure about setting foot on it, Link turned to Malatite and asked, "And how do we get across? I don’t think we can just walk across…"

"Of course we can!" Malatite answered with a smile, although Link couldn’t help but feel he had insulted the Goron. "We Gorons had to adjust to the unstable and dangerous sides of Death Mountain, so walking a rope is child’s play. If you don’t want to walk, then I’ll just carry you. Simple as that."

Before Link could say anything in response, Malatite reached out with his fat hands, grabbed the Kokiri by the shoulders, and placed Link on his left shoulder. Then, without asking for Link’s consent, the Goron headed for the nearest rope and without a slight hesitation stepped on it. Almost immediately the rope began to sway slightly, causing Link to hold his breath, but Malatite walked across the unsteady cord as if it were solid ground.

As the two headed into the darkness, Link felt like speaking but decided not to disturb the Goron who was walking a shaky wire over a very high fall. He turned instinctively to his shoulder to speak to Navi, only to remember that Navi wasn’t there. In fact, was Navi even with Kaepora Gaebora? Wouldn’t Navi have stayed with Link through his spell of unconsciousness? Why would she want to stay with the old Owl?

The signs pointed that she wasn’t waiting for him at the altar, yet Link still hoped she was. But then he remembered his decision to let go of the tree root and realized hope wasn’t something that usually went in his favor. He had hoped to return home after meet Princess Zelda but was now stuck on a quest for Spiritual Stones. He had hoped to climb the root to save himself but he abandoned the effort when he decided he couldn’t do it, despite hearing Saria’s pleas not to give up.

Why should hope go right for him a third time?

Navi tried to look up with her tear-filled eyes, but she found she couldn’t bring herself to do it again. Instead she returned her eyes to her bundled arms and began to renew her crying. Being a fairy wasn’t as different as being a human being. Oh sure, fairies had wings and held a special connection to the world of the Three Goddesses that humans didn’t possess, but the differences in essence stopped there. Fairies had similar bodies (albeit smaller ones), spoke the same language, and expressed the same emotions as humans did.

And now Navi was expressing a strong and overwhelming emotion: sorrow.

Sorrow over the death of Link.

When she had started her search for Link after the avalanche, she had hoped she would find him quickly. But she soon learned that everything the Owl told them about Death Mountain was true. With few visible landmarks, twisted air currents, and absolutely no sense of direction, the volcano proved to be an enormous maze located in the open.

With every passing moment she had grown more and more anxious, and her voice had seemed to grow louder and louder as she called out for Link. Sometimes the mountain had echoed her frantic voice; sometimes it hadn’t created even a whisper. The lack of response from anything but her own voice had only made her more determined to find her charge.

And now she had found him, but not in the way she had expected.

She cried for a few moments longer before forcing herself to look up again. It was painful, but she had to do it. With sheer determination, Navi lifted her head and gazed through her tear-drowned eyes at the bloodstained piece of green cloth caught between a tree’s roots above a deep ravine.

The condition and location of the cloth was self-explanatory. Link had fallen into the ravine, had tried to catch himself on the tree’s roots, but failed to do so. Without even looking Navi knew that the ravine was so deep and dark that she would probably never find Link’s body…

Link. She would never hear that name again except in memories, cheerful and painful. During her relatively short time with the Kokiri, she had never admitted to him how much she enjoyed being his fairy. Although they hadn’t always gotten along, Link had somehow always pulled through and had surprised even her stubborn pride.

And now he was gone forever, and had left a giant void she knew she could never fill. With Link’s death came the inevitable feeling of failure to protect her charge give to her by the Great Deku Tree, but something else eclipsed even that. It was the loss of a friend, a friend she never knew she had, a friend she never knew she wanted.

A friend she would never see again…

"Link, I’m sorry…" she bawled before burying her face in her arms again.

"Don’t cry, little one."

The voice came so suddenly that Navi thought it was a figment of her imagination and continued to cry. But the voice repeated its gentle message a second time, causing the fairy to lift its head and look around in confusion. She saw nothing except the mundane scenery of Death Mountain staring back at her.

She was about to believe she really had imagined the voice when it spoke again. "There’s no need to cry, my dear Navi. The one you’ve been sworn to protect is alive and well, and you shall be reunited with him again soon."

Hearing those words was enough for Navi to take flight into the air in amazement. Her pink light, which had been radiating in sorrow, was now sparkling in hope. If Link really was alive, then maybe she hadn’t failed in her duty as his guardian fairy after all. Maybe it was his fault entirely! After all, he was the one who strayed from Kaepora in the first place…

But deep inside Navi knew her exuses couldn’t hide the fact that she was to blame just as much. She hadn’t stayed with Link at all times and look where he was now: not with her. She could try and be professional about the situation as hard as she could, but she suspected she was going to virtually break down when she was reunited with Link.

Her friend.

But a few things were still unanswered. "Who are you?" she called out to the mysterious voice. "Where are you? And where is Link…?"

"All will be answered in due time, my child," the voice interrupted with its soft tone. "For now, you must follow me to my sacred garden. You will play a vital role in the Child of Destiny’s growth."

"What are you talking about?" Navi demanded, almost angry that the strange voice wasn’t answering her questions. "And why won’t you take me to Link? I demand you take me to him…"

"Follow me," the voice whispered gently, as if it hadn’t even heard Navi. "My sacred garden is this way. Follow me."

Navi was about to protest when she felt something come over her. It was a bizarre yet strangely familiar feeling, and it triggered something in the fairy that made her turn in a certain direction. She didn’t know why, but she headed in that direction as if it led to someplace important. As she did, she heard the mysterious voice whisper to her again.

"Yes, come, my child. Come to my garden and all your questions will be answered. You may think you’ve failed your friend, but one of your greatest achievements is yet to come."

Navi didn’t even answer anymore. Instead she just continued to fly, fly in the direction of an unknown destination…


"I see, so Navi’s not here."

Link tried to hide his disappointment and worry from Kaepora Gaebora, but he soon discovered the Owl could notice things even in the pitch darkness of the Sacred Stone altar platform.

"Don’t worry, my dear boy," the Owl uttered gently. "I’m sure she’s just fine. You’ll be reunited with her in due time. But right now Time is precious and we can’t afford to waste a second of it. You know why we’re here, and we need to do it before…what’s wrong? Is something the matter? Are you still upset about…?"

"No, it’s not Navi," Link lied, wiping away a tear. He then quickly came up with an excuse to answer the Owl’s inquisitive gaze. "It’s just that…I’m still not exactly sure what’s going on. How did I get here? I thought I was going to die back at the ravine." Link didn’t add he was going to do it by his own hand. "And you, why are you here underground?"

Because it was so dark in the middle of the cavern, all that Link managed to see was an Owl-shaped silhouette with an eerie pair of eyes glowing because of the distant torchlight. Kaepora’s shadowy head cocked to the side slightly before he answered, "So, you’re still a little slow on what’s happened, is that it?" He spoke as if he almost knew about Link’s lie. "Well, I guess it won’t hurt to bring things up to speed.

"After the avalanche separated us, Death Mountain performed its mysterious tricks by causing me to lose all sense of direction. By the time I could see again – the strike on my back nearly blinded me, you see – I had lost the original spot entirely, along with you and Navi. And since my magic can’t be used for tiny glimpses into the future, I was practically blind anyway. So I was forced to search for you using only my eyes.

"I probably would’ve never found you had I not spotted movement by a ravine…"

"So you were the one who saved me from falling," Link interjected suddenly, wondering why both Malatite and Kaepora resembled Gohma in his delusional state.

"Please," the Owl said gruffly, "let me finish. It wasn’t me that saved you from the ravine. That honor doesn’t belong to me. As I was saying, I spotted movement by a ravine, which I thought might be you. But it turned out to be a sleeping Goron that had just woken up. It was the first time I had ever laid eyes on a Goron ever since…well, since I was very young. The young Goron was startled by my arrival at first, but he eventually listened to my problem of finding you.

"Quicker than you’d think a Goron can move, the young lad goes off to find some friends to help aid in the search for you. Gorons are masters of Death Mountain. They can see and hear things that non-mountainous beings can’t. I was told that the Goron who found you did so because he heard you talking to yourself. Yes, Gorons may sleep most of their lives, but they’re very quick when they need to be.

"After you were carried here unconscious, Malatite – the best Goron doctor of all, in my humble opinion – nursed your wounds and dried the blood out of your eyes. You’ll notice that you don’t even have scars on your palms from where they bled." Link looked at his palms and saw, even in the dim light, that this was remarkably so.

"But wait a tick!" Link abruptly stated, suddenly thinking of something. "If you knew about the Gorons, why couldn’t we have just asked them to help us in the first place? It could’ve saved us a lot of dangerous searching time…"

"Maybe," Kaepora grumbled, "but you have to understand that it’s very rare for someone to lay eyes on a Gororn, even someone such as myself. I only saw him by chance, and that chance saved your life. And Goron City is well hidden within Death Mountain slopes, so it could’ve taken days to locate the city’s entrance. The only reason we’re here is because of your mistake to wander too far from me."

Realizing that this was true, Link’s face cringed in shame before he averted his eyes from the Owl’s illuminating gaze. But Kaepora didn’t give the Kokiri time to feel sorry for himself before he continued with some surprising news:

"But I must say, your mistake has generated one of the most remarkable cases of good fortune for us. You see, my dear boy, we have located the Spiritual Stone of Fire."

Link nearly jumped when the Owl said this. "We have? Where?"

"It’s right beneath my feet," answered Kaepora with an Owl-like smile in the dark.

Unable to say anything in response, Link looked down to Kaepora Gaebora’s claws and discovered that the Owl was perched on a thin slab of stone jutting from the platform. He quickly realized that this must be the Sacred Stone altar that Malatite had mentioned. He reached out towards it and felt it, expecting to touch a magnificent jewel like the Kokiri Emerald in his pouch – he quickly made sure he still had his pouch with the Stone and his ocarina, and he did.

But there was nothing there, nothing except a few large indents in a peculiar shape that he didn’t understand. Confused, he looked up to ask the Owl a question but Kaepora beat him with an answer already.

"Actually, I should’ve said that the Stone should’ve been right under my feet. You see, Link, the Spiritual Stone of Fire – called the Goron’s Ruby by some – once resided in this altar. It was kept here to keep it safe from any thief that might, by some remote chance, enter Goron City and steal it. However, recent circumstances have forced Darunia, the leader of the Gorons to take it away from the altar for safe keeping."

"And what circumstances are that?" Link asked.

"The rock shortage," answered the Owl.

"What?" Link boomed with a loud voice, his eyes wide open in puzzlement. "What in the world could you mean by that? There are hundreds of rocks…"

"There’s another thing you should know about Gorons," Kaepora interjected. "Gorons eat rocks, but not just any rocks, mind you. You see, Gorons have grown accustomed to eating a special type of rock, a rock filled with various minerals and quartz and a certain luster…you get the picture. They’ve eaten this rock and just this kind of rock for so long that they refuse to eat anything else.

"The special rock is found and mined in only one area of Death Mountain, and there’s only one entrance to that mine. However, recently the mine’s been blocked off so the Gorons can’t enter it. And it gets worse. Reports that Dodongos now inhabit the cavern have been confirmed, and…"

"Dodongos?" Link inquired, his confusion growing.

"Well, that doesn’t matter right now. All that matters is that the cave is blocked and the Gorons can’t eat their delicacy. Did you notice Malatite? Did you see how uneasy he was when he mentioned the word ‘eat’? Yes, I have very sharp hearing. But you noticed that, right? The Gorons are practically starving to death, and they refuse to eat anything else. However, some Gorons did get the idea of tasting the Goron’s Ruby to see if that might satisfy their tastes at all.

"So Darunia was forced to take the jewel from the altar to protect it. And now he won’t let anyone in his private quarters. And now you know as much as I can tell you."

"Well, not all," Link thought but didn’t say out loud. Instead he uttered, "So what are we going to do to get the stone?"

"I don’t know. I’ve heard a rumor that Darunia sent a message to the King of Hyrule to help rid the precious mine of Dodongos, but that was over a fortnight ago. I can’t be certain, but I’m sure the messenger was too weak to carry the message all the way to Hyrule Castle New City. The rumor is accompanied by another rumor that states Darunia will only allow the King’s messenger inside his room.

"And right now we don’t have the time to go all the way back to Hyrule Castle to ask the King for assistance. So unless we can get Darunia to talk to us, we’re in a fix at the moment."

The Owl was right, Link admitted reluctantly. Unless there was a way to get to this Darunia fellow, they were at an impasse. How were they going to get him to let them in his chamber? He suddenly wished that Zelda were with him to help him. Even Impa, were she here, could…

Wait a minute! Impa! With a cry of excitement Link remembered something important that Impa had taught him. He reached for his pouch again to make sure it was still there, and when he confirmed it was he turned to Kaepora and declared, "Where’s this Darunia? I think I have a way to bring him out."

"You do?" Kaepora asked, intrigued. "What’s that?"

A little glad that Link finally knew something that the Owl didn’t, he uttered with a sly look, "Show me the way to Darunia and I’ll show you."

"Very well," Kaepora answered, spreading his wings out to stretch them. "Darunia’s chamber is on the very bottom level. It’ll take a while for you to use the stairs, so I’ll fly you down there."

Link nodded, although he was a little disappointed with the Owl’s quick agreement to his idea. He had hoped to enjoy his success of knowing something the Owl didn’t for a little while longer, but now that was impossible. Sighing in silent defeat, Link braced himself as Kaepora lifted a little into the air and grabbed Link’s shoulders with his claws.

"They’re a little looser than I remember," Link thought as Kaepora lifted the Kokiri into the air and left the Sacred Stone altar platform. While the two glided down towards the bottom of the cavern, Link wondered where Navi was. He still hadn’t quite gotten over her not being with him, but by now he had managed to hide it quite well from the Owl.

"I’ll find you again, Navi," he thought to himself. "If you’re still out there, alive or no, I’ll find you if I have to search all of Death Mountain alone. I promise."

They reached the bottom within a matter of moments, and after setting Link on the ground Kaepora perched on the edge of the next ring-floor above. Link took his time to survey the area. The ground level was a little smaller than he originally thought, but it was large enough for almost half of Kokiri Village to live in comfortably. It was empty save for several burning torches and an enormous jar that stood taller than the next level.

At each end of the "room" was a single tunnel. One visibly held a set of stairs that undoubtedly led to the next ring. The other was most likely Darunia’s room. Link guessed this because an enormous stone slab blocked it.

"So how are we going to lure Darunia out?" the Owl asked from above.

"Like this," Link answered before reaching for his pouch and pulling out the Fairy Ocarina. The Owl was surprised, but he kept quiet as Link took the sheet of paper with a song written on it and went over the notes. The Kokiri then lifted the instrument to his lips and began to play the forbidden tune.

He never expected at that moment that he would get it right. Despite his practicing on the road to Kakariko Village, he always felt he could improve on his playing somehow. But that was just practice. Now he had to play it for a purpose, and somehow that factored into his playing. It was as if the ocarina felt his need to play the prohibited melody and reached out to help Link do his task.

"The ocarina is alive…" Saria’s voice whispered in his mind.

He played the song once through, but that was enough. Moments after playing the final note, a great groan erupted through the cavern and the stone slab covering Darunia’s door began to open. The tablet was lifted through the rock by some unseen force – probably a hidden array of pulleys or something like that – and it stopped with a dull thud when it completely disappeared in the stone.

The entrance to Darunia’s room was dark, but Link knew what he had to do. He turned to Kaepora and said, "Wait here. I’ll see if I can talk Darunia into giving me the stone."

"Very well," the Owl replied. "Go right in, but don’t be too rash. A Goron’s pride can be dangerous when mixed with anger."
Nodding in agreement, Link took a deep breath before stepping into the darkness of the room. From somewhere inside, he could here the sound of heavy breathing…

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