Thursday, August 19, 2010

Chapter 15: Bargain with a Brother

Dusk, a time of day that was both special and troublesome for Zelda. Troublesome because the beautiful face of the sun disappeared over the horizon, and destiny never foretold whether or not it would rise with the dawn the next morning. Special because the descent of Din’s Eye bore many wearisome concerns of the day along with it, including many of her own. Dusk was indeed a paradox, a savior and an omen, a potential blessing and a possible curse.

Just like Link, she realized.

Link had been gone several days now – exactly how long she couldn’t recall – but she always felt as if he were right by her side all the time. Although she no longer thought about him without feeling an overwhelming burden of guilt, she still couldn’t think about him without a sense that she had to apologize to him. Frequently she thought about her asking him to collect the two remaining Spiritual Stones and whether she had done the right thing. After all, she had her own reasons for wanting the Spiritual Stones that she hadn’t told Link.

She even wondered if sending Link out like she did was a wise idea. She didn’t know why, but there was something about Link that made her uncomfortable. She hadn’t noticed it when he had been at the castle, but thinking about him day and night led her to make several conclusions about him.

The most evident one – to her, at least – was that Link was hiding something very important from her. But the most interesting part of this conclusion was that Link didn’t even know he was hiding this secret from her. It was as if the secret was hiding itself!

Realizing she was thinking too much, Zelda sat down on a nearby bench and hung her head with a sigh.

Her father’s Royal Gardens were a lot bigger than her private one, and they seemingly contained a far greater variety, although in reality they merely possessed more of each. However, they did have one thing that Zelda’s garden didn’t have: wildlife. Whenever Zelda wanted to have isolation from the rest of the world, she went to her personal garden, but to feel accepted and relaxed with the world she came to the Royal Gardens. The wildlife – hares, tree rabbits, goldtail finches, silverback parakeets, and other creatures found in the Gardens – gave her comfort that seclusion sometimes couldn’t provide.

As Zelda sat upon that bench, her mind slowly taking in the beauty of her father’s Gardens and unwinding to a calm state, she began to recite a poem written during the time of ancient Hylian folk ballads. She closed her eyes and softly clasped her hands in prayer-form as she spoke:

“Give me a day that is without my crown and I’ll show you my love.
Bring me a moment when worries are gone and I’ll show you my love.
Make me a promise of eternal Time and I’ll show you my love.
Wish upon days that we only we find and I’ll show you my love.
Take me to worlds that you have created and I’ll show you my love.
Show me a kiss with passion inspired and I’ll show you my love…”

At that moment, before she could continue with the poem, an image of Link filled her mind. She had pictured Link many times before, but this time she knew why she was thinking about him this time. She opened her eyes quickly in awkwardness and immediately felt the warm effects of embarrassment flood her face.

“Really, Zelda,” she told herself in her mind. “You are a princess. You’re more sophisticated than that…”

“That was so beautiful, my dear. You almost made me shed a tear.”

Without even recognizing the voice, Zelda knew immediately to whom it belonged. She stood up hastily, looking around frantically for the voice’s owner, but couldn’t see him anywhere. Trying to look as dignified as possible, she called out to the lush collection fauna:

“Come out and show yourself!”

As if awaiting that command, Ganondorf stepped out from behind a large blackroot tree, adorned in full armor and wearing a smirk. He took a few steps into view before leaning against the tree and folding his arms. The two remained silent for a long moment before Ganondorf finally spoke through his sneer.

“So we finally meet, Princess Zelda. How are you this lovely evening?”

“I’m fine, thank you,” she uttered in an emotionless tone. She had prepared for the moment she would meet Ganondorf face to face, and she was ready not to give him any pleasure or enjoyment in the least. “And how are you?”

“Oh, I’m doing okay,” the King of Thieves answered. “In about a week or two I’ll be even better. By the way, have you read anything interesting lately?”

“I read a lot of interesting things,” Zelda replied coldly. “But whatever I’ve read is probably more interesting than that priceless book you destroyed earlier today.”

Ganondorf’s smile didn’t even wane. Instead he folded his arms tighter across his chest and said, “You’re probably right, my dear. It was a bit of a bore, seeing that I knew everything in it already…and a lot more, mind you, especially about those beautiful gems. You must know about them, Princess, so tell me, what do you think of the Spiritual Stones?”

That question caught Zelda off guard. Did Ganondorf know more than the book he destroyed? Did that include knowing about the location of the Spiritual Stones? He most likely knew about the location of the Spiritual Stone of the Forest – the Great Deku Tree’s curse seemed to point to that – so it was very likely he knew about the locations of the other two.

Why didn’t she think of that before she sent Link on his quest to find the other two Stones? If Ganondorf had visited them before, then Link might be walking into a trap…or nothing at all! Was it possible that Ganondorf had the last two Spiritual Stones with him?

Before she could say anything, Ganondorf continued speaking with his mocking sneer. “I can see you’re a little speechless. I guess that can be likely, since the Stones are so beautiful.” Then his voice suddenly changed, to a snarling growl, and his eyes seemed to shrink in animosity as they affixed their gaze on Zelda. “Now listen to me and listen good. I don’t know what you’re planning, but you’re too late. The Spiritual Stones are mine, and once I’ve done what’s needed here I’ll be off to place them in my very slimy hands. That is what you think of them, don’t you, princess? Well, these slimy hands can do more than collect Spiritual Stones, and I advise you to stay out of what doesn’t concern you before I show you personally.”

But Zelda had stopped listening the moment Ganondorf had revealed he didn’t have the Spiritual Stones. A glimmer of hope still existed…but that still didn’t eliminate the fact that the King of Gerudo had visited the two remaining Stones’ locations. How he knew where they were she would probably never discover, but that didn’t matter. The real question lay in what unthinkable terrors Ganondorf had unleashed to guard his precious treasures.

Even so, a sliver of hope lay in Link, she thought. He had overcome Gohma, so was there any reason why he couldn’t overcome Ganondorf’s other challenges…?

“Hey, what are you smiling about, you little brat?”

Ganondorf’s commanding voice broke her concentration, and she realized that her lips were wearing a faint smile. It was obviously something Ganondorf hadn’t expected, and he also apparently didn’t like it at all. Deciding to take advantage of this sudden turn of events, Zelda widened her smile and made her eyes give off a condescending look.

“Oh, nothing, my dear Gerudo,” she said with a cheerful and mocking tone. “I’m just pondering about how hollow your threats are. I don’t know where you get this idea that Spiritual Stones are of any importance, but it’s quite amusing to hear what stories you can create. You even nearly had me going with that look you had a while ago.”

This was obviously not what the King of Thieves wanted to hear from Princess Zelda. Before she could say anything else, the huge man threw his dark cloak behind him, stormed up to the smiling young girl, and gave her a push so hard that she stumbled several steps before falling on her back. Slightly dazed, she tried to get up but stopped when Ganondorf’s shadow loomed over her.

The Prince of the Desert snarled at Zelda for a moment before bellowing, “I don’t know what you’re up to, you little wench, but I know you’re hiding something. And I’m going to find out what, mark my words. You can’t play me for a fool. And remember this: we will meet again, and whether or not you live during that time will be entirely up to you. Now, if you’ll excuse me…”

He then unsheathed a knife from his belt, firmly clutched its hilt, turned around, and thrust the black blade into the bench Zelda had been sitting in moments earlier. The bench’s wood emitted a loud crack that echoed throughout the Gardens and its tip peeked through the other side of the surface.

Unable to say anything, Zelda could only watch as the King of Thieves turned back to her and continued, “…I have important matters I must attend to. You and I know I disgust you, but you don’t know that you disgust me even more!”

Ganondorf then spat an enormous ball of saliva at Zelda’s head, but he barely missed and the spit landed in a sick glob in the grass. Ganondorf, unable to stand it anymore, turned and trudged away, leaving Zelda to watch him leave in shock.

As he passed a bed of vanity roses, he kicked a clump of dirt in the flowers’ direction and mumbled to himself, “Little witch is a lot tougher than I thought. She could be trouble. I got to watch her more carefully, or she’ll end up ruining all I’ve worked for. What’s she hiding, anyway? What is she hiding? What…?”


Link wished Navi were with him, because the darkness of Darunia’s room was overwhelming, even with the torchlight from the cavern behind him. The heavy breathing was getting louder and louder, although he couldn’t see anything at all in the gloom. As Link continued walking further and further into the dark, he wondered why Darunia’s room was so big. And why didn’t he have any light? Did he prefer the darkness or something…?

Suddenly, he took one step forward and saw light to his right. With a start Link realized that the gloom wasn’t a part of Darunia’s room but a tunnel leading to the room. Sighing with relief, Link headed for the light with a slightly brisker walk…and was nearly blinded when he walked directly into the illuminated room.

As just eyes adjusted to the brightness, Link examined his new surroundings. The room wasn’t too big – it was a little larger than his home back in Kokiri Village – but it definitely felt like it was meant for a leader…of Gorons, anyway. Large pieces of cloth hung from virtually every part of the ceiling – Link remembered seeing one hanging above Darunia’s door outside – and peculiar patterns that seemed to resemble the face of a Goron were etched in every cloth’s surface. The actual floor of the room was bare save for a single rug with the same peculiar pattern, several torch stands with fires blazing, and an enormous statue carved in the shape of a Goron. Link couldn’t figure out its intended purpose.

In the middle of the room stood a Goron, but it was completely different from Malatite and probably every other Goron. His arms and legs contained a visibly larger amount of muscles that seemed to ripple with tightened veins, particularly his arms, which possessed hands larger than Link’s head. While Malatite possessed a small potbelly, this Goron’s belly protruded from his body like an uncontrollable growth, but it definitely didn’t display any signs of sluggishness or lethargy. Stiff hair-like growth sprouted around the creature’s face like a scruffy mane, and the Goron’s face displayed a countenance of anger and sorrow blended into a dangerous concoction.

Link had found Darunia, the leader of the Gorons.

Darunia and watched Link’s entrance, and had remained silent until the Kokiri had stepped completely into the room. When he saw the person for whom he had opened the door, Darunia’s face seemed for frown even more than it already was.

“What is the meaning of this? Where is the Royal Messenger? I heard the song of the Royal Family, so I know he’s here. Where is he? Answer me, boy!”

The Goron’s voice was so powerful and commanding that Link answered the question without thinking. “I…I am…I am the R…r…royal Messenger.”

Impossibly, Darunia’s frown deepened. “You? The Royal Messenger? Is this some sort of joke? Where is the Royal Messenger, boy?”

“R…r…right here,” Link stuttered, unable to do anything else. “This isn’t a j…j…oke. I…I’m the messenger.”

Darunia took a step forward, leaned forward, and studied the Kokiri closely. He then became erect once more and boomed, “This is unacceptable! Does my Sworn Brother the King really think this low of the Gorons so as to send a young boy as his Royal Messenger? I have enough problems already!” He then glared down at Link, who couldn’t move at all. “Very well, boy. What is the message from the King of Hyrule? Has he agreed to send help in ridding our mine of Dodongos?”

Link remained silent for a moment before answering in a more steady voice, “Not exactly. I am actually here to ask you to give me the Spiritual Stone of Fire. It’s a matter of vital importance.”

As Link finished speaking, Darunia’s voice took over in a tone even more overpowering than before. “Again someone asks me for the Goron’s Ruby! What is the world coming to? Is everyone trying to take advantage of the poor luck of the Goron Race? It’s unacceptable! Completely unacceptable! So the King wants the Goron’s Ruby, does he? Tell him no! I will not give him the sacred treasure of our race, even if he does come to help us get rid of the Dodongos! Tell my Sworn Brother that, ‘Royal Messenger!’ Now get out of my sight before I throw you out myself!”

 Link was so beset by Darunia’s powerful voice that he nearly did as the Goron demanded. He wished desperately that Navi were with him, either to whisper some form of encouragement or even to stand up to Darunia for him. But since she wasn’t here, he only had his own will, which was right now crumbling before the mighty hammer within Darunia’s tongue.

Yet despite the lack of Navi and his collapsing constitution, something inside of Link made him stand his ground, made him stay exactly where he was. For some unexplainable reason, Link felt his muscles tense up – not in fear, but in determination – and his breathing deepen. If he had a mirror, he would’ve seen his face grow unwavering and firm, his eyes tighten in counterattack, and his mouth curl with grit. He could’ve drawn his sword to look even more resolute, but the same voice in his head told him not to do anything uncalled for.

Darunia was surprised by this unexpected change in the little Kokiri standing before him, and he lost his ire-filled stiffness for a moment before he regained it and bellowed, “Are you deaf, you little squirt? I told you to get out of my sight! Do you want my help in the task? Do you?”

Link didn’t answer, which was probably the best answer he could’ve given Darunia at that moment. The deafening silence that followed the Goron’s threat was so unnatural and eerie that it only served to magnify Link’s dogged image of the moment. The Kokiri did nothing except merely stare at the leader of the Gorons; he didn’t even seem to blink.

Darunia started to grow frantic. “All right, if you don’t move from that spot this very moment, I’ll give you a broken arm as well as me being your escort!”

Link didn’t even seem to hear the desperate threat, giving Darunia no other choice. The Goron, keeping his face as gruff as possible, stormed up to the Kokiri and loomed over him like the monstrous beast for which Link had mistaken Malatite earlier. But Link wouldn’t have cared if Gohma were looming over him at that moment. He had made an unconscious decision to stand fast, and he wouldn’t move if the Three Goddesses told him to do so.

Unable to stall his intimidations any longer, Darunia reached out with one of his enormous fists, wrapped it around Link’s relatively tiny head, began to constrict it…

…and stopped just before his massive palms touched Link’s head. The Kokiri hadn’t even flinched let along tried to escape the Goron’s tightening grasp. Darunia was stunned. He had seen many things in his life, but he had never seen anything stand up to him like this before.

He hesitated for a moment before he finally lifted his hand away from Link’s head. Link’s face hadn’t even changed from the brief endeavor. No longer capable of standing up to the Kokiri’s iron will, Darunia took a step back before letting his arms drop to his sides and allowing his face to sag.

“I…I…” the Goron uttered in a voice no longer as powerful as before. “I don’t know what to say. In all my years as a Goron, never have I encountered anything such as you. I underestimated you entirely, and you’re display of bravery has shaken me to my roots. I could’ve killed you, yet you refused to move. I’ve never demonstrated such gallantry, and never will I do so. I am a failure to the Goron race as its leader. I am a failure.”

During Darunia’s short speech, Link had relaxed his stern demeanor and stood quietly, listening to the Goron’s attack on himself. At he finished speaking, Darunia turned around, headed for the statue at the end of the room, leaned against it, and began to cry. “I am a failure…” he repeated through his weeping.

Link didn’t know what to do or even think. First Darunia had acted like a powerful juggernaut ready to take down anything that stood in its path; and now he here he was, shedding tears over how much of a failure he was. It was almost too much to take in all at once. And it was partly his fault, as well!

Deciding to calm the sobbing beast down, Link pulled out his ocarina from his pouch and placed it to his lips, intending to play Zelda’s Lullaby. But before even playing the first note, Link stopped; realizing it probably wasn’t wise to perform the song that started this entire mess. He would have to play another song, but where was he going to get another one…?

With only a slight hesitation, Link pulled out the piece of paper on which Saria had used to write her song. He straightened the paper out and looked at the notes, wondering if he might be able to play it right now. He recalled playing Zelda’s song in a seemingly miraculous manner only moments before, but that had been because he had practiced it before.

Could he now play a song from which he hadn’t even played a single note?

“Well, Saria,” he thought as he again brought the mouthpiece to his lips. “Time to find out if you’re theory is correct.”

Taking a deep breath, he began to play.

The feeling was different from playing Zelda’s Lullaby. Maybe it was because he hadn’t practiced Saria’s Song as he had with the Royal Family’s song, or maybe it was because playing this song held a degree of importance that Zelda’s Lullaby didn’t have. Or maybe it was a combination of both.

Either way, Link knew he was feeling something this time. If he had denied Saria’s statement that the instrument was alive before, he recanted that declaration there and then. Although he had his eyes closed, he could see the notes of Saria’s Song slide before his eyes, and he could feel his fingers respond to each note in a clean and natural way. He could even sense a degree of warmth radiate within his hands from the ocarina.

Darunia’s ears twitched the moment Link had played the first note, and by the time Link had performed the first stanza the Goron had all but forgotten about his so-called weakness and his tears. The song he was hearing was an upbeat yet soothing melody that seemed to caress every inch of his rough skin, a fast aria with a comforting message for his soul.

In fact, the rhythm was so potent that Darunia couldn’t help himself…

When Link opened his eyes after playing through Saria’s Song several times, he nearly stopped playing out of sheer astonishment. He had never seen a Goron dance, and he doubted he would ever see a Goron dance like Darunia was doing right now. The Goron twirled and shifted around the room as if he had been burnt severely on his feet, yet the face displayed a cheery and joyous feeling that Daruniua was obviously enjoying. Link, amazed at what he was seeing, didn’t want to stop and interrupt Darunia’s happy moment.

But something did make him stop, and it was something he never expected. As he led the song into another verse, a voice spoke inside his head. He probably would’ve dismissed the voice as another flashback memory if it hadn’t echoed in his head so loudly and so much like an actual voice:

—Finally! You’ve done it! You’ve played it! I’m so proud of you! —

Link, surprised to hear his old friend speaking to him, removed the ocarina from his mouth, looked into the air, and cried out, “Saria? Is that you? Saria? Where are you?”

“Hey!” came Darunia’s strong voice, drawing Link’s attention back to the Goron. Darunia had stopped dancing and again wore a serious demeanor, but he no longer held an air of sadness and anger around him. “Hey, you play that instrument pretty well! And that song…it was just so beautiful! Just like that, all my worries and doubts were washed away. I don’t know who you are, but you’ve done me a great favor. Thank you, and…I’m sorry, sorry for treating you like a young boy. You’re obviously more than that.”

The strange voice of Saria long forgotten, Link smiled slightly at Darunia’s complement. “Thank you,” he uttered. “My name’s Link, by the way.”

“I see, that’s a pretty unusual name,” the Goron said with a turn of his head. “I’m Darunia, leader of the Gorons, but everyone calls me Big Brother, so feel free to call me that. But tell me, Link, why did the King of Hyrue send you here again? To collect the Goron’s Ruby?”

“Well, not exactly,” Link revealed. “I was sent here by Princess Zelda, not the king. I’d explain why we…uh, she needs the Spiritual Stone, but it is vital that I take it to her.”

“Princess Zelda, is it?” Darunia inquired rhetorically. “Well, she’s not the ruler of Hyrule, but she’s definitely someone to respect. I’d grant a request from her easily…except that I can’t just give her the Sacred Stone of our race just because she asks for it. It has to be earned.”

Link was beginning to get a little impatient, but he kept his cool as he said, “I see. So how does one earn the Spiritual Stone?”

“You have an odd name for the Goron’s Ruby, my young lad. But getting back to matters, Princess Zelda can get the Sacred Stone by sending us help in ridding our mine of the Dodongos. I’m a little disappointed in my Sworn Brother’s response to our plea, but maybe his daughter can help us. Take that message to Princess Zelda, and then when she’s helped us out I’ll give her the Stone she desires.”

Link thought the matter through. It might be a good idea to return to Hyrule Castle and ask Princess Zelda to help in this task because of one possible thing: relief from duty. If Zelda sent help to the Gorons, she and not he would be doing the work. He then might persuade her to let him to back to the Lost Woods, where he could live in peace.

But immediately he saw obstructions in this possible plan. The biggest obstacle was Time itself. With Ganondorf, the one who had killed the Great Deku Tree, still back at Hyrule Castle, there was no telling what kind of mischief he was getting into; so there wouldn’t be enough to time go back to Hyrule so Zelda can send aid to the Gorons. Then there was Link’s underlying hatred of Ganondorf. An unexplainable urge within Link seemed to tell Link to stay with his given quest so he could be a part of the undoing of the King of Thieves.

Also, Navi was still somewhere out there on Death Mountain, and he couldn’t leave her out there, alive or no…

Sighing, Link came up with probably a ludicrous idea that he told Darunia:

“How about…I get rid of the Dodongos for you?”

Darunia’s eyes narrowed in surprise. “What? Are you serious? What idea made you want to fight Dodongos…alone? You don’t even know what you’re talking about…!”

“Yes, I do,” Link stated, diving further into his nonsensical plan. “I may not look like much of a warrior, but I can do what needs to be done. And what needs to be done right now is getting rid of your troublesome Dodongos.”

“But…” Darunia began, hoping to plead the young Kokiri out of his suicidal idea.

“No buts,” Link inserted, his face even more determined to carry out his declared intentions. “I will do what I’ve said I’ll do, or die trying. Give me a chance, at least. If I can do the task, then you can give me the Goron’s Ruby and not wait for Princess Zelda’s help. If I can’t, then I’ll die because of my own stupidity. Come on, what have you got to lose?”

Darunia remained silent for a moment before answering, “If I have to answer that, I’d say I’ve got you to lose. But you seem completely bent on helping us, don’t you? Very well, I’ll give you a chance. You can enter the cave tomorrow morning at dawn. Until then, you should get some sleep. You’ll need it to just withstand what I’m going to tell you about the Dodongos tomorrow.”

When Link heard that, he wondered to himself for the second time that day, “How did I get myself into this?”

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