“By the Great Deku Tree, what is that horrible smell?”
Navi’s question remained unanswered as she pushed further into the dark cavern that was the Goron’s mine. Her bright pink light gave her a decent-sized sphere of illumination with which to see, but even that couldn’t pierce the immense darkness of the tunnel completely. She sometimes came close to striking one of the twisted corridor’s walls, but luckily she managed to avoid them without an embarrassing collision or even a brush.
When she finally emerged within the illumined great cavern, she immediately lowered the degree of hastiness that occupied her mind at the moment. The reduction of emotion reduced the brightness of her light and allowed her to view the cavern more easily. What she first noticed were the torches that decorated the cavern’s wall like a thin piece of jewelry. Each torch burned brightly and emitted a peculiar odor, the same odor she had smelled back at the entrance of the mine.
But it definitely wasn’t the sickening smell she had complained about…and it was definitely stronger in this cavern.
Then she saw the bodies…
…or what was left of them, at least. Navi didn’t scream when she saw them, despite their nauseating disfigurements and the vile ooze that could only be blood that crept from enormous gashes. She had seen many a piece of carnage left over by hungry carnivores in the Lost Woods and violent death had never been a problem for her. She also knew at once that the two carcasses were the source of the foul aroma; anything with black blood could only emit such a fetid stench.
But when she approached the scene to get a better look, she quickly realized that this was no ordinary scene of death. These creatures hadn’t just been killed; they had been slaughtered! One had been slashed across the throat and the other had one of his eyes punctured. Each wound was so gory and diseased that Navi could only come to two conclusions.
One, whatever had killed them had actually enjoyed the act of butchery. Two, the one responsible for the act had wielded a weapon that wasn’t by any means natural. That would include any form of Hylian weaponry…or Kokiri, for that matter! Such as Link’s sword! As much as Navi didn’t want to consider it, Link might’ve possibly done this atrocity. In fact, it wasn’t possible; it was almost certain!
Navi was about to call out for Link when she noticed something within the thick pools of blood that lingered around one of the dead creatures’ mouths. She flew in closer, ignoring the pungent odor, and realized with a shock what it was. It was a lizard-like tongue, pink and tainted with the creature’s foul blood. Gasping in surprise, Navi inspected the rest of the creature.
Yes, there was a tail…and scales…and lizard-like faces. Why didn’t she notice this before? The tails should’ve given them away, but she had to look at its tongue to first be suspicious! These were no ordinary strange beasts. They were Lizalfos, creatures supposed to be extinct since the time of the Great Wars!
“Link killed two Lizalfos?” Navi questioned silently. “As much I can’t believe that, it seems like the only answer. But what are two Lizalfos doing here in Death Mountain?”
Deciding not to put off her search for he charge any longer, Navi called out, “Link! Link! Where are you? It’s me, Navi! Link, where are you?”
There was no answer save for a soft echo of her voice. Determined to find the elusive Kokiri, Navi gathered up her courage and headed down a nearby tunnel to her left, continuing to shout out for Link. Had she taken time to examine the cave further, she would’ve noticed the enormous Dodongo skull placed at the end of the cavern and several shapes that were crawling from its eye sockets.
More importantly, she would’ve noticed a faint trail of black blood leading down a tunnel in the opposite direction…
“Did you hear something?” Link asked, stopping and turning down the direction from which they had come.
“Yes, I hear lots of things,” Malatite answered as he, too, looked back. “Anything in particular?”
“Well, I though I just heard someone calling my name…but that’s kind of silly, isn’t it?”
“Not necessarily,” Malatite replied, turning to Link with a faint smile. “It might be someone else willing to offer his assistance in your quest. But I’m afraid I heard nothing. My hearing’s not as good as it used to be. Do you want to turn back and check…?”
“No, it’s okay. Let’s continue. I want to finish this and get out of here as quickly as possible.”
As the two continued down the tunnel, Link rubbed his hands fiercely against his arms, hoping to calm the violent shivering he was experiencing. He had contracted the shivers since he had woken up from his faint and it hadn’t weakened at all. Malatite had tried to calm him down when he had regained consciousness, but Link’s mind was filled with images of blood and death of his two recent victims…the word recent echoed in his mind like a powerful bell as if to remind him of Gohma and her unborn children.
Why didn’t you enjoy their deaths? Why didn’t you take pleasure in their pain? Why do you deny the possibility of satisfaction from their demise?
The accompanying taunts in his mind didn’t help in the least, either.
He tried not to think about his sadistic fit by recalling his asking Malatite to be close by him during the next battle. Since Navi wasn’t around, Link believed that Malatite being nearby might cause him not to get out of control. It was a slim hope, but it was the only hope he had.
He didn’t want to be a killer and actually enjoy it!
As the two continued the climb – at least it felt like a climb, for the ground was heavily steeped – through the tunnel, Link looked at his sword, which was in his hand. He had managed to wipe off a good deal of the lizardmen’s blood from its surface, but a few dried remnants remained. Despite the blade’s magnificent glow in the nearby torchlight, the blood still tainted its full beauty.
Link prayed to the Three Goddesses that his own soul didn’t mimic the blade…
“Link,” Malatite suddenly said as they turned a corner. “I don’t mean to be rude, but I have to ask you something. Exactly how are you going to get rid of the Dodongos?”
Link didn’t look up as he answered that burning question. “I don’t know. I’m still figuring that one out. Lizardmen are one thing, giant lizards that with enormous skulls are another. This little sword isn’t going to do much against those giants.”
“Giants…oh, you must be referring to the giant skull back in the main cavern. You don’t have to worry about that, Link. That’s the skull of the former King Dodongo, the once leader of all Dodongos. I assure you, every other Dodongo is much smaller than that.”
Malatite’s words should’ve comforted Link, but they didn’t and that was because of one word: former. “What do you mean by former King Dodongo? Is there another King Dodongo or something?”
Malatite scratched his chin for a moment before responding, “I guess I should explain a little how Dodongo society functions. One supreme Dodongo, the King Dodongo, governs all Dodongos. A Dodongo can only become a King Dodongo if he possesses a certain rare blood type that causes it to grow to incredible sizes. If the King Dodongo were to die, then all Dodongos would be without focus and leadership and would eventually die out. But that doesn’t mean that two King Dodongos can’t challenge each other for leadership…”
“So the skull I saw is the skull of the former King Dodongo that was killed by the new King Dodongo?”
“That’s right,” Malatite uttered with a smile. “But don’t allow that to let down your guard. Ordinary Dodongos may not be as big as King Dodongos, but their still just as dangerous…”
But Link had stopped listening. His mind was contemplating and pondering over Malatite’s information, wondering how it might be useful. But all his directions all returned to one conclusion, and it wasn’t one he particularly liked. Yet there seemed to be no other way to complete his insane quest…unless he decided to kill each and every Dodongo in the entire mine…nay, the entire mountain!
There was no way around it.
“I’m going to kill the King Dodongo.”
Link’s declaration caused Malatite to fall silent and stumble, something a Dodongo rarely did. “Kill King Dodongo…are you insane? You can’t do such an impossible task! Are you mad?”
Link finally looked up from the ground but didn’t look at Malatite. “Maybe I am. Maybe you’re right and it wasn’t cowardice that forced me to keep silent and go through with this quest. No, it must be madness. Why else would I do this? Why else would I volunteer to rid a mine of hundreds or even thousands of lizard beasts? Yes, that’s it. I’m mad.” He spoke the last sentence with a slight giggle, as if to confirm his own insanity.
“But Link!” Malatite cried, stepped in front of the Kokiri and grabbing his shoulders, bringing the two to a stop. “You can’t just say you’re going to face a King Dodongo and expect to live! King Dodongos are so powerful and so vicious that not even the Almighty Five could get rid of the one in power when they banished the Dodongo race from Death Mountain! And you saw the one in the main cavern. When King Dodongos fight each other for dominance, they rely on brute strength alone! Can you imagine what kind of Kong Dodongo managed to kill that monster…?”
“I don’t care,” Link said in a monotone yet firm voice. He took his arms and used them to push Malatite’s hands off his shoulders. “I am firm in what I said and I’m going to do it. And you can’t say anything to stop me!”
Before Malatite could argue, Link ran past the Goron and headed further into the tunnel. The hill was getting steeper and steeper, but Link found strength to continue running. He would do what he had promised, even if he were to die in the process. Even if he had to become a murderous beast once again…no, he couldn’t do such a thing. He mustn’t do such a thing again! He mustn’t!
Determined and blind to his cause, Link continued running, not caring to listen to Malatite’s distant, resounding and pleading words…
Just then, the tunnel abruptly ended…and so did the ground! Surprised, Link tried to stop his vigorous sprint and not go over the edge, but it was already too late. Within a few moments his skidding feet were slewing along thin air as he soared off the edge like a bird taking off. Only this bird didn’t have wings…
Before he could complete his scream, he was interrupted by a rough jerk. He didn’t have time to even think before his short flight ended and he was yanked back to the ledge with such great force. Within moments his feet felt the firmness of the rocky cave ground once again and his sense of perspective stabilized. The experience had been so brief that Link didn’t even have the opportunity to feel scared! His heart pounded normally, he breathed at a steady paced, and only the sweat on his brow had appeared most likely because of the running.
All he could say was a simple, “Huh?”
“Please don’t do that again.”
Link turned around to find Malatite standing right next to him, his mighty hand wrapped firmly around Link’s arm. The Goron and Kokiri’s gazes remained affixed with each other’s for a few moments before Malatite finally let go of Link’s arm. The Goron then stepped back a few steps and continued speaking. His voice was a little sterner than it usually was.
“You’ re very lucky, you know. You nearly fell down back into the cavern where we were just now. I’m not expecting an apology from you, but I do want you to be more careful.”
Link felt very sheepish. He hung his head in embarrassment and tied his hands behind his back. It was a strange feeling, a feeling he had only recently experienced with Malon and Zelda. It was the feeling of being respectful to one’s elders and feeling sorry when that respect had been broken. Being a Kokiri, he had never faced such an emotion before, but right now the emotion felt so natural it almost felt like he really were a Hylian…
“I’m sorry,” Link uttered. Although he mumbled the apology, he put all of his feeling into it.
Malatite smiled almost immediately. “Like I said, I wasn’t expecting an apology, but I never said I won’t appreciate one. Apology accepted, thank you.”
Link looked up and smiled back, knowing that Malatite meant every word. He nodded his head once to say thank you for the acceptance and then turned around to look at where he had almost plummeted to his death.
As Malatite had said, they were in the main cavern again, on a ledge Link hadn’t noticed before. They were at the other end of the cavern, the end where the skull had been mounted. He looked down and saw it directly below him, its hollow eyes sneering at him with its empty gaze, as if it were concealing some hidden secret within its barren mind. Link looked away and surveyed the rest of the cavern. Everything was still in its place: the ribcage support of the mine, the ever-burning torches, the dead and decaying bodies of the lizardmen…
Wait a minute! The lizardmen…they weren’t there! Link, shocked, rubbed his eyes to get out any possible dust and blinked several times before looking again. When he again saw nothing, he thought it might be a trick of the flickering light. He moved a little closer to the edge to get a better view, but there was no change.
The lizardmen had disappeared.
“Are they still alive…? No, that’s impossible! I killed them in such a way that it’s impossible to remain alive! But there’s not even any blood lying around! It’s as if they’ve been…eaten or something…”
With a sudden chill running down his spine, Link stepped back from the ledge and turned to face Malatite. “Malatite! We have to get out of here! I think there are…Malatite…?”
The Goron wasn’t listening but was instead looking down the tunnel they had used. His face was frozen in horror and had impossibly turned white. Link didn’t want to see what the Goron had seen, but his overwhelming sense of curiosity forced him to. When he glanced down the tunnel, he immediately wished he hadn’t.
Crawling up the tunnel were two…no, three enormous creatures of twisted hideousness. They weren’t as tall as the lizardmen, but Link immediately knew they were bigger and stronger. The beasts possessed the aspects of mammoth lizards that had their faces stretched out to disfigurement. They each seemed to possess only one set of legs that dragged their enormous bulks across the sandy floor, and their powerful-looking tails were hauled along for the ride.
But the most disgusting thing Link found about them was what one of them was carrying. In the jagged teeth-filled jaws of the one on the left was the face – or what was left of it – of one of the two lizardmen. The chewed up face dripped not a single drop of blood; it had been sucked dry and its parched skin was serving as a treat for the creature to savor.
Without asking Malatite, Link knew that these monsters were the Dodongos.
The creatures obviously knew about Link and Malatite’s existence; their enormous, flaring nostrils tasted the air every so often with a sickening croak. The two Dodongos that didn’t have anything in their mouths occasionally licked their arid lips with pale pink tongues, allowing a slurping sound to echo within the tunnel. These beasts were hungry, and they planned to invite the Kokiri and Goron to dinner.
Link pulled out his sword and shield, hoping they might offer some form of intimidation. The creatures didn’t even seem to notice the shiny weapon that was meant to frighten them; they just continued their slow yet steady advance. Realizing his ploy wasn’t working, Link decided there was no other alternative. The tactic might kill him, but he would be dead anyway.
He charged, raising the sword high in the air and letting out a powerful battle cry.
The three Dodongos stopped their onslaught, suddenly realizing their prey wasn’t going to give up easily. The one with the lizardman’s head in its mouth dropped its tasty morsel to the ground and backed up slightly. Link chose this Dodongo and when he was in reach he brought his sword down, aiming for the creature’s head.
But the Dodongo had a surprise for Link. Before Link’s steel could even touch the Dodongo’s face, the beast’s enormous tail suddenly lifted into the air and sailed through the air like a broad whip. It struck Link directly in the stomach and sent the Kokiri flying backwards. Link landed on his back with a soft crunch and rolled backwards somewhat. He recovered quickly, however, and managed to stand up…just in time for the second surprise of the Dodongos.
The one that had struck Link seemed to take a deep breath, lifting its head above its body…and then, without warning, sent a stream of fire from its mouth straight towards Link. The Kokiri, caught off guard by this move, couldn’t move out of the way in time and dodge the column of flame. Doing the only thing he could, he held up his trusty Deku wood shield.
The force of the fire spurt was so strong that Link couldn’t hold his ground for more than a moment. The fire pushed him backwards and eventually caused him to fall down. The attack was quite brief and didn’t last long enough to completely engulf the young boy, but it Link became aware of its effects when he felt something burning his left arm.
With a shriek he grabbed his flaming Deku shield and threw it to the ground in front of him, watching the blaze briskly devour its wooden surface. Within a few moments nothing was left of the mighty shield except for a tiny pile of black ash.
Unable to counter that attack, all Link could do was retreat slowly as the three Dodongos continued to advance. Soon Link was beside Malatite, who hadn’t moved from his frozen stance since sighting the beasts. Link, however, continued to retreat, making his way towards the edge. He didn’t know how the Dodongos were going to eat him, but he would rather die than be eaten alive…
Suddenly, his foot found the edge. He reflexively returned it to the ground and his eyes looked down behind him. In a split second he contemplated whether or not he was going to jump, whether or not he would die a quick or painful death. But that all changed when he noticed something he didn’t see before.
Resting just below the cliff’s edge, sitting like a blemish on a face, was a Bomb Flower.
“A Bomb Flower…should I…it’s risky, but I don’t have a choice, do I?”
The Dodongos had left the tunnel by now and were just a few steps away from their two victims. Realizing it was now or never, Link reached down the edge and grabbed the plant’s sac, making sure he didn’t squeeze it too tightly. He then gave it a tug. As he pulled the plant from its roots, he felt something unusual in his arms. It felt like unnatural power, like an extra hand willing to lend its aid. His mind knew that it was the bracelet given to Link by Darunia, but he had no time to really dawn on the thought. He only concentrated on pulling the Bomb Flower from its roots and getting it back up in time…
Suddenly, the Flower slipped from his grasp and fell to the ground. His hands were too drenched in sweat for him to have a firm grip! As he watched in unbelievable shock, the Bomb Flower landed on the giant skull’s forehead directly below – it didn’t blow up, it must’ve been a durable variety – rolled across its brow like a ball, and disappeared within its left eye socket.
Unable to accept what had just happened, Link fell onto his stomach. There was nothing he could do. He didn’t even care what was going to happen anymore. The Dodongos could eat him, for all he cared. It had been his fault to go on this insane quest and now he was going to pay the consequences.
Just for one last look, Link looked behind him. The Dodongos had halted their advance, but they were preparing to roast their victims with their scorching breath. Preparing himself to feel the pain, Link closed his eyes.
There was a blinding light…
“It must be a Dodongo. A baby Dodongo. Boy, is it ugly.”
Navi remained high above the ground of the tunnel as she watched the baby Dodongo eyeing her. It wasn’t a large creature, but it could definitely kill Navi if it wanted to. It looked nothing like a giant lizard as the Faria Garuia had told her about. Instead it resembled a giant, short worm with a head shaped like a triangle. It was green in color and possessed powerful-looking jaws for its age. It had surprised Navi when it had burrowed out from the ground and leaped halfway into the air try and tried to snap her into its mouth.
Now all it could do was watch her, watch the first meal it nearly had out of its reach. It eyes seemed to plead with a sad face for her to come down, but Navi wasn’t going to fall for any tricks of that sort.
“I wonder if Link’s faced these things yet? Or the adult Dodongos? If these are the babies, then I can only imagine what the adults are like…”
Just then, a loud rumble echoed throughout the tunnel. The walls shook violently and pieces of rock fell from the ceiling. The baby Dodongo let out a scared shriek before sticking its head into the ground and burrowing into it, disappearing completely within a few moments.
The rumble lasted not too long, but it lasted long enough for Navi to wonder about it. “Where did that come from? The main cavern…? Link! By the Three Goddesses, was that Link?”
Not waiting to answer her own question, Navi headed down the direction she had come. Hopefully she could navigate the mine’s mazes and reach the main cavern before she was too late…if she already wasn’t, that is. Whatever had happened she was sure it had something to do with Link…
“Ouch, Mido, why do you have to hit so hard? Why can’t you just leave me alone…? What the…?”
When Link opened his eyes and saw the enormous drop below him, he almost instantly found strength in his aching limbs and crawled backwards to escape the close fall. He didn’t stop crawling until he found a wall behind him, and it was then that he realized how much pain he was feeling. His left elbow was badly bruised and his right shin was scratched acutely. He also felt something warm upon his forehead and he lifted his right hand to find out what it was. It was blood, trickling from a surprisingly non-painful wound upon his brow.
“What happened…?” he started to think before remembering the bright light. He thought it had been the fire breath of the Dodongos, but now he realized that it had been too bright to be fire. He then recalled the blinding flash he had seen from the Bomb Flower that had opened the mine, and with a sudden jolt realized that the Bomb Flower he had dropped must’ve gone off.
“But I didn’t light the fuse…or did I? So that’s why you have to be careful when picking those things. I must’ve lit the fuse when I yanked it from its roots…wait, the Dodongos! Where are the Dodongos?”
Link didn’t have very far to look. As he stood up, his scratched knee reminding him all to well about pain, he looked around for the tunnel and found it quickly. But he hardly recognized it. It had partly collapsed and was littered with fallen stones everywhere. But even with the bowed corridor Link could still see what he was looking for. There, lying buried under the rubble like corpses as bloody as the two devoured lizardmen, were the Dodongos. The sheer weight of the rocks had been enough to kill them, Link realized. It was a good thing he and Malatite hadn’t been…
“Malatite?” Link called out, his throat slightly hoarse. He winced slightly as pain shot through his left arm. He looked down and found a strange, small, thin, white and serrated objected jabbed into his skin. He grabbed it and yanked it from his flesh with a muffled yelp through its agonizing sting before continuing his yelling for Malatite. “Malatite! Are you there? Are you…alive? Malatite? Malatite!”
When only his echo answered back, Link looked down the ledge where he had woken up. To his complete surprise he found the enormous skull gone from its spot on the wall! In its stead were hundreds upon thousands of tiny white fragments that lay scattered all across the cavern floor. So that’s what was in Link’s arm. The Bomb Flower blast had been so powerful it had destroyed the skull from within!
But then Link noticed something else amidst the strewn remnants of the skull. There, lying in a pool of light red blood, was Malatite. The Goron was on his back and didn’t appear to be moving.
Link looked frantically for a way to get back down; the tunnel would take too long. He spotted an area along the side of the ledge that had been loosened by the blast into a steep cliff face all the way to the bottom. Despite its sheer angle, Link felt compelled to take the risk. He carefully grabbed hold of holds in the destroyed rock and began his descent, his eyes remaining fixed on Malatite. Occasionally he slipped or lost his grip and began sliding down along the rough surface, but he always caught himself and returned to his stable yet hurried scramble. The pain began to flare, but Link could care less.
When he reached the bottom, Link dashed over to the fallen Goron and knelt down beside him. “Malatite. Malatite! Are you okay? Speak to me! Please!”
He tried shaking Malatite gently, but to no effect. He placed his ear against the Goron’s chest, but couldn’t detect a heartbeat. He listened to its mouth and nose but heard no breathing. Finally, after screaming in Malatite’s ear several times, Link couldn’t take it anymore. He folded his arms on the Goron’s bulky torso, buried his head in his arms, and began to cry.
“Malatite…” he thought to himself as he let his emotions escape through his tears. “You didn’t have to die. You didn’t have to die. You…didn’t…have…to…die! You didn’t have to die! It was my fault! My fault! You didn’t have to die, but you did! All because of me! Forgive me! I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry! Please! Malatite! I’m sorry!”
When he finally lifted his head again, his eyes fell on the Goron’s face. Thick brown eyelids now blocked its beady black eyes and its cheerful smile was frozen in a plague of indifference. The doctor that had cared him back to health was now dead, and his carelessness had killed him.
Wiping away his tears, Link stood up and turned to the wall where the now-broken skull had been mounted. To his amazement, he saw a tunnel buried in the wall, a tunnel that wasn’t lined with torches like the other corridors. He realized that this must be a tunnel the Gorons hadn’t constructed. It must be a tunnel used by the Dodongos. Maybe that’s where he’ll find…King Dodongo!
His face hardened as he realized what he had to do. Everything he had thought since coming to Death Mountain meant nothing now. If he was a coward, so be it. If he was a sadist, so be it. If he wouldn’t live to tell the tale, so be it. All he knew was that he was going to do what he promised to do. Malatite’s death won’t be in vain. He had come to help Link and had died because of it. Now he’ll do all he could to make sure Malatite hadn’t died senselessly.
He drew his sword from its scabbard – he hadn’t realized he had replaced it there before reaching for the Bomb Flower – and held it firmly in his left hand. He didn’t have a shield, but that didn’t matter. He had steel and that was enough. He would go after King Dodongo and kill him…or die trying.
His eyes flashing with determination and anger – whether at King Dodongo or himself, he didn’t know – and his muscles flowing with newfound strength, Link stormed towards the new tunnel. Despite whatever horrors awaited him inside, he didn’t care any more.
In his mind, he was already dead…