Mido was obviously not happy when Link returned with the two items he requested. Of course, his first reaction was surprise, surprise to see not only the shield he gave Saria but also a sword, the item Link would’ve most likely never found. Even Dakt couldn’t say anything to counter this unexpected turn of events in Link’s favor.
But when the surprise wore off, Mido’s displeasure of Link surfaced. He dug his hands into his hips and tightened his face into a jealous and loathing expression. His right foot cringed and began tapping furiously on the soft ground. But for all his angry gestures, he couldn’t find the right words to say.
Link, however, didn’t need any words. "Okay, Mido. I’ve got your sword and shield. Now let me past so I can stand before the Great Deku Tree."
"Beaten my Mr. No Fairy!" Mido thought angrily. "How humiliating!"
"Very well," he forced himself to say. He then moved from his position of blocking the entrance to the Deku Tree’s meadow and stood to the side. "But remember this. You having a fairy doesn’t change a thing. You will never be a true Kokiri."
The statement surprisingly didn’t hurt Link, probably because he was relishing his first and only victory over Mido’s egotism. Smiling to himself, Link placed the sword back in its sheath and the shield on his back before he headed into the snakelike passage. As he did, he managed to overhear Mido muttering.
"Why did Saria do that? Why does she like him better than me? It’s just not fair…"
The winding passage to the Deku Tree’s meadow was actually quite short, but to Link it felt like walking for an eternity. As Navi hovered gently over his shoulder, he pondered to himself what meeting the Great Deku Tree would be like. What would he say? What would he do? Why did he summon Link?
One thing Link did notice through the small trek through the tunnel was that Navi constantly shifted uneasily, as if something were troubling her greatly…
The passage didn’t stop abruptly, but instead gradually widened in a slow yet majestic way. Link’s pace slowly down as he left the tunnel, for he didn’t want to give a rude appearance to the Great Deku Tree. But when stepped over a small grassy rise, he realized his entrance wouldn’t have mattered in the least.
The Deku Tree was undoubtedly the largest tree in the forest. At Link’s best estimate, the base of the imperial deity spread across an area equal to almost half of the Kokiri Village. The surrounding rocky hills were dwarfed completely by the Deku Tree’s height, reaching over three to four times the size of the tallest tree Link had seen in the Lost Woods. Above, the Deku Tree’s branches stretched out well beyond the base, casting a shadow that covered all of the meadow save for a single thin ring of sunlight.
To Link, standing in the presence of the Great Deku Tree was an honor he felt he didn’t deserve.
Link turned in Navi’s direction to ask a question about what to do, but discovered that the fairy had vanished. He looked around in every direction, hoping to catch sight of the pink fay, but Navi was gone.
"Navi?" Link called. No response. "Navi?" he repeated louder. Still no response.
"What’s going on?" Link thought as he continued to look around. He probably would’ve yelled out for Navi a third time if he hadn’t glanced down at the ground. When he glimpsed the borderline of shade and shadow in the meadow, he noticed something unusual in the grass. Curious, Link stepped forward and bent down to examine it closely.
It was a print, a faded yet visible print in the most grass and soil. But it wasn’t the print of a Kokiri or even a forest animal.
It was the print of a horse.
Although only for a few times, Link had seen horses before. Horses sometimes wandered into the Lost Woods along the forest’s border, only to leave because of some inbred instinct. No one knew where the horses came from, but Saria believed that they were trained animals of Outsiders that escaped when their masters submitted to the power of the Lost Woods. Kokiri didn’t use animals in ways such as this; they believed animals should live and not be controlled by them.
But now here was a relatively fresh horse print embedded in the Deku Tree’s meadow. Either a horse had somehow miraculously wandered into during the night, or – Link shuddered at this thought – someone had ridden into the meadow on a horse.
Link’s dream suddenly began to reemerge in his thoughts…
"Link!" cried Navi’s voice.
Link suddenly returned to reality and stood up, looking around frantically for Navi. He caught sight of the fairy returning from the direction of the Deku Tree.
"Where did you go?" Link asked.
"I went to inform the Great Deku Tree of your arrival," Navi replied as she returned to his shoulder. "Now pay attention, for he’s about to speak."
"Speak…?" Link began when he was interrupted by a powerful voice. It wasn’t necessarily loud, but it was strong and almighty. For some reason, Link couldn’t tell whether the voice came from outside or inside his head…
—GREETINGS, O LINK. I AM THE DEKU TREE. WILST THOU LISTEN TO MY WORDS? —
Link was in awe at the fact that the Deku Tree was speaking to him, but he was also puzzled by the question. Why would the Great Deku Tree ask for permission to speak? Was it some sort of test or something to see if he was worthy?
"Yes, Great Deku Tree. I will listen." Link yelled as loud as he could, hoping he had said the right words. Moments later, the booming voice started again.
—THEN LISTEN WELL. YOUR SLEEP THESE PAST MOONS HAVE BEEN FILLED WITH VISIONS THAT THEE CANNOT CONCEIVE. A CLIMATE OF DARKNESS HAS DESCENDED UPON THE LAND, AND THOSE SENTITIVE TO ITS VILE TOUCH CAN FEEL IT. YOU HAVE FELT IT, O LINK, AS HAVE I—
Link’s face tightened with puzzlement. What was the Deku Tree talking about? Climate of darkness? Those sensitive to its touch? What was that supposed to mean? And how could he feel it when he didn’t even know what it was?
He didn’t have a chance to ask when the Deku Tree continued.
—THE REASON I HAVE SUMMONED THEE IS BECAUSE THE TIME HAS COME FOR THEE TO AWAKEN TO THY DESTINY. WILST THOU ACCEPT THE FUTURE THAT LIES BEFORE THEE? IST THOU PREPARED TO WALK THY CHOSEN PATH? —
Link hesitated in answering. He didn’t know what the Great Deku Tree was talking about. Destiny? Path of Fate? How did all of this apply to him? But Link didn’t want to deny any of the Deku Tree’s words, and he managed the courage to cry out, "I am, Great Deku Tree."
Link managed a quick glance at Navi. The fairy was glowing brightly now, in the same light he distinguished as a taut and apprehensive one. Did Navi know what was going on?
—THEN I HAVE FOR THEE A TASK TO COMPLETE. I HAVE BEEN CURSED, AND I NEEDEST THOU TO LIFT THE CURSE BESTOWED UPON ME—
Link’s gasp removed nearly every drop of breath from his lungs. The Great Deku Tree cursed? How was the possible…? The horse prints…? Link didn’t know what to say. Could he really lift a curse? Was the curse he was supposed to lift? Why did the Great Deku Tree want him, of all people, to lift it?
He had so many questions he wanted to ask, but something inside of him told him that there wasn’t time. Who knows what would happen if you don’t accept now, it said. What would become of the Great Deku Tree? You cannot refuse. You must accept.
His body shivering all over, Link took a small step forward and called out shakily, "What must I do, Great Deku Tree?"
—ENTER MY HEART, O LINK, AND LOCATE THE SOURCE OF THE CURSE THERE—
The meadow then fell silent. Link didn’t know why, but he felt he shouldn’t say anything else. Maybe he should allow the Great Deku Tree to fend off the curse as best he could until it was lifted. Maybe…it was for a far more grim reason.
Link remained motionless for a moment before he turned again to Navi. The fairy was fluttering excitedly now, her light flickering rapidly. "Well, Navi?" he said. "What should we do?"
Navi calmed down a little before replying, "I don’t know. I really don’t know. How was I supposed to know he was cursed? I knew something was wrong…I knew when he said it…he said a ‘climate of darkness’ and…I didn’t know…how could I…?"
"Navi, please calm down," Link said. The fairy tried following his instructions as best as she could, but Link could tell it wasn’t easy for her. "Okay, then. Now, let’s think this over. The Great Deku Tree wants us to enter his heart, and a tree’s heart is usually its roots. Let’s go down there and see if we can find anything.
Navi quietly agreed. With a deep breath, Link approached the Deku Tree’s baseline, looking for anything in the protruding roots that may give a hint as to what he was supposed to do. He expected to see something horrific before he even reached them, but he saw nothing unusual when he did reach them.
"It’s going to take a while to circle the Great Deku Tree," Link began when he noticed something underneath a nearby set of roots. He bent down and noticed that there was a small cave within the earth underneath the mighty tree. Was this where he was supposed to go? Maybe it would lead to the roots…
"Navi, this way," Link stated as he ducked underneath the roots and into the cave. There was surprisingly enough headroom for him to stand. Navi followed immediately afterwards. With her light to pierce the darkness, the two headed down the cave, which apparently was a long tunnel. As Link headed into the passageway, he occasionally was forced to move around some roots and even tripped on one once.
As the tunnel moved on, Link noticed something: the tunnel didn’t slow downwards towards the root system but instead headed straight for the Deku Tree’s trunk. He wondered if they would have to backtrack when they reached the hard, solid trunk, because he didn’t want to dig his way to the root system through the stalk.
Upon reaching the end of the tunnel, he stopped wondering and started staring in horror.
The tunnel didn’t stop at the thick, firm stem of the Deku Tree’s trunk but instead inside it! To Link and Navi’s horror, they found themselves inside the Deku Tree. Trees weren’t supposed to be hollow, they knew, and the Deku Tree was no exception. So why did they find themselves inside a cavern carved inside the deity’s trunk?
The room was vast, so vast that Navi’s light couldn’t penetrate the darkness enough to see the other end or the ceiling. But the walls of the hollow were by no means smooth; in fact, they were rough and coarse, as if they were…bitten off! Link inspected the closest wall closely, and realized that there were enormous teeth marks scratched all over the bark’s surface.
Something was inside the Deku Tree.
As he nervously stroked the teeth marks with his fingertips, Link remembered the sword and shield he had with him. Did Mido have the right idea after all? Deciding to play it safe, Link slowly slid the sword from its sheath and grasped it firmly in his hand. He didn’t know if he would be able to use it if he needed it, but he didn’t want to feel helpless.
Which he probably was, he realized.
"Link?" Navi asked quietly yet frantically, her wings flapping uneasily. "What’s going on? What’s happened to the Great Deku Tree?"
"I don’t know," Link answered as he tightened his grip on the sword. "But I don’t think we want to know."
But something inside him told him that they did want to know, because it would lead them to the source of the curse.
"Do you see anything in the darkness?" Link requested, expecting something enormous and grotesque to jump out of the blackness any moment. A long moment of silence followed before Navi finally responded.
"Nothing close by, although I do see some strange vine-like things hanging above."
Link looked above and squinted to see through the inky darkness. Even then he could barely make out several long, thin strands hanging from the darkness above. What they were he didn’t know, but he had a feeling he wouldn’t want to know what created them.
"Let’s get moving," Link said. "I think we’d better begin searching for the source of the curse." Link didn’t also mention that it would restrain them from being easy targets.
Searching the Great Deku Tree’s hollowed out trunk would take a long time, Link knew, but he decided that there probably wouldn’t be anything near the tree’s walls. Instead, whatever the curse was would probably be somewhere in the center. He motioned for Navi to guide with her light towards the middle of the enormous cavern, and the two moved forward cautiously.
When the ground beneath them started to slope downward, Link was forced to crouch in order not to lose his balance. The steeper the ground grew, the more he crouched until he was practically on all fours. He wondered what was going on when Navi’s light abruptly revealed the reason.
There, just a few feet away from him, was a large hole that dropped straight down through the Deku Tree’s trunk toward the roots. The darkness denied any estimate of its depth, but Link had a feeling it sank down quite far. But the most interesting thing about the shaft was that several of those vague strands were lined around the rim of the hole. Now close up, Link and Navi could see what they were.
They appeared to be large spider webbing.
Link tried not to think about the idea of a giant spider lurking somewhere in the blackness, but couldn’t help himself. "Navi…"
"I know, I know," Navi uttered. "I never thought that a parasite would find its way inside the Great Deku Tree. He’s protected by magic, so how a parasite…"
"Navi, this isn’t the time," Link muttered. "Whatever it is, I have a feeling that whatever we’re looking for is down this hole. If there’s anything down here, it should’ve attacked us by now."
Navi’s glow intensified, as if she were offended by the remark. "Okay, then," she gruffly replied. "Let’s get down there, if you say so."
"Let me just test something first," Link said as he took his sword and extended it towards the webbing. He wanted to test its stickiness and see if it was safe to touch. Leaning foreward carefully and touching the strands with the blade’s tip gently, Link gave the sword a quick tug.
The blade immediately snapped back, held fast by the web.
"Oh, great!" Link cried. "Just great!"
Without thinking of his balance, Link grabbed the hilt with both hands and began tugging hard to free his weapon.
"Link, be careful," Navi warned. "Don’t lose your…Link!"
But it was too late. With a sudden crack of the thread, Link flew back with his blade, sending him in an unstable position on his feet. Before he could do anything, the steep incline of the ground sent him sprawling forward. In a vain attempt, he pushed himself forward, only to find the darkness of the hole awaiting to swallow him…