Both the Hero of Time and the Sheikah nearly leapt into the air with complete surprise when the Goron revealed his name. Link, however was the first to respond.
“Wait a minute…did you just say your name was Link?”
“Yes…that’s my name,” the Goron confirmed.
Link shook his head wildly and scratched his hair before returning his gaze to the nervous Goron. “Are you sure that’s your name…or are you just borrowing mine for convenience?”
Now it was the Goron’s turn to look surprised. “Why would I borrow your name? I’m using the name my dad gave me when I was born.”
“You’re serious…your dad really named you Link.”
The Goron nodded. “Yes, he really did…why, is there something wrong with my name?”
“Oh, no, there’s nothing wrong with it,” Link uttered as he folded his arms and rolled his eyes. “I’ve been using the same name all my life, and it’s always been good to me.”
For the first time since he got off Link’s back, the Goron looked up from the ground and immediately eyed Link, staring at the Hero of Time in silence for perhaps a full minute. Then, as if coaxed by a voice only audible to his ears, his small dark eyes started to grow and his large mouth stretched out across his face until they showed all of his enormous teeth. Before Link could even react, the Goron started jumping up and down in excitement.
“Link? You’re Link? You mean…the Link?”
“The Link?” the Hero of Time repeated. “What, is there another Link out there or something?”
The Goron stopped leaping around but the excitement was still flowing through his muscles. “What I meant is…are you the Link who came here…seven years ago and…and single-handedly slew King Dodongo?”
“King Dodongo...? Oh, yeah, I remember him. It’s pretty hard to forget a guy who nearly burned your arm clean off.”
As impossible as it seemed, the Goron’s eyes grew even larger. “Then it’s true! You are the great hero Link! The young boy that saved the Goron race from near extinction! The one my father looked up to so much…!”
“Wait a minute,” Sheik broke in. “Didn’t you already know he was Link? Didn’t you hear me screaming his name back there as the platform was collapsing?”
Goron Link turned his gaze towards the Sheikah with a look of puzzlement in his eyes. “You were shouting back there?”
Sheik’s jaw dropped. “You mean…you didn’t hear me?”
“I guess not. The only sounds I remember were those of the great hero Link threatening me with his commanding voice.”
Great…hero…Link…threatening…? Sheik couldn’t believe he was hearing the Goron talk so favorably about Link after he intimidated him back there. Then again…if what Link did seven years ago – save the Goron race from extinction – was true, then who was Sheik to complain?
“In any case,” Goron Link continued, returning his attention to the real Link, “I’m so glad to finally meet you. My dad spoke highly of you for as long as I could remember. From the stories he’s told of you, I’m proud to wear your name. My dad always said that the leader of the Gorons need a mighty name to wear as an honor, and the name Link is…”
“Wait a tic…leader of the Gorons?” Link interjected. “Who’s your dad? What’s your dad’s name?”
“My dad? Darunia.”
Link knew he should he surprised, but all he could say was, “Well, that explains a lot of things.”
Goron Link started to hop on his fat toes. “Do you remember my dad? Do you?”
Link made an uncomfortable smile. “Sure, of course I do,” he uttered before adding under his breath, “It’s pretty hard to forget someone who tries to hug you with those enormous arms.”
Goron Link grew even more excited. “I’m so happy that you do! It’s an honor for my dad to be remembered by one of the greatest heroes of the Goron race! If I may, can I please ask for a favor? Would you give me your autograph? I don’t care what you sign, but I just want a keepsake of yours so I can forever remember this incredible moment! I…oh…”
Without warning, the look of pure joy on Goron Link’s face abruptly changed into one of the most depressed countenances Link had seen since his awakening. The Goron then dropped his head again, lifted his hands to his eyes, and started crying softly.
“What’s wrong?” Sheik asked, leaning in close to comfort the bawling Goron. “Did we do something to upset you?”
“No…no…” Goron Link mumbled through his tears. “I’m sorry, it’s…it’s just that…I just remembered…that now’s not the time to ask for such…such silly things. Many of my people died…and everyone else will be eaten by Volvagia…”
By then the Goron’s words were completely muffled by his tears, but he had already spoken enough to pique both Sheik and Link’s interest.
“Volvagia? That’s a name I don’t recall hearing before,” Sheik commented to the Hero of Time.
“Maybe the little pipsqueak knows more about him?” Link proposed.
“I ask,” Sheik replied, disregarding Link’s almost callous “pipsqueak” remark and turning to face the Goron. “Link…I know how you’re feeling right now…but we really need your help right now. You know a lot more about what’s going on around here, and we really need what you know to help your…to do what we need to do. Will you please help us?”
Goron Link looked up and wiped some of the tears from his face. He was smiling faintly, but he was shaking quite a bit. “I…I’ll try. What…what do you need to know?”
“Can you please tell us about Volvagia?” Sheik asked as gently as he could.
“Volvagia…” Goron Link started before taking a deep breath and continuing. “Volvagia is actually part of the Goron race’s ancient past. Volvagia was once a great dragon that lived in this mountain when the Goron race was in its infancy…”
“Dragon, huh? This might explain that ‘beast’ Sheik was going on about,” Link thought as he listened to the Goron speak.
“He terrorized the Goron race relentlessly, devouring any who dared to stray from the safety of Goron City. But one day, a mighty warrior arrived to save the Gorons from Volvagia’s reign of terror. Armed with a weapon known as the Megaton Hammer, this warrior confronted, fought with, and in the end struck down Volvagia. We don’t know whether the warrior actually slew the evil dragon, but his courage saved the Goron race from his fiery rule for generations to come.
“Today, many of my people dismiss this as just a legend, but my dad knows better. He’s actually a descendant of this warrior, and as proof he knows where…”
“I hate to interrupt this little history lesson,” Link uttered, “but can you tell us something more about the dragon itself?”
Goron Link nodded, as if not minding Link’s rudeness. “The past describes Volvagia as a wretched worm that commands the element of fire with but a single thought. It’s said that his entire body is surrounded by flames and that his speech is coated with the fires of Hael itself. He glides the winds like a bird using the volcanic heat for lift, and his gaze is enough to test even the deepest of courage. I haven’t seen him myself, but I’m sure this is the creature that has been resurrected, for every so often I can hear his howls echo through the city.”
“So we’re going in blind,” Link muttered angrily. “Curse it!”
“What were you saying earlier?” Sheik asked. “About proof that your father is the descendent of this warrior?”
“Just that my father knows the location of the Megaton Hammer.”
That bit of information caught even Link’s interest. “Reeeaaaaallly…”
“Yes,” the Goron beamed proudly. “It’s a family secret passed down generation after generation.”
Sheik stood up and faced the Hero of Time. “Link, that hammer could be very useful. If Volvagia really is the key that’ll free the temple’s power, that hammer could really help us defeat him.”
Link almost seemed to take offense to that. “I dunno…why would I need a silly hammer when the Master Sword is more than enough for dealing with trash like that?”
“ ‘Strong the Master Sword is, but the strongest it is not,’ ” Sheik proclaimed in a commanding voice. “It’s a very well-known saying passed down among the Sheikah. You’re probably right in that the Master Sword will be enough, but why take chances when we know there is a weapon out there that can get the job done without fail?”
Link twisted his mouth into a face. “I see your point, but still…looking for the stupid thing will waste precious time…”
“But you forget that we have a guide,” Sheik declared as he pointed to the Goron next to him. “Link here can take us directly to the hammer and…”
“No I can’t.”
Both Sheik and Link jerked their heads in Goron Link’s direction. “What did you say?” they both cried out at the same time.
“I can’t take you to the hammer,” the Goron said sheepishly. “I don’t know where it is.”
“But…you just said…wasn’t the location of the hammer…a family secret…?”
“Yes, I did say that, but my dad hasn’t passed that secret down to me yet. I’m too young, you see, and…”
“I think I’ve had enough of this,” Link interrupted. “We can spend hours talking about hammers and dragons, but I’d rather just run in and make that worm taste the blade of the Master Sword. Just point me in the direction of the temple and I’ll slay that bas…”
“Wonderful!” Goron Link abruptly exclaimed, once again jumping up and down in excitement. “This is so exciting! The legendary hero Link will save the Goron race once again! He will…but wait, if the temple you’re talking about is the temple I think it is, then you can’t go in just yet.”
“Because the temple’s located right in the middle of the volcano, right?” Sheik answered.
“Correct,” Goron Link smiled.
Link crossed his arms, pouting. “Yes, of course, I completely forget about that stupid detail.”
“But…there is a way that an ordinary Hylian can withstand the heat of Death Mountain,” Goron Link pointed out almost happily.
“And what might that be?” Link asked.
“Why, special clothing, of course. Long ago, when Hylians frequently visited this mountain, a method had to be devised to allow them access to the volcanic crater. Special tunics and hats were developed for just such an occasion. They work by reflecting most of the external heat while maintaining a cool layer of temperature around the wearer’s body; I’ve been told wearing one makes the volcanic heat of Death Mountain feel like a lukewarm summer day.”
“Do you have any of these tunics left, by chance?” Sheik asked.
“We’ve got several sitting around in the special storage rooms,” Goron Link answered with a smile. “You can get dressed in one right now, if you’d like.”
“I would,” Link uttered impatiently. “I don’t feel like standing around here talking any longer. Take me there this minute.”
“As you wish. Follow me.”
With a wave of his hand, Goron Link started walking. Link was about to follow him when he noticed that Sheik was making no indication that he was going to follow the Goron.
“Aren’t you coming to get dressed?” Link inquired.
Sheik seemed to blush underneath his collar. “No, I…I’m very shy about…about my body…”
“Then I’ll get dressed first and leave you and your body to yourselves when I’m done. Does that sound better?”
Sheik’s face somehow grew even redder. “Actually, I…I don’t think…I really…”
“Oh, fine, have it your way.”
Link then turned and hurried to catch up to Goron Link, who was making his way to a nearby staircase cut into the rock.
As the number of minutes slipping past totaled to half an hour, Sheik pondered whether going with Link to get dressed would’ve been better than simply waiting here for him to return. At the very least he could’ve waited outside the room while Link got dressed. But then again, there was the possibility of Link insisting that Sheik changed clothes with him…
Sheik quickly decided to switch to a different line of thought.
“So Ganondorf has taken the Goron race hostage,” he muttered to himself as he paced around in a circle, “and by the sounds of things it’s very likely he found the Fire Temple as well. If what Link said is true, then to awaken the Fire Temple’s power he needs to slay this dragon Volvagia. But where is did Ganondorf take the Gorons, and for what purpose did he leave them alive? What is the Evil King planning? What is he planning…?”
“What are you doing, Sheik?”
Sheik turned around instantly when he heard Link’s voice behind him. The Sheikah expected to see the Hero of Time dressed in some clothes reminiscent of the attire worn by municipal workers of Hyrule Castle New City…at least the New City of seven years ago. To his surprise, Link was dressed in the exact same clothing as before – tunic, hat, even his tights – except for one detail: they were colored bright red instead of green.
“Link…what happened? Did you dye your clothes or something?” the Sheikah inquired.
Link looked all over his body for a moment before answering, “These do look like my old clothes, don’t they? But no, these aren’t my old clothes. I found them hanging along with the rest of the heat-resistant clothing in the storeroom. It’s amazing, actually; the threads look remarkably similar to how a Kokiri would’ve made something like this.”
He then looked up. “But you didn’t answer my question. What were you doing, walking around in circles and talking to yourself like that?”
“Oh, I was just thinking to myself, that’s all. It’s nothing important. By the way, where’s Goron Link…?”
“Right here,” uttered the Goron, who stepped into view to Link’s right as if he had always been there. The Goron then walked up to Sheik and offered the Sheikah a red bundle of cloth in his arms. “And I brought you some heat-resistant clothes. I didn’t know your size, so I brought you several sizes. You can change right here if you wish. There’s no one around here but Link and me.”
Sheik blushed again. “But…but…”
“Yes, we know, you’re shy of your body,” Link sighed frustratingly. “But we don’t have time for that now, Sheik. Just put that aside and change before we lose more precious time.”
“I…I…” Sheik began when a flash of inspiration hit him. “Wait, I’ve got a better idea.”
Link rolled his eyes. “Now what?”
“Before we waste time arguing about this, why don’t you and Goron Link head down to the entrance to the crater…assuming our friend here knows where that entrance is…”
“Oh, don’t worry, I know where it is,” Goron Link smiled, showing off his massive set of teeth.
“Great. While you go there, I’ll get changed. How does that sound?”
The Hero of Time crossed his arms. “Fine, fine. As long as it gets us going. But you know, Sheik, you’re making quite a big deal about your body here, especially at such an important time here. I’m not stupid. I can tell something’s going on, and you had better tell me.”
Link expected Sheik’s blush to redden, but instead the blush weakened, as if Sheik were accepting something he could no longer hide. He scratched his head and looked down at the ground for a brief moment then back up at Link. “It…it’s a long story, Link. I’d give you the details now, but I can guarantee it would only bring up more questions that we don’t have time to answer. If you wait long enough, I’ll tell you what’s going on, but now is not the time. Can we just leave it at that for now?”
Link searched his mind for a snappy response that demanded he know what was going on, but didn’t take long for him to realize Sheik was probably right. Whatever Sheik was hiding, it probably had a back story behind it that would take up too much precious time explaining, and they needed every second they could get. Dropping his arms to his side, Link reluctantly nodded.
“All right, Sheik. I’ll wait. Just don’t forget this.” The Hero of Time then turned to the patient Goron by his side, who had quietly placed Sheik’s clothing by the Sheikah’s side. “Okay, Link, lead me to the entrance to the crater. We’ll wait for Sheik to catch up.”
“Yes, yes, of course,” the Goron exclaimed excitedly. “Just follow me.”
Goron Link then eagerly grabbed Link’s hand and started leading the Hero of Time to another set of stairs carved in the rock. As he was being guided away, Link turned his head to meet with Sheik’s gaze. “I just hope that whatever you’re hiding, I won’t see a bunch of ugly scars all over your body.”
He made the comment more as a little joke, but as he turned his head back around, did he just hear the Sheikah whisper in a serious and sad tone, “Don’t…say that”…?
“The entrance to the crater is in here?”
Link asked his question just Goron Link led him into the inky tunnel at the bottom of Goron City that led to Darunia’s room. The Goron, not slowing down or loosening the strong grip on Link’s hand, nodded wildly in the darkness of the corridor.
“That’s right. This is the only entrance into the crater other than actual crater on Death Mountain itself. Back when Hylians came to this mountain frequently, it was feared some might try to steal precious minerals from the crater, so it was decided that the entrance would be kept safe in the room of the Goron’s leader.”
“But I don’t remember seeing any entrance when I last came in here,” Link remarked, recalling the first time he laid eyes on Darunia seven years ago.
“The crater used to be where we mined our food, but that changed when we discovered the Dodongo Cavern year and years ago. And since by then Hylians had stopped visiting us, there was no more use for the entrance to the crater. So we sealed it up, only opening it when needed.”
“And what exactly did you use to seal the…?” Link started when he was interrupted by the brightness of the room at the end of the corridor. As he waited for his eyes to adjust to the light, he felt Goron Link’s hand let go of his own and heard his feet shuffle across the room to the far end. The moment Link could see clearly again, he looked around for the Goron.
He found him standing next to the Goron-esque statue at the far end of the room.
“Behind this statue,” Goron Link proclaimed as he pointed to it, “is where the entrance to the crater is.”
Link smirked slightly. “Huh. I wondered what that thing was for when I first came here,” he muttered under his breath.
“Unfortunately,” Goron Link continued, “this stone is too heavy for me to move by myself. It was designed that so only really strong Gorons, like my dad, could move it.”
Link’s smirk widened as he bunched his fingers together and cracked his knuckles one by one. “Is that so? Well, I’m not going to let a measly rock get in my way. All I have to do is put a bomb next to it and…”
“You’ll do no such thing.”
Link turned around just in time to see Sheik walk into the room from the dark tunnel. The Sheikah was fully dressed in the bright red clothing Goron Link had given him, clothing that resembled some of the designs Link recalled seeing in Hyrule Castle New City seven years ago. But Link noticed something very peculiar: the Sheikah’s face was hidden by a fabric mask that stretched all over his face, covering everything save his eyes and nostrils. Link thought the Sheikah looked a little ridiculous in the mask, especially with no mouth in the mask.
“What’s with the mask?” Link asked.
“It’s to protect my face from the heat,” Sheik insisted in the same muffled voice as before. “You’ve got your hat, and I’ve got this mask.”
“But why a mask? Why not just a simple hat?”
“It was the only thing Goron Link brought that would fit me.”
“I find that a little hard to believe…but anyway, why in the name of Din’s Fire can’t I blow up this statue with a bomb? Don’t you like big explosions or something?”
“It’s not that,” Sheik stated, ignoring Link’s cynicism. “I just remembered something. Remember back at the Forest Temple when we ran into those Moblins? Who’s to say that there probably aren’t hoards of Moblins patrolling the crater this very minute? Or maybe Ganondorf resurrected another evil beast from legend…I don’t know. All I know is since Ganondorf has been here, there’s a strong chance he’s put some kind of creature out there to guard the Fire Temple. A bomb blast would just give them an invitation to come and kill us.”
“So we were very lucky when that platform fell and nothing came to check it out?” Goron Link asked sheepishly.
“Exactly,” Sheik answered. “Let’s not tempt fate twice with a noise this close to the crater.”
Link started grumbling again. “Fine, fine. We’ll sneak around if we have to. So what do you propose we do? Push it?”
“It’s about all we can do.”
“Just in case you didn’t hear this pipsqueak, that rock can only be pushed by the strongest Gorons…”
“I heard. I’m sure with all three of us pushing at the same time we can budge just enough to get past. It might take a while, I know, but it’s the safest approach…”
“Curse it…let’s just get this over and done with.” Link then stormed over to the left side of the tall stone and started pushed it as hard as he could. “Quit wasting time and come help me with this.”
Sighing, Sheik strolled over to Link’s side and began pushing it along with the Hero of Time. Goron Link, oblivious to the callous attitude Link was displaying, joined in with his Goron muscle. The three pushed with all of their might, and it didn’t take long before the stone started inching its way to the side.
They pushed for about a minute before Sheik stepped away to take a brief brake. He sat down on the floor, leaned against the wall and was just about to catch his breath when he heard a tiny voice whisper in his left ear.
“Navi?” Sheik instinctively whispered back. “What’s up?”
“Do you…mind if I ride with you for a while?”
“With me? Why? Don’t you like Link’s new hat or something…?”
“No, it’s not that…the hat’s fine. It’s just that…I need to get away from Link for a little while.”
Sheik’s eyes widened through the holes in his mask. “Get away from him? Why would you want to get away from your charge? I thought fairies were supposed to remain with their charge until…”
“Yes, yes, I know. It pains me to actually say that I want to leave him. But it’s just that…the way that Link’s been acting…it’s really starting to…to…to…”
“To what? What’s wrong?”
“You know how fairies can see a person’s energies radiating from their souls? The energies I see from Link’s soul just…they just scare me. Those energies are from a soul different from the one I met in Kokiri Forest years ago. I don’t want to abandon him…I just want to stay with you for a little while. Please? Even if I have to sit on your shoulder. I can tolerate the volcanic heat.”
At first Sheik didn’t know what to think. Had Link really changed so much that his own fairy didn’t recognize him? And was it really a good idea to separate Navi from his charge like this, even for a little while? Then again, Navi sounded absolutely terrified. Maybe it would be best to give her some time to calm down…
“Okay, Navi, I’ll let you stay with me for a bit. There’s a pocket on my shirt’s left breast. You can stay in there as long as you need to.”
“Thanks, Sheik. I’ll try not to be too much of a bother.”
Without another word, the pink fay then slipped nimbly into the breast pocket on Sheik’s tunic. As she did, Sheik sighed to himself and shook his head gently.
“What’s become of you, Link, that you can drive your own fairy away…?”
Sheik’s thoughts were interrupted by Link’s powerful voice. The Sheikah immediately looked up and cried, “Yes, what is it?”
“This rock will move a lot faster if you get off you backside and help us push this stupid thing!”
It took several more minutes, but the Goron-esque stone had finally been moved enough so that everyone could squeeze into the entrance behind it. Link was the first to take a peak behind the statue; not surprisingly, the entrance was really another tunnel that led off into the distance. He couldn’t see anything in the actual tunnel, but at the far end he could make out a faint red glow that seemed to flicker wildly in the distance.
“Do you see anything, Link?” Sheik asked.
“I think I see the glow of the crater at the far end of the tunnel,” the Hero of Time answered. “Can’t tell from here whether there’s anything waiting for us, though.”
“Then we’ll have to move quietly. We don’t know if Ganondorf may have found this tunnel and posted guards.” The Sheikah then turned to Goron Link. “As for you…thanks for everything you’ve done for us, but this is as far as I want you to go with us. What we’re about to face could be very dangerous.”
Goron Link nodded without any hint of possible argument. “I understand. I’ll just wait here for your return.”
“Before we go, we’re going to need the location of the Fire Temple,” Link uttered as he removed his head from the tunnel.
“Certainly. The temple is located at the far end of the crater. To get there quickly, take the left branch; the right branch will take you to the top of the crater. The actual temple is located farther down in the crater’s rock. There are two entrances you can use: the Goron entrance and the Hylian entrance, although I suggest you take the Hylian one, as the Goron one is a steep slope.”
Sheik nodded. “Again I thank you for all of your help. Don’t worry about us, we’ll be just fine.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Goron Link acknowledged before turning to the Hero of Time. “It was an honor to meet you, Link. I know you will save the Goron race and defeat that wretched worm Volvagia. I just know it.”
“Actually, I’m not going to…” Link started as he raised his finger…before lowering his finger, ending his sentence with a sigh, and adding, “We’ll see what happens.”
Without another word, Link turned around and squeezed into the tunnel behind the Goron statue, leaving a happy-looking Goron Link and a perplexed Sheik and Navi staring after him.
“I thought he was going to tell the Goron he wasn’t going to save his people,” Navi whispered from the Sheikah’s pocket as Sheik moved to follow the Hero of Time. “Maybe Link hasn’t changed that much, after all.”
“I hope you’re right,” Sheik agreed.
To call the crater enormous would do it a great disservice. Stretching across an area large enough to house roughly two Hyrule Castles, most of that area was dominated by the presence of a lake of molten lava, whose surface bubbled and burst in an almost rhythmic manner. A few of the bursts reached the level of the ground Link and Sheik were standing on, but none of the flares were close enough to reach them and burn them. Speaking of which, the heat inside the crater must’ve been enough to cause a regular person to faint within the first few seconds. But thanks to the heat-resistant clothing, most of the pair’s bodies didn’t much of the heat at all.
The Hero of Time and the Sheikah were standing upon a small platform at the exit to the tunnel they had just entered from Darunia’s room. Just like Goron Link had indicated, the platform had two branches, one on either side. Goron Link’s advice to take the left branch wasn’t really necessary, as it was clearly visible the right branch wound around the crater’s edge all the way to the top.
And, thankfully, there were no Moblins or any other creatures to be seen.
“It looks like the coast is clear,” Sheik muttered as he gazed around the vast basin.
“Then let’s not waste any time here talking about it,” Link demanded. “I want that dragon’s blood on my sword by the end of the day.”
Before Sheik could say anything in response, Link darted down the left path that led to the Fire Temple. Shaking his head in disappointment, the Sheikah hurried after him.
The two of them walked along the edge of the crater for several minutes in silence, allowing the only sounds to be made by the bubbling natural cauldron of lava to their side. Occasionally a flare of magma would ignite close to them, but at most they merely hesitated before continuing on their march to the other side of the crater. Link was obviously focused on reaching the temple as quickly as possible, as he only kept his gaze affixed directly in front of him. Sheik, meanwhile, glanced in a different direction every few moments, sometimes pausing to watch the shadows on the crater’s wall dance to the lava’s intense heat.
By the time the duo had walked halfway around the side of the cavern, however, Sheik felt the need to break the silence with some words.
“Link…I want to talk to you.”
“What is it now, Sheik?” Link asked curtly without stopping or even turning around.
“It’s about the Gorons.”
“What about them?”
“I know you couldn’t guarantee that we would save them, but…I want you to make it into one.”
That got Link’s attention. “Come again?” he uttered, even though his tone of voice indicated he already knew what Sheik was asking.
“I want you to promise we will save the Gorons,” Sheik stated as firmly as he could.
That was when Link stopped walking. He still didn’t turn around to face the Sheikah, but Sheik could tell the Hero of Time was trying to contain his frustration. “We’ve been through this, Sheik. I will only save them if I feel I can. That was the deal we made…”
“Well, I want to change it,” Sheik interrupted. “You saw how frightened and alone Goron Link was. If we don’t save his friends, his family…his entire race, for the love of the Three Goddesses…he will be alone and miserable for the rest of his life. We can’t sit back and give him that kind of fate.”
Link tightened his hands into fists, but he still refused to turn and face the Sheikah. “Sheik…don’t try my patience. I will not risk my life for them…”
“Well, you should!” Sheik cried out in an unexpected burst of anger. “You’re the Hero of Time! It’s what you’re meant to do!”
“No, I will not be quiet!” Sheik uttered loudly, the heatedness in his voice growing with every word. “Now you listen, Link. Your attitude is getting out of hand. This is not how the Hero of Time is supposed to act. You should know better that this is not right.”
“The Hero of Time is meant to help everyone who needs it, even if it puts the life of the Hero of Time at risk. I’m not saying you should go on a suicide mission, but you should at least try. Plan something out, figure out a strategy…just do something other than say you won’t do it because it’s too dangerous!”
“I never thought I’d say this, but you’re acting like a coward. You’re running away from your responsibilities as the Hero of Time, and that is completely unacceptable. It’s amazing that the Master Sword still accepts you as its rightful owner.”
“You said you lost something precious to you because you became the Hero of Time. You said you never chose to be the Hero of Time and only took up the role against your will. Well, guess what, Link? You’re going to have to deal with it. Just forget whatever you lost and…”
The last word of Link’s powerful scream echoed throughout the crater before everything seemed to go eerily silent. Sheik could feel his legs turn to rubber as his mind grew as blank as a starless night. How could he come up with a response to such an emotionally charged shriek?
All the Sheikah could do was stare at the Hero of Time, who still hadn’t turned around but was straining to stop himself from doing something. His arms twitched nervously as his fists were now bent into cringing claws. Link’s own breathing shuddered through his teeth as he struggled to breathe after releasing that yell. His legs appeared just as rubbery as Sheik’s but somehow he found the strength to remain standing.
After what felt like an hour when it was really a minute, Sheik found the courage to speak. “Link, I…”
“Shut up, just shut up,” Link interjected heatedly. “Shut up before I pick you up by your neck and throw you into the fire.”
The seriousness in Link’s tone was enough to tell Sheik that Link’s warning was no joke; it was a real threat.
“Forget that something precious which I lost?” Link continued. “Ha! You make such a claim, and yet you’ve never gone through what I’ve gone through. Try experience what I’ve experienced before you preach to me with your idealisms. You expect too much out of me, Sheik. I’m the Hero of Time, not a god. You hear that? I’m not a bloody god!”
It was then that Sheik wished he hadn’t gotten into such an impassioned mood. How could he have been so stupid, so abrupt, so…careless? Shouting at Link without warning wouldn’t get him to change his attitude; in fact shouting may have just reinforced it, for all he knew. Any chance Sheik may have had of convincing Link to help the Gorons was now more than likely gone.
But something Link said resonated in Sheik’s mind: “try going through what I’ve gone through.” There were many ways to answer that question. The answer that first came to him – particularly because he still felt a little big angry – was to tell Link how Sheik had experienced what he had gone through. Sheik had lost someone very important to him, someone whom he cared for dearly, and yet he managed to move on with his life to do what had to be done.
Luckily, however, Sheik knew that giving such a response now would only invoke another argument, and Link was obviously in no mood for such things. Maybe another time…but not now. All Sheik could do now was say one thing…
“I…I’m sorry, Link.”
Link looked down at the ground, as if trying to find a good-enough response to such a simple statement. He then answered, “Just…leave me alone.”
With that, the Hero of Time started moving again, this time at a snail’s pace, towards where the Fire Temple was said to be located.
Sheik shook his head in frustration and sighed deeply. “Oh, by Farore’s Wind, what have I done? Did I just do the stupidest thing I possibily could’ve done? Why did things have to turn out like…wait a minute…”
Sheik quickly stopped talking and moved all of his concentration to his sense of hearing. Did he just hear something in the distance, something he hadn’t heard before? It could’ve been a rock falling into the lava from the other side of the cavern…no, wait, there it was again. It sounded like a soft clicking sound, but Sheik couldn’t be sure…wait, there it was again…and again…and again…
Within a matter of seconds, Sheik heard a distant yet unmistakably audible succession of clicking sounds that eventually grew into an indistinguishable cluster of sound, as if many…no, a great deal of small sources of the sound were together in a group. And they were getting louder…
Sheik rapidly looked around, searching for the possible source of the sounds. This didn’t sound like something he could just shrug off…there, at the top of the crater! To Sheik’s surprise and horror, he saw hundreds upon hundreds of small black shapes hovering just above the gaping mouth of the crater, hovering wildly in a bunch like giant dust particles caught in a spiraling wind. And those shapes were getting larger and more recognizable by the second, which could only mean they were moving in his direction at an alarming rate.
And Sheik didn’t need to seem them up close to know what they were.
The Hero of Time, who had by now shuffled a short distance away from the Sheikah, turned his head slightly in Sheik’s direction. “I told you to leave me alone, you…”
That was enough to get Link to turn all the way around to face Sheik, but by the time he did Sheik was already breaking into a sprint and just about to pass him.
“Sheik, what’s going on…?” Link started as Sheik passed him before the Sheikah interrupted him.
“Keese! Now run!”
If Link had tried to talk to Sheik once again, the Sheikah would’ve been too far away, still running as fast as he could. So the only logical thing Link could do was start running after him. Interestingly, it didn’t take much effort for Link to catch up and keep pace with the Sheikah, but Link couldn’t be bothered by such a small detail right now. As soon as he was sprinting directly next to Sheik, Link turned his head and repeated his question:
“Sheik, what’s going on? What in the name of the Three Goddesses is a Keese?”
“Turn around and see for yourself!”
The look of horror in Sheik’s face was almost enough to make Link take the situation seriously. It was when he briefly glanced over his shoulder when he decided to take it seriously.
By now the black specks Sheik had seen hovering at the top of the crater were now close enough that they could easily be identified as some kind of bat-like creature. Link had seen hundreds of bats during his years spent in the Lost Woods, but none of them were this big…or looked this vicious. Because the “Keese” were flapping their wings so rapidly, the only distinguishable feature Link could make out were their bright yellow eyes…but that was all he needed to tell that these bats were after his blood. And that chirping noise they were making – the one he was only noticing now – sounded like a thousand thirsty jaws snapping ferociously at their soon-to-be prey.
Although Link wasn’t as frightened by the Keese as Sheik apparently was, he understood why the Sheikah was in such a panic. If even one of these creatures, let alone a bunch of them, managed to sink its teeth into Link or Sheik’s flesh, they could easily be overpowered, giving the rest ample time to finish them. Not even the Master Sword could defend against such an attack…
“Wonderful!” Link cried out for no particular reason.
“What was that?” Sheik asked.
“Nothing! Just follow your own advice and run!”
And the two of them did just that: run. It didn’t take long before the blood pumping furiously through their ears masked all sounds save for the Keese’s erratic clicking and the heavy clapping of their feet against the stone floor. Neither Sheik nor Link dared turn around again to see how close their pursuers were; instead they gauged the distance between them and the Keese via the shadows cast by upon the crater wall the boiling magma. Each time they glanced at the shadows they found the swarm gaining ground, which motivated them to run even faster.
But no matter how much effort they exerted, the hungry jaws of the Keese grew closer and closer…so close that Link was sure he could hear some of the bats snickering at the helplessness of their prey.
“How much farther!” he screamed out in his mind. “Where’s the bloody entrance to the Fire…”
Suddenly, Link felt something sharp scratch the back of his neck, trying to hook into his flesh. The Hero of Time didn’t need to turn around to know that one of the Keese had managed to get close enough to attack. If that thing managed to grab him, it could easily make him stumble, giving the rest of the bloodsuckers the opportunity to join in. He had to get rid of it, but how…?
Without thinking or looking down, Link reached with his right hand for his belt and felt around for something – anything! – that would help him. His hand grabbed something hard and firm, and without checking to see what it was, Link drew it from his belt and whipped it around as hard as he could to where the bat had earlier attacked him…
The back of his neck grew warm as something moist sprinkled upon his skin. His curiosity overtaking his sense of urgency, Link reached down with his left hand and touched something damp and sticky. He pulled his hand into view to find a dark red substance clinging to his fingertips. He didn’t need anything to tell him that it was blood. His own…? No, it wasn’t his. Then was it the Keese’s…?
“What did I just do?” he wondered before looking down at his right hand.
It was holding the hookshot, and the weapon’s arrowhead was soaked in the same blood found on his neck.
“The tip must’ve cut that thing when I swung it…all right! That should…”
He quickly realized this was no time to gloat over killing one Keese. He could already hear more Keese getting closer and closer, ready to do what their brother had just failed to do. He could only imagine how close that cloud of bats was by now. If he didn’t do something, both he and Sheik were goners…
“Link!” Sheik’s voice abruptly screamed. “I see it! I see it! The entrance to the Fire Temple! It’s just up ahead!”
Link looked up ahead and quickly spotted what Sheik was yelling about. While it was still quite a distance away, he could make out an alcove cut into the wall of the crater at the end of the path. In that alcove was what appeared to be a brick layering of some kind, probably the “human entrance” to the Fire Temple down below. And while it was a little faint because of the heat inside the crater, he could barely make out the outlining to what appeared to be a doorway in the wall. Was this the “Goron entrance” with the steep slope Goron Link had told them about…?
“Perfect! Now we just need to get there alive…” he started mumbling when his thoughts were interrupted by a flash of inspiration. He glanced down at his right hand to make sure he wasn’t being stupid. He wasn’t: their salvation lay in that very hand.
“Sheik!” he screamed to the Sheikah, who appeared as if he were about to collapse from exhaustion. “I have an idea! Grab my left hand!”
“Just grab it, curse you!”
The Sheikah immediately reached out with his right hand and grabbed Link’s left one.
“Good! Now hold on tight! This is going to be rough!”
As he felt Sheik’s hand squeeze his own, Link held up his right hand containing the hookshot and squeezed the trigger to activate the target beam. To his surprise, however, the beam was nowhere to be seen. He tried wiggling the hookshot around to stimulate the ruby inside the contraption, but the target didn’t appear.
“Curses! All of this red heat is covering the target! Now how am I going to know where to shoot…?”
The sudden prick of a Keese claw against his neck made him remember how much time he had left.
“Got no choice, then. Got to just fire and hope it hits.”
Feeling a lump grow in his throat, Link hesitantly raised the hookshot to where he felt it should aim. He then made a quick prayer to the Three Goddesses, took a deep breath, and squeezed the trigger all the way down…
The hookshot’s arrowhead burst through the air with a loud bang, dragging the chain that will hopefully save Link and Sheik – not to mention Navi – from the vicious bats that were breathing down his neck. Everything seemed to move in slow motion as he watched the arrow sail through the volcanic winds towards the alcove where the entrance to the Fire Temple lay; he could almost hear himself scream that he could run faster than the arrowhead was moving…
“Wait a minte…run…? What in the world am I doing? I don’t need to do this! I can call up Farore’s Wind and…”
The very instant that the arrowhead sunk into the rocky wall of the crater was the same instant when Link felt the hookshot yank him off the ground and into the air. As his feet left the ground, he instinctively tightened his grip on Sheik’s hand; a moment later, he felt the weight of the Sheikah stretch his arm as Sheik left the ground with him.
“Too late now, I suppose.”
As the clickity-clackity of the retracting chain pounded his eardrums, Link turned around, half-expecting the Keese to still be right behind him despite the recoiling speed of the hookshot. To his relief, the swarm of bats behind them was giving ground and already shrinking away in the distance; the loud hisses he heard indicated the Keese themselves were not too pleased that their prey was getting away.
Link couldn’t resist laughing in satisfaction at his pursuers. “Ha ha! Who’s faster now, you flying rats? You can’t catch us now! You…!”
“Link! Look out!”
Link quickly turned his head back around upon hearing Sheik’s voice…and was just in time to watch the cavern wall slam directly into his face with a loud crack.
He blacked out upon impact, but not before his mind thought of one word and one word only: