The Garden of Farore: Chapter Sixteen
POE was angry. It knew that there had been something in front of it, something live; the thing it had been sent to find. But the live thing had taken refuge in a maze of stone structures, and try as it might Poe could not find that one's particular life force amid the confused impulses radiating from the great city. Fear it sensed, and also anger, and it enjoyed the sensations immensely. But it too felt what might loosely be described as frustration as it hovered over the city upon the wings of its storm, for it could not finish what it had wanted to do.
Leaving the storm to rage where it would, Poe ascended into the upper airs and floated gently through the sky to hover above the tallest structure in the city. It felt a great deal of life force emanating from within this lofty construction, the result of the presence of a great gathering of living beings at the heart of the building. That made Poe eager to extend its influence within, to seek out and to feed upon the strong souls that it sensed. It hated all living things. In obedience, though, it restrained itself and, detaching from the storm, ascended like a mist to cling to the topmost spire of North Castle, unseen and unknown. Below it, the magnificent whirlwind it had created slowly roared itself out.
Link lifted the blind with a fingertip and peered out into the unnaturally dark streets. He blinked twice and let the shutter fall once more. "It's letting up," he said.
"Thank Nayru!" Calonna exclaimed, dropping her embroidery.
"I could have told you that," Bethan said. She was sitting on the woven mat before the fire, Prowl purring in her lap. She looked over her shoulder and smiled in his direction. "Listen, the tiles aren't breaking any more."
Link's ears flicked reflexively as he noticed what she was talking about. The sound of the rain on the roof, so heavy and incessant only a few minutes ago, was lessened to the point where it sounded almost like an ordinary fall of rain. And that unearthly wind had died down also. Now louder than the storm was the warm crackling of the fire in the little room. "You're clever," he said admiringly, and the girl giggled.
Only ten or twelve minutes had passed since Link had accidentally blundered into Curan and Calonna's house, and they had been unfailingly kind to him--insisting that he dry his soaked clothes by their fire and offering him warm drinks and food. Slightly embarrassed, he had accepted their hospitality with less grace than Prowl, who reveled in being fussed over by young Bethan. He was now dry and warm and passably comfortable as he sat in one of their hardbacked chairs and waited for the storm to pass. They would not even hear of letting him go before the rain stopped. With a faint sigh he relaxed in the chair and wriggled his toes, warm in the dry boots.
"Lived here long?" Curan asked suddenly, and Link jumped. The big man stood benevolently on the hearth, his powerful hands clasped behind his back, a faintly enquiring smile on his heavy features. His eyes were kind, interested.
Link shrugged. "Not too long, sir," he said deferentially. "I came here just after the business with Ganon; and, well... afterwards, I stayed. Calatia has little to offer me." He disliked the way the last few words came out--as if he were defensive about his decision. Farore! he had no need to justify his choices. Hyrule was where he would stay, like all the other Heroes before him. Only one of the line of the Hero of Time had left Hyrule for good after coming there; the ill-omened Link Third, who, it was believed, had sailed in search of the mysterious Isle of Koholint and was never to return home... Link sighed. He was dreaming again.
"Aren't you lonely for your own people?" Calonna asked. Her light brown eyes were warm like the room itself. She smiled gently at his hesitancy. "Ah... you are, I can tell. Perhaps you should go back sometime and visit them. It could do no harm."
"Mayhap I should," Link said thoughtfully, and then sighed heavily, releasing some of the frustration that had been building in him all day. "Not that I have a place there... my family are fisherfolk, and I never felt much of a calling to join them." A wry smile spread across his features as he added, "I'll not trouble you by relating my past history, good lady. In fact, it sounds like the rain has let up enough for me to be heading back to the castle. A thousand thanks for your hospitality in taking me in like this, but the Princess might be worried if I stayed longer."
Curan nodded wistfully. "Ah... you know the Princess," he murmured. "Many's the time I've seen her passing by with her Royal father. She is very beautiful..."
"What is your trade, sir?" Link asked curiously. He had wondered if the obviously strong and powerfully built man was a soldier, but that just did not seem likely given his temperament. Men like Curan did not generally work in the King's service; what Harkinian needed was ruthless soldiers and cunning councillors, not those hampered by morals or a sense of injustice.
Curan looked surprised as he answered. "My trade? I'm a blacksmith." His eyes sparkled as he expanded; "'Tis not a trade that holds much respect, needless to say, but it pays well on account o' rarity value. There aren't too many nowadays who wish to take up the hammer, and even fewer who have any skill with it." He laughed. "'Tis easy to smack a bit of iron about, I always say, but 'tis much harder to make a good blade out of it!"
"You must know a bit about weapons, then," Link suggested, his interest awakened at the mention of swords and the like. Reaching for the belt that lay discarded before the fire, he dragged his scabbard to him and drew out the serpentine dagger. Finding it, he tossed the slender blade to the smith. "What do you make of it?" he asked earnestly. "I... well, you could say that I won it while I was in the West. It feels like a good blade to me, but I'm no judge--I only owned one sword before it, and that was something I bought from a pedlar for twenty-five rupees."
The dagger gleamed hungrily in Curan's strong hands; he turned it over and pressed the slender blade with a callused thumb, testing its edge. Firelight sparked off the burnished blade as if it were aflame, and the serpentine scales on the hilt glittered like dragons' eyes. It seemed a thing of ethereal beauty made more unreal by the homely qualities of the place it was in--it seemed to show itself off, to say 'here I am: admire me'.
"It's very old," Curan said eventually, and placed the hilt of the dagger back into Link's hands. He relinquished it with obvious reluctance, letting it slip from his hands. "Maybe centuries. It's lasted well, and from that I'd say..." He looked away uneasily. "Well, I'd suggest that it's Goron make, but I cannot find any seal."
"Goron make?" Link echoed. "Why, those are supposed to be worth thousands! Are you sure?"
"No, I'm not," Curan answered, frowning. "It feels as good a blade as any I ever saw--and I've seen a lot. There isn't a smith alive who could make a sword like that one, and that makes me think it's from the last of the great Goron mountain forges. But then again, they never made their weapons with a decoration like that--you see the scales, there." He ran a horny finger along the hilt of the blade, pointing out the hand-tooled scales and the twisting tail. "Gorons would ornament their weapons with any kind of animal, any decoration except snakes. They worked with horses, lions, fish, that sort of thing, according to the school they belonged to--'twas a kind of signature for them. But I never yet saw a Goron blade that had a serpent motif." He frowned. "No school I've heard of ever used it, at any rate."
Link frowned. "Well, I thought I knew little about it," he said, smiling wryly, "and now I know that I know even less than I thought! With your leave, sir, I'd love to hear more about the Goron smiths. Where's your shop, may I ask?"
"I have a stall in the marketplace, and on weekdays I work my forge in the Street of Armorers," Curan answered, pointing northward. "You know where it is?"
"I do," Link agreed. "I believe I know much of Hyrule Town by now... since the first time, when I got lost there on the way to my audience with the King!"
The smith laughed, an unrestrained display of goodwill. "Look for Curan's Blades," he instructed, smiling. "'Tis near the junction with Weaver Street."
"I will," Link answered. He turned back to the window, intending to see if the wind and rain had lessened enough for him to leave, and then something caught his eye--a small, dusty picture hanging on the wall beside the door. He went over to it and studied the image, thoughtfully.
It was an odd square thing, a scene of overhanging trees. The frame seemed to be a cheap and crudely carved wooden imitation of the original, perhaps added much later on, but its light aspen wood set off the dark colors of the little painting in a pleasing way. Link knew he was certainly no judge of art, but he was sure that it would be worth a lot of money, especially if it was as old as it looked. But the price was not what had attracted him. The painting, dark and gloomy though it was, seemed to show half-hidden within the green darkness a partly paved forest path lined with crumbling stone walls, lichen-covered and overgrown. Deep within the glade, half-masked by ferny bushes and darkened further by the shadows of the tall trees, a dark and square entrance yawned, seemingly set in a wall of ancient rock and overhung by some kind of portico. A point of shimmering pale green light glowed inside the dark doorway, but it was impossible to tell whether the light was something small, close, or something huge, far away. As he gazed at the image, he felt once again that strange tug he had experienced in the desert, when they found out that Sofia was a descendant of the Sage of Spirit, Nabooru. Chwedl a gynydda fel caseg eira...
"What is this painting?" Link asked, half-turning to look at Curan.
But it was Calonna who answered. "We aren't too sure, really," the young woman said in her soft, creamy voice. "It's been in my family for a long time. The inscription on the back says something to do with a temple in the forest. A few years ago we paid a down-and-out scholar to translate it for us, but he could only pick out a few words." She smiled wryly as she went on, "He walked off with half our silver teaspoons in his pockets, too. It was our good luck that Curan had the commission then and could replace them."
"May I?" the young warrior asked, and when the nod came, he lifted his good hand and gently unhooked the small picture from the wall. It came away with a little dust, leaving a whiter space upon the faintly smoke-tarnished wall it had lain upon. He turned it over, exceedingly gentle as he touched it, and found the faded sigils in Ancient Hylian. Ancient Hylian... so the picture truly was old then. Link understood the difficulty of translating the inscription, for the words were worn to the point of illegibility even had he been a master of the language. "I cannot read this," he said slowly, "but I know a woman who could."
"Will we get it back?" Curan asked, embarrassed. "Only, it has been in the family, you know... I'd like to leave it to my Bethan as a nest egg..."
Link looked shocked. "Sir, I'm no thief!" he protested. "You know who I am and where I am, and I'll return it as soon as the inscription's translated. I'll even write you a receipt if you want-"
"I'm sorry," the smith said quickly, "but you can understand how reluctant we are, we've been cheated before. Not that I think you would, you're the Hero of Hyrule," he finished hastily. "How long would you want it?"
"Not long," Link insisted. "It'll come straight back to you, I promise. Zelda won't damage it." He examined the inscription once more, but he could only spell out one or two letters. "This might have a clue to the Quest," he said quietly.
"What quest?" Calonna asked in surprise.
Link bit his lip. "Er... oops. I should not have mentioned it. It is supposed to be a secret..."
Curan smiled slowly. "Take it," he said with finality. "We trust you, Hero--if not you, no-one! Good luck in whatever you have to do." Calonna seconded the agreement with a grave nod of her head.
"Thank you very much, good sir... madam," Link exclaimed, flustered. He reached out to grab his now dry cloak from where it had been lying on the hearth, and Bethan put it into his hands, laughing at his surprise. Still amazed at the trust and generosity of the young couple, Link carefully wrapped the painting in the warm green wool, and placed it gently in his backpack. Shouldering the satchel, he scooped up Prowl from her place beside the fire. "Sorry, kit," he said with a smile, "but you'll have to get wet now. Curan, Calonna, thank you once again for your kindness to a traveler in need. I promise I will make it up to you some time."
"No need, no need," Curan said expansively, waving a hand. "You're welcome to drop in any time, young Hero, and so are your friends. Hold on, I'll help you on with your cloak."
Zelda sat morosely upon a window-seat in the Hall of Portraits, surrounded by a thousand years of pictorial history. When she had been younger she had enjoyed looking through the images as she wandered from one end of the hall to the other, seeing the faces of every King and Queen of Hyrule changing slowly down the ages. Now, however, she had other things to consider.
Link was still not back, and the rain had almost completely stopped. It was very worrying. Wild tales had begun to filter into the castle, of cows snatched off their pastures and impaled upon the steeplecocks of village churches; men who had been working in the fields found miles away on the slopes of inaccessible cliffs, alive without a scratch; flash floods carrying off shepherds and their flocks alike. The Princess knotted her fingers together and thought with cold fear of the possibility of Link being "missing" forever. Without the Hero there could be no Knighthood, she was sure of that.
"By the Goddess, cheer up," Sofia said suddenly, emerging from a doorway a few paces away, just beneath a great gilt-framed portrait of Link Third who had sailed away to sea. "You look like a dragon with toothache."
Zelda could not help a faint smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. "Sofia!" she protested. Then, "Oh, I'm worried, that is all. He should have been back a long time ago."
"He'll be here soon, I'm sure," Sofia said with a shrug. "He can look after himself better than anyone else." She sat down beside Zelda on the window-seat, looking concernedly into the Princess's face. "You look tired," she remarked.
"I spent the whole day working with the Book in the hope of finding out something of real use," Zelda explained, rubbing her temples absently. "It resisted me to the last. What use is a riddle like that?"
"What--oh, that thing about the Hero's shadow." Sofia frowned. "My experience with riddles tells me that they will usually reveal themselves to be perfectly simple... once you know the answer."
"So how do we learn the answer?" Zelda muttered. She sighed heavily and shook her hair back. After the adventure in the Western Desert, she had not felt like going back to the old frilly silks and crinolines, and now wore a pair of soft leather breeches, a white chemise and over that a leather jerkin that might offer some protection against a sword, should the need arise. Her sudden new taste in clothes had already been the focus of several battles with her royal father, and she had only been back a few days. It seemed that even though Zelda was now training to become a true warrior, like Link, King Harkinian still wanted her to look like a Princess. She crossed her legs, a new freedom afforded by the new clothes she wore, and leaned back against the window, sighing softly to herself.
Someone tapped on the glass. With a shriek, Zelda sat bolt upright and leaped off the seat, her heart hammering. Sofia turned mildly to see who it was in the courtyard. A pair of bright green eyes gleamed back at her mischieviously, and winked. "Zel, it's Link," she said in some surprise.
"Link?" Zelda exclaimed. "Oh, thank Nayru he's safe! Sofia, open the window. I'm going to hurt him!" Outside, Link waved cheerfully at them, unable to hear the conversation through the thick diamond-paned glass.
Sofia laughed. "I really don't understand you two sometimes," she said, jerking at the catch.
The moment the window was released, it swung outwards--Link ducked, and then sprang through the gap with an agile bound. Prowl was under his arm, damp and irritated from the rain that still fell outside. The young warrior dumped the soggy kitten into Sofia's lap ignoring their twin howls of protest, and loosed the straps of his satchel, bending to rummage in it in a clear display of high excitement. "Look what I found!" he exclaimed, pulling out something square which he waved in front of Zelda's nose. Eyes sparkling, he awaited her reaction.
"It's a painting," she said flatly.
Link nodded eagerly. "Of course it's a painting! But look, look at it!"
Zelda took the little image from him and gave it a perfunctory examination. "Link, it's an ugly little painting," she said, irritated herself now. Sofia got up to take a look herself, setting Prowl down on the window seat.
He pointed at the center of the picture. "No, look! That symbolizes something, that green light! Don't you think-? This is the Forest Temple, Zel, and the picture's saying that there's an amulet inside!"
"Mere speculation," Zelda snapped. "There's no proof that's what it means."
"Oh, but there is," Link countered with a crafty smile. He turned the image over and showed her the writing on the back. "Can you read that to me?"
The Princess squinted at the difficult inscription, mouthing out the sounds she read. "It is hard," she began plaintively, then, "Oh, wait... yes, I think I see... Temple of the Forest, Resting... Place of that Legendarie Jewel as it was told by Our Noble Hero... something By Myself, something, a name?.. a date. The Forest Temple?" Her eyes widened.
Link capered around, singing. "I knew it! I knew it! I was right! I found it!"
"The date is wrong," Zelda pointed out. "It's over three hundred years after the last topical reference to the Amulets of Legend--this is from the time of the Imprisoning War!"
"It doesn't matter!" Link insisted, grabbing the painting off her and gazing rapt at the inscription. "Zelda, this is proof! Public opinion at this time had it that an Amulet was laid in the Forest Temple!"
"There was no Amulet in the Spirit Temple," Sofia said.
"It could have been moved," Zelda answered slowly. "Why would they have secreted all the Amulets in the Temples, anyway? No, there is some other secret to this..."
"We have to find the Forest Temple," Link said excitedly. "Even if the Amulet is no longer there, there will be a clue!"
"I sense a problem," Zelda answered, biting her lip. "The official chronicles of that time say that even when the Hero of Time came to the Forest Temple, it was in ruins. Will there be anything left at all after thousands of years more?"
It was Sofia who answered. "We have to look."
"You want to leave? Already?"
King Harkinian's expression was little short of annoyed as he gazed at his only daughter resplendent in the boys' clothes she had taken to so strongly. "Why?" he asked.
"We want to search for the Forest Temple," Zelda explained. "We found--well, Link found something that suggests there is an Amulet there." She did not like to thus upset her father every time she needed to go somewhere nowadays, and she was aware that he regretted giving them permission to continue, but she knew also that his co-operation would have to be acquired; after the Spirit Temple débacle, the palace guards were keeping a closer eye on her than they ever had before.
"Do you have any idea where it is?" the King asked quietly. He had been pretty sure, when Zelda asked if she could take dinner with him in private, that this sort of thing would be in the making. She was certainly taking her responsibilities as a Knight-aspirant seriously, and he supposed he had to respect her decisions. After all, the Princess was almost an adult now. But he was terribly afraid he would lose her--he had lost her beloved mother only a few days after Zelda was born, and he could not help feeling heavily protective of his only child. To Harkinian, she would always be the little girl who had played hide-and-go-seek through the great old state-rooms of North Castle.
"We know that it is supposed to be in the Forest of the Kokiri," Zelda answered simply. "Beyond that, we know little. The clue Link found does not really help us in that."
Harkinian sat back in his high-backed chair, stroking his chin thoughtfully; his eyes glittered with the same flint that showed in them when he was discussing diplomatic matters with his generals. "You cannot go yet," he said quietly. "I will not allow it. You must find out something more, or you go with an escort. Those woods are far too dangerous for three children to roam around at will."
"We're not children," Zelda insisted angrily. "How can you say that, after we did so well in the Spirit Temple? We got through that perfectly well without any help from anyone, father. We work as a team."
"Nevertheless, I forbid you to go unless you know what you are doing," the King replied. He crossed his legs under the table, eyes bright yet firm. "You have responsibilities, my daughter. When you are an adult-"
"Yes, I know my responsibilities," Zelda broke in. "I'll marry any prince you choose and be the most stay-at-home Queen you can imagine, but just let us do this for now, Daddy!" Her voice rose at the end of the sentence in an inadequately masked flash of anger.
Harkinian wondered wistfully how his little daughter had grown up so fast. How could he have missed it, that change from child to adult? --for this was a young woman now, facing him across the old oak table. He cleared his throat, caught between a swell of pride and a strange melancholy regret for what was gone. "I have nothing against your going, as long as both the Hero and that straight-headed Gerudo girl go with you," he began, "but I do not want you running around that forest courting disaster until you have a clear goal in sight. I want to know where you are! Strange things live in the depths of Kokiri Forest... maybe even survivors from the Age of Legends."
Zelda sighed. "Daddy..." she began.
"Not another word, Zel. I am telling you as your father, you must at least find out the vague whereabouts of the Temple before you dash off and disappear into the woods with your friends." The King leaned forward, placing his strong hands on the warm wood of the dining table. "I do not wish to see you harmed," he said quietly, meeting her eyes with a firm yet loving look. "Promise me that you won't leave until you know where you are going. And then tell me, daughter."
"All right," Zelda said with obvious reluctance. "We'll try. I will go through the library again, and--well, maybe Link or Sofia will be able to think of something. Thank you for letting me go at all."
"I do want you to succeed, you know," Harkinian remarked, a little stung. He sighed and then found a smile for the Princess. "Nothing makes me prouder of you than to see you doing this, my daughter. I am glad that you have a strong spirit in you. Just... be careful, love."
"Thanks, Daddy," Zelda said solemnly, pushing her chair back as she rose from the table. "I had better go and tell the others what we need to do. Please excuse me."
Above them, invisible and inaudible, Poe flickered faintly across the ceiling and was gone.
The yellow light named Pirrillip flittered up and down in the empty darkness of the place. She was around here somewhere: she would always be. Pirrillip thought wistfully of the places it had come from, where it was still free and the sunlight still shone. Many were the times it had miserably rued the day its curiosity and its greed had led it into the hands of its mistress, the dark one it was now forced to serve.
"Pirrillip!" Her voice, commanding. A moment later she herself appeared, sweeping through the darkness like a black-sailed corsair ship in the night of an unnatural calm. Beneath the ebon hood of the cloak that shrouded her, her eyes glittered with a fell red light. Not even Pirrillip knew truly what she looked like--she was careful to hide her name and true nature. Only her eyes provided any clue to her identity, and the riddle was merely deepened by that truth. Pirrillip had never heard tell of a Hylian with eyes that color.
"Hail to thee, noble lady." Pirrillip hung sparkling in the dusty darkness, suspended on twin pairs of rainbow-veined gossamer wings. Its light, an indication of its strength, flickered gently as it hovered in the gaze of the dark lady. "What might I do for your grace?"
"Look here, Pirrillip." She lifted a pale hand languidly; the fingernails gleamed crimson as if they had been dipped into blood. But it was not her hand that was the object of the light's attention. With a sudden snap of her fingers she called forth a silvery mist that clung to her hand, glistening in the poor radiance of the dark place. A faint image formed within the mists--a deep forest glade, a doorway and a gleaming emerald light, no bigger than a pinprick in the small picture. "What do you make of this?" she asked softly, purring. "Poe sends its sight back to me."
The light hesitated. "I know nothing, great lady."
"You lie, Pirrillip--again you lie! Will you continue to hide the truth from me? I know that this is the Forest Temple, age-old haunt of your kind. Is there or is there not an Amulet of Legend within the Temple?"
"I swear to thee, all-powerful one, I know nothing of this!" the light insisted desperately. "Please, I speak nothing less than the truth! If lore tells of an Amulet within that place, it has not come down to me!"
"If you lie, you shall feel my wrath," she answered, quietly terrifying in her calm malice. "This is my charge to you, Pirrillip. Seek out the Forest Temple. Find it before the princess and the fisher boy do. Complete this task and you will be rewarded. Fail, or try to run away, and I will not be merciful."
"I will do as you ask, my lady," Pirrillip asserted. "I live only to serve you."
"Of course you do." She laughed softly, low and menacing. "If you do not serve me, you do not live. Go."
Link looked out of the window in clear irritation. "Farore!" he snapped. "Is it still raining!" A delicate drizzle patterned the pale gray sky, misting the spires of the town below and the far blue outlines of Hyrule's hills.
The young Hero, the Hylian Princess and the daughter of the Gerudo king sat together in one of the unused turret rooms of North Castle, prepared to discuss the possibility of attaining the first Amulet--and excitement ran through them like the tingle before a thunderstorm. Zelda had insisted on this remote gathering place, up a flight of three hundred steps, since neither she nor the others wished to run the risk of enemies overhearing their plans for the Quest. The Princess's eyes were sad as she thought of it: not even in her own home could she feel safe.
The unnatural storm had gone, fading like a fog on a sunny morning, but a constant fine rain now fell incessantly over Hyrule Town without break or sight of blue sky. The light sprinkling was barely enough to wet a head, if the journey made was short, but it meant that laundry could not dry and the roads out of town were a mudbath. The people cursed the strange weather but could do little about it, save to wait indoors until such time as the sun should once again show his head. Link was especially irritated as the drizzle curtailed his efforts at training outside: he was forced to take to his room whenever he wished to hone his sword skills, and the confined quarters were hardly ideal.
"Well," Sofia said in the quiet that followed the green-eyed Hero's angry outburst. "We are not going anywhere in the rain, I think. Shall we look again in the library?"
"I know the library well enough," Zelda said. "There simply is very little written about the Temples. The official history tells only that the Hero of Time broke the enchantment on each one. They date back to a time before written records."
"What about the Book?" Link said, affecting a yawn.
She sighed and lowered her head. "I... might try again."
"No, Zelda," Sofia said. "You spent the whole day struggling with it, and all it came up with was four words. It has given us all it is going to give."
Zelda was silent for a long moment, her eyes on the ground, but then she lifted her head and met the gaze of the others. "We could try to search the castle cellars for maps and archived information," she said quietly but firmly. "I know that there were many documents taken down there after the fire eighty years ago. Nobody is quite sure exactly what there is in the storage space under the castle, but if there is any hint as to the whereabouts of the Forest Temple, we will find it among the papers referring to the Hero of Time."
"When do we look?" Sofia asked.
"Why not now?" Link asked softly.
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