The City of Fire: Chapter Thirty-Two
THE sun shone down on Kakariko's red roofs, pale and watery in a haze of cloud. It was a clear and pleasant day, though somewhat frosty; the air was cooling fast now with the approach of winter. Dead leaves, torn from bare branches by the fierce gusting breeze, swirled and scattered about the grassy square before collecting in corners to decay. Kakariko was a prosperous village, its buildings mainly of stone, large and spacious. It also had an ancient lineage, dating back (so the villagers said) to the Age of Legends. The tavern's plaque boasted that the Hero of Time had once slept there--but then half the taverns in Hyrule would have made that boast, if they could have gotten away with it.
Nestled in a natural dip in the mountains, Kakariko was almost encircled by great flanks of giant stone: the Celcarden mountain range. The massive peak of Death Mountain was clearly visible to the north of the village, towering up into the sky for many thousands of feet. Sheep grazed on its lower slopes, beneath the shadow of the crater with its ring of sulfurous clouds. Zelda craned her neck to look up at the mountain's flattened peak and was astonished that they had been right up at the top only yesterday morning. No wonder the poor horses had been exhausted.
They had limped into the village at around four in the afternoon, the four of them; Link carried Dark, who had taken an arrow in the shoulder during their unexpected adventure. After a few hurried explanations on their part, the kindly villagers had taken them in, fed them and clothed them in replacements for their ruined evening dress. The Princess smiled and ran her fingers over the rough wool of her borrowed homespun tunic; it was a men's garment, and her father would likely not have approved.
Harkinian's letter had arrived in Kakariko early that morning, in response to the garbled note she had sent to Hyrule Town. It had not been easy to explain the events of the Harvest eve, or that mad ride throughout the night and morning--some of it was still confusing, even to her. In the end she had written simply to say that their enemy had tricked Link with an artifact, and the four of them had gone to Death Mountain to destroy it; Dark had been wounded in the attempt.
She felt in her pocket now, and drew out her father's reply.
Stay as long as you need to, and send to town if you lack for anything. Farore grant your friend a swift recovery.
The crisp paper was already crumpled; she scratched at the broken wax seal with a fingernail, feeling oddly let down by the letter's businesslike tone. Her father was allowing her the space to be her own person--why did she almost want him to be protective again?
After a while she folded the letter and slipped it back into her pocket. She was sitting on the lip of the well, resting on the damp, crumbling stone; below she could smell the soft cool scent of fresh spring water. Behind her on the hilltop, the ancient stone windmill--one of Kakariko's most impressive antiquities, it had been standing for many hundreds of years--creaked steadily in the mountain breeze. She had been put-up in the tavern for the time being, as had Link and Sofia; Dark was being cared for in the house of the village's sole healer, an unnerving old woman with straggly gray hair and ragged, voluminous black skirts.
That thought caught her. Dark... how was he now? She had not seen him since their arrival yesterday, and suddenly she felt guilty for it. Zelda slid off the well's edge and brushed dampness out of the back of her tunic, then headed down towards the square at a brisk pace, stretching muscles made stiff by the long ride.
The old woman met her at the door, muttering to herself in some strange jargon. Her bright eyes blinked beneath tangled locks of hair as she squinted up at Zelda, who was over a foot taller than her. "Oh--it's you," she mumbled sourly. "'Bout time, if you ask me. There's some'n wrong with that creature..."
"Dark?" Zelda felt a flash of concern. "Is he unwell?"
The old woman shook her head viciously, making her straggly hair fly. "No, he's hale an' hearty as ever he were, an' that's the problem! It ain't natural to be healing so fast." She glowered at Zelda, a small hunched figure under her rags. "You come to fetch him away, you're welcome to him." Without saying anything else she stepped aside, allowing Zelda to enter her small stone house.
It was quite dark inside, lit by the glow of oil lamps. Zelda glanced around, seeing shelves full of dusty bottles and a rude, hand-made counter formed by a long plank of wood atop two broken barrels. An ugly ginger cat slunk across her feet as she stepped inside. More barrels, mostly full or half-full with unidentified plant matter, lined the walls. This was obviously the shop part of the old woman's abode. A strange, old scent of incense and dried flowers permeated the air, mixed with the faint honeyed aroma of beeswax candles and something else Zelda couldn't quite place. She moved carefully around a basket of mushrooms on the floor, noticing their bright red-and-white spotted pattern with a lurch of unease. There was a curtained doorway at the back of the shop which led to the old woman's living quarters; she walked up and laid a hand on the curtain, then glanced back. The witch was standing in the doorway of her shop, watching wordlessly with her fists planted on her bony hips. Zelda took a deep breath, knocked on the wall, and then pushed the curtain aside and walked through.
If it had been dark in the shop proper, it was pitch black in the back room, and Zelda had to pause and blink several times before her eyes adjusted. A single, partly shielded oil lamp provided all the light in the room; the window had been blocked with a piece of wood pushed hard against the frame. Dark was standing with his back to her; he was stripped to the waist as he ran his fingers through his hair, seemingly unaware of her presence in the room. It was impolite but she could not help staring--there was no sign of any wound!
Dark Link glanced round casually with a flash of bright crimson. "Well met," he said simply, and turned away again. Taking up a plaited leather cord that lay on the bedside table, he tied back his hair into a short bob of a ponytail. His bangs swung free around his sharply chiseled face.
"How?" Zelda was finally able to ask.
An unwilling half-smile crept across Dark's face. He bent down with fluid grace and picked up the homespun tunic that lay on the floor; swiftly he pulled it on, then smoothed himself down and cinched his belt. "Exactly the response I got from that poor old woman," he said drily, turning to face her once more. "I will not go into lengthy explanations, Zelda--suffice it to say that by bringing me to a quiet, dark place you did exactly the right thing. Of course, the sword helped," he added as an afterthought.
Zelda looked hard at him for a moment, then slowly pulled the curtain aside and motioned towards the outside. Dark took up the green Kokiri cloak and came with her, throwing the woollen folds around his shoulders as he moved. There was a rip in the fabric from where the arrow had passed through, but any remnant of the stain had been washed out--the cloth was still a little damp. He raised the hood over his head as they stepped out into the sunlight. "Why did you say that the sword helped?" Zelda asked quietly, touching his arm.
Dark shrugged. "You cannot guess? Aside from its... shall we say addictive properties... it gives the wielder strength and fury enough to go on fighting even when mortally wounded. It must be because I had the sword that I was able to reach the crater in the first place." Again, for a moment, that tentative and faintly ironic attempt at a smile. "It is unusual even for me to overlook an arrow in my back!"
"Perhaps we should have kept it," Zelda sighed, "if it had such power."
He glanced at her sharply. "You know better than that," he told her, a strange harsh tone in his voice. "Link could never have used it safely, and I do not believe for a moment that he would have let me have it, with the hold that it had gained over him. Anyway, such a weapon could never be used for good purposes--it corrupts whatever it touches. It would have torn you all apart."
She nodded; his words made sense. "We have a lot to thank you for," she said quietly. She could feel him looking at her, but she closed her eyes and turned her head away, feeling suddenly tired.
"Likewise," Dark murmured softly. Zelda was silent for a long time, thinking that over, then she turned and opened her mouth to speak--
He had gone. The Princess clenched her fists in irritation. "I wish you wouldn't do that!" she snapped at the empty air. There came no response, though, and after a while she sighed and walked slowly back towards the well. She had a lot to think about. Sooner or later they would have to get moving; it was nice staying in Kakariko, but they could not live off the hospitality of the village indefinitely--and anyway, they had to start searching for the second Amulet, or the next Knight. Whoever had given them the sword was obviously interested in the Amulets and not in a good way: their enemy had at last made a direct move against them.
There didn't seem to be much else to do in Kakariko, so she went back to the well and loitered there for a while. The village was quiet and still in the autumn cold; somewhere someone was cutting wood, but the sound was faint and muffled, and barely disturbed the stillness. It made quite a change after the noise and constant bustle of Hyrule Town.
After a little while the inn door opened, and Sofia came out. Zelda stood up and raised her arm; the Gerudo waved back and came over. They sat together quietly on the well edge, looking up towards the great shadowed mountain
"Have you seen him?" Sofia asked eventually.
Zelda smiled wryly, knowing just what the other woman meant. "He was here a moment ago, but he did his vanishing act on me. I don't know where he's gone to now."
"Is he... all right?" The question had a slightly odd undertone.
"He's fine." She frowned at that thought. Much as she was thankful to Dark Link for his part in the recent drama, she couldn't help but be unnerved by his recovery. It wasn't just fast, it was unbelievable. "More than fine, actually. You wouldn't even know he had been wounded."
Sofia sighed but did not comment. Idly she adjusted her belt, her fingers searching vaguely at her side for the hilt of a weapon. Like Zelda, she was wearing a borrowed homespun tunic, under a thick winter cloak; the green ballgown had not been salvageable. Hylian clothes looked odd on her when set against her dusky skin. She lifted her head, tilting her face into the sun for a moment, and then shivered. "Goddess... there's a chill in the air today."
"It will get colder," Zelda told her, glancing likewise at the sky, grey and heavy around the mountain. "By the looks of it, we may be in for a harsh winter. You haven't yet seen the Hyrule climate at its most vicious."
Sofia made a face. "That is something I don't look forward to." A sharp gust of wind ruffled their hair, and she shivered again and pulled her cloak tighter around herself. "At least it is warm in the desert..."
"Some would say too warm," Zelda smiled. "Well, I am glad you are here, but we will never get anywhere by standing around and talking. We should find Link and Dark, wherever they have got to--and then think about getting back to town. I want to take another look at the Book of Mudora; perhaps we will be able to find something else to help us in the quest."
"I don't think you will find all the answers in that book," Sofia remarked, getting to her feet. "Well... I am going to go and check on our horses. Are we going back tonight?"
Zelda shook her head. "Tomorrow, I think--though we'd better check with the others first." She stood up and dusted the back of her tunic, which was slightly damp from the cool stone of the well.
The Princess wandered aimlessly around the village for a while, enjoying the cool air and the quiet. She heard them before she saw them; wandering up a small grassy slope at the back of the village, she made out the by now familiar clash of steel on steel. Suddenly afraid, Zelda broke into a run, dashing up the pass between walls of stone and coming out into a small, overgrown cemetery shut in on all sides by the great towering peaks of the mountains. Her fears were allayed when she saw them and realized that they were merely having a friendly sparring match. Link's serpentine dagger flashed in the watery winter sunlight in tune with his movements as he ducked and dodged; Dark, a slender figure in a long cloak, stayed on the defensive, parrying each blow with a deft and almost unconscious grace. The sword he was using was a plain iron soldier's sword, borrowed perhaps from the village smithy.
Zelda smiled and leaned back against an ancient gravestone, watching the two skilled fighters as they fenced. It was not quite like real fighting--it was too smooth, too well-controlled, each blow placed with careful consideration. Still she could see that Link was far outclassed; he was working hard to try and get inside the shadow's defenses, while Dark simply responded by flowing, like water, into an effortless parry of each swift jab and thrust. The Princess watched with the pleased satisfaction found from watching something--a magic trick, a clever puzzle--done well, and wondered why they had not given Dark a sword before now. It was obvious that that was where his greatest skills lay. If they were not to trust him after all of this, they were never to trust him.
She heard a soft footfall behind her, and without turning she knew that it was Sofia. The red-haired woman walked up beside her and, without speaking, stood back to watch. Zelda sensed the unease in the Gerudo's poise, but there was little she could do about it. No matter what, Sofia would never trust Dark Link--and Zelda could not blame her. She was unsure whether she fully trusted him herself. But watching him, and Link, together, she was beginning to suspect that Dark was eager--in his own odd way--to help them now. He and Link had the capability to become great friends, if the one would unbend a little from his cynical, detached attitude, and the other would make the first move.
Link made a mistake, extending himself just a little too much as he jabbed. Dark's blade caught the serpentine dagger and with one swift twist he flicked it out of the young warrior's hand to land clattering on the stone-laid path. Link dived for it, but Dark's foot came down on the blade before he could pick it up; he glanced up and found the shadow's blade poised at the back of his neck. With a slight, unsmiling nod, Dark lowered the sword and stepped back. "You're dead," he said simply.
Link sighed, picked up the serpentine dagger and sheathed it. "I just can't move fast enough," he lamented, lowering his head in defeat. "You seem to be able to second-guess my moves before I make them!" Smiling a little as he recovered his breath, he looked at Dark, and shrugged. "Well... my skills will let me defeat Moblins and Stalfos, so I suppose that is all I can ask for! Anyway, you have had rather longer than I to practise."
"That is very true," Dark said. He ran his hand across his forehead, flicking back his hair, and then glanced sideways at the watching girls. "Well met," he said, and left it at that. Carefully he slipped the sword through his belt, and then waited for them to make a move. The sun was lowering now, slipping down across the western sky; it was late afternoon and the day was nearly spent. The ancient graveyard seemed peaceful in the afternoon light; the stillness made it hard to imagine that any unquiet spirits would roam here. Although worn by years and somewhat overgrown, it bore a sense of serenity and loving care. Some of the graves were so ancient that their inscriptions had completely faded away. Over everything towered the great shadow of Death Mountain, its peak forever wreathed in smoke. The shadow it cast on the village and its graveyard lent a premature chill to the air.
"We should go back to the tavern," Link suggested, glancing at the girls for their approval. "It's too late now to ride to ride back to Hyrule Town; we had better wait until morning. The villagers will be willing to put us up for one more night, I think!"
The Kakariko Inn was well-known for its good food and comfortable rooms, and often in high summer it filled right up. At this time of year, though, the itinerants and adventurers were mostly returning to the towns which they called home, and the inn had several empty rooms. The innkeeper was only too pleased to offer reduced-price rooms to the Crown Princess and the Hero of Hyrule; they were continuing a long tradition which associated Kakariko with the Royal family. Enjoying an easy peace of mind, the four walked slowly through the village towards the tavern, a large gray stone building that faced out onto the grassy courtyard. The stump of an ancient aspen tree lay just a little way before the inn door; legend had it that it had been alive during the Age of Legends. History resided in every corner of the ancient village.
It started to rain as they crossed the square--a light, cold shower, chill on their skin with a promise of later frost. Soon the rain would turn to snow, Zelda thought, glancing up once more towards the shadowy mountain. She blinked as she got water in her eyes, and then looked across at Link; from his sober expression she knew that he was thinking the same thing. It was going to be a harsh winter. The rain kept up, steady and gentle, as they hurried to the door of the inn and the welcome murmur of friendly voices.
Inside it was large and spacious, although quite dark; the lamps in the walls and the great fire in the grate were not enough to fully illuminate the whole space. The fire burned brightly, stacked with great logs; it gave that half of the inn a warm red glow. Several men, probably farm labourers from their homespun clothing, clustered around the fire upon low wooden benches. The bar was only half full; villagers and dour shepherds wrapped in brightly dyed woollen cloaks stood or sat talking quietly, mugs close to hand. Only two of the six tables were occupied, these being claimed by parties of other foreign visitors--most likely the last few traveling merchants of the year. The hum of laughter and conversation died down a little as the four companions entered the inn, but soon grew again. There was an aromatic scent of woodsmoke in the air, and successive fires had blackened the great oak beams and colored the whitewashed walls a gentle sepia.
"Well now, young friends, what can I get you?" asked the innkeeper, a large, heavyset Kakariko villager. He leaned on the bar-top, looking over at them with a friendly, teasing grin. "Beer?"
"Whatever food you have, sir," Link answered politely, and glanced at the others before adding, "We'll pass on the beer."
"Aye, wouldn't want to encourage underage drinking in this establishment," the innkeeper joked, grinning as a ripple of laughter came up from the regulars. It was friendly laughter, though--not mocking. The villagers returned to their various conversations as Zelda and the others picked their table and sat down. It was warm and comfortable in the inn, although the hard wooden chairs and packed-mud floor could have shown a little more luxury. It was a rough-and-ready place, but a friendly one, and the atmosphere of genial tolerance did much to make them feel more at home.
They sat a little while in silence as they waited for the food to come. Zelda passed the time by thinking about the quest. They had one Amulet--Link was wearing it, he'd been wearing it at the banquet before they left--and possibly four of the Knights. It had taken almost three months to get this far. The Princess sighed, thinking that the task ahead seemed simply too huge for them. If only Link First were around to help them-! Abruptly she broke off that chain of thought, glancing towards Dark; the shadow sat back against the wall, his hood pulled down close over his head. In a way, she thought, Link First was... She could see his crimson eyes gleaming below the overhanging shade of his hood as he watched them all.
"Penny for your thoughts, Zel," Link said suddenly, breaking her out of her reverie.
She looked at him and smiled tremulously. "I was just thinking... about everything we have still to do. And," she added, frowning as she suddenly remembered, "who our enemy is. That woman who sold you the sword--"
"Sepultura," Dark said suddenly, making them jump. Every face turned towards him in surprise. He shrugged slightly, disturbed by their sudden interest. "I knew I had heard that name before," he went on, and there was a cold tone in his voice. "She certainly took me in this time. We must take added care from now on--we seem to have attracted some dangerous attention."
"Who is Sepultura?" Sofia asked curiously.
He leaned back and closed his eyes, a faraway look on his face as he relived days past. "She is a sorceress, my friends--as you may have guessed--possibly the last of the vanished Sheikah race. Her kin were devoted to serving the Hylian Royal Family, but she was always drawn to evil." Dark laughed quietly, an unpleasant sound. "From what I heard told, she was once a great priestess of the Sheikah, but she resented the ancient oath that bound her folk to the kings and queens of Hyrule. She grew proud and wilful, and when at last Ganon spoke to her in the quiet of the night, she listened. Now, for three hundred years and more, she has devoted herself to serving the Evil King. It was with the aid of her magic that I hunted down the last Hero and his family." He said that last without any sense of guilt or regret; it was merely a fact.
"Well, at least now we know our enemy's name," Link sighed. "Although I wish that we had some sort of magic ourselves--generally with things like this it is easier to fight fire with fire!"
"We have the Fire Arrow," Zelda offered, sitting forward in her chair. The white arrow was in her room back in Hyrule Castle--tucked away safely in her quiver, hidden by the longer aspen-wood arrows she had pulled around it. "It still has some magic--if we save its power, it might help us later on. Otherwise we will have to learn to use the Amulet."
Food arrived then, and distracted them from their discussion. The inn's kitchen had come up with a platter of Kakariko's home-baked bread, plus cheese from the village goats; a dish of some sort of stew, spiced with something powerful, was the main part of the meal. It was simple country food, but full of goodness, and they set to with a will--except for Dark, who refused even a taste, even a sip of water. Zelda watched him curiously out of the corner of her eye. The shadow seemed to live on air. Not that it mattered; Link was happy enough to eat almost everything himself, and the two girls soon had to guard their plates. "You're a pig," the Princess remarked, watching him eat.
"Oink, oink," Link answered placidly, and grabbed the mustard.
The bar was filling up now as the villagers finished their daily tasks; conversation was growing lively and, in some parts of the large room, heated. One exchange caught Zelda's attention, and she nudged Sofia, indicating with her eyes toward the tight knot of people at the bar. The speaker was a gruff shepherd from the heights, with a windburnt face and faded blue eyes; he was an older man than most of the gathering and his hair was salt-and-pepper gray. He brandished his left forearm, which bore a bloodstained bandage.
"...hundreds of 'em, I tell you! Swarming like flies! I tell you for sure, something bad's going on up there, and sooner or later we're gonna feel it."
"Ah, you're full of it, Impo," someone said lazily, in a voice mellowed by alcohol. "Bet y'just got on the wrong side of one o' your rams and don't want to admit it. Monsters on the mountain!"
The four companions were suddenly very alert.
"You can believe me or not," Impo said darkly, glowering at his sceptical audience, "because I know what I saw. There're monsters up on the mountain, and they're mining or building or something--great teams of ogres, with those foul lizardmen actin' as overseers. Y'don't believe me, go up and look for yourself--they've dug out a great quarry at Seron Pass."
"Seron Pass?" The speaker sounded disgusted. "C'mon, Impo, you're just sayin' that because you know nobody's gonna be fool enough to go all the way up there on your wild goose chase. 'Sides, the path's a wreck. Bet y' never went near the place in the last ten years for fear of damagin' your own hide." A roar of laughter went up at that sally, and Impo's brows drew together alarmingly, He waved his damaged fist at them all, threatening them with his gestures.
"Impo is no coward!" he roared angrily. "An' I'll prove it to any one of you! I was in Seron Pass three days ago, and I'll swear on me own life that it was swarming with monsters! I got this wound from a lizardman as I tried to get away--"
"Ran away from a lizard, huh?" the first speaker answered mockingly. "Well, that sounds more like the Impo we know and love, doesn't it, boys?"
"I could have taken just the one," Impo said darkly, "but I couldn't've got away from twenty of the things. As it was I had to leave three sheep behind to distract 'em, afore I could get my flock away." He glanced over his listeners, appealing to them with his eyes. "Who here hasn't lost a sheep lately?" he challenged, his faded eyes glittering with determination. "You telling me you haven't noticed how the animals are nervous? They know! There's things up there, and they know!" He was getting strident now, partly goaded by the alcohol he had drunk and his companions' skepticism, and partly by the pain in his arm--it looked like a nasty injury, even wrapped as it was beneath the makeshift dressing. At the mention of disappearing livestock, the other shepherds fell quiet; the atmosphere was suddenly tense.
Zelda rose, and carefully pushed her way through the group of shepherds to face Impo. The big, burly men parted way to let her through. "Excuse me, sir," she said politely, "but we heard what you were saying. Monsters on Death Mountain?"
The shepherd nodded slowly, grateful to have what seemed like a sympathetic ear. "Aye, little miss," he said gruffly--obviously he had not recognized the Princess. "I didn't get close enough to see what was goin' on, but it sure seems like they're digging for something. There's a great cavern been opened up in Seron Pass, and they've got bands of those Moblin things haulin' carts of stone. I couldn't see much from where I was, but I saw enough to know where my sheep've been going to these past few weeks. I tell you one thing--I'm keeping my flock on the lowest slopes from now on, even if they're near grazed out. I'm not losing any more to those filthy prowlers! And you can believe me or no, because I saw it with my own eyes!" he finished angrily.
"We believe you," Link said, standing up. "Can you tell us more about the monsters? And where is this Seron Pass?"
One of the other shepherds answered that. "It's a great steep place, far off the track," he told them. "There's a deep cleft in the rock, and a cave at the end of it--it used to be the main road up the mountain, 'til it got blocked off and we made the path over the top. Nobody goes up there nowadays--the way's too rough and there's little pasture worth the journey anyway--but Impo here always was a reckless one."
"That's not true, Galt, and you know it," Impo said blackly. "I do my job as good as any of you, and my losses this season were because of the monsters. And don't tell me y'know nothing about it, because I know fer a fact that you've lost two good rams on the heights this month and never found the bodies!"
Galt was silent for a long time, "Aye, that much is true," he admitted at last. "'Tis something I've been thinking--there's something out on the mountain. A wolf, I thought, takin' the occasional sheep, but there's been a lot went missing, not the lambs or weakly ones like a wolf'd take, but big, strong animals, the prime cut of the flock. We expect to lose some every year, that's life, but..." He let his sentence trail off meaningfully.
"If I lose another one, I'll be ruined," Impo muttered. "I need to take 'em up on the heights to get some meat on 'em before the snows set in--but I can't take the chance any more."
Zelda glanced at her friends, her heart touched by the plight of these tough-talking mountain men. She understood well enough that, if the shepherds lost too many of their flocks, the hard winter of northern Hyrule would be even harder on those who needed to sell wool and milk over the dark months to survive. And the mention of monsters on the heights set her thinking of Ganon again, and of their newest enemy... the sorceress Sepultura. "We should investigate," she said softly to Link, who nodded in agreement.
"I'm game," he told her, and glanced at the other two. Sofia hesitated for a moment, then nodded; Dark just shrugged. "If it's her," Link went on, growing more enthusiastic, "we have a duty to investigate. We could at least go up and take a look at this pass, see if the story checks out!"
"And who are you children to be doin' such things?" Impo asked; there was a teasing tone in his voice.
Zelda smiled. "This is Link, the Hero of Hyrule; I am Zelda; the Gerudo is Sofia, and our other companion is Dark Link. We are on a quest at the moment, but we could easily spend a few days here investigating your problem. We would be glad to help you, since Kakariko has been so kind to us!" The inn fell utterly silent at her pronouncement, and every pair of eyes turned towards them.
"If you would," Impo said slowly, his entire manner changed as he understood to whom he was speaking, "if you would, your Highness, we'd do all we could to repay you--though we're poor people and all, we'll give you all we can. If something isn't done, we'll be in dire straits this winter. But are you sure you can handle it? The mountain's a dangerous place at this time of year, even without the monsters to contend with."
"We'll manage," Link told them seriously. "We will take a look at this Seron Pass, and if necessary we can send word back to Hyrule Town and ask the King for his help."
A gleam of hope was visible on Impo's face now, as if an intolerable burden had been lifted, and many of the other shepherds looked likewise. Indeed, the whole inn seemed fired up by the prospect; Zelda guessed that the problems with the monsters had been going on for longer than these few weeks, and people had been trying not to acknowledge them. "I'll guide you to the pass," Impo said, straightening up.
Several others nodded in agreement. "You'll need some good strong winter clothing, though," Galt broke in. "You can have a few of my stored woollens; I've got some cloaks left over from the spring shearing."
"Aye, and I'll fix ye some decent weapons!" called the village blacksmith, a huge man in a leather apron.
"They'll need food!" cried an elderly woman. Suddenly, the whole inn was in an uproar as people volunteered their services and goods for the benefit of the young adventurers. Link smiled wryly at Zelda.
"What have we let ourselves in for?" he said.
"Be still," Dark murmured softly. He raised his head and pushed back the hood of his cloak, and his strange eyes flashed crimson in the firelight. "I believe that this was meant to happen..."
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