The Far Sea: Chapter 62
THE fire was burning low; it was late. Two chairs stood facing each other on the stone hearth. In one of them Marin sat, quietly mending a tear in one of Popa's shirts; she had a small pile of assorted clothes beside her awaiting her attention. The other chair had no occupant, but a long green hat was crumpled up on the seat and a shabby leather pack sat squat on the floor beside it.
Marin's husband stood at the window, his hands resting on his slim hips. His long hair, red-gold and gleaming, coiled and tangled midway down his back, shining bright against the green tunic. Reflections from the fire put sparks into it when he moved.
"What do you think?" she asked, putting down her sewing.
He did not turn. "Do they know?"
"Not yet. They're guessing, love, don't worry about it."
"It's a cursed good guess if they're getting interested in Tamaranch." He began to pace back and forth, holding his hands clasped behind his back.
Marin picked up her needle again. "They found that old book in the library. Remember? 'Ballad of the Wind Fish'. Ella says they've been looking at it a lot. I'm going to have words with Ulrira later."
"Why didn't you take it away? Or hide it?"
"They'd have noticed. Or at least, young Link would have."
"Yes," he said thoughtfully. "He clings to the past, that one. The other... I think he'll come round to us in time. He's pretty close now. But the red-haired boy..." He turned. "Did you say his name was Link?"
Marin smiled. "He's a lot like you were, you know. He digs and digs at it, like a terrier."
"Do you think he'd do it?"
"He might," she said, the smile fading. "We can't give him everything he wants. The other one, Dark... he's easy. He just wants to be whole again."
He came over to the chair and picked up his hat, shook it out and stuffed it in a pocket. With a sigh he sat down and stretched his legs out over the warm hearthstone. "I think he can do it," he said quietly. "I don't know if he will, but I'm pretty sure he can. If he does, he's a better man than I."
"Don't talk like that," Marin said.
"Why not? It's true. I got all the way, and then I couldn't go through with it. I couldn't take that last step."
"You saved all of us."
She bent her head to her sewing again. He sat silently, staring into the fire that flickered and changed and showed shadows of another world.
Link woke early; the room was faint with the pale pink radiance of dawn, and the rooks were chattering loudly from the woods at the back of the house. He sat up and hit his head on the beam--which was becoming more or less a daily occurrence. Swearing quietly, Link ducked around it and threw back the covers. He climbed down trying not to shake the bed too much, dressed himself in the by now familiar green and brown, and slipped out into the hallway with his boots in one hand.
Nobody was in the kitchen--it was still too early, he supposed. Marin and the others must still be abed. The fireplace was filled with fine silver ash; the hearthstone still held the ghost of an earlier warmth when he walked over it. Link sat down on a handy stool to pull his boots on, noticing several new things around the room. A slim sword and scabbard were propped up against the wall by the main door, looking peculiar beside an umbrella. The heavy leather pack, much less bulky now, had been shoved beneath the table which stood back beneath the window where it belonged. And on the wooden mantelpiece, between Marin's clay vases, was an ocarina.
He knew vaguely what an ocarina was; he was aware that the rounded flutes had played a part in the story of more than one Hero since the end of the Age of Legends; but he himself had never seen one. He could not resist taking a closer look. It was larger than he had expected, the bigness of two clenched fists, and surprisingly heavy for its size; and it seemed to be made out of some kind of cloudy blue glass which was very faintly translucent. He saw his fingers blurred and ghostly through it; when he held it up to the window, the interior filled with icy flame.
Twice he put it to his lips, wanting to try it out and hear the sound it made, but he bottled out each time; he didn't want to disturb everyone else while they were asleep. He turned it over, noticing that where he had originally thought it was plain, there were actually finely etched carvings around the holes and on the mouthpiece--swirled and banded designs. With his fingernail he traced the delicate outline of a familiar triple triangle.
"You like it?" said a voice.
Link jumped; his arms jerked back; and he dropped the ocarina.
It seemed to fall in slow motion, twisting through the air. He grabbed for it once and missed. His heart froze over and he felt a wave of mingled guilt and terror rush over him as he stood numb, staring down at the falling glittering thing, waiting for the smash of breaking glass. The ocarina hit the hard iron edge of the fire-grate, bounced off it, hit the floor, bounced again and rolled away under the table. He heard a soft thud as it hit the wall and came to a slowly spinning halt on the boards.
"Oh, Farore," he said, horrified. "I'm so sorry. I'm..." He made a move towards the table, but Marin's husband got there first, ducked under gracefully and brought the ocarina out.
"It's all right. It's not damaged," he said without even bothering to look at it.
"But... it's glass," Link began.
"Nope." The man grinned and held the ocarina out to show him. It certainly appeared unharmed. "Crystal. You couldn't chip it with a hammer."
"I'm really sorry."
"Don't worry about it. It's my fault--I shouldn't have startled you like that." He put the ocarina down on the table and it caught the sunlight and became alive with blue fire. Link stared at it, and Marin's husband looked at him with a half smile beneath the fluffy dandelion-puff of his hair. "You know what it is?"
"An ocarina," Link said. "It's a kind of flute."
"I'm impressed. Most people wouldn't know an ocarina if it bit them." The man's eyes were curiously cool, the shifting blue-green of the sea. They were different, slightly, from everyone else's; the villagers all had a faintly foreign slant to their faces. Marin's husband looked wholly Hylian. "Can you play it?" he said.
Link smiled and shook his head. "I don't think so. I have never seen one before in real life--only pictures in books." He reached out hesitantly; the man nodded assent, and he picked up the ocarina again and weighed it in his hand.
"Pretty, isn't it?" Marin's husband said lightly.
Pretty indeed. It was the most beautiful made thing that he had ever seen. "Where did it come from?" he asked. "Who made it?"
"I don't know who made it; it's very old. It's a family heirloom." The man reached out and took it from him, turning it slowly over in his fingers. His eyes became wistful as he stared into the crystal depths. "This is one of the few things I had with me when I first came to Koholint. This and my sword."
"You were another castaway," Link said, frowning.
"That's right. Did Marin tell you?"
"And you never wanted to leave?"
Marin's husband looked at him for a moment with an odd gleam in his eye. "No," he said. "Why would I? Everything I ever wanted is here."
"Will you play it?" Link asked.
"You can play it, can't you?" Suddenly he wanted very much to hear the sound.
Marin's husband shrugged. "Well enough. I'm no great musician, but I can get out a tune or two when I have to." But he was pleased by the request, Link thought, despite his modest tone. He held the ocarina for a moment as if preparing to play; his fingers found the holes and he touched the mouthpiece to his lips. "Not in here," he said, lowering the ocarina. "It'll wake the whole house. We'll go out onto the veranda... if you're sure."
"Please," Link said.
The sun was just beginning to rise above the hill; the sky was an explosion of color and light. Link had thought he was used to the intensity of Koholint by now, but he had to shield his face for a moment when they stepped outside. Marin's husband seemed unaffected or oblivious, one or the other. He sat down on the edge of the veranda, and kicked his booted feet back and forth carelessly as he tipped the ocarina between his hands. "What do you want me to play?" he asked.
Link sat beside him. "I don't mind. Anything. Whatever you fancy."
He looked thoughtful, then brightened, and raised the ocarina to his lips. He closed his eyes and blew, and the air filled with a high clear note of such purity that it made Link shiver. "Oops," Marin's husband said, laughing. He fingered a few holes, then nodded slightly and blew another, lower note. It sounded like an opal looked: all gold and milky fire. As it trailed off, Link felt a kind of shimmering in the echo, as if a thousand tiny silver bells were ringing far away.
"Hold on," the man said. "I haven't played it for a while. I can't remember how it's supposed to go." He closed his eyes again, and suddenly began to play: a sweet, mournful melody, beguilingly simple. Link sat spellbound as the notes drifted through the still morning air. Time stopped.
Only gradually did he become aware that the man had stopped playing, and that the ocarina lay now loose in his lap; the air was still full of silver echoes. He looked towards him, feeling dazed as if he were half in a dream.
"That's an old melody of this island," Marin's husband said, touching the ocarina lightly with his fingertips. "It's called the Ballad of the Wind Fish." He smiled and looked down. "I'm not very good at it, I'm afraid. I always get that last bit wrong."
"It was..." Link began, and had to stop; he knew not what he wanted to say.
The half-door banged open suddenly behind them, and they both jumped; Dark stood there with one hand on the frame, staring down at them, wearing only the thin white trousers in which he had gone to bed last night. His bare chest gleamed blue-black in the morning light; his eyes were fire. "What was that?" he asked wildly.
"An ocarina," Marin's husband said, turning. "I'm sorry--I didn't mean to wake you."
"Give it to me!"
"What's the matter?" Link asked, but Dark had already snatched the instrument and stood with his back turned and his head bent, clutching it in both hands. He muttered fractured words--Ancient Hylian by the sound of them--and turned the ocarina over, running his fingertips over the etched carvings. Link got to his feet. "Dark," he said. "Dark!" He reached out and grabbed the shadow's arm; Dark's head whipped round, and he stared at him as if he did not recognise him, his crimson eyes distracted and fierce. "What?" Link asked, genuinely unnerved. "What's wrong?"
Dark shook his arm free. He stepped back once, then paced swiftly to the other end of the veranda and stood there with the ocarina clasped against his chest. His eyes stared out towards Tamaranch where it stood like a shadow against the sky. Very slowly, he lifted the ocarina to his lips. He bent his head; his eyes closed. And to Link's amazement and delight, he began to play.
At once he could tell the difference. Marin's husband had been right when he said he was no musician; he played adequately, fingering the notes more or less right. But Dark played like one gifted: he played as if he knew the instrument to its core. He brought out a shimmering beauty in the ocarina's jeweled tone.
I know this song, Link thought suddenly. The tune that Marin's husband had played was, although lovely, unfamiliar; but this one touched something inside of him. He knew it, but he was not sure where he had heard it.
The last note, thin and silver, trailed away into the dawn. Dark lowered the ocarina and looked at it for an age. Then he drew in a trembling breath, shoved the ocarina into Link's surprised hands and ran past him into the house. Link stood bewildered, feeling the blue crystal warm in his fingers from his friend's breath.
"What was all that about?" Marin's husband asked.
"I don't know," he said quietly, dropping his head to look at the ocarina.
"He's good. I mean, he's really good. Would he play for others? Because I really think Ulrira should hear him." Marin's husband climbed back up onto the veranda and brushed dust off the back of his green tunic. "Did you know he could play like that?"
Link shook his head slowly; he was still gazing at the ocarina in his hands, a closed look on his face. "No," he said. "I didn't know."
"Tell me," Link said, sitting at their small table with the Amulet of the Forest clenched in one hand. He stared coldly at Dark who lay curled up on the lower bunk with his face to the wall. The shadow did not turn to meet his gaze. He did not give up; he sat and waited patiently, determined to get an answer.
"Tell you what?" came the soft voice at last.
"Don't pretend ignorance! It was a little hard to miss when you came running out half dressed! You knew that ocarina. You played it as if you had been playing it all your life."
"It is nothing. Foolishness. I was mistaken..."
"No," he said quietly. "You were not mistaken. You don't make that sort of mistake. Just tell me. Is it?"
Silence, for several minutes. Finally, Dark said simply, "Yes."
Link turned away, swinging the chair round hard on its back legs. He stared at the door for lack of anything better to stare at. The Amulet was hot in his hand, digging into the skin of his palm as he gripped it painfully. "It was lost," he said. "Years and years ago. The Prophet Princess gave it to the Hero of Time, and he passed it down into the Hero's line so that we could keep it safe--so that Ganon would never get hold of it. But it was lost when..." He stopped.
"When?" Dark asked, sitting up and turning to him. His black hair was tousled and uncombed, still tangled from sleep.
"When Link Third sailed into the far sea," Link said very slowly, feeling each word out. "My grandfather told me this when I was a child. Link Third took with him certain heirlooms of our family. The sword and shield of Link Second, that were used in the Imprisoning War, and the Ocarina of Time." He tossed the Amulet from hand to hand. "Did you ever know Link Third?"
"No. I was..." Dark covered his eyes with one hand, thinking hard. "It would be after the Imprisoning War, two or three hundred years after. I... died. I was in the Underworld." He looked up. "Is he..?"
"I think so."
"But... He would have to be six hundred years old. More."
"Thus speaks the one who remembers the Age of Legends," Link said with a teasing grin. "Why is that a problem? You have lived twice as long."
"That is different and you know it!"
Link stood up then, and absently put the Amulet around his neck before picking up his discarded hat. He twisted the hat through his hands, thinking. "He is a Hero," he said quietly. "He wears the clothes. He has the look. And he has fought before; he moves like a warrior."
"It means nothing. If all who wear green are to be Heroes henceforth, we shall have nothing more to fear from Ganon. And anyone may have a little skill with a sword."
"Then explain to me," Link said calmly, "why he has the Ocarina. Because it is the Ocarina. I would have guessed even if you hadn't run out and grabbed it. Nothing could sound like that and not be from the Age of Legends." Dark did not answer, and at last he sighed and shook out his by now crumpled hat. He pulled it on, tucking stray locks of hair beneath the yellow band. "You had better get dressed," he said. "I feel like a nice long lonely walk by the sea--don't you?"
Toronbo Shores was, as always, deserted; the beaches seemed to be the only part of Koholint where people never went. Link knew by now that the signposts and the trail were maintained once a week, because he had seen Papahl going out with a handful of charcoal sticks, but as far as he could tell Papahl was the only one from Mabe who ever came here. So they kept the trail clear and the signs well marked, but they never used this path themselves. Why? He was beginning to think that he knew.
"They aren't telling us something," he said. "You know that as well as I. They are keeping something back, something really important."
Dark nodded slowly. "What is the Wind Fish?"
Link glanced back and saw the signpost: a brown speck in the distance. Nothing moved on the golden sand but seagulls searching for worms and shellfish at the water's edge. "This is far enough, I think," he said, and sat down on the warm firm sand. The sun shone down with light as intense as a furnace, but the heat was soft and pleasant. As Dark sat down beside him, he saw something black move against the sand. "Do you know you have a shadow here?" he said.
"I had noticed." He smiled suddenly, flashing his teeth. "It keeps making me jump. I turn, and see something move behind me."
Link looked solemn. "What do you know about Koholint?"
"Yes, you. You are cleverer than I. I know you suspect something; I see you looking thoughtful sometimes. What is it? Share it with me--don't keep it all to yourself! I want to know too."
"I know nothing, aside from what we two have learned together." Dark glanced away for a moment, towards the sea. "But I could make some guesses, if you wish it."
"I do wish it." Link crossed his legs and rested his hands on his knees. "Talk," he said. "We have to figure this out quickly now. We may not have much more time to waste."
He sighed and lowered his head. His hands, slim and black and graceful, twisted together in his lap. "I have said that this island is not real. I still think it. I have said also that the island is a dream, and I still think that also. But I have begun to wonder... whose dream is it?"
"What do you mean?" Link looked puzzled. "We are the ones who are asleep; it must be our dream."
"The Wind Fish sleeps upon Tamaranch. Why is this so important?"
"How do you know it is important?"
"Because last night Marin's husband, who may or may not be your many-times-great grandfather, avoided the subject with a transparency that bordered on the laughable. There is something up there. He is trying to protect it."
"What is it you are saying?" Link asked. He took off his hat and balled it up, crushing the soft wool into his fingers.
"Koholint must be called the Isle of the Wind Fish for a reason. I think that this whole island, and everything on it, may be a dream of the Wind Fish."
Link stared. "You're saying that all this... us even... is being dreamed by something else?"
"I am not sure." Dark raked his hair back, looking suddenly tired. "We are real. Or at least you are--what I am is another question. And he is real also; there is something to him, an edge, that the others do not have. They are outlined in light, but he is like you when I look at him. So how came we three into this dream? I know not--but nonetheless, we are here."
"If this Wind Fish is dreaming the island," Link said thoughtfully, "then I think we both know how to escape."
"Wake the Wind Fish," Dark said.
He frowned then, and looked hard at his companion. There had been... something... in Dark's tone, that puzzled him. "I don't think you want to leave," he said quietly, sitting back on the sand.
"Are you surprised? I am real here. I can stand in the sunlight and feel nothing but its warmth. Can you imagine what that is like, Link, to one who has been chained in darkness for ten centuries? And these people... they treat me as if... as if there is nothing strange about me at all, aside from the color of my skin." He looked down, picked up a handful of sand, let it slide slowly through his fingers. "It is a forgotten feeling to me, not to be hated," he said softly.
"We don't hate you!"
"You fear me. Even your golden princess fears me. And your people in the castle hate me. I am a monster to them, a thing that should not be. Will you deny it?"
He sighed. "No," he said. "I can't deny that."
Dark got to his feet and began to walk back along the beach towards the Mabe trail. Link went after him, fell in beside him; they walked together in silence for a while.
"Stay then," Link said. "Stay here and be happy. I'll go back alone."
"You know that is not possible. If we wake the Wind Fish, we destroy the dream, and all this will cease to be. We leave together or not at all."
He looked at Dark and thought of Zelda--thought of the quest, and their friends, trapped maybe, in danger. "I have to go back. I cannot abandon Hyrule. I'm the Hero--and there's still one thing I have left undone back home."
"I know," Dark said quietly.
They went back to the library, dug out Ulrira's book of maps, and sat over the crackly old drawings all afternoon. As far as they could tell, there was a road leading up to the summit of Tamaranch, but the center of the island was not well charted. The maps covered the area all around but stopped there, at the mountain's foot.
"I think," Link had murmured on the way back from Toronbo, "that we had better not talk about Tamaranch while other people are around. If Koholint is a dream of the Wind Fish, they aren't going to like the idea of our waking it."
Between ten and fifteen miles, straight, was their best guess; but the road was not straight. It wound up and down the sides of hills and took a seemingly pointless detour through a small forest. Perhaps twenty miles if they followed the road; and they did not know the terrain well enough to cut across country. At least the island seemed a peaceful place. They had their swords, of course, but neither of them wanted to have to fight. Privately Link thought that they would be in more danger from the villagers than from any monsters that might lurk in the wild places. Would the people of Koholint not want to stop them, if they learned what he and Dark were going to do to their world?
That bothered him suddenly. It was all very well to talk of waking the Wind Fish; but when it came down to it, they were going to destroy this place. If Dark was right, then everything--Mabe, Toronbo, Marin and everybody they knew here--would be gone forever.
He sighed and pushed his chair back on the white pine floor. Dark glanced up curiously. "What is wrong?"
"Nothing," Link said. "And everything. You know. I'm going back to the house--I want to lie down for a while."
"As you wish."
He glanced around, made sure that nobody else was in the library, and bent close. "When? Tomorrow? Or is that too soon?"
Dark slid his fingers across a page, feeling the rough paper; he lowered his head so that his hair fell and hid his eyes. "Tomorrow," he said softly. "Another day will make it no easier to do what must be done."
"We'll leave at dawn, then. I'll take a few rolls and some water from the kitchen; it will probably take us the whole day to get there."
"You do realise that we have no idea how..."
"I know," Link muttered. "But we won't find the answer in the library. The best thing we can do is try to figure it out on the spot."
He walked out across the silent square, expecting at any moment to be hailed by Marin--she usually found some task or other for him at this time of day. But she did not seem to be around; perhaps she had got her husband to cut the wood or fetch her water. The twins were kicking their ball about near Ulrira's house. Link watched them for a few minutes, smiling, and then climbed the veranda steps. The kitchen was empty, but a pot was simmering on the range and there were small piles of chopped onions and herbs set out on the table. He noticed that the ocarina was gone.
As he came out into the narrow hall, he stopped; Marin's bedroom door was closed, and he could hear raised voices within.
"Have you gone totally mad?" she was saying angrily. "You played it to them!"
"They have to know." That was her husband, quiet and firm.
"Not like that! You practically gave it to them on a plate!"
"It has to be their choice. You know that."
"You'll ruin everything," Marin hissed.
"You know it has to be this way." He was moving around as he spoke; Link heard boards creaking. "Do you think you can keep them in ignorance? You should know better. Sooner or later that boy is going to know."
"They'll go through with it!"
"Maybe they will. It still has to be their choice."
Link backed out very quietly and went outside again.
It was a strange sort of dinner they had that night; Link tried to make conversation, to act as if nothing were wrong, but it was difficult. He could not forget what he had overheard, and it frightened him. More than once it was on the tip of his tongue to ask outright what was going on; he hated having secrets, and not knowing, and more than that he hated suspecting evil of those who had been so kind before. He restrained himself with difficulty, complimented Marin on the quality of her cooking, and retired early to bed; he could not face sitting with them that night.
He woke with a jerk; the room was dark, and somebody was shaking him gently by the shoulder. Opening his eyes, still half asleep, he saw two gleaming crimson lights a foot from his face--sat up too quickly in his fright and hit his head on the beam with a resounding thud. He swore loudly, fell back onto the pillow and clapped both hands to his forehead.
"Link!" Dark whispered fiercely. "Be quiet!"
"Farore's Wind, are you trying to give me a heart attack?"
"Just get up. It is time." The shadow threw something at him and ducked back down out of sight. Reaching out with his hands in the darkness, Link found that the object was a bundled up shirt. He sat up again and put it on, fastening the buttons by feel. His head ached.
"What time is it?" he whispered as he climbed down the ladder.
Dark was sitting on his bunk, pulling his boots on. "A little past the fourth hour, or so I guess by the stars. We should hurry."
"Why? Nobody's going to be awake, are they?"
"He wakes early. And you make enough noise to wake the dead as it is."
"Well, I am sorry," Link said irritably, "but it's a little off-putting waking up with you staring at me." He found his tunic and pulled it over his head, then realised that he had it on backwards, and worked it round with some effort. "Couldn't you have lit a candle? I can't see anything."
Dark stood up and reached for his sword belt. "Light one yourself."
"There's no point now," Link grumbled, throwing the chain of the Amulet over his head. It settled against his chest, cool and comfortingly real. He stretched, yawned vastly, and swung his arms to warm the muscles. Aside from the headache, he felt good. "All right. I think I'm ready. Let's go!"
They tiptoed out through the darkened house, walking pressed against the wall to avoid creaking the floorboards. The kitchen was better lit: bright starlight came through the window and outlined things in a faint silver glow. Link opened the bread-bin and filled his pockets with hard rolls, then took a round leather water bottle from beside the sink. He uncorked it and checked that it was full, then slung it over his shoulder by the strap. Dark already had the door open and was waiting there, framed in silver light. "Feels like stealing," Link said softly as he came across the kitchen floor.
"She took us in, clothed us, let us sleep in her house. I am sure she would not grudge us a bit of old bread." Dark held the door open for him.
"I know," he whispered back. "That's why it feels like stealing. We could have asked."
Mabe was different in the dark--silent and watchful. The windows were all black and empty. Papahl's black and white dog slumbered uneasily on the veranda of the house across the street; from the chicken coop came an occasional sleepy cluck. Link glanced to the east, towards Toronbo and the sea, and saw nothing more than a faint lightening in the blue; they were an hour or so off sunrise yet. They had time. He took a deep breath, tasting the perfumed air. "Well," he said softly, "here goes. Do you remember the way?"
"More or less," Dark answered, frowning slightly as he stared towards the mountain. "I think it best if we stay with the road. It will take us safe to Tamaranch; and I believe we can make it in a day, if we do not make too many stops."
"You know if we skip the forest we'll cut off five miles or more."
"We would have to go through that river valley; we talked about this." The valley in question was a low-lying fen, marked on Ulrira's map as Goponga Swamp. There seemed to be a great deal of water and very few paths.
"All right, all right," Link said. "Just trying to help."
They walked together up the wide dirt street. Link found himself tense and nervous as he turned his back on Marin's house; he half expected her husband to come running out after them, accusing them of theft and a hundred other sins. Guilt was a new experience for him and he did not like it much. But the village remained silently sleeping, and somehow that was even worse. He fingered the hilt of his serpentine dagger, then checked the cork of the water bottle, for no better reason than to give his hands something to do.
At last Ulrira's house fell behind them, and they were walking up between high grassy banks along the Kanalet road. The sky was a little lighter now, glowing blue at their backs; somewhere behind them a pheasant gave its creaking call, and they both jumped, then looked at each other and laughed nervously.
"I can't believe we got away so easily," Link said as they came up to the worn old marker-stone: Mabe Village--One Mile.
"Well," came a soft half laughing voice, "maybe that's because you haven't." And Marin's husband stepped out from behind the stone. He was dressed, as always, in Kokiri green and brown, but this morning he wore no heavy pack. In his right hand was a slim sword; he tapped the flat of the blade lightly against his thigh as he faced them in the middle of the road, watching for the first move.
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