The Far Sea: Chapter 67
SHE HAD thought for a while, on the boat, that she was ready to die; now she realised how desperately she wanted to live. In the face of destruction the body simply took over. Waves rolled over her, swallowed her under; there was a dragging, clinging weight on her back and she tore at herself until cloak and bag together drifted free.
Her lungs were burning. Air--it had to be somewhere above, but which way was up? There was no light; she was lost in a blackness so total that it was like being blind. Her chest strained to hold on to that last precious breath of air; but it was nearly used up, and she had no more. Against her will her mouth opened: bubbles streamed from it. She was fading...
Something bumped against her in the maelstrom, hard and painful. It slapped her side stingingly, then twisted from her and wanted to be gone. She snatched at it instinctively and felt smooth wood on her palms. It struggled in her grip--it was trying to get free.
Of course... wood, it floated, didn't it? If she stayed with it, it would take her to the surface, to sweet air. She kicked out, gripping the long length desperately, going where it led.
The oar burst into the air in a shower of spray, and Zelda came bobbing after it. Nothing had ever felt so good as that first sweet breath of clean air; she drew it in in a great ragged gasp that stung her already strained throat. Everything was suddenly much louder: the crash of water and the roar of the wind filled her ears. The sea toyed with her as if she were a child's ball--lifting her high only to drop her sickeningly in the next instant. She wrapped her arms tight around the oar--the kind, courageous oar--she wept for joy at having it, having a friend here to be counted upon.
When she could, she looked about her. There was nothing to see--just the rolling black water, and herself upon it. The old rusty bait tin bobbed past and she watched it dully until it turned over and sank on the side of a wave. Perhaps that was the last she would ever see of the boat.
"Sofia," she called, or tried to, but her voice failed her; she could barely hear herself over the crash of a breaking wave nearby. "Sofia..."
I am on my own...
The oar twisted again, trying to slip from her, and she clutched it until her nails went white. Her right hand was tingling oddly, and her arm as far as the shoulder felt warm and strange; she must have banged it on something when the boat went down. Her legs were aching from kicking. She pulled herself a little higher, trying to rest her weight on the oar. It sank slightly, rolling as if in protest; it could not support her entire body. But at least she could keep her head above water--she could rest a little this way.
And she was so tired, and cold, and sleepy, and sick: The water heaved so, and threw her about; she was thrown across the back of a bucking horse, and it would not stop, and she could not get off.
"Sofia..." It was no use. Her cry was as weak and plaintive in her ears as the mew of a kitten.
Maybe the kargaroc would come again; maybe it would find her.
She knew she was at the end of her strength. Shivering she clung to the oar, trying only to keep her head up out of the water so that she could breathe. It was all in the world that she could do now--that, and wait for the end. But she wanted to live, as long as she could, whether her span was to be counted in hours or minutes. She rested her head on her arm, propping herself up as best she could, and concentrated on staying alive. When salt water, stinging, slopped up into her eyes, she closed them, and then it was just too much effort to open them again.
"Get down," she whispered, grabbing at his shoulder. They crouched together so that only their heads were above the water's surface. A thin fringe of reeds shielded them from the open channel. Zelda clamped her jaws shut to stop her teeth from chattering.
The boat passed them by slowly, deliberately; the Stalfos at the helm was turning slowly as he scanned the reeds on either side. Through the bullrushes she saw the flickering orange flames in his eye-sockets, a rotting leather baldrick buckled over the heavy ribcage beneath the tattered rags of a cloak. The rowers' oars dipped down and churned the black water, leaving a little whirlpool where they entered and pulled back.
Creaking, rocking slowly through the water, the boat went on.
When the glow had faded into the night, there was another sharp tug on the cord. She dragged herself to her feet, slipping a little in the thick mud. The rain felt so cold, like ice, that it seemed to cut her skin. Her whole body, from the neck down, felt numb with cold; her hands shook violently.
He tried to stand, but fell back again, and nearly went right under. She reached down and gripped his upper arm, then hauled him to his feet. He leaned against her weakly; his hand, when she touched it, felt very cold.
"I... sorry... cannot..."
The cord was taut, pulling at her. They had to hurry. She slipped her arm about his waist and lifted him up, dragged him; he walked with her, or tried to. When he could not, she simply carried him. The water was chest deep now, and she hoped desperately that it would get no higher.
Directly in front of them, low in the sky, the moon drifted, moving in and out of the cloud cover. There seemed a halo around it, a strange ghost light. It cast little reflection on the lake...
Blearily she raised her head. There was a moon, a dirty yellowish one; she could see a line of sparks gleaming dully on the dark water, stretching directly down towards her. A wave dropped her, and hid the light from view, but in a moment she was borne up again and saw it sliding low over the water. How strange... it really seemed as if it was moving.
It was moving. It was coming towards her. She blinked stupidly at the light and, after a moment, made out the shadowy shape of a carved keel below it, furrowing the waves like a plough. Like a ghost ship, it made no sound at all that she could hear. A round glass lantern was hanging off the prow; it swayed heavily to and fro. Was that a figure moving behind it--? The light was in her eyes; it dazzled her.
"Help..." It was a mere whisper; her voice had gone. She tried to swim, to push towards it, but her limbs were stiff and dead with cold--they would not respond. The waves were carrying her away, away from the light. She wept and struggled, clawing at the water with her free hand when her legs did not obey her. It was to no avail: the treacherous sea dropped her down again, and hid the light from her eyes. All was dark again.
She cried out, and this time made a sound: a thin, angry wail, full of wordless misery and the monstrous unfairness of it all. It was over, and she did not even have the strength to let go of the oar, to finally embrace the death that would take her.
And then, silently and without warning, the boat was there, almost on top of her. It slid past her face, only a few inches away, cutting through the black water with barely a ripple. The wood of the steeply curving hull was patched, painted like a harlequin's coat in mismatched splashes, red and green and blue.
The edge of it was four or five feet above her head--too high to reach, and in any case she could not have lifted her hands from the oar. The light, swinging, pinned her suddenly.
Everything was very slow now, and quiet, and dreamy. She lay still, utterly spent, only vaguely curious to see what would happen next. Something was poking at her, waving in front of her face. She tried to grasp it, but her hand merely twitched; she was as uncoordinated as a babe. A boat hook. How funny--she wasn't a boat. The hook came out a little further and snagged in her sleeve. It tugged. It was pulling her towards the light...
Somewhere, something was being pulled from the water, but it did not concern her. The light was all around her, and that was all she wanted.
And then, slowly, sweetly, the light began to dwindle and fade. It didn't matter. She wasn't afraid any more.
This one was nearly gone, blue-lipped and cold to the touch. He laid it down on the deck and then turned it over to one side then the other, feeling for pockets. It had no belongings, or at least nothing that could have explained that strange bluish light, that faded when he turned the boat towards it. Phosphoresence, maybe...
Something bumped gently against the hull. He stood up and went over to the starboard side, holding the lantern high. At first he did not see it; it was quite small, and dark against the water. When he did find it, he frowned, and reached back for the hook. It caught in the binding, and the thing came up, streaming water.
Well, maybe this was worth something. It looked old. He'd have to dry it out first, of course, and hope that the salt didn't ruin it.
He tossed it down through the open hatch and went back to the other thing. It was still breathing. He lifted it up, draped it over his shoulder, then climbed down into the hold.
Its coverings were wet through. That wouldn't do. He stripped them off the small body, bundled them up and thrust them away to be dealt with later.
A female. He never could tell when they were covered up.
He dragged out some more clean blankets and wrapped it up warmly, then kicked boxes aside until there was a space large enough. That done, he gathered up the discarded coverings, and the thing he had pulled from the sea, and went back up the ladder. He could do no more for it; it would have to take its chances. If it was still alive in the morning... well, he'd worry about that when the time came.
The sky was clearing, so he pegged the things up to dry. It took his mind off the other things he'd found. They were in the cabin right now, in the bottom of the locker. Even now he could feel them, watching him through several intervening layers of wood and metal.
The blanket covering her was thick and soft, smelling faintly dusty, as if it had been rolled up somewhere for a long time. Aside from a soft, rhythmic knocking somewhere, all was quiet and still.
For a little while she lay quietly where she was, and dozed. She had no wish to think or remember, to question her good fortune or to pay its price. She was worn out, body and spirit, and simply accepted the comforts that were offered as her due. Whether she was in Ganon's own castle, it was enough to be warm, and dry, and for the moment safe.
Her waking was gradual: she was reluctant to return, and indeed might not have were it not for an unnameable niggling something that would not let her rest. She tried to sink away from it by squeezing her eyes tight shut, nuzzling down into the thick dusty folds of her blanket, but every little movement merely served to make her more aware of her body, of the hard wood floor under her that was only slightly softened by another folded fabric...
I'm on a boat... How did I get here? Where have I been?
And... where am I now..?
She opened her eyes.
A soft golden glow lay on everything--the light came from a glass lantern hanging on a nail a few feet away. The space was low: she could not have stood up fully in it. Walls, floor and ceiling alike were made of tightly joined wooden planks, so that the overall effect was like being inside a very large wooden box.
Not that much of the floor or ceiling could be seen, for the box--the hold, she realised suddenly--was full to bursting with stuff. Boxes, barrels and sea-chests of all sizes were stacked up to the ceiling. Heaps of netting, coils of tarred rope and line, and bolts of cloth--canvas, wool, linen, silk--were stuffed between them anywhere they would fit. The teetering piles were secured with nets, or lashings of various types of cord. In front of her, a narrow path had been made by careful packing; through the gap she could just make out a ladder leading up to a square trapdoor. Daylight shone through it, lighting a bright patch on the floor.
She sat up, clutching the blanket--and realised that her clothes were gone. A little more of that horrible night came back to her: a confused recollection of cool hands lifting her, brushing the wet hair from her forehead. Her face suddenly felt uncomfortably hot.
Something nearby made a small sound--a sigh. She jumped a little, pulled the blanket tighter around herself, and turned to see. Sofia was curled up on the floor a few feet away, wrapped in another light brown woollen blanket. She was sleeping deeply with the covers pulled up around her chin; her long red hair was matted into elf-locks. There was a small raw cut on her brow, and the pink flesh was pale against her dusky skin.
Zelda turned away and cried for a little while, quietly, so as not to wake her.
Presently she felt a little more collected. She wiped her face with a bit of the blanket--there being nothing else obviously to hand--did her best to pull back her hopelessly tangled hair, and then leaned over and gently touched her friend's shoulder through the fabric. Her breathing quickened slightly.
The Gerudo opened her eyes, just a slit, so that gold gleamed in the warm lamplight. She looked up at Zelda first vaguely, then with dawning surprise and wonder.
"Where are we?"
"I don't know," Zelda said truthfully.
Sofia blinked, and then sat up suddenly, clutching the blanket tightly against herself. "Whoever took my clothes is going to regret it..."
"At least we're alive," Zelda said, smiling. Her ears perked then as she caught sight of something behind her friend: an open sea-chest, overflowing with brightly coloured fabrics. "I suppose we could use those..."
They went through the box together. The selection was eccentric to say the least: most of the space in it was taken up with three full length court gowns, stiff with brocade and lace, and under that a cloak of what might have been ermine fur. Everything was clean, but old, and a little worn--the cut of the dresses was at least thirty years out of date. Laying the rich things aside they came upon some more suitable working attire--shirts, tunics and Calatian-style loose trousers, a little creased and musty from storage, and rather too big for both of them. As Zelda pulled on a man's loose embroidered shirt, of blue linen, she noticed that someone had mended the left sleeve cuff with small, neat, ladylike stitches.
She was lost in thought, wondering about the origin of all these motley treasures, when Sofia said quietly, "The Amulets are gone."
The flash of horror that went through her was as cold as a knife's cut, and about as painful. She raised her hand instinctively to her throat--though already she knew that it was quite true: that familiar weight was no longer there. Could she have lost it in the sea? Oh, Nayru grant that it be not so... She didn't remember losing it, but then everything last night had been so mad and horrible and confused; and she had only the foggiest recollections of anything that had happened after the boat went under.
Even so... No. Not in the sea.
"I think," she said slowly, "that the Amulets are going to be with the rest of our things."
Sofia looked at her for a moment, frowning, then shoved the blankets aside and pulled herself to her feet, using the side of a box as support when the boat rocked. "In that case, we'd better go and find the one who took them."
Zelda followed her to the ladder, walking carefully. The polished boards were smooth and cool on her bare feet: there had not been any boots or shoes in the sea-chest.
Above, the light was soft and tinted faintly pink; it was not long past dawn. A wash of confused emotion flooded over her as she hauled herself up the ladder onto a wide white deck--she was not sure whether to laugh or to cry. It was a morning that she had been convinced she would never see, and it was beautiful.
A soft sea breeze tugged at loose strands of her matted, salt-caked hair. She straightened up, glanced at Sofia who stood close by, and then turned to take stock of her surroundings.
They had thought the Golden Queen a strange, foreign realm, when they embarked back in Saria; then Dragon Roost had been far stranger; but this mysterious boat was unfathomable. Above, it was just as eccentric--and colorful--as it had been down below. While the planks underfoot were scrubbed white, the salt-stained hull was painted in a splotchy assortment of colours, here blue, here red or green, as if the painters had had a collection of oddments they wanted to use up. The sail too was patched together from different brightly-colored bits of cloth, and it flapped loose now in the gusting wind. A ragged tassel of a flag, mostly red, whipped about at the top of the mast. Any design that might have been on it had faded into invisibility.
Everything was in good repair, and the wooden deck was spotlessly clean, its old planks smoothed and shining from many years of use. A door stood open to a little cabin at the rear. At the other end, a worn but gleaming wooden wheel overlooked the prow. But the deck was otherwise unoccupied, and they stood looking about them in confusion.
Sofia took a few hesitant steps forward, stopped by the mast, then turned and lifted her arms helplessly.
"There's nobody here!"
"There must be," Zelda said, "or how did we get here?" She craned her neck to look up at the top of the mast for a moment, but there was nothing moving up there either, not even a gull. There was something else though: a pegged line of flapping garments, most of which looked uncomfortably familiar. "Look at that--I know I didn't climb up there with my clothes last night!"
The other woman blinked at her, nonplussed, then ran across to the open door and peered inside. Zelda wordlessly shook her head: she could see, herself, that the tiny interior was crammed to bursting with chair, table, shelves and pans and other necessities. The only thing it lacked was a living inhabitant.
Then, behind her, there was a splash and a rattling. She turned, just as someone came lightly up over the side via a rusty metal ladder.
Sofia cried out--whether in shock, fear, or simple disbelief, Zelda had no idea. She did not glance towards her friend: she was transfixed with wonder.
"You're a Zora!"
The individual was very tall, Hylian-size, but thinner than a Hylian, with long delicate limbs and glittering blue-white skin that caught the light with a pearly sheen whenever he moved. There was plenty of that skin on display; the only clothing that he wore was a red cloth wrap around his loins, and a worn and cracking leather belt slung diagonally across his torso. Added to that was an assortment of possessions practical and ornamental: a long knife on his hip, a beaded necklace, a heavy silver armlet in the Gerudo style. His body was adorned with magnificent spoked fins, the membranes translucent as silk; they were folded close now, conforming to his streamlined shape, but it was easy to imagine how they might lift and spread within water.
He--the Princess assumed instinctively that it was a he--tossed a small clinking bag carelessly to the deck, then looked at them both with eyes as dark and ancient as the sea.
"And you're a Hylian, and you're a Gerudo. There! Now we're all friends. What are you doing on my boat?"
"I will rephrase," he said, propping his fists on his hips. "Why are you out here? This isn't your place."
Zelda, staring, tried to think of something to say--anything. It was to no avail. Her self-possession had entirely deserted her.
But in the momentary silence, Sofia came storming forward. "Where are our things?"
The Zora looked at her mildly. "Hanging off the yard-arm."
"I don't mean that, and you know it -"
"Sofia -" Zelda began.
"You took something from us. Why, and what have you done with them?"
While she spoke he had bent down to pick up the small bag; now he was moving towards the cabin, swinging it carelessly by the drawstring. She ran and stood in front of him, barring the door. "Hm?" he said.
Zelda took a breath. "Sofia, stop it." Both of them turned towards her, with curiosity perhaps; there had been an edge in her voice that she wasn't sure she had intended. She paused for a moment, thinking very fast, then went on, looking up into the black, gleaming eyes. "Sir... you saved both our lives, and we are in your debt. Can we start again? My... my name is Zelda, and this is Sofia. Thank you for rescuing us."
His expression did not change; nevertheless the atmosphere shifted suddenly. He looked at her intently for a moment, then turned away, gently pushed Sofia to one side and ducked into the tiny cabin. The door closed quietly.
They stared at each other for a moment, nervously, but before either of them could speak the door opened again and he stepped out, holding two discs of rich yellow gold, one in each hand. The dangling chains caught the early morning sunlight and flared as if in joy.
"Where did you get these?" he asked softly.
It was some time in the late afternoon.
The lamp guttered again, throwing distracting shadows over the work, and she sighed and raised her free hand to push her hair back. Her fingers ached where they did not sting: the heavy needle was blunt, and required some force to be worked through the sailcloth. And she had never been much of a seamstress under the best conditions.
A jagged-edged tear ran nearly four feet through the width of the sail. They had no pins--if indeed a pin could have stood up against such heavy canvas--so she had to try to hold it closed herself as she worked, stitching clumsily with the thick twine. Sofia, sitting a few feet away, was similarly occupied with another tear at the other end of the sail.
So... we've found Zoras. Or one Zora, anyway. She knew she ought to feel happy about that, but aside from being glad of their rescue she didn't feel anything much. It was odd really; she had spent so much time thinking about the Quest in recent months, had risked so much for it, yet had her Amulet been to hand now, complete with its Medallion, she would have dropped it into the sea without a second thought, just to know that the others were all right. And the ship... what would happen to the Golden Queen? She did not think the Rito would hurt the crew. What was there to gain by that now? But it seemed too much to ask that the Rito would just let them go... so once they had Link and Dark, they would all somehow have to find their way back to Dragon Roost, to free the ship.
Her neck ached from bending close in poor light. She sighed and stretched back for a moment, rolling her shoulders to get the stiffness out of them--then cursed and jerked her hand away as the thick needle poked her finger. A slow bead of blood swelled, not for the first time; she flapped her hand angrily to take the sting away.
"It beats weaving, at least," Sofia said, smiling wryly at her.
She nodded, grimacing theatrically at the memories, then blinked in surprise. "You had to do that too?"
"What? Of course--everyone does back home. Our rugs don't make themselves." Sofia rolled her eyes. "The men usually do it, though."
Zelda stared at her friend, not quite sure whether she was joking. "I can't imagine men weaving," she said at last.
"You haven't seen a Gerudo loom--some of the big ones need two people just to work the shuttle." Sofia bent her head to her work again for a moment. "I've made a fine mess of it so far, haven't I?" she said in a quieter, more thoughtful voice.
Somehow Zelda did not think she was talking about the sail. She thought for a moment.
"You're not being very fair to me, you know."
"What?" Sofia frowned, caught offguard.
"Well, if you mean sinking the boat, I had a hand in it too. Give me some credit!" She smiled. "Anyway, we're alive."
"I wouldn't count your Cukkos until we know what he's going to do with us," Sofia said slowly. "So that's a Zora..."
Zelda nodded slowly. It was at the back of her mind, too. She had decided to tell him everything, in the end--seeing no other recourse. At this point they badly needed a friend.
Not that he had seemed particularly interested in their plight. He'd cut them off halfway through their story, then sent them below with a couple of spools of twine. They still didn't even know his name, assuming he had one.
Well... look on the bright side. At least he hadn't thrown them off the boat.
She flexed her aching hands, then picked up the needle again. At least she could show him that she wasn't afraid to work... indeed, it had entered her mind that perhaps he was testing them in some way by giving them menial tasks to do. The ironic thing was, she found mending the sail more enjoyable than tapestry--or at least, was hating it less. There was a kind of satisfaction in watching the tear come together, inch by steady inch.
Link and Dark are out there, alone, maybe in trouble, and here I am sewing...
She stitched for a while, quietly, squinting in the dim lamplight and trying not to think about anything much. Something slammed or thudded somewhere above, but it was a ship noise and blended in with all the other creakings and knockings. The lamp would have to be trimmed soon; its guttering was getting on her nerves...
"Hm?" She blinked and glanced up vaguely.
Sofia had turned her head and was looking towards the ladder; her brows were drawn together worriedly. "Something's happening," she said. A moment later there came three heavy knocks on the deck.
He had seen the smudge of smoke from some miles away, and had been doing his best to avoid thinking about it ever since. He had no strength to hurry; it was as much as he could do to maintain height.
Gradually Dragon Roost rose above the curve of the sea, a dark spire against the sky with a streak of gold running wetly down its eastward side where the sun hit it. A thin gray coil of smoke was winding slowly out of the jagged peak. He had never seen such a phenomenon before--it had not happened in living memory--but he guessed well what it meant. Here? Now? It could not be a coincidence.
He came in low, beneath the circling, excitedly chattering crowds, and settled clumsily on one of the lowest ledges. It was just wide enough to stand comfortably. For a moment he leaned limply against the warm rock wall; every muscle in his body ached miserably.
The stone trembled faintly, unceasingly, under his palms and the soles of his boots. It felt like a plucked harp string, except that the echo of it never dwindled or died away.
A flutter of wings.
"Where have you been, Prince?"
"Ortha," he acknowledged, giving the smallest bow. The Elder looked even more vulturelike than usual, with his bony shoulders hunched beneath the fur-trimmed collar of his cloak. There was an odd gray look to his face.
"The Queen is very concerned," the old Rito said.
Kovanni dipped his head. "She is right to be. Our friend in the Pearl?"
"She claims she will shake the island apart if we don't give her what she asks by sundown." Ortha twisted his knobby, clawlike hands together. "Have you found them?"
"I thought it would come to this," Kovanni said very softly. "She's showing us her true nature at last."
"Prince, you must not--"
To his own surprise no less than Ortha's, Kovanni found himself clapping his ancient counsellor on the shoulder. "Be at ease, my friend," he said. "I'll go and talk to her."
"But--" He changed, and so missed the rest of what the Elder might have said.
The upper part of Dragon Roost, within, was deserted; only a few white-faced attendants still lingered in the great hall. He made straight for the downward passage, brushing past the guard who tried to call to him. The door to the Pearl chamber was ajar; reddish light spilled into the corridor, and the air was thick and hot.
As soon as he stepped over the threshold, he felt her will bearing down on him, like the blast from an opened oven door. He stood still, folding his hands calmly together, and waited.
"You sorely try my patience, little bird."
The anger rose in him; he quelled it. He would remain calm. "Who are they?" he said. "And why do you persecute them?"
"How dare you?" Ah, and was that a touch of dismay under the bluster?
He pushed the door closed behind him and lowered the bar into its hook, then turned back. "I am not so gullible as you seem to think, madam." Running footsteps outside; he ignored them as he moved forward to stand before the Pearl. "One way or another I am going to learn the truth about you, and what you want with those young ones."
"I will break it!" The sickly heat began to build, swirling about the darkened Pearl; the walls shivered.
Calmly he reached out and laid both hands on the orb.
It was like plunging from a height into icy water; the wild magic swept him away, deeper and deeper into a void of darkness, towards the vast and ancient presence that slumbered at the heart of the island far beneath. Too fast! Pain enfolded him like a fog, but it was another's; he could feel now how she was twisting at it, hurting it, and how it stirred uneasily in its dream. It was not awake, not yet, but it would not be long.
So that is how you are doing it... you think to rouse Valoo from his sleep? He could have laughed. And you claimed to be a goddess! Why--you're nothing! A seagull pecking at the back of a dozing whale!
But the seagull had been at work for a long time, and the whale was starting to stir. He opened his wings and sang a magic, doing his best to ease the great sleeping one down into a deeper dream. From childhood he had been using the Pearl to see, and neither it nor the presence at the island's core had ever held any terrors for him. But it had never felt like this, like a rudderless ship, like a running harpoon-line that had slipped out of its coil and was whipping uncontrollably about the deck.
She struck at him out of the mists, jaws agape. In this place she had taken the form of a great snake, ghost-white, with blood-red gleaming eyes. Very apt. Her fangs took a few of his wing-feathers but did little real damage. He tumbled away through the storm of wild magic, whirling helplessly for a few moments before finding his balance again. As she lunged again, he flicked his wings and dodged, then raked his talons along her flank as she passed. Her black blood touched his flesh, and he knew her.
You are strong, witch, he said, stronger than I am, I don't doubt, in your own place. But this is my realm, not yours.
She drew herself up a little way away, her form flickering as she sought a suitable shape to fight with. She had not expected this; she was momentarily off-guard. Her red eyes glinted murderously.
So... the little bird has claws after all.
Foolish bird--you have no idea what you are dealing with! My Master will remember your faithful service!
Your master! He lunged, but she was too fast; she fled, swift as lightning, along the thin silver thread of her spell. Almost at the same instant, the thread snapped, and vanished. She had gone, and left no trail to follow.
No matter; it was enough that she was gone. Hopefully it had been in time to save the island. His head reeled; he did his best to find a focus through the exhaustion, then turned his attention back to the dragon, to listening to its vast, slow dreams.
The mind of Valoo was huge and unfathomable; it worked on a different scale of time. Ordinarily he could no more catch the sense of its thoughts than he could speak with a mountain. But something had changed now, and not all of it was evil, or the witch's doing.
Last night's storm was not a natural one... A great spell was broken... The Wind Fish has woken, and soon enough her brother will too. Valoo will not sleep many years longer, no matter what we do... It seems we must prepare for a world with dragons.
He laid a magic down, thin and delicate as a web of silk, soothing away the ancient one's pain and persuading it, very gently, to sleep deep again. For now.
They were dragging him, pulling him away from the Pearl, out of the room, over the wreckage of a shattered door. Dazed, he stared up at worried faces he did not recognise: an old man, a scarred warrior with salt-and-pepper hair, a younger man with a wild dark mane. They laid him down in the corridor, on his back, and he lay quite still, feeling immensely grateful for the chance to simply stop.
"Is he all right?" one of the younger ones asked.
The old one closed his eyes, turned his head away; he looked so old and sad and worn. "He's pushed himself too far; he must rest. Get him to his chamber."
"We nearly made a terrible mistake," Kovanni said, as they were lifting him.
"Hush, Prince. Save your strength."
The world was fading out around him, but he had to at least try to explain. "Ganon... His name is Ganon..."
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