The Far Sea: Chapter 56

THEY settled into a depressing routine over the next few days: sleeping, eating, walking about the city. Money ran low, and Zelda wrote to the castle for more; it came. Nothing else broke up the monotony. In truth they had no idea how to continue their search--they had come to the end of their knowledge now, and the heart went out of them as if they were hounds that had lost the scent.

One bright, clear morning, Link went out alone on the streets of Saria, with no other motive than to get away from the claustrophobic air of the Phoenix Plume. It had been raining earlier; he dodged in and out of puddles while trying to avoid the throngs of passers-by and the carts that rattled occasionally along the cobbled road.

His feet carried him steadily down towards the sea--it was a path he had walked many times now without success. He had been into a number of the waterfront bars, haunts of sailors and rogues, and had seen an uglier face of Saria there. By the grace of Farore he had escaped injury himself, but he had witnessed two brawls and a stabbing, and learned nothing of use. The delicate preliminary enquiries he had made had all come to nothing, and for the first time since their quest began he was beginning to feel genuinely worried about the prospect of failure. What if there were no Zoras now, and the Medallion of Water lay somewhere at the bottom of the limitless sea? What then?

At last he came out on the promenade and stood for a few minutes breathing the rich confused scent, careless of the obstruction that he was causing. A man jostled him; a woman pushed past dragging two wailing children; he was oblivious. The circling gulls, and the tall masts creaking, sang to him of Calatia; the slap of water on wooden hulls was the sound of his childhood. Suddenly he was sick to go home. He walked out slowly in a dream, and wandered along the wooden quay beside the harbour. Yes, again the familiar smells--tar, hemp, salt fish. Silver scales glittered on the planks beneath his boots: worn-in traces of a thousand catches hauled up from the boats below. He saw an old man sitting cross-legged sewing a torn sail, and his own fingers tingled in sympathy.

Suddenly there came a shout of warning; he looked round, to where a bright-sailed fishing trawler had been unloading towards the end of the quay. The two teenage boys on the harbourside were having difficulty pulling up the heavily laden net--and as he watched, one of them lost hold of his rope. The net slipped dangerously down through the air to bang against the harbour wall, and hands reached up desperately from the boat to try and steady it. In a flash he saw the danger: if it came open, the fishermen would lose their catch into the harbour; a bitter blow after they had fought for it all night on the open ocean, risking their lives to bring it safely home. He ran, and in a heartbeat was halfway down the slippery steps and grabbing for the rope that swung loose. Ankle-deep in the lapping sea he caught it, bundled it and flung it up to the waiting hands above. The net bounced thrice on the stone wall and disappeared over the top to safety on the wooden planks of the quay.

One of the men on the boat whistled in low admiration for the disaster narrowly alerted. "Thanks, lad," he said as he hopped out onto the steps. "Not looking for a berth by any chance?"

Link grinned at that. "Sorry, but no. I'm just visiting."

"Shame. That lazy wretch Tieso's not worth his board. Well, if you ever want a spot of work over summer, ask for the Sea Feather." The man looked down at him: six foot of muscle he was, black-haired and deeply tanned with gold rings gleaming in his ears. "Teto. And you are?"

"Link," he said, and held out his hand. They clasped each other's forearms for a moment in the southern manner.

"Link?" the skipper repeated, and his expression changed very slowly. "You're the Hero? Well, I'll be..." He turned suddenly and waved to his companions. "Hey, boys, it's the Hero!" Heads turned along the promenade, and Link smiled weakly, rather embarrassed by the sudden attention. "From Calatia, aren't you?" Teto said, looking back to him. "Aye. Thought I recognised the accent. I got family down there. Will you do me the honour of coming for a drink once we've got things ship-shape here?"

Link laughed. "Gladly," he said, "as long as you let me help! It's been too long since I set foot on a boat."

Half an hour later he found himself sitting with Teto and a couple of his seafaring friends in one of Saria's waterfront taverns. The talk was all of ships, storms, tides and the migratory paths of fish, and he felt thoroughly contented. He had not been able to speak naturally with anyone for a long time; all his talk with his friends seemed related to the Quest, and he never felt quite at home with the polished lords and ladies of the Hylian court.

As was to be expected in such company, they sooner or later got into a competition to tell the tallest tales: the biggest fish ever caught, monsters on the high seas, shipwrecks and legends of the waves. Lake-bred, he could not compete; even though Lake Lomere was brackish, and the second biggest lake in Calatia, its perils were no match for those of the bottomless ocean. Link drank his weak ale and sat quietly for a while, listening with half an ear as he thought of other things.

"I've seen one," Teto said, "just once."

"Sure you have." The dissenter was a rough blond man with an untidy mane of golden hair curling round his shoulders. Link couldn't recall his name, though they had been introduced earlier.

"Ain't I ever told you the story? I was just a boy, out in a two-man skiff with a mate o' mine. We was after marlin, but we didn't get any--not that time. It was getting on to evening and we'd had nothing but a couple of mackerel on the bait-lines, so we started back. Then a squall started kicking up. Waves got big, and it got misty; pretty soon we'd lost sight of the shore. So Janiver--that's my mate, bloody good sailor too--he says we'll drop anchor, stand to and wear round when we can." Teto sat back comfortably and took a long draught of his drink before resuming. "We went about making everything as sure as we could. She was a nice little boat, small but sturdy; I bought her up a year or two after, and she did me proud for a good few years. So anyway, we'd just got the tarp over when I heard a splash, and then another. I'm thinking the rain's brought dolphins up, so I pop my head over the side to take a look-see." He gestured with the half-empty mug; the honey-coloured liquid sloshed within. "'Bout two yards off the port bow, what do I see? Well, it sure ain't a dolphin. It's a head, and it's got two great dark eyes like nothing in the world I ever saw before, and it's looking right at me!"

Link sat up suddenly.

"Never heard such a load of nonsense," the golden-haired man said lazily, resting his arm along the back of their booth. "Go on then, let's have it all out. What next? Sing to you, did it? Perch on a rock and comb its hair?"

Teto snorted. "Hardly. Just looked and looked, blinking its eyes now and then. And then--splash! It was gone. The mist cleared off a little later and we saw where we'd got to. We'd drifted off the line a little bit, but not so far that we couldn't row back before nightfall." He drained his mug and set it down hard, rocking the table. "Never seen another one either, in all my years. Never met anyone else who has. Oh, I've heard others telling tales about the Sea People, but I know what I saw that day. They ain't got golden hair or fishes' tails, and they don't sing."

"Where was this?" Link asked, unable to keep urgency out of his voice.

Teto glanced at him in some surprise. "Wind Isles, couple miles off Grand Needle. Where I were brought up. Why?"

He swallowed hard. His hands lay in his lap; and they were trembling slightly when he spoke out again. "Teto, would you come back with me to the Phoenix Plume? I'd like you to tell that story again to some friends of mine."



Thirty years ago, perhaps a little more, perhaps a little less. The skipper could not be sure exactly how long ago it was; but that was the approximate span of time. They sat him down in the bar-room of the Phoenix Plume, and asked him a hundred questions, but although genial enough, Teto could tell them little more of use.

"Thirty years," Link said that afternoon, pacing back and forth excitedly on the polished boards. "It isn't great; it's a long time; but I like thirty years a lot more than I like nine hundred."

"The Isles of the Winds, though," the Princess said worriedly. "I've heard of them, but I have no idea where they are. Somewhere in the west, I think. Aren't they a terribly long way away?"

There was a large map of the continent hanging on the wall in the hallway--it was an antique, some two hundred years old, but it would probably be accurate enough for their purposes. After some discussion the innkeeper agreed to let them borrow it for a few hours, on the understanding that any damage would be paid for at the highest rate. Link and Dark manhandled the huge gilt-framed picture up the stairs and into Zelda's bedroom, where they laid it down on the bed with little regard for the dust thus dislodged. The girls dragged extra chairs in from the other rooms and gathered round.

It took a little time, but eventually they found the Isles of the Winds on the map: a tiny scatter of green on the furthest edge of the ocean, almost touching the frame.

"That's it?" Sofia said, sitting back in disgust. "That little smear? It has to be hundreds of miles away!"

"Eight hundred, to be exact, if you look at the key," Link said with a wry smile. "The furthest reaches of the known world."

Zelda covered her eyes with her hand for a moment. "That's done it now... We can't possibly follow up this story--how will we ever get there? It'd take months and months!"

"Well," Link said, "we'll have to try, if we want this Amulet in one piece." He pushed himself to his feet and went to open the window; the room was stuffy. "Look at it this way: it's the first lead we've had, and after all the time that's passed since the Imprisoning War it's likely to be the only one we'll ever get. It was sheer luck I was there to hear it." He fixed the catch in the open position, then turned and looked back at his friends sitting around the map. "We need all the Amulets together. There is no alternative. If we aren't going to try for this one, we had better just go home, put our feet up and forget about the whole thing."

"Are you sure there's even anything in it?" Sofia asked. "A head in the mist--it isn't much to go on."

"The description is right," Dark said softly, looking up from the map. "I have seen Zoras with my own eyes, and it has the ring of truth to it. Besides I think the man truly believed what he was saying--it was not a tavern boast."

"But so far!" Zelda said in dismay.

Link sighed. "There are ways. Not on a small boat, of course--but big ships do make the journey now and then, ships big enough to weather the storms and carry enough supplies for the trip. There's trade between Hyrule and the Isles of the Winds; they're nominally Hylian people." He was quiet for a moment, thinking things over. "We're lucky in a way because it's the right time of year--if we'd arrived in summer, the trade winds would have turned and we'd be stuck for another six months."

"So if we have to go," Sofia said, "we have to go now. As soon as possible, before the winds change. Could we get passage on one of these ships?"

"We'll have to ask around. They don't often take paying passengers, but I think so. Captain Teto can't help us himself, but he has a friend on one of the big ships."

They sat quietly for a little while, stunned by the enormity of it.

"Can we do this?" Zelda asked.

For some reason, everyone looked at Link.

"I think so," he said slowly. "But we're going to need your father's help..."



The letter took most of the next day to write, a dozen sheets of wasted paper and the literary efforts of all four of them. Keeping nothing back this time, it told everything that had happened to them on the hills, and later in the city. It asked essentially for two things: Harkinian's blessing for the venture, and a large amount of money.

Instead, it brought the King, by overnight carriage.

The Cathedral bell was striking eight, as they ate breakfast in the bar-room, when the street door opened and Harkinian entered, flanked by two silver-armoured soldiers of the Royal Guard. There was a general scramble; the innkeeper upset a tray of glasses; a maid fainted and was hurried out to be revived at the kitchen pump.

Harkinian stood unmoved in the midst of the chaos, hands on hips as he glanced around the bar-room. A few patrons stared back, frozen with forks halfway to their mouths.

"Well?" he said after a moment.

In the ensuing silence, Zelda stood up and brushed crumbs off her chemise. "Let's go upstairs," she said briskly, as if she had expected it all along. "My room will be better for a private conversation."

The company climbed the stairs en masse, the soldiers' hobnail boots making a fearful mess of the polish on the boards. Link, heading the way with Zelda beside him, glanced at the Princess's face and fought back worry. She looked straight ahead, her face very calm and very pale.

Without having to be asked, the soldiers stayed outside, taking up positions either side of the door. Zelda closed it and turned the key in the lock. For a moment she stood wth her back to them, then she let out a breath and turned round.

"Well, sit down, everybody, wherever you can. Father, please take the good chair. I suppose we've got quite a lot to talk about."

"That we have," the King said grimly.



Link sat on his bed in the Phoenix Plume and felt sorry for himself. It was well into afternoon now and he had been grilled for most of the day without even a break for lunch. Not that that mattered, really; by now he felt half sick with worry, and could not have eaten anything if it were set before him.

The inn was full of noise and slamming doors. He had glanced out once or twice, and the place was full of soldiers rushing up and down the stairs, bumping into each other, carrying notes or boxes to unknown destinations. Saria had never seen such a bustle. The attention of the whole town was focused now upon the inn, where it was well known that the Hero, the Princess Royal and the King himself were all gathered. He sighed and lay back on his soft bed, watching a skewed square of sunlight creep across the far wall; he could smell salt in the air again, and it reminded him of a place and time when things had been simple. He had been away from home for a long time.

He had managed to close his eyes and cease thinking for something like five minutes when there came a soft knock on the door. He groaned and forced himself to sit back upright. "Come in," he said, running his fingers hastily through his tousled hair. The door opened.

Link tried not to sigh as he stood and made a bow. "Yes, your Majesty?" He could not keep a weary tone out of his voice; and hoped a second later that the King would not take that as an insult.

Harkinian closed the door behind him. "Sit down, Link," he said.

"Your Majesty, I've told you already everything I know--and everything I can guess at too. There's nothing else. Ask Zelda if you don't believe me!"

"Zelda is resting now," Harkinian said, seating himself in the room's solitary remaining chair. "And I wanted to talk to you alone, if I could." He made a very slight smile. "I am afraid that you have been poorly treated today, young Hero. I shan't keep you too long this time."

Link lifted his head hopefully. "My lord?"

"Do you know why I am here?"

Link stared at him.

"You must have wondered," Harkinian said with a wry look. "Be assured that I do not abandon my duties, or my city, on a whim. I have come away because I suspect now that this is a matter of importance--much greater importance than I first believed. Things have been changing lately, and not for the better." He sighed; when he spoke again, it was in quite a different tone, gentle and sad. "What is happening with this Sepultura woman, Link? I feel that I have a right to know."

It made Link feel bad about it then: the King was speaking to him as an equal, asking him for information as if it were a favour. He lowered his head, stared at a patch of floor between his boots.

"Your Majesty, I wish I had the answers. She... she is hard to understand, that is the truth of it."

After a moment, Harkinian went on. "You see, lad, it seems to me that something is wrong, something bigger than we guessed. These are things that should not be happening, things that have never happened before." The King sat back in his chair, frowning. "I will be frank. My concern, Link, is that the four of you were hunted up and down south-west Hyrule by a large, organised and well-armed force. Now while your quest involved nothing more than poking your heads into an old temple or two, I was happy to let you organise your own affairs. The Hero, after all, has always looked after himself." A grim look came over his face. "But what happened to you all a few nights ago was not just a skirmish between the Hero and a few monsters, was it? Those beasts were under orders to seek you out. They knew just what they were doing; they had a leader, and a plan, and even that storm was part of it."

Link smiled slightly. "Well, my lord, Heroes have faced worse..."

"No!" Harkinian snapped. "They haven't! That is my point!" He leaned forward, staring into Link's startled eyes. "No Hero of Hyrule has ever been hunted," he said. "Not like that. Ganon has never worked that way. He waits for the Hero to come to him, or he sends a single assassin--like your shadowy friend. He does not send armies out looking for you. Link, that is an act of war. If we are to have organised regiments of Stalfos roaming the countryside, I put it to you that it is time to involve the Royal Guard."

"Your Majesty--"

"Listen to me, boy. I have let you all go about on your own because I thought it would be easier for you to escape attention. It must be obvious to both of us by now that it isn't working out that way. So I say to you now that from now on you go nowhere without an armed escort."

Link was quiet for a moment. He breathed in and out slowly, trying to sort out his spinning thoughts. "Your Majesty," he said at last, lifting his head to face the King's stare, "it isn't that I don't appreciate what you are trying to do for us. But surely, if we go about with a band of soldiers, she will just send a bigger band out against us... and before we know it there are armies everywhere."

"I am hardly asking you to go about with an army," Harkinian said with a faint smile. "Ten picked men of my household; that is all. If you had had trained soldiers with you by the lake, they could have kept watch over your horses for you and warned you sooner of the danger you were in."

Link dropped his head and was silent for several minutes, turning things over in his mind. He was uneasy at the thought of having a military escort, and for reasons he had difficulty expressing; at the heart of the matter was the thought that it was not done that way. The Hero walked alone. But then, he thought suddenly, he was not alone, was he? Never before had a Hero journeyed with a Princess of the blood, or with any other companions. And besides, much as he hated to admit it, Harkinian's comment had been incisive; Sepultura was hardly observing the old rules herself. If she could cheat... He sighed at that thought.

"You're right," he said at last. "I... see the wisdom in it. I'll abide by your judgement, my lord."

"Good." Harkinian put his hands on his knees and rose a little stiffly. He paused halfway to the door and looked back. "Get some rest, Link, and do not trouble yourself any further for now. I will find you a ship."



As evening drew on, Sofia slipped out into the courtyard. The inn was so noisy now with all the new arrivals that she wanted a little peace and quiet before dinner; and she had another errand, too. Dark had done his disappearing act and was nowhere to be found in the inn, and Zelda had asked her to try and find him. She grimaced as she crossed the gravel yard; why was it that she got the fun jobs?

The stable was warm and golden in the afternoon light. She smelled horses and the crisp pungency of hay as she moved inside, glancing into the shady places. There were many of them. Suddenly she knew it: Dark would be here. She walked down the long row of stalls both occupied and empty, looking into each one out of the corners of her eyes. When she reached the end, she paused, facing the rough stone wall, and stood there for a long moment thinking. There was nothing down here but a few propped planks of wood and a small pile of hay. It was dim at this end of the stable, but not so dim that she had any trouble seeing clear. There was nothing.

Nothing but a bit of soot on the wall...

She turned to the planks, reached out casually, and gripped an arm. "Gotcha," she said quietly.

He glared at her; and the expression was so comically annoyed that she could not help laughing at him. "What do you want?" he asked coldly, shaking off her hand.

"We've been looking for you for an age." Sofia grinned. "It's good news--the King is going to help us! Are you coming in to dinner?"

"No." He moved away and began to pile hay in his horse's feed-rack.

"Well, you're certainly in a good mood. What's the matter?"

Dark did not turn. "What do you mean?"

"Oh, please," she said, laughing as she leaned against the wall. "Who do you think you're fooling? You've been cross ever since this voyage idea was first brought up."

For a long time he did not answer. She waited patiently. Finally he sighed and leaned on the stall door, staring at the horse as it drank from a wooden pail. "It is the ship..."

"The ship?"

"I do not want to go."

"Why?" Sofia said. He did not reply. After a while she came over, touched his shoulder; he flinched away. "You're afraid," she said, wondering.

"I have never been on a ship." He pulled away from her and walked a little way down the aisle, then stood still, head down and eyes closed, his hair falling across his face.

"Nor have I," Sofia said. "But I'm not afraid. It won't be a fragile little boat--it'll be a floating castle, from what Link has been saying. They have three decks and all sorts of sails with so many names that I can't even remember them all."

"You do not understand. I... I fear to leave Hyrule. I fear to leave the land."


"I was born here. I have always lived here."

"And put down roots, it seems," she said dryly. "But why worry? You are not a tree. You won't wither up and die from a little temporary digging-up."

"I do not wish to go," he muttered.

Sofia went to him and laid her hand on his shoulder. "Well," she said briskly, "we need you. So come! The King won't bite you. We need to make plans tonight, and you at least have to be there with us while we talk about it."



Over the next few days they flung themselves into full-hearted preparation for the longest journey any of them had ever undertaken--an eight hundred and fifty mile round trip to tour the Isles of the Winds, the most westerly outpost of the known world.

Teto would have been glad enough to take them to the Isles of the Winds--and beyond, if it had been necessary--but his sloop was built for short voyages and coastal waters only, and in any case it was a working boat ill-equipped for passengers. He suggested his friend Janiver, who had actually been with him on that long-ago voyage, and was now post-captain and part-owner of a frigate called the Golden Queen. It was one of the biggest vessels in the harbour, and as luck would have it, it was to sail in a week's time.

Even Link was startled at the amount that had to be done. When he went down to the docks to visit the Golden Queen, he found the ship a hive of activity, with huge crates of everything imaginable being swung through the air by giant wooden pulleys. There were mountains of sailcloth heaped on every deck, barrels of smoked fish, great casks of water... even a load of timber went below decks to be stored for repairs at sea. And yet the holds never seemed to be filled.

The voyage was costing Harkinian the vast and unimaginable sum of four thousand rupees. Enough, as Link said, to buy a smaller ship--or a two-hundred-acre estate in Calatia! As far as the Golden Queen was concerned, they, and their entourage of soldiers, would all be unproductive passengers for whom it was necessary to cater, and to carry extra supplies at the expense of actual trade goods, and the high price was some sort of compensation to the crew and captain for this; but the young warrior still shook his head and whistled when he thought of it.

Dark refused to even go down and look at the ship. He did not disappear again; but he stayed in his room and would not talk to them. Any invitations to join their company were met with stony silence.

"He's frightened of it," Sofia said over dinner one evening.

Zelda raised her eyebrows. "Dark, frightened? It's difficult to imagine him being afraid of anything."

"It's the sea," Link said. "It gets some people that way." He grinned and dipped a piece of bread in his stew. With it halfway to his mouth he went on, "I'll bet anyone at this table fifty rupees he gets seasick before we leave the harbour. He is working himself up to it!"

"He doesn't eat," Sofia pointed out. "How can he get seasick?"

"It's not a physical illness, it's a state of mind. You wait and see."

At last the day came. They left the inn early while the town was still waking up, and walked together through Saria's cobbled streets in the rosy light of dawn. Link raced ahead; he ran on to street corners and then stood there looking back and hopping from foot to foot as he waited for them to catch up.

"Someone's excited," Sofia muttered wryly.

There was a small crowd already gathered in the harbour when they arrived; the setting-sail of a ship as large as the Golden Queen was a big event, even in Saria, and nobody wanted to miss this one. Link abandoned them on the quay and bounded up the gangplank, calling out to friends he had made among the crew.

Captain Janiver was waiting for them, smartly dressed in a dark blue tunic and cloak. His blond curls bounced in a brisk gusting wind that tugged at loose folds of his clothing. With him stood a thickset muscular man, a head shorter than he, with a tanned face and a scruffy mat of close-cropped brown hair. Janiver clasped arms with each of them in turn as they came up on deck. "Welcome aboard," he said, smiling. "Sejar here's our boatswain. He'll show you to your cabins and get your luggage aboard. We'll sail in about half an hour, so you've got yourselves a bit of time to settle in first."

"Thank you, Captain," Zelda said, bowing slightly. She shouldered her bag and followed Sejar across the immense wooden stretch of the main-deck. Link had not been exaggerating about the size of the ship. Even now it was busy; sailors hurried about with buckets and strange implements, or hauled on ropes, or tied things to other things. A couple of Harkinian's silver-armoured soldiers shuffled by manhandling a heavy chest.

The cabins were small but wondrously well-equipped. Zelda was amazed to see a red wool rug on the floor and a real four-poster bed with silk sheets; she realised now that, naively, she had been expecting hammocks and bare boards. If it were not for the round porthole window ringed in brass, or the faint pervasive smell of tar, she might have been in an inn. She tossed her sack of clothes onto the bed and went about poking into all the drawers and testing out the furniture, making herself familiar with her new home of the next few weeks. She had a desk bolted to the floor, and a square bronze inkwell nailed to the desk; to her bewilderment the chair was mounted on bright brass rails set into the planks and slid in and out on a fixed track. There was a nail on a fine chain that could be put in to fix it in this position or that. When she found that her mirror was nailed to the wooden wall, she began to wonder just how rough the weather would be.

A heavy knock rattled her door. She jumped a little and then hurried over to open it. There was nobody outside, but she nearly tripped over a big black silver-bound chest: her heavier things, bought and packed for her by order of the King. It was difficult getting it over the raised door frame but she finally managed to heave it into a less obstructive place against the far wall of her room. Kneeling on the soft rug, she opened it and found a neat array of boxes and wrapped bundles--boots, oilskins, books, bottles, her bow, a short sword, a set of chessmen and other more or less useful things. She closed the chest and got up off her knees just as the door opened and Sofia came in.

"Isn't it amazing?" the red-haired woman said, grinning hugely. "I have a washbasin! And paintings on my wall! And there's a proper privy at the end of the corridor!"

"It's not like being on a ship at all, is it?" Zelda agreed, then looked thoughtful for a moment. "Is your chair on rails too?"

"It is. Why in the Goddess's name is that?"

"I think it's in case the sea gets rough." She picked her cloak up off the bed and pulled it over her shoulders. "Have you noticed that everything is fixed down somehow? And nothing is made of glass. The mugs on my dresser are pewter, and my mirror is silver-gilt."

"Maybe that is just the way things are on a ship," Sofia said. "I've never been on one before; I don't know how they work."

Zelda fastened her brooch and followed her friend to the door. "Where are the others?" she asked.

"We're all neighbours. Link has the end room, and Dark is next to him--then it's me, then you next to the stairs. Link's up on deck already; I think Dark is still unpacking."

Zelda looked in the indicated direction, and saw that a wooden box still stood untouched outside Dark's room. "I'll go and see if he's all right," she said quickly. "Meet you on deck!" She hurried away down the corridor, her light boots thudding hollow on the wooden boards. Covered candle-lanterns flickered in wall niches, filling the wooden passage with a cosy golden glow.

There was no answer when she knocked, so she opened the door and timidly stuck her head inside. He was sitting on his bed, huddled close in his long cloak with his eyes closed; he did not look up. "Are you all right?" she said softly.

"No," he muttered.

She stood looking at him for a moment, then stepped back into the corridor and grabbed one of the handles of the abandoned chest. She heaved it inside and shoved it against the wall. "There," she said, straightening up a little breathless. "Come up on deck. The fresh air might help."

"How will it help? There is no ground under my feet." He shivered. "The Dark World take this ship and everything on it. I want to go home."

Zelda sat by him and put her arm around his shoulders; and for the first time that she could remember he did not pull away. He must be feeling ill indeed. "Try not to worry," she said gently. "It's a huge sturdy ship. We are safer here than we were in Saria! Come up and get some air--you will only feel worse if you sit down here brooding." She coaxed him to his feet and walked out with him, down the length of the corridor and up the steep wooden steps into the brighter light of day. He pulled his hood up over his head and stumbled to the side, where he stood clutching the gunwale and trembling, staring down into the water. Zelda watched him, pitying him but at the same time unable to help smiling.

Link slid down a ladder and jumped to the deck beside her. "Hello!" he said, grinning, then followed the direction of her gaze, and laughed aloud. "I told you, didn't I?"

"Show some sympathy," Zelda said. "He's feeling really ill."

"He'll feel worse soon enough," Link answered cheerfully. "The tugs are getting into position to pull us out. We'll be off in a few minutes! Are you coming back to wave to your father?"

"Is he there?" she said in surprise.

"He is, and a great big crowd of all sorts! Come on!" He grinned at her again and trotted off across the deck. She hesitated for a moment, glancing at Dark, then went on after the others. Canvas rattled sharply overhead.

"Main sail!" the captain bellowed from somewhere at the front. "Stand by!" Half a hundred small boats--skiffs and rowers--slid around the majestic frigate like dolphins about the flank of a sleeping whale. Ropes tightened; the great prow trembled, and a breeze caught the sails and slapped at the thick canvas. Slowly, smoothly, the wooden mountain began to move out into the opening curve of the cliffs and harbour wall, toward the far blue line of the horizon that awaited. Zelda climbed the ladder onto the rear deck and ran to where Link and Sofia stood leaning over the stern rail. She waved madly, and her father, waiting in a four-horse carriage, stood up in response and lifted his own grave hand. The sails filled, the water began to hiss beneath the keel, and small boats zipped away behind; the ship was underway and their work was done. A moment later Dark joined them astern; and they stood all four and watched the town of Saria slide into misty distance, until the curving harbour wall cut off their line of sight.

They stayed there quietly for a little while, trying to comprehend the magnitude of what had just begun. That wide clouded line on the horizon was Hyrule--their own beloved country--disappearing swiftly into distance. The Golden Queen sliced the sea, gliding as smooth as a gull over the blue-green waters... carrying them on into the unknown.



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