Posted on July 20 2018 by Jarrod Raine
Chapter 15: Reflection
Deya stretched, popping several places in his back with a groan. Something about the beds in every stable he had ever spent the night in made his body feel decades beyond its age. Not exactly ideal for travel, and not even he could get completely used to it. Not to mention, the sounds of the horses and goats in their pens, and one random dog that jumped on his bed in the middle of the night and curled up next to his head, forcing him into that awkward position…
It was cute, yes, which is something Avela had pointed out when she woke him that morning, but now his entire spine screamed. He was not sure how much walking he really cared to do, especially under the desert sun.
He’d make a pit stop in Kara Kara Bazaar. He’d have to, lest his aching, protesting body get the best of him.
Avela slept well, at least — that was a positive. She bounced and fluttered around like a sprite a few paces ahead of him, anxious to get into the desert. She had never been, and despite all his assurances that it would inevitably be warm with her natural down, nothing could ever crush her spirit. She was excited, and that was enough to make him smile.
“Hey!” he called to her, beckoning her back to him. He pulled his water canteen from his belt and passed it off to her. “Drink, trust me. We are both going to need it.”
She drank deeply then passed it back – half gone. He’d need to fill up before they left.
“So,” Avela chirped, following him as he made his way outside the tent to the water pump, “when we get to Gerudo Town, I am going in, right?”
“You have to,” he reminded. “I can’t.”
“Right. And I am asking around for…what again?”
“If anyone has seen a man – a voe, in their language – with a cloak made of that fabric.” Deya pointed to her belt, where she had tied the strip of Gerudo cloth that had lead them so far south. He smiled at her. “We’ll just see what we can find out. Anything helps, you know?”
“Oh, yes! And what about setting up another teleportation point?”
“That’s what I will be doing to pass the time. That, and staying out of the sun.”
“There must be a way you can get in,” she pouted, crossing her wings over her chest.
He grimaced. “Not one I think I can pull off.” The mental image of what it would take popped up in his head for what was easily the fiftieth time. No, no, it absolutely wouldn’t work. The image stuck with him as they gathered their things and left the stable. No, no, no…
The thought distracted him well enough from his aching back, at least. So much so, he didn’t even notice when they hit that threshold between the desert and the highlands until he stepped out hard and nearly face-planted in the sand. A flurry of feathers and a small squeak, and he was pulled back to his feet, over-balanced, and on his behind. His back screamed, but he couldn’t help but laugh.
“Pay attention, silly!” Avela swatted playfully at him.
He shook his head, chuckling, and took her offered wing. “Noted.”
They carried on.
About halfway to Kara Kara, he noted his own paces had slowed, but Avela was even slower. Her feathers kept rising in vain hopes of cooling her body down in the meager desert breeze, but it wasn’t enough. He passed over the canteen again, and she took a big gulp.
“Get this wet, too,” he said, handing her a slightly dirty washcloth. “Put it behind your neck. It will help.”
“Don’t you need it?”
Probably. “Nah, I’ll make it.”
And this is only early morning. Today is going to be…difficult…
Gotta carry on, though.
By the time Kara Kara came clear on the horizon, through the waves of heat rising from the sands, distorting and twisting until he could not tell what was real, he knew there was no way they were going straight to town. They had to stop, grab more water, maybe some Hydromelon, and rest. Maybe he’d even get lucky and there’d be someone there from the Ice House, and he could buy some ice. That was not likely, but with every step that sunk into the grains of sand, every pump of his legs to push him on, he clung to the hope.
Some ice. Some Hydromelon. Some water.
A dip in the pond?
Nah, that pond is probably warm, too.
I wonder if that lady who makes those massive breakfasts will be there. She makes the best bacon.
“What?” Avela glanced at him. He tilted his head to meet her gaze. “What about bacon?”
Deya laughed. “So I said that out loud, then?”
She nodded. “It was quite the tangent.”
“Did I say all of that out loud?”
“We were having a whole conversation!”
Deya pulled out his map, glanced down to confirm suspicions, then pointed to the bazaar entrance. “Then I think we should probably stop.”
“Oooh!” Her singsong voice came out almost like a whistle. She bolted ahead, like a second wind had grabbed on and would not let go, like the heat no longer held sway, then ran back to him, grabbed his arm, and excitedly pulled him into the bazaar.
The place seemed rather abandoned at this time, save a couple Gerudo shopkeepers, two Hylian males eyeballing them, and one big Hylian – maybe a big Gerudo? – shading themselves beneath the hood of a long cloak.
I should have Avela get us a couple of those in Gerudo Town. Could be useful.
“What is this place?”
“It’s Kara Kara: the halfway point, I think,” he answered her chipper question as he glanced back at his map, noting her hushed tone. Apparently, she realized her voice carried, and the bazaar was all but empty Yet, just as before, nothing could smother her bright attitude. She wiped her brown and took in the vivid tapestries of the shop tents and the smells of the nearby fruits and meats like an excited child, a happy, eager, first-time-on-her-own…bird.
And this is why I missed you, Avela.
He offered her the canteen, which she eagerly took and drank from, bringing a chuckle from his throat. Determined to match her excitement, he dragged her over to the fruit stand. “You have to try this,” he insisted, purchasing two large slices. She stared at the vivid pink of the melon’s meat and the bright striping on its flesh. “You’ll love it.”
They looked around for someplace to sit, finally settling beneath the shade of a nearby tree next to the bazaar’s central pond. He waited for her to be comfortable, then handed her the bigger of the two slices.
“Hydromelon. It’s so sweet, and it keeps you cool in the desert sun. It was my favorite when my family came to the desert in my childhood. I do love Rito Village, but I miss Hydromelon sometimes.” He grinned, then glanced out over the pond.
The person in the black cloak was watching them. Strange. Deya did not know him – and yes, it was definitely a him, with eyes that stared at the two of them in fear.
Have you never seen a Rito before?
And then he noticed something that chilled his heart colder than a desert night. The cloak.
Somewhere next to him, Avela spoke. Her voice sounded distant, like she spoke to him from miles away. He was miles away. In Rito Village. Pulling a scrap of distinctly patterned cloth from all that remained of a certain broken bow.
“We should be there by–by–by midday, I promise Avela.” His words came out without a thought to back them.
I don’t think we need to go to Gerudo Town anymore.
He didn’t hear her next statement. All he heard was his own blood pounding in his ears as time slowed down.
That cloth on Avela’s belt. The cloth of the man’s cloak. They were the same. Exactly, perfectly, completely identical.
And his eyes…full of alarm. The man was standing, breakfast abandoned, hardly touched. He was running.
He sat straight as a plate was presented to him, taking in a lungful of air with the mouthwatering smells of his morning feast. He should have been annoyed at the grandiose lengths this woman went to prepare it, or really, that they acknowledged him and prepared it at all – he would have preferred to stay in the shadows and exist unseen. Yet, that wasn’t the way of things, and, as long as he was here, it never would be.
Besides, he couldn’t resist a good breakfast from his home land. A nestful of eggs, several slices of juicy grilled voltfruit, mountain goat steak, everything covered in a hearty cream sauce, and, his personal favorite, a full slab of bacon. His stomach growled in anticipation.
“Is everything to your liking, my — sir?” The woman standing to his left stared hard; he could see it in her eyes that she was struggling to disregard protocol, but he was meant to be incognito. She was a naturally stark, sharp person, as all of her kind were, and protocol was meant to be followed. To completely throw the book out the window was akin to insult.
But his word, even as it was now, was law. He picked up a slice of bacon and fed his eager stomach. The grease coated his tongue as that satisfying snap! echoed in his inner ear. He smiled.
As the woman nodded curtly and turned to leave, he reached out and put a hand on her arm. “And, please, remember — not a word.” She nodded again and sauntered away. He leaned back, balancing his breakfast on his knee and staring into the rippling waters of the bazaar’s central point. Another piece of bacon; it truly was cooked to perfection. Better than he could have gotten growing up. He momentarily considered commanding the woman to come with him and cook him breakfast every morning. He probably could, and she’d obey with unparalleled loyalty, though, it would undoubtedly be a gross misuse of her talents.
She’d probably do anything he commanded. She’d probably bare arms for him, if the time ever came. Any of them would. And they were brutal, brutal warriors.
No, he reminded himself. That’s not who I am. That’s never who I want to be. If I can avoid command, then I stand a better chance. He shook his head aggressively, realizing he had a bite of steak halfway to his mouth, hovering. He quickly consumed it and swallowed hard.
He couldn’t entertain thoughts like that. They lead down paths that he refused to walk. His life was his own: he did not belong to history and destiny. He carved his own path. He made his own choices.
“What is this place?” A high-pitched voice echoed on the still, early morning air. Though it was meant to be a whisper, there was nothing quiet about it. He pulled up his hood, tucked his bow further into his cloak, and discreetly looked to its source.
“It’s Kara Kara,” a young Sheikah responded, glancing between a large, unfolded sheet of paper and the shops lining the small pond. “The halfway point, I think.”
On his arm, a small Rito with vivid red plumage clung, head eccentrically turning this way and that. Blatantly avian, she reminded him of some of the golden sparrows that hid themselves in the sand and hopped around, digging for shallow-buried food. He growled. At this point, when all he wanted to do was enjoy his breakfast in peace, her voice grated on him.
“The desert is so hot, even this early!” she attempted to whisper again. Her eyes glanced over his own, and he tensed, but she didn’t linger. She seemed to just be overwhelmed by the sights.
She’s just a child, he assured himself. She wasn’t there when the Wolfos attacked at Rito Village. Just relax.
The Sheikah handed her a canteen. “Here, drink up. We need to make sure we stay hydrated, especially in this heat. Besides, we can refill here.” The Rito took it and drank deeply.
Nothing to worry about. He lowered his eyes and carried on eating.
So, how exactly was he going to get to the princess? Hyrule Castle had been built to be impenetrable centuries ago, a heavily guarded fortress with a self-contained military all its own. One, two, three of the Royal Guards, he could handle easily, if it ever came to blows. An entire regiment? No. He would easily be in over his head, and he was no use dead.
That was not even considering the princess’s advisor; a notorious Sheikah warrior known even in her older age to be as skilled with a blade as she was with words. If the stories of her were to be believed, she’d cut him down faster than one of his own warriors, and he would never even see it coming. She’d be the hardest to get by, because there was no way he’d convince her to let him through. No words in any language of Hyrule would fall upon her ears. She’d need to be — avoided.
If I fail — I might very well need troops.
Not right yet.
It’s too soon.
I might not need them at all. I don’t want them.
“Let’s sit under the tree there.” The Rito’s voice broke the quiet once more. He looked up; the two had grabbed a bite of their own to eat and were now settling down across the pond beneath the largest tree. The Sheikah waited for the Rito to be comfortable before handing her a large slice of Hydromelon. The Rito took a bite, while the Sheikah glanced out over the pond in his direction.
What are you looking at, boy?
I would rather if you didn’t.
“Shouldn’t we try and be there before the sun is high?”
“We will,” the Sheikah nodded, but he could tell the question had barely been heard. In fact, the Rito and the Hydromelon both had suddenly been completely forgotten. He was the center of the Sheikah’s attention, and a look of revelation had dawned. “We should be there by–by–by midday, I promise Avela.”
“I hope. My plumage insulates way too well for me to be here.” The Rito hadn’t even noticed her friend’s distraction, but he had, and his heart sank.
There’s no way —
Their eyes locked.
He quickly stood; breakfast was over. It was time to go.
He’d been recognized, and not by his own. By a stranger.
A stranger who knows me.
This isn’t good at all.
Looking back, he saw the duo gathering their things while keeping an eye on him.
I need to try and lose them, he glanced to the northeast, to control this situation. The ruins–I can go there.
Featured image by MaskedGolem.