Though it had only been a matter of seconds, it felt like an eternity. Realizing that his horse was lost, Link entered into a frenzy of rage, attacking Guardians and Stalnox with his Ancient Arrows, which he saved for situations like this.
As soon as he had slain the monsters, Link took to his Sheikah Slate and entered the coordinates of the Highland Stable. Then he wasted no time in rushing toward his goal. Climbing over the adjacent mountain and stumbling down the other side most ungraciously, Link arrived at the fountain of the Horse God, Malanya.
“So you were careless and allowed your steed — my child — to die in the flames of war. Yet you expect me to bring him back for your use? How oafish.”
“You will not do it? But what of the deal we made?”
“Yes, the deal… Very well. But first, I want you to prove that you are worthy. I have no doubt that you will do all in your power to prevent yet another horse from falling. But you will need to prove yourself to me.”
“Prove myself? How?”
“There are those in the nooks and crannies of Hyrule in desperate need of help. Not denizens of the land. No — the tasks you must perform to help this particular set of individuals will require a daunting amount of spirit. It may very well — nae, it will challenge the strength of your soul. You need not complete all such tasks to reunite with your fallen companion.”
“H-How will I know when to return to you?”
“That is a question only you can answer. Now, go to the south, to the Taobab Grasslands. There, you will find a temporary companion for your journey. Prove to it that you are worthy of its partnership, and it shall aid you in your quest. Should you be successful in your upcoming endeavors, you may choose to keep it as your companion. Are we clear, young…hero?”
“Y-yes, your Greatness.”
“Then go forth, and help those in need so that you may in turn find help for yourself. So commands the great Malanya, God of Horses!”
“Your will be done — that I promise!”
“My will? Nae, it is your will that shall be done…Champion of Hyrule.”
“Is it s-safe now?” asked the scared, squeaky voice of Makar.
“For an ancient spirit, you sure are frightened easily,” Link commented, avoiding the question.
“Hey! I’ll have you know that although I may be chronologically ancient, I’m mentally just a kid!”
“On occasion, your vocabulary would suggest otherwise.”
“I should hope so. After all, it seems that I’ve succeeded in distracting you from your fear of the mighty Horse God.”
Link couldn’t help but lose himself to chuckling.
“W-well, I guess that answers my question. It also answers my suspicions of you being a jerk or not.”
“Hey! Come on, I was only messing around!”
“‘Mr. Hero’? More like ‘Mr. Quick Tempered’.”
“Alright, I apologise. Yes, it’s safe now.”
“I figured as much. Now put me back on, would you? I could use some sunlight.”
“Sure thing,” Link said ,as he reached into his seemingly infinite pouch to retrieve the mask of Makar and place it over his face.
“Walking? I was too busy cowering away to pay any attention to the talk between you and Mr. Horse God. Did you not get Storm back?”
Link was silent for a moment before speaking. “N-no. Not yet, anyway. But I can. It’ll just…take some time…and effort.”
“Effort doesn’t sound like such a hard task for you? But if you really feel that doubtful. What kind of effort are we talking?”
“Well, for one, I know next to nothing about what I’m supposed to do. All I know is that there’s some kind of aid waiting for me down to the south in the Taobab Grasslands. And that I’ve got to get there on foot.”
“Don’t you mean we’ve got to get there on foot?”
“Yes, right. My bad.”
“Hey, no worries. Just making sure you’ve got the proper scope of things here.”
“Well, you’re acting like you’re all alone when you’ve got me right here — literally right on your face!
“Right. Well, hopefully we’ll find out more about our journey from this mysterious item Malanya spoke of.”
“Now, why do we need to walk there? Can’t we just, you know, get another horse?”
“We could, but that won’t happen. I won’t let myself ride another steed until I can prove myself and get Storm back. I need to make up for letting him die so foolishly like that.”
“Hmm…I get your dedication, but you don’t need to blame yourself. Storm’s death was not your fault, and treating it as such will get you nowhere. Besides, you’re going on a grand quest to bring him back.”
“Heh, you’re mighty perceptive for a kid, aren’t you.”
“Well, I have been around since ancient times.”
A fair amount of time had passed when Link and Makar reached the entrance to the Taobab Grasslands. It was warmer than most other places in Hyrule, and certainly warmer than anything Makar had ever experienced — at least in over thousands upon thousands of years. That was not the only difference, however. Even the scenery was vastly different from anything either Link or Makar had ever seen. Beige grass and tall, light brown trees of wide girth and sparse limbs. Even Link, who had the constant dread of failing his horse and the impossible task of reviving him on his mind, was able to find the sight of this new local fascinating. As for Makar, something about the trees reminded him about something from his past he couldn’t quite make out. Perhaps it was home?
“What a place we’ve discovered!” Makar exclaimed in wonder. “I’d never imagine a place like this to be part of Hyrule.”
“Hyrule’s a big place with many biomes. I suppose it may not have been the same back in your time, but at least you get to experience a world of wonders here in mine.”
“And with you, no less, Mr. Hero.”
“Oh? What happened to ‘Mr. Quick Tempered’?”
“Aren’t you a funny one…” Makar trailed off into a brief silence. “Link, look. you see that, right?” This bit said with a softer, quieter tone.
“I’m pretty sure that I see whatever you see,” Link responded in hushed whisper so as to not alert the danger that lay before them. “Those Lynels. We’ll have to sneak around. Up there –” he pointed to the left “– we’ll climb up there and sneak around until we pass them. We’ll also use the elevation to scout for any more.”
“Great plan, Mr. Hero. Let’s get going.”
Without wasting any time, Link took to the giant slab of rock before them and began to climb. At the ledge of the cliff he peeked his head up and scanned the area for any enemies. Luckily, there were none. Good, they both thought. Link proceeded to sneak across near the ledge, keeping an eye on the Lynels below, and occasionally scanning the lower ground ahead for any further enemies. To his — and Makar’s — delight, there were none.
“Horses, dead ahead,” Makar affirmed.
Down below, in a large encirclement-like geography of trees, was a group of horses.
“Wait, what is so important about horses? Don’t you remember me saying that I wasn’t to ride another horse until I brought Storm back?” Link asked Makar, a tad puzzled and annoyed.
“Yes, but listen! The Horse God sent you to this specific location, and this specific location just so happens to have horses. Don’t you think he sent us here for a reason?”
Link pondered this for a moment before speaking. “You mean to suggest that one of these horses is linked to something that will help me on my mission?”
“Maybe. But if we don’t go down there and search, we may never find anything.”
“Alright, we’ll go down there. Hang on.” Link reached into his pouch for his Paraglider before stooping down and kneeling in the grass. He reached into his pouch and pulled out a glass bottle filled with a strange, purple liquid. “I could really go for a cold drink right now.”
“Link! You’re what, seventeen?! You can’t drink!” Makar whispered frantically.
“Technically, I’m one hundred and seventeen…or one hundred and eighteen…something like that. Besides, this isn’t that kind of drink. This is a sneaky elixir. A drink would be to help me wash away the putrid taste of bugs and monster remains.”
“Yes. Wait, how do you know about those kinds of drinks?”
“You pick up a thing or two when you’ve been around for as long as I have.”
“Fair enough. Bottoms up!” Link took an obviously painful swig of the vile elixir. A small price to pay, Link tried to convince himself. “Now, to make our way to the horse -”
They both were struck into silence. As Link looked up, their eyes landed upon a colossal horse, worthy of being called a titan. It featured a majestically orange mane, a jet black coat, significantly muscular head, and must have been nearly three times the height of Link. Both Link and Makar were frozen in astonishment.
The silence prevailed a little longer before Link whispered, “That right there is the key to our prize. I think that if we tame it, we’ll be shown the path to the award spoken of by Horse God.”
“Are you sure that it isn’t the prize?”
“Are you kidding? I doubt the God of Horses would grant me a horse of such caliber and majesty right after I managed so foolishly to let one of his children fall. Besides, I’ve already said I won’t ride another horse until I get Storm back. At most, I’ll ride it to tame it, and then be done.”
“Well, suit yourself. We’ll see soon enough. Now, let’s get going.”
Sneaking through the rustling grass, Link circled around the group of horses until he and Makar were positioned to sneak straight to the horse’s rear mountable position. It was a bit dangerous, but Link figured it was the most sure fire way to ambush it.
Slowly, though with an ounce more of speed, Link and Makar made their way to the gargantuan beast, when all of a sudden a horse spotted them. A loud neigh broke through the air, and all other horses immediately turned their gaze towards them. Like a Hylian trapped in the sights of a Guardian, Link and Makar froze. Rearing its head and front legs, the beast charged forwards. They just barely managed to dodge the oncoming assault that would have surely pummeled them to a mass of blood and bone fragments.
“Woah!” they let out a horrified and bewildered scream. They wasted no effort on whispers now.
The beast began to turn around, ready for its second shot at trampling the two heroes into oblivion.
“Link! To the trees!”
“Good thinking!” Without a moment’s hesitation, Link shook his head and bolted for the nearest tree, dodging the oncoming gallop of death by just a little more distance. Quickly, he climbed the tree and perched himself at the top, looking towards the center of the encirclement, eyes targeted on the rampaging steed below. When the moment was right, he leapt down and landed on the horses back. Had it not been for the urgency of the moment, he would have felt a great discomfort.
His challenge was resilient. Link could barely hold on, and did so by putting all of his available strength into his grip on the creature’s beautiful orange mane, soothing it as he did so. Realizing he would soon grow too tired to continue this charade, he threw his hand into his pouch, pulled out a green glass, and downed the contents quicker than the firing of a Guardian’s lazer.
Yes, his challenge was resilient, but he was equally so. Link continued to hold the mane for dear life as he repeatedly stroked the horse until it finally gave way and surrendered control.
Link could barely catch a moment’s breath. After what seemed to be an eternity of doing so, he was finally able to regain focus of the situation. He heard…something. A voice, not that of Makar’s. A voice…but from where? He tried to deepen his focus, but found it difficult to do so with Makar’s persistent shouting.
“We did it! You did it! Mr. Hero, you-”
“Makar!” All went quiet as the two both fell into a brief, yet awkward silence. “ Makar, sorry for shouting so loud, but could you please be quiet for a moment? I need to listen. I need to focus. It’s like there’s…something calling out to me.”
Makar must have understood, as he kept his quiet.
Link nodded and thanked Makar. Then, he did all he could to clear his mind.
“Link…” the mysterious voice rang. “Link… You have done well. As a reward for taming me, I will allow you to use me. Howe-”
“No!” Link refused. “I won’t. I can’t. Not after failing Storm. I…I don’t deserve to.”
“Certainly not with an attitude like that. Stow your anxieties and your insecurities. Open yourself to forgiveness from Storm and from yourself. Only then will you be able to succeed in returning to your friend.”
“No, I can’t. I-”
“Are you not the great Champion of Hyrule? Guardian of Princess Zelda? If so, set aside your pride! See the answer before you and take it! Lest you never grow, never revive your horse. Never atone for your failures.”
“You know what to do. I shall say no more.”
Link was silent for a long moment, before finally speaking up. “Alright. I will do as you ask. If it is for Storm, I will do it. I will do as you request.”
“Good. You have my thanks. I know not my name, so for now, you may call me ‘Friend’. I am sure we will soon discover my name, however. Oh, and as I was trying to say — you will now have my full services until you complete a certain request for me. You must help me reunite with an old ally and rediscover my name. Do you accept?”
“Good. Now, let’s go.”
“Hmm… Good question. I know, of course, but perhaps you have an idea?”
“I do not… Sorry.”
“You need not apologize.” Suddenly, to Link’s surprise, the voice was coming not from within, but from the mouth of his new, albeit temporary ride. “How about your mask friend? Might he have an idea of where to go?”
“I… No… Actually — Uh, nevermind,” Makar spoke up, speaking his first words to the nameless stallion.
“Are you sure?” Inquired ‘Friend’.
“I- I am.” answered Makar, unsure of himself.
“Very well. Now, then. Off we are to… the jungles of the Necluda region! Make way to Faron Woods!”
“But what of the Lynels?” Makar inquired of Link, worrisome.
“Those? I haven’t time nor patience to fight, so it looks like we’ll resort to the Ancient Arrows if worse comes to worst. Now, onward!”
And gone they were, the three of them, a plume of dust kicked up in the aftermath of Friend’s hefty hooves.
John Piland is a guy just trying to make his way through life and not be consumed by his chronic addiction to memes. Feel free to talk with him about Zelda and Nintendo on Twitter.