Posted on December 28 2018 by Judy Calder
Kotake glanced nervously at her older sister, who stood tall and proud in the face of the journey ahead of them. Koume had always been the brave one; everybody said so. But now Kotake had the chance to prove herself just as capable as her twin sister. The rest of their clan would eat their words when she returned from their quest, having made her offering to the Goddess of the Sands, to finally be considered a Gerudo woman at last! She would show them all that she wasn’t just a pretty face!
Koume interrupted Kotake’s reverie with a sharp jab from her elbow, “Let’s go!”
Kotake hadn’t realised that the speeches were over and it was time to enter the desert. What had their clan leader even said? Well, either way, it was probably the same pomp and nonsense that she usually said when other Gerudo girls set out on their quest to the Spirit Temple. She turned to follow her sister, disregarding the crowd that had gathered at the Great Gate to see them off.
“I can’t believe this is it!” exclaimed Koume excitedly, as she marched on towards the horizon, her scimitars glinting in the morning sun. “I can’t wait to make our offering to the Goddess of the Sands! We’re almost adults now!”
“We are adults, Koume. We’re eighteen today.” Kotake replied, matter-of-factly, while hurrying to keep up with her sister.
Koume furrowed her brow at her younger sister, “That just means that we can set out for the temple, Kotake. You know we don’t enter womanhood until we return from the offering!”
Kotake shrugged her shoulders. She had always looked forward to this day, but now that it was here, she felt nervous. Completing this quest was something that all Gerudo aspired to, but the price at which it came was high. Since she was a small child, Kotake had been told tales of the perilous journey that every Gerudo youth undertook on the day of her eighteenth birthday, in order to become a woman. No hints or secrets were shared that might help anyone on her way, but if you made it back to the Fortress with proof of your offering, the celebrations lasted for a fortnight. And if you didn’t return, well, you were forgotten about – not fit to be a part of the proud Gerudo tribe.
“We can do this, Kotake,” beamed Koume, sensing her sister’s worry. “We’ve trained for this our whole lives. Besides, we’re lucky! Other Gerudo don’t get to do this with a partner to help them, that’s why it’s so great that we’re twins. We can rely on each other!” Koume smiled brightly at Kotake and grabbed her hand. “Trust me!”
Kotake smiled back. Koume was right, they had trained their whole lives for this journey and together, they had double the odds of a safe return. Hoisting her pack, she ran ahead.
“Hey! Wait up!” Koume laughed, running to catch up.
The harsh winds of the desert pounded against the small tent where Koume and Kotake had taken refuge for the night. The first leg of their journey had been pretty uneventful, in Koume’s opinion. The scorching heat of the sun had been the most difficult part of the day, unless you counted Kotake’s abysmal efforts at erecting their tent. Koume had watched her younger sister’s repeated attempts to make the tent stand upright, while refusing to accept any help with the task.
It’s just like Kotake to make a meal out of such a simple process, thought Koume, irritably. Eventually, dusk fell upon them, and the temperatures dropped quickly, so she had lost patience with Kotake’s stubbornness and shoved her out of the way to get the job done.
“You don’t have to be so rough!” Kotake argued as she grabbed at the tent. “I almost had it!”
Koume threw her sister an scathing look, “You think that’s rough? Wait until the winds pick up! I’ve been told it can rip the skin from your bones when you’re out this far in the desert!”
Koume watched her twin now, curled up tight underneath her woven blanket. What a pain, she thought irritably. But it will all be worth it when we finally make it to the Spirit Temple. She had heard that there was untold treasure hidden deep within the temple and hoped that she would find it and return to her clan, laden with jewels and celebrated as the greatest treasure hunter of her time.
All she had to do was make sure that Kotake made it too.
“Koume, slow down! My pack is heavy and you’re going too fast!” Kotake stopped to re-adjust her pack, panting under its weight. Why did she have to be lumbered with the pots and other equipment, while Koume only had to carry the tent and her own rations? Kotake decided she would make Koume swap their packs, whether she liked it or not!
Koume paid no heed to her sister. All Kotake had done since dawn was whine about how she had no respect for her. If it hadn’t been for her, they would have frozen in the desert winds last night! And didn’t Kotake understand that it was she who had the map? She needed to be able to concentrate on their route without the hindrance of a heavy pack. Koume sped up, searching the map as she went.
“Koume, stop! Koume! Koume!” Kotake screeched shrilly, as she watched her sibling step unwittingly into a river of sinking sand.
“Arrghhhh!! Kotake!” Koume cried as she struggled frantically, reaching desperately for her sister, “Help me!” But the sand was dragging Koume along it’s current, and she was sinking deeper with every second.
Kotake had frozen. She had heard about the Great River of Sand. To fall in meant almost certain death! Life without Koume?? She couldn’t imagine it. She wouldn’t imagine it! Throwing her pack and weapons down, Kotake ran along the banks of the river. Koume had sunk to shoulder level now, and her face was streaked with tears as she pleaded for Kotake’s help.
“Kota…..” Koume’s head slipped below the sand, just as Kotake grabbed hold of her outstretched hand.
“Koume!” cried Kotake, as she pulled with all her might. But Koume’s hand was sweaty and the sand at her feet was slipping and shifting beneath her, hindering her efforts at rescue. She was panicking, her head spinning, when at last she saw Koume’s fiery red hair emerge from the sand, followed by her face, and finally her shoulders. “Koume, you have to pull yourself! The sand is shifting!”
Koume slowly but surely clawed her way up her sister’s arm, while Kotake did her best to anchor herself against the soft sand. Finally pulling free, Koume collapsed heavily against her savior, sobbing deeply and gratefully gulping in deep breaths of clean air.
“Kotake…” she gasped weakly.
“I’m here, I’m here!” Kotake cried, relieved and clutching her twin.
That night, the sisters huddled close in front of their small fire, eating a miserable portion of Kotake’s rations.
Koume was exhausted and traumatized from the events at the Great River of Sand, so they had decided to make camp within the shelter of a small cluster of near-dead palm trees, rather than try to find a way across the quicksand. “I’m sorry Kotake,” whispered Koume, unable to meet her sister’s deep blue eyes. “If I hadn’t lost my pack and the tent in the sand….”
“It’s fine, we just have to keep the fire lit,” replied Kotake dully, as she stoked the flames, willing their fuel to continue to burn. Koume had been right, the night-time winds of the desert were sharp and painful. Pulling her woven blanket tighter around them, she continued, “Maybe we should go back -”
“No!” exclaimed Koume, standing unsteadily. “We can’t go back! We can’t fail!”
Kotake pulled her sister back down and wrapped the blanket around them both once more. “I know we can’t. I just can’t see how we can survive this journey without shelter. We don’t even have your weapons now, or you’re share of the provisions! We can’t even get across the River of Sand! We’re doomed.” Kotake buried her face in her hands, feeling a looming sense of dread creep over her.
The next morning, the sisters awoke to the scorching heat of the desert sun, but in that moment, they were grateful for it. The winds from last night had been almost unbearable, putting their fire out and distracting them from more than a few hours of broken sleep.
“What do we do now?” Kotake wondered aloud, as she began packing up their sorry excuse for a camp.
“We find the mouth of the river of course, it should be easier to cross where it’s more narrow,” replied Koume as she took a small mouthful from Kotake’s skin of water.
“And what exactly do we do after that? You lost the map!” snapped Kotake, who immediately regretted her words as Koume flinched at them.
“Well, I was looking for it on the map before everything went wrong,” replied Koume in a small voice. “I know the general direction to the temple now.”
It wasn’t until almost sun-down when they made it to the mouth of the Great River of Sand, and they were finally able to cross over. The sand seemed to be oozing from a pit in the dunes, bubbling grossly and spilling out to cover a wider area. Kotake was exhausted. She had carried her heavy pack all day, her water skin was half empty, the temperatures were dropping, and they had no form of shelter. She threw the pack down, collapsed to the sand and held her tears back.
“What are you doing? We need to keep moving!” Koume badgered, as she nudged Kotake with her foot.
“Keep moving where? We don’t know where we’re going from here!” The tears broke free from Kotake’s eyes. Couldn’t Koume see that they were going to be disgraced? They wouldn’t make it to the Spirit Temple! They couldn’t go home either – not to be cast out by their tribe for failing their quest. All she ever wanted was to prove to them all, and, to herself, that she could be just as great a Gerudo woman and warrior as anybody else! And if they couldn’t go home…
They wouldn’t survive the desert.
“Get up, Kotake! Get up!” ordered Koume. “We’ve had a bit of bad luck, that’s all! But we can’t stop. We need to find shelter!” she grabbed at Kotake’s hand and pulled her up. “You saved me from the quicksand! You’re my hero. It’s just a bit farther, we can make it!”
And so, Koume hoisted the pack onto her back and marched determinedly on, knowing that her sister would eventually follow.
Kotake rubbed at her tears as she watched Koume get farther and farther away. Damn her, she thought, but she’s right! She set out on a slow, tired plod after her twin.
Koume slowed to a stop to see if Kotake had picked up her pace. Of course not! There she was, taking her time and feeling sorry for herself! Koume knew she had made the right decision to keep going. The wind wasn’t so bad tonight; in fact, the lower temperature was quite comfortable after the heat of the day, and the light from the moon and stars was clear and bright against the dunes. It was a sign!
She knew Kotake was tired, that’s why she had taken the pack. If they pressed on, they were sure to come across some form of shelter, with water and food. And they could finally sleep!
“Hurry up!” she yelled, disgruntled. But Kotake just continued on at the same pace. Ugh! How annoying, thought Koume. She dropped the pack, searching for the water skin. It was almost empty. She raised her eyes to see if Kotake was any closer.
“Will you just hurry up?!” she yelled again, just as she noticed something strange in the distance, behind Kotake. What was that? It looked like a…
“Kotake, look! Run!”
Kotake looked sullenly ahead at Koume. What was she waving at? She looked ridiculous! Couldn’t she just let her walk like this? It was hard enough to keep going, without being rushed along. Why was she still waving like that? And pointing?
Kotake looked behind her and her eyes went wide with fear. A huge, dense cloud swept along the sand, as high as the sky and coming right at her. Time seemed to stand still, and it felt as though her legs were made of lead. It was by pure force of will that Kotake managed to put one foot in front of the other. Finally, time resumed to its normal pace and she ran faster than she had ever ran in her life. She twisted her neck sharply to look behind her — the sandstorm was getting closer!
“No!” she managed to gasp dryly, as her voice cracked.
It felt like an eternity as Koume waited for her twin to make it to her side. She wouldn’t leave without her! At last, Kotake came close enough that she felt safe enough to run as well. She spun and began to run, pulling ahead of Kotake, even with the weight of the pack on her shoulders. She could hear the noise from the sandstorm now: it was thunderous! She looked ahead, praying to the Goddess of the Sands for something, anything, that would shelter them from the onslaught of the storm.
That’s when she spotted it — some sort of building! She pressed on, fuelled by the adrenaline of survival. She was almost there when she heard Kotake scream.
“Ahhhh!” Kotake managed a high-pitched scream. She had twisted her ankle in her efforts to catch up with her sister.
When she couldn’t stand again, she had turned to see the standstorm almost upon her. This is it, she thought in quiet acceptance. It’s all over.
Then, she felt Koume’s arm around her, and she had the support to stand. The sandstorm hit them in full force, and she was blinded. She couldn’t breathe. She didn’t know where she was. There was nowhere to go!
“We have to move!” Koume screamed through the deafening howl of the storm. Kotake nodded and tried to run again, but collapsed under the throbbing pain of her ankle.
“I can’t!” she cried, defeated, choking on the sand in the air. The howling wind drowned her voice beneath its vicious assault.
Koume threw the pack down and hoisted her sister on to her back. “Hold tight!” she yelled, trying to shield her eyes with her arm. She hoped that she was running towards the building. If she wasn’t, they were dead.
Eventually, finally, she stretched out her hand and felt the solid stonework of the shelter she had prayed for. Keeping her hand on the stone, she used the last of her strength to locate the entrance. She dropped Kotake, shoving her with all her might into the doorway and ran in after her. As she ran, her foot caught on a loose stone and she tripped, falling into a dark tunnel, leading underground.
She felt a horrendous pain in her head, and then she knew no more.
Artwork by Courtney Chitsiga. See more of her work here.
Judy Calder is an Original Content Editor for Zelda Dungeon. She enjoys lengthy debates about the Zelda timeline and anything to do with Ocarina of Time. Follow her on Twitter.