Posted on January 04 2019 by Judy Calder
Koume opened her eyes to impenetrable darkness, and her nose wrinkled against the foul stench that filled the room. She tried to get up, but the pain in her head made her dizzy, so she found herself resigned to shuffling unsteadily on her knees to a nearby wall. She collapsed heavily against it. Touching the back of her head carefully, she felt the warm stickiness of blood as it seeped through her thick hair.
“Koume?” squawked Kotake, sounding panicked. “Where are you?!”
“I’m here,” Koume managed to reply in a weak voice. She heard her sister limping in her direction, only to grunt as she tripped over something. A few moments later, she felt a calloused hand on her shoulder.
“Are you alright?” Kotake asked, in a cracked voice.
“My head…it’s bleeding,” Koume answered hazily, shifting slightly. She heard the sound of cloth ripping and flinched when Kotake touched her head.
“I’m just feeling for the wound,” murmured Kotake. “There’s no point in trying to clean it out in the dark.” Then she wrapped the material ripped from her trousers around the injury.
“I lost the pack again,” Koume whispered. “I dropped it in the sand.” But she hadn’t dropped the water skin during the storm — she had held tight to it through everything that had happened! Kotake located their last precious source of hydration and clumsily brought it to Koume’s lips. She drank slowly before pushing the skin back at Kotake. “You need to drink too.”
Kotake took two small swallows. It was almost empty. “What do we do now?” she asked, hoping that her sister had a plan.
“I need to rest…and so do you,” Koume replied wearily. She was struggling to string the words together. “We don’t…know….how long that storm will….last.” Koume knew she shouldn’t sleep with a head injury like this, but she couldn’t help it. She felt her eyelids flicker shut, despite her mind’s protesting. The sweet release of unconsciousness silenced the pain in her body.
Kotake woke up to a several small chinks of sunlight flooding through crevices in the walls near the top of their sanctuary, providing her just enough light to make out her surroundings. Then, with a sinking feeling of dread, she remembered Koume and her injury. Was she okay?! As she turned to check, something else caught her eye.
Bones? And not just a few bones. There were hundreds of bones littering the floor!
“Koume!” yelped Kotake, scrambling quickly over to her sister. Koume grunted, but didn’t open her eyes. “Koume, we’re in a graveyard!” Kotake started shaking her sister until she finally opened her eyes.
“What are you doing? Wha-?” Koume asked, groggily. Kotake simply pointed around the room, turning her face against the sight of dead. Koume rubbed her eyes and let them adjust to the dim light before she saw it: whole skeletons leaned against walls, some still with their skin stretched grossly across their bones, the rags of their clothes tattered away in decay. These had been Gerudo women: their garb made that clear enough. Had they made it this far on their own quests, only to perish? Koume glanced quickly at Kotake. She couldn’t let this be their fate. Standing slowly, she said, “We need to get out of here, now.”
Kotake couldn’t agree more. Those bones scared her, she didn’t want to die here. The sisters drank the last few menial drops of water that they had left and made their way up the rotted ladder that served to allow exit from the tomb. When they stepped outside, the heat of the day felt like a heavy weight on their shoulders, sapping the last vestiges of their energy. Blinking in the sunlight, Kotake scanned the area for any sign of their lost pack. It was no good; it must have been buried under the sands of the storm. She turned silently to follow in Koume’s footsteps, praying that their direction was true. She knew they couldn’t last much longer like this.
They walked for hours, their skin burnt and blistered from the unforgiving, cruel rays of the sun. Koume didn’t think she could keep going any longer, she could just about keep hold of the empty water skin. Her vision was blurred and the dunes on the horizon were never ending. There was no sign of life and no sign of a repose from the torturous heat. Her lungs felt tight, as though the air she was breathing was suffocating her and her head was pounding. She didn’t even notice the dry rasp of Kotake’s voice as she tried to get her attention.
“Koume, water,” Kotake uttered dryly. When Koume didn’t answer, she reached out to touch her shoulder.
Koume flinched at the pain of the touch upon her burning skin, like a thousand needles pricking and stinging. She hadn’t the will to focus her energy on Kotake. She just continued to put one heavy foot in front of the other, her head bent towards her feet, lost in her own despair.
“Water!” shouted Kotake, painfully. She felt as though her throat was constricted and filled with sharp razor blades, and it echoed in that single word.
Finally, the voice registered with Koume at last, and she snapped her head up.
She couldn’t believe her eyes! She couldn’t believe it was real! She came to a stop as Kotake ran doggedly past her, struggling towards a glistening pool of water in the distance. The oasis was shaded by leafy palm trees, swaying invitingly in some form of miraculous breeze.
Kotake finally made it to the waters edge and she threw herself into the depths of the small pool of water. It was refreshingly cool and soothed her blistered skin. She re-surfaced, wiping the water from her lashes and began to drink deeply.
Koume looked on as Kotake savored the respite of the oasis. Kotake was in the water and that meant it was real! Picking her feet up, she pushed on, feeling the enormous effort of every step until she finally fell to her knees at the banks of the pond.
“Get in, Koume!” sighed Kotake contentedly, as she floated lazily on her back.
Koume edged into the water, gasping at the reprieve of her burning skin. Her eyes filled with grateful tears, but she refused to allow them to break loose. She removed the make-shift bandage from her head and ducked under the water. As she massaged the dry blood from her hair, she felt the wound where she had split her head open. Coming to the surface, she asked Kotake to check it and ensure that it was clean.
That night, the sisters feasted gratefully on hydromelon that had been growing on the palm trees, while protected from any harsh winds by the lush greenery of the oasis. “I don’t want to leave this place,” Kotake stated, dropping the skin from her hydromelon.
That simple sentence felt like a heavy stone dropping in the pit of Koume’s stomach. They couldn’t stay here forever. They had to complete their quest, or die trying. Hadn’t they forced themselves to survive the horrors of the desert so far? They had wanted this their whole lives — it was ingrained in them. “Kotake -”
Kotake cut her off before she could continue, “I know we have to,” she said quickly, “we have to make the offering.”
Koume gave a small smile, happy and sad at the same time, with the knowledge the Kotake understood the weight of their journey. They agreed that they would spend one more day recuperating from their injuries and fatigue before setting out again, and spent hours cooling their skin in the crystal clear waters and drinking their fill. Kotake had found cool safflina growing in the shadow of some bushes, and made a paste that acted as a balm for their blisters, while Koume wrapped chunks of broken hydromelon in the leaves of the palm trees for their journey ahead.
Finally, it was time to leave. They set out once again, their moods and bodies lifted, determined to reach the Spirit Temple. With a bout of recuperation under their belts, somehow, the journey did not seem so terrible. The sun burned, the sand stung, but their spirits stayed strong and true as they carried on through the desert sands.
Some unknown time later found Koume walking slightly ahead of Kotake, so she crested the mountainous dune first to see the temple in the distance.
“Kotake! We made it!” she exclaimed, taking in the wondrous view. The huge effigy of the Goddess of the Sands looked over the desert, as though the Goddess really did survey all that laid before her.
Kotake ran to the top of the dune to stand alongside her sister. “Wow!” she uttered breathlessly.
“Come on!” cried Koume as she ran joyously towards their goal. They would be there within the hour!
Kotake laughed and chased her sister’s trail.
Koume and Kotake had ran with all their might, but eventually stopped to catch their breath. Kotake was bent double, with her hands on her knees and panting while Koume drank from their water skin. She passed the skin to her twin and surveyed the area. The sand was flat and bare; easily navigable. Wiping the sweat from her brow, Koume jogged ahead. This was it, they were almost there!
Kotake caught up. “You could have waited until I was ready!” she admonished. She wasn’t really annoyed though, she just wanted to reach the temple at the same time as Koume, to experience it with her.
“I knew you would catch up,” replied Koume, unconcerned, “I just – OUCH!” Koume grabbed at her leg, wincing slightly.
“What’s wrong?” Kotake questioned, perplexed.
Koume took her hand from her leg to reveal a shallow wound. It was bleeding, but not badly.
Kotake bent to look at the cut, “What hap – OWW!” she screeched, feeling a sharp pain at her ankle. The sisters turned their heads, inspecting their surroundings to see what could be attacking them. Kotake spotted them first and yelled, “Leevers!”
Koume turned to see an enormous pack of buzzing green leevers, digging their way quickly through the sand towards them. “Go!” she ordered, and she and Kotake began to run frantically. They had faced leevers before, during their training in the desert areas close to the Fortress, but never in packs as huge as this. If she’d had time to count, she expected there were at least fifty in that pack, which could deal a lot of damage! Their only hope was to reach the solid stone steps of the Spirit Temple, where the leevers couldn’t follow.
Kotake was running as fast as she could, avoiding the leevers by dashing in a zig-zag direction. Her strategy was a good one, but there were so many that she couldn’t avoid them all. She yelped in pain as the leevers nashed their sharp little teeth at her skin, her blood leaving tiny spots of crimson against the yellow color of the sand. Kotake could hear Koume shrieking as she suffered their attacks as well.
Once again, Koume overtook Kotake as she ran desperately towards the steps of the temple. The leevers were relentless, spinning through the sand and flinging themselves at her vulnerable body. Just as Koume thought she was pulling ahead of the danger, two leevers bit into her legs at the same time. Their combined bites caused her to trip over herself and fall to the sand as the pack of those torturous creatures engulfed her.
“Koume! I’m coming!” shouted Kotake, throwing herself into the pack. She tried to pull Koume free from the hungry grips of the leevers’ pointed teeth, but found herself trapped beneath their frenzied attacks. Kotake screamed in pain as she fought to break free, gripping at her sister’s bloodied hand. At last, they rose from the wild scrabble and sprinted, full of the adrenaline of fear, until they finally reached the steps of the Spirit Temple, and their safety.
Koume and Kotake lay sprawled at the entrance of the Spirit Temple. They were bruised, bloody and utterly defeated. Kotake was sobbing inconsolably, while Koume stared blankly into the distance, wondering how much more they could endure.
Flashbacks of their journey assaulted Koume in terrible waves and she began to question everything. Was their quest cursed? Were they even supposed to get this far? Or were they supposed to have perished along the way?
Kotake cried herself into silence. Her skin was covered in painful bites from the leevers, who were still digging in and out of the sand near the bottom of the steps. The more shallow wounds only stung but the deeper punctures continued to weep and bleed. Eventually, Kotake sat up to inspect her injuries, causing Koume to stir from her desolate thoughts.
“Are you okay?” Koume asked, casting her eyes over Kotake’s blood-soaked body.
Kotake turned her attention to Koume, “No, I’m not!” she snapped angrily. “Look at us! Just look at the state of us! All of our lives, we’ve trained and worked towards this stupid quest!” Jumping breathlessly to her feet, she raged, “We’ve been faithful to the Desert Goddess, we’ve worshiped her and made countless sacrifices! And still we didn’t receive her protection in this horrid wasteland!” Kotake bunched her fists and tensed her muscles as she continued, “Maybe the Goddess of the Sands isn’t even real!”
“Kotake!” gasped Koume, shocked at her sister’s blasphemy.
Suddenly, a howling gust of wind blew from the gaping entrance of the temple, claiming their attention. Kotake looked quickly at Koume, now afraid that her anger-fuelled words had offended a higher power. “I didn’t mean it!” she claimed in a pleading voice.
Koume returned the stricken look, then stepped forward and warily entered the temple.
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.