Posted on November 08 2019 by David Nystrom
The wanderer stumbled and dropped to his knees as he reached the crest of the final dune. He smiled, looking to the valley below, and thought back on the moment of his childhood that had started his journey to this place.
The sandy streets of Medina were busy in that evening light. He, a young boy, disguised out of necessity, hurried through one of the back alleys with a long loaf of bread cradled in his arms. His mother had told him to avoid the main streets because of the increase in soldiers.
“Why are there more soldiers?” he had asked.
“Somebody did something very brave,” she cradled his face.
A few days after that, he’d heard talk in the bazaar about the great warrior Queen being assassinated by a member of a rogue Gerudo band. The discussion had been in whispers, but the voices were not sad.
“She would have been on her deathbed soon enough.”
“Which member got her?”
“I don’t know. The important thing though is the path is now open.”
That was all the young boy heard. A group of Hyrulean Soldiers appeared suddenly, and the two women went silent before going in opposite directions.
Arriving home with his bread, the boy was startled when he saw one of those two women standing in his kitchen.
“Sav’saaba, vehvi,” she said bowing her head.
“My mother is out,” he sputtered out, keeping his voice high.
“You have nothing to fear from me, litio konungur. Your vama and I are old friends.”
The boy froze. The name she had used. It was one his mother would call him. Before he could say anything more, the woman pressed a finger to her painted lips.
There was a banging at the front door, followed by angry Hylian voices. The boy moved to answer it, but the woman shook her head.
“By order of the Knights of Hyrule, open the door!”
The boy dared not move.
They slammed on the door again. They shouted again.
The boy was horrified.
Every second seemed like an eternity as they boy stared into the eyes of this mysterious woman. Then he heard the heavy boots move away from the door. After another couple of minutes, they were gone, and the woman stood up.
“You did well litio voe.”
The boy then felt a gust of cool air come in from behind him. As he turned, his mother entered their home, her face darkened, and her eyes red. She wiped her face free of the dust and sand that had gathered on it.
“Why are you here, Ribura?”
The woman smiled down at the boy, and his mother pulled him back towards her.
“They were here. They are onto you.”
The boy’s mother stiffened, “How long do I have?”
“Not long enough.”
“Will you take him?”
The woman smiled, “That is the plan.”
His mother knelt down and placed her hands on the boy’s shoulders. Her eyes strained as they held back tears.
“Listen to me carefully,” her voice cracked. “You are to go with Ribura. You will not see me again. You are strong though, litio konungur, and destined for something great. Do not trust the outsiders.”
Ribura turned and peeked through a curtain, then nodded to the boy’s mother.
“You must go, now. Run for the Temple of the Sand Goddess and find your destiny.”
Ribura grabbed the boy by his arm and pulled him through the back door. Tears began to stream down his face. He called out for her, forgetting to disguise his voice as he’d been taught to do his whole life.
His mother’s face turned to stone as she drew her scimitar. A single tear rolled down her cheek as she turned away and faced the front door to their home. The door burst open and a dozen Knights of Hyrule burst in.
The boy watched and screamed as she fought them off. Ribura chastised him and lifted him over her shoulder. But he heard none of it. He only saw the blades cutting and tearing his mother apart.
That night seemed many years ago, but his mother’s words and instructions still served him well. As he rose to his feet and approached the towering statue of the Sand Goddess, he felt as if her dying wishes were finally coming true.
“Welcome,” the voice of an old man said. “The journey must have been dangerous all alone. Come inside. We have been expecting you.”
“We?” he responded weakly.
The old man merely grinned and ventured back inside.
* * * * *
“Hello!?” Fado cried out in desperation
No answer came though. Only the continuing absent sounds of death that radiated from every bit of the forest that they could see.
“Mido? Carolyn? Anybody?!”
Osmond dismounted his horse and led it to a signpost that was nearby. After tying it up, he pulled his sword and shield down slung them them to his back. He then carefully helped Zelda down from her horse and she too tied her horse to the post. It gave a nervous neigh, but she stroked its nose and whispered something to it.
“What happened?” Osmond asked.
“I… I don’t know…”
They began to move away from the entrance just a little bit and found themselves at a stone building that bore a Hylian Crest on one of the stones still holding up a door frame. Osmond slipped inside and found a lantern with some oil. He pulled some flint from his pocket and struck it against the stone, providing just enough spark to light the lamp.
Zelda gasped and covered her face, while Osmond flinched and looked away. Only Fado seemed unphased by the horrific scene.
Before them was the body of a Hyrulean Soldier still wearing his armor and clutching a spear that he likely used to defend himself with. However, the breastplate of his armor was ripped open exposing the gaping hole where his chest would have been. Fragments of flesh clung to his ribs and blood soaked everything that remained.
“Wolfos…” Fado said coldly. “They were supposed to have been driven off years ago. Even if a stray found its way into the village though, one wolfos couldn’t have done this.”
“A whole pack then?” Osmond asked.
“Possible, but that doesn’t account for everything else.”
“Fado…” Zelda began as she was looking back out into the village. “What’s… that?”
Osmond shone the light towards Zelda’s outstretched hand as Fado slipped back outside. Just a few feet away from them, floating a few feet off the ground was a faint pink orb. It turned towards them suddenly and gave off a chime sound, almost like small bells.
“It’s a fairy!” Fado exclaimed.
Without hesitation, the sage chased out into the darkness after it. Osmond and Zelda raced after him, using the lantern light to avoid tripping on anything.
Fado’s pace was frantic, and it was all they could do to keep up with him. As they raced through the remains of the village, they saw more and more homes, either burned to the ground or overtaken by mold and fungus. They followed the path around a body of water that had been overtaken by a thick black tar that oozed and bubbled and produced more of the putrid smell that had greeted them. They soon passed under a bridge from which hung large white sacks suspended by sticky white threads.
Finally, they caught up to Fado. He was standing beside a large boulder and examining a wall of creeping thorny vines.
“Let me see your shield,” he asked as Osmond and Zelda leaned on the rock to catch their breath.
Osmond handed over the shield he’d been issued by the Knights. He was immediately grateful that he’d kept his father’s still on his back, as Fado slammed the metal defensive tool into the wall over and over again. The thorns fell away after a few hits and they suddenly could see through the place Fado had been slamming into.
After a few minutes, a hole large enough for the three of them to fit through revealed itself. Just beyond, the small fairy was hovering and waiting. It nodded with its whole orb-like body, then turned and flew through the small channel in the earth. It turned slightly to the left, before hooking back to the right, and opening up in the most dramatic fashion.
An open field lay beyond the path and was filled with the vibrant colors of life. Wildflowers scattered the meadow in round patches. The sound of a small brook bubbling rolled just above the whisper of a light breeze coming down from the opening in the trees around. Steep sloping hills created the valley this field lay hidden within, but the trees along the outer ridge were clustered so closely that they may as well have been stone walls themselves.
A single gargantuan tree rose up in the center, its branches reaching high into the sky and providing shelter for the greenery around its base. The roots of this massive tree rose up above the ground in places, creating small archways.
It only took a few seconds for the small eyes of the native people to start peeking out from behind some of these roots.
“Great Deku Tree!” Fado shouted, dashing into the center of the clearing.
A set of narrow eyes in the trunk of the tree began to slowly open, accompanied by a heavy grumbling that felt like it was shaking the earth.
“Ahhhhh….” The eyes closed again, disappearing within the bark. However, a mouth slouched open and a small stream of sap sagged out of the corner. The unmistakable sound of snoring then became obvious.
“Great Deku Tree, wake up!” Fado demanded.
The snoring intensified.
Fado huffed and turned to Osmond, “give me that lantern.”
Osmond cautiously obliged.
Fado took it and started stomping his way down by the base of the tree.
“Right, you won’t wake up? I’ll wake you up! One hundred and one years old, you’d think you were still a sprout!”
Just as Fado raised the lantern over his head, a hand shot out and grabbed his wrist. A Kokiri, wearing tattered green shorts, an eye patch, and had red hair flecked with silver threads glared at him.
“He’s asleep because he’s spent the past month keeping us safe. Perhaps think about what you’re doing, cousin.”
Fado shook himself free and lowered the lantern.
“I wasn’t going to really do it, ya know.”
The red headed Kokiri huffed and began limping away when he looked up at Osmond and Zelda. He shook his head and stumbled towards a small hovel that was dug out of the surrounding wall.
“Figures you brought Hylians here.”
“I’ll have you know, these are no ordinary Hylians. You really think I’d bring just a couple nobodies here?”
“No, figured you would have had the decency to not show up after all this time.”
“All this time? We only just received word that there was an issue with the garrison here a week ago. Had we known sooner-“
“Had you been here like I advised you to be, we wouldn’t be in this damn-“
“Like I had a bloody choice? I’m a sage, Mido! It’s not my fault that I-“
“That you got everything you wanted? That after years of dreaming to be like her, you finally got your wish?”
“I only wanted to help this kingdom! You think my adoration of Saria was jealousy? It’s just like you to think so shallow of people!”
“It’s just like you to be flighty and blow off with the wind!”
“Oh yeah? I’m here now aren’t I?”
“Only cause your precious Council sent you!”
“Enough!” a deep and booming voice cut the bickering duo short.
Osmond’s eyes widened as the face of the Great Deku Tree became completely visible. Two dark eyes with mossy eyebrows, tilted down in frustration with the arguing Kokiri. His mouth was a wide but rounded slit in the bark and was accented by a patch of moss below it, resembling a small beard.
“Mido, you know all too well the cost of Fado’s sacrifice as Sage. Do not be so hostile toward he and his company.”
Mido’s face darkened as he clenched his fists, but he nodded in apology.
“It is good that you have come, Fado,” the Deku Tree shifted his eyes to the Sage of Wind and lightened his expression. “Although I am surprised you did not bring a larger force with you.”
“We were under the impression a few soldiers had vanished, not the entire garrison. Great Deku Tree, what happened here?”
The Deku Tree frowned, “it is as I feared then… you have not received any of my messages, have you?”
Fado looked confused.
“There was a day about a month ago now, that a dark force erupted from deep within the Lost Woods. I lost my sight of that sacred grove, and warned the soldiers with the help of Sarina here. They sent a small group of five soldiers out, but only one returned, nearly a week later.”
As the Deku Tree continued his tale, a bit of wind scooped up some sticks and leaves and the event was replayed before them.
“He was severely wounded and spoke only a few words of Moblins and Wolfos. His armor was bathed in dried blood, with bits of leaves and twigs sticking out in places. Naturally, we thought he had become lost and was becoming a Stalfos so we detained him. After two nights of fighting his fever, he awoke on the third morning with a clear mind and told us of a Moblin horde gathering in the Forest Temple. The next day, a larger group of soldiers, both Hylian and Kokiri went to the Temple… The only thing that came back out of the woods was darkness and despair.”
The sticks and leaves fell to the ground as the Deku Tree’s voice trailed off. A vacuum of silence blanketed the meadow.
“Wh-why couldn’t I hear your call?” Fado finally asked.
“That is the even more disturbing part, as I have no answer for it.”
“What happened to the soldiers who went out?” Zelda asked suddenly.
Upon hearing her voice, the Deku Tree’s face shifted again into a warm and welcoming smile, “that answer is none of your concern, your grace. It is a welcome treat to be blessed by your arrival.”
Zelda threw her hand up to her scarf suddenly, thinking it had fallen down while they had been running. However, her face and hair were still neatly hidden behind the disguise.
“My senses may be inhibited, young Princess, but I can see through any shroud Impa may cook up in an instant,” he chuckled.
“What did happen to them, Great Deku Tree?” Fado asked, shifting the conversation back to important matters.
“I do not know, I’m afraid. I still can sense a connection with them, but it grows weaker every day. I fear their time may be growing short if nothing is done.”
Fado stood and turned to Osmond. Osmond was already nodding and about to turn back towards the forest when the small red-headed Mido stepped in his way.
“You ain’t goin’ nowhere. That place is a fortress, no way two dozen soldiers and a pack of my troops could get captured so easily but you’re gonna walk right in.”
“It’s my job to go in there and get them,” Osmond responded sternly.
“He’s right Osmond,” Fado spoke up, “we need more of a plan first.”
“And a plan we shall make,” the Deku Tree shook his highest branches and dozens of Kokiri children began descending from them.
Floating down by leaves that were twice as big as they were, the Kokiri set to work as if it were no big deal. They began pulling tables out of hidden alcoves, along with bowls, pots, pans, and food to go in them. One started a fire, while a couple more rigged up a cooking pot over it.
Within a few minutes, Osmond, Fado, and Zelda were being ushered to a table where food was beginning to be laid out.
“Is this planning?” Osmond managed to ask Fado at one point.
“No good plan ever came on an empty stomach, boy.”
“Except for how to hunt,” Mido chimed in sarcastically.
Osmond marveled at how carefree these Kokiri seemed to be as they too began eating and drinking. Some of the ones he assumed were younger came to him and asked about being a knight. The older ones simply smiled at him or offered him extra rolls as they continued eating. It was almost as if they had no idea how bad the forest had gotten on the other side of that narrow path.
“They know how dire times are,” the Deku Tree said quietly through a sprout he’d made grow next to the table.
“But they still seem so… naïve?” Osmond said back to the talking tree mouth.
“Innocence of a child. A gift few Kokiri are ever willing to sacrifice. Much like a teachers’ willingness to sacrifice himself to save a pupil who hadn’t finished his training.”
Osmond nearly dropped his drink and stared wide eyed at the sprout.
“I’m not omniscient, but I can see much that has happened and much that will. You have a touch of courage about you, Sir Osmond. Do not lose sight of it.”
Osmond looked away and over at Fado. Like the other Kokiri, Fado seemed to be enjoying his return home. A throng of questions were being fired his way by Kokiri of all ages, desperate to know what the outside world was like.
“What sort of games do they play?”
“Is it true there are no trees?”
“How often do fairies come out?
“What are the men like?”
The last question drew a shocked look from Fado and a round of uproarious laughter from the others.
Then Osmond noticed one smaller Kokiri girl approach Zelda, who had been quietly sipping on some soup.
“Do you sing?”
Zelda looked up from her bowl in surprise, “hmm? I’m sorry, what?”
“The last time there was a fancy Hylian here, she sang. Do you sing?”
Zelda turned her head in confusion.
“She means a Royal,” Mido said grumpily. “Yer mum when she was here a few years ago, sang a verse during the funeral.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. No, I don’t.”
“I sing. Would you like to hear me sing? I’m told it makes sad people happy.”
“Why do you think I’m sad?” Zelda asked, her tone implying the question had offended her.
“Because you’re not talking. You’re like Uncle Mido. Always grumpy about something. Except you’re prettier.”
Zelda blushed a little bit, “I’m not sad. I’m just… worried. That’s all. Thank you though.”
“What’s worried mean?”
Zelda blinked slowly with her mouth open.
“It’s grown up talk for thinkin’ ‘bout bad things. Go pester yer other uncle while you can Carolyn,” Mido tugged on the girl’s collar and steered her towards Fado.
As the girl happily skipped away, Osmond watched Zelda quietly return to her bowl but set the spoon down in frustration.
“Do you sing, Princess?”
She glared back at him, then stood up and left the table. She walked towards the entrance to the meadow and then sat down with a huff.
“I dunno what sort of plan you think you can cook up,” Mido said, talking to Osmond, “but I sure would like to hear it.”
“Oh, I’m not sure yet. I sort of thought that would be something Fado came up with,” Osmond replied, his eyes shifting away from Zelda.
“You’re here for your training assignment, ain’t ya? What do you think they want from you? To sit on your rear and let stuff happen?”
Osmond shifted nervously.
“Hey windbag!” Mido shouted, “you brief the brat here on where we’re goin’ yet?”
“We?” Fado rose and squeezed his way over to them.
“If yer dumb enough to be goin’ in, I’m going with ya.”
“Of course, you are,” Fado rolled his eyes. “Well fine. Somebody else who knows the layout of that place could be helpful I suppose.”
Fado began laying out the plan with input from Mido regarding the horde’s location. It seemed they had set up camp out front of the Temple’s entrance and had frequent guards stationed on towers. The main entrance to the Temple was a little off the ground, so they’d have to climb a nearby tree or find a ladder to get to it. That would be easy compared to getting to that point. With all the Moblins and Bokoblins that were camped out front, they’d have to sneak in from the far side.
“Could always cause a distraction to draw away half the camp,” Osmond suggested.
“Might work, except for their searchlights,” Mido said.
“Searchlights? Defense towers? Since when did these guys get so advanced?” Fado frowned.
“They’ve got some sort of leader. Speaks Hylian apparently.”
“How’d you come by this?”
“The lone soldier who made it back. He heard him.”
Fado ran his hand through his hair and let out a long sigh.
“What about Zelda? What’s she going to be doing while we infiltrate that place?” Osmond asked.
“I suspect keeping her away might not be so easy. We should make this plan with her, honestly. Where’d she go anyway?”
Osmond pointed to the meadow entrance and then let his finger down, realizing she wasn’t there. He looked to where they had set some of their gear, including Zelda’s bow and quiver, and saw that they were gone. He searched the group for the blonde Hylian that would have towered over the Kokiri and still couldn’t find her.
The young girl that had asked about singing earlier, Carolyn, then grabbed Osmond’s sleeve and pointed. She pointed to the path.
“She said something about ‘wasting time’ and ‘worrying’… What’s wasting time?”
The Era Without A Hero will return in a few weeks…
David Wayne Nystrom is a Staff Writer for Zelda Dungeon. This story is an imagining of the final days in Hyrule prior to the Great Flood talked about in the opening cinematic of The Wind Waker. His top three Zelda games are Ocarina of Time, The Wind Waker, and Link’s Awakening. The first six chapters of the full story are available in podcast form, with future chapters in the works. To find it and learn more about the project, head to erawithoutahero.wordpress.com or follow him on Twitter. Every Era Has Heroes…