Posted on December 25 2020 by Alison Brunyee
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With an excruciating slap against my face and belly, I hit the river. The water swallowed me and rushed up my nostrils, wrapping its chilly sting over my skin. This quickly transformed into an icy grip, digging into my wrists and squeezing my neck. Sodden clothes and boots pulled me down as bubbles floated away. I could see light up there, but my body was being dragged around at an alarming rate. How far had I been swept along? I could not be certain until a rather unpleasant burning sensation grew in my chest. This brought to my attention a rather dire fact. Ah, I cannot breathe.
My survival instincts had seen me through many unfortunate situations, and this would be no different. I forced my arms to move and kicked. The river fought back; current determined to impede my escape. An invisible pressure crushed me. I clawed at the water, my lungs desire for oxygen becoming unbearable. Memories of plunging my head freely into the koi pond as a child came to mind. Watching thrashing red tails, trying to swim away from the invaders. Eyes bulging and blinking against the slimy green weeds. It had all been a game back then, seeing how long you could hold your breath. But right now, if I did not open my mouth soon my entire chest was going to burst.
Zora’s River, however, did not care. As I came within a finger’s grasp of the surface, it caught me and down I went again. With all sense of direction lost, I spiraled blindly into the increasing murk. I began to feel dizzy, my vision fading in and out with nothing but the water’s susurration for company. Is this to be my fate? I cannot drown here, Yasei would be furious, I thought, before realizing I had little choice in the matter.
But fate had other ideas as something hard slammed into me. I cried out, finding myself wedged between a relentless pounding at my back, and what appeared to be part of a fallen tree. Shocked at my unexpected savior, I strangled the trunk and forced my head above the water’s flow. Wet bark crumbled and I had to lunge upward, snatching at brittle branches only for them to break and fell back into the clutches of Zora’s River. Somehow it was even colder than before and I gasped.
“Where are you, Ronri? Ronri!”
Kilton’s barking had never been more welcome.
“Here,” I tried to shout but coughed up more water instead. Regurgitation is never pleasant, especially whilst trying to suck in fresh air at the same time. As I fought to catch my breath, a frog croaked repeatedly, rather put out by the intrusion. It is hardly my fault. As if I want to be stuck on a log with you! The loss of sensation in my arms was becoming slightly worrying. If I lost my grip now… “I am here!” I yelled.
At last, I could see them on the river bank. “Ronri!” Yasei glanced between the trunk and the water; eyebrows deeply furrowed. “Okay… Okay,” she repeated. “Don’t move.”
“I could not move if I wanted to,” I admitted through chattering teeth, yearning more than anything to be out of this death trap of a ravine.
Yasei looped a rope about her waist and attached it to a nearby fence. She straddled the trunk, inching towards me. “I don’t know what happened, Tektites never venture near the waterfall; where did it come from?”
“T-T-Tektites?” I stammered.
“A monster that lives in these parts, usually you can see them coming. I’ve never had a problem before. They actually taste quite good with a bit of extra salt-”
“Yasei, a little help?”
“Oh, right, sorry.”
I groaned as my friend seized my arms and hauled me up. Undignified scrambling and clamping of thighs followed until we faced each other. I held onto her shoulders, making a determined effort to ignore the river still tugging at my feet.
“By the Goddesses, you’re trembling. You okay? I’m not deliberately trying to kill you, honest.”
“Did you know there were m-m-monsters here?”
“Maybe.” Yasei winced. “But look at this way, at least you weren’t attacked by Octoroks. I mean, they spit rocks, nasty things. Really devious too, dive as soon as you get close.” I scowled at her. “Don’t be mad, there are monsters everywhere in Hyrule, and besides you got to see the waterfall, right?”
“I nearly d-d-drowned for the privilege.”
“Don’t be so dramatic.” She took my hands in hers and began rubbing them. “You’ll be fine. Not as if you’re the first person to fall into a river and you certainly won’t be the last. Anyway, can’t hang about here, the Frog Eyes will go off. Although, if I could catch some fresh ones…” she said, spotting my croaking companion.
“This is hardly the t-t-time.”
But the aggravated amphibian had already plopped into the water. “Aww.” She pouted. “That would have been a nice little earner too.”
Back on dry land, Kilton lay on top of me, licking at my face with his horrendous doggy breath.
“Stop that, I need to remove these confounded boots and you are not helping.”
“He’s keeping you warm, don’t want to catch a cold, do you?” Yasei returned with my travel pack. She pushed the husky off and offered a blanket. “By the way, I couldn’t find any spare boots in your stuff.”
“That would be because I do not own another pair.”
She gave a long sigh. “You brought one pair of shoes?”
“I did not expect to go swimming in them,” I snapped, prizing off my left boot with great difficulty. A steady stream of water vacated upon tipping, but it was in reasonable condition. It’s twin on the other hand, had not been so lucky. The broken sole flip-flopped as I restrained myself from throwing the blasted thing into the river.
“I could strap it up to keep you going but, you’re gonna need a cobbler to sort that out.”
“This is ludicrous.” I threw the sopping blanket onto the grass. “I never wanted to come in the first place. I am not cut out for this… this… travelling malarkey. Bumpy roads, monster attacks, drowning… Should have known better than to listen to you.”
“Fine.” Yasei stood sharply. “There’s the path back to Castle Town. Head north, follow your nose, even you should be able to manage that. Come on, Kilton.”
Wait… What? I watched her return to the wagon. She did not look back, not even once.
“Just a friendly warning,” she called from the driver’s seat. “You won’t reach the castle gates before nightfall, so watch out for Stalchild. You could always sleep in a tree, I guess.”
“Sleep in a tree?”
“Oh, that’s right, you wouldn’t know.” Her lips curled up at the corners. “Stalchild are the undead, skeletons that rise from the ground and pounce on unwary travelers. Enjoy being chased until the sun comes up, have fun!”
But Yasei left me coughing in a thick cloud of dust. Unforgivable, I fumed. She still has my masks. Now, soaked through, barefoot and without transportation I was left to reflect on my current predicament. Except, it is so very difficult to think clearly when a flame of righteous indignation has been lit inside your gut. I swear if she even thinks of selling them for a quick profit… Never have I met such an irrational, immature, irresponsible woman in all my life.
I wrestled off my shirt, which splattered as it hit the ground. A quick rummage through my belongings yielded a dry shirt and pair of trousers. One had to be grateful for small graces, but my muscles ached and eyelids drooped. Trying to muster the motivation to begin the long trek home was not forthcoming. Maybe I could conjure a portal to Castle Town, I thought. Azamuku did say it was child’s play after all.
Sprawled out on the grass, I closed my eyes, trying to recall the mage’s movements; his stance, any words uttered. My mind flinched; it did not want to go back there. Blurry images floundered in my head, like birds trying to escape. But why? There was nothing to be afraid of. I wanted to remember.
Steeling myself, I focused on my other senses. The petrichor of the earth after driving rain. Sweat and salty tears. What else? Carter’s heavy body and the stickiness of his blood. I ignored the spike of anxiety that set my heart racing. What else? Music from a flute. How did the flute get there?
Finally, the pieces fell into place. I saw Azamuku’s deft fingers plucking at the air. His tattoos glowing; strands of green magic opening a hole to another dimension with a purple starry sky. Then he pulled back his hood and with milky white eyes stared straight at me.
“You have forgotten your promise,” he stated.
I shook my head. This was not how I remembered events. “I did make a promise, but this is a dream, is it not?”
He seemed to find this highly amusing. “Oh, is that what you think, Ronri Okane?” As he spoke, Azamuku stalked forward. His long grey robes trailed on the floor. “We made a contract, you and I, did you think I’d forgotten?”
“But I thought you were dead.” I gulped. “The Light Spirits…”
“One man’s soul for your help when the time comes. That time is near at hand, Ronri.”
“What do you want from me?”
“You saw what the Goddesses did to us.”
“Of course, but what can I do?”
The mage snaked an arm around my shoulders drawing me close. He seemed taller than I remembered. His silver hair, which used to be tatty as straw, now fuller and remarkably glossy. “The Sacred Realm grants incredible power to those that touch it, even over death. If your heart should desire our rebirth it shall be done.”
“But my magic is woeful compared to yours. I have no idea how to control it and you want me to sneak under King Hyrule’s nose and claim the Sacred Realm? That is-” A scream from behind made me freeze. “Impossible,” I whispered. Another scream, this one cut short too, then another and another.
“Remember how we were snuffed out?” he pressed.
Suddenly, I wanted to crush my memories back into the box, but it was too late. They began to replay and nothing could stop them. The Interlopers struggling against the cursed light and one by one disappearing into white flakes of ash. They swirled above, before piercing Azamuku straight through the chest. He smiled, combining with the ashes; a roaring gale made the air around us pulse in waves.
The ashes transformed into an enormous skull with razor-sharp fangs.
“Didn’t your friend ever tell you that the giant’s mouth will open and devour you?” the skull bellowed in a chilling chorus.
“This is not real,” I insisted. The dream had taken a terrifying turn.
“Keep your promise,” the skull replied.
I tried to run but my feet had grown roots. I clamped shaking hands over my ears. “Stay away.”
But the skull did not. Its voices grew louder, “Keep your promise. Keep your promise. Keep your promise.” The disturbing cries made my eardrums throb in pain.
“Make it stop. I will do anything, just make it stop.”
“You know what to do. Find the Sacred Realm and take it. Is it not a simple task? Why, to someone like you, it should by no means be a difficult task.”
“You keep saying that. What do you mean?”
“Very well, we will show you.”
Enormous jaws opened wide. No chance to consider what this meant. Only time enough to watch the light die as the cavernous mouth snapped shut.
Featured art: Alison Brunyee via Canva.com
Alison Brunyee is an Original Content Editor for Zelda Dungeon. She likes reading manga and collecting Japanese wind chimes. Her favorite Zelda game is Ocarina of Time. For a bit of escapism during this tough time, check out more fan fiction from her alter writing ego – Otwl. Stay safe x