I’d heard it said that children look to their parents more as gods than human beings. I considered this, as the sting on my knuckles left me breathless. It had been a long time since the last experience of my father’s wrath. I had mastered early on how to avoid punishment; not by running away and hiding, nor by playing tricks for attention. All I had to do was become invisible. If I had no opinions; agreed politely and took no interest in the flow of my own life, I had peace.

When the second crack came, the hero’s mask flew out of my hands. Father poked the tip of the cane into my solar plexus and his jaw had gone into some sort of spasm. “Just what has got into you?” he demanded.

Got into me? I thought. Perhaps I am acting a tad rebellious today, more like Yasei really. She did mention something about masks possessing the energy of their maker. No, I think it was more spiritual than that… I should have paid more attention.   

“That mask belongs to me.” I looked Father in the eye, the raw skin of my right-hand throbbing.

He squeezed the cane handle, an owl’s head carved from wood.  “I have brought you up with all the skills befitting of an Okane. I am not going to let you throw it away and become the town fool. Do you want the other children to tease you more?”

“I have not cared about them in years, Father. Did you not realize?” I stepped away from the cane and went to retrieve the mask before he had the chance to destroy that too. He stalked after me, rumbling breaths filled my ears. I had never seen him this frantic before. My father always maintained his composure, even when Mr Muryō had threatened to “knock his lights out” once, when he made Yasei cry.

He grabbed a fistful of my shirt. “I will not stand for this Ronri,” he warned.

I jerked away, wood and bone connected as my body went rigid. I was always the type of child that bruised easily but at this rate I would have bruises on my bruises. I lumbered towards the hero mask. It was all I could see through my blurred vision until I went to ground, the mask embraced in my arms.

“How long do you intend to stay like this, curled up like some cowardly hedgehog?” Father snarled. He brought the cane down again, thwack and again, thwack.

If I hold on long enough, he’ll tire himself out. I promised myself. My father knew instinctively where to strike, jabs to my sides. I tucked my elbows in. He won’t kill me; I am his apprentice after all.  But I wasn’t prepared for the sudden blow to the head and I cried out. Then the dizziness came and I realized that I couldn’t save the mask and myself. My neck was forced back as he pulled my hair.

“After everything I have done for you — ungrateful wretch!”

Father’s words were arrows embedding themselves into my heart. The giant’s table was spinning. I clung to the mask. I hate you; I hate you. The voice in my mind screamed, the one that told me this was wrong, the one I had always ignored.

“By Din, I will have that mask, and when I do, it will burn in her fire!”

I hate you; I hate you… My chest tightened, but at the same time I could feel something warm that made my fingertips tingle. I gawked; a dark orb had surrounded the hero’s mask. It crackled with jagged gold and purple sparks and the heat in my hands became so intense I feared they’d be burnt off!  I could only struggle as it grew larger and larger, whirled faster and faster. Help I can’t stop it!

Finally, it burst. The force of the shock wave sent Father flying. He landed on his buttocks and cowered as a shower of leaves and splintered wood rained down.

After I uncurled, all was still. “Father?” I croaked. After such a fall, the least I expected was a groan. Reluctantly, my legs remembered their function and I staggered over. “I did not mean to…”

He flinched as I came near. “Stay away from me!”

At least he was still alive. By the Goddesses, what was that just now? I turned the mask over and back again. How? I wondered. How did this happen? Suddenly, I felt an overwhelming desire to find out. But it dawned on me that the likelihood of finding answers in Kawaranai would be zero. This was a village of farmers, not users of magic. If I wanted the truth, I would have to go further afield. There has to be someone in Hyrule who knows.

I turned to Father. “I’m leaving the village.”

His eyes went wide as he tried in vain to readjust his broken glasses. “What? But where will you go? What will you do?”

These were very big questions for a ten-year-old boy. I shrugged my shoulders with a smile. “Wherever and whatever I wish.” And with that I left the god behind, now nothing more than an old man smarting at the rude jolt to his coccyx.

Wisely, Father had stayed away that evening as I gathered my clothes, the map of Hyrule I’d studied, my rock collection, parchment & ink, tinder box, ointment and a few glass bottles. The rupees I’d saved over the years felt reassuringly heavy in my wallet and I dusted off an old cloak. Just as I’d finished, there was a knock at the door.

In the darkness, Yasei lifted up her lantern and scowled at me. “I can’t believe you get to see Hyrule Castle before me, insensitive moron!”

“Daughter, that isn’t a very kind thing to say to Ronri,” a woman with long, brown dreadlocks and a floral cardigan scolded. She was carrying a large bundle in her hands and strolled on in. “We came to see how you were getting on with your packing. Ah, so you’ve set everything out already, you are very organized.”

“Thank you, Mrs Muryō. I was just looking for something to put it in, but it seems Father only keeps small satchels for his papers. Maybe I could tie it in a big bundle with a stick, like they do in fairy tales?”

“I think we can do a little better than that.” She winked at me and turned to the table. “This is a travel pack.” There was a quick glance at my belongings before she nodded. “Yes, should be big enough. Now, let’s pack everything in nice and snug. Yasei, you roll up that sleeping bag as tight as you can, so we can drag it through the top.”

Under Mrs Muryō’s guidance it didn’t take long to fit everything in neatly. I tottered sideways a little as the reality of the pack’s full weight set in. “This will take some getting used to,” I gasped.

Yasei rolled her eyes as I wobbled forward. “So, are you taking that crooked, shambolic thing with you?”

We grinned at each other. I had not fully explained what happened in the woods. The details were hazy at best; however, I knew without a doubt that her hero mask had changed my life forever.

“Of course, it has your spirit. It will be like you’re travelling with me.”

Her eyebrows knitted together. “Give it here,” she said, darting behind me. “Stop laughing Ma, it isn’t funny!”

After a few minutes of sharp jerks and tugs, Yasei hummed with satisfaction. “You can take it off now.”

Relieved, I let the pack drop to the floor and swiveled it around. The hero mask smiled as always, quite content in its strange new choice of home. “Why did you tie it on the back?” I asked, perplexed.

“Duh, because then I’ll always be watching your back.”

My cheeks became uncomfortably warm. I am going to miss you. I realized, and for the first time I daren’t look at my best friend. Her surprise hug threatened to crush my ribs. “I could write a letter now and again, if you would like?”

“You better, or I’ll hunt you down, Ronri Okane.”

Mrs Muryō tapped her daughter on the shoulder. “Come on, we need to let this explorer get some sleep.” She guided Yasei towards the doorway but then paused. “Try not to worry too much about your father, we’ll keep an eye on him.”

I bowed. “Thank you for your kindness, goodnight.”

The next morning before the sun rose, I hitched a ride with Mr Muryō in his cart. It would be a while before I gazed upon Kawaranai’s thatched roofs or saw the koi swimming in the pond. I waved goodbye to the old school house, the shop, Swift Violet Wood and finally the Giant’s Table. My stomach twisted in knots. Maybe this isn’t the best course of action after all… What if I come to some terrible fate?

“Ya know, after your little adventure, you can always pop home for a visit,” Mr Muryō said.

I shuddered out a breath I didn’t realize I’d been holding. “Yes, I’d like that. It’s just the adventure part that is causing me concern. I have only trained as an accountant and I know so little else about the world!”

“Ah, is that all?” He gave a throaty chuckle. “You have to have a little faith, son. Hyrule is a land of opportunity, something will turn up.”

As the wheels bumped along the dirt track, it was difficult to keep my map straight and follow the contours of the land. I recognized some of the larger landmarks: Death Mountain’s smoking peak to the northwest and the enormous Kokiri Forest in the south. Common sparrows chirped; their green plumage just visible in the long grass. Overhead, a flock of blue herons flew in a V shape towards the water lands known as Zora’s Domain — yet another place I had never visited.

At times during the journey, I found myself patting myself down for injuries that my memory insisted I had received at my father’s cane, but there were none to be found. This was a great source of confusion for me as the pain I’d endured had been very real. I had not called upon the protection of the Goddess Nayru, so I could only conclude that my miraculous healing was due to the intervention of the hero’s mask.

“Something on your mind?” Mr Muryō said giving another crack of the whip making the horses turn.

I nodded. “Do you think there might be someone versed in magic at Castle Town?”

“I’d imagine so, you get all types turning up there.” He glanced at me out the corner of his eye. “Now, why would you be wanting to know about that?”

I played with the hem of my cloak. “Well, I have discovered a new interest in the subject.”

“You don’t want to be getting involved in any of that Ronri.” We both jerked forward as the cart came to an abrupt stop. “Now you listen well, I’ve heard rumors about good men losing their wits messing about with spells and… sorcery. Finding your place in the world is one thing, but mucking about with things you don’t understand is another. Promise me, you won’t go looking for that kind of trouble.”

I’m sorry Mr Muryō, but that is a promise I cannot keep, I thought as the corners of my lips tugged upwards. “Yes, sir.”

“That’s a good lad. Yasei would never forgive me if something happened to you!”

My first fake smile crafted with care had been a success. Sadly, it was to become a skill I was very good at.

With the sun fully awake, I heard squeaks and clunks ahead of us. Great iron chains were let down to allow the drawbridge to descend. I had never seen such tall walls before those that surrounded Hyrule Castle in a fortress of granite and stone. The waters of the deep moat glittered as the sunlight played on the surface. I peered above me; my eyes glued to a pair of majestic wings in flight, chiseled into the stone work. Above them, a trinity of golden triangles with the third stacked on top of the others. Even I knew the Triforce when I saw it; the legend of how the entire realm of Hyrule had been created by three Golden Goddesses representing wisdom, power and courage. The familiar sight gave me a small crumb of comfort before heading into the unknown.

I could certainly use some courage now, I thought as we were swallowed into the entrance of Castle Town.

 

Alison Brunyee is an Editor for Zelda Dungeon. She likes reading manga and collecting Japanese wind chimes. Her favorite Zelda game is Ocarina of Time. 

Featured image: guppy-kurisutaru

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