Posted on January 08 2021 by Bryan King
|| Previous Chapter || Next Chapter ||
The companions were miserable. The jubilation they had experienced several hours prior as they raced through Hyrule fields in the direction of the Gerudo desert had been eroded, as though the very sands that now assaulted their faces were responsible. Link, having wrapped a bit of fabric around his face in an effort to curtail the amount of grains pelting his face from the sandstorm, was leading Epona with Rukio following closely behind. He did his best to shield her face as well, feeling pangs of guilt as he watched her eyelids flicker continuously. Rukio, a hand over his own eyes trudged along, silently regretting his decision to accompany Link for but a moment. This was not his place. He belonged back home in the mountain with his people. Why was he out here among all this blasted sand? He peered hard at the figures in front of him and shook the doubts away. He knew in his heart he would have never forgiven himself if he allowed Link to venture out on his own. The thrill of adventure called to him as well, and he knew that regardless of his fleeting doubts, his place was here beside his new friend.
“The elder said to continue forward right?!” Link shouted, a burst of sand filling his mouth.
“That’s right!” Rukio replied, holding his hands around his mouth, emulating a bullhorn. “We gotta just keep heading straight to the heart of the desert he said! Can’t deviate and whatnot!”
Link pressed onward, sure that despite the harsh winds and low visibility, they were indeed headed in a straight line. According to the Goron Elder, the Gerudo Fortress had been built within the very center of the desert as the sandstorms that ravaged the area were never felt there. “The heart of the storm” he called it. Link wanted nothing more than to reach their destination and be free of the blowing sands, which he was most certain had begun to slowly accumulate in very uncomfortable places within his clothing. Most of all however, he wanted to know more about the Gerudo themselves. A tribe that consisted of only women? How odd Link thought, and he began to picture what they must look like to survive in such a place. Ganondorf seemed imposing based on the information that the Great Fairy had divulged. Were they equally as evil? Were they walking foolishly into another situation that might be their end? He turned behind him to check on Rukio but found nothing there. Had he been so wrapped up in ruminating about things he knew nothing about that he had lost his friend?
“Rukio!” he yelled behind him. No reply came, and he walked behind Epona to get closer to Rukio’s last known location. Perhaps he could hear him if he were a bit closer? He cupped his hands over his mouth and yelled as loudly as he could at the top of his lungs. He grew slightly hoarse after several shouts, and began to taste the slightly metallic undertones of blood in his throat. He turned around, intent on leading Epona backward to retrace their steps, but she had also vanished. He ran forward several steps, hoping that perhaps it had just been the uptick in the volume of sand that was being tossed about obscuring his vision, but no matter how far forward he walked, Epona was nowhere to be seen. He looked about manically, but saw no hint of either of his comrades. He sunk to his knees, the sand immediately beginning to rise higher up his legs. It was supposed to be an easy journey he thought. All they had to do was walk straight on from the entrance. They couldn’t have faltered from their path. He was sure of it!
He stood and lifted his boots from the small dunes that held them. Maybe they had continued onward? He wasn’t sure about Epona given that she–although quite intelligent for a horse–was likely to have been startled and retreated back the way they came. Rukio however had a much better chance of staying their course. He made his decision to press on, hoping with all he was that he was right and that there would be a reunion at the fortress.
He had been walking for the better part of an hour when he noticed that he began to feel small, cold wisps about his body. The heat was nigh unbearable in the desert, so he was sure that it was just his body providing him with some form of small comfort through phantom chills. Or perhaps this was what a creeping death felt like? He pushed such thoughts from his head and kept moving forward. His pace had slowed considerably by this point, and it felt as though his legs were made of iron.
“I have to keep going,” he mouthed to himself before slumping face forward into the soft embrace of the sand. He lay still for several moments, and then began to feel the cold wisps once more. He raised his head and squinted forward, and saw what he believed to be some sort of floating…being in front of him. It had no legs, and carried a long wooden stick with what appeared to be a lantern at the end. He pushed upward, bringing himself to his hands and knees as he looked on. The creature turned in his direction, and Link was caught off guard as there didn’t appear to be a body, so much as a dark void wrapped in a tattered cloak. He gazed intently at the creature as he got to his feet. Two small, yellow slits formed within the abyss of its body before opening wide. These had to be its eyes Link thought. He found it slightly horrifying, and he realized that he had already reached for the sword on his back subconsciously in reflex. A faint laughter carried itself over the tumult, and the creature extended one of its pitch black arms in his direction, slowly beckoning him forward. Link didn’t move. He had no reason to trust this thing, and for all he knew this was what could have captured Rukio and Epona. It continued to beckon him forward. He let out a sigh before lowering his hands to pull the cloth around his face tighter. If this monster had indeed kidnapped Rukio and Epona, he would at the very least be reunited with them and a plan could be formed between he and Rukio on how to get back to their task. He began to take several steps forward toward the creature. The slits of its eyes narrowed mischievously, and it began to flit about backward, continuing its beckoning motion all the while.
“Wait!” Link yelled, his throat still quite raw from yelling for his friends earlier. He drew upon reserves of strength he wasn’t aware of within himself and began to increase his pace. The laughter he had heard was growing louder as he followed, and he was sure that the source of it was the floating being. It continued to fly backward, its trajectory becoming erratic as it moved about, causing Link to curse it under his breath as the change in direction was sapping the little strength that he had found. It continued this way for several agonizing minutes before Link began to make out the shape of what appeared to be several pillars of varying sizes on the horizon. The creature slowed, allowing Link a moment to catch his breath as it floated lazily in their direction. Link followed reluctantly, having grown tired of this game that this mysterious creature was clearly playing with him. As they drew closer, Link was able to discern that the pillars looked to have been at one point part of a structure, but were now decrepit, their remains scattered about half-buried in sand. He looked about, unsure of why the creature had brought him here. There were no other landmarks in sight, and at first glance there wasn’t anything truly extraordinary about these remains.
“Why did you bring me here?” Link asked, projecting his voice enough that he believed would have allowed the creature to hear him. There was no reply, just a cold stare back at him as it hovered in a near motionless manner. It drew slightly closer to Link, affording him one full look at its shapeless, pitch black body underneath the cloak before giving an ear-piercing scream. Link covered his ears and took several steps back. The creature began to spin in place, gathering momentum until finally it vanished from sight. Link drew his sword and shield and began to move about in a circular fashion, bracing himself for what might strike. He began to notice figures emerging from the pillars around him, cloaked as the creature had been, but these beings were not floating. They had legs and were spinning about various weaponry in slow, menacing arches.
“Did you take Rukio and Epona!?” Link yelled. None of them responded. He planted his feet and prepared himself for a fight to the death. The figure in front of him began to lunge forward at him with the poleaxe it had been twirling. He would have responded in kind, were it not for the quick, blunt impact that he had felt before he could attack, ushering him into unconsciousness…