A chilly wind blew over the rocky pillars, the trees and shrubs rustling as the gale swept across the small bridge and blustered all around the little town. Late morning sunlight filtered down through a thin layer of clouds, glittering against the metal-coated shrine, its blue glow standing out against the soothing, orange sky. With a faint hum, an elevator rose up from the depths of the earth, coming to a stop within the tiny structure, and a young man stepped out into the open air, raising a brown-sleeved arm up to shield his eyes from the glare.
"Hmm..." Link hummed under his breath, brushing his messy bangs away when they drooped in front of his face, and he turned to stare at another one of the towering stone slabs, the smooth, rounded towers rising up from the earth far below. A faint shiver ran down his spine when the wind picked up strength, and he gave himself a quick once-over, pulling his simple green tunic tighter around his torso and reflexively tugging on the yellowed brim of his hat. He shook his head – after the windmills inside of the shrine itself, he'd hoped that the weather would have calmed down somewhat. "What next...?"
The Hylian stretched out somewhat as he took a step forward, hopping down to the grass and strolling towards the small viewing platform nearby, his eyes tracing across the landscape as he peered out at the snowy mountains off on the horizon. Flocks of wild birds hovered low, close to the water surrounding the Rito Village before swooping higher, and another, familiar orange glow shined below a pair of tattered flags, the telltale sign of yet another Sheikah trial waiting for him. Glancing at his hip, the young man pulled an ornately-carved stone slate from his belt, peering at the screen and aiming it right at the distant structure.
"If only they could all be so easy to find," He muttered, narrowing his eyes for a moment as he tapped a small button on the side of the slate, placing a bright, red pin where the shrine stood. Bringing his arms down again, he peered at his map for a second or two, nodding to himself and returning the mechanical wonder to his side afterward. "I guess I'll have to go looking around there sooner or later, so it's as good a place to start as any-"
Link jolted, a twitch running through his pointed ears when he heard a young, chirpy voice call out to him, accompanied by something tugging on the Master Sword's scabbard. He twisted around in search of the source of the voice... and his tension drained away when he saw a small, lavender birdgirl standing behind him, her wide eyes brimming with curiosity. His mouth curled upwards into a goofy, awkward smile at the sight, and he turned around fully, resting his hands on his hips and tapping the toes of his boots against the floorboards.
"Er... hello," The young Hylian replied, offering the Rito child a friendly wave. She cocked her head in response, looking more past the hero rather than at him, and he found himself tilting his head as well. "What? What is it?"
"You've got a funny hat, mister!" The tiny bird replied without hesitation, jumping up and down where she stood and wrapping a wing around the back of her head. "I've never met a Hylian with a hat like yours before! Are you trying to look like a Rito?"
"H-Huh?" Link stuttered out, blinking in surprise at the blunt remark, and he turned his head slightly, reaching up and patting the floppy end of his hat as it whipped about in the wind. He glanced back at the child as she patted her round mop of hair, and then he couldn't help but chuckle, smiling a bit wider as the realization dawned on him. "Ahh, heheh, I see what you mean now. No, this is... just a hat I found a while ago, somewhere far from here."
He couldn't help but feel somewhat wistful, thinking of the impulse he'd felt from the Sheikah Slate just before he left the Great Plateau for the first time. A story for another day, perhaps.
"Awww..." The bird cooed in mild disappointment, but she perked right back up a split-second later, hopping from side to side and looking all around at him, eyeing the bits and bobs of gear strapped to his back. Link brushed his hands over the bottom of his tunic, then bent over and dusted off his legs, the chilly mountain air still nipping at his exposed skin. "Then what are you doing here, mister? You've got a really cool sword, too! Are you a traveler?"
"Kheel?" Link paused just before he was about to answer, furrowing his brow slightly and peering around the viewing platform, and the bird girl – Kheel, apparently – spun around, her lavender plumage waving this way and that as she stumbled backwards. Link watched as she went, then peered towards the rest of the village, taking a step back and watching as a taller, green-feathered birdwoman strode her way over to the two of them. "Kheel, please, you mustn't run so far ahead of me! And you know better than to bother strangers!"
"Aww, but mom!" Kheel grumbled, but her mother shook her head, the ring-shaped bangles hanging from her temples catching the light.
"No buts! You know how much trouble I have looking after all of you!" Kheel looked down at her talons for a few moments as her mother continued, and then she stomped in a circle and flopped down onto the planks, resting her chin in her wings in a frump. Her mother trotted up the steps and onto the platform, and Link raised his head to look up at her when she walked over to him, dropping her voice to a softer, though no less tired, tone. "My apologies, sir. My name is Amali... I hope that Kheel hasn't bothered you at all."
"It's not a problem, ma'am, I promise," Link quickly answered, cheerfully waving his hands at the corset-clad Rito to reassure her that everything was okay. The tall bird eyed him for a moment, then let out a sigh and nodded as well, walking over to her child and sitting down next to her. Link paused to look at the pair – the mother leaning sideways and pulling her child up onto her lap – and then he slowly ambled over to them as well. Reaching back, he lifted the Master Sword, his shield, and his bow all off of his back, setting them down onto the platform before sitting down and stretching out. "To be honest, it was nice to have someone else start the conversation for a change."
"He's a traveler, mom!" Kheel said, wiggling back and forth on her mother's lap as she gestured towards the Hylian. Amali let her wing rest on her child's shoulders, trying her best to calm her down, even as she followed the girl's gaze over towards the hero. Link blinked, then reached back to sheepishly scratch underneath his hat, chuckling awkwardly as he ran his fingers through a nonexistent itch in his hair. "He's like mister Teba!"
"A traveler, hm? Yes, you do seem so..." Amali thought aloud, her tailfeathers twitching as she gave the Hylian a studious once-over; Link simply nodded in reply, idly taking the Master Sword in his hands and letting the legendary blade rest in his lap, twiddling his thumbs atop its scabbard. The green-plumed Rito sighed when she caught sight of the blade, her hair waving in the wind as she shook her head. "I don't suppose you really are here to risk your life against that beast, mister traveler?"
"Er. Well, I guess you could say it's something... like that..." Link trailed off when a massive shadow fell over them, and he found himself craning his neck to look skyward, frowning somewhat as he watched the massive mechanical bird drift in front of the sun. An ominous red glow pulsed from its numerous moving parts, and the wind seemed to pick up strength as it flew over the platform, fanblades whirring. Amali's head turned towards the Divine Beast as well, her cheeks creasing as she, too, gained a frown. "I was told to speak with the elder last night when I arrived, but I thought it better to go to the inn and rest until morning."
"Mmm... I should warn you against doing something so foolish, but I can tell you plan to try regardless of what anyone says, don't you?" Amali replied, a faint, dry sparkle playing in her eyes as she spoke. Link let his chin drop at that, staring thoughtfully at his boots, and the birdwoman let out a quiet, melancholy laugh. "I'm sorry... now I'm the one who's being rude. Between Harth's wing being wounded and Teba vanishing, the village has been struggling for some time now."
"Yeah! Ever since it showed up, it keeps trying everyone out of the sky!" Kheel piped up, fidgeting grumpily as she looked up and pulled a face at the circling machine. Link's eyebrows quirked upward as the child balled her wings into fists, Amali flinching in the meantime. "Notts has been having trouble singing, Cree's been all mopey and sad, and mom and my sisters and I can't go to Warbler's Nest to practicing singing... nrrrgh, that Divine Beast Vah Medoh is a big jerk!"
"Kheel!" Amali exclaimed, her expression shocked. "Watch your language!"
Link hummed under his breath, mulling over the Rito's words even as Kheel half-heartedly apologized for her outburst. Despite how pleasant the innkeeper and the guards had been last night, and the lovely countryside surrounding the place, he had easily picked up on the frustration that had been simmering throughout the village. To hear much of it laid bare, and by such a young girl, no less, made him ball his own hands up in irritation. The struggles of the Zora, especially those who remembered him, had left him reeling, and the cheerful Gorons had helped to bolster his determination, but...
"What a mess." Amali and Kheel both stopped squabbling with each other when he spoke, watching as he set the Master Sword aside, curled his knees up, and shot Vah Medoh a steely stare. He kept a hand close to the pommel of the holy blade, an uneasy feeling setting in the longer he saw the flying beast circle around Rito Village.
"Um... mister? Are you okay?" The lavender bird said softly, rolling onto her knees and clambering off of her mother's lap, nudging the stone slab on the Hylian's hip, trying to get his attention. The push jolted Link out of his trance, and he glanced at the young girl, a small blush of embarrassment staining his cheeks. Kheel smiled... then hopped up into the air when a noise emanated from the Sheikah Slate, her feathery fingers brushing over one of its buttons. "Whuh!? What was that?"
"Eheh, it was just something of mine," Link hastily replied, pulling the slate from his belt and swiping his fingers over its screen, his nerves twitching in satisfaction at the sight of the numerous blue specks that littered the display. Leaning sideways, he scooted a bit closer to the pair of Rito, holding the map out for them to see. "Here... I don't know how interesting it is, but if you want, you can see all the parts of Hyrule I've been to."
"Oh wow, that's so cool!" Kheel chirped happily, bouncing backwards a little bit as she stared eagerly at the Sheikah Slate's screen. Amali reached a wing out, scooping her child back up into her arms, but she, too, was clearly interested, her eyes taking on a curious – almost hopeful – glimmer the moment the man had offered the map to them. Kheel struggled to contain her excitement, wiggling around on her mother's lap as she voiced her wonder. "Woaaah... so you've really been to all of these places? You've seen a lot of Hyrule!"
"Yeah, but not all of it. Not yet." Link smiled distantly, pushing the thought of Vah Medoh out of his mind for a time, wistfully thinking back over his journey. His long-past awakening on the Great Plateau, taming Catherine and riding out to Kakariko and Hateno, exploring the land and hunting down the ancient shrines... navigating the Lost Woods and spending some days with the Koroks, then taking the Master Sword and freeing Mipha and Daruk... "I can't rest until I've gone everywhere, and trained as much as I can."
"Why's that? What'cha training for, mister?" Kheel cocked her head left, then right, peering up from the map and staring right into the adventurer's face, her shoulders raised in anticipation.
"I..." Link paused to think for a moment, then continued, speaking carefully. "There's someone very important to me out there, and they need my help. They've been waiting for me for a long time."
"Aw..." The young bird mumbled, slumping forward a little bit, then turning her gaze from Link to Amali; the green-plumed Rito didn't even notice, looking at Link with a sympathetic expression. "Mom and my sisters and I are waiting for someone, too."
"Yes..." Amali added, and Link perked up somewhat at her voice, which had grown soft, and ever-so-slightly sad. He curled his legs a bit tighter and wrapped his arms around them, trying his best to stave off the wind as it blustered over the high platform, the trees and bushes rustling loudly all the while. "Someone special to us has been out traveling for a long time now. I... wonder sometimes if they will ever come back home."
"I hope he'll come home soon..." Kheel said, smiling hopefully and looking down towards the bridges leading away from the village, the trail winding its way south, leading deep into the craggy hillside. "Maybe he'll come back when Vah Medoh stops attacking everyone! Then we can all go to Warbler's Nest and sing to his songs, right, mom?"
Link leaned forward a bit, looping one of his long sideburns back in front of his pointy ears when the breeze blustered his hair about, narrowing his eyes as he processed Kheel's remark... and then, after a couple of seconds, he understood.
Tugging on the yellow brim of his hat, he let a confident smile spread out across his features, slowly getting up, returning the Sheikah Slate to his hip, and giving Amali a pat on her shoulder. The bird woman tensed up somewhat, her long, floppy-hat-esqe hair whipping as she whirled around to stare at the young man.
"I should probably go meet with the elder now, but..." Link briefly stole a peek at the stables, far below them. "He's doing just fine, and I'm sure he'll be back soon. I promise."
Amali stared in silence... then smiled happily, reaching up and running the tips of her feathery fingers over the Hylian's hand. "What's your name again? I don't think you ever mentioned it."
"Link." He replied, without hesitation. "My name is Link."
"Thank you, Link." Amali replied, Kheel hopping off her lap and trotting around the flight platform, the shrine glowing a soothing blue all the while.