The Sheikah Slate transported him to Akh Va’quot Shrine by Rito Village. No matter how many times he did it, it usually dizzied Link, but not today. Today it was lost in the ragged beating of his heart and the jerky shaking of muscle and limbs. For a moment, Link's feet settled on the stone of the shrine. For a moment his knees held him. Then he trembled and sank to his knees. Around him, voices rose, soft at first but growing higher and higher. He recognized those voices, enough for distress to tug at him, but it was hard to focus. He closed his eyes and rested his head against the cool stone.
Three Divine Beasts free and one to go. But first a break. A small one. Long enough to breathe.
The voices rose and quieted, rose and quieted, and Link wished they would be stop. His head throbbed. Everything throbbed and shivered and ached and it was tempting to stay exactly where he was, head against the soothing stone until the crack of lightning faded from his bones. Sighing, the taste of sand heavy on his tongue and gritty against his teeth, Link told himself he needed to get up. Walk to the inn. It wasn’t far. Then he could rest.
“Link, what. What happened?”
Teba. Link squinted an eye. Through the blur of blood congealing on his eyelashes, Teba was barely recognizable, only his familiar white feathers soothing Link. Of course, there was something soothing about Teba, anyway. Of all the places, Link chose Rito Village for a reason. Gerudo Town was too risky, if not impossible. Prince Sidon always looked mournful and guilty when Link sought shelter there: unlike his sister, he had little healing skills. Stables were always awkward and too many people quick to panic. It was like they had never seen someone bleed before.
With effort, Link forced open both eyes. Teba didn’t look mournful: he looked worried and exasperated and already he was waving away the hatchlings, telling them that Link would be fine and go back to their practice, okay? Even with his body one large, shivery throb, Link couldn’t help a small smile when he heard Teba thank Tulin for his quick thinking and to go find his mother.
Soothing. Yes. Teba was soothing.
“Do I want to know what happened to you, Link?” Teba asked, tucking his feathers under Link’s chin to get a better look at his face.
Link shook his head and regretted it. No direct hits to his head, but it didn’t matter: Thunderblight Ganon thrashed him enough that everything hurt. Electricity still shuddered under his skin, and his hair clung to Teba’s feathers as Teba examined him.
It didn’t matter. After a hundred years, Urbosa was free. Only Daruk to go.
“Right,” Teba said, skepticism clear. “Can you walk or do I need to carry you?”
Did the Link of a hundred years ago get carried this much? Link remembered many things, but details like that escaped him.
In response, Link wobbled his hand at Teba. Burns covered the back of it, and Teba made an odd, angry coo noise. “That’s what I thought. Come on. Saki will be waiting for us.”
At the inn? Why would Saki be waiting? Link frowned at him, but Teba was too busy looking at the rest of him to notice. Link changed out of the Gerudo vai clothes into something more battle appropriate when he entered Vah Naboris, which Thunderblight Ganon promptly shredded and burned. Enough to protect most of his skin but not enough to keep Link from looking a mess. When Teba met Link’s eyes again, one incredulous brow raised, Link offered a sheepish shrug.
“Nothing to talk about,” Tebu breathed. “Right. All right. I’m going to wrap my wing around you. Let me know if I hit a bad spot and we’ll readjust.”
Link grunted. Carefully, Teba wrapped a wing around Link’s back, pausing when Link tensed. When Link shook his head (gently, this time) at him, Teba kept going. Most of his Thunderblight injuries were too his front. His back ached from skidding across Vah Naboris’s floor. It took him far too long to figure out how to use Thunderblight’s attacks against itself. Without Revali’s and Mipha’s aid and Urbosa’s worried advice, he wasn’t sure if he would have made it.
If Thunderblight was so dangerous, how would the fight with Ganon be?
With a soft grunt, Teba eased him to his feet. Link bit the inside of his cheek to keep from making a noise when the burn on his left thigh protested. Teba said nothing, only held still until his legs stopped shaking.
“You did good, Link.”
Link stared at him like he grew fins. Teba met his gaze once before he started walking forward. Legs not quite cooperating yet, Link stumbled along, leaning most of his weight against Teba. After two steps he started panting and Teba frowned at him, but he couldn’t stop. His chest still hurt from Thunderblight’s strikes; his throat burned from the dry, electric air.
“You came here, so yeah: you did good.” A step. Another. A little more weight leaned against Teba. “You see some of the younger warriors run off when they’re hurt instead of coming home for help and rest. It’s stupid. It just means it takes longer to heal, and if things get worse, there’s no one there to help.” Link blinked at Teba. Teba kept his eyes focused on the path ahead of them. “I don’t know what happened, but you did good coming here after.”
Link bit his lip and willed more strength to his legs. His right ankle felt shaky. When did that happen?
When he first woke up, the only reason he even knew his name was because Zelda told him. Then after he met the King’s spirit and began his journey, he realized his muscles knew moves his mind and body couldn’t match. Still, his foes were easy enough. He would find a quiet spot and recover his breath and strength and then go back out into the field. It was afterwards, when he left the Plateau and encountered fiercer foes, that he realized how alone he was. Kakariko was the first real sanctuary he found, but the weight of the expectations there kept him away.
No. Zora’s Domain was the first real sanctuary, followed by Rito Village. He hadn’t realized that before.
“Things get rough,” Teba continued, voice growing gruff, “you come here. You understand?”
Link nodded. Each motion seemed to fill his skull with more sand, and he surrendered and rested his cheek against Teba’s shoulder. Teba’s wing tightened around him.
When they hit the wooden steps, Link stumbled, and Teba paused to let him regain his balance and his breath. There was a strange metallic taste in his mouth and an even stranger jerk to his muscles. That fight had dragged on far too long. He needed to do better.
“Say the word and I’ll pick you up,” Teba murmured, then reconsidered. “Nod and I’ll pick you up.”
Even if it made his head spin a little, Link shook his head. At least nothing electric awaited him on Death Mountain. He just needed to fear catching on fire instead.
“Heh. Proud. All right. Just a little farther.”
Link couldn’t tell if it was a compliment or not. Still, he focused on the path in front of him and willed his heavy legs to keep moving. It kept blurring before his eyes and he couldn’t remember the exact way to the inn, but it was all right: he trusted Teba.
He couldn’t remember the exact battle. He barely recalled his injuries or how he got them. Everything was movemovemove and Thunderblight would knock him down and each time he pushed himself back up, adrenaline flooding his system until he could barely feel any pain, only his weapons in his hand. Only after, when Urbosa gifted him with her power and then told him to get his ass to safety and healing did he realize he was bleeding. Even the hairs on his arms stood on end, and getting Urbosa’s Fury didn’t help.
Up ahead, a high voice shouted, and Teba called something back. “Saki’s waiting for us. She has healing skills.” He scoffed, and his feathers brushed Link’s hair when he shook his head. “More than she would like, but she says she knew what she was in for when she chose to marry a warrior. We’re lucky to have her, huh, Link?”
His question was oddly coaxing. Link roused himself enough to nod. All he wanted was to sleep until his heart felt like it was beating normally again.
Suddenly, there was someone else beside him and another long wing supporting him. “No wonder you like him, Teba. He reminds me of you when you were younger.”
“Shut up, Harth.”
Supported between the two Rito, Link let himself go limp and be dragged down the wooden path. To his relief, the pain faded, replaced by exhaustion settling deep in his bones. He let his head loll against Teba’s shoulder and closed his eyes.
“Hey, hey! Link!”
“We’re almost there. Come --”
The darkness was warm and soothing. Link sighed and let himself slip away.
“-- looks like he got caught in a lightning storm.”
“Maybe a Lynel? I heard they have shock arrows.”
“I doubt it. He arrived right before the light came from the Gerudo Desert.”
“Do you think --”
“I think he’s waking up. Link? Can you hear me?”
Link groaned and rolled his head on something soft. There was something on his cheek, and he raised a hand to touch it. A feathery hand stopped him. “No touching the bandage.”
Teba. Memory flooded it and Link groaned again. He licked his lips and noted the sweet taste of healing potions replacing the annoying metallic taste from earlier. He felt better, Link realized, relieved. If still exhausted.
He opened his eyes to Teba’s familiar frown. Or perhaps that was just how his face looked. Link wasn’t sure. He dragged a smile and watched Teba roll his eyes.
Not the inn. Teba’s home. Link started pushing himself up, noting another bandage on his hand as he did so. With one hand, Teba easily pushed him back down. “You can relax there, tough guy.”
“After so many accidents himself, Teba knows the rules.” Link looked behind Teba to see Harth putting away cleaning supplies in an intimidatingly large kit and Saki frowning at an empty bottle. She glanced at Link, and her frown was frighteningly like her husband’s. “Even the strongest warriors can be killed if they don’t rest and heal.”
Link managed a weak smile at her. She looked unimpressed.
Allowing himself to relax, Link assessed the situation. He was on a futon instead of in a traditional Rito hammock and was grateful, if confused. He was also undressed down to his shorts under a thin blanket, but it was difficult to tell: thick white bandages covered most of the bared skin. Covering the burns, he supposed.
They could have taken him to the inn and called a healer, considering their job done. Instead, they brought him to their home and took care of him. Even with Link’s recalled memories, he could remember few times when someone else took care of him. Fewer still when they did it when it wasn’t their duty. Link swallowed and tasted the potion thick on his tongue. “Thank you,” he said softly.
The three Rito quieted. Link looked down at his scarred chest. A bandage covered his stomach, hiding a wound he didn’t recall obtaining, and right above it was the scar of the injury that killed him.
Princess Zelda. The Sheikah. Prince Sidon. Teba. Saki. Harth.
Urbosa, calling encouragement and advice in Vah Naboris. Revali, teasing and directing in Vah Medoh. Mipha, warm and supportive in Vah Ruta.
Even looking at that fatal scar, Link couldn’t stop smiling.
Teba’s hand fell on his head and ruffled his hair. “The futon is yours whenever you want it. You can repay us later with stories over wildberry wine.”
A brief flash of memory: sitting around a campfire with the other Champions, Revali passing around a bottle. Revali already slurring his words while Urbosa laughed at him, taking the bottle from where Zelda was examining it. He couldn’t remember what they were saying, but he remembered Mipha giggling, tipsy, and the ground shaking with every happy slap of Daruk’s hands.
Still smiling, Link nodded. He was still so tired, but he felt good . His journey was hard and not yet done, but he wasn’t alone. That counted far more than he imagined when he stood on the Plateau, looking down at Hyrule below.
He let his eyes drift shut again. “I can tell you about Revali,” he murmured, letting sleep claim him again.
“Wait, what --”