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The River Ever Runs

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For a few groggy seconds, he stares, failing to comprehend the meaning of the empty bed and missing pack beside his. Then it clicks. With a bitten-off curse, Ganon throws back the covers and rolls out of bed to his feet, grabbing his belongings as he goes. The stable inn is empty bar a few travelers – none of whom are Link – and he strides outside, heart thudding wildly in his chest. The Hero isn’t out here, either. There’s a tightness in his stomach; he must have done something to scare him off without realizing, or else he really did remember something of their past battles, and—

Wait. His horse!

Telma is still in the stall, chewing placidly on a handful of hay.

He exhales in a rush, panic flooding out of his system almost as quickly as it blossomed. If Link’s horse is still here, then the boy must be around somewhere as well.

“Ah, you’re awake!” He turns to see the stablemaster passing by, hauling a bundle of firewood. “Your friend left quite early today.”

“Did he say where he was going?”

The stablemaster shrugs one shoulder as best he can with the firewood in his arms. “Sorry, no – all he said was he’d be back for dinner and could we please feed his horse in the meantime.” And with that, the man leaves, clearly more preoccupied with his chores than with conversation.

All the panic’s run out of Ganon by now, replaced with confusion and irritation in equal parts. He leans on the fence that cordons off one of the livestock yards to take stock of the situation. What could the boy possibly have to do that was so urgent he couldn’t even take a moment to wake him up? Or at least stop to leave a note? It’s downright rude to go haring off without so much as letting him know, and courtesy aside, it’s common sense to keep your travel companions informed if—

Oh.

His line of thought stops dead in its tracks. Now that he thinks about it… Yes, the Hero’s long sleep could have something to do with it, but – now that he thinks about it – he’s only ever seen the boy be alone. Alone, or with the Princess, and she’s obviously not here now. Whenever they’ve crossed blades, it’s generally ended in a one-on-one duel. Perhaps Link genuinely didn’t think to tell him.

A curiously uncomfortable thought to start the day on. When Link told him he planned on facing the Divine Beasts alone, he’d chalked it up to sheer recklessness: the exact same recklessness that had once driven a boy from the forest to stare up in defiant silence at him as though daring him to strike, even though the blood of Hyrule’s king was still fresh on his blade. But perhaps, he’s forced to consider, that’s not it, or not the entirety of it.

Perhaps he’d looked surprised at Ganon’s offer of help not because he thought he didn’t need it, but because he simply hadn’t expected it.

That final thought takes the wind out of his sails completely, replacing irritation with – something. He’s not sure what, exactly.

At the very least, he can be sure Link plans to return, else he wouldn’t have left his horse behind. He exhales again and starts digging through his pack for his comb. In the time it takes for him to eat breakfast and brush out his hair the last of the lingering adrenaline fades, and he feels like a person again. He’s not sure what he should do, but he’s most certainly not going to wait around like an abandoned sand seal for the boy to reappear – so he decides he might as well scout the area. 

He rides out north from the stable and follows the road as it bends to cross the river. There’s another shrine glowing blue on a small island where the river forks. This one must be new from today, he wagers; Link told him on their first night at the Duelling Peaks Stable he’d never been to this part of Hyrule that he could recall. There’s no sign of him, though: he must have already moved on. He makes a mental note to ask him what those shrines are actually for, later.

If Ganon was hoping his scouting might turn up a worthy challenge – a band of moblins, perhaps, or at least a lizalfos pack – he’s disappointed. Riverside Stable, it seems, is truly idyllic. Hyrule Castle is far enough away that even the guardians don’t bother roaming this far out. There’s a bokoblin camp in the forest across the river, which he discovers once he’s already on his way back and takes care of in short order, and another by the banks, and precious little else to disturb the peace. 

The late afternoon sun on the River Hylia makes it look like liquid gold as heads back towards the stable. If Link isn’t back by now, he reasons, he’d be well within his rights to start searching for him –

An orange glow catches his eye through the trees.

At first he thinks it might be a shrine, but as he dismounts his horse and draws closer he sees that it’s a… pinwheel? It’s a pinwheel, sticking out of a tree stump, spinning gently in the river breeze. It looks completely normal, apart from the fact that it glows almost exactly the same shade as the sunset sky to the west.

Ganon smiles to himself. As with the statues, he can’t feel any magic on it – that would defeat the point of hiding, he supposes – but if it’s not another one of those forest spirits, he’ll eat his coronet. At least now he’ll have something other than bokoblin teeth to show for his day of scouting. Assuming he can figure out how to get the creature to show itself, that is: somehow he doubts offering the pinwheel apples is likely to draw it out of hiding. He steps closer to examine it in greater detail, and the question answers itself as three large balloons burst into existence, floating in the air. Each one has a target painted on it.

He almost laughs: what are the chances the creature’s test would be so suited to his skills? Hitting the moving targets might be a challenge for an archer, but he has no need for arrows. He glances around just to make sure he’s not being watched – he is not – and then he rolls his shoulders and stretches one hand towards the floating balloons. Drawing on his magic, he channels it upward, gathering it in his palm.

Three small lightning orbs spring from his fingertips and arc towards the balloons, which burst instantly upon contact. There’s a shower of sparks.

“Yahaha! You found me!”

“Indeed.”

The Korok presses a seed into his palm, and Ganon inclines his head in thanks before returning to his horse and continuing on his way. It’s only polite, after all.

He’s almost back to the stable when his attention snags on two trees a little ways beyond it. Something about them feels off, but for a few seconds he can’t figure out what it is – until he realizes quite suddenly that he passed by that exact spot in the morning and there was only one tree there.

He leaves his horse to the stablemaster’s care and wanders over to the not-tree. It turns out to be a Korok, sure enough, but larger than the two others he’s seen so far, by several orders of magnitude. It’s taller than he is. It’s also holding a pair of startlingly crimson maracas, for Din knows what reason. This, he thinks, must be what Link referred to as the big one; he can hardly imagine them getting much bigger and still being mobile.

The Korok pays him no mind as he approaches, which stands to reason, if it’s assuming he can’t see it. Ganon bites down on a smirk, leans against the actual tree, and takes a good look at the creature before saying casually, “You must be the one who expanded Link’s bag.”

“SH – SHALAKA?” the Korok cries, turning towards him in comical overreaction. “You can see me too?” 

It’s very off-putting, Ganon thinks, to see a tree wiggle like that.

“No,” he says dryly. “I can’t.”

“Oh.” The Korok’s bark eyebrows droop in disappointment. “I thought… W—wait a minute, shaka! If you can’t see me, how can you hear me?”

Ganon hastily turns a laugh into a cough: sarcasm clearly isn’t this one’s strong suit. “I jest.” He waves a hand. “I can see you, truly.” The creature wiggles happily again, and he makes a mental note to avoid saying anything that could make it do that in the future.

The Korok’s name, he learns, is Hestu, and he is lost. 

“I’m trying to get home, but it’s really hard to find. They’re not kidding when they call them the Lost Woods, shala-laka! My grandpa always said to follow the river north, but there’s so many of them, I can’t tell which river to follow, shalako!”

“Well, that one in particular is the River Hylia, if it helps,” Ganon replies with faint amusement, crossing his arms. “And this is Central Hyrule, if I’m not much mistaken.” Leaving the forest without even bothering to find out if there’s more than one river in the vicinity is laughably foolish; he wonders if all Koroks are like this one. The other two at least seemed content to be where they were.

“R-really, shaka?! Then that means the Lost Woods is even further north. Thank you, mister!”

“Think nothing of it,” he murmurs automatically, suddenly distracted by the figure he spies coming up the road.

Link’s returned.

He raises his hand in quiet greeting and Link returns a wave, breaking out into a light jog as he approaches. The personal thundercloud he’d been carrying around all evening yesterday appears to have cleared; his eyes are bright and his expression unguarded, and he greets them both with a friendly nod.

“Propitious timing,” Ganon says, and tosses him the seed, which Link snatches out of the air and turns over in his palm, head tilting. “This is the one that expanded your pack, no? I would see it for myself.” It’s only after he’s said the words that he realizes how much they sounded like a command – how he slipped instinctively into royal bearing – but Link doesn’t seem to have noticed anything amiss.

“All right,” he shrugs, and reaches into his pack for more seeds to offer Hestu.

It turns out to be a mistake. Ganon’s fairly certain the Korok’s strange dance will be returning to haunt his dreams at some point. And he’s not even significantly more sure as to how the magic on Link pack works by the end of it. Is the dancing a necessary component of the spell? The maracas clearly are, as ridiculous as that is. He’ll stick to standard spatial magic, thank you very much, he decides.

“I regret having asked,” he mutters as they return to the stable for the night. “Unnerving doesn’t begin to cover that display.”

Link turns away, but he can hear his quiet chuckle behind his hood.



The following morning dawns blustery, with patchy clouds that the sun starts to clear as they set off. The stablemaster gave them directions to the next stable along the road to Zorana – Wetland Stable is the name, which Ganon finds unflattering, but perhaps Hylian sensibilities are different.

They haven’t even reached the river when a scream from up ahead shatters the early morning stillness.

Link is the first to react, driving his heels into Telma’s flanks and darting ahead; Ganon takes a moment to put a settling hand on his own horse’s neck before following. Despite the scream, he’s not too worried: if there were anything more dangerous than a bokoblin around, he’s fairly certain he would have found it yesterday. Sure enough, a bokoblin is exactly what it turns out to be. The thing is wielding a crude club fashioned from a branch, and is currently preoccupied with hopping excitedly over the body of a Hylian woman – judging from the lack of blood, she’s most likely unconscious, not dead.

Which is more than the bokoblin will be able to say in a moment: ahead of him, Link draws his sword and spurs his horse into a full gallop; as he rushes past, he throws out a backhanded swing so powerful the bokoblin goes flying over the edge of the bridge. There’s a splash, the sound of Telma rearing with a whinny, and then peace is once again restored. By the time Ganon makes his (unhurried) way to the two, Link’s already helping the Hylian up.

“She should learn to use a sword if she insists on coming out here alone,” he says, unimpressed, after they see her off back towards the stable. No self-respecting Gerudo would ever put themselves in such a precarious position, he’s sure. This sort of lack of judgement is typical of Hylians, though he doesn’t voice his opinions out loud. No point in antagonizing the Hero when their journey’s only just begun. 

They cross another bridge and crest the next ridge, and beyond it they find the reason for the Wetland Stable’s moniker. It looks like some goddess has laid an enormous mirror out across the land, to reflect the soaring blue of the sky. The shallow water is dotted with trees and swaying fleet-lotus flowers, and the sunlight sparkles off it like silver; in the distance he can see the remains of a village.

It must have been beautiful, once.

Link has his Slate out, and is using its scope function to look out across the water to the Sheikah tower that glows orange atop a distant hill.

“Anything?”

Link hums. “Lizalfos on the water, moblin near the tower.” Then he sucks in a sudden breath through his teeth. “Hinox on the far island,” he adds, pointing to a small thicket. It lies directly in their path to the tower.

Damn. No wonder the road veers off northward instead of cutting straight across the wetland towards Zora’s Domain. Lizalfos are already dangerous enough that the average traveler would probably want to steer clear, but a hinox is in another class entirely.

“We can probably take it,” he offers, although fighting hinoxes isn’t his favorite pastime by any means. There’s no skill involved, as there would be with a lynel or a molduga; fighting a hinox is a matter of endurance, of simply hacking away at a mountain of flesh that could crush you just by sitting on you (and will almost certainly attempt to do so). He’s somewhat relieved when Link shakes his head. Thus decided, they turn away and continue along the road.

They’ve almost made it to the stable, by Ganon’s estimation, when they spot another commotion. A pair of travelers, beset by yet more bokoblins. The man is swinging ineffectually at one with a short sword, while the woman is preoccupied fending the other off with what looks like the lid off a cooking pot. They’re very clearly out of their depth.

“Oh, for Din’s – does everyone in Hyrule need saving today?” he snaps irritably. Link doesn’t bother answering, already in motion, sword drawn as he spurs Telma on. Ganon rolls his eyes, but follows suit, breaking into a gallop. As he reaches the first of the two bokoblins, he throws himself from his horse, rolling and drawing his claymore on the way back up and feeding the forward momentum into a horizontal swing that cleaves the boko nearly in two. A ways away, Link dispatches the other handily, to the two Hylians’ wide-eyed amazement.

“Th–thank you!” the man stumbles over his words, bracing himself heavily on his knees. “I guess this goes to show I need to train even harder to protect my love!”

Ganon’s eyebrows inch towards his hairline despite himself. Train harder, indeed.

The pair are called Sorelia and Tye, it turns out. Newlyweds searching for, of all things, a flower. And not just any flower, but a silent princess – possibly the rarest flower in existence – to swear their love by. To that end, they insist on staying out in the forest instead of accompanying them to the stable, no matter that, as Ganon points out, night is fast approaching.

The entire affair leaves a sour taste in his mouth. If they had a lick of sense they’d swear their love over a common blue nightshade and stop risking themselves needlessly. Romantic notions are a flimsy shield against monster claws. He goes to fetch his horse, unable to refrain from muttering under his breath about “typical irresponsible Hylians.” These two, he reflects as he adjusts the saddle, remind him of exactly the sort of Hylians he most abhorred in his youth: feckless, more concerned with fantasy than reality, always taking their peace and plenty for granted. When he returns, Link’s looking at him with an odd expression.

“You…” the boy coughs. He sounds uncertain. “Don’t like Hylians?” he says at last, and Ganon freezes. Shit. He hadn’t thought Link would actually be able to overhear – Hylians and their damn ears.

“I…” A thousand memories flash through his mind. Hunger, suspicion, despair. Blood and dust. “I like them just fine, when they’re not throwing their lives away over nothing.” That’s closer to the truth than it would have been, once; he has no love for Hylians, but the ones he’s met in the past few weeks have little enough to do with the ones from his time, and they’ve done nothing to earn his ire as of yet. Foolish sentimentality is a minor sin at most.

Link hums thoughtfully, as if not totally convinced by the answer – but he lets the subject lie, and they manage to reach the stable without any further upsets.

As it happens, they hear signs of the stable before they see it: the mellow sound of an accordion, carried on the warm, late afternoon breeze. Following the melody, they ride over a hill and find themselves practically on top of it. It’s almost more beautiful than the Riverside Stable, Ganon thinks – a fact entirely due to its placement on the side of this hill. Beyond it lies almost all of Hyrule: fields, mountains, and open sky. The sun is just starting to set behind Hyrule Castle, turning it into a dramatic silhouette, as they enter the stable ring and dismount.

The wistful music turns out to belong to a… humanoid bird? It looks male, with bright, sky-blue feathers and an impressively large beak. In its hands – wings? – is an accordion, which it plays with remarkable dexterity for a creature with no actual fingers. After a moment’s consideration, Ganon realizes that he actually recognizes the race. It’s a Rito; he’s seen them before.

A blur of brown and white feathers, snatching the Hero and the Princess from his grasp – heat and light, fire—

He shakes his head to clear it and turns with the intention of asking Link something-or-other about tomorrow’s itinerary, but Link isn’t there. Instead he’s approaching the Rito, a look of open fascination on his face.

“Greetings, traveler. How about a song?” The Rito’s friendly gaze roves over Link, reaches his hip, and catches, eyes going wide. “Th-that there… on your hip! … No, I’m sorry – it’s nothing. I didn’t mean to pry,” he finishes unconvincingly.

He recognizes the Sheikah Slate? Hmm. Ganon tries to catch Link’s eye, but the other man’s attention is entirely on the Rito; the strangeness of a non-Sheikah recognizing the Slate appears to have slipped by him. He understands why when Link says, “are you a… bird?” Ganon has to duck his head to avoid the surprised laugh that threatens to burst out of him. Din’s fire, the boy is direct to a fault.

“Have you… never met a Rito before? Odd.” He seems surprised, but quickly recovers. “My name is Kass. As a bard—” Ganon snorts at the unintentional pun, and the Rito’s eyes flit briefly to him before returning to Link – “I spend my days traveling this land in search of ancient songs. Have you heard the ancient songs of Hyrule?”

Link shakes his head.

“Ancient songs – songs that sing the praises of a hero who beat back the Calamity in an age past,” Kass clarifies. “One of the more famous among them recounts the events of ten thousand years ago.”

Oh. So that’s what the bird is on about. He starts to look for a way to discreetly draw Link away from the conversation. He doubts a folk song will jog his memory if standing in one of the very spots he’d once visited with the Princess didn’t, but there’s no point in tempting fate.

“I happen to know it; it was passed down to me by my teacher. Do you care to hear it?” And Link is nodding, and Ganon realizes it’s too late to redirect the conversation – and the other people in the stable are gathering to hear the Rito’s song, as well. He takes a step back as the Rito launches into the melody.

Everyone in the stable is engrossed by the song, and despite himself, Ganon’s attention is caught, too; the Rito does have a talent for theater, he has to admit. As the bard tells of the fight that occurred ten thousand years ago, he finds himself remembering it despite himself – and shudders. It’s no wonder the Hylians committed it to song; that defeat had been one of his most brutal and humiliating.

It had been raining, he remembers that. Not a thunderstorm, but a fine, mist-like drizzle that had beaded on his armor and in his hair. He remembers the sudden, seizing pain as those infernal machines had blasted his protections away; the golden light pouring from the Princess’ hand, the Hero’s flinty gaze as he held the swordpoint to his chest and stabbed down

A touch at his elbow makes him jump, suddenly jerked back to the present. The song is over, and Link is looking up at him with something that looks to Ganon absurdly close to concern. He realizes suddenly that his hands are tightly fisted, and he makes a conscious effort to relax.

“All right?” Link asks, low enough that nobody else can hear. Ganon’s seized by the sudden urge to laugh, and he clamps down on it, hard. Din’s fire, he has no idea what to do with a compassionate Hero. He nods mechanically and takes a breath to unstick the words from his throat.

“Just lost in thought.”

He can’t quite shake the strange cold that seems to have settled in his bones for the rest of the night, though.

It’s still dark outside when Link leaves the shelter of the stable and sits himself down by the cooking fire to prepare their food for the next leg of the journey. The Wetland Stable is less sheltered than the Riverside Stable; the breeze that comes down from the Zorana uplands is gentle, but carries a hint of cold.

They procured supplies from the stable last night – actual sugar, and wheat all the way from Tabantha – so he decides to start with a set of small, single-portion apple pies. As he peels and cores the apples with his knife, his thoughts turn inevitably towards Dagah. He’s more and more certain the man has secrets he’s not sharing (the way he reacted to Link’s sword at his neck, still and wide-eyed, like he’d actually expected him to follow through – the sort of shadow he’s seen crossing his face a few times now – and just what would make him tense like that, like it was a real fight?) but he has no idea what those secrets could be. Whatever they are, it doesn’t look like they’re happy memories, not by a long shot.

Unhappy memories, or no memories, he muses as he simmers the fruit, stirring so it doesn’t burn. He wonders which of the two of them would be the more unlucky. Either way, it’s not his place to pry; if Dagah doesn’t want to share, that’s his prerogative.

… Still. He can’t help but be curious.

Oh. Speak of a talus and find one under your feet, he thinks. There’s the man now, rising with the sun. He must have been restless last night, because his hair is an absolute bird's nest, which is… completely at odds with his dignified bearing, and therefore unreasonably hilarious. Link’s fingers twitch – he really wants to run his fingers through it and work out the tangles. It looks soft. Instead he turns back to his cooking.

(Maybe he’ll try, once he’s sure Dagah won’t take it the wrong way. After all, he tells himself again, they have a long journey ahead of them. There’s time.)

“... ‘morning.” Dagah’s voice is rough from sleep, and Link hands him one of the still-warm pies as he sits beside him. He doesn’t miss the small, appreciative sound the larger man makes as he bites into it, and turns away to hide a smile. He must have been a decent enough cook before his memories were lost, because it’s deeply ingrained enough to be instinctive, now.

Link turns to savory meals – glazed meat, sautéed mushrooms, things that will keep for a few days – as Dagah starts combing out his wild mane of hair. Once it’s back in its customary tail and pinned back by his coronet, he unfolds his map, and Link pulls out the Sheikah Slate to compare it with the markers he’s set. Between the two, they manage to estimate how long it’ll take them to reach the Sheikah Tower, as well as a rougher estimate for Zora’s Domain. The terrain looks difficult – Zora’s Domain lies nestled in the center of what is essentially a mountain range – but there is a road that leads straight to it. Unfortunately, Dagah’s map doesn’t tell them much more than that. He wonders again how the Sheikah Towers manage to produce such a perfectly detailed map, down to the last tree.

“Assuming the road’s been properly maintained, then it depends on how much resistance we meet,” Dagah concludes. “Three days at the outside, I’d wager – though we might reach it in two if the weather holds.”

Link nods and starts packing the food into his bag, though not before taking a large bite of his own pie.

“By the way,” Dagah says abruptly, brow furrowed. “You… do have a plan for dealing with the Divine Beasts once we get there, yes?”

Link snorts despite himself – he hasn’t had any plan more substantive than ‘travel to the next marker on the map, figure things out once you’re there’ since he woke up. 

“Nope,” he says wryly, polishing off the last of the pie. Dagah stares at him incredulously for a moment before sighing.

“Of course. Why would we need a plan? Improvisation it is.” He pinches the bridge of his nose; Link claps him on the shoulder as he rises. Then, with no other reason to linger, they pack up the rest of their things and set off into the gentle morning.

About halfway to the tower, they spot a shrine out on a small island in the middle of the Zora River.

It’s a delay, but the shrines are useful and he wants to investigate it; once he explains their purpose to Dagah, the other man agrees to watch their horses while Link is otherwise occupied. He’s about to activate the cryonis rune on his Slate to build himself a stepping-stone bridge to the island when a voice calls out to them, quite suddenly.

“Oh! You two there! Hylians!”

Link starts minutely, glancing over reflexively at Dagah in surprise before looking around. He can’t see anyone around them; the road is clear. Where...?

“Over here! I’m over here!” It sounds like the shout is coming from somewhere out in the river. As he and Dagah approach the edge of the water, the owner of the voice surfaces next to them, and Link blinks.

It’s a… fish?

“I am Ledo, a proud member of the distinguished Zora,” the fish – Zora, rather – says; then, incredibly, he bows. Link’s not sure how he manages it, almost fully submerged in deep water like that, but it’s unmistakably a bow. “Ah, but now that I am closer, I see that you are a Gerudo! My apologies!” Out of the corner of his eye, Link sees Dagah incline his head in response.

“Regardless,” Ledo continues, “as you are both members of land-dwelling races, I had no choice but to call upon you!” His voice takes on an urgent note. “Do you see that tower over there? I need you to go upstream of the Zora River there, to Inogo Bridge. Now – I can imagine you thinking, ‘why us’? A reasonable question for two travelers accosted by a passing Zora in such a manner!”

As it happens, Link was thinking no such thing – but he’s having too much fun listening to Ledo speak to correct him. He’s so formal it manages to shoot straight past pompous and land on charming.

“... But I must assure you, this venture will be profitable for you as well!” Ledo continues. “For you see, Prince Sidon of the Zora is in desperate search of a strong Hylian – or Gerudo! And as this is a request from the Prince himself, it’s safe to assume a generous reward is in the cards—”

“We were already heading that way,” Dagah cuts him off. “If your Prince is there, we’ll meet with him; you can be sure of that.”

“How wonderful! I will inform Prince Sidon of your imminent arrival!” And just as quickly as he surfaced, the Zora disappears back underwater.

“... I forgot how much they talk,” Dagah mutters under his breath, and Link exhales a breath of laughter.

Now – about that shrine.

By mid-afternoon, they’re standing just north-west of the tower, trying to decide on a plan of attack. By himself, Link might have simply scaled up the back of the hill the tower sits on, and evaded most of the monsters that way. But now there’s two of them – and, if he’s honest with himself, he’s eager to see Dagah in action when there’s more than a single boko to challenge him. Based on their sparring match from before, he has a feeling it’ll be worth seeing.

Although – he eyes the rickety platforms constructed by the lizalfos out on the open water, then the Gerudo beside him. They’re the only way of reaching the tower without taking a dip, and they don’t look particularly stable.

“Can you… swim?”

Dagah shoots him one of his flat looks. “Would I be offering to accompany you if I couldn’t? I’m a Gerudo, not an idiot.”

Link raises both hands in a mollifying gesture, though he knows he probably looks far too amused for his own good. He hangs back slightly and lets Dagah take the lead as they step out onto the wooden platforms. The lizalfos spot them almost immediately, and he lets them approach, standing completely still as they scramble towards him – and then they’re within his reach.

It’s like watching lightning strike. Dagah explodes into action, skewering one of the lizalfos before it can react; he grabs the second by the tail as it whips it around to strike, and uses its own momentum to toss it into the water almost casually; Link follows up with an arrow through the monster’s eye as Dagah rips his claymore from the first corpse and delivers a crushing blow to the third and final lizalfos. Link can’t help but whistle a low, impressed note at the sheer savagery of his technique. It’s a style clearly designed to do a maximum of damage in a minimum of time – and Dagah is very good at it, that he can tell.

“Shall we?” He extends one arm towards the tower in mock invitation; there’s a splash of green blood on his cheek. Link rolls his shoulders and strides casually past.

They make short work of the rest of the creatures on the promontory; navigating the narrow, rocky path that winds up it without losing their footing is almost a bigger challenge than the monsters themselves. A short while later, Link’s hauling himself up over the edge of the tower’s central platform. He leans back over to help Dagah, who’d started lagging behind by the third or fourth ledge, pulling him up with a grunt of effort. He honestly shouldn’t be surprised at how heavy the man is – he’s obviously pure brawn under the amour. He wonders if all Gerudo are that strong.

“I’m curious to see how it works,” he says as Link docks the Sheikah Slate in the pedestal. He watches intently as the tower – well, Link’s not sure exactly what it is that it does, but he ends up with a map once it’s done, and that’s the important part as far as he’s concerned. He zooms in on the Zora River, looking at it critically: it doesn’t look like an easy journey, that’s clear enough. The terrain between them and Zora’s Domain is both rugged and heavily-wooded, and the road winds and doubles back on itself multiple times. 

“We may be able to cut across here, and… here,” Dagah says, pointing to a few spots on the map; he looks serious, concentrated.

An idea pops into Link’s head. It’s not a good idea by any means, but it’s very, very tempting. He returns the Slate to its spot on his hip and peers over the edge of the platform.

“How far down to our horses?” he asks; Dagah blinks, taken aback.

“Perhaps… a quarter mile, as the crow flies?” he estimates. Link agrees.

He takes a running start and throws himself off the top of the tower.

The wind whistling in his ears isn’t loud enough to drown out Dagah’s surprised cry as he flings himself off the platform, free-falling for an exhilarating fraction of a second before unfolding his paraglider with a juddering snap. As his momentum slows, he angles himself back down towards their horses, touching down gently on the opposite shore of the Zora River. Turning back towards the tower, he gives a cheerful wave in the direction of the hilltop, and settles to wait. He keeps an innocent expression firmly on his face as Dagah finally crosses the wooden platforms back to the north bank a few minutes later.

“A little warning perhaps, next time,” the Gerudo growls as they mount their horses again. He looks like he’s profoundly annoyed and only half trying to hide it.

Link bites down on a chuckle and spurs Telma into a trot.

Definitely worth it.

They’re drawing close to Inogo Bridge when water splashes against Link’s cheek. He looks up, surprised – rain? But the sky was clear not five minutes ago. And yet, it’s definitely starting to rain. Beside him Dagah mutters a curse and draws his hood up.

“I don’t see the Zora Prince,” he says. “Perhaps we should find shelter instead.” The bridge certainly seems deserted, Link has to admit; maybe he’s somewhere in the river itself? He draws closer to the enormous pillars that flank the bridge, scanning the water for any sign of a Zora – and then a voice comes from above.

“Say, hey there!”