Hyrule Field was quiet and peaceful, showing nothing of the turmoil that had plagued the past 24 hours. The road leading down from Castle Town had been free of traffic, which the four of them had been quite grateful for-- Green made an offhand joke as they left that if there had been, Zelda would have stomped out after them and moved it herself. The sky was a clear cloudless blue above them, the grass soft and springy at the side of the packed-earth path, and the only thing that disturbed the air was the friendly bickering between Blue and Green.
“I’m just saying!” Green deftly dodged as Blue shoved at his shoulder. “There’s no way you could travel the whole length of the field by rolling, you’d throw up from motion sickness before you were a quarter of the way there! And besides,” he added as he hooked an ankle behind Blue’s, causing the other to stumble with a swear, “what would you do with your sword? It’d trip you up before you rolled more than three or four times.”
“You’d have to hold it out from your body,” Blue argued right back, hip-checking Green off the path and into the weeds off the side. “As long as you kept your elbow straight and locked you’d be fine! And I’m not saying to roll all the way, but if you pace it right you’d save at least half an hour from the edge of Ordon.”
Vio snorted at that, a pace or two behind them. “Would it really be worth it?” he asked, eyebrow raised. “You would arrive panting, sore, and covered in sweat and grime. The potential to catch the edge of your blade on a rock is incredibly high, which would leave you toting around a near-useless slab of metal for the rest of the journey-- unless you wish to carry it in its scabbard, which would add more weight and magnify the chances of you simply dislocating your elbow.”
Blue turned around at that, and Vio smirked at the grumpy face he was making. “You could wrap something light around the edge,” Blue grumbled. “Pad it with wool and wrap it in leather, maybe.”
“But what if you dropped it?” Red piped up from his position beside Vio. “Then you’d lose all that momentum you built up going back to look for it!”
“And padding it would make it next to useless if you have to fight on the trail!” Green added, taking advantage of Blue’s distraction to knock him off balance once more.
“That still leaves the scabbard to be considered as well,” Vio mused, an eye on the clouds above as he suppressed a smirk at Blue’s renewed cursing. “Unless you wish to travel with just a bare blade, like some sort of highway brigand? Not everyone can recognize one of the Four Swords at a mere glance, you know- -that could lead to some unpleasant misunderstandings.”
“Oh! Blue!” Red said in excitement, taking a quick two steps forward and stepping on the back of Green’s boot just as Blue elbowed him sideways. “What if you just tied the sword to your hand? Then you wouldn’t drop it-eep!” he broke off with a short surprised noise-- as Green fell he’d hooked an arm around Red’s knees, causing him to topple as well. Blue’s instinctive move to grab him put him well within range of Green’s feet-- in a flash Green had kicked the back of Blue’s knee hard enough to send him tumbling down into the two of them.
Vio calmly hopped over the resulting pile of tangled limbs, stopping a good five feet past them. “I suppose here is as good a place as any to break for lunch,” he remarked to the air, setting his pack neatly on the edge of the road and turning back to look at the three-way tussle.
For all appearances Blue was holding his own in this roadway wrestling match, deftly fending off swats from Green and tickling Red into incoherency simultaneously. That would not do at all.
Vio sighed, straightened his tunic, and at the next available opening stepped into the fray and plopped himself squarely down on Blue’s back, pinning him to the ground. “Tickling is a very dirty way of fighting,” he told Blue solemnly, ignoring the outburst of shouting and cursing coming from beneath him. “An offense worthy of capital punishment, I believe.”
Green snorted at that; Vio ignored him as well, crooking his fingers into claws.
Blue twisted enough to glare up at him, hat perched at a ridiculous angle on his forehead as it dipped down over one eye. “Oh, you fucker, don’t you even dare,” he breathed, voice laden with menace and promises of retribution.
Vio gave him a smile so full of innocence it could rival Red’s and dug his fingers into Blue’s sides.
The ensuing battle was truly a struggle for the ages.
Red was the one to finally call a halt to it, face nearly the shade of his tunic from laughing so hard. Vio gave in with good grace, rising and brushing the dirt from his knees as Blue lay panting beneath him. “And let that be a lesson to you,” Vio said with mock gravity, moving to where Green had set their packs. “You are a hero, and heroes must fight with honor and dignity.”
Green let out a bawl of laughter at that, and Red collapsed once more into uncontrollable giggling when Blue lifted his head from the dirt with a glare. “You attacked me from behind!” he yelled, making no move to get up. “How is that honorable?”
“Sometimes a hero must strike when the most opportune moment arises,” Vio told him loftily, nose in the air. “That happened to be quite opportune, since you were too occupied with the bait in front of you to realize you had left yourself a gaping indefensible opening.”
“Bait?!” Green put the back of his hand to his forehead, splaying his fingers and looking away dramatically. “And here I thought after all this time we meant more to each other!”
“In your defense, you make quite serviceable bait,” Vio said as he settled down with his food onto the grass beside Green.
“Fine!” Blue had gotten off the ground by this point, meticulously removing any trace of grass or dirt from his tunic. “Why don’t you fight me face-to-face this time, we’ll see who bests who then!” He stomped over and picked up his Four Sword from where it lay carelessly on the ground. “You’ve been locked up in that damn lab of yours for so long I bet you don’t even remember how to use a sword!”
Red’s ceaseless giggling stopped abruptly at that, and Green looked up sharply. Vio did not outwardly react at first, chewing his mouthful of bread and cheese thoughtfully and then swallowing. When he’d finished, he wiped the corner of his mouth with the edge of his sleeve and stood, stretching. “Why, Blue,” he said finally, with the saccharine sweetness born only from the tongue of a master of sarcasm, “I didn’t know you cared.”
Blue let out a rage-garbled series of noises at that, and Vio smirked as he unsheathed his own sword. “Well, soldier?” He asked, moving into a guarded stance. “Have at you.”
Blue came at him fast and hard and Vio easily stepped into the flow of his movements, dodging his first straightforward thrust and parrying the second. At the third swing he took a chance, sliding the flat of his blade down along the length of Blue’s and giving it a quick twirl-- jerking Blue’s sword out of his grip completely and causing him to drop it.
“Three!" Blue swore, and dove out of the way of Vio’s next attack. “Where did you even learn that?!”
“Places,” Vio replied shortly, stepping back so Blue could retrieve his blade without incident. Blue growled at the flippant reply, and his next attacks were much harder to block completely. Vio was quickly on the defensive, forced to give way beneath Blue’s sheer tenacity and ferocity. An unlucky misstep had him stumbling on the rough terrain, and before he could blink the tip of Blue’s sword was hovering a hand’s width from his neck.
Vio froze, eyeing the sword warily before glancing upward at Blue, who was stonefaced and statue-still. After a moment, he remarked “Clearly my defeat was inevitable,” and raised his hands in surrender with a genuine smile on his face.
Blue returned it, stepping forward to give him an affectionate punch in the shoulder. “Not bad for a bookworm,” he told Vio as they walked back towards Green and Red. “Nice trick with the twist, there. You should spar with us more often.”
“I would enjoy that,” Vio admitted, rubbing the back of his neck and settling back into his former position. “I admit that it has been far too long.”
Lunch was a quiet and pleasant affair after that, and before much longer they were continuing on their way.
The trees along the path grew more clustered and dense as they made their way into the outskirts of Ordon Forest, as was only to be expected. The four of them had half-consciously shifted until they were no longer walking two by two-- Vio took the front-most position, his careful steps making barely any noise on the soft loam that coated the ground. Red and Green followed side by side, with Blue taking up the rearguard. The easy and carefree conversation that had carried them through the open expanses of the field dwindled beneath the oppressive lurk of the canopy above-- as they traveled further and further the atmosphere turned gloomier, murky sunlight struggling to reach the ground.
They stopped once at a nearly-overgrown trail marker where the path branched out into three other directions. Green and Red cleared it of greenery and old spider webs the best they could, while Vio retrieved the map Zelda had loaned them and browsed over it. He indicated the center path after a moment, and they continued on in silence.
The light levels continued to fall, and what illumination did make it through seemed gummy and indistinct. Vio scanned the trees in consternation, noting off-white strands of webbing stretching from bough to trunk to bough again, spanning entire sections of canopy.
Green let out a sudden startled noise behind him and Vio paused, turning to see what the problem was. The other three had stopped about ten feet behind him, a mobile black blob about the size of a large loaf of bread separating them. As Vio watched, it skittered a few inches towards the clustered heroes, motions jerky, and Red let out a squeal and backpedaled rapidly.
“Oh, for the love of Farore, it’s just a gohma,” Blue scoffed, rolling his eyes as Red took shelter behind him. “What’s the matter? You’ve seen tons of gohmas, there’s that guy in the marketplace who trains them and sells ‘em as pets.”
“B-but they’re never that big!” Red wailed, letting out another shriek as it advanced towards them again. Green hastily jumped backwards as well, cringing as the oversized arachnid rotated towards him. “Th-that’s a really big gohma, Blue!!”
“Is that even natural?” Green asked nervously, trying to scoot around it and then flailing back as it advanced again.
“You guys are such wimps.” Blue rolled his eyes again as he stepped forward and unsheathed his sword. “Red I kinda expect it from- no offense,” he added quickly.
“None taken!” Red piped back.
“But you, Green?” Blue continued, raising his sword and pointing the tip downward. “I’m ashamed of you- big bad soldier of the Hyrule Guard can’t even take on a little spider,” he teased, cleanly stabbing the gohma through its swollen abdomen and watching its legs writhe madly before they curled up rigidly in a death pose. “Don’t worry, li’l babies, Blue’ll take care of all your spider-slaying needs-“
“Blue, shut up,” Vio said tersely, stepping forward and kneeling to look at the dead arachnid. There were small wisps of darkness swirling along the bright gleam of Blue’s sword, emanating from the gohma. “Put your sword away.”
The gohma was impaled a little too solidly- Blue had to shake it free, which made Red shriek again and caused Green to move about ten feet farther away than he had been. Once it was lying on the path unimpeded the tendrils were much more apparent- in moments it was nothing more than a billowy puff of oily darkness that dissipated with the slight breeze.
Green tentatively shuffled forward to look at the spot where the gohma had been as Vio pushed himself to his feet again. “That’s … not supposed to happen, is it,” Green said with a frown.
Blue smirked widely, moving over to one of the webbed trees. “Wanna test it out?” he asked devilishly, moving as if to rattle it.
Red’s immediate “NO!!!” was followed by Green’s “Din help me Blue if you shake that tree I will kill you while you sleep,” and Blue sniggered and returned to the path.
“Enough, all of you,” Vio said sharply, catching their attention. “We need to move if we wish to make it to the library before night falls-- I certainly do not wish to camp under these trees.” He turned and began walking without a moment’s hesitation, trusting them to follow-- which they did.
The light levels dimmed further as they progressed and the afternoon passed into evening. The path below them became less and less easy to differentiate under its thick coating of loam. Vio had to stop and pull out his lantern eventually, hanging it on a nearby spur of wood and unfolding the map to go over it once more with a frown. It felt like they should have reached the Library by now…
His contemplation was broke by the sound of raised voices, and Vio lifted his head just in time to catch Red’s worried face staring into his from mere inches away. It was all he could do not to flinch back in startled surprise, masking his annoyance with one carefully raised eyebrow. “How can I help you?” he asked dryly.
Red frowned and bit his lip, hands clasped together in front of him. “We’re not lost, are we?” he asked, hope and doubt plain in his voice.
“Of course we’re lost!” Blue called scornfully from further behind them. “We must have walked off the path ages ago, there’s nothing here but leaves and dirt! I thought you knew where we were going, Vio,” he complained as he moved to peer over Vio’s shoulder. “Let me see that damned map.”
“I assure you, it will do you no good,” Vio remarked, but Blue had already snatched it and was peering at it in the warm lantern light.
“I can’t even read this!” Blue shoved it back to him after a few seconds of perusal. “What language is this even in?”
“Ancient Hylian, which is why I am the one carrying it,” Vio told him shortly as he folded it back up and tucked it into a belt pouch. “As I said, it would do none of you any good.”
“Well, you’re not doing us very good either,” Blue said in a snide voice.
“It is not my job to do any of you,” Vio said with heavy sarcasm, causing Blue to sputter and back a few steps away.
Green stepped between them then, clearing his throat. “As interesting as this is to listen to, I think we should probably keep going.” He gave Blue an unsubtle push forward, making the other grumble deep in his throat.
With no other options they traveled on, the trees above them arching and twining and cemented together with wads and strings of white webbing. Gohmas crossed their path every now and then, but none were as large as the one Blue had killed. Green and Red still eyed them warily until they had passed.
It was nearly another hour before Red broke their self-imposed silence. “Do you hear that?” he whispered, as if unwilling to raise his voice any louder than necessary.
“Hear what?” Blue asked, peering into the murky darkness.
“I thought I heard…laughing,” Red said hesitantly. “Someone over there was laughing….” He pointed off to the right, where the trees seemed to cluster more thickly.
“I didn’t hear anything,” Green murmured quietly. “Maybe you’re just imagining it?”
Red shrugged and moved closer to Blue at that, one hand fisting in the material at the bottom of Blue’s tunic. Blue allowed it, pulling Red closer for a brief hug around the shoulders.
They all heard the next laugh.
A poe materialized in front of them, the icy white glow of its lantern jarring in the darkness. Blue let out a swear and lunged forward, already drawing his sword, but the poe swirled backwards with another earsplitting cackle and vanished.
More ethereal lights began to bob in and out of the darkness around them, the forms of the poes themselves indistinct between the trees. The illumination did nothing to light up the area around them; instead, it seemed to accentuate the darkness, making it deeper. Though they had effectively encircled the four of them, few seemed interested in bothering them; aside from the one Blue had advanced towards, none of the lanterns even so much as twitched towards them.
“I’ve never seen this many poes before,” Green whispered in quiet awe. “What do you think they’re doing here? Is this some sort of secret poe hiding ground or something?”
“I bet they’re just waiting for us to let our guards down,” Blue grumbled, sword bare in hand and catching the lantern light at odd angles. “Just let ‘em try.”
Vio made a noncommittal noise, taking a hesitant step forward. In response the line of poes in front of him shifted, drawing back into two parallel lines while continuing to take next to no notice of him.
“Almost like an honor guard,” Vio said thoughtfully, turning back to look at the other three. “Sheikah were said to have close connections with the dead-- perhaps this means we are nearing our destination.”
“Vio!” Red said with alarm, reaching out to point at something behind him; he drew his sword and shifted into a guard stance in a single fluid movement. Four poes had sprung up behind him, their lanterns ranging from sunset red to lime green, deep sapphire blue to a purple nearly the shade of Vio’s tunic. The poes among the trees had ceased all movement; silence lay heavy as a blanket between them all.
Vio slowly sheathed his Four Sword and the poe with the amethyst flame chittered something that sounded like approval, sweeping around him in a wide circle. As if finding everything to its liking it cackled once more, returning to the rest and swinging its lantern at them in a clear order.
“What the hell?” Blue asked warily, stepping forward level with Vio. “What do they want?”
“I believe they may be guides,” Vio responded after a moment’s hesitation. “We must have strayed too far- Ordon Forest borders the Lost Woods, after all, and the borderland between the two can become dangerous to those without the means to discern the correct path.”
The poes all laughed together at that, as if following their conversation-- Vio was surprised to note that their voices were much less shrill than their lesser brethren.
“Well,” Green stepped up beside them, Red at his heels, and huffed a sigh. “It’d be rude to turn down a helping hand, wouldn’t it?”
“Rude indeed,” Vio agreed, and turned to the poes with an elaborate bow. “Lead on, if you will, and we will follow.”
The cobblestone under his feet was soothingly civilized compared to the stretches of forest floor they had been traversing; Vio could feel himself relax as soon as they had passed beneath the large marble archway. Stacked-stone walls stretched out and away far beyond the light their lanterns gave out, and though the urge to break off from the small group and explore along them was strong he resisted the urge.
Their poe guides had disappeared in the few seconds he had spent looking around-- a quick glance and a moment’s listening told him that the courtyard they had been taken to was completely barren of movement besides the four of them. Vio did break away from their small cluster then, boots tapping on stone as he advanced further into the courtyard.
The glow of his lantern fell upon a long stone staircase; he stopped at the foot of it, raising the lantern above his head to catch a glimpse of what may lie above. He could make out a large stone slab overhanging what appeared to be a walkway around a long, low-set building, hanging vines and creeping ivy throwing thick black shadows against the walls. The stairs led straight up to a wall, it appeared; Vio took a step forward onto the first and turned to check on the others.
Blue and Red still stood under the archway, but Green had moved over to the inside curvature of the nearest wall and was busily examining something. “Hey, Vi!” he called over-- Vio could see the lantern bobbing and assumed Green was gesturing to him. “Come over here and see this.”
Vio did so, beckoning Blue and Red further into the courtyard as he passed them. “There are no other beings here but us,” he told Red directly, hoping to soothe some of the latter’s nerves, and Red gave him a shaky smile in return.
Green called to him again and he huffed out a sigh as he trotted over the last patch of grass separating them. When Vio reached him Green stepped aside from the waist-high rock that he had been fussily clearing of moss and ivy. “Check this out- doesn’t it look familiar?”
Vio crouched in front of it, inspecting it thoroughly. When it had been placed here it may have been white, but time and nature had weathered it to a soft gray. Hollow pits and spots of lichen dotted its rough surface. The side facing the wall was rough, but the side facing into the courtyard had been thoroughly smoothed. The top half had been carved and sanded further into rough geometric shapes. The bottom half was dominated by a hollow entrance that refused to be lit up no matter how close to it Vio placed his lantern. He frowned at the anomaly, gaze drawn back to the carvings.
“I believe this is a Stone of Truth,” he said after a moment, rocking back on his heels. “Legends say that if you crawled inside of one, it could show you all manner of things.”
“Wanna try it?” Green smiled at him, and Vio let out a puff of laughter.
“More than you could imagine,” he said honestly, rising to his feet. “But now is most definitely not the time for that, as I have heard the side effects for those untrained to withstand it can be…severe.”
“Vio! Green!” Red called to them then, and both turned. “Can you come up the stairs, please?”
“Coming!” Green yelled back, turning and offering his arm to Vio with a waggle of his eyebrows. Vio scoffed and jabbed him in the ribs, taking off across the courtyard at a run as Green let out a yowl. Vio couldn’t help a smirk at that, taking the shallow stairs two at a time until he reached the top where Blue and Red waited.
Blue gestured to the wall in front of them, which was carved into the same patterns that had been on the stone in the courtyard. “We looked all up and down this stretch but there’s no door, and nothing different but this.”
Vio nodded at that. “Sheikah lore outposts were generally guarded. If none were available to fulfill that duty they sealed the entrance, confident that any Sheikah would be able to enter easily.”
“That’s great and all, but we don’t actually have a Sheikah to open the door now, do we?” Blue asked with very exaggerated patience.
Vio leaned forward and flicked him in the forehead, drawing a loud complaint. “That’s why I will be using other means, you ignorant peasant,” he sighed, shifting his stance and placing his left hand squarely in the center of the design on the wall.
He took a deep breath and held it, reaching within himself to the barely-defined source of his magic-- he’d known it was there for the longest of times, but before now had had little chance to use it. Zelda had spent their time together that morning teaching him how to draw upon it at need, and that is what he did now—he sent a tendril of conscious thought into that glowing golden place deep inside him, filling himself with it before channeling it into the palm of the hand pressing into the stone.
The back of his hand began to glow faintly, sharp golden lines etching themselves into his skin as he leaned forward. Vio could feel the energy within him building to a sharp point, crackling around his teeth and tongue when he opened his mouth.
“Balq’ar embzir almais meiada al'kma mstasq Farore ei’dskil,” he whispered, the words dripping from his tongue, thick as honey and full of unfulfilled potential. Gold sparks flared from underneath his hand, arcing across the stone wall and sinking into the carved surface. The designs flared briefly into light, then faded, and an entire section of wall simply disappeared to expose a long, dark hallway.
Red let out a startled noise at that, and Green whistled in approval. “That’s pretty impressive!”
“But your accent is simply atrocious, darling,” said a voice from inside. Before Vio could do more than stumble a few steps backwards in shock a poe appeared in front of him, its lantern a bright buttery yellow. “You sound as though you’re gargling river rocks.”
“My apologies,” Vio said stiffly after a moment, eyes narrowing as the others clustered behind him. “I only learned the language this morning.”
“That is no excuse,” the poe told him severely. “If you wish to come inside, hurry up- there are dark things afoot in the forest and the door must be sealed as soon as possible.” It floated back a few feet into the hall and gestured impatiently, the metal of its lantern creaking.
Vio paused, looking back at the others. Red was clearly eager to move inside, but Blue was much more guarded, eyeing the poe with suspicion. Green, on the other hand, brushed past him with a smile and a nod. “Don’t mind if I do!” he said cheerfully, moving beyond the hovering spirit.
Vio shook his head ruefully and motioned Blue and Red inside, holding his left hand in front of the entryway as they passed and gathering power to the tip of his tongue again. ”Baghliaq,” he whispered, and the wall shimmered into existence once more.
The poe sniffed behind him, and he allowed himself a single roll of his eyes before he turned back to it. “Simply atrocious,” it repeated, hovering in front of him and eyeing him closely. “But you have potential, so maybe you’ll do.”
“I am flattered by your approval,” he told it dryly, and it laughed, sweeping past the other three to examine them in turn.
“I am the guardian of this outpost,” it said, beckoning them further down the hallway. “My designation is Myn Alemktub, which in your language would translate to ‘The Librarian’.”
“What’s your name, then?” Red asked from behind Blue, and the poe floated over to examine him again.
“My name has been long lost to time,” it said, sounding almost mournful. “When I took my post my name became irrelevant.”
“We can’t just call you ‘Librarian’ though!” Red frowned. “That’s just rude!”
It chuckled and moved back to the head of the small procession, winding its way further down the long hall. “Rude, you say,” it murmured. “And we can’t have that, can we?”
“Clearly not,” Green agreed with a smile.
“Then you may call me Sheia,” it said with finality as they stepped into a large hexagonal room, bare of anything but what appeared to be a circular cage attached to a chain in the ceiling. “Fitting, for a forgotten member of a race that does not forget.”
“You were a Sheikah?” Vio asked with interest.
“More to the point here, what the hell is this?” Blue interrupted, gesturing at the contraption.
Sheia laughed again, circling around it. As she passed a section it sprung open, revealing a set of levers inside. “You did not believe we would house the entirety of the library in such a small building, did you?” she asked Blue scornfully, and Blue let out a mutter but didn’t reply. “The true library is underground, fortified with every spell of preservation we knew. Come, into the lift, unless you wish to turn back now.”
When Blue hesitated Green prodded him in the back and whispered, “Don’t worry li’l baby, big bad Green’ll protect you from all those books!”
Blue smacked him in the head with a snarl, stomping onto the lift with Red on his heels. Green and Vio followed, and Sheia closed the door after them.
With a jolt, they descended.