Categories > Games > Zelda > Kismet
(Disclaimer: Not mine, I own nothing, etc, etc.)
In the land of Hyrule, ten years have passed since the banishment of Ganon to the Sacred Realm. The young Hero of Time -- young no longer -- has long since returned from his adventures in the neighboring land of Termina, and settled down into a more normal sort of life. All the races of Hyrule have become friendly at last. Trade routes have opened between regions that were once at odds with one another -- though the Gerudos are still looked upon with a wary eye by most. A fell wind is blowing in these the peaceful lands, however. One which whispers of impending danger and chaos . . . A wind that blows from the Sacred Realm . . . .
Chapter 1 -- A Day at the Market
If someone were to walk up to the Hero of Time and say "This world's soon going to be in as much trouble as it was ten years ago! You'd better do something!" the response would probably be a discreet sidle in the other direction.
As it was, Link was not being approached by anyone at the moment. He was having a nice, trouble-free day in the market, and therefore had no reason to leave the stall of the vendor he was currently dealing with.
"T'will be seventy-five rupees, sir," said the boy inside the stall, not a day over ten and standing on a crate so he could see over the counter. There was an open door directly behind the stall in the building it was set up against, and sounds of leather being scraped were faintly heard through it.
Link fished in his money pouch for the desired amount, and put it in the boy's hand. A paper-wrapped bundle was placed on the counter in return, and he tucked it under his arm, nodding thanks to the boy, and turned around . . . .
It was only through great force of will that he didn't jump. Well, physically, anyway. His heart certainly had, and was beating at twice the normal rate. "Malon! You startled me, coming up behind me like that."
Malon, standing approximately a foot and half behind him, giggled. "Sorry, Link. Your reflexes must be off, if you didn't hear me and Sooty."
Link looked over her shoulder. A sturdy pony, who did indeed look as if she'd rolled around in a fireplace before leaving the ranch, blinked back at him. A number of packs were slung on either side of the saddle, and her bridle was attached to the rope that was in Malon's hand.
"So what are you doing here?" Malon asked. "And what's that?" She poked the package under his arm with her free hand.
"New boots, to replace these," he replied, pointing at the ones he was currently wearing. The left one was about to have a hole in the toe, and the right one looked as though it might fall apart if he sneezed too loudly.
The red-haired young woman made a noise of amusement. "Took you long enough. I think I commented on the state of those boots about four months ago."
"Well, they're trash now. I'm going to find a bench so I can put the new ones on. You coming or staying?"
"Staying, for a moment at least. I need to see if he'll fix saddles," she said, nodding at the stall behind him.
Link wandered across the main square and sat down, shooing a Cucco off the bench so he could set the new boots down. As he pulled off the old boots and replaced them with the stiff, new ones, he watched Malon. She seemed to be disagreeing with the man who had come out of the building behind the stall. She pointed at Sooty, and he pointed as well, then laughed.
"No?" Link asked as she came stomping over a moment later, Sooty in tow.
"No." Malon glared across the square at the man, who was headed back inside, still laughing, and muttered a rude word under her breath. "He said he'd like to meet the person who could repair this saddle," she continued. "I guess I'll have to look somewhere else. How do the boots fit?"
"Fine. They're better than the old ones were, actually."
"Well that's good, at least." She sat down next to Link and put her chin in her hand. "Now where do I look? Dad recommended that guy, and said he could fix anything made of leather."
"Not anymore, I guess. I know someone who might be able to fix it, especially if you want it for the ride home."
"Well, I can ride bareback just as easily, but that would be great if I had it back today. Where is this person?"
Link stood up. "Follow me."
Five minutes later, they had reached the west side of Hyrule Castle Town. They turned onto a broad street which had a banner strung from one side to the other overhead, proclaiming that they had reached "Haggler's Way."
"Link . . ." Malon was balking when he turned to look at her, but Sooty seemed quite interested in the smells and sounds coming from the street ahead.
"What? It's fine; they're all wonderful people. They just have a bad reputation, that's all." The reason for Malon's hesitation was obvious. Haggler's Way was a colorful place with a festive air about it -- and half the color came in the form of Gerudos in every stall and doorway. Link knew most of them personally at this point in his life, but Malon had never encountered one before.
She opened her mouth to reply, but was interrupted when a shout came from across the Way.
"Oy! Link! We haven't seen you around here for nearly three weeks! Where've you been?"
Link waved a hand at the Gerudo who had shouted. "Keep your hair on! I'll be over in a minute!" Turning back to Malon, he placed two fingers on her chin to close her mouth, which had been hanging open. "Malon, please? There's a leathersmith here who I'm sure can fix the saddle, and there's plenty of good sightseeing to do in the meantime. Please?"
She sighed and glared at him. "All right, fine. But," she added, poking him in the chest with a finger, "if you're wrong, and they can't fix it, or they do a bad job, or try to swindle me, or---"
"Thank you," Link said, interrupting her. She glared some more, and he smiled pleasantly at her until someone called his name again. "Come on, let's go," he said to Malon, and strode across the Way to a stall that had a sign with a sword painted on it. A cheerful-looking Gerudo was leaning on the counter, and her eyes flicked over his shoulder as he approached, to where Malon was following with Sooty.
"So," she said, "where have you been?"
"Relaxing," Link replied. He felt rather than heard Malon come up behind him, as if she were afraid the Gerudos would attack her if she drew attention to herself.
"So it would seem," said the Gerudo, looking him up and down. "You look a bit out of shape."
"Do not," he said, grinning. "Relaxing doesn't have to mean lying around all . . . What?" he asked as she stared fixedly at his feet.
"Are those new boots?"
She gave a bark of laughter. "Arani's going to kill you for not buying boots from her!"
Link rolled his eyes. "She'll just have to get over it. I got my last pair from her. Besides, I've got a customer for her if she spares my life. Leena, this is Malon, of Lon Lon Ranch. Malon, Leena the weaponsmith."
Malon shook hands with Leena, and looked like she was comparing it to sticking her hand in a Dodongo's mouth. She did seem to have relaxed somewhat, though, with the introduction to such a friendly person.
"Well, I won't keep you then, if you've got business with Arani," Leena said, shooing them away with a wave of her hand. "It was nice to meet you, Malon. Maybe we'll see you around here again, hmm?" Malon nodded, smiling tentatively. As they were walking away, Leena called after them. "Link, if you've got a few minutes after you finish at Arani's, you should pop into Kara's for a minute!"
"Why?" he asked, Malon stopping beside him when he turned back.
"You'll see," Leena said, winking at them and going into the shade of her store behind the stall.
They continued across the Way to a stall that had no sign, but an assortment of boots and leather armor scattered around the counters. A strong smell of leather and horses drifted out of the building behind it, and Sooty started pulling at her rope a little.
"Arani!" Link called as they reached the stall. "Arani, I bought boots from someone other than you! And if you're going to vivisect me, you should at least invite me inside first, so you don't disturb the customer I brought you," he added as a tall Gerudo emerged from inside, wiping her hands on a cloth.
"Piffle," she said. "You know that if you bring me a customer of equal or greater paying value it cancels out the need to vivisect you. Let me see the boots." She bent over the counter and squinted appraisingly at his new boots. "Who'd you get these from?"
"The father and son at the southeast corner of the Town Square," Link said matter-of-factly, smirking as she straightened again.
"Don't look so smug. He makes men's boots better than I do, because they're easier to make than what I do. That's also the only kind of boot he makes, because he's a sexist pig. I, on the other hand, make women's boots primarily, and men's boots occasionally." She smirked right back at him, and then, changing the subject, asked, "Is this my customer?"
Malon seemed to feel that the "sexist pig" part of Arani's speech automatically made her a good person, as she warmed up to her right away. "Yes," she said. "And that guy refused to fix my pony's saddle. He said he'd like to meet the person who could."
"Well, then. I'll show him who can, when I'm finished. Who might you be?"
"Malon, from Lon Lon Ranch. Pleased to meet you," Malon said, shaking hands with Arani. "So you'll fix it?"
"'Course I will! No Gerudo ever backs down from a challenge, even an indirect one like that. Let's see what you've got for me." She vaulted over the counter and circled Sooty, running her hands over the saddle, which, now that Link looked at it, was in dire need of repair. It looked as though it had been submerged in water for a month or so, and had a large tear on one side. "Can you get these packs off, please?" she said finally, bending down to undo the saddle strap.
Malon got the numerous packs off easily, and, at Arani's direction, placed them under the counter for safekeeping. "I brought some stuff to trade, or sell if I can. Do you suppose anyone here would want any of it?" she asked Link as Arani took the saddle inside.
He shrugged. "Dunno. Depends on what it is."
"Cucco feathers for quills, my shortbow and some old clothes from when I was little, and some milk." For the last, she pointed at a pack that was wrapped in a blanket. "I put it in some ice so it wouldn't spoil," she explained.
"Those last two things'll fetch a good price over at Kara's," Arani said as she came back outside. "She's got a young daughter who would love some new things to wear, and she's actually been looking for you, Link. She heard that you frequented the Ranch, and was hoping, I think, that you could get someone over to talk to her."
Link raised his eyebrows. "Really? Well, she would've been fairly safe going there herself, as long as Malon didn't spot her first."
Malon punched him in the leg from her crouched position by the packs. "Hush, you. How long will it take for you to fix the saddle?" she asked Arani, who was sitting on the only clear counter space.
She looked thoughtful. "Prob'ly three, four hours. I should be finished in time for you to get home before dark; if I'm not, there's the Inn on North Festival Street that's good if you need to spend the night somewhere. Your pony can stay here while I'm working, if you like," she added. "Twenty Rupees sound fair?"
"Yes. Thank you," Malon said sincerely. "I'm to pay you when I come back?"
"If you please. I won't demand it until you're happy with the results, though."
Malon nodded. "All right. Link, could you get that other pack for me, please?" She hefted the blanket-wrapped bundle into her arms and directed him towards one of the others. "Where is this Kara you mentioned, Arani?"
"Over on South Festival," the Gerudo responded. She pointed across the Way, past Leena's and down a sunny side road. "She's the potion shop, second on the left."
"Thanks," Malon said again as she left the stall, Link behind her.
"See, they're nice people," he said as they entered South Festival Street, Leena having waved at them as they passed her. "And I notice you left the other packs without protest or complaint."
"People have to prove that they're trustworthy. Then I trust them."
"That shouldn't always be the case," Link cautioned. "But here it's fine. And they accept anyone who knows me well, because they respect me."
"Why? I thought they hated all men except their king."
"They're getting over that. But I bested four of their guards, which I've been told was quite a feat. So they like me now." They reached the potion shop a moment later, and he pushed open the door. "Anyone home?" he called, as a bell chimed in the depths of the shop. He got an answer a scant second later.
"Link!" said a little girl's voice. A red-haired blur shot out from behind the counter and tackled him around the knees.
"Hello, Suka! How have you been?" he said, hoisting the girl up into his arms.
"Fine," she said. "Mama's been looking for you."
"So I've heard," he said, looking up as the door to the back room of the shop swung open and a placid-looking Gerudo backed out, two bottles in one hand and a healing fairy caged within the fingers of the other hand.
"Half a moment, you two," she said, stepping behind the counter and placing the bottles on a shelf behind it. The fairy was popped into an empty bottle, the stopper for which was on the shelf next to it. "That's the third time that one's gotten out this week," she said, smiling at Link. "What can I do for you today, Link?"
"Not me, today, Kara. This is Malon, from Lon Lon Ranch. She's got some items you might be interested in." To elaborate, he nudged Malon forward with his elbow. She stepped forward and placed the blanket-wrapped pack on the counter. Together she and Kara undid the knotted string that was tied around it to keep the blanket on, Malon detailing what she had to sell or barter with.
"Well, I'll pay you handsomely for the bottles of milk, certainly. Would you be up to a trade for the clothes and shortbow? I'll offer you two of my best potions for the lot." Kara reached into her tunic and withdrew a bulging pouch of Rupees. She counted out four purple Rupees, three red ones, and three blue ones. Then she turned and deftly snatched two bottles from the shelves behind her. Both were red potions, though they seemed to be glowing faintly with extra power. These she placed on the counter next to the money.
Malon piled the clothes and shortbow on the counter next to the milk bottles without hesitation. The two women shook hands -- the sign of a closed transaction -- and Malon swept the money into her hand and began rummaging in her pockets for her own money bag. "Thank you. We've been short of customers at the Ranch recently, but this should help us get back on our feet."
Kara gathered up the bottles of milk in one arm, preparing to take them somewhere cooler for storage. "Don't mention it. As I'm sure you heard, I've been pestering Link about getting me in touch with someone there for a while now. This stuff's a rarity in this part of town, and most of the people in the rest of the city still don't think highly enough of us to allow us to actually buy things at the usual price."
Malon looked up from putting the potions into her pack. "That's horrible! I don't see why that should be the case -- I mean, we've had problems with the Gorons in the past, but they're treated the same as everyone else."
"Ah, but they don't have a long-standing reputation as thieves and baby-killers, do they?" Kara said slyly. Malon blushed. "Don't worry about it. We're changing things, slowly but surely." She slung the shortbow over her shoulder. "Thank you very much for the things, Malon. I hope I'll see you again sometime." She smiled at Malon and Link, and then disappeared into the other room. Sula gave Link another hug around the knees and waved at them cheerfully before following her mother.
Link looked at Malon, who was looking a bit stunned. "Well? Has your opinion of Gerudos changed for the better?"
She started slightly and went back to the packs, making sure everything was fastened down before picking them up. "Yes, it has." That was clearly the end of the discussion, and Link followed her out of the shop without further comment.
Two and a half hours later, the two of them had made the rounds of Haggler's Way. It had occurred to Link that the mapmaker in the shop nextdoor to Kara might have need for the Cucco feathers -- for quills, as Malon had suggested earlier. They visited the old woman, who looked to be at least sixty, and still capable of holding her own in a fight. She paid thirty Rupees for the bundle of feathers, and had gotten to work sharpening them into proper quills almost before they'd left the shop.
They stopped in a large, well-lit store piled to the rafters with tunics, trousers, and all manner of other clothing. Link bought a new pair of gloves, and purchased a soft, woven poncho for Malon when she kept going back to look at it. "No, don't argue. You deserve gifts once in a while. I'm buying lunch, too, by the way."
Lunch came and went, the two of them leaving the restaurant full of sausages, bread, and fruit. They stopped to say hello to a couple of other shopkeepers Link knew, and then headed back to Arani's shop.
She emerged from the building with a number of tools in one hand, and a supple piece of leather draped over one shoulder. "I daresay you'll have to stay at the Inn tonight, Malon. That saddle's in worse shape than I had originally thought."
Malon shook her head. "I knew that dratted boy was going to cause trouble. One of the lads we hired to help out part-time left it out in a bad storm a while back," she explained. "It was two weeks before that part of the field dried out enough for anyone to go over and get it without sinking in up to their knees."
Arani nodded. "It looks it. I'm having to remake it from scratch, practically -- but don't worry about the cost," she said, as an alarmed expression flitted across Malon's face. "I've delt with worse, believe it or not, and there were no complaints about the price then. I'm a fair and honest women, so I'm told."
The other woman looked relieved. "Thank you so much, Arani."
Waving a hand at them, Arani headed back into her shop. "Scat, you two, before you miss the evening festivities at the Inn."
Link pulled at Malon's sleeve. "Come on, you."
The Inn of North Festival Street was a colorfully painted three-story building, roomy and usually at least half full at all times. It was run by a Hylian man in his thirties, brown-haired and blue-eyed, who was chatting easily at the bar with a Gerudo and a Goron merchant from out of town when Link and Malon entered the first floor common room. He looked towards the door when they came in, and quickly excused himself to come and greet them.
"Link! I haven't seen ye in a month! I was almost beginnin' to think ye'd left me for that prissy cheapskate over in the main part of town." The two men embraced, pounding each other on the back heartily.
"Now why would I do that, Alin? You and I both know that this is the best Inn in the whole city."
Alin hooked his thumbs in his belt and gazed around the room proudly. "That it is. But here I am singin' my own praises in front of this lovely young lady who's never been here before. We'll make her predjudiced towards t'others afore she's been here five minutes." He winked at Malon, who blushed and looked at her shoes.
Link took the packs from Malon before she dropped them. "Not only are you self-centered, but you're rude as well," he said, grinning. "This 'lovely young lady' has been dragging these around all afternoon."
"And yet she don't look too badly worn out," the innkeeper said, taking the packs. "This must be one o' them workin' lasses I've heard about." Malon smiled shyly. He paused for a moment. "You're not from th' Ranch are ye? 'Cause Kara's been lookin' --"
"I know, I know," Link sighed. "Goddesses, I wasn't away that long. We've already stopped there, though, thank you Alin."
Alin nodded. "Two rooms then? Unless --"
Link took his arm and gave him a push in the direction of the stairs while Malon blushed even more fiercely. "Two rooms, double quick, you scoundrel." Alin grinned and shot upstairs. "He's quite a charmer, if you hadn't noticed," Link commented to Malon.
She seemed to be recovering now that Alin was out of sight. "I'd noticed, thank you," she said dryly, turning and hanging her cloak by the door. Link did the same, and they were looking for a place to sit when the innkeeper returned.
"F'got to mention before," he said, absently waving a hand at someone shouting for him from the other side of the room, "there's a friend of yours here. She's been expectin' ye." He pointed to the far corner, where a Gerudo was watching them intently, a wide grin on her face. The person across the room shouted for Alin again, and he left them and went back to the bar, looking disgruntled.
Link, grinning broadly, wound his way through the tables, Malon in tow. The Gerudo had her feet up on the table, displaying well-worn riding boots; a dusty cloak was tossed over the chair next to her. The only sign of her status was a polished orange stone set in copper hanging around her neck. "Nabooru."
She scowled, though the grin still slipped through. "Don't you give me that, Mister High-and-mighty Hero of Time. Here I've been gone for two weeks, off repairing protection spells at the Colossus and getting sand in my trousers, and that's the best welcome you can give me?" She swung her feet off the table and stood. "You want to try that again, laddybuck?"
He pulled Nabooru into a bear hug, lifting her off the floor a couple of inches -- no small feat, since she was as tall as he was. "Your presence was sorely missed at the castle, madam," he said in mock seriousness, setting her back on her feet. "We have seen some dark days lately, with no one to keep Impa in line."
The Gerudo laughed, clapping Link on the shoulder. "That's more like it. Now, who is this?" she asked, turning her attention to Malon.
"This is Malon, of Lon Lon Ranch, and the former owner of Epona. Malon, this is Nabooru, the Sage of Spirit." He pulled out a chair for Malon as the two women shook hands.
"Before you even say anything, lass, I don't like formality, so don't bother. I'm just like anyone else here, 'cept I've got lots of magic and unlimited access to the castle." Nabooru sat down again, but this time kept her boots off the table.
Malon sat down too, as did Link. "Don't worry about the formality stuff," she said, grimacing. "None of it sticks with me anyway. I just try to avoid nobles and the like most of the time, and let Dad deal with them for business. It saves a lot of embarassment in the long run."
"I like this girl," Nabooru said to Link, winking. Malon grinned.
The three of them caught up on each others' business and tales over the next hour, taking dinner somewhere in the middle. Malon excused herself to go to bed, and was given the room key and number by Alin, who offered to escort her there, but was politely declined.
"So I take it you haven't been up to the castle since you got back?" Link asked Nabooru after a few moments of comfortable silence between the two of them.
She stopped swirling the glass of red wine she held in one hand. "No. I stopped here to check on something, and was told that you were in the area. I figured you'd end up here eventually. Why do you ask?"
"I wasn't kidding about the dark days and Impa. I really do think you balance her personality, which is why she goes berserk and shouts at everyone when you're not around."
Nabooru snorted and took a sip of her wine. "Well, we've figured that for years. What's her problem this time?"
"What isn't her problem is more the question. The horse tack isn't kept in good condition, the soldiers are lazy, Zelda would rather read than listen to the current politics -- can't say I blame her -- the castle larders aren't full . . . the list goes on and on. I finally found something to do elsewhere and left as discreetly as I could."
"I can't say I blame her either. That stuff's dull as dishwater. Can't say I blame you, either. Impa in a temper is nothing to scoff at." She thought for a moment, pulling at an earring. "It almost sounds like she's worried about something, though."
Link nodded. "Zelda thought so too. But what could it be, that it's not disrupting anyone else? If it was something magical, I would think the rest of the Sages would be picking up on it, and if it was related to her home, the villagers there would be acting differently. I was just there the other day and they're all fine."
"And if it was personal, she'd be brooding instead of attacking everyone else. It may be magical, though." At Link's expression of alarm, she smiled. "Don't worry; it's nothing serious."
"Right. Still, it's just a little niggling thing that's been bothering all of us on and off for a while. Impa doesn't like niggling, so that's probably all that's after her."
Link mulled this information over for a bit. "The townsfolk have been sort of restless lately. Maybe it's not such a little niggling, and the fact that it was there at all leaked out to the people. Face it, we haven't had anything major happen to or in the country in at least five years. It must be time for something to happen, right?"
Nabooru rolled her eyes. "You just want to go adventuring again, don't you? Just be careful what you wish for, will you? We don't want dragons falling out of the sky onto our heads." She drained her glass and stood, cracking her spine with a loud pop. "Oof. I'm off to bed. Two days' hard riding hasn't done much for me, except get me back here."
"Why don't you just warp? It's much easier."
"Makes my stomach turn. Besides, I like horses too much to just abandon my mare." She clapped Link on the shoulder and headed off upstairs.
Alin came by gathering dishes and scooped up the two empty glasses on the table. It was then that Link noticed a hooded and cloaked man in the corner just beyond where Nabooru had been sitting. It was definitely a man; women simply didn't get that tall.
As if he sensed Link watching him, the man glanced up -- Link got a quick glimpse of moon-pale skin and bright red hair before the stranger swept gracefully to his feet and was up the stairs, cloak swirling behind him, before Link could even look away from the spot where he had been.
"He came in earlier," Alin said from the table next to Link's, picking up dishes and gazing thoughtfully after the stranger. "We do get some odd 'uns from time to time, but he's just plain /strange/."
Suddenly too tired to respond, or think about the strange man anymore, Link rose heavily from the table, accepting the key to his room from Alin and stumbled up the stairs. Finding his room, he fell into bed without another thought, and slept dreamlessly through the night.
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