“The kingdom of Hyrule is a vast and storied land,
Oft grasped in the palm of a villainous hand.
A dark force of destruction, many times undone,
Rises once again – Ganon, the calamitous one.
But hope survives in Hyrule, for all is not lost,
Two brave souls protect it, no matter the cost.”
Chapter One: Awakening
“Open your eyes.”
A golden light with a golden voice.
“Open your eyes. Wake up Link.”
His name was Link? He hadn’t known that. The golden voice and the golden light were all he knew.
“Open your eyes.”
Link remembered he had eyes. He had been so deeply asleep he had forgotten he had eyes. He had forgotten he had a body. Link opened his eyes.
The warm golden light that woke him was replaced with a pale blue glow. It surrounded him, and dimly lit the room he was in. Link looked down. He was lying in a shallow basin, a tub of what looked like intricately carved rock, in a pool of blue light. He wasn’t sure how one could lay in light, but the blue light bathing his body did not feel like water, or any other liquid he could think of. It didn’t feel wet, or hot, or cold—it didn’t feel like anything. Before he had a chance to wonder about this the blue light drained away. Not into a hole in the basin, but simply back into the rock on which Link lay.
Link sat up. He was in his underwear. He stretched his arms and hands and looked around. The chamber around him was lit by the light of his…bed? It didn’t look like a bed. The canopy was made of a series of twisting, glowing vines that attached to a lid that hung suspended from the ceiling. A noise drew his attention to the corner of the room. A red eye gazed at him, unblinking. He moved toward it, the stone floor rough on his bare feet.
It wasn’t an eye looking at him but a glowing bas-relief of an eye, carved on the back of an ancient looking ceramic slate. Link shivered as he lifted the tablet from the pedestal. There was the barest whisper of memory tugging at the back of his thoughts. He had seen this device before.
“Sheikah Slate.” He said to himself, though he didn’t know how he knew that name.
The slate flashed a brilliant blue light that filled the room and lit another bas relief eye, this time on the wall. Link took a closer look at this larger carving. The eye was crowned with three triangles and was shedding a single tear. It glowed with the same light as the bed he woke in. Before he could wonder what the symbol meant the wall split down the middle, revealing a doorway.
Dazzling light blinded Link’s eyes. Like his tender feet his eyes felt, not sensitive, but delicate, as if they were brand new. It felt like he had never used them before. He held a hand up to shade them and saw a long tunnel sloping upwards.
The golden voice.
“You are the light. Our light. That must shine upon Hyrule once again. Now go.”
He trusted the light, but he couldn’t say why. It was the only thing in the world that he knew. It had awoken him from nothingness.
Link moved up the tunnel towards daylight. He walked at first, his soft feet still protesting the rough stone floor. But the sunlight and the smell of fresh air was invigorating and he soon he was running. Link ran with a natural grace, his stride smooth and sure. His muscles felt loose and warm and ready. He didn’t feel strong, but he didn’t feel weak. He felt new, like he had just been born. Link smiled and ran faster.
He burst from the mouth of the tunnel into a clear sunny day. Dew on the grass wet his feet. Wind scented with spring flowers filled his nostrils. He sprinted up the grassy slope in simple ecstasy of being alive, of moving and running and feeling the wind in his hair. At the edge of the cliff he stopped. An expansive view lay below him. A vast grassland dotted with groves of trees stretched out for miles. Mountains surrounded the grass, the most massive of them a giant crag of red rock that spewed smoke and ash into the air. Mist still clung to the low hills—the morning sun trying hard to burn it off. And far in the distance, shrouded in an unnatural darkness, stood a massive stone castle.
Link smelled smoke. He turned to see a thin column of smoke coming from a campfire under a small rock overhang halfway down the hill. Beyond the fire was a weed-choked cobblestone path bordered by trees that led to the decaying remains of an old temple and several other stone buildings. The temple was intact, but most of the buildings were nothing more than moss covered walls. Movement caught Link’s eye. An old man was standing beside the fire under the rock overhang. Link waved, and the old man gestured for Link to join him by the fire.
Despite the warmth from the sun Link was glad for the heat of the fire on his bare skin. The fire was built of several pieces of split pine, arranged like a small log cabin. Perched on top of the logs was a perfectly baked apple. The aroma of cooked apple hit Link’s nose and his stomach roared at him. Before he could help himself Link grabbed the apple and began eating it with both hands.
“I BEG YOUR PARRDON?!” Said the old man. Link looked at him in shock, his cheeks stuffed with warm apple and juice running down his chin. The old man was taller and broader than Link. He wore a dark brown hood that obscured much of his face, as well as a worn set of traveling clothes. He had a massive white beard.
The old man laughed. Despite his prodigious beard his smile was apparent.
“Forgive me—I could not help pulling your leg. The look in your eyes when you saw that apple—I think you need it more than me. You act like you haven’t eaten in a hundred years!”
“Where are we?” Link asked.
“You don’t know where you are?” The old man asked. “This is the Great Plateau, birthplace of the kingdom of Hyrule. That temple over there is an ancient sacred place where they held all sorts of important ceremonies.”
Link looked at the temple again. It did look ancient, and on the verge of collapse.
“So you don’t know where you are and you’re wearing nothing but underpants. What’s your name?” The old man asked.
“Well Link, I’m Rhoam, and if you came out of that cave I think this must be yours.” Rhoam said as he gestured to a small wooden chest.
Link opened the chest and saw a pair of threadbare pants and a shirt that looked like they were his size. The pants were made of a thin cotton twill and the shirt was of rough linen. There was also a set of leather moccasins with double thick soles for protection from roots and rocks. His feet slid into the moccasins easily. Indeed the shirt and pants felt like they had been made for him.
“I don’t mind if you take ‘em, we can’t have you running around Hyrule in naught but your skin.”
At the bottom of the chest Link found a leather baldric. One strap went across his chest and back and had a weapon clasp while a second strap wrapped around his waist. On the right side was a small pouch while on the left was a set of small hooks. The hooks were made of the same strange rock as the Sheikah Slate. Link cradled the handled of the device on the hooks and found that it held sturdily.
In the pouch Link saw nothing. It wasn’t empty, it was as if the inside was bottomless. The pouch was no bigger than his fist, but when he reached in he felt nothing, not even the leather sides.
“Oh I checked the pouch, its empty.” The old man said. “Isn’t that your pouch? Didn’t you know it was empty?”
At this point Link had his arm elbow deep and still couldn’t feel the bottom. He took his arm out and looked in the pouch again.
“You know what that is right?” Rhoam asked.
“No. I…don’t remember much.” Link said.
“That’s a Possibles Bag—they used to be really popular. It looks like a normal pouch, but a magic spell has been placed on it’s to expand its inventory. You could carry a hundred pounds of gear and it’d still be as light as it is now. Whenever you want something you just reach in while thinking about it and then it’s in your hand.” Rhoam said. Link looked at the pouch with interest.
“And from the looks of it I think that harness is a quick draw harness. You can sheath multiple weapons on your back but the one you want is always on hand. When you put the Quick-draw Harness and Possibles Bag together they’re called a Journeyman’s Set. It’s worth a lot of rupees these days. That kind of magic is old, and mostly gone from this kingdom.” The old man sighed.
Next to the overhang where the old man had built his fire was a small apple tree. Its branches hung heavy with apples and dozens littered the ground. Fruit flies buzzed lazily through the air. Link picked up one and put it in his pouch. It disappeared. He held the pouch up to his face but couldn’t see a thing on the inside. Then he reached his hand in—the apple was there. Link smiled. With a quick leap he grabbed one of the branches and pulled himself into the tree. He picked another apple and dropped it in his pouch. Then another. And another. He climbed from branch to branch snagging apples.
“Oh-hoho. Having fun?” Rhoam asked. Link stopped picking and returned to the fire.
“Don’t stop picking on my account—I suspect you’ll want those at some point. But now—who are you?”
“I…I don’t remember.” Link said. “All I know is a voice, a golden voice, that called me Link and woke me up. And when I woke up I found this.” Link took the Sheikah Slate off his hip.
“That thing looks important.” Rhoam said. “Why is it blinking like that?”
Link looked at the slate and sure enough the screen had a blinking gold dot on it. There was a green line with a small stick figure attached to it as well. Rhoam looked over Link’s shoulder at the slate.
“You know, I think this thing might be tracking where you walk.” Rhoam said. “If you’re the stick man here.” He put his finger on the slate. “And you trace it back in that direction it leads to the cave you came out of.”
“What do you think it is?” Link asked.
“I don’t know.” Rhoam said. “If I’m right and this is tracking you then this dot should be on the other side of those ruins there.”
Link looked at the tumbled, weed filled ruins. A blinking dot on this strange slate wasn’t much to go on, but it was the only thing he had. He started walking.
“Whoa there sonny-boy. You’re not just gonna waltz through those ruins, are you? They’re infested with monsters that could tear you apart as easily as you tore into that baked apple. You’re not even armed.”
Link looked around. Sticking out from the trunk of the apple tree, about six feet off the ground, was a dead limb. Link broke the branch off the tree and hefted it. It was a meter long and as big around as an apple at the wide end. It was ragged and splintered where Link broke it off the tree. It couldn’t take much punishment before breaking, but he tested the balance and decided he liked it. In one smooth motion he sheathed the branch into the harness on his back.
Rhoam eyed him dubiously. “That’s your plan? Sneak through a ruined town filled with bokoblins and worse wearing some old rags and carrying a stick? I admire your spirit but that’s…idiotic. You cannot underestimate these monsters or they will kill you.”
Link shrugged. What else was he supposed to do?
Rhoam sighed. “I’ll come with you.”
“Why?” Link asked.
“I can’t just let you get yourself killed, can I? And besides—I came up here hunting treasure and the only thing I’ve found so far was that Possibles Bag. I could have sold it and that harness for a pile of rupees and bought myself a house up in Hateno Village. I could have a nice quiet life like I’ve never known. But that cave you came out of and that thing on your hip—I think you’re the type of guy who’s gonna find real treasure. If I help you out maybe we can be partners.”
Rhoam walked to an old stump and took hold of the crude iron ax sticking out of it. The ax didn’t look powerful but it could do some damage if wielded with enough strength and skill. Rhoam freed it from the stump and rested it on his shoulder as if it weighed no more than Link’s stick. Rhoam saw Link admiring the ax.
“Oh—you want this ax? Well too bad—this is all I’ve got with me today. There’s plenty of old weapons left sitting around this ruined land, so I’m sure you’ll find something eventually. Let’s go.”
Rhoam didn’t follow the stone path down but disappeared into the thick underbrush and trees beside the road. “All the better to stay hidden in.” He said.
Link followed. He instinctively began to move more slowly, more quietly.
“The forest and tall grasses conceal you from enemies and prey, but it also ruins your line of sight.” Rhoam explained as he pushed through the undergrowth. “You have to learn to use your other senses so you’ll know what’s around you. Like now…hey, listen.”
They had come to the other edge of the strip of trees. The land dropped down to a forested bowl. Directly below the rocky outcropping they stood on was a grassy meadow. Rhoam hid himself behind a small shrub and gestured for Link to do the same. He pointed to the meadow.
The sun had climbed to its highest point in the sky, bathing the meadow in warm light that was slowly burning the dew off the grass. At the edge of the meadow Link spotted a wild boar. It was using its tusks and thick neck muscles to rut in the ground.
“It’s looking for hearty truffles.” Rhoam said. “The Forest of Spirits has a lot of game for hunting, but you have to be careful.”
“That thing does look dangerous.” Link said.
“The boar? They can be, or they can be dinner. The real danger is hiding in the woods.” Rhoam said.
Link looked beyond the boar, into the cool dark under-story of the forest. At first, he didn’t see anything, but then he spotted it. There was a faint glow of red, a pinpoint of light. No, two of them. Eyes. Eyes that glowed red. And when he realized they were eyes he saw more. The creature had an enormous head, much bigger than its body–so big it looked like the creature shouldn’t be able to stand without toppling over. The face ended in a pig-like snout crusted with mucus. Flies lazily buzzed in and out of the monster’s nostrils. The mouth was lined with large teeth clearly made for tearing into meat. In its hands it held a short, crude spear.
“Bokoblins.” Rhoam said. Link didn’t see the second bokoblin till it leapt with blinding speed at the boar. This monster was unarmed, but it’s hands had thick claws that easily knocked the boar to the ground. The first bokoblin rushed in and finished the job with its spear. The two monsters roared in triumph. It was a guttural, hate-filled scream that set Link’s teeth on edge.
“Disgusting things, aren’t they?” Rhoam said. “Let’s follow them.”
The bokoblins were dragging the boar to a small campfire further down the hill from where Link and Rhoam hid. They butchered the beast with startling efficiency and soon had a large hunk of meat roasting over the fire. Link hadn’t seen them use knives or any other tools–their claws and massive strength were all they needed. The bokoblins began to make strange croaking sounds, the larger one was gesturing with his claws.
“Are they…talking?” Link asked.
“Yes.” The bigger one is bragging about killing the boar, and the smaller one is reminding him that he helped.”
“You can understand them?”
“A little. I may look old but I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve. Bokoblins may look stupid, but they have some intelligence. Enough to make weapons, some small buildings, and a crude language.” Rhoam was cut off when the bokoblins began jumping up and down and roaring in each other’s faces. It didn’t stop till the bigger one decided to pick its snout and eat what it found.
“C’mon.” The old man said, and he started crawling to the lip of the hill overlooking the fire. Perched right at the edge of the slope were two large boulders. The old man hid behind one and Link the other.
“Just because those things talk don’t start thinking you’ll be able to argue you way out of a fight.” Rhoam said. “The monsters that have invaded this land may argue with each other, and even fight and kill one another, but the second you show your face they will drop all their qualms to snuff out your life. Monsters that normally can’t stand the site of one another will work as a team to come after you. They are filled with malice for all living things. Your only option is to fight…or run.”
Link nodded. The explanation wasn’t necessary. Looking at the bokoblins gave Link such a feeling of revulsion he knew the feeling would be mutual.
“You hungry?” Rhoam asked. He picked a large stone up off the ground and stood up in full view of the bokoblins.
“Hey pig-face!” He yelled. The large bokoblin looked up just in time for the stone to hit him square in the eye. A rock falling from that height would have killed Link, but the bokoblin reacted about the same as Link would when hit with a raindrop. The effect however, was immediate. The monsters charged up the hill, moving with surprising swiftness despite their short legs.
“Now push!” Rhoam yelled. He had leapt back behind his boulder and put his shoulder into it. Link did the same. He thought there was no way he could move the boulder, even if it was vaguely round-shaped. He dug his feet into the ground and felt the leather of his shoes tear as he put every ounce of strength into making the boulder move. He could no longer see the bokoblins but he could hear their charging feet and imagined he could smell their breath. Link pushed harder. Just before his stamina gave out he felt the boulder shift, then gravity took over.
The ground shook as the boulders crashed down the hillside. He didn’t see the boulder meet bokoblin, but when the chaos ended both lay motionless at the bottom of the hill.
“Woohoo! Yeah!” Rhoam yelled, grinning and pumping his fist up and down. “I’ve been wanting to do that for a loooong time.” Those two have been living in the Forest of Spirits for weeks ruining my hunting. I moved those boulders here as a trap, but couldn’t push both myself.”
Link followed Rhoam down the hill along the old road. It sloped down and curved into what looked like a ruined plaza and small lake. They turned off the road at the bottom and went to the campfire.
“Bokoblins aren’t good for much, but every now and then you can get food from them.” Rhoam said. The meat on the spit was seared to perfection. Link could see the fat dripping off of it into the fire, and his stomach made a loud grumble grumble.
He and Rhoam sat on a log eating strips of meat Rhoam cut off with a small, sharp knife. Link wolfed his food down. He was one-third Rhoam’s size but ate twice as much as him.
“Lemme show you something.” Rhoam said. Before Link could ask what he was doing Rhoam stood on the chest of the large bokoblin, reached down with both hands and yanked the large front fangs from its mouth. He did the same to the smaller monster.
“Here.” He said. “Put these in your pouch.”
“Why?” Link asked. He looked at the still wet fangs with disgust.
“Monsters are magical creatures. Even those who don’t use magic are infused with it. If you take these monster parts and mix them with certain bugs you can create potions.”
“You want me to drink bugs and monster parts?” Link asked, his disgust rising.
“Don’t be silly.” Rhoam said. “Many of the bugs and other things that live in Hyrule have adapted to their environmental surroundings. When you cook them down together you can make potions that can heal you, make you faster, stronger, or harder to kill. You’re simply extracting the magical essence of the monsters and the bugs for yourself. Most potions taste…fine. Well, you get used to them.”
From the campfire Rhoam led Link across the old plaza, skirting the edge of a small tepid pond. Link now noticed a massive wall that that enclosed the plaza, the ruins, and stretched further than he could see. Forty feet thick and twenty feet high, it had withstood the punishment of centuries. The road they were on led to that wall. It disappeared into the pond. Columns lined the road under the water and atop the wall. At the far end of the pond were two winged statues looking out over the countryside.
“There’s a bokoblin encampment over there.” Rhoam said. “We’ll want to avoid that.” Link saw a handful of small wooden structures and a column of black smoke.
“What are they doing?” Link asked.
“I think they’re trying to uncover the entrance to the Great Plateau. The road used to be the only entrance on or off the plateau. The entrance was doors of oak fifty feet high and thicker than a man. At least that’s what I’ve been told. Now, where is that glowing dot?”
Link look at the Sheikah Slate. The glowing point seemed to be coming from a small shallow cave set in brown sandstone. On either side of the entrance were two intricately carved stone columns. The columns did not seem to be placed at the entrance, but almost grown out of the rock itself. They were made of the same strange stone as the cave he had emerged from. Staring down from the entrance of the cave was another bas-relief of an eye shedding a single tear. Link knew what he was looking at was ancient, even older than the walls of the Great Plateau. He started for the cave entrance.
Rhoam put a hand on his shoulder. “Not so fast. Look closer.”
Link looked at the cave again. This time he spotted it–a set of glowing red eyes just inside the shadow of the cave.
“Bokoblins have bad eyesight in the sun, but we can’t just walk up and ask to see inside. We’ve got to come up with a different strategy.”
Rhoam crouched low and began to work his way around the left side of the cave. The slope of rock was less pronounced on that side, allowing he and Link to scramble their way to the top, above the cave entrance. Rhoam crept forward and peered over the edge. A grim looked covered his face when he returned.
“There’s only one bokoblin, but it’s a big blue one. And no convenient boulders to drop on his head.” Link looked at the drop-off, then pulled the tree branch from his harness.
“You’re really determined, aren’t you?” Rhoam said. “Or is it recklessness?” Link shrugged.
“Look, you’re not going to do anything with that twig. I’m not as old as I look, I can take care of this guy.” Rhoam said. He hefted the large ax, took one step closer to the edge, and jumped. He fell with surprising grace, the speed of his fall lending power to his ax as he swung it from over his head. But his aim was off. The blow intended for the bokoblin’s head landed on its shoulder. The effect was startling none-the-less. The creature had been taken unaware and the shock of the blow knocked it flat.
The missed strike caught Rhoam off balance and he landed with a loud thump against the ground, his head hitting the cave wall, his ax clattering to the ground. Rhoam swooned, stars in his eyes. He shook his head to clear his vision and when he looked up he found himself gazing into the maw of the bokoblin. It had regained its feet and was screaming in rage. Then Link was there.
Link didn’t bother challenging the beast. When it got on its feet he leapt quietly down behind it and used both hands to smash the branch on the back of the monster’s head. The sneak attack caught the monster off guard and again and it went sprawling back into the cave. Link dropped the shattered branch and grabbed the ax. The bokoblin leapt from the shadows with murderous intent. The ax was too heavy for Link to swing easily. He put all his body weight into the swing, catching the bokoblin in mid-air and hurling it back into the cave.
“Link—the pedestal!” Rhoam said. He was pointing at a brown stone pedestal like the one in the cave where he woke. Link heard movement from the bokoblin. It was recovering its senses. He hefted the ax.
“Here!” Rhoam said. He grabbed the Sheikah Slate from Link’s hip and placed it in the slot. Orange lines of light began to trace their way outward from the pedestal, sketching a pattern that dimly lit the cave. A soft voice, feminine, and very polite, spoke.
“Sheikah Slate authenticated. Please watch for falling rocks.”
For a moment all three of them stood confused. Falling rocks? In a cave? Then they were knocked off their feet as the floor they were standing on launched into the sky. Link could see a pair of sparrows flapping beside one another high in the air growing closer and closer until they were forced to dive out of the way. The ceiling of the cave tore apart and rocks tumbled to the side. Dust and gravel fell in Link’s eyes. Then the movement stopped and he felt the warmth of the sun on his skin.
A boot slammed beside Link’s head and through his blurred vision he saw Rhoam rush the bokoblin, planting his shoulder into the monster’s back and sending it flying into the air over the new platform edge. It fell without a sound.
“That was something else wasn’t it?” Rhoam said as he helped Link to his feet. “I mean, I figured something would happen if we put that plate in the pedestal, but that?”
Link took in his new surroundings. The cave was gone. A tower had erupted from the rock and stood hundreds of feet above the ground. In the center of the platform was the pedestal with his Sheikah Slate. Above it was a smooth, translucent blue stone decorated with the same eye from the cave he woke in. As Link watched the stone began to glow.
“Distilling local information.” The polite voice told Link.
Images appeared on the blue stone–writing. It was a language Link didn’t recognize. The words trickled through the stone like water and pooled into a small drop at the tip. The drop fell to the Sheikah Slate, which immediately lit up. A map appeared on the screen–topographic lines showing the terrain of the Great Plateau.
It was the golden voice.
“You must remember.”
She was pleading.
Link heard the voice in his head and now, he could see it.
North from the tower the wall of the Great Plateau dropped hundreds of feet to the ruins of a town. Beyond the town were miles of grassy fields and green woodlands set before the castle.
The castle was built upon a large up-thrust of stone, the grand halls and long passages built in part with skilled stonework and in part by burrowing into the very granite it stood upon. A river curled around it on three sides with a flow so great it pushed water up through the rock to well out near the base of the great tower where it then cascaded down waterfalls on all sides of the castle. Parapets stood tall against the sky, decorated with the same outstretch wings Link had seen at the entrance to the Great Plateau. Perched high on the rock, surrounded by all the spread wings gave the castle the appearance of a great aerie, like a place where birds and people dwelt together.
With all its grandeur the castle was in ruins. Much of the stonework was crumbling and many of the parapets with their guardian birds had toppled. The whole place was blanketed in a miasma that Link at first mistook for smoke. But smoke didn’t move on its own. Smoke didn’t make Link feel uneasy. The foul air seemed to absorb the light of the sun but at the same time gave off a sickly red glow. It obscured Link’s view of the castle. It made his eyes burn just looking at it. It…it was looking at him.
From the center of the castle Link saw a pair of eyes, gigantic eyes. Their gaze bore out at him from the Sanctum with such malice it struck Link like a physical blow. This wasn’t the hatred like the bokoblins seemed to have for all living things, this hatred was accompanied by recognition. Link was certain that, whatever was behind those eyes, it knew him.
The eyes, the darkness, moved. The miasma surrounding the castle began to churn and swirl and coalesce. The eyes that stared at Link became the face of a grotesque boar, a beast nearly as large as the castle itself. The jaws of the demon made of darkness opened far beyond what any living boar could do. It bellowed a challenge at Link across open miles that was so loud the tower Link stood on shook. Then, the golden light.
“Remember.” The golden light said.
“Try to remember. You have been asleep for the past one hundred years.” The golden light grew stronger, and the darkness weakened. The monster lost shape and fell apart. “When the beast regains its true power, this world will face its end. Now you must hurry Link, before it’s too late.”
Link was staring at the castle.
The voice. The one that woke him. That golden voice. He had to get to it. He didn’t know why, but the voice was all he knew, and he trusted it.
Link jumped as Rhoam clapped him on the back. “You were staring into nothing for a moment there buddy—you okay?”
“If the only entrance to the Great Plateau is flooded how did you get up here?” Link asked.
“What? Why?” Rhoam asked.
“I need to get to that castle.” Link pointed directly at the Sanctum.
“You wanna go…? Link that’s crazy! That’s Hyrule Castle. That place is filled with monsters that make the bokoblins look like ants. The very air is a poisonous reek that drains your energy and leaves you feeling…angry…and vulnerable. And none of that matters because before you could even get close to the castle you’d be vaporized by a guardian.” Rhoam took a deep breath.
“Guardian?” Link asked.
“C’mere.” Rhoam said, and walked to the opposite side of the tower platform. He pointed at the temple.
“You see that weird contraption sticking out of the wall of the temple?” He asked.
Link nodded, it was hard to miss, and even harder to describe. It was vaguely conical shaped and had branches…or maybe pipes sticking out of the wide bottom. The only thing he could say with any certainty was that it was made of the same strange stone as the tower he was on and the chamber he woke up in.
“That….is death. It is a Guardian Stalker. An autonomous, multi-legged cyclops from the ancient world. It is incredibly fast. It can incinerate victims with a beam of light from its one eye. Once it sees you it locks on and rarely misses. It does not sleep, it does not eat, and it never stops hunting. The fields of Hyrule Castle are crawling with them.”
“How do I get past them?” Link asked.
“Get past them?! You can’t! That was my whole point!” Rhoam bellowed.
“Besides.” He said more calmly. “How are you going to get to the castle when you can’t even get down the wall?”
“Then tell me how to get down and I’ll figure out the rest after that.” Link said.
“I will.” Rhoam put his hands up as a sign of giving in. “But first look over there.” He pointed over Link’s shoulder, back towards the flooded entrance of the plateau.
Link looked, and noticed something he hadn’t before. On the far side of the lake was a small building built of that same strange stone. Link would have sworn it hadn’t been glowing before, but now it was emanating a sickly red-orange glow. There was a small porch with a dais like the one in the chamber where he woke.
“I’ve been trying to get into that thing for weeks.” Rhoam said. “Heck, breaking into that thing was half the reason I climbed up here.”
Link looked at him. “You climbed?”
“Yes, I. climbed. Don’t let my grey beard fool you—I may have been around the block once or twice but I can still climb. And don’t scoff—you may have some scars on you but you look like you’ve got the stamina of a blupee.” Rhoam laughed. “Anyways that wall was designed to be hard to climb. There are overhangs and drop-offs everywhere. Not to mention it’s crumbling all to hell.”
“How’d you get up then?” Link asked.
“With power, courage, and wisdom. And I know a few secrets about the wall. You wanna learn those secrets? Then I want whatever treasure is in that shrine.” Rhoam smiled. “I have a trick for getting down the wall, and you have a trick for getting into that shrine.” Rhoam gestured toward the Sheikah Slate.
“You can take my ax in case you run into any trouble.” Rhoam handed him the heavy bladed weapon.
Link looked at the shrine. He was curious what was in it too.
“Okay, deal.” Link said. “How do I get off this tower?”
An hour later he finished his climb down. His legs burned and his arms shook. Thankfully Rhoam had offered him climbing advice while lounging at the top.
“Try not to fall.” and “Don’t split your pants.” were Link’s favorites. Even better was when Rhoam fell asleep and Link had to climb to the sound of snoring.
But now he was down as the afternoon grew warm. He skirted the bokoblin camp and followed the broken cobblestones to the shrine. He slowed as he drew close. The glow seemed to come from the rock itself, and Link could see no signs of wear despite the fact the shrine was obviously ancient. He tapped the blunt side of his ax against the stone but it didn’t chip. It didn’t even sound like rock.
“Get on with it!” Rhoam’s voice, carried on the afternoon wind, floated down from the tower.
Link walked to the dais and placed the Sheikah slate on its face.
The effect was instantaneous. Red light leapt from the dais, then the entire shrine flashed into blue. New etchings were outlined in the light. The eye with a single tear adorned the crown of the shrine. There was a rumble as the stone door split into horizontal columns and recessed into the wall. Link looked inside. It was empty.
Confused, Link walked inside for a closer look. Just as he began to wonder what would happen if the door closed on him the floor began to descend. The last thing he heard as he disappeared from sight was Rhoam’s voice.
“What did you find?”
Chapter Two: The Shrine of Oman Au
The walls slid by noiselessly as the platform descended. Seconds went by, then minutes. When the journey down finished he was deep underground. The room the platform deposited him on was enormous. The ceiling stood hundreds of feet above his head, yet Link knew he had descended many times that on the elevator.
“To you who enters this shrine, I am Oman Au. In the name of the Goddess Hylia, I offer this trial.”
No voice spoke to Link, he heard the words in his head.
The chamber he was in was built much like the chamber where he awoke, but here it was brightly lit. The walls were made of the same strange stonework traced with glowing blue lines, the bas-relief of the eye with a single tear decorated the walls. Like the room he woke up in this place seemed ancient. But unlike his room this place was spotless—there wasn’t a speck of dirt that he could see, except what he had just tracked in. No one had been here for a very, very long time.
The room was empty save the platform that has brought him down and another pedestal like the one he had activated on the tower. Directly in front of him was a passageway leading to another chamber. Entrance to the hallway was blocked by thick stone bars.
“Maybe the pedestal opens the hallway?” Link said to himself. His voice was curiously muffled in the tall chamber, as if the air had been still so long it had forgotten sound.
Link walked to the pedestal and placed the Sheikah Slate in its cradle.
“Authenticating Sheikah Slate. Distilling Rune.”
The blue stone above Link’s head began to glow. The corner of the room filled with light as more of the strange language drained from the stone and dropped onto the slate. Link braced himself for another reaction like when the tower thrust into the sky–maybe the entire chamber would burst above ground. But the dais returned the slate and fell silent. It seemed nothing had happened.
The stone bars still stood in his path. He looked at the wall above him and smiled—it topped out less than twenty feet above his head. After his climb on the apple tree he felt sure he could make it up and over this wall. He braced one foot against a vertical bar, then looked for a hand hold on the wall. There was nothing. He ran his hand over the stone and looked closer—it was perfectly seamless. There was no way he could find a grip on that surface. He’d have to find another way around.
He returned to the dais to see if there was something else he needed to do, and that’s when he noticed the symbol. On the slate’s screen was a small red rune, curved like a horseshoe. Underneath was a word written in a language he understood, though the word made no sense to him.
Link pressed the rune. Nothing happened. He pressed it again, then again, nothing.
That wasn’t quite true. The slate in his hand was doing something. The was a very slight vibration, like energy was running through the slate. He pressed the button again and that’s when the noticed it. In the center of the room were two intricately carved floor tiles. He hadn’t paid them much attention when he first entered the shrine, but the magnesis rune was causing them to glow red.
Link examined the tiles. He had assumed they were made of the same rock material as the rest of the shrine, but when he put his hand on one it felt cold. It was metal. Solid iron he thought. Each tile was eight feet wide and twenty feet long and had to weigh several tons. He felt a slight movement of cool air coming from under the tile. He stood, pointed the Sheikah Slate, and activated the rune. A stream of light burst from the eye and attached to the great iron tile.
Link was taken by such surprise he took a step back and very nearly fell on his butt. All several tons of iron lifted from the floor and sat hovering in the air, seemingly held aloft by the band of light coming from the slate. The metal plate moved with him, and controls on the slate allowed him to push and pull it away from himself. Fascinating.
Link lifted the tile clear of its spot on the floor and moved it to the corner of the room. When it was out of the way he turned off the rune and the plate dropped with a loud “CLANG!” He shivered—he’d need to be careful or he could be crushed under one of those.
Underneath the tile was a ladder that led down to a passage. A stream of fresh water ran along one side of the passage, and on the far side a set of stairs brought him up to the chamber he had seen before. In this new chamber he once again found his passage blocked, this time by a wall of stone blocks.
“It’s like they want me to solve a puzzle before I find the treasure.” Link said. He had a feeling he talked to himself a lot.
Now that he knew what magnesis did, the answer to this puzzle was easy to solve. One of the blocks making up the wall was made of the same carved iron the tiles. He pointed his slate at the block and activated the rune. It took no effort to pull the metal block out from its stone brethren, then use it to clear a path to the next room.
The stone blocks stood taller than Link, and the haphazard way he had scattered them left his view of the next room blocked until he was well in it. He now found himself in a long room, the lower level of which was filled with water. Several islands of rock led to a large set of metal doors. Just in front of him was set of small stone…plates? Upside-down bowls? Link wasn’t sure what it was till he noticed the tentacles that emerged from the bottom—they looked much like the ones on the Guardian Rhoam had pointed out to him from the top of the tower. This was much smaller than the one that had destroyed the temple, but he felt certain it was still dangerous.
Link had barely enough time for those thoughts to register in his head before the guardian’s single glowing eye fixed on him and it began to scuttle in his direction. It moved like a spider and Link felt that same sense of revulsion from it. The thing was fast, Link barely had time to unsling the ax from his back before it was on him.
He expected one of the legs to lash out and hit him, and he hefted the ax to knock it back, but the machine came to a stop just in front of him. It didn’t attack. For half a heartbeat Link thought maybe it was friendly. Then the eye began to glow and a high-pitched noise built up behind it. Link didn’t wait, he swung the ax. The machine was knocked backward and staggered on its feet. Link continued his attack, trying to crack the shell of this strange guardian. The ax was heavy and hard to swing with speed, and the creature was fast. He swung and the guardian dodged out of the way, then jumped forward again. The ax’s momentum twisted Link’s body around and he went with it—spinning in a circle delivering blow after blow to the guardian.
The thing would stagger, but otherwise his attacks seemed to have no effect. Then Link heard an awful sound. He landed a hard blow on the guardian and the head of the ax shattered. He was weaponless.
The guardian took advantage of this and shot Link in the back. The ball of light that came from the machine’s eye felt like having a hot coal thrust under his skin.
He was nearly exhausted, and his back burned badly, but he made back through the tumbled of blocks into the previous chamber. The guardian followed him for a moment, but as soon as he was out of sight it seemed to forget him.
Link fell to his knees and panted. His stamina was no match for the effort he had just put in and he needed a moment to recover.
When his breathing had calmed he sat and thought. What could he do? He knew the guardian was damaged, but it was still deadly and he had no weapons. Could he try and run past it and get through the big metal doors?
No, he realized. His stamina wouldn’t hold out against that thing and besides–the bottom of the room was filled with water and he needed time to figure out how to cross from one rock island to the next. He could exit the shrine and try and find another weapon, but that would take time, and Rhoam wouldn’t likely lend him another. All he had with him was his Sheikah Slate.
The Slate. He thought. I wonder if I can pick up the Guardian with magnesis?
Link crept through the jumble of fallen blocks and carefully peeked his head around. The guardian was there, waiting. It had been waiting for countless centuries and he didn’t think it would grow tired any time soon. He lifted the Sheikah Slate and activated magnesis. Nothing. The guardian the did not light up like the iron tile.
What did light up however was the iron block Link had pulled from the wall. This gave him an idea.
Being as quiet as possible Link edged around the stone block and activated magnesis. A stream of light leapt out and an instant later he had control of the metal block. He moved back behind cover, then used the slate controls to position the block over the guardian. When it was as high in the air as the slate was able to push it Link turned the rune off.
The result was spectacular. The block came crashing down edge-first on the guardian’s head, shattering it and sending the legs flying. There was a small explosion as whatever powered the machine was set free, then all was silent again.
It took Link only a moment to solve the puzzle of how to cross the gaps over the water flooding the chamber. A large iron plate, like those he found in the first room, served as a makeshift bridge when moved with magnesis.
As he moved the bridge into place and crossed to the large doors separating him from the next room, Link’s eye caught sight of a treasure chest that glowed red with the magnesis rune on a shelf high above his head. The chest would have been impossible to reach without his Sheikah Slate, but with it he was able to make short work of the obstacle. Inside the chest he found a small wooden bow often carried by travelers.
Whoever Oman Au is. Link thought. He wanted me to know how to use the magnesis rune, and that it will be useful.
Link slung the bow on his back, then opened the large metallic doors to the next room.
The sight that greeted Link’s eyes was totally unexpected. The doors led to another, smaller chamber that contained a small platform resting ten feet off the ground. The platform was surrounded by eights lamp glowing blue with the power of the shrine. It was roofed by intricately carved rock that hung from the ceiling by a thick trunk. It seemed both organic and inorganic at the same time, if that were possible. The walls of the platform were made of shimmering blue glass. Stairs directly in front of the platform led to another emblem of the eye with a single tear, etched into the glass. And behind that eye, sealed in the platform, was a man.
He was sitting upright with his legs crossed. His skin was stretched taut over his face giving him the appearance of extreme age. His arms and legs were thin as twigs, and his ribs showed on the sides of his chest. He wore no shirt but had a pair of tattered brown pants held to his waste by a thin red cord tied in a knot. This would have given him the appearance of a beggar, but he wore a large gold necklace and bracelets. The hair on his head had receded, but what was left had grown several feet long and white as cloud. On his forehead was painted the same eye with a single tear that decorated the chamber in which he sat. His held his hands up, thumbs and index fingers touched to form a triangle in front of his chest.
“Hello?” Link said. The man didn’t respond. This shrine had supposedly been sealed for thousands of years, but Link sensed the man was still alive. He climbed the stairs and reached out to touch the shimmering glass between them.
The barrier shattered!
Link threw up his arm to shield his eyes, but there was no need. The blue barrier was made of light, not glass. The light flew outward, then faded away. Now nothing stood between Link and the meditating man.
“Hello?” Link said again.
“I am Oman Au, the creator of this trial.”
The man did not move, but Link heard his voice clearly in his head.
“I am a humble Sheikah Monk, blessed with sight of the Goddess Hylia and dedicated to helping those who seek to defeat Ganon.”
The monk paused, but Link did not say anything.
“Hyrule is an ancient land. It little resembles the kingdom it once was. The forces of good and evil have fought for control of this land for countless millennia. These battles have torn the land apart. The people of Hyrule have seen great prosperity and near absolute ruin. They again have need of a hero. In the name of the goddess Hylia, I give you a spirit orb of Hyrule.”
The air between the monk’s hands began to shimmer, and from the monk’s chest sprang a small orb adorned with the symbol of outstretched wings that adorned the entrance to the Great Plateau and Hyrule Castle. Link reached out, but before he could touch it the orb disappeared into his chest. He touched his breast where it disappeared. He had felt nothing.
“Go, and bring peace to Hyrule.”
Link was…outside again? The last thing he remembered Oman Au told him to bring peace to Hyrule, then the monk had vanished into light. Now he found himself blinking against the sunlight.
“HOOOOOO!” A loud voice called from above, jerking Link away from his thoughts. He looked up and saw Rhoam gliding towards him from the top of the tower. He was hanging from a small cloth kite stretched on a rickety looking frame that looked impossibly small to be used as a glider. Link stared slack-jawed Rhoam touch down gently on the platform beside him.
“Well I hope you brought the treasure because I spoiled the surprise of how I plan to get off the plateau.” Rhoam said.
“You’re gonna jump off a four-hundred-foot cliff with that thing?” Link said with skepticism.
“This ‘thing’ is a paraglider, and it’s one of the most useful magical items still left in this world. You saw how it can let someone even my size glide gently to earth, and it can be pulled quickly from a Possibles Bag in case I fall. It’s been woven with spells to increase its durability. It won’t rot or freeze or burn. That kind of magic has been lost for a long time. It’s hard to find a paraglider these days, but I managed it.” Rhoam said.
“Okay well I brought your treasure, so gimme that paraglider.” Link held out the traveler’s bow he found in the shrine.
“Now wait just a minute. Is this bow all you found in the shrine?”
“No. I also found a man who was thousands of years old and he gave me an orb that disappeared into my chest.” Link said matter-of-factly. “Can I have the paraglider now?”
“You found what?” Rhoam said. “Hold on. Where’s my ax?”
“Oh. I broke it…sorry.”
“Consarnit boy! You broke my ax, brought me a small bow with no arrows, and you want my paraglider? No way. Besides—I only said I’d show you how I got off the mountain. I never said I’d give you anything.”
Link began to protest, but Rhoam stopped him.
“The afternoon is getting old. I’m guessing you don’t have a place to stay? Why don’t we head to my cabin for dinner and we’ll discuss it in the morning?”
Link looked around. The western sky was bathed in red light and the sun had almost gone behind Mount Hylia. Soon the sheer red mountains to the west would cast a long shadow on the Great Plateau. It would get cold, and Link’s shirt and pants were worn thin. Besides that, he was hungry.
Link followed Rhoam back towards the tower to the opposite side of the ruins from where he woke. Rhoam followed a path that stayed near the outer wall.
“We’re going to walk back behind the old abbey and try and stay out of sight of any monsters. Some bokoblins have set up camp near the cabin.
Soon it was full dark. The stars emerged and glittered like newly fallen snow. The pair crept quietly past the ruins of the abbey, slowing down especially once their footing became treacherous in the dark. They continued to follow the outer wall into a grassy field. The white trunks of the aspen forest at the edge of the field shone silver in the starlight. To his left Link could sense the great gulf of air from the drop off.
Light caught Link’s eye. Just ahead on the right he could see a campfire flickering against the trunk of a tree. He pointed it out to Rhoam, who paused to look.
“I was worried about this.” Rhoam said. I’ve spent the last week hunting in the Forest of Spirits and trying to get into that shrine. While I was gone bokoblins moved in near my cabin.”
Link looked closer. The fire was obscured by several wooden crates—stolen goods Rhoam said. But poking out from behind one box Link could see a bokoblin’s arm. As they crept he saw there were two of them—a red and a blue bokoblin. They were surrounded by filth—vegetable rinds from the stolen crates, half eaten fish and meat. Leaning up against the log were some crude but deadly looking weapons.
“I’ll teach you a little trick.” He said. Then he threw a rock.
Link tried to stop him. They had no ax, no stick, and their bow had no arrows. They’d be slaughtered.
The rock arched through the air, then fell. It missed the bokoblins and went into the branches of the tree where it made a hollow “thump!”
A beehive crashed to the ground and burst open. Hundreds of giant yellow bees came pouring out in anger. The bokoblins turned to the noise only to be hit with a face full of bees. They ran.
“That’s better.” Rhoam said. He got up and walked toward the fire. “With their huge heads bokoblins are really sensitive to bee stings. I suspect they’ll head back to their little outpost at the base of the cliffs.”
At the abandoned campfire Rhoam broke open the remaining crates and found some week-old vegetables.
“I hope whoever they stole these from is okay.” He said.
Link examined the weapons the monsters left behind. There was a crude club—a short, heavy branch that had the spiked dragon bone lashed on the end. Dragon bone was incredibly hard, and the thick branch it was attached to looked durable. Beside it was a shield made of the same material. Wood couldn’t take much punishment, but with the edges reinforced by bone it was much stronger. There was also a simple bow made of horse hair and a tree limb, but it had been crushed by the fleeing bokoblins.
“You can have those. I won’t touch monster weapons.” Rhoam said, then he spit on the ground.
Link followed Rhoam out of the light of the campfire and back into the night. Rhoam began making jokes about “feeding the freeloader” as he cut a path through the moonlit woods. Link didn’t pay much attention. It had been a long day, and he was tired. The golden voice said he had been asleep for a hundred years, and he felt he could sleep a hundred more. He was grateful when the low, slumped shape of Rhoam’s cabin emerged from the darkness. They walked to the entrance and Rhoam lit a lantern. Link saw a sparse but comfortable set-up. There was a table, two chairs, a bed, and a low table.
“Home sweet home.” Rhoam said.
Chapter Three: A Deal with Rhoam
“I can’t just give you my paraglider, but maybe we can work out a deal.” Rhoam said to him the next morning. They were eating a breakfast of eggs scrambled with mushroom and salt, as well as a cold glass of milk. Rhoam had pulled the bottle of milk out of a small, straw-lined root cellar that was covered by a wooden hatch in the cabin.
“Where’d you get milk up here?” Link had asked. “There doesn’t seem to be anyone else around.”
“There isn’t anyone else up here, but there are still people who manage to eek out a living in the ruins of this long-dead kingdom.” Rhoam said. “When you get off this plateau you’ll find people traveling the land gathering food to sell. They travel during the spring and summer gathering and selling food before hunkering down in one of the villages through winter. You’ll also find treasure hunters like me. And monsters of course.”
“Did you get the milk from someone down there?” Link motioned to the outer wall.
“Oh no—this is boar’s milk. Don’t ask.”
The eastern sky was growing light with the coming dawn. Mist clung to the wet grass. The sky was clear and cold.
“As I was saying before you got distracted by food—I can’t just give you my paraglider. But maybe we can work out a deal. There are three other shrines on this plateau. I haven’t been able to get into any of them.” Rhoam finished the last of his eggs.
“So now you want the treasure from four shrines instead of one?” Link said, one eyebrow raised. He was interested in seeing what was in the other shrines, but he couldn’t resist pulling Rhoam’s leg.
“Hear me out.” Rhoam said, then walked outside. He pointed northeast, back the way he and Link had come the night before. Stars still shone in the west, but to the east the sky was red with dawn.
“In the Eastern Abbey we passed last night is another shrine. If you keep following the edge of the plateau you’ll come to the Forest of Spirits—my hunting ground. At the top of the forest slope is a gateway to the highlands of Mount Hylia. That place is covered in snow year-round, and the air is cold enough to kill you in minutes. There’s another shrine north of the mountain.”
“There’s snow there year-round?” Link asked. It didn’t seem possible as he looked at the rich spring-green grass.
“Yes, it’s always been that way, no one knows why. The people of the old kingdom used to use the highlands to gather ice for food storage to protect against times of famine. Tales say the castle you idiotically want to invade had a massive food drying room and storage for just that purpose. But that doesn’t matter right now.” Rhoam turned and now pointed southwest, towards the large grey wall of rock that stood hundreds of feet higher than the field they were in.
“The last shrine is atop that cliff.” He said. “You’re going to need more than just this paraglider if you want to make it down in the Kingdom. Last night was warm, but winter is coming. You get me the treasure from those shrines, and I’ll give you my paraglider and this wool doublet. If you want to survive the highlands and Hyrule you’ll need it”
Rhoam held out what Link had thought was a large wash-rag. He saw now it was a tightly woven twill undershirt and a doublet made of thick rag wool. Wool is one of the best insulators in cold weather because the wool fibers are hollow. That means each fiber can trap a lot of warm air even if it gets wet. Rhoam also handed him a pair of thick leather gloves. They were fur-lined and cinched far back from his wrist to keep his hands nice and toasty. The outfit was a little big for Link, but not by much.
“These…don’t fit me anymore.” Rhoam said. “I… uh… used to be a lot smaller. Feels like 150 years since I was able to wear them.”
Link stowed the outfit in his possible bag. “Okay, we got a deal.”
“Good. Rhoam said. “I’ll come with you to the Eastern Abbey—there’s something I want to show you there. Then while you climb Mount Hylia I’ll rustle up some grub in the Forest of Spirits. You can cut across the highlands to the shrine atop the cliff to save time. We’ll meet back here for dinner.”
The morning dew soaked Link’s moccasins as they walked back through the field to the Abbey. He relished the feel of it.
“The Abbey was where the monks who took care of the Temple lived.” Rhoam said as he led them to a cobblestone square in front of the ruins. That temple was now above Link on the hill. He could more clearly see the large hole that the guardians had smashed in the side. Below him was a set of stairs nearly buried under a century of eroded dirt, and the shrine. It sat at the back of the ruined abbey, past several stone arches. The abbey was littered with the broken shells of guardians.
“Why don’t you see what you can find down there?” Rhoam said.
Up close the devastation was even worse than it looked. The stonework was beginning to crumble into dust from the moss and lichen that had grown thick since the roof collapsed. Guardians had smashed through the walls seemingly at random. One at the entrance had stopped in an attempt to scale the wall. Link drew closer to it. The stone beast was easily three times as tall as Link. It’s “legs” as Rhoam had called them, were stiff as steel and Link couldn’t understand how something this big could move as fast as Rhoam claimed.
He continued into the abbey. More guardians sat warming under the sun. Sparrows chased crickets through the grass that grew in what had been the main hall. Summerwing butterflies flapped their wings to dry them of dew. The destruction of the abbey must have been incredibly violent, but now nature was taking over and things seemed at peace.
Link walked through another archway toward the shrine. A glint of metal underneath one of the guardians caught his eye. It was a large screw. Link got on his hands and knees and reached under the machine to grab it.
“Link watch out! That one’s not dead!”
Rhoam’s yell startled Link just as he pulled the treasure out from the dirt. He fell back and looked up. A single blue eye stared down at him from above. Grinding noises came from inside the machine and red light flashed like lightning between the cracks in its armor.
A beam of light came out of the blue eye and hit Link’s chest. He could hear the machinery inside moving faster and faster, building to a crescendo he was sure he didn’t want to see. He leapt to his feet and ran.
The squeal coming from the guardian grew until it filled Link’s ears. He sprinted toward the shrine, then his stomach dropped—the last archway was blocked with rocks. Like someone had been trying to shield the shrine from view—there wasn’t a crack big enough for a mouse to get through.
Link didn’t stop. He sprinted toward the wall and scrambled up it. Just as he made his final leap for the top he heard a loud beep and then felt, rather than saw, the guardian’s eye beam tear through the air behind him. The air crackled as it went past. The butterflies that had been drying themselves burst into flames. With the last ounce of his stamina Link jumped for the top of the wall.
The beam struck the stacked rocks where Link had been a second before. The explosion tossed him like a rag-doll over the wall. He thumped to the ground in a tangle of limbs, his vision whited out for a time.
“Link! Are you okay?!” Rhoam yelled.
Link sat up. The beam hadn’t touched him, but he still felt like he had a bad sunburn all over. Rhoam hadn’t been exaggerating when he said the guardians were deadly. He could hear the broken-down machine trying to move on the other side of the wall.
“Yeah—I’m okay!” Link called out. “You could have warned me!”
“You seem like the reckless type—I thought the lesson was better taught the hard way! I’m gonna head to the forest to hunt some dinner!”
Link dusted himself off and walked to the shrine. It was an exact replica of the first he had entered. When he placed his Sheikah Slate on the pedestal, it opened the same way. He steeled himself for another trial.
“Greetings, I am Ja Baij.”
The room Link found himself in was similar to the one in Oman Au’s Shrine. The same brown stone, blue light, and angular architecture. Link wondered if they were connected to each other somehow, or if the monks had spent thousands of years alone while only a few hundred yards apart.
Like the shrine of Oman Au this shrine began with another pedestal that gave his Sheikah Slate a new rune: bombs. These weren’t just any bombs though. These were made of the same blue light-energy the monks had flowing through all their works. There were two types of bombs, one round, and one square. And just like the last shrine Link was forced to solve puzzles designed to teach him how to use his new item. He bombed his way through several chambers, including one which hid a new weapon: a traveler’s claymore.
It was a crudely made sword, the metal was brittle and wouldn’t hold a sharp edge. But it was more powerful than anything else he had, so Link hung it from his harness gratefully.
He found Ja Baij meditating on a raised platform just as Oman Au had been. In fact, the two men looked so similar Link thought he would trouble telling them apart. Maybe thousands of years of meditation would do the same to him. It wasn’t until Link removed the barrier between them and he heard the monk’s voice in his head that he could tell a real difference.
“Your resourcefulness in overcoming this trial speaks to the promise of a hero. In the name of the Goddess Hylia, I bestow upon you this spirit orb.”
The sun was nearing mid-morning when Link reappeared outside the shrine. Birds were chirping and butterflies had returned to drift about on the warming air. Calm had returned to the ruined abbey.
It was a clear, calm day. The air was still, making it easy for Link to hear the half dozen bokoblins patrolling the toppled buildings and walkways in front of the temple. One he could see wearing a path back and forth on a set of stairs nearby. He was surprised it didn’t spot him, but Rhoam had said their vision was hindered by the bright sun.
Link avoided the ruins and climbed the grassy hill on the far side of the temple. The arched entrance to the highlands had once been marked by two winged statues, now only the broken half of one remained above the slowly disappearing road. The sun shone hot on the back of Link’s neck and he was sweating by the time he reached the arch. What he saw when he arrived shocked him.
Despite the warm morning sun and sweat trickling down his back, the trees and ground past the archway were snowbound. It was as if the archway was the entrance to winter as well as the mountains. Link took a few steps forward to pick up a handful of snow when a wall of cold hit him. This was no gradual temperature change like a chill morning warming into day–one moment Link was too warm, the next his skin was puckering and his lungs burned from cold. The sweat on his back began to freeze. In seconds his hands began to grow numb and his muscles tighten. He knew it would take only minutes for a chill this deep to suck all the warmth out of him.
He retreated to the sunny side of the archway. The warm stone greeted his chilled flesh and brought life back into his limbs after a few minutes. Rhoam hadn’t been kidding, this was no ordinary cold. Link looked at his map as he warmed himself. A large body of water called The River of the Dead blocked the direct route to the mountain shrine. He wouldn’t try to swim something with that name. He’d have to follow a slot canyon up and then loop around Mount Hylia’s north or south side.
The wool doublet and fur-lined gloves Rhoam had given him held the cold at bay as he began to climb the southern slopes of the range. His legs were still only protected by his thin pants, but as long as he kept moving he stayed warm. And the cold actually helped his feet stay warm. The snow was icy, if it had been warmer it would be wet and his moccasins would have gotten soaked. Then he’d have a real chance of getting frostbite no matter how thick his doublet was.
Link wound his way past evergreen trees and into the canyon’s entrance. He kept out of view of the lake. He didn’t know how many of the monsters inhabited the highlands, but if he could avoid them blowing their horns and calling a horde down on him he would.
They were out there, those bokoblins. As the canyon he was in narrowed he could hear their voices echoing above him and smell the smoke of a campfire. The snow crunched under his feet and slowed his pace, but the monsters must not have heard because they continued talking in that strange guttural language.
The monsters had both superior numbers and the high ground, so he’d avoid the camps when he could. He stuck to the shadows and climbed the stone cliffs to avoid be seen. He could feel the cold of the rock even through his thick gloves.
Things were going well until he got cocky. At the top of the canyon he found himself directly above one of the bokoblin camps. Three of the monsters were sitting around a fire at the base of the cliff below him. Nearby, but set well away from the fire, were several red barrels clearly marked with skull and crossbones. Link had a good idea what the symbol meant, and it gave him an idea.
He used his Sheikah Skate to make a round bomb, which he then rolled off the cliff into the bokoblin’s camp. The explosion was spectacular. Flames burst from the barrels in rapid succession and the monsters were sent tumbling in every direction. It cleared the valley below him, and for a moment he smiled in satisfaction. But the noise also drew the attention of a large grey and white bokoblin that was hiding behind some columns on the cliff near him.
It was armed with a spiked club and shield, and snow did not slow this new breed of bokoblin in the slightest. Link barely had time to unsling his claymore before the monster was on him. It screamed and leapt through the air in an attempt to finish Link off in a single blow. Link avoided being struck and barely had time to regain his footing before the monster was on him again. He swung his sword wildly and was blocked by the bokoblin’s shield. He twisted and brought his sword around again. The weight of the long sword helped him now as the monster was knocked back, its arms flailing for balance. Link didn’t stop his momentum and came around a third time to catch the bokoblin in the chest. He might as well have hit the shield again the hide of the beast was so thick. The sword itself did little damage, but the force of the blow sent the monster flying backwards off the cliff.
Link looked over the edge and saw the fall had barely fazed the creature. It was already sprinting through the snow back to the top of the cliff, one eye gazing murderously at Link.
Link didn’t wait. He took off up the side of the mountain. The monster was fast, but Link doubted those thick claws were useful for climbing. He climbed a few short cliffs and then looked behind. The grey and white bokoblin was at the base of cliff, but appeared to have lost sight of him. It snuffled its large nose in the snow tossed about by their battle, but quickly seemed to forget what it was doing and moved back to its hiding spot in the shade by the pillar.
“That was too close.” Link said. He knew he could be formidable in combat, but the weapons he possessed were just too poorly made to be much help except against the weakest of enemies. He’d have to find better ones.
His choice of route had been made for him. The quick scrambles up the slope had brought him to the south side of Mount Hylia and the southern edge of the great wall of the plateau. He would follow the wall until he reached the shrine.
The snow was densely packed against the stone ramparts, and Link was able to climb to high points on the wall easily. This let him keep an eye on the terrain for any other monster surprises. It also gave him an unobstructed view south and east, and what he saw made him think. The valley floor was thousands of feet below, the sheer drop made him think that the Great Plateau was not a natural land feature. The whole plateau felt out of place with the land surrounding it. The great red sandstone cliffs across the gulf from him made that feeling stronger.
Link crested a rise and saw the shrine ahead of him. It sat on an escarpment on the shoulder of Mount Hylia, a path lead to the summit on the north side. Another bokoblin camp blocked that route, so Link avoided the path and climbed up the southern side of the outcropping. He’d be doing a lot of climbing to avoid combat until he got some better weapons.
The shrine looked just like the others, as if they had all been cast from the same mold. Like the others this one appeared ancient but completely unworn by time. The red glow emanating from the rock looked warm and inviting after hiking and climbing in so much cold. Link took off one glove and put his hand to the rock. It wasn’t warm, but neither was it cold. The air around him still bit like the dead of winter, but the rock of the shrine wasn’t affected.
“To the one who sets foot in this shrine… I am Keh Namut. In the name of the Goddess Hylia, I offer this trial.”
A third shrine, and a third rune. Now Link understood why Mount Hylia was caught in perpetual cold. The technology of the Sheikah gave him the power of crynosis—the power of ice. It allowed him to create pillars of ice out of water, and he suspected it was what kept the mountain in year-round snow.
Link knew the drill by now. He kept his Sheikah Slate at the ready as he made his way through the puzzles of the shrine. Each obstacle was meant to teach him what he could use his new rune for. Keh Namut wanted him to understand that crynosis was useful for getting to hard to reach places—he climbed a ledge to reach the next chamber and a second ledge to find a chest containing a traveler’s spear. He learned it was useful in lifting heavy objects like metal gates, provided there was water underneath them. But perhaps the best use he found for his new rune was to trap a guardian against a wall so that it could not move. This made dispatching the machine much easier.
For the first time since he woke he felt he was making progress. His Sheikah Slate was becoming a tool as important as the weapons he carried on his back.
His shadow had grown long by the time Link emerged from the shrine, the day was growing old. He had one more shrine to complete, and it stood clear across the highlands. He once again avoided the bokoblin camp by climbing down the backside of the shrine, or so he thought. Though he took the same route down and thought he was out of sight he was spotted.
A ball of snow twice his height hurtled past him, coming so close it nearly grazed his shoulder. He turned and saw two of the bokoblins rolling more snowballs in his direction. Something that size moving that fast would flatten him. He dove out of the way of the first and watched as the second went flying off the cliff into the abyss below. He jumped to his feet, steeling himself for an attack by the monsters, but it didn’t come. The third bokoblin called out to the other two—the meat charring over the fire was finished. Apparently satisfied that they had caused enough mischief, his attackers went back to their campfire and he was left alone.
Link didn’t wait. He retraced his route across the southern flank of Mount Hylia, trying to put distance between him and the camp. Only when he felt he was too far away to be pursued did he stop for a break. He took the time to eat a few of the apples he had stored in his possible bag.
It was a quiet day. No wind blew across the snow-covered slopes. The only sound for hours was that of his feet crunching in the snow. No birds chirped on the frozen slopes, no monsters roamed. Link felt that the silence would have made a lot of people uncomfortable, but he didn’t mind it. He felt he was the quiet type, the silence suited him.
At one point he saw something strange. Atop Mount Hylia was what looked like a large stone stood on end. He had seen it when he first passed but didn’t think anything of it. This time he thought he saw something—a second stone.
This stone stood as high as a man. It looked like Rhoam. The light of the falling sun was too bright, and he wasn’t sure he could trust his eyes. Why would Rhoam be on top of Mount Hylia? He was supposed to be hunting for dinner. The thought of food made Link’s stomach rumble, despite the apples. He forgot about the shadow and continued to the shrine. He arrived as dusk settled on the land.
Owa Daim’s Shrine was perched near the edge of a tall cliff, and that cliff was perched near the edge of the Great Plateau. Far below shadow was covering the land as night settled in. Closer to him he could see light coming from Rhoam’s cabin, and the dark figure of the man moving in front of the cook fire he kept outside. His stomach growled again at the thought of dinner. It was time to enter the shrine.
“To you who sets foot in this shrine, I am Owa Daim. In the name of the Goddess Hylia, I offer this trial.”
The final shrine was the strangest Link had seen. From the time he stepped off the elevator he could see the platform on which Owa Daim sat waiting for him. There were no separate rooms, no doors to open. What he found instead were devices that seemed both mechanical and magical—a giant gear turning a platform that was the path forward. There was a rolling stone ball, perfectly round, that fell from a tube in the ceiling and rolled along the ramp he needed to climb. It would fall off the edge of the walkway into a dark abyss, only to reappear moments later at the top of the platform.
A forth rune filled the final spot on his Sheikah Slate, a power called Stasis. Was it technology or magic? Or both? Link didn’t know. It gave him the power to stop moving objects—halting the gear long enough for him to cross the large gap, and the rolling ball long enough for him to grab a new shield. This was a traveler’s shield, and since it was made for humans it fit his hands and harness much better than the monster shield he had been carrying.
Link also found a thirty-pound sledge hammer. It wasn’t hidden behind a puzzle or in a chest, it was just propped against the wall. It was a well-made tool, heavy enough he felt sure he could use it as a weapon. Owa Daim had other plans though.
The last obstacle he had to face was another giant stone ball blocking the only path to the monk. Link tried pushing the ball over the edge, but it was too heavy. He used the sledge to try and knock it loose, but it bounced off the side. The answer, of course, was the stasis rune. It did not just stop an object from moving, but also stored kinetic energy until it was released in whatever direction Link chose to hit it. Though the ball must have weighed several tons, a few sharp strikes from his new sledgehammer after it was put in stasis sent it flying.
I should go back and teach those snowball bokoblins a lesson. He thought.
With that, Link found himself in front of the last monk, who looked much the same as his brothers. Link dispelled the barrier.
Chapter Four: Rhoam’s Story
When Link emerged from the shrine no trace of daylight remained in the sky. The night air was cool, and a mountain breeze blew down into the valley below.
The voice startled Link. From high above the dark figure of Rhoam and his paraglider drifted down from atop the mountain. The large man floated gently on the night wind and landed in front of the shrine. Before Link could think of a question, Rhoam spoke.
“With this, you have now acquired all of the Spirit Orbs from the shrines on this plateau.” Rhoam’s tone seemed different than before. Then he guffawed. “Extraordinary!”
He paused for a moment, then said.
“That means…it is finally time. Link, it is time for me to tell you everything.”
Rhoam turned and pointed north.
“Imagine an X on your map, with the four shrines as the end points. Find the spot where those lines intersect. I shall wait for you there.”
“What about dinner?” Link was about to say, but Rhoam had vanished. One moment he was standing there, the next he seemed to disappear into blue flame.
Link did not have time to wonder at this latest puzzle. As soon as Rhoam disappeared something even stranger happened. The dirt beneath his feet began to move and two skeletons armed with spears emerged from the earth. They had large skulls and short bodies. The bones seemed held together by nothing, but in their eyes glowed two coals of malice. Apparently bokoblins hated him enough to come back from the dead to try and kill him.
“How in the…” Link said. But he had no time to finish he question as the reanimated skeletons attacked.
Link leapt backward and drew his traveler’s spear from his harness. He sword and sledgehammer were more powerful, but he wanted to match range with range. He was quick with a spear—he could balance the haft with his left hand and make multiple strikes in rapid succession by thrusting with his right arm. He struck at the closer stalkoblin and the creature burst into pieces.
It’s that easy? Link wondered as he turned his attention to the second and dispatched it.
But he was wrong, it wasn’t that easy. Whatever magic gave the skeletons life had not left them. The skulls of the two creatures bounced towards their tumbled bones, and the bones themselves began to reassemble themselves.
Link lunged again, driving his spear between the eyes of the skull. If the eyes glowed, that must be where the magic came from he reasoned. His third and fourth strikes worked. With the heads dispatched the bones crumbled into dust, and Link was left alone again on the windswept cliff.
“I guess I won’t be getting dinner anytime soon.” Link said as he began to move north. He didn’t need to look at his map to know where to go. Link was good at memorizing terrain and he knew as soon as Rhoam had pointed that the ruined temple on the hill was his destination. It was time to learn who Rhoam really was.
Up close the temple seemed much more ancient than the ruins around it. It seemed it could have been older than the shrines themselves. But unlike the shrines, time had not been kind to the temple. Moonlight shone through holes in its high roof. Grass grew on what must have once been an ornate floor. Stone heaped in rubble littered the grounds. It was a wonder the building still stood at all. Torn in the temple wall when Link arrived. Grass was growing through the tiled floor.
A sleeping bokoblin guarded the entrance. Link snuck quietly past it, as much for reverence of the place as to avoid a fight. He could see Rhoam. The large man was kneeling in front of a statue at the back of the temple. The statue was of a winged woman. She was wearing a flowing dress; her hands were held clasped in front of her. A soft light seemed to emanate from the stone. The Goddess Hylia. Link walked to where Rhoam was kneeling.
“This is where I died Link.” He said. “It was a hundred years ago that guardian killed me as I kneeled right here, praying. Praying for the goddess to save those I couldn’t. To fix my mistakes.”
Rhoam stood and picked up a bundle of wood wrapped in a leather strap that lay beside him.
“Let’s not talk here. Let’s go somewhere we can get air.”
Link followed without a word. The large man walked out of the front of the temple, then around the north side to a ladder that clung to the brickwork beside the gaping hole the guardian had made. Link followed up the ladder and across the roof to the temple spire.
“Start a fire if you would my boy. I imagine the night air is chill.” Rhoam handed Link a piece of flint as well as a haunch of deer meat.
“I’m guessing you are hungry after your long day. Feel free to cook and eat as I talk.”
While Link worked Rhoam gazed silently out from the tower at Hyrule Castle. Only when the smell of roasted deer began to drift through the air did he turn to Link.
“Well done young one.” Rhoam said. His manner of speaking had changed. He no longer sounded like a cocky treasure hunter. Now he sounded more refined, but more than that, he sounded sad. Link waited.
“The time has come to show you who I truly am. I was King Rhoam Bosphoramus Hyrule. I was the last leader of Hyrule…a kingdom which no longer exists.”
A flash of blue blinded Link and the treasure hunter he had known was gone, replaced by a man dressed in regal blue and gold. Surrounded by spectral flames, Rhoam now wore a gold crown adorned with the outstretched wings Link had seen in so many places since his awakening. Rhoam had always seemed like a large man, but King Rhoam was a dominating presence.
“The Great Calamity was merciless. It devastated everything in its path, lo, a century ago. It was then that my life was taken away from me. I was here, praying at the temple when it struck. The walls of the temple shook, and I felt the roar of the monster vibrate the very ground under my knees. “
The King turned his gaze to Mount Hylia, which shown silver in the moonlight.
“My personal guard fought bravely, but none could stand in the way of the crazed guardians as they tore through the temple walls and town below. Only one survived, though mortally wounded. He took my body from this place and dug a grave for me atop Mount Hylia. And since that time here I have remained in spirit form.” He turned back to Link.
“I did not think it wise to appear as a spirit when you first woke and your memory was still fragile. Rather than that, I thought it best to assume a temporary form.” Rhoam paused. “Though I do admit it was nice to be treated as just a regular traveler and not a king for a time. Ever since I married into the Royal Family people have treated me as a King and not as a man. Still, I deceived you. Forgive me.”
The King gestured that Link could eat while he talked. Link did not need to be told twice.
“I think you are now ready. Ready to hear what happened one hundred years ago.”
“To know Calamity Ganon’s true form, one must know the story from an age long past. The Demon King was born into this Kingdom, but his transformation into malice created the horror you see now.
“Stories of Ganon were passed from generation to generation in the form of legends and fairy tales. But there was also…a prophecy.
“It began when the Queen’s mother died. The Royal line of Hyrule has always followed the eldest daughter of the family. That is because the daughters of Hyrule have the gift of foresight. They could hear whispers from the spirit realm, and they used these whispers to help guide the Kingdom during hard times. For countless generations this foresight has let the kingdom avoid famine and war. Queens would know when there was unrest among the people and how to turn the folk back towards the light. But when the Queen’s mother died it was different.
“As she neared the end of her life the Queen’s mother grew more uneasy. On her deathbed she told the Queen and I that evil was coming, and that we needed to be vigilant. In her last moments as we sat by her bedside she looked at my wife and told her ‘You must name your daughter Zelda, like the stories of old. I know you sense this too.’ And then she passed away.”
Rhoam paused and looked down at an old ring on his hand.
“The Queen and I had not been married long when her mother left us. I was still trying to gain respect as the new ruler of Hyrule. There were many who thought the Queen’s choice in me as a husband and King was foolish. I opposed naming our daughter Zelda at first. I thought it would make me look weak—to name our daughter after a children’s tale. I thought it would look like I was trying to use a children’s story to make my reign seem more legitimate. The Queen was silent on the subject until she became pregnant. But when she first felt that life growing inside her she became adamant. It would be a girl, and her name would be Zelda. I knew my wife better than to argue.” Rhoam smiled a looked down at his hands, held in front of him like he clutched something small and delicate.
“And she was right, the Queen. When I first held my daughter in my hands and she looked up at me with those green eyes I knew her name was Zelda.” He dropped his hands back to his sides.
“But it was as she gave birth that everything was to change. For that night the Queen made a prophecy.” Rhoam paused, then continued in a voice Link assumed was supposed to be the Queen’s.
“The sign of a resurrection of Calamity Ganon are clear. And the power to oppose it lies dormant beneath the ground.
“If I had doubted her before I did not now. She spoke with an authority I could never match. I was reminded that, though I was King, I was just a figurehead. She had authority of the true line of the Royal Family.
We decided to heed the prophecy and began excavating large areas of land. Before long we discovered several ancient relics made by the hands of our distant ancestors. These relics, the Divine Beasts, were giant machines piloted by warriors. We also found the Guardians—an army of mechanical soldiers who fought autonomously.
“We poured millions of rupees into establishing the Royal Ancient Labs—looking to uncover the mystery and technology of our ancestors. We partnered with the Sheikah to create weapons that would be deadlier to monsters and the Calamity. We began to research magic in earnest—digging old books out of the library and drinking disgusting ‘potions’ of bugs and monster parts.” The King paused. “If I’m honest though, you do get used to the taste, and they do make you feel great. Who am I kidding, I’d love to have one right now.
“All of this coincided with ancient legends, oft repeated throughout our land. We also learned of a princess with a sacred power and her appointed knight, chosen by the sword that seals the darkness. It was they who sealed Ganon away using the power of these ancient relics.
“One hundred years ago there was a princess set to inherit a sacred power and a skilled knight at her side. It was clear that we must follow our ancestors’ path. We selected four skilled individuals across Hyrule and tasked them with the duty of piloting the Divine Beasts. With the princess as their commander, we dubbed these pilots Champions—a name that would solidify their unique bond.
“The princess, her appointed knight, and the rest of the Champions were on the brink of sealing away Ganon…but nay. Ganon was cunning and he responded with a plan beyond our imagining. He appeared from deep below Hyrule Castle, seized control of the Guardians and the Divine Beasts, and turned them against us. The Champions lost their lives, those residing in the castle as well. The appointed knight, gravely wounded, collapsed while defending the princess. And thus, the kingdom of Hyrule was devastated absolutely by Calamity Ganon.
“However, the princess survived…to face Ganon alone.” Rhoam paused.
“That princess was my own daughter, my dear Zelda. And the courageous knight who protected her until the very end…that knight was none other than you Link. You fought valiantly when your fate took an unfortunate turn. And then you were taken to the Shrine of Resurrection.” Rhoam looked at Link and smiled.
“Here you now stand, revitalized, one hundred years later. The words of guidance you have been hearing since you awoke are from Princess Zelda herself. Even now, as she works to restrain Ganon from within Hyrule Castle, she calls out for your help. However, my daughter’s power will soon be exhausted. Once that happens, Ganon will freely regenerate himself and nothing will stop him from consuming the land.
“Considering that I could not save my own kingdom, I have no right to ask this of you Link…” Rhoam clenched his fist and his voice cracked. “But I am powerless here.”
“You must save her, my daughter, and do whatever it takes to annihilate Ganon.
“Somehow Ganon has maintained control of all four Divine Beasts as well as those guardians swarming around Hyrule Castle. As I said, I believe it would be quite reckless for you to head directly to the castle at this point. And while you may have lost your memory, I have not. You have always been somewhat reckless.
“You came from a family that supposedly had heroic blood, though most families claimed that. You were an energetic child. Actually, you were annoying. You entered a sword-fighting competition at the age of six by lying about your age—and you WON. All the older men who fought traditionally hated sparing with you because you were constantly flipping around and moving too fast for them to keep an eye on. You used to walk about the castle as fast as most men ran.
“So please listen to my warning when I say to avoid the castle until you are ready. I suggest that you make your way east, out to one of the villages in the wilderness. Follow the road past the Dueling Peaks out to Kakariko Village.” Rhoam pointed into the darkness.
“There you will find the elder, Impa. She will tell you more about the path that lies ahead.”
The fire was dying low.
“Calamity Ganon is my failure, I accept that. I suspect all returns of the beast have been during the reign of lesser kings. When the old fail it’s up to the young to fix things.” Rhoam sighed.
“In this treasure chest you’ll find the promised paraglider and a well-made soldier’s bow. Both should be helpful to you in your quest.” The King came and sat before the fire. His clothes changed back to the brown hood and cloak of Rhoam the treasure hunter once more.
“You must be tired. I will tend the fire and watch over you while you rest. Please, do not say anything. Do not ask any questions. I am tired too. You sleep, and I will think.”
Link’s mind had taken in a lot, but he found himself strangely calm. Though he did not understand all the King told him, he felt the truth of it. And the King was right, he was tired. It had been a long day. Link slept.
Rhoam did as promised and kept the fire going to hold back the night chill. The stars turned slowly overhead and the moon sank behind the horizon. When the first grey light of dawn touched the horizon, he stood.
“Wake Link.” The king said. “Today you journey into the wild.” And without a sound the King of Hyrule disappeared.