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By Cere

Chapter 5: Calm Before the Storm

              Stalchildren chattered as they closed in on Link. One Stalchild took a swipe at Link, so he cut its arm off. That didn't faze it a bit, and it continued marching towards him. Link was swinging his sword everywhere, taking out Stalchildren right and left, but more kept coming. "Navi," Link called. "A little help here?"
              "What am I supposed to do?" Navi asked, dodging a strike. "I can't attack these guys."
              "I know," Link said, chopping off a Stalchild's head. It started attacking wildly around, hitting more of its companions than Link. "But I can't keep fighting forever."
              "They usually leave caravans alone," Navi said, "and only attack lone travelers."
              "Well, that's very helpful," Link said, sweating heavily even in the chill of night.
              "You interrupted me," Navi admonished. "I was going to say that people traveling alone at night are advised to find shelter."
              "Good advice," Link said. A Stalchild grabbed his hat, so he rammed his sword through its chest. "See any shelter nearby?"
              Navi flew above the fray and looked around. "There!" she exclaimed. "I see Lon Lon Ranch in the distance. Follow me!"
              Navi took off, forcing Link to slash his way through the mass of Stalchildren. He broke away from the main crowd of them and took off at a run. However, the battle had taken its toll on him, and he was breathing heavily after a short while. He didn't even notice the wall until he ran into it.
              He sat on the ground and rubbed his head where he had hit it. The sounds of advancing Stalchildren brought him back to his senses, and he looked around and found an entrance to his left. He ran to it but found a gate blocking the way.
              "Hey!" Navi shouted. "Is anybody there? We're trapped outside and Stalchildren are attacking us!"
              Link turned to face the advancing Stalchildren, but the gates behind him swung open. He wasted no time and quickly ran through. The gates closed behind him and he collapsed on the ground. The physical exertion of the day's events caught up to him, and he fell asleep where he lay.

              He awoke in a soft bed. With some struggle, he propped himself up on his elbows. He was still tired from yesterday, but he wanted to know where he was.
              There was no one in the bedroom with him. Soft light came through the curtained window. The fragrance of flowers filled the room, and Link noticed some freshly picked ones on the table. It seemed like a very cozy place.
              He stepped out of bed and put on his boots, then walked over to the window and opened it. Immediately the sounds of the ranch hit him. He heard the mooing of cows, neighing of horses, and the clucking of the Cuccos. It was very overwhelming for one who had never heard those animals before. The smell of the ranch also drifted in, and he promptly shut the window.
              With the outside sounds dampened, he could hear voices. He walked over to the door. The voices were coming from behind it. Link stood there and listened.
              "He was in trouble. What else could we have done?" a voice said. Link identified it as Talon, the ranch owner.
              "He was unwise enough to travel along at night," a sly-sounding voice said, one Link couldn't recognize. "He should face the consequences."
              "He's just a boy," Talon said.
              "A well-armed boy," the sly voice said.
              "True, but he wouldn't have held up forever against those things," Talon argued.
              "Ingo, he's our friend," a young girl spoke up. Link recognized it as Malon. "He helped Daddy at the Castle."
              "Well," the voice, presumably Ingo, replied, "it was your daddy's fault that he's lazy and fell asleep."
              "Are you insulting me?" Talon said in a cold voice.
              "Me? Insult you?" Ingo said, feigning hurt feelings. "Why would I insult my master?"
              "Keep that in mind," Talon said. "Now, get to work."
              "Of course," Ingo said. There was the sound of a door opening and closing.
              Link backed away from the door. That was a curious conversation. Apparently, they were arguing about him. Who was this Ingo, and why did he want him out?
              The door opened, startling Link. Malon, who had opened the door, was also startled to see Link up and about. They stared at each other for a little while. "Well," Malon said, "I reckon you're mighty hungry. Why don't you come and have some breakfast?"
              Link walked out of the bedroom and saw that it was on a second story. A staircase led down into the room where Talon was sitting at the table. "Well, howdy," Talon said. "How're you feeling today?"
              "Fine," Link said. "Thanks for the shelter."
              "No problem," Talon said, a broad smile on his face. "Every once in a while we have to take in some poor traveler who's fool enough to walk around alone at night. Ingo never much likes it, but he don't have much of a choice. I'm the boss 'round here and what I say goes!" That smile never left Talon's face. "And now, I'm the boss and I say that you should eat yourself some breakfast!"
              Link sat down at the table as Talon dropped a hefty portion of food onto his plate. "Uh, I don't know if I can eat that much," Link said hesitantly.
              "It's good for you," Talon said. "It'll make you grow big and strong."
              A tapping came from the door, and Malon opened it to let Navi in. "Link," she said, "this place is amazing! I just explored around the whole ranch. You really should see it."
              "He will," Malon said. "I'll give him a special tour myself."
              Link was too busy eating to dispute. He was famished from yesterday's work. And besides, it might be fun to explore this place with Malon.
              Talon didn't talk much, letting Link eat. He only spoke up once to ask what Link had been doing last night. "It is curious to see a lad so young out and about at such an unwise hour," he said.
              Link swallowed the food in his mouth. "I didn't know about the Stalchildren," he said.
              "Didn't know about Stalchildren?" Talon asked in astonishment. "Then what were you doing going around at night all armed as you were?"
              Link hesitated for a moment. He felt that he didn't want to be blabbing about his mission.
              This made Talon suspicious. "You'd better not be a runaway," he said. "I'll have you know, I won't keep you here if you're hiding from yer folks."
              Link sighed. "My parents are dead," he said. It was sort of true. The Great Deku Tree was the closest thing to a father he'd had.
              The suspicion on Talon's face was instantly replaced with grief. "I'm mighty sorry," he said softly. "I didn't know."
              "That's okay."
              Talon looked like he wanted to say something else, but he didn't and Link resumed eating. Finally, however, it burst out of him. "You can stay here, if you like," Talon offered. "I'll take fine care of you and you'd be a big help around the ranch."
              "I can't stay," Link replied. "I have to be moving on soon."
              "To where?"
              Link thought fast. "To my relatives," he lied. "I'm going to stay with them from now on."
              "Oh," said Talon, looking embarrassed. "I suppose I should've asked first."
              "It's okay," Link said. "Your offer was kind and well appreciated."
              Talon smiled at that comment. He sat there a moment, just beaming. "You'll grow up to be a fine man," he said. Then he shook his head. "Well, I can't wait around here all day. I've got work to do." With that, he stood up and left.
              When Link was finally filled to the brim with food, he left the house with Malon. "C'mon," she said excitedly. "Don't be a slowpoke. Hurry up!"
              "I'm coming, I'm coming," Link said in mock exasperation. He turned to Navi. "She's sure excitable, isn't she?"
              "I like that about her," Navi said.
              Link smiled. "I suppose it is a little contagious."
              The children entered the stables, and Link was assaulted by a nasty stench. Malon noticed the expression on his face. It made her laugh. "You are such a weenie," she said.
              "Am not," Link asserted. He tried his best not to cringe as he followed Malon around.
              They made their way around the stable, Malon pointing out all the animals and naming them. "This is my favorite cow," she said, pointing to the last one in the row. "Her name's Bessy. One time, when Ingo tried to milk her, she kicked him!" She burst out into hysterical giggling.
              "Hmph," said a gruff voice behind them. "Didn't seem so funny to me."
              They turned and saw Ingo standing right behind them, holding a pitchfork. "Oops," said Malon, blushing. "Sorry."
              "I'll bet you are," Ingo said.
              Link wanted to clear any bad feelings between them. "Hi," he said cheerfully, extending his hand. "My name's Link."
              Ingo looked at the proffered hand with disgust.
              "Oh, c'mon," said Navi. "What do you have against him?"
              Ingo's eyes lit up in fury. "I'll tell you what," he said. "What kind of damn fool wanders around alone at night?"
              "Don't swear around a lady," Malon said.
              "I'll say whatever I damn want to," Ingo replied. "My main point is that this boy is up to no good. Going around armed like that? I'll bet money that he's a thief!"
              "Ingo!" Malon shouted in outrage. "Don't insult our guest!"
              "Who made you the boss?" Ingo asked. "Your father may order me around, but I won't take that crap from you."
              "That's enough," Navi said.
              "I can assure you, Mr. Ingo," Link said, "that I do not mean this ranch any harm."
              Ingo just snorted.
              Malon grabbed Link's arm and pulled him away. "C'mon, Link," she said. "I think I know who's dealing the crap around here, and we don't have to take it."
              "Careful, Malon," Ingo said.
              "Or what?" Malon asked without looking back.
              "Or I'll kill you in your sleep."
              Malon halted at once and turned to face Ingo. Fear was on her face. "I'm telling Daddy," she said.
              Ingo laughed. "Where's your sense of humor? It was just a joke," he said, though his eyes suggested otherwise.
              Malon watched Ingo for a few seconds more, then resumed leading Link from the stables.
              "Be careful," Ingo said. "I don't like the feel of that boy. He makes me uneasy."
              Malon slammed the door behind her. "He makes me uneasy," she said in a harsh, mocking tone.
              "Is he always that inhospitable?" Link asked.
              Malon sighed. "He wasn't so bad when he first arrived," she said, "but he's grown worse. He gets unrulier every day." She sighed again and shook her head. "But let's not let him spoil our day. Race you to the horses!"
              She took off running, forcing Link to try and catch up. He passed her halfway there. "No fair," Malon protested. "I can't run in a dress."
              "Should have thought of that before you challenged me," Link said, putting on an extra burst of speed.
              He stopped when he reached the fence enclosing the horses. Malon reached him and laughed at the fascinated expression on his face. "What," she said, "ain't you never seen horses before?"
              "They're so beautiful," Link said in awe.
              Malon laughed again. "A horse lover from the start!" she exclaimed with glee.
              She then started naming all the horses and telling stories about them. "And that," she said, pointing to a small foal, "is my favorite one. I saved her for last. C'mon, let's go and meet her!"
              She climbed over the fence (a hard task for someone in a dress, but Link noticed that she did it expertly, as though she had had lots of practice doing it) and walked out to meet the foal. Link followed her and stopped a short distance away, admiring at the animal.
              "Her name is Epona," Malon said. "I witnessed her birth, and I've loved her ever since. You can touch her if you like."
              Link walked closer to Epona, but she became very jumpy. "Steady, girl, steady," Malon said, but the foal would not hold still. She broke away from Malon and trotted in a big circle until she came to stand behind Malon, peeking out from behind her at Link.
              "I'm sorry," Malon said, "but she's very nervous around strangers." She then turned to talk to Epona. "It's okay," she said in a soothing voice. "Link's not going to hurt you." Then she started singing a song.
              There were no words, but Link marveled at the beauty of the melody. Epona seemed to like it as well, for she immediately calmed down.
              "That's a beautiful song," Link said.
              Malon stopped singing and turned to smile at him. "Thank you," she said. "It was one my mother always loved to sing."
              "Your mother?" Link asked. "Where is she anyway? I haven't seen her."
              Malon's face fell. "I much doubt you could."
              Link understood. "I'm sorry. I didn't know."
              "That's okay," Malon said. "How could I expect you to?"
              Link hurried to change the subject. "So, you sing very well."
              Malon's face brightened. "My daddy always says I'm a very good singer."
              "What's the name of that song?" Navi asked.
              Malon laughed. "I call it Epona's Song," she said, giving Epona's hair a shake, "because she loves it so much. I used to sing her to sleep with it when she was very young. Now I sing it whenever I want to calm her down."
              "Maybe I could learn that song," Link suggested.
              "Sure!" Malon said exuberantly. "Can you sing?"
              Link cleared his throat. "Not really," he said with hesitation, "but I do have an ocarina."
              He brought it out and showed Malon. "It's beautiful," she said.
              "Thanks," he said. "It was given to me by a friend back home."
              "That must have been a very good friend to give you such a pretty ocarina."
              Link blushed a little. "So, aren't you going to teach me that song?"
              In a few minutes, Link had the melody down. During this time, Epona gradually moved closer and closer to Link. When he'd finally gotten the song exactly correct, Epona was right next to him. He reached out to pet her and she didn't flinch a bit.
              Malon clapped. "Success!"
              They sat for a few more minutes next to Epona. Then Malon looked up into the sky. "My," she said. "It'll be lunchtime soon."
              Link patted his belly. "After that breakfast, I don't think I'll need any more food for a week."
              They all laughed over that one. "I know what we should do now," Malon said. "I think we'll have enough time for it."
              "Enough time for what?" Link asked.
              Malon smiled. "You'll see," she said. "I'll be back in a second."
              Link watched as she ran away to the house. He turned his attention back to Epona. I wonder what it's like to ride her, Link thought. After a quick glance to see if Malon was coming back, he mounted Epona.
              It took a couple tries (and a face-first fall), but he got up on Epona's back. Link looked around from his vantage point. He was tall!
              "Uh, Link," Navi said, "I'm not sure that's the brightest idea. You don't know how to ride a horse."
              "It can't be too hard," Link said.
              "Famous last words," Navi retorted, but she kept her silence and watched him.
              Link squirmed on top of the foal. He was having trouble finding a comfortable position to sit in. He finally gave up trying to be comfortable and instead tried to figure out another problem.
              "How do I make her go?" he asked in frustration.
              He heard a laugh and turned to see Malon watching him. "What's so funny?" he asked.
              "You are," she said. She watched him vainly trying to tell the foal to start moving. "Gently kick her," she finally said.
              Link turned to her. "Thanks," he said, and gently prodded Epona's side with his boot. Epona took off, sending Link tumbling over her backside and face-first into the dirt. He sighed and propped himself up on his elbows.
              Malon was rolling on the ground in laughter. "That was hilarious!" she managed to squeak out between laughs.
              Link picked himself up and walked over to her, brushing the dirt off his clothes. Malon finally got control of herself and stood up. She then picked up a bottle and handed it to Link. "What are these for?" Link asked.
              "You'll see," Malon said with a smile. She picked up a bottle of her own and walked away from the horses and the house, out towards the wall that surrounded the ranch. Link had no choice but to hurry after her.
              They reached a spot covered with tall grass. Malon stopped and turned to face Link. "There's a pool in here," she said, pointing to the tall grass. "Fairies like to gather around there. We're going to catch some." She then seemed to remember Navi was there. "That is, if you don't mind."
              "No, that's okay," Navi answered. "I can see them. They're health-fairies. They're mainly used for medicinal purposes, for they have great healing power. Don't have much of a mind of their own, so they won't mind being cooped up for a while."
              Malon was taken aback. "You're one smart fairy!"
              Navi shrugged, or did the fairy equivalent of one. "I'm a guardian-fairy," she said. "Guardian-fairies are very in tune with the spiritual world. Everything magical has a...well, it's like there's a written explanation contained in that magic. Guardian-fairies can read that explanation and instantly know everything there is to now about it."
              Link was impressed. He hadn't known this.
              "Well," Malon said, "let's go catch us some fairies. On the count of three. One..."
              Link gripped his bottle tightly.
              He prepared to pounce.
              Link and Malon both launched themselves through the grass. Link broke through and saw a pool surrounded by the tall grass. He was astounded by the number of bright pink lights hovering around it.
              Malon swung her bottle. "Rats. Missed."
              This brought Link back to his senses. He started chasing a fairy, trying to capture it in his bottle.
              "These things are fast," Link said as he jumped and missed, landing in the dirt.
              "Ha, that's just because you're not used to them," Malon said. She was holding her bottle triumphantly, and a pink light glowed inside.
              Link turned around, but the fairies had all retreated into the undergrowth.
              "Tough luck," Malon said, "but don't feel bad. I wasn't very good my first couple of times." She held out her bottle. "Here, you can have this one."
              Link spotted a soft light in the grass. "No thanks," he said, and pounced on the light. He came up with a health-fairy caught in his bottle. "I've got my own."
              Malon applauded loudly. "Great job!" she said. "You're a natural."
              Link admired the fairy he'd caught. He started to hand it back to Malon. "Oh, no," Malon said. "You can keep it."
              "Really?" Link asked in amazement.
              "Cool," Navi said. "That could come in handy on our adventure."
              "Adventure?" Malon asked.
              "Malon! Link! Ingo!" Talon shouted from the house. "Lunchtime!"
              Saved, Link thought. But Malon still wanted an answer from him. "I can't tell you," he said. "It's a secret."
              Malon just crossed her arms and glared at him.
              Link sighed. "Promise not to tell anyone?"
              Malon nodded vigorously.
              "Are you sure?" Navi asked.
              "What harm will it cause?" Link asked. Then he turned to Malon. "I'm on a mission to save Hyrule. I need to get the Triforce before Ganondorf does."
              That caught Malon off-guard. She hadn't been expecting something that serious. Instead, she started walking towards the house, a blank expression on her face. Link put the bottle in his Pouch and hurried behind her.
              Suddenly, in the middle of the ranch, she stopped and turned to hug Link. "Malon!" Link cried out in surprise.
              "Take good care of yourself," she said. "Promise me you'll do that."
              Link sighed. "I promise."
              Malon let him go and continued walking.
              Link hung back a little. "That was weird," he said to Navi.
              "She's grown attached to you," Navi answered.
              Link didn't get a chance to ask her what she meant by that, because at that moment he noticed someone standing next to the house. The visitor was talking to Ingo about something, and Ingo seemed very excited about it. Link didn't notice that, because he was too busy wondering what Vindari was doing here.
              Link ran the rest of the way to the house and stood panting next to Vindari. "Link," Vindari said. "What a pleasure to see you again."
              Navi caught up then and started growling softly at Vindari. "Hello to you, too, Navi," Vindari said in a less-than-enthused voice.
              "Vindari," Link said, "what are you doing here?"
              "Excuse me," Ingo said. "We were in the middle of an important conversation!"
              "It's okay, Ingo," Vindari said. "We'll continue talking later. Run along now."
              Ingo left with a smile on his face. Vindari turned to face Link. "So, how have you been?" he asked.
              "Okay," Link responded. "I've been spending all morning here at the ranch."
              Vindari gasped. "You've been here all morning? Why weren't you going and retrieving the remaining Spiritual Stones?"
              Link was surprised by Vindari's adamant questions. "I...uh..."
              Vindari went down on his knees and grabbed Link's shoulders. "You must retrieve the Spiritual Stones! You must!"
              "Hey, settle down," Navi said. "Why are you in such a big rush?"
              Vindari bowed his head. "I visited my family, but they didn't recognize me. They thought I was an evil creature!"
              "I'm not surprised," Navi said.
              Vindari glared at Navi. If looks could kill, Navi would have been dead. Then his gaze relaxed. "No, you are right," Vindari said. "That is part of the curse, to make people hate me."
              He let go of Link and stood up. "I'm sorry if I came on too strong," he said. "It's just that I must be free of this curse, so I can see my family again."
              "I understand," Link said. "I'll start right away."
              "Good," said Vindari. He turned and started walking away, then looked back. "Well, aren't you coming?"
              "Right now?" Link asked in surprise.
              "You did say you'd start right away."
              Link looked at Vindari. "You really are anxious to be cured."
              "Look at me," Vindari said. "Would you want to be like this?"
              Link sighed. "I suppose I wouldn't. Just give me a minute to tell Talon I'm leaving."
              Vindari nodded assent and his watched as Link ran off to talk to the ranch owner, followed by his ever-present fairy. Vindari suppressed a laugh. Yes, Link, he thought, hurry. But not for my sake. Do you think I hate this body, this wonderful, dark body? Your foolishness will be greatly rewarded when I hold your head in my hands.
              Vindari smiled and went to talk to Ingo again to finish detailing the plans to give Lon Lon Ranch to him when Ganondorf came to power.


Chapter 4<-- Back to Legend of Zelda -->Chapter 6

What did you think? Your feedback is welcome! E-mail me at cere_8@hotmail.com

Link and all related characters are the property of someone else. This is a work of fanfiction and no copyright infringement was intended. Vindari is my own creation.