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Strength of Heart

Chapter Text

The day was still young when Tarya and Malari set off into the deep woods. The sun was just beginning to hit the middle of the sky, and it was soon blocked out entirely by the thick canopy of the Faron Woods.

The forest was alive with life, the scuttling and shuffling of animals and insects reverberating through the trees. Tarya carefully stepped over roots and bushes, her booted feet making sure steps through the treacherous undergrowth with Malari right behind her.

Tarya's mission was to make it to a small clearing on the western side of the forest where bushes of berries grew alongside a small stream. There she and Malari were to collect these berries so that they could be ground up into a potion for her Malari's cat. Apparently, the potion was supposed to turn the cat into a great beast that could run faster than any horse.

"Then we can ride him to the market any time we want!" Malari had said, though Tarya had her doubts. Why would a cat even drink a potion made from berries? It'd make more sense if they were making it from fish.

Or Zora.

Tarya walked ahead of Malari, being more familiar with the woods. Tarya had been exploring the forests ever since she could walk, her courage bolstered by curiosity. Though at first terrifying, the occasional deku baba or scuffling skrub no longer concerned her.

Especially not when she had her trusty slingshot. Best in the village was she with the juvenile weapon, often causing chaos over broken pots or windows. But what mattered was her ability to take down keese from almost ten paces away.

Which is what got her in this situation in the first place. Any time anyone wanted to go out into the forest, they always asked Tarya to come with them. She had become the body guard of the village's youth. It was cool at first, but she soon became tired of the requests. She only agreed to join Malari because Tarya had once shot her cat with a stone, thinking it was a rat.

Hey, it was late at night. What was the cat doing out after dark, anyway?

"Watch out over the next clearing," Tarya warned the younger girl. "There's going to be a couple of those deku baba, but they shouldn't be able to reach you if you stay in the very middle of the path."

"Deku baba?" Malari asked, fer pace faultering. "For real?"

"Uh, yeah!" Tarya replied, spinning on the ball of her foot to gaze back at Malari. "We're in the Faron Woods after all! There's tons of monsters and nasties all over the place!"

"I haven't seen any so far," Malari said, her large green eyes darting around.

"That's because they're all scared of me," Tarya replied, patting the slingshot on her belt. "But deku baba can't go anywhere. They'll tremble in fear in my presence, though, just watch."

"I don't believe you," Malari said. Tarya just sighed and continued on her way, stepping carefully until the knotty ground gave way to a smoother path that opened up into a large clearing.

The blue sky was visible between the reaching tree branches overhead, and the sunlight that broke through warmed Tarya's skin. The fresh air turned a little sour as the stink of deku baba got closer.

Tarya heard the chattering of teeth before she could see the monsters, and she glanced back at Malari's frightened gaze. "See?" Tarya said with a smug grin. "They make that sound when they're scared."

"I'm pretty sure that's a warning sound," Malari said.

Tarya shrugged and pulled the slingshot off her belt. "Don't worry so much. I won't let you get hurt."

The two girls passed through the clearing, and Tarya's gaze caught the telltale thorny vines and spiky leaves that betrayed a deku baba's presence. But the mouths of the monsters never came out of the bulbs on the ground. Usually when Tarya approached the plants, their big, ugly maws would pop out of the bulbous flower at the center of the vines, chattering and snapping, their sharp teeth looking for something to sink into.

But on this pass, the creatures never showed their heads. Tarya just considered herself lucky and continued on.

The stream wasn't far from that clearing, and before she knew it, Tarya was staring at the fruitful bushes, green clashing with bright red. Malari ran ahead to the first bush and began to pluck the hard little berries off of the vines, shoving them into her pockets. "C'mon, Tarya, help me!"

"I'm supposed to be the bodyguard on this mission," Tarya said with a grimace. "I'm not doing the labor."

Malari huffed out her mouth. "Fine, but I'm charging you for rides on my cat!"

Tarya rolled her eyes and leaned against the bumpy trunk of a tree. As Malari continued to gather the berries, Tarya let her gaze wash over the forest in front of her, keeping her ears open for any sign of trouble. Her gaze caught a peculiar sight on the other side of the stream, though it was hard to make out.

Squinting, Tarya saw what looked like a hunched over person lurking in some undergrowth. They appeared to the beating the ground with a stick. Tarya took a few paces forward to get a better look, when the person looked up, meeting her gaze.

Tarya gasped when she saw the snub nose and the beady, deadly eyes. That wasn't a person, and it wasn't friendly. And worst of all, it started to approach Tarya.

Tarya stood still, wondering if the creature had noticed Malari. Maybe she could lure it away and Malari could get out of there. But surely the moment it saw Malari make any move, it would go after her.

Tarya raised her slingshot, a heavy deku nut in hand. It wouldn't kill the creature, but it would stun it, and that would be enough to get away.

"Malari," Tarya said, keeping her voice low and calm. She didn't look at the other girl, but heard her "hmmm?"

"Get ready to run," Tarya said, setting the deku nut in the slingshot.

"What?" Malari said, then popped her head over the bushes. The shriek she let out when she saw the monster startled Tarya, and she let the deku nut fly too soon. It flew too high, right over the creature's head, and smacked worthlessly against a tree.

And the creature charged.

Tarya didn't have time to think; she turned and ran, yelling for Malari to follow her. She heard the younger girl's panicked footfalls behind her as they fled into the foliage, tripping over vines and roots on their way.

The monster was right behind them. Tarya heard it crashing through the bushes, letting out a horrifying screech that sounded like a piglet being branded.

Glancing back at Malari, Tarya saw the monster was quickly gaining on her. If she didn't do something, the thing would have her in seconds.

"Keep running this way," Tarya called to Malari. "We aren't too far. Keep going!" The Tarya turned and ran hard to the right all of a sudden.

"Where are you going?" Malari called after her, her voice shrill with fright.

Tarya ignored her, though, and began to shriek herself as loud as she could. When that didn't stop the pig monster from pursuing Malari, Tarya charged forward herself, throwing out her arms, and ran directly at the monster.

She slammed right into it and fell hard. Its body was like a wall, and it didn't even move from the force of Tarya's tackle. It did, however, pull a very large club off of its back and bring it over its head. Tarya rolled out of the way just a hair before it slammed down on her face.

Jumping to her feet, her gaze falling on the hideous monster. Its face was contorted into a creepy grin made terrifying with its pig nose sniffing the air. It stood a little taller than Tarya, probably taller if it weren't hunched forward. It let out a squeal and lunged forward, and that was all Tarya needed before she bolted.

She raced through the forest, her heart pounding, her face dripping with sweat. She had lost all sense of direction in the scuffle and no longer had any idea where she was going, yet continued to run until she could run no more...because the ground gave out.

Tarya found herself on the brink of a sudden drop off, peering down the descending cliff with a monster at her back. There was nowhere else to go. She looked back at the creature. She looked down. There was a pond down there.

There was nowhere else to go.

She hated heights.

The monster was on her.

There was nowhere else to go.

Closing her eyes, Tarya flung herself off the edge. At first she hardly felt a thing, but then she fell faster and faster until a scream ripped its way out of her throat.

She hit the water hard, the pond fortunately deep enough for her to fall into. She clawed for the surface, kicking and swimming frantically until she could gulp air down into her lungs.

Kicking her way to the edge of the pond, Tarya looked up at the distance she fell. It had to be more than twenty feet. She didn't see the creature at the top.

Tarya pulled herself out of the pond, panting. She pushed her shaggy hair out of her face, the dark wet locks sticking to her face. She wasn't entirely too certain where she was, and turned to look at her surroundings. As far as she could tell, she was still in the Faron Woods, as trees stretched before her in every direction.

She heard a snap of a twig to her left. Almost jumping out of her skin, her hand went to her belt where her slingshot should be, only to find the sling empty.

Cursing aloud, she put her fists up. Whatever was approaching would get a fight.

A moment of silence stretched on. Tarya stamped her foot and bellowed, "Come out and face me!"

She was expecting that pig monster. Instead, she got a man, standing tall in the trees with his arms folded over his chest, one blond eyebrow raised.