Copyright 2020 by Eric J. Juneau. All rights reserved.
This story is in no way intended to infringe on the established copyrights and trademarks of Nintendo Co., Ltd. It is for entertainment purposes only and is not intended for sale. It may be freely distributed providing that no alterations to the story are made.
The characters and incidents portrayed and the names in this story used herein are fictitious and any similarity to the name, character, or history of any person, living, dead, or otherwise, is purely coincidental and unintentional.
The Village Under Shadow
by Eric J. Juneau
The swamp water bubbled.
Link stood on the everglade bank, hand on his sheathed sword. He squinted.
The bubbling stirred up the smell of briny water slime. Far away, a frog croaked.
Link slid the Master Sword out of its scabbard and hunkered over the edge of the water. He couldn't see under the blanket of algae, but he knew it was there.
The surest path to victory was patience--expecting the enemy to make a mistake. An angry taunt, a missed swing, a flash in the eyes--that was the key to the kill. And the monsters of Hyrule made many mistakes, fueled by Ganon's hatred and wrath as much as his magic. Many mistook fury for power. It was not. A bad hunter chases. A good hunter waits.
And if Link had been practicing any of these concepts instead of pondering them, he wouldn't have been squirted in the eye.
A jet of water shot through the sheet of green scum. Link rocked back on his boot heels. At the same time, the silver lizalfos sprang out of the water. Its little legs pedaled in the air, silhouetted against the canopy. The monster landed behind him.
Link wiped the slime out of his eyes and spun. His sword clashed against the lizalfos's spear blade, catching in the bifurcated point. The lizalfos batted it away.
Link jumped back. He met the next thrust with his shield. Metal banged against metal, sending the lizalfos off-balance.
Its eyes rolled in opposite directions as it regained itself. It hopped side to side to side, then skittered forward. Link rolled away. He had to get out of that spear's range or get inside it. The thing was too fast to fight close.
It bounced sideways again, making an impossible target for a quick bow draw. Lizalfos were tricky monsters. Unlike bokoblins, they didn't primally scream at you. They weren't slow and dumb like a moblin or hinox. They were nimble. They kept you guessing, ricocheting like a fly.
The lizalfos leapt high in the air, spear stabbing downward. No time to block, Link fell backwards.
The spear stabbed the ground, sending up spurts of swamp water. Link crawled away before the lizalfos could follow up.
The spear stuck in the muddy swamp ground. The lizalfos tugged on the its shaft as if harvesting bamboo.
That was its mistake.
Link reared back like a horse and kicked the lizalfos in the snout. Its massive head snapped back The spear dropped from its hands.
Link unholstered the Sheikah Slate hanging off his belt. He pointed it at the monster and activated the stasis rune.
The lizalfos froze, surrounded by a thin golden aura.
Link fetched his sword. Then rolled forward with an upward slash, followed by four quick slices as the golden aura flickered.
The rune's power ended and time caught up with the lizalfos. An invisible force pummeled the beast's body, then threw it ten feet away from its weapon. Link yanked it out, then tossed it into the brush.
Weaponless, the lizalfos was still a threat. Claws, horn, teeth, spit. A perfect natural predator. It darted forward, winding serpentine. Link didn't take his eyes off it.
At the last second, Link jumped to the left. Time slowed as he unleashed a flurry of blows. The lizalfos launched into the grass, tumbling like a rag doll. Wispy black ichor covered the body, then vaporized, leaving its horn and tail as prizes.
Link resheathed his sword, then whistled a five-note tune.
A large black horse with a red mane trotted through the forest, steering around the bumps and stumps in the ground. It had been standing a little ways outside the swamp while Link fulfilled his duty.
He had made it his mission to kill every remaining monster he saw. Since Ganon had been defeated, the curse of the Blood Moon no longer brought the dead back to flesh. So every fiend killed was one less to terrorize others. Part of bringing Hyrule back to prosperity--a goal Link wouldn't see completed in his lifetime. But he could help.
Link hoisted himself onto his horse, then clicked his heels. They continued west, beyond the Gerudo Highlands.
If he hadn't been expecting it, he wouldn't have believed.
In the valley, nestled up to the mountain, sat an idyllic village. It could have been another Hateno or Kakariko. With one notable difference...
A humongous gold colossus stood over the small town, bent on one knee. It held a tremendous chunk of rock, shrouding the entire village in a circle of shade. An umbrella of imminent destruction.
Atop his horse, Link peered through the Sheikah Slate to take a closer look. The colossus was bigger than a Divine Beast--at least a thousand feet high, even crouching. But unlike the Divine Beasts, it was a featureless humanoid, composed of some aurelian metal. The rock it held looked like normal earth, despite being the size of a small mountain.
Link used the camera rune to zoom in. The village had people--carrying barrels of hay or rolls of wood, children kicking a ball, someone using the communal cooking pot.
Since the defeat of Ganon, Link and Zelda felt like the only two people who were rebuilding Hyrule. Citizens had to be convinced to leave their sanctuaries. The Guardians didn't move anymore--the evil magic that controlled them had gone. The Malice that covered the continent could be swept away.
There were one hundred years of destruction to clean up. And the place to start was Hyrule Castle--the center of the kingdom. But decades of neglect and wreckage had taken its toll.
Zelda had told Link that, in the century she kept Calamity Ganon shielded in the sanctum, she could feel the castle's deterioration. When her magic had awakened, she assumed a spiritual form, harmonized with the energy around her. And so she felt every brick fall, every piece of furniture rot, every wall collapse.
But when it came time to fix the damage, she didn't weep, she didn't moan. Not even on their first visit to her study. Link expected some kind of emotional reaction. Broken chairs, overgrown ferns, cracked and mangled flooring, books too brittle to touch lest they crumble.
But she simply turned around and said "You can't let the amount of work overwhelm you. Or you'll be too scared to get it done. Every mountain is made of a pile of rocks. You just start at the first rock, and keep going."
She picked up a rock next to the single flower of Silent Princess growing from the cracks.
Not much could be salvaged. But they did find a folio of royal documents. Everything inside had been spoiled by rain and age. Except for a few pages in the back.
"I remember this," Zelda said wistfully. "It's a missive from the town of Shadrod. I even remember receiving it. We were in the throne room, father and me. A page came in with the day's post. Shadrod's leader said that a giant golden statue had appeared next to their town. It was doing nothing, just holding a humongous boulder overhead. But the boulder cast them in permanent shadow except for sunset and sunrise. They were living in fear that the colossus would drop the boulder and crush them."
Zelda brushed off the letter. Only the top half could be read--the bottom was an abstract watercolor of ink and rain.
"We both agreed to send someone as soon as possible, father and I, as soon as we were able. One of the few things we did agree about. And then the Great Calamity happened. We got the message a few days before Ganon appeared over the castle. There was no time to send anyone to help."
She turned to her appointed knight. "Link, even if it's too late, we must do what we can. We're picking up the pieces of Hyrule. And that includes the obligations we made before the war. Please, if you can, go west of the Gerudo Highlands, to the village of Shadrod. See if you can still help them?"
And that was why he was here today. Cleaning up Hyrule meant taking care of promises. Even if they were a hundred years old.
Link spurred his horse and urged it down the hill.
During the descent, he had a firm view of the colossus. His mind was already spinning theories about it.
It looked solid, not a moving machine like the Divine Beasts. No veins of ancient magic energy or overlapping plates of armor. Could it be related to the Seven Heroines in the East Gerudo Ruins? Maybe, but those were stone. The seven statues were built by the Gerudo as representations of divine protectors. They were meant to give blessings. This one seemed poised to rain destruction. Maybe it was related to the once-rumored Eighth Heroine, tucked into a canyon wall in the Gerudo Highlands. Link had discovered its existence, but not its origin. Was it built there? Moved there? And why?
Maybe someone heard about the seven statues and was inspired to build one. Communication between towns was dependent on travelers who dared to go out into the treacherous world. Unsteady at best.
During the Great Calamity, villages didn't make much effort to send people outside their borders. Every town said the same thing--half of those venturers didn't make it back. Link believed it too. He'd passed many Hylians who'd strayed too far from the road and needed rescuing.
The village of Shadrod was surrounded by a man-made moat, near the edge of the boulder's shadow. Link navigated his horse around until he came to a small bridge. Then he discovered the moat wasn't so much about defense as irrigation. Small tributaries streamed through the village like veins, keeping home gardens and plots well-watered.
It made sense--the gigantic rock acted as an umbrella. Without irrigation, the land would brown and dry. They had to grow crops that would be at home in a swamp with little light--stalks of Hylian Rice, Fleet Lotuses, water chestnuts, persimmons, and wildberries.
The town reminded him of Kakariko--ancient and strong. Timber frames outlined the exteriors, with foundations of large brick stone. Some were built on pillar-stilts, each made of the same beige wood.
Link found the first villagers as he rounded a house--a gang of children playing in the dirt. They looked up, then ran off.
The cold welcome didn't bother Link. In fact, it pleased him. Despite the threat of annihilation, everything seemed to be thriving. The houses were clean and painted. Flowers were blossoming.
The further he headed in, the more people took notice of the stranger. Some opened their windows and poked their heads out. Some followed him to the town square, where merchants were standing at tables full of wares. Except for the pallor, everyone looked healthy.
"What can I interest you in stranger?" asked a bearded man in an indigo tunic, gesturing to a table full of fruit. "Hearty durian? You must be a servant of the royal guard, judging by your outfit. Do you need to recover your strength after coming all the way here? Wildberries? Plenty of radishes and carrots to boost your vigor."
Link shook his head. He looked up at the eastern sky, toward the giant golden torso.
"Eh? Oh, notice that did you? The menace of Shadrod. There isn't a soul here today who wasn't born in its shadow. Always threatening to drop its load. But here we still are."
Link set his jaw and furrowed his brow. His expression must have given away his intentions.
"What? You want to tackle that monstrosity? Ha. That thing's a thousand feet tall and made of solid metal. What are you going to do, kick it in the toe?"
Another man approached--a barrel-chested farmer with a thick black mustache. Link dropped from his horse, not wanting to intimidate anyone.
"You think you're the first person to try? Generations have been searching a way to get rid of it. Brave boys and girls climbing that thing like ants."
Link unhooked the Sheikah Slate from his belt and showed it to him.
The mustached man sniffed. "Oh, you may have freed the four Divine Beasts. But they're nothing like this. There's no way in or out. It doesn't talk, doesn't have magic. It's a dead thing. I don't know what trick is being played on us, but we've learned to live with it."
"Even with meager portions of sunlight and water, we're still going strong," said the merchant.
Link reholstered the slate. These were the wrong people to talk to.
"What is it you're going to do that we haven't?" asked a third man, a lanky farmer in overalls holding a pitchfork. "We've tried digging under the gargoyle. We've set ropes to every man, woman, and child in an attempt to topple it. Don't go meddling into things you don't know about."
Link pulled out the Master Sword. Not in a threatening matter, but to make clear what qualified him to be here. Even the basest peasant could see the unearthly radiance in the blade. And it possessed a hilt like no other--two violet-colored wings joined to a yellow gem.
The surrounding citizens stepped back. "That's the Blade of Evil's Bane," someone said. "Only the Hero of Hyrule can wield that."
The mustached farmer brushed his upper lip. "All right, stranger. I can see you're someone special. Or think you are. At any rate, little Jomik here'll take you to the town leader. Better you're his problem than mine."
The farmer walked back into the crowd, which signaled the throng to disperse and move on. Except for one little child--an effeminate boy with big pointed ears and a dandelion-yellow surcoat.
"Hi, I'm Jomik!"
Link nodded his greeting.
"Where did you get your horse from? What's its name? Is it a wild horse? Did you tame it? How fast is it? Is it as fast as a lynel? Have you ever ridden a lynel? One time, Munyo said he saw a lynel, but it was just a really tall bokoblin on a horse."
Link led his horse on foot while Jomik scampered behind. The sun was setting, viewable through the parceled view of the horizon. Rich hues of tangerine, poppy, and carmine blended behind the fingers of the forest. A hearth for the sky.
"Where are you from? Why are your clothes different? And your hair is different too. We all just have simple clothes, but you've got belts and pockets and folds everywhere. My mom's always yelling about messing up my clothes. See, I've got this really big patch on the butt from when I fell down a hill. Me and my friends were playing Gerudos versus Yiga. Isn't it weird there are no Gerudo boys? Who do they marry? Where do baby Gerudos come from?"
If generations had lived and died in the shroud of this boulder, then what could he do that hadn't been tried? True, he had some tools the citizens didn't, but to solve in a day what they hadn't solved in a century...
"Did you ever fight a Guardian? A Guardian came to Shadrod once, but it was, like, a hundred years ago. They still talk about it. And it was all broken by the time it got here. It was crawling on two legs and all sparky. The villagers destroyed it and pushed it into the canyon and that was the only one that came during the calamity. We were lucky. If there was a Guardian around, that Master Sword would glow, right? But I guess it doesn't glow anymore."
Jomik stopped at a house like all the others. It had a single window and a wooden door framed in the stone wall. A sign read "Zukolph - Mayor" Link raised his hand to knock.
Jomik held out his palm and coughed, one hand behind his back.
Link pulled out a blue rupee from his wallet and placed it in his hand. Jomik stared at it.
"That's it? I led you all the way here. I gave you a butt-ton of information, told you just about everything I know. It's not often strangers come to town. And I was being really friendly with you. I mean, if you ever need anything, you come to see old Jomik, I can-"
Link grimaced. He pulled out a red rupee and placed it next to the blue.
Jomik paused. "That's better. But, I mean, rupees aren't that special. What's a kid like me gonna do with rupees? What am I going to buy? Weapons? Bird eggs? I don't want to tell my friends 'oh, that Link, he gave me some rupees and sent me off.' That's not-"
Link sighed. He took out a cake from his food bag. It was dark, rich, with sliced pears on top and two little horns sticking out.
Jomik's eyes expanded. "Whoa, thanks, mister." He snatched the cake out of Link's hand, then scampered off--along with the blue and red rupees.
Link knocked on the elder's door. After a few seconds, it opened.
Zukolph was a stocky man with a big beard and a round cap. "Blue cloth... that... that means you're one of the Champions of the... royal family?"
Link nodded once.
"Well," he said jovially, placing his hands on his hips. "Better late than never, eh?" He threw back his head and laughed. Much harder and louder than he should have. A political laugh.
"Come in. Come in. You can leave your horse in front." He gently pushed Link forward. "Do you need something to eat? There's some nut cake in the larder. Oh, what am I saying? We should have a feast. The hero of Hyrule is here. Finally to save-"
Link held out his hand and shook his head. Taking the time to make a feast would mean staying longer than he needed to.
"First, some tea. Don't worry, it's already made." Zukolph pulled a kettle off a burning cookpot. He poured two clay cups, then escorted Link to the back of the house, where the sun shown bright and yellow through the windows. Zukolph had a small limp from a bum knee--induced by weather or an old injury. They sat down in wicker chairs with cushions.
"You know, my ancestor wrote that letter to King Rhoam a hundred years ago. Who knew what would happen in that time. But Hyrule survived. And we survived. And you came just in the nick of time," Zukolph said.
Link gave him a quizzical look.
"Let me explain. The colossus appeared one hundred years ago. At first we thought it was a divine gift from Hylia or the goddess Nayru. A blessing of protection or a good omen. But then the plants stopped growing so well without the sun. The animals we hunted migrated away to find fresh food.
"That's when we started thinking it was a curse. A punishment. That thing isn't holding a boulder above us for shelter. It's so he can let it drop. It's no gift. What it's punishing us for, we don't know. As far as we remember, this town's committed no sin. Nothing that would call the attention of the goddesses. Think about it--to have a sword hanging by a horse's hair above you. That takes its toll on your mind. But we learned to adapt."
Another sip of tea.
"You might ask why we didn't just up and leave. That was my great-grandfather. He got this town back to someplace livable. If not for him, Shadrod would be a barren spot of desert by now. He was made the town's leader for that. And someone in my family has been leading this town ever since. My family's legacy is to keep Shadrod going."
Something was wrong. Link felt it before he heard it. One or two screams sounded outside. Then a deep rumble--a vibration. Not in the ground, but in the air. Like the sensation before lightning struck.
Both Link and Zukolph ran to the window. Above, the giant boulder was shaking back and forth. In the shadow too--light undulating like underwater ripples. Branches snapped off trees. Leaves and flower petals swirled in the wind.
And then it stopped. Couldn't have lasted more than fifteen seconds. Villagers conferred, eyes wide, checking up on each other.
"And that is why I said your coming is fortuitous," Zukolph said.
He stuck his head out the window. "It's all right. It's all right everyone. It's gone before it's begun. We're going to get to the bottom of this, like I said. And we've got just the man to do it."
Zukolph closed the window. He sighed and hobbled to a cabinet between the kitchen and sitting room.
"We found this when the colossus first arrived. I think everyone's forgotten. Or maybe my great-grandfather didn't tell anyone. I don't know. But it's been passed down and now the burden falls to me."
Zukolph pulled out a stone tablet, not much bigger than a palm. It was written in ancient Hylian, but Link had learned the script in his travels. No doubt Zukolph had too.
Decreed by Curse and Penance for Men
The Golden Guard Bestows a Bane
Bring Burden's End 'fore Years Ten by Ten
Or Suffer Disaster's Reign
"So you see," said Zukolph. "We're out of time. Our hundred years are up. That boulder is going to fall and Shadrod will be decimated. The terrible part is we don't know why, but that doesn't matter. We need you to get rid of the colossus. Destroy it. Take it away. Make it disappear. Annihilate it with one of the Divine Beasts. Whatever you can do to save our town."
Out the window, villagers were returning to their business, crossing with carts full of pumpkins or baskets of bread. All in spite of the giant up above.
"Aye. I could tell them all to leave," Zukolph said. "Show them the tablet. Cause a huge panic. Most could leave, but would they? Would they leave behind everything they've worked for? And I don't blame them. We've kept alive, even expanded, in a time when most of Hyrule moldered into empty fields. I'm sure some believe it isn't going to fall."
Zukolph pointed his finger to the sky.
"It would be easier to get rid of the colossus, tough as that sounds. But for you... eh, maybe not so. You freed the Divine Beasts. You destroyed Calamity Ganon, right? The great pig beast? This should be even simpler--this monstrosity doesn't have an inside to explore. There must be a weak point. Anything so big and evil has one. All you need to do is climb it and find it."
That evening, Link sat a wooden table and spooned cream of vegetable soup. He had told Zukolph he would start the climb in the morning, after getting some rest.
Zukolph agreed, then led him to "The Butterhouse Inn." The best inn in the village, no doubt, with stews to die for.
Link considered what he was eating. If the soup had cream, they had to have milk, meaning they had to have cows, and cows needed grass. Herbs and flowers had to grow here. And if there was rock salt to mine, precious gems weren't far behind. An incredible feat for a town with no sunlight or rain. Like living in a cave, but with only the ceiling.
Any sane villager would have left. Who wanted to live under a giant boulder? But they made it work. Something to be said for that--adversity brought out the best in people. How much better would it be once that thing was gone.
The woman in the black traveler's cloak stood up. She had been sitting at a table at the end of the room. Four others, wearing similar outfits, stood with her. They approached with subtlety, though Link had marked them the moment they walked in.
"Hey," said the girl. She had dark violet hair in a short practical bob, championed by her green eyes. "I know why you're here. You're going to do something about the giant, right?"
"They sent a message a hundred years ago to the castle about it. And you're here now. You're from the royal guard, right? One of the champions?" she asked. "Supposedly."
"My name's Ralley. I'm here to tell you that's a bad idea. That colossus has been here for a century. It's meant to be here. Whether it's a blessing or a curse, I don't know. But it's meant to be here."
Link glanced at the others around her. They grimaced, sneered, and smirked, but were clearly beholding to her lead.
"Yes, we're all members of a group that believes this. And no, that doesn't make us popular, but it doesn't matter. There are tricks at work here bigger than you or I can understand. Let me put it this way--we are to them as ants are to us. An ant has no comprehension of a man's will. It doesn't know why its friend was crushed under a boot or some little boy drowned its colony with a pitcher of water. All it knows is its little ant life. That's us. We don't know why the colossus came, but if we interfere, we will be punished for it."
Everyone in the inn's dining hall was staring at him, anticipating the royal representative's response. There was history here. Maybe they expected a fight, or a resolution to something the town had endured its last hundred years.
As his attention wandered, Ralley pounded her forearms on the table. The metal cup jittered.
"Do you understand what I'm telling you? It's in your best interest to leave it alone. Leave us alone. Its being here is an act of divinity. Do you want to anger a god? No, I didn't think so. So what do you think getting rid of it is going to do? It's going to call down its wrath, that's what."
At that moment, the inn shook from another great tremor. The smell of jostled dirt and hot asphalt replaced the warm beer and pinewood. The roof and windows rattled like tin cans. Air abruptly gained an indescribable weight, and then lost it just as fast. Everyone looked up.
"What's your answer to that?" asked one of the tavern's patrons, one not on Ralley's side. "You think that's not a threat to the town?"
"That?" Ralley said, looking over her shoulder. "That is the colossus letting us know it's there."
Next morning, Link stood at the foot of the colossus. Literally, the foot of the colossus, examining its composition while assembling his climbing gear. It could have been gold or a gold alloy (if gold could appear out of thin air). The patina was clean and unscuffed, but it wasn't pristine--weathering had taken the shine out of this metal. So while it may have been placed by divine means, he doubted it was divine itself.
That also meant it was climbable. Maybe not for the people in this village, and not without a great deal of aid. But he had scrabbled over every fistful of dirt in Hyrule. He had hung by one hand over sheer cliff-faces, dug frozen fingers into permafrost, bled into bluffs, and scaled escarpments of slime.
Still, he reminded himself as he tightened the handkerchief over his scalp, there was no such thing as an "easy" climb. Each had its own hazards, obstacles, and tests, whether they be endurance, courage, agility, or imagination. This one would likely be endurance, as it looked to have few surprises or obstacles. Using Revali's Gale could cut some of the climb, but he would rather save that for emergencies.
Link began at the legs, searching for signs of vulnerability like loose seams or metal fatigue. It seemed to be one single-cast statue, which was impossible, of course. One would need a forge as big as the world for a sculpture this size.
He didn't spend much time on the lower body, since the Shadrod people had already found nothing. Once he crested the colossus's waist, Link began inspection in earnest. This was new territory. Maybe it had a message embossed on its chest, too small to see from the ground. The inscription of its creator. A clue to its origin. A recipe for wildberry crepes.
But Link hadn't found so much as a scratch as he reached the chestline. Two blue birds flew by as he drank his second Energizing Elixir. This was one of the tallest structures he had ever climbed, except for the Divine Beasts. But those frothed with magic and energy. This thing had no life in it.
Link took a rest on the shoulders to regain his breath. Looking down gave him vertigo, so he gazed into the horizon. Nothing but the Gerudo upland from here. Bird-like specks flittered back and forth. And the day was half over.
The arms he could save for last. Being held horizontal, they would be the easiest to trek. And the boulder was craggy and gentle enough for easy scaling.
At the back of the neck, Link found it--a fissure swelling from the center of the nape, like a popped blister made of metal. Aqua-colored glow seeped through the gold lamina. Anyone in Shadrod could have discovered it, if they'd had the wherewithal to come this far.
Link didn't need magic to know this was what he was looking for, but he unholstered the Sheikah Slate anyway. It didn't light up when targeted with magnesis or stasis, but that didn't matter. One good strike should do it. He took a picture with the camera rune, to show Zukolph when it was done.
Then he exchanged the tablet for his sword. It didn't shine, meaning this was no Guardian or product of Ganon's magic. But he didn't expect it to be--the blade of evil's bane remained unlit for plenty of evil beings.
Link adjusted his stance for grip, held the sword overhead as if to plunge it into its pedestal, then took a deep breath.
Link froze. The voice was inside his head. And it screamed.
*PLEASE DON'T. I MEAN NO HARM TO THE TOWN.*
Link lowered his sword. Something sizzled in his brain--as if hearing whispers from miles away.
He bent over the colossus's neck and placed his hands on the crack. The sizzle in his brain solidified. The being's voice became clearer.
*I do not seek to endanger. This weight I hold is my own punishment. Should I fail to give it hoist, those below will be crushed.*
Punishment? The colossus was supposed to be here because of the town's actions, not the other way around. What kind of punishment threatened the existence of innocents?
*Do not ask for the machinations of gods, for they betide beyond what pointed ears can fathom. Just know that this sentence is both fair-minded and appropriate.*
Somehow this colossus could hear his thoughts, as long as he was close to the scar. So he wasn't going to question the divine beings' practice of retribution. But what were the terms of this punishment? How long was it supposed to last?
*For a god's age and a half. And I could have lasted that long. But then the Malice came. Attracted to the power within my enclosure but unable to permeate. It bound to my joints, weakening them. Then it went away and left me dilute. I fear I no longer have the strength to keep this doom from the village below.*
That didn't make sense. Why didn't he just drop it? What were the lives of a handful of puny mortals?
*Do not underestimate the relationship of the divine to the earthly. How many creatures of superior power interfere with the fates of mortals in your lands?*
Link thought. Fairies, koroks, the great deku tree, the horse god Malanya, the Sheikah monks. Plus interactions with the dead, like King Rhoam and the souls of the champions. Not to mention those that made bargains with the divine for power, like the Yiga.
*You see? Mortal fingers cannot touch a pond without the pond touching back.*
Link started to understand how insidious this punishment was. A non-corporeal being couldn't be hurt physically. But it could emotionally. Did that mean, if he lacked the strength to hold it anymore, they were in imminent danger? Was that what the shaking was?
*That is truth. And I fear the remaining time I can hold back the terror is waning. If you were to thrust your sword into the wound you see before you, it would end my punishment, end the peril. But it would also end my existence. So I beg of you, do not do this. You have no reason to make this request but empathy for my desire to live.*
Link understood now. They had to evacuate the town--get everyone out from under the boulder's shadow. Better everyone leave than destroy this innocent. A village could be rebuilt. Hyrule Castle Town needed more citizens anyway--he could get them all to come back with him.
Link sidled around the back of the colossus's neck until he clung off its Adam's apple. Then he began his descent.
The people of Shadrod surrounded him at the town center. They shouted so many questions, pressed in so close, Link couldn't get a word in edgewise.
Besides, they weren't the ones he needed to talk to. Luckily, the one he did was heading for him. Despite his limp, Zukolph had no problem pushing forward. Citizens made a space for them at the water fountain in the square, fanning into a circle.
"Well? Did you do it? Will the colossus leave us? It's still there--did you do anything?" Zukolph asked.
Link showed him the Sheikah Slate. It was already cued up to the picture he took.
"Then it does have a weak point. Excellent. Then you can kill it? Use that sword. It's a sacred sword, isn't it?"
Link cringed and grimaced. It wasn't that simple.
"What? What do you mean? What about us? We're in danger. The lives of others don't matter to a divine idol. We must act before it can." The townspeople nodded in approval.
Link smacked the Sheikah Slate twice and pointed to the statue again.
"He may be an innocent but so are we. We didn't ask to have our lives put at risk for its sake. If we know its weakness, we should destroy it immediately."
Ralley squeezed out from the crowd. Link recognized her black cloak and purple hair.
"This is exactly what I was afraid of. Except now it's a question of morality, not catastrophe. If we destroy the colossus, we're falling into the games of the gods," she said.
"We can kill the monstrosity and save the town," said a farmer.
"Just evacuate. That's what we should have done from the first," Ralley said.
"Evacuate? No, we'll do no such thing," said Zukolph. "We've lived in Shadrod for centuries before that thing came. We held this town during Ganon's reign. We lived here one hundred years afterward and we'll live a hundred more. Now that we know it can be destroyed, I'm more resolute than ever to stay." The townspeople murmured in the affirmative.
"All my stuff is here!" said one villager.
"My farmland!" said another. "I've worked it for decades."
"Where would we go?" asked a third. "We'd be homeless!"
Suddenly, the sky above rumbled. The air vibrated, filled with electric fear. This wasn't like the other tremors. It didn't stop after a few seconds.
"It's happening!" someone shouted.
"Run for your lives!"
The villagers sundered through the town square while the earth quavered, like thunder that never faded. Zukolph grabbed Link by the shoulder. "Link! Don't just stand there. Go up and kill it."
As the atmosphere shivered, Link looked up at the colossus and back at Zukolph.
"What are you waiting for? Are you a Champion or aren't you?" Zukolph asked. "Do what you came here to do."
Zukolph turned and staggered back to his home.
Link turned the other way and ran toward the colossus.
At the colossus's feet, Link jumped and crouched into a three-point stance. He summoned his magic and updrafts sprang around him. The air swirled like a tornado.
Link leaped from the ground and pulled out his paraglider. The wind propelled him straight up, past the colossus's knees, his hips, up to his chest. He tweaked the glider to land against the shoulder blade before drifting too far down. The gold metal shivered as he climbed up to the shoulder--enough to notice, but not enough to wrench him off.
He crawled across the neck to the glowing cobalt-blue crater, pulsing like heaving breath. Link reached for his sheath. He hesitated.
*Please. I don't know how else to ask this of you. But don't kill me. I have no way to stop you but to plead.*
Deep regret ran through Link's blood as he gripped the sword. He wished he could communicate that this was not his fault, but any words would fail.
*Please. I am not guiltless, but you would harm me for that which is not in my control.*
Link's feet vibrated. If he didn't do this now, a whole village would die. He raised the blade.
*Please. Please don't!*
Link plunged the sword into the fissure. The wound erupted black particles and charcoal flecks, sending Link stumbling backwards. A great rendering sound like a drill through a tombstone spewed out. Then the blue glow faded. Inside laid nothing but a hollow interior.
This was the punishment. Not having to hold the boulder over the town, but being unable to do anything about it.
The cracks of the fissure spread out into thin tendrils, snaking down the statue like streaks of lightning. They branched out like blood vessels, until they enveloped the statue.
Then poof--the colossus and the boulder vaporized in a flurry of golden sparks. The solid beneath Link's feet disappeared. He got out his paraglider, no stranger to falling to earth. Butter-colored particles fell like fine snow on Shadrod and Link floated down with them.
When he landed, the town square was empty. People withdrew from their homes, from behind bushes and rocks. Children and women, farmers and hunters.
"It's gone," one said.
"The sun's so bright," said a skinny man, shading his eyes with his hand. "Was it always this bright?"
"The curse is gone," said a mother, toting her child. "He destroyed it."
The nervous murmurs turned to cheers as more turned out, realizing they were still alive. Some ripped open their shirts to bathe in the warm sun. Others danced arm in arm. Many clapped Link on the back, shook his hand, or squawked congratulations and gratitude.
Two arms gripped Link's shoulders. "Well done, well done," said Zukolph. "I knew I could count on you, the royal castle of Hyrule. I knew you wouldn't abandon us in our time of need. Well done. We should... there should be a celebration! Yes, a feast! The first time the village has seen the sun in a hundred years. And it's all thanks to you."
Link scowled. He placed his fingers in his mouth and whistled--three quick looping notes, then two more.
In no time, his horse appeared, weaving through the crowd. Link swung himself into the saddle with haste. He turned to Zukolph and spoke.
"I was given the choice between the good of the many versus the good of the one. This time, I chose the many." Link leaned over in his saddle and squinted. "Next time, it's the one's turn."
Zukolph stared, unable to speak.
Link lifted the reins. His horse rotated in place. With a whinny and a shout, they rode away.