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    LOZ | BOTW | Book One: Awakening

      The village had not truly slept during the night, but now it was a veritable beehive of activity in broad daylight. The noon sun, freed from the clouds that had hidden it the previous two days, shone down on a community girding itself for battle.

      Link was amazed at how willingly Hateno’s people had undertaken the tasks Reede had set them. That morning, the soft-spoken leader had called everyone to gather at the closest thing the village had to a square: the flat dirt area immediately in front of the inn, which was also home to the adjacent stable and a fishing pond. The villagers had listened respectfully as Reede explained the danger without specifying its magnitude. They were told to do what Link, Brigo and Dorian (who had yet to return) asked of them, most of which was already predetermined. The villagers had set to with an optimism and a will that could not help but lift Link’s spirits.

      Thadd flashed Link a smile as he ran by. The young man’s enthusiasm had continued unabated since Link had first asked him to gather any and all farming instruments that might serve as weapons. To that end, he was now returning to the town smithy with an armful of pitchforks and hoes which would be converted into passable imitations of spears.

      Brigo’s raucous commands sounded over everything else. The patrolman could be heard from a cleared wheat field nearby, relentlessly drilling groups of ten villagers at a time in the basics of spear usage. Every man and woman would have two of the weapons with him or her, and Brigo was determined that if they should die, it would not be “from trippin’ over yer own spear like a ruddy fool.”

      Luckily most of the villagers were already very familiar with the bow. The nearby forests had offered plenty of game before the Ganonspawn settled in. Now they were loosing arrows at crudely drawn wooden caricatures of bokoblins in one of the larger wheat fields. Link was encouraged to see one young woman’s shaft strike the right eye of a fake monster.

      Link knew, however, that slaying stationary dummies by day’s light was far different than felling a wild bokoblin at night. He hoped the difference would not prove fatal. Part of his plan was meant to prevent that from happening.

      He had gotten the idea from Dueling Peaks Stable before embellishing it during the quieter moments of their journey from Kakariko. Now, having seen the layout of the village, Link was even more optimistic it would work.

      His surveying walk took him to back to the west village entrance, where that idea was taking shape. The road that led to Hateno’s main gateway was hemmed in by rocky hillsides, making it a natural bottleneck. The village itself was, as Dorian had described, built into a series of steep hills and land rises, making the road the only natural way by which to obtain entry. The only other potential point of attack from the west — the hidden path Link and his friends had taken the night before — was now cut off by barriers of wooden stakes and manned by an armed group of villagers at all times.

      More stakes — small tree trunks with ends ground to razor-sharp points — bristled beyond the gateway as well. Link knew, however, that a large group of bokoblins would try to press through the obvious entrance to the village. Many of his preparations were, he realized, based on what he “knew” from forgotten memories that now resurfaced as instinct in this moment of need.

      Link’s idea was a recent memory, however, and he could see it was progressing well. Any traveler arriving at the village would normally be greeted by the sight of two twin windmills set immediately behind and at either side of the entrance,. Their wooden blades had been removed, however, and replaced by platforms that circled around the entire breadth of the towers.

      Four villagers milled on the southern tower platform now. One of them sported shocking red hair and was gesturing dramatically to the others. Sayge was a talented craftsman, and his apprentices were enthusiastic. Brigo had supplied them with notes describing the crossbows mounted atop the Dueling Peaks Stable. After consulting with each other, both the patrolman and craftsman had assured Link that such a weapon could be built on each tower before nightfall. Apparently, converting a normal bow into a larger scale, sideways version of itself was not too daunting for peaceful village craftsmen.

      The bolts for the crossbows would be fashioned from larger branches of trees felled from a grove at the back of the village. It was while helping with this work that morning that Link heard reference to his other purpose at Hateno.

      “Who do we need to thank for allowing us to cut down so many?” he had asked while pausing to wipe sweat from his brow.

      Reede had nodded upwards for answer. “If these trees belong to anyone, it’s the odd lot that lives on top of this hill.”

      The grove nestled right up against the tallest hill in the village, which was closer to a mountain given its steep, rocky face and the height to which it climbed. Link could not see its residents nor their home from this vantage point, but a telltale column of chimney smoke confirmed that someone did indeed dwell on the summit.

      “Why do you say odd?” Link had asked, only half paying attention.

      “Hardly ever see them, do we?” Reede said with a shrug. “An old man and an even older woman live up there, though they aren’t married. Both Sheikah, too. They keep to themselves. All I know is they refer to their home as a ‘research lab,’ and other than the man coming down once every fortnight for supplies, they almost never show themselves.”

      Link had halted his axe’s mid-swing. Old Sheikah recluses? It appeared he had found Impa’s mysterious ally. Still, that would have to wait until the village’s more immediate threat was turned aside.

      “‘Tis shapin’ up to be quite the reception, lad. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think yeh’d done this sort ‘o thing before.”

      Brigo’s off-handed remark startled Link out of his reverie. The patrolman was sweating heavily from the exertion of his lessons, though he looked far less taxed than the handful of villagers now filtering out along the path. At least two of them sported magnificently blooming bruises on their faces. Oddly enough, they were the ones who bid the most enthusiastic farewells to their new teacher, who shook his head as soon as they were out of earshot.

      “Think this is some gran’ adventure, they do, learnin’ ‘ow to kill with a pole topped by a pitchfork’s tine,” Brigo murmured sadly.

      “Let them,” Link said quietly, looking at those who were already greeting spouses and children in the dirt street. One small child, with large eyes and hair so blonde it was nearly white, stared at the two of them before turning to run up the path toward the home and bed Link sorely hoped would still be hers on the morrow. “There’s little enough time for smiles and adventure left to them.”

      “Aye, yer right there, lad,” Brigo agreed. “Speakin’ o’ which, it’s high time we got some food in our bellies. Hylia knows when we’ll have another chance to eat once the sun sets.”

      The two made their way up the path toward the inn, which was now serving as the village headquarters. Messengers and errand boys kept filtering in and out of the double doors, which had been propped open to avoid their formality. The pretty young woman behind the counter smiled as they entered.

      “How can I help you, good sirs?” she asked cheerfully.

      Without missing a beat, Brigo slowly wiped the remainder of sweat from his brow and slumped exaggeratedly on the other side of the counter.

      “Meh fair lass,” the patrolman addressed her much louder than was necessary, “would yeh happen to have a pair o’ crusts for a couple o’ warriors who’ve been toilin’ all day wi’ nary a chance for breath or respite?”

      The girl gazed upon the woebegone patrolman with concern welling in her dark brown eyes.

      “Oh, Master Brigo, of course!” she said, her voice swimming in sincerity. “Please, take a seat in the common room. I believe we have some crusts from yesterday’s bread, and perhaps even a pint of rainwater from last week.”

      Link was only half-successful in choking back his laughter as Brigo jumped to his feet with considerably more energy than he had previously shown and drew up to his full and considerable height in dramatic fashion.

      “Yeh can take yer crusts an’ use ‘em to feed the fishes in the pond, missy!” the patrolman declared with no small amount of offense. “We warriors need nourishment! Two slabs o’ pork! A heapin’ plate o’ those steamed mushrooms! One o’ those great apple pies to nibble on! An’ Sir Link ‘ere wants to see good ale in those pints, not bloody rainwater!”

      Their hostess nodded politely at Brigo’s huffy deluge of requests, but Link could tell that she too was struggling to maintain her composure. She just managed to pull it off by bowing as the patrolman finished.

      “Of course, Master Brigo,” she unsteadily agreed with ill-concealed mirth. “We’ll have it out for you straight away.”

      The girl managed to make it to the kitchen door before releasing her laughter, which was mercifully cut off the moment she closed the door. Brigo and Link made for the common room, the former muttering ominously.

      “There do be nothin’ humorous about feedin’ yer warriors. A hero’s work is hungry business!”

      Declining to point out that his friend had very nearly received what he had asked for, Link simply sat down at the table already occupied by Reede and another man with a dramatically receding hairline and pencil-thin mustache.

      “Ah, Link! Brigo!” Reede greeted them as the pair took their seats. “Your arrival is well-timed. Pruce here has just told me that he acquired several large pieces of metal per your request, Link.”

      “You are fortunate,” Pruce added brightly. “Hateno is neighbored by several mountains. That is why miners often take their trade here. I am curious, though, why you specifically requested pieces that were already large in size.”

      “For now, it is enough to know that they are needed, Master Pruce,” Link said with a quiet smile. “Please have them brought to the southern hilltop just in front of the tower. They need only be placed there.”

      The villager nodded in acquiescence before rising from his seat and bidding farewell. “Very well, Master Link. Master Brigo. Master Reede.”

      “I cannot deny a measure of curiosity myself,” Reede admitted after taking a drink from his pint. “Metal unfashioned into weapons does not seem of much use in a battle, but then again, I have never seen one.”

      “I envy you,” Link responded, and he meant it. “It pains me to see Hateno’s innocence broken.”

      “I must say that your other preparations seem to be progressing well,” Reede said cheerfully in an effort to lighten the mood. “A pity that Joute and Garill did not remain to see your intentions realized.”

      “No chance of that happening. They are long gone.”

      The trio turned in their seats at the unexpected words from Dorian, who had just entered the common room. The Sheikah waved down their greetings and took up a chair to join them. His normally bright eyes were red and sported dark circles underneath.

      “Yeh alright, lad?” Brigo asked with concern. “Yeh look as though yeh haven’t slept a wink.”

      “I haven’t,” Dorian replied matter-of-factly. “Joute and Garill left the village through the west gateway immediately after their run-in with you. They took the main path.”

      “They were surely set upon by the Ganonspawn in the forest!” Reede exclaimed. Link was thinking the same thing, only to be surprised by the Sheikah’s words to the contrary.

      “They were set upon by nothing,” Dorian exhaled with a troubled expression furrowing his brow. “I followed them easily until a tree hid them from view for but a moment. Then they were gone, without so much as a footprint hinting where. I do not know how.”

      “Surely the bokoblins did not take them by stealth?” Link asked incredulously. “You must have seen—”

      “As I said, there was nothing to be seen,” Dorian said quietly so only those at the table could here. “I have my own theories as to how, but that is not what need concern us right this moment. At least five hundred Ganonspawn are massed in the forest. ”

      Reede’s pint clattered to the floor. Brigo’s jaw hung in disbelief. Link did not share their shock, but his mind was racing.

      “F-f-five hundred?!” Reede hissed like a tea kettle. “How, by Hylia’s grace, can we defeat—“

      “I do no doubt yer word, lad,” Brigo interrupted hurriedly, “but I can no believe that many pigspawn would keep to themselves in the forest for this long. Even moblins would no be able to keep so many in line.”

      “I agree, Sir Brigo,” Dorian acknowledged with a slight incline of his head. “I believe something else is commanding them, else they would have disbanded into their usual chaos long since.”

      “Something is,” Link said quietly. The other three turned to face him. “Something made sure bokoblins were waiting for Brig and me at Dueling Peaks. Something sent a horde of keese after us, forced them to attack… to attack the stable despite little hope of victory.”

      Link had almost said “attack me” before catching himself. Reede did not need to know his new guest was at least part of the reason his village was in danger. He turned to Dorian to continue his vein of thought.

      “What could unite Ganonspawn this way?” Link asked the Sheikah.

      Dorian frowned as he voiced his thoughts. “The histories say Ganon would often appoint captains of one sort or another to oversee his forces. Dark wizards. Evil men. Undead. Whatever it is, the odds are good that the answer will reveal itself tonight.”

      “Do no worry about it, lad,” Brigo assured him while shooting a warning glance at Link. “Find yerself a bunk upstairs and get a bit o’ shuteye while yeh can. We’ll need yeh bright-eyed and rarin’ for battle come nightfall.”

      Still troubled, the young Sheikah nodded in absent-minded assent and left the table for the back stairway leading to the beds above. Link turned to his friend with no small amount of reproach.

      “I would have liked to know how two deserting Hylians managed to evade an army of Ganonspawn, Brig,” he said bluntly. “Clearly Dorian had an idea, and it would have done no harm to hear him out.”

      “It was already doin’ ‘im harm,” the patrolman firmly disagreed. “Yeh don’ understand, Link. Sheikah are born trackers, trained to never be seen unless they want to be. It’d be easier for the village to miss a thousand pigspawn than for two men to out-sneak a Sheikah.”

      “All the more reason to know how and why they did,” Link retorted. Brigo, however, merely shook his head.

      “No today, lad,” he answered. “Yeh saw the state ‘o him. He probably spent ‘alf the night tryin’ to find their trail, and the other half gettin’ back ‘ere safely wi’out tippin’ off a horde o’ pigspawn. He needs ‘is rest and ‘is confidence if he’s goin’ to be any help to us tonight — an’ we need all the help we ken get.”

      Still harboring disagreement but unwilling to waste any more of the day arguing, Link relented with an abrupt nod. Reede looked back and forth between the two before exhaling audibly. The tense silence was then interrupted by the inn’s young hostess arriving with their food.

      The mood of the group lightened considerably after that. Link and Brigo each ate enough for two, ultimately fighting good-naturedly over the last piece of pie until Thadd snatched it up in passing with a smile and a wave before the two could process what had happened.

      Villagers kept drifting in and out of the inn, keeping the trio abreast of preparations for the oncoming battle. By mid-afternoon, word arrived that the first crossbow was complete. Link and Brigo both went to evaluate the finished product, beside which stood a glowing Sayge. He gestured to the tower on the opposite side of the road, where its platform was already teeming with several of his apprentices.

      “The boys are building the second one now, good sirs!” he exclaimed jubilantly. “It should go much faster now that they’ve got the experience of this first one under their belts! I must say, this was a marvel to put together. May I ask who will have the honor of testing it?”

      “Who’s a good shot with a bow and arrow?” Link asked in return. For answer, Sayge pointed toward a young woman sitting on a bench in front of the opposite tower. It was the same young woman Link had seen in the archery practice field earlier that day. She was bundling arrows into equal numbers to be dispersed among those who would use them in the coming battle.

      “Ivee there has broken many a lad’s heart with her beauty and her bow, Master Link!” he nodded enthusiastically before shouting down to the girl in question. “Ivee, dear! Do us a favor and come up here! The good masters require your assistance!”
      The young woman leaped to her feet and raced over to the wooden ladder at the rear of the tower. Once she joined them at the platform, Link could see that she was as young as Thadd, with her dark brown hair cropped even shorter. She had some of the longest eyelashes Link had ever seen, which enhanced the excitement shining from her large brown eyes.

      “Master Sayge, good sirs, how may I be of service?” she asked breathily after her hasty arrival.

      “Ah’m assumin’ Master Sayge ‘ere has taught yeh how to operate this thing,” Brigo asked with a raised eyebrow.

      If anything, the glowing enthusiasm from Ivee’s eyes increased. “Oh yes, Master Brigo. I asked to learn how, though we made sure not to actually test it until after you had arrived.”

      The patrolman rubbed his recently stubbled chin thoughtfully. Then he pointed toward a short tree sitting along the path just outside the village gateway. It would be a difficult shot, Link thought, given the awkward angle through the gate’s posts and crossbar.

      “Give it a go, then,” he encouraged her. “See if yeh ken hit that there shrub. The bolt’s already nocked an’ ready to loose, mind.”

      Ivee was nearly giddy with glee, leaving Link to wonder whether she was grounded enough for such a duty in the heat of battle. Those questions were cut short after she took all of three counts to aim, sight and loose the bolt, which she did by releasing the catch holding taught the twined ropes that comprised the bowstring. The branch-sized arrow zoomed like an angry courser bee to the tree, piercing it dead-center at the trunk’s base.

      “Is that all you needed sirs, or would you like me to test it again?” Ivee asked brightly. “I’d be more than willing if you’d like.”

      Brigo had already turned and headed for the ladder without acknowledging the woman, Sayge or Link, who could hear the patrolman talking to himself as he began climbing down.

      “Ruddy Hateno women’ll be the death of me,” Brigo muttered darkly. “The ones that don’t starve yeh’ll shoot yeh where yeh stand, an’ they’ll both be bloody smilin’ while they’re about it!”

      Link, however, proffered a congratulatory hand to the spirited young woman. “Well done, miss! I’d like you to man this crossbow starting at dusk. Pick out two more to help reload. You’ll have half a score’s archers up here with you as well. I leave the second crossbow’s crew to you, Sayge.”

      Archer and crafstman alike enthusiastically thanked him, the former doing so quickly so she could descend the ladder and find young Thadd. Link wondered if there was something there and, if there was, hoped it would still be there on the morrow.

      Moments of smiles and laughter grew less frequent as the day wore on. Brigo had made sure to train everyone a second time in the art of the spear, and would have put them through a third gamut had Link not intervened.

      “It is not just Dorian who needs rest and confidence before nightfall,” Link reminded him. “Tired minds and bruised heads will not learn any more than what you have already taught them.”

      “Indeed they will not.”

      For the second time that day, Dorian’s unexpected arrival caught them by surprise. The effect was doubled this time by his appearance. Though he still wore the dark blue, form-fitting tunic and leggings of the Sheikah, the young man had added leather guards atop the shoulders and on his shins, all adorned with painted eye sigils. A long, curved sword sat sheathed on his back, while a smaller version of the same weapon hung at his side. A quiver of arrows criss-crossed the larger blade, while a small bow hung from his right shoulder.

      Despite his youth, Dorian looked and moved as if his weapons were a part of him. Passing villagers were stopping and pointing, no doubt marveling that a mysterious Sheikah warrior was walking openly amongst them. Link was suddenly and overwhelmingly grateful to Impa for sending the young man with them. Even Brigo seemed impressed.

      “Should we all kip up and let yeh take on the pigswine by yerself?” Brigo quipped. “Hylia knows yeh look like yeh could, lad!”

      A slight flush cracked Dorian’s calm exterior, but it disappeared quickly as he shifted to address Link.

      “I am honored to represent my people at your side, Sir Link,” the Sheikah intoned while, to Link’s amazement, performing a perfectly perpendicular bow directed at him. “Until they are needed no longer, I offer my sword and life to your command.”

      People were now simply stopping to witness the odd scene, until it felt as though the entire village was gathered to witness some kind of ceremony.

      Well, Link thought wryly, maybe they are.

      Then, without warning, long-dormant memory came to his aid. In his mind’s eye, Link could see a small group of similarly armed Sheikah bowing toward him, their own words of loyalty ringing in his ears. There was no context to the scene, only what came next.

      “I am honored to have you at my side,” Link replied with quiet dignity. “Your sword is welcome, Sheikah. By Hylia’s grace, may your life be unnecessary to give before need is gone.”

      Dorian rose, joy threatening to crack the calm expression he struggled to maintain. Then he saw the crowd gathered around them. His eyes widening in alarm, he drew close to Link and Brigo.

      “I apologize, Sir Link,” he muttered. “I did not mean to bring so much attention—“

      “It is alright, Dorian,” Link said quietly. “It is good for these people to see that warriors lead them. You may have just inspired them in a way I would not have remembered otherwise.”

      That childlike flush again bloomed on the young Sheikah’s cheeks. Link suddenly realized that Brigo had not uttered a single snort or other form of mockery during the proceedings. He looked up to see the patrolman merely looking at them, his smile of approval clearly visible under the late afternoon sun.

      “Well done, lads!” Brigo said loudly. “Now then, shall we ready to welcome a greasy lot o’ pigswine to the party?”

      Link could not help but smile at the cheers that greeted the patrolman’s words.