So Many Hidden Villages
Toshi Mirari/Hidden Village/ Late-morning, pre-day 0
"Domino...I asked you a question." Lara chided from across the breakfast table.
"Hmmm?" He said without looking up.
"I asked if you could take Toshi down to check it out tomorrow."
"Yes, I'm sure you're right," he replied absentmindedly, casually waving her off with a hand gripping a mug of warm milk.
Lara rolled her eyes. "Will you put that thing away at the breakfast table? I'm trying to speak to you." Domino sighed as he reluctantly pulled his eyes away from the book he'd been surreptitiously holding under the table with his other hand. As he snapped it shut, the pages released a thick puff of dust. He set it down on the table beside his plate and adjusted his reading glasses to look up at his wife.
"I'm sorry dear. You were saying?"
"I was walking down by the creek a few days ago and came across a wide patch of older trees. Pretty gnarled up, most of them. I was thinking maybe next season we could try clearing them out. We could use the extra crop space...the gods know how much the boys of this village eat."
"Yes, yes that makes sense. It's all in the bounds, I assume?"
"Well, that's what I want you to take Toshi to find out, make sure there will be enough space for us without straying too far."
"We'll need the mayor's approval for the plot, Lara," Domino reminded her.
"Yes, of course. So you'll do it then?"
He nodded. "I'll take Toshi down there first thing tomorrow morning."
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~* The next day, as they walked through the woods, Toshi and his father spoke little. The only sounds had been the low mumble of the brook as they made their way to the spot his mother had mentioned.
Suddenly Domino stopped, propping one leg up on a boulder by the bank as he looked over at his son.
Toshi pointed out towards a curve in the stream. "They should just be beyond the bend."
"I know," Domino nodded. "But I had another reason for bringing you out here."
Toshi locked eyes with his father.
"How do you like life in the village, Toshi?" Domino began.
"How do you like it?" Toshi responded simply.
"It's lovely here...peaceful," his father nodded. "But of course I was asking you."
"Lovely," Toshi agreed. He had a habit of that.
A grave expression took shape on Domino's face. "But of course there is an entire world out there, beyond the village." He sighed. "Look, I love this place. It's the only true home I've ever known. As you know, when your grandfather, my father-in-law, found me out in the woods, covered in blood as I was, he took pity on me. He brought me back to the village and offered me asylum, plead my case before the mayor. He didn't have to do that. This town doesn't make a habit of taking in outsiders. Yet they allowed me to stay here, gave me a home...so long as I swore never to leave, that I might never tell a soul that this place existed. And I've never been tempted."
At that Domino shifted uncomfortably on the rock, as if struggling to find the right words. His eyes darted around, everywhere but at Toshi.
"But I never gave you that choice," he said wistfully. "You've never seen anything beyond this place."
Toshi began to fidget as his father struggled to make his point.
He looked down at the floor and asked his question. "...What do you dream of, Toshi?" He looked up and caught his son's eyes.
Toshi shrugged and smiled. "A well-stocked shed with sharp tools."
Domino chuckled. "Yeah, that about sums it up for me. But haven't you ever wanted more? To run across the open fields of Hyrule, fight glorious battles, to save damsels in distress, to ride a damn kargaroc over an active volcano with the wind in your face over an azure sky? To explore a world full of adventure and possibilities?"
Toshi hesitated. "...have you?" he asked.
The question pierced through Domino like a knife. He hung his head in his hands.
"I have failed you." he said.
The rest of the trip was spent in silence.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~ That afternoon, as Toshi was working the fields, his father approached him, his arms held behind his back. His mood seemed to have improved in the intervening hours.
Toshi straightened up from his work, resting his arms on his shovel.
"I have a gift for you," Domino said, a smile slowly spreading across his features.
Toshi smiled back, but said nothing.
"Okay then," Domino said with a hint of exasperation, but his smile intact. "Ta-da!" He said, pulling his arms out from behind his back, and revealing his gift. "I made it myself."
Toshi took it in his hands. It was an egg-shaped bowl made of old wood, painted black. He ran his fingers down its surface.
"It's a mask," Toshi observed. "With no eye holes...but it's completely blank."
"I know." his father said calmly. "That's the point. You can decorate it however you like. You see, Toshi, that mask is like an empty cup: you can fill it with whatever you wish...much like your life." At that point he began to choke up.
Tears welled up in Toshi's eyes as well. Then his expression changed suddenly and he held the mask back out toward his father. "I want you to have it." he said.
Domino looked perplexed, but Toshi continued. "I'm old, I'm past my prime. But you have your whole life ahead of you. A life you get to define for yourself."
Domino stood there in silence for a moment, then burst out laughing, his eyes still lined with tears. Toshi quickly followed suit.
Domino shook his head. "Ah, son, sometimes I don't get your sense of humor. But I want you know, I'm proud of you, always." he reached out and clasped Toshi's hands over the mask.
"Promise me you'll take advantage of what this symbol means, Toshi. Promise me you'll make something out of yourself."
"I promise." Toshi said.
Toshi Mirari/Hidden Village/Night 0 Helen crept delicately through the brush, trying to remain silent as she made her way toward the hideout. She couldn't afford to be seen when she'd made it this far. The Mayor kept the Watchers on patrol at all hours, making sure no one wandered outside the village Bounds or broke curfew. They'd make her go back. They might even punish her this time.
Since he'd become Mayor, Hulyndra had instituted a strict curfew on the village youth. As a young woman, Helen was disallowed from leaving the village proper after hours, let alone venturing near the Boundaries in the woods beyond. In the village, men came of age at 17, and the women at 20. That's why he could simply come and go as he pleased, so long as he never wandered beyond the Bounds.
That is what keeps us safe from the world beyond, Helen thought to herself. Just then she heard a twig snap in the brush behind her, and she spun around. In the thick, Helen could just make out a young man in Watcher's uniform winding his way through the woods. She quickly found cover behind the nearest tree, pressing her back against the trunk and trying her best to breath as silently as possible. When she was satisfied that he was gone, she continued along her way. As she walked the woods grew thicker, and it became harder and harder to progress. He'll be so happy to see me, she thought.
Finally she came to the spot she'd been looking for. Here, the trees grew too thick to traverse any farther, forming a solid wall. She began to walk along the perimeter of the overgrown section of wood until she came to the tree she was looking for. An old, gnarled thing, there was a large knot at the base of its trunk. She knelt down onto the ground, where a large root of the tree pulled up from the ground, making a small crawlspace. She took one last look around, and headed inside.
When she reached the end of the tunnel, she pulled herself out, stood up, and dusted herself off. She was at the edge of a small clearing, surrounded on all sides by the thick of the woods. Almost impossible to find your way in, unless you knew where to look.
In the center of the clearing was a massive old log where one of the larger trees had fallen. And sitting atop it was a young man, looking up at the stars in silence. There he is.
"Oy! Toshi!" She cupped her hands around her mouth and called to him in a loud whisper. He didn't respond, but she knew he'd been made aware of her presence. She walked briskly over to the log and pulled herself up. He looked at her and they exchanged smiles.
"I thought I might find you here," she said. "Mind if I join you?"
"Not at all." He beamed. "Took you long enough."
She rolled her eyes. "Some of us have to deal with curfew, you know."
He cocked an eyebrow at that last statement. "And yet you're here."
Her smile widened, and she sat down beside him. In his hands was a large wooden bowl. "What's that you have there?" She said.
"Oh, it's nothing," he replied nonchalantly, setting it on the log beside him and waving it off, before his eyes returned to the sky. "They're really bright tonight, aren't they?" He said, and she joined him in his stargazing.
They sat in silence for a long time, simply looking up into the night sky, before she pulled something out of her pocket. An old wooden flute she'd carved when she was a girl. Toshi followed suit, pulling a similar flute out of the fold of his tunic.
"This is always the highlight of my week." said Toshi earnestly. Helen winked at him, indicating her agreement, pursed her lips, and began to play. Toshi followed, matching her melody in the round, the harmonies gradually building as she led, and he kept pace. For years this had been a ritual of theirs, a way to sooth their spirits and raise their minds. She wasn't about to let some dumb curfew get in the way of tradition.
A soothing, haunting song began to emerge from their duet. The notes seemed almost to float upward on a current of air as they found their way toward the stars, but somehow they knew they could not be heard outside the clearing....there was something about this place that kept the sound from carrying. Perhaps it was merely the thick of the wood that contained their song. Or perhaps this clearing was enchanted. It would certainly explain the way this clearing called to them.
The seconds turned to minutes, and the minutes turned to hours. When they finally finished playing, Helen nestled herself in the crook of his arm and laid her head upon his chest.
"I wish it could stay this way forever" she sighed.
"Don't worry, it will," Toshi whispered back, as Helen drifted to sleep in his arms, his eyes wandering briefly to the wooden mask that lay on the log at his side.
Toshi Mirari/Hidden Village/Dawn of the 6th
Toshi groaned under his breath as he begin to stir from his sleep. Morning always came too early. His eyes still closed, he stretched his arms out in an attempt to wake himself. The life of a farmer meant getting up at the crack of dawn and working until the sun hung low in the air, and today was no different. In the distance he heard faint crackling noises, but still lingering halfway between sleep and wakefulness he failed to process them. He coughed sharply...was it just him, or was it abnormally hot today?
A blood curdling shriek pierced the silence.
Toshi bolted upright instantly. Flames licked at the walls of his house, trailing upward into the thatching of the roof and the small loft in the rafters that was his room.
Within a second he was out of the bed and heading for the ladder. His eyes darted down into the room below. His vision was clouded by ash, the air in front of him distorted by the heat, but he could still make out the image of his father, desperately swinging a farming scythe he'd pulled off from the wall, struggling against an unknown invader carrying a body length spear. Toshi caught sight of this just in time to watch as the trespasser cut his father down, the spear tip slicing upwards across his chest.
Toshi leapt from the rafters and landed behind the invader. Startled, it spun to face him. It was a strange, fish-like creature he'd never seen before, adorned in bronzed, worn armor. It leered at him angrily, narrowing its eyes and baring its teeth at him. Toshi met its gaze, looked into those black, shiny, soulless eyes, and instantly he hated it.
"Hylian bastard!" Toshi sneered. "I'll kill you!"
"I am not Hylian!" the thing growled back.
Toshi lunged at the beast, and the creature raised its spear to strike. Just then a beam of the roof collapsed and collided sharply with the floor between them. Toshi pulled back in time to narrowly avoid it, but the demon's spear was crushed under the enormous weight. Seeing the loss of its weapon as a sign that it was time to flee, the freak turned and ran out the open door into the village beyond.
As his home rapidly disintegrated, Toshi collapsed harshly to his knees in front of his father, his expression growing perfectly vacant as he wilted over the body, the weight of his hands resting on the lifeless form's bloody chest.
The air seemed to rush out of Toshi like a balloon as he knelt there, making no motion to escape. His eyes glazed over and the entire room grew distant. Forever seemed to pass in silence. Then suddenly...
"Toshi!" a voice yelled at him. "We have to go, now!" Looking up to catch the face of the culprit, he saw Helen standing in the doorway. Toshi roughly lifted his father's heavy frame, draping one of the limp arms over his shoulders, Helen quickly scrambling over to help, as they dragged him out together.
When they'd reached a safe distance from the house, he loosed his grip from his father and collapsed once more, rolling over onto his back and hacking as his lungs tried to clear the smog. Everything was hazy as his eyes wandered around in their sockets, taking the scene in from the ground. Chaos was everywhere as several homes were consumed in the flames and people scattered in all directions.
Toshi Mirari/Hidden Village/Midday 6
Toshi sat slumped in silence outside the smoldering pile of rubble that had been his home as the chaos from the morning's invasion finally began to die down, replaced by an uneasy activity. He paid no mind as all around him, civilians surveyed the destruction that had been done to their cottages, tended to their wounded, and took stock of the situation. The damage to the village itself had been minimal, the invaders having totalled less than ten. The damage to their peace of mind, however, had been far more severe.
A familiar voice called out to him, snapping him immediately back to the present. He looked up and saw Helen walking towards him, then slunk his head wordlessly back to the floor.
"Hey," she said, kneeling beside him and placing a hand comfortingly on his knee. Toshi remained silent.
"I spoke with the healers," she continued. "They say your father is stable. He could be awake as early as tomorrow."
Toshi looked up into her eyes, held there what seemed like ages, then finally spoke. "Everything's different now, isn't it?"
Helen's voice quavered. "Yeah...yeah, it is." She remained stoic for another moment, then all at once she broke down, throwing her arms around him and crying heavily in his embrace. At that the dam broke, and Toshi began to sob as well, holding her ever more tightly as the sound of each's pain merely fed the other's.
When finally the weeping began to die down, Helen looked over at the doorway to Toshi's house, standing lonely amidst the remains, the rest of the building sagging and deflated, its walls caved in.
Toshi followed her gaze. "We better see what we can salvage," he nodded in the direction of the wreckage, and pulled Helen to her feet as they stumbled over the still smoking debris.
The pickings were slim. Broken tools and scorched cookware were littered among the broken support beams. Charred pages from his father's books lay scattered in all directions, their remains being shifted uneasily by the winds. But in the center, standing unscathed atop the pile, lay the mask Toshi's father had crafted for him. It had been blackened further by the ash and soot from the fire that had consumed his home, but the wood glowed with streaks of red, imbued with the eerie heat of the flames that had licked at its surface.
As Toshi slowly approached it, Helen watched cautiously from a distance, clearly unnerved, but why, she could not say. Toshi crouched down deliberately and scooped it up in his hands, the wood still hot to the touch. Toshi's face grew steely as he peered into the depths of the bowl he held in his hands, and began to draw nearer to it. The hollow of the mask seemed to extend into eternity. His eyes glazed over as he lifted it toward his face, as if ready to pour himself into it and be lost forever in an abyss of endless waters.
"ATTENTION CITIZENS OF HYLINDRA VILLAGE!"
Toshi pulled the mask sharply away and spun to face the voice that had rang out from the distance.
Toshi Mirari/Hylindra Village/Midday 6 (Yesterday)
Toshi pulled the mask sharply away and spun to face the voice that had rang out from the distance. A crowd of civilians had formed towards the center of the town. He abandoned his pursuits and, tucking the mask into his wasteband, grabbed Helen by the hand and joined the crowd, pushing past them to see what all the fuss was about.
In the center stood one of the Watchers, the mayor's guard and enforcers. He was dressed in the thick leathers that made up their uniform, embossed on the left shoulder with the mayor's seal: a wrought-iron gate held shut by a keyless lock. It represented his committment to the village's isolationist ideals. "Let no man enter" was emblazoned beneath it. Outsiders were seldom seen, and never welcomed. For the safety of the village.
This is what made the spectacle before them so unusual. The lone Watcher held a pair of chains in his right hand, at the end of which knelt one of the creatures from the morning's invasion, facing his captor.
"It seems we are host to some unwanted guests!" the guard mocked, yanking back the chains with one hand and striking the prisoner across the face with the other. The fishman choked back his agony and looked up at his attacker in silent defiance, his polished black eyes unnerving and oddly beautiful.
"What do you call yourself, scum?" The soldier struck the creature again, and it whimpered, but said nothing.
"Not much for words, is he?" Helen whispered darkly in Toshi's ear. Even as she attempted to make light, her grip on Toshi's hand tightened, her breath ragged at the sight of the violent display.
The guard continued to berate his prisoner. "I asked you a question, Hylian!" The creature lunged at it's tormenter, thwarted by the heavy chains. "How dare you?!" it cried. "I am Zora! Do not ever presume to call me Hylian!"
"A Zora!" whispered Helen under her breath, glancing over at Toshi as she spoke. "I've never seen one in person."
A mocking smile spread across the guard's face at the creature's retort, and he knelt down to face the Zora at eye level.
"You are from outside the Boundaries of this village," the guard purred, his voice suddenly silken, almost gentle. "...that makes you Hylian to me." The Zora's face contorted in what seemed like horror and confusion, but its strange features made it difficult to tell.
Abruptly the smile left the Watcher's face and he pulled hard on the creature's bonds, his face mere inches away. "Why have you come here? Who sent you?"
Having already broken its silence, the Zora was far less reluctant to continue. It hung its head "...no one sent us. We came on our own."
"Why?" Demanded the guard, flecks of spit landing on the Zora's face.
"...We thought...we thought if we stirred up trouble for the Hylians, if we did some damage to the enemy, King Tiburon would show us favor. We thought we would be rewarded for furthering the cause." It's glass eyes began to moisten, holding back tears.
Whispers began to drift through the crowd as this information sunk in.
"...The Hylian enemy?" The guard inquired hesitantly, fearing the answer.
The Zora looked up, earnestly confused, and shook his head, tears finally spilling from his eyes. "Don't you know? There's no way you could not know...it's been shouted from the mountain tops, it's everywhere. The trusts! They've been stolen. The Hylians and the Zora are at war. The Gorons are almost sure to follow."
At this the crowd erupted.
Toshi Mirari, Hylindra Village, Midday 6 (Yesterday)
Agitation spread through the crowd as the Zora’s claim of war in Hyrule swept over them. If the Zoras and Hylians were at each other’s throats, it meant sooner or later, the fighting would come to Hylindra. Hell, it already had.
“LIAR!” One shouted.
“We aren’t safe!” screamed another.
“Kill it! Kill it now!” a third voice cried.
For Helen, one voice in particular rang out above the rest. “Send it to hell!” she looked over and saw with horror that the voice belonged to Toshi, his face lined with unfamiliar anger. She gripped his hands tighter and tried to pull him away, to catch his eye, to bring him back to reason, but he pulled away from her, completely immersed in the mob now, joining them in their bloodlust as they grew ever louder. Helen backed away, aghast. This wasn’t like him. It wasn’t.
The Watcher nodded and unsheathed a small knife that was strapped to his left leg. He looked over the blade for a moment, and then addressed the townspeople. "Our peaceful village has been infested with vermin!” The guard pumped the knife in the air as the onlookers shouted their approval. “And what do we do with vermin?!" He cried. The crowd roared in unison for the extermination of the pest. Helen desperately pushed her way past people to escape the crowd, to get away, not wanting to see what happened next.
“This isn’t right!” she pleaded, but no one heard her. As she finally pulled away from the group, she heard the sickening sound of steel on flesh, and a loud pulse of excitement and pride run through the swarm. The knife fell multiple times as she covered her ears to block it all out.
From the center, watching it all, was Toshi. The Zora slumped to the floor, its jugular torn open by the Watcher’s knife, blood spilling from multiple wounds in its chest. It’s beautifully alien black eyes had grown cold and empty.
A young man about Toshi’s age turned to him. “If it was up to me, I’d go out there and give ‘em hell myself.”
Toshi smiled hungrily. “Then let’s give ‘em hell!”
The throngs collapsed around the corpse as everyone, Toshi included, began to batter the remains.
I'm Not Horus!
Elrond Pallenen/ Hyrule Castle Town/ Dawn 7
He winced in pain as he bandaged his leg with the very cloth that used to cover it. Gathering his bow gently from the ground, the man rose to his feet and limped from the crater he had made the last time he was conscious. His arm pressed against wall, supporting him as he limped painfully from the alleyway and into the bright sun of morning. He shielded his eyes as he collected himself, recognizing that he had landed near the Castle Town Square. It stunk of filth and death, causing Elrond to wince once more, but in revulsion. Shaking his head from the invasion of his senses, he continued forth, using the wall as his crutch, and kept his eyes on the people who walked by.
"Perhaps someone in this town will have enough power and knowledge to catch me up to speed...At the very least, for what has happened around here within the towns walls..."
He found himself in the Square within moments, and it was obvious that an execution had just taken place. They hadn't even cleaned up the blood, despite the crowd having already dispersed. However, he noticed something strange...He saw no Zora corpses there, and yet...
"...Why does it smell like Zora around here?...Why would they execute Zora?"
He was stunned by the thought, as he sat down against the nearest wall, scratching his blonde head. He felt very out of place around here...And more distressing, he didn't feel safe either.
Eat More Of It!
Kale: Day 7, Snowpeak
Kale reflected silently for a moment as he worked through skinning the freshly killed wolfos, carefully cutting the pelt in practiced lines to preserve the integrity of the skin as well as its quality as the snow fell in the angry squalls that were typical of the snow peak area. The low visibility didn’t effect his work however, as he had been more than acclimated to the weather here and committed the movements necessary for skinning and harvesting meat to memory.
He didn’t mind the work it had taken to harvest the beast, as he usually did when some wealthy merchants wife sent him on a fetch quest for a fur coat. This one he had been hired to acquire as a blanket for a commoner of Hyrule castle town, it was a long journey true, but he enjoyed the travels, as he couldn’t name any one place he had traveled that he had any interest in staying any one place for any amount of time.
After he had finished removing the pelt of the wolfos from its body, and harvested all the edible meat which was strictly for his use only he gingerly cleaned off the gyorg tooth knife in place of the typical hunting knife. It was pointless to him to spend the money on a “hunting knife” when the two ones he already owned were more than sufficient, and multi purposed. Quickly but carefully he put his last pristine knife, his other had been chipped defending himself from one of the wolfos’s attacks. He would have to replace it, as once they were damaged the teeth broke easily. Which meant a less than pleasant trip to zora’s domain.
Kale: Early Evening Day 7, Hyrule Field
Kale rested from his long hike down snowpeak underneath a tree at the base of the trail, soaking in the warmth of the lower elevation. He had spent the night there; he wasn’t much of a people person and avoided them as best he could. Kale did enjoy the suns warmth however, just because he was used to the cold of the mountain, didn’t mean it went unfelt. The dappled sunshine of the ever pleasant field did little however to ease his worries, Kale was no stranger to sneaking around, and doing it well, but attempting to do so in Zora’s domain could very well prove disastrous no matter what rout he took. For only a knife, granted it was an exceptional knife.
He was torn. On the one hand he was almost intrigued enough to check, the other told him it was suicide. Growing impatient Kale made an impromptu decision; rising from his resting place he checked his equipment, his other gyorg tooth knife, and a hooked short sword. With a keen eye Kale checked both weapons over for any flaw or dullness in the edge, and remedied them as best he could. Beginning on his way, it didn’t take long for the foot traffic to thin, Kale smiled. The less people the better, he just hoped it’d be that way close to Zora’s Domain.