Chapter Seven: Death Mountain

They'd been right to expect to find the graveyard creepy. Tucked away behind the village, it had a neglected feel to it. Even the skies seemed greyer over the graveyard than they did anywhere else. A tumbledown wooden shack was set not too far from the graves, and smoke was emitting from the chimney. Saria shivered at the thought of living in a graveyard. Link seemed less fazed than her, though he did slow his tread. On entry to the graveyard, a huge headstone was the first thing to greet them. The eye of the Sheikah was etched onto it, but the script was almost unreadable- it was written in an old form of Hylian.

"Do you think we should knock on the door?" Link asked in a hushed voice, pointing towards the shack.

"I wouldn't do that if I was you!" The voice that answered didn't belong to Saria. A small boy they hadn't seen, who'd been hiding behind the headstone, jumped out at them. Saria stumbled backwards and almost fell over in shock, and Link had automatically drawn the Kokiri Sword. "Did I scare you?" The boy asked eagerly, "Cool!" Hand over her heart, Saria was calming down and rapidly becoming angry.

"Why did you do that?" She demanded of the boy.

"Because I want to scare people, like Dampe!" He grinned. Link sheathed his sword, annoyed.

"Who's Dampe?"

"He's the graveyard keeper. He lives in that shack and patrols the graveyard at night- that's why I wouldn't disturb him if I was you!" Saria crossed her arms over her chest.

"And why are you playing in the graveyard?"

"I told you, I want to be just like Dampe. And you'd better not mess with the graves, either." His expression became somewhat serious at that, "Bad things happen when people do." Saria couldn't imagine why anyone would want to mess around with the graves, or spend any more time here than necessary.

"We wanted to find more out about the village," Link said to the boy, "Can you help us?"

"All I know is that everyone important who's anyone gets buried right in here. The Royal Family's tomb is right at the back over there," He pointed over to the back of the graveyard. Saria and Link looked at each other and shrugged- it might be worth looking at. "Watch out for Poe's!" The boy called after them as they headed over there. Saria listened as Navi piped up to explain what a Poe was- ghosts or spirits of hatred in the world. She didn't like the sound of them, anyway.

"I wonder what's up there," Link said suddenly, pointing upwards. The graveyard hit a kind of wall at the back, but up above it they could see fencing and some sort of entrance, but there were no clues as to what it was. Saria was sure it was nothing good, though. She got a prickly, foreboding feeling about it- like something terrible had once happened there.

"Oh look," Saria pointed at their feet instead. Right in front of the large stone proclaiming itself to mark the tomb of the Royal Family, a Triforce symbol seemed to be etched into the dirt. Link crouched down and dusted some of the earth away, and Saria realised it was actually a slab of stone.

"The ground is loose," Juno said suddenly, making them jump. Saria looked at her fairy. "There's an entrance to the tomb under our feet." Saria kicked her heel into the ground and sure enough, she heard the thump of something hollow. "If you could prove your connection to the Royal Family I'm sure you could get in," Juno the fairy added. Saria leapt back suddenly.

"No way!" She cried. Link looked intrigued, but he still shook his head.

"We haven't found anything here and we need to get up to Goron City. Let's go."

They avoided the strange little boy on the way out. Scary he was not- but odd, definitely. Resolved not to waste any more time, the two children headed across the village towards the foot of Death Mountain trail. Standing beneath it made the mountain seem even more intimidatingly huge.

The guard the head carpenter had mentioned was just as staunch as they'd been warned.
"Nobody is permitted to ascend the mountain without express permission of the King of Hyrule," He said firmly.

"But we need to get up there- it's Princess Zelda who sent us," Saria pleased, "Please, sir-"

"No means no. A volcano is no place for kids anyway- go and play somewhere else." This last comment was not appreciated by Link.

"We haven't come to play," He snapped at the guard, "We've come here to try and save Hyrule from-" But he was cut off by a strange choking sound. A second later, Saria realised that the sound was the guard, laughing at them from within his helmet.

"Hahaha!" He roared, "So you think you're on some mission? Hahaha, okay Mr Hero, that's quite enough joking around now. I have an important job to do, you know," The guard added, sobering after a good chuckle. Saria was flabbergasted.

"We already told you that it was Zelda who-" She stopped suddenly mid-sentence, as something occurred to her. The song Impa had taught them to prove their connection to Zelda… the Triforce on the ground in the graveyard… Smirking proudly at herself, Saria pulled out her ocarina. Link looked at her like she was crazy, but then she began playing Zelda's Lullaby. The guard stood stoically for a few minutes, but then something began to happen; he was leaning a little more heavily on the spear he carried, and his shoulders seemed to be slumping under the weight of his armour. Saria nudged Link and nodded at the guard, continuing to play, but the guard was shuffling his feet, trying to make himself alert again. Link hesitated for a minute, gave Saria a nervous look, but then reached into the small bag he carried on his shoulder, concealed beneath his shield, and pulled out an ocarina too. Saria's eyes opened wider. She had gifted Link with his own Fairy Ocarina a long time ago. She knew he played a little every now and then, but she had not expected him to bring it with him on this journey- she went nowhere without hers, of course, but to Link it'd just been a toy.

But Link was raising the instrument to his lips and, after fumbling a little, he managed to find the right note. Saria slowed down her playing, letting him see how she was positioning her fingers so that he could copy. But once he'd gotten it, and they were both playing it perfectly, Saria refocused her attention on the guard. He was slumping back against the wall, his legs like jelly. A few more bars of Zelda's Lullaby and it finally happened; he was fast asleep, sprawled on the ground. The final notes rang out for a second and then the two of them stopped playing.
"Well done, Link- you played so well," Saria smiled proudly. Link grinned sheepishly.

"The key is on his belt," He pointed them out before going over to get it. They headed over to the gate and Link inserted the large silver key into the lock. It opened easily, being new, and the two of them pushed their weight against it to make the gate slide away, allowing them access. They both took a last look at the sleeping guard before setting off ahead onto the dark brown, dry earth of Death Mountain.

The beginning of the mountain was clearly well-travelled, thus easy to climb, but this didn't mean that they were going to have a particularly easy time of it. Almost as soon as they began the ascent, they were accosted by an angry red, giant insect with one eye that seemed to jump at them from out of nowhere. Link managed to swing his shield around to block it from biting them, and a couple of jabs of the Kokiri Sword soon finished it, but looking down at it's carcass just before it disintegrated into nothing, Saria shivered in disgust.
"What was that thing?" She asked Link. He shrugged, but Navi, who was hovering at his shoulder, chirped an answer:

"It was a tektite!"

"Watch out for those!" Juno added. Link rolled his eyes.

"We will now," He grumbled. They dodged a few more tektites as they made their way steadily up the long path.

"Do you think Goron City is right at the top?" Saria asked doubtfully, after around an hour of uphill walking. They didn't seem to be getting much closer to the smoke ring above, after all. It'd probably take days to reach the summit if they were to try.

"I hope not," Link replied.

They were climbing well into the afternoon, wiping sweat off their foreheads from the blazing sun, still seeming to get no closer to the top, when they finally saw something a little different from the sheer faces of rock either side.
They had reached a point in the mountain where the ground seemed to level out somewhat, and before them was a huge round stone, grey against the brown rock of Death Mountain, clearly blocking off a well-trodden path ahead.

"Wonder that that is," Saria said out loud, looking at it thoughtfully.

"I don't know. But I think we need to take a rest," Link replied, flopping down onto the ground. Barely a second later he had leapt back to his feet as, with a thump that made the earth tremble for a moment, what appeared to be a boulder landed between the two children. Link drew his sword and Saria took a step back, eyeing the boulder nervously. After a moment, it trembled and appeared to grow legs and arms as whatever it was got to it's feet with a groan. The creature was a light brown colour, round bellied and had an equally round, friendly looking face. It looked from Link to Saria with as much curiosity as they had before it greeted them.

"Hello there! I'm afraid if you were planning to visit Dodongo's Cavern it's been blocked off. See?" It pointed to the huge round stone blocking off the path behind them.

"Erm… No, sorry," Saria answered after a moment, "We were looking for Goron City."

"It's just over the next incline," The creature smiled, but then it's face fell, "I'm afraid that Big Brother might not see you, though. It's a very hard time for us Goron's right now." Link put away his sword as Saria took a step closer to the Goron again.

"Why? What's going on?"

"It's… it's this," He pointed again at the stone blocking off the cavern, "We Goron's feed on rocks, you see, and all the best ones came from inside the Dodongo's Cavern. But the man from the desert blocked it off and we're starving…"

"A man from the desert," Saria repeated the words quietly to herself before asking, "Why did he block it off?"

"I don't know," The Goron replied, "He came and met with Big Brother Darunia and then he came out angry, blocking off the Cavern. I don't know what they talked about." Saria glanced at Link, whose jaw was set in his young face. If they had been hoping to get hold of the Spiritual Stone of Fire before Ganondorf had tried to get hold of it they were obviously wrong.

"Well, we're sorry to hear about this," Saria told the Goron kindly, "Isn't there anything that you can do?"

"We can't get a bomb flower down this far to blow it up," The Goron replied miserably.

"Well… thanks for telling us. You said the City was over the next incline?" Saria double checked. The Goron nodded and the two Kokiri bade him goodbye before setting off again, forgetting all about their plans for a rest stop now that they realised how close they were. Saria had to admit she was relieved that Goron City wasn't right at the summit of the mountain after all.

"Ganondorf must have gone after the Stone and Darunia must've refused to give it to him," Link said as they began to climb again.

"But how could he starve the poor Goron's like that? It's so cruel," Saria sighed sadly.

"He didn't care that killing the Great Deku Tree would leave the Kokiri Forest without a guardian," Link reminded her, and Saria bit her lip, saying nothing. Link glanced at her face and saw her eyes swimming with tears that were threatening to spill over. "I'm sorry," He told her quietly after a moment, "I didn't mean to..."

"No, it's okay," Saria said bravely, swallowing the lump in her throat and forcing a smile, "You're right. We need to be prepared for the lengths that Ganondorf is going to go to- Zelda did warn us."

Their legs were aching by the time they reached the other side of the sharp incline they had climbed from Dodongo's Cavern. They were faced with the mouth of an enormous cave right ahead, apparently cut right into the mountain itself. A sign post nearby declared this to be the entrance to Goron City. Saria had heard of cities before, but she guessed this wasn't a city in the traditional sense as it was entirely indoors. Still, upon entry, she and Link found it to be very warm and quite welcoming inside. Torches lit the entire place brightly and she could see several brown boulders lying around, which she now recognised to be Goron's curled up into a ball.

Rings were cut into the mountain within, with stairs between each level leading down to the centre at the bottom, where a gigantic vase of some type stood. Bomb flowers grew here and there along the walls and floor. Saria had seen pictures of these before but they did not grow in the forest. Still, knowing their volatile nature, she and Link gave them as wide a berth as possible.

Gorons called out greetings to them, including one which was sat on a chunk of rock suspended from the top ring by strong, thick ropes.

"How did he get out there?" Saria asked Link, fascinated.

"He must've walked across," Link replied, looking.

"What's that he's standing beside?" The two children squinted, trying to make out what the small wooden structure was.

"That was the plinth for the Goron's Ruby," A voice said, making them both jump. Saria and Link turned to find themselves looking up at a tall, robust, but ostensibly female Goron. "Yes, the Spiritual Stone of Fire stood there… but my dear Darunia had to remove it after that dreadful man came from the desert. He didn't feel it was safe there."

"So Ganondorf did come for the Stone!" Link said, surprising Saria by actually speaking in front of a stranger willingly.

"What do you know about Ganondorf?" The female Goron peered down at them with interest. Saria noticed that she wore jewellery and had several markings painted on her skin, though they were not in Hylian or any other language Saria had ever seen.

"We come from the forest," Saria explained, "And he came for our Spiritual Stone too. Princess Zelda has sent us to get the other Spiritual Stones to protect them and help stop Ganondorf." The Goron examined their faces for a moment, apparently thinking.

"The forest? Well… my Darunia has been in a bad mood ever since that man came here. I can't promise anything, but his room is downstairs. He's locked himself away, but if you really were sent by Princess Zelda he might just speak to you."

"Thank you!" Link and Saria chorused before hurrying away towards one of the staircases leading down to the lower circles. It was hard not to get distracted on the way, as they looked around. Most of the walls were painted with pictures of Gorons dancing, and flames. Saria thought the paintings were quite beautiful in their own way, and they seemed to tell a story, but Link didn't give her much time to take it all in. About halfway down they took a wrong turning and found themselves in a strange room with a pit of lava in the middle of it. The heat from it was scorching even in passing, so they quickly ducked out of the room.

"I wonder how anyone can reach the other side," Saria pondered as they righted their path and continued down the stairs.

"I suppose Gorons are probably resistant to heat," Link pointed out. She nodded.

They finally reached the very bottom. Saria looked up from there, just beside the giant vase, and she could see the platform with the plinth suspended way above them. It was impossible to see anything like the ceiling of this place as it was too cavernous, but it wasn't nearly as big as Saria had imagined it to be. Still, they could see which room had to belong to Darunia- for one, shut and locked and for another, it had a sort of mat outside it, complete with Triforce motif. A Goron sat just off to the entrance of the room, curled up into a ball, so Saria and Link approached it.

"Um… Excuse me?" Saria asked a little nervously. Like the first Goron, it twitched and then uncurled itself and stood up.

"Hi, can I help you?"

"We need to see Darunia," Link informed the Goron, who looked quite surprised.

"Darunia has been refusing to see anybody for days, surely somebody told you?" The two children looked at each other, "He said he's closing his room off to anybody except for the Royal Family's messenger. He sent a message to the King after Ganondorf was here."

"Well, we're… sort of messengers of the Royal Family," Saria told him.

"You'll have to prove it." Link grabbed Saria's hand and dragged her a few steps away, to where they were out of earshot of the Goron.

"You can play Zelda's Lullaby- it's the only proof we have that we're connected to the Royal Family. Impa told us to remember the song, so I bet she knew that we'd need it for something like this," Link told Saria urgently. She nodded- it made sense, of course. Still, how was she supposed to prove anything to Darunia if he wouldn't come out in the first place?

"Do… do you think he can hear from outside the door?" She felt quite doubtful. Link looked around for a moment, thinking.

"Well- I mean, look at this place, I bet it echoes," He said, and her face broke out into a grin.

"You're right!" Saria approached the door, stood on the mat, and pulled out her ocarina. She concentrated for a second on remembering the song that Impa had taught her, letting the melody flow through her mind, into her lungs, and when she pressed her lips to the ocarina, into being again.

As predicted, the notes resonated around Goron City even as, with one last willowy note, Saria lowered the ocarina. Link had been stood watching her play with an uncharacteristic half-smile on his face. Saria looked back at the door hopefully. The final note was still bouncing off the cavernous walls but she still wasn't sure that Darunia could have heard. When the note faded and nothing happened, she felt her shoulders droop. Suddenly, Saria was exhausted.

"It didn't work," She said.

"What are we going to do now?" Link grumbled. But then, something happened. There was a slight trembling of the ground, and then a creaking noise. Saria and Link looked back around in time to see the door blocking their access to Darunia's room begin to slide upwards into the rock. He had heard their song after all and was permitting them entry. Feeling pleased, Saria tucked her ocarina away and looked at Link.

"After you," She told him, and stood back to allow him to take the first steps into the room where they would meet with the Goron Chief.

A/N: Hi everyone, I'm sorry it took such a long time for me to upload this chapter. I had so many distractions and stuff that I barely got time to finish writing this. I hope you guys liked it though and will forgive me for the lapse! Drop me a review letting me know.